Tracing the origin of Acadians
While the Internet is probably the single best source for tracing the origin of Acadians, it is possible to trace the genealogy of most Acadian families from censuses taken in 1671, 1686, 1714 and 1752, as well as from parish registers kept in many localities in Acadia, dating back some fifty years prior to the deportation of 1755.
Registers of the oldest parish, Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Port-Royale, are in the archives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Those of the parish of Saint-Charles des Mines (Grand-Pré) were taken by the deported Acadians and ended up at Saint-Gabriel d’Iberville, in Louisiana. They are now in the archives of the Archbishop of New Orleans.
In the early 1900’s, most of the registers of Beaubassin were found in La Rochelle, France; they cover the years 1712 to 1748.
Unfortunately, registers of three other Acadian parishes… Cobequid (Truro, N.S.), Pisiquid (Windsor) and Saint-Joseph de la Rivière aux Canards, disappeared. Cobequid and Pisiquid registers were never found, however the Rivière aux Canards registers were brought by Acadian exiles to Virginia, then England and finally to France. Mgr. Tanguay discovered them by accident in Paris in 1867, but they were lost again. The Archbishop’s archives in Quebec has some of the original Beaubassin parish registers, dating from the end of the 17th century.
Fortunately, nearly the entire population of Cobequid and most residents of Pisiquid fled to Ile Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) around 1750, when the attitude of the English towards the Acadians started a panic. Thus, a census taken in 1752 in Ile Saint-Jean lists most of the families from Cobequid and Pisiquid and helps replace the lost registers.
As for tracing the Acadian families who lived at Saint Joseph de la Rivière aux Canards (the second parish of Grand-Pré), historians Rameau de Saint-Père and Reverend H.R. Casgrainobtained from the national archives in Paris, near the end of the century, important documents pertaining to that locality. They deal with the genealogy of a large number of families from the Grand-Pré region who had been deported to Virginia in 1755, thence to England and repatriated to France after the Treaty of Paris of 1763.
The documents consisted of sworn statements by Acadians who were established at Belle-Isle-en-Mer, on the coast of Britanny, designed to give them legal civil status in France, since they had no baptismal records. These sworn declarations effectively replaced the lost registers and were another key to tracing family genealogies.
Reverend Casgrain published his findings in Le Canada Français (1889-1890). They are of special interest to descendants of Acadians who live in Louisiana, because many of their ancestors emigrated from France to the banks of the Mississippi, especially in 1785.
The above-noted is an excerpt from Bona Arsenault’s History of the Acadians and is reproduced with permission from and thanks to La Fondation de la Société historique de la Gaspésie.
Origin of the Acadians
Pierre de Guast, Sieur de Monts, from Saintonge, was given a fur trade monopoly for Acadia. Backed by merchants, de Monts sailed to Acadia with 79 men in 1604. They explored the Baie Francoise (Bay of Fundy). One of their stops was Cape D’Or (Golden Cape), where they found copper mines … hence the name Les Mines. They sailed into the Basin and found a large amethyst on Partridge Island. It was broken in two and De Monts brought one piece back and had it made into jewelry for the king and queen. [Herbin]
De Monts didn’t like the rocky cliffs at Blomidon. He didn’t go far enough to see the rich lands of Grand Pre a few miles to the south, and left the head north. He and his men stayed on an island on the St. Croix River. [LINK: St. Croix Island NHS]
It was thought that the area offered protection from raiders. Francois Grave Du Pont and Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt sailed back to France before winter. French noblemen, Catholic & Protestant clergy, laborers, and artisans were in the that first group of men. Over the winter, 35 men died. Besides the weather, scurvy was a problem. In The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents … 1610-1791, ed. R.G. Thwaites, Father Pierre Briard wrote that of the 79, only 11 remained well.
Grave Du Pont arrived back at St. Croix in June 1605 with 2 ships, men, and supplies. They spent 6 weeks exploring the coast (all the way down to Cape Cod) to find a better place to settle. They chose a spout on the north side of the basin, opposite Goat Island, which became Port Royal. They built structures at Port Royal using the materials from the buildings they had constructed on Ile St. Croix. Grave Du Pont and Champlain and 45 men remained that winter, while de Monts and Poutrincourt returned to France. Acadie … 1605
Poutrincourt returned to Port Royal in July 1606 with 50 men (including his son Biencourt, Louis Hebert, and Marc Lescarbot) and supplies. He found that all but 2 men had left for Canso, where the fishing was good. They men were called back and attempts at farming were begun. They built a lime kiln and set up a forge. Paths were cut from the settlement to the valley and fields. Tradesmen would work at their trade for part of the day, and spend the rest hunting, fishing, and collecting shellfish. [Clark, p. 79]
Poutrincourt and Champlain visited the north side of the Basin of Minas that year. They found a cross … old, rotten, and covered in moss. Christians had been here at some time in the past … perhaps itinerant fisherman or another explorer. [Herbin, p. 22]
Our best record of those days can be found in Marc Lescarbot’s History of New France, where he tells of “the pleasure which I took in digging and tilling my gardens, fencing them in against the gluttony of the swine, making terraces, preparing straight alleys, building store-houses, sowing wheat, rye, barley, oats, beans, peas, garden plants, and watering them, so great a desire had I to know the soil by personal experience.” The rye, he tells, grew “as tall as the tallest man.” Seeds were planted in March/April to see how early they’d “take.” Hogs and sheep were brought to Acadia the year before (1605). Lescarbot tell how the hogs multiplied quickly and how they liked to lay abroad, even in the snow. There weren’t many sheep (he says he had one). They also had hens and pigeons, though they didn’t reproduce well. The ships brought the gray rat to Acadia with them. A water-powered gristmill was constructed to grind the grain. There’s mention of an axe, hoe, and spade, but not a plow.
Note: Lescarbot’s Histoire de la Nouvelle France is online as a set of GIF images.
The group fared well that 1606-07 winter. But when the weather warmed up and ship began making the trek across the ocean, news came that de Monts grant was revoked. Though the offical reason for canceling the monopoly was that they he hadn’t fulfilled the obligation of converting the Indians to Christianity, the real reason probably had to do with jealousy on the part of other French merchants. [Daigle, p. 384] In addition, de Monts had taken the wrong side in that year’s civil war politics in France. When the fur trade monopoly was taken from De Monts in 1607, the colonists abandoned Acadia and left the settlement under the care of the Indians. [Daigle, p. 19]
Before going, they visited St. Croix again, and the copper “mines” (actually the deposits were in the Cape Chignecto region). It is thought that this was a stall tactic so that they could collect the ripe grain to show everyone back home. The settlement was then abandoned … only the Mi’kmaq were there. [Clark, p. 80]
In 1609, Marc Lescarbot drew maps of Acadia and of the Port Royal area. His map of Acadia (right) has the word Souriquois, which was an early name for the Mi’kmaq Indians. The maps can be found in his book, Histoire de la Nouvelle France.
Poutrincourt was the son of Florimond de Biencourt and Jeanne de Salazar. He married Claude Pajot on Aug. 14, 1590 and they had 6 daughters and 2 sons (Charles and Jacques). After returning to France, Poutrincourt died in 1615 at the battle of Méry sur Seine.
Poutrincourt’s son, Charles de Biencourt de Saint Just, was with him on the Jonas, which left from La Rochelle, France on May 13, 1606. This was Poutrincourt’s second trip to Acadia.
Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt, Baron de Saint Just became the first seigneur of Acadia when de Monts granted him the Port Royal area in 1604. Upon returning to France, he applied for and received confirmation of a grant in the area.
In 1610, he brought his son, a priest, and other men (and perhaps cattle) with him. He planted winter crops as soon as he arrived. Forty men stayed with him for the winter, while his son returned home with a cargo of furs. [Clark, p. 81]
We don’t know of the agricultural activity from 1610 until the Scottish arrived. There’s no evidence of dyking or fruit trees early on. [Clark, p. 87]
His son, Charles de Biencourt, returned with his mother and more men in 1611. The court pushed for him to take 2 Jesuits (Pierre Biard and Enemond Masse) with him. Some merchants withdrew their financial support because of this, but the Jesuits made up for it. [NOTE: One of Biard’s works … Epistola ex Portu-regali in Acadia … is online]
Poutrincourt’s wife was probably the first European woman in Acadia. There may have been a couple of women in Alexander’s group in 1628/29. When it came to finding a wife in early Acadia, the only females to be found were the Indians. Taking up with the Indian girls was objected to by the priests. When it happened, it was more likely for the fellow to follow her to the forest than for her to follow him to the fields. The absence of wives and families may have been the biggest thing holding back agricultural development. It had been shown that crops could grow, but women and children were needed to help in the fields and garden and to process the food in the home.
Poutrincourt returned to France before winter. Charles de Biencourt and the men faced competition from Du Pont’s son, who was trading at the St. John River area. Problems soon began with the priests. They wanted to turn the trading post into a mission. Poutrincourt was looking to make money, not new Christians.
Another group went to Acadia in 1613 and picked up the priests at Port Royal to settle elsewhere. It is said that they wanted to “take over” Acadia outside of Poutrincourt’s grant. They settled St. Sauveur on Mt. Desert Island with 30 men, goats, and horses.
Port Royal now stretched as far as Pre Ronde. Champlain made a map in 1612/13, which refers to the area as Acadye. An account of a May 1613 visit to the area is mentioned in Biard’s Relation for 1616.
“At Port Royal, they found only 5 persons; namely, the 2 Jesuits, their servant, the Apothecary Hebert, and another. Sieur de Biencourt and the rest of his people were all quite far away, some here, some there. Now because Hebert was taking the place of the Sieur, they presented to him the Queen’s letters, which contained the royal command to release the Jesuits and to let them go wherever they pleased; so the Jesuits took away their property in great peace. And on that day as well as on the following, they made it as pleasant for Hebert and his company as they could, so that this arrival would not be a cause of sadness to them. At their departure (although they were not in need of anything) they left them a barrel of bread and some bottles of wine, that the farewell might be received with equally good grace.” [Canadian Types of the Old Regime by Charles W. Colby, p. 123]
Late in 1613, Poutrincourt left La Rochelle for Port Royal with supplies. But before he arrived, Samuel Argall had paid Port Royal a visit.
Samuel Argall, a freelance trader from Jamestown, had been authorized by Gov.Dale to drive out any French south of latitude 45 N. He attacked St. Sauveur first, and then Port Royal in November. To took their goods and burned the settlement down.The people were scattered and the livestock killed.
Poutrincourt arrived in spring 1614 to find just a few men left .. the others having moved on or died. Though Poutrincourt decided to abandon the colony, his son and a few others (Claude LaTour, Charles LaTour, etc.) decided to stay to trade for furs for the La Rochelle merchants. A number of the men, including Louis Hebert, left Acadia at this time and returned to France. Louis Hebert was to later (1617) return to New France to settle in Quebec and is said to have established the first family in New France.
When Poutrincourt was killed in 1615 in France, his son Biencourt took over his grant. Biencourt and an undetermined number of men appear to have been living in the area. For the next couple of decades, they traded for fur and perhaps did some farming; but the concentration was on trading (and hunting, fishing, etc.). In 1616 alone, 25,000 pelts were produced in Acadia [Clark, p. 82] The French that remained were said to be mainly of Huguenot stock. They lived with the Indians in the woods. Forts were build at Pentagouet, on the St. John River, and at Cape Sable (Fort Lomeron). Lomeron was a merchant who supported Poutrincourt and later the LaTours.
Sir William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, had been talking for years of developing Acadia as Scottish territory. Check out An Encouragement in Colonies (1624) and several other works for more information on him. He got a charter for New Scotland (“Nova Scotia”) in 1621. [Herbin, p. 23] Ile Royale and Ile St. Jean were not a part of this charter, but were given shortly afterwards to Robert Gordon of Lochinvar. [Royal Letters, Charters, and Tracts Relating to the Colonization of New Scotland, ed.David Laing (1867)] Alexander headed to Acadia in 1622, but had to winter in Newfoundland. The following year, he found the “colonists” of 1622 were working with the fishery; so he explored the south shore of Nova Scotia, collected a cargo of cod, and sailed home. [Clark, p. 83]
In 1623, Jean de Biencourt died and Charles LaTour took over. He moved the headquarters to the Cape Sable area that year. LaTour also established a fort at Pentagouet in 1623. [Clark, p. 83]
From 1628 to 1632, Canada/Acadia was under English and Scottish control. The
Kirkes forced Champlain to surrender at Quebec in 1629. The Kirkes were a father and 3 sons who started as privateers, but got official support when they took Quebec in 1629. [Clark, p. 84]
Voltaire called Canada a patch of snow. Speaking of Kirke’s expedition in 1628, he says “He took possession of the whole of Acadia. That is to say, he destroyed the huts of a few fishermen.” The thought was that New France just served to keep France involved in wars. [Colby, p. 51]
Alexander finally set up a colony at Port Royal in 1628/29. Harvey, in “Sir William Alexander” states that Alexander probably settled at Gaspe with “70 men and tua weemen” (p. 20).
The Alexander group moved to Port Royal in 1629. Though the date of the settlement is argued among scholars, falling from 1627 to 1629, we do know there were Scottish present from 1629 to 1632.
James Stewart started another Scottish settlement at Port Baleine on Cape Breton (Ile Royale) in 1629. Alexander’s son dropped 50 men off there on his way to Port Royal. A Frenchman, Capt. Charles Daniel captued the settlement 3 months later and deported the Scottish.
Alexander’s son arrived at Port Royal to find that 30 of them had died. After France regained Acadia and New France under the Treaty of St. Germain-en-Lay in 1632, some of the Scottish settlers left for New England. At 46 of them left for England in 1633. According to La Gazette de Renaudot (Feb. 11, 1633), Razilly’s ships dropped the 46 off at England on the way back to France.
From 1613 to 1629, there may have been 20 or so men from Poutrincourt’s settlement … fluctuating over the years … still living in Acadia. [Clark, p. 99]
By 1630, there were posts at Pentagouet, on the Saint John River, at Cape Sable, at Miscou, and at present-day St. Ann on Cape Breton (by Daniel after he’d deported the Scottish). Fort Lomeron (in the Cape Sable area) was later called Fort St. Louis, and then Port LaTour. [Clark, p. 85]
In 1632, France once again gained control of New France (including Acadia) under the Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye. This time, they started recruiting sending men and women with the intent of raising families and settling down in Acadia.
The Company of New France, or Company of 100 Associates [Trading Companies, Biggar, p. 133-65], was formed in 1627 to work on the fur trade. [Clark, p. 91] Cardinal Richelieu, who was in charge of France at the time, listened to the advice of his cousin, Isaac de Razilly, who thought that France should start colonizing Acadia. Richelieu approved and Razilly left France on L’Esperance a Dieu on July 4, 1632 with 2 transports and 300 people (mostly men). There may have been 12-15 women in this group. [Clark, p. 95]
In the French Gazette newspaper (July 16, 1632), we find mention of 2 vessels from Auray in lower Brittany that joined a third from La Rochelle in heading for Acadia.:
“The sorrow that there is to solve the difficulties which are in the large companies made differ two months, and opiniatreté of the wind of downstream two other months later than I had not told you the loading for the Company of New France. But finally the loaded vessel from La Rochelle arrived to join two others from Morbihan that Commander de Razilly (having the commission of the King to control in the extent of the country in the absence of the Cardinal Duke de Richelieu, brought there at the beginning of this month, charged with all things and three hundred elite men. It carries the assent of the King of Great Britain to remove the Scots out of Port Royal and take of it possession in the name of the Company, which sends to it three Capuchins for the conversion of the people of Acadie, in addition to five Jesuits that it already sent in the other dwellings of Cap Breton, the Gulf and the St. Lawrence River. The embarkment of this noble force returning there illustrates the beginning of colony which will make an easy passage to all the French, for the honor of their nation and their peace, that it will be from now on easy for them to comply with the King, that the great businesses of its kingdom do not prevent it from going across the seas the concepts to increase the Catholic faith, by a procedure quite distant from that which was practiced until now in the discovery of the Indies, where one was satisfied with spoils and to captivate the people.” [D’Auray, lower Bretagne, 16 July 1632]. Among the leadership were Razilly, his relative d’Aulnay de Charnisay, and Nicholas Denys de la Ronde. They group was said to be French Catholic, but their exact place of origin is unknown. He left them and supplies (livestock, arms & ammunition, seeds, tools, etc.) at La Have on Sept. 8.
When Razilly died in 1635, his assistant Charles de Menou d’Aulnay, de Charnisay was prepared to assume control of Acadia. Charles LaTour, however, had his own plans for Acadia. LaTour had forts at Cape Sable, Saint John River, and Pentagouet. He moved his headquarters from Cape Sable to Saint John in 1635. [Clark, p. 92]
D’Aulnay also moved his base of operations. La Have, which was reported to have 44 inhabitants in 1635 [Denys, Description, p. 482], had been Razilly’s base. Sometime between 1635 and 1640, d’Aulnay moved his group to Port Royal. There is some evidence that some of the men (especially those who had married Indian brides) stayed behind. The fort at La Have was later (1653) burned down by LeBorgne.
Perhaps they moved from La Have to Port Royal for agricultural reasons. No salt marsh conversion is known of before 1635, though there was some after. North Mountain provided protection to the area from the NW winds of winter, though Port Royal is actually colder than the east coast. But agriculture actually came second to trading & fishing (though Denys said agriculture came before fur trading; and Razilly had also considered lumbering important). D’Aulnay was looking for the rapid profits of fur trading, and since more fur was on the mainland, perhaps he wanted to move closer. LaTour was already there. So, the fur trade is probably what led d’Aulnay to move to Port Royal. [Clark, p. 92]
In the year 1636, we find just about the only surviving passenger list of people going to Acadia. Though most of the names on the passenger list are absent when the first census is taken (1671), we do find a few Acadian progenitors aboard the St. Jehan, which left for Acadia on April 1, 1636. Some familiar names are: Isaac PESSELIN dit CHAMPAGNE, Pierre MARTIN, Guillaume TRAHAN.
Charles de Menou, Sieur d’Aulnay, de Charnisay. Charles de Menou d’Aulnay: (1596-1650)
D’Aulnay was a sea captain who was first cousin to Razilly. Born around 1596 near Loches, Touraine, France, his father was Rene de Menou, counselor of state for Louis XIII. His father was seigneur de Billy et de Charnisay; and his mother owned the seigneury of d’Aulnay … hence his other names.
D’Aulnay had arrived in Acadia on July 4, 1632 with Razilly. He made yearly trips back to France to bring back goods and to recruit settlers. Around 1638, he married Jeanne Motin, daughter of Louis Motin de Corcelles and Marie de Salins. His 7 children returned to France, where the 3 daughters entered religious orders and the 4 sons later died in the military.
There may have been new colonists from 1635 to 1640, as the colony moved from La Have to Port Royal. The notarial records of La Rochelle list plenty of contrats d’engagement for Acadia. Most aren’t found there by the 1671 census. Emmanuel LeBorgne recruited 5 sawyers in 1645 and a gunsmith in 1646. Guillaume Desjardins, the intendant of Charles LaTour, also recruited engages. These included: a joiner and a gunsmith (1640), a mason, a baker, a sawyer, and a nailmaker-blacksmith (1641), and 22 laborers and soldiers (for Saint John; 1642. In 1640, 25 men and 5 women signed up. [Massignon, Les Parlers Francais, 1, p. 38-39]. In the ship list [at Francois Roux’s site] for the St. Francois in 1641 shows the names of Jacques Bourgeois and Jehan Poirier. In “Les Gouvernors” by Couillard-Despres, he quotes from a list of 63 men who arrived on the Saint Clement in 1642 to help LaTour. It’s estimated that there were 45-50 households at Port Royal and La Have. This would mean 300-350 people, including about 60 single men. [Clark, p. 100]
For the next 15 years, both LaTour and d’Aulnay maintained that they were in charge of Acadia. D’Aulnay, who moved the settlement at La Heve to Port Royal, cultivated his area of Acadia, while LaTour worked in the Cap Sable and St. John River areas. There may have been 100+/- inhabitants at the Saint John River, Cape Sable, Pentagouet and other posts in Maine in the mid 1640s. Some of them may have come with LaTour in 1633. They were mainly interested in trading, not agriculture. [Clark, p. 95]
Nicolas Denys tried settling up a post at Miscou in the 1640s, but d’Aulnay forced him out.
In 1647, d’Aulnay destroyed LaTour’s fort at the Saint John and was confirmed as governor of Acadia. LaTour left for exile in Quebec. [Clark, p. 93]
When d’Aulnay died in 1650, LaTour returned as governor of Acadia. LaTour’s wife died after defending the Saint John fort, and he married d’Aulnay’s widow in a mariage de convenance. He brought Lieut. Philippe Mius d’Entremont with him. LaTour had to contend with d’Aulnay’s main creditor, Emmanuel LeBorgne, who had been d’Aulnay’s procureur-generale at LaRochellle, loaning him large sums. Nicolas Denys took advantage of d’Aulnay’s death and set up posts at St. Ann and St. Peters. But Jeanne Motin soon kicked him out.
Denys, who had been taken prisoner by LeBorgne in 1653 and kept at Port Royal, estimated that there were 270 in Port Royal in 1654. He described the situation at Port Royal at that time. [Denys, Description, p. 466] Robert Sedgewick of Boston had been ordered by Robert Cromwell to attack New Holland (New York). But after he got everything ready, a peace treaty was signed between the English and the Dutch. Since he was “all dressed up with nowhere to go,” he attacked Acadia in August 1654 and destroyed most of the settlements (even though it was peacetime) … including Port Royal, La Have, and the Saint John River. He left the area, but had appointed an Acadian council with Guillaume Trahan in charge. [Clark, p. 113] The seigniorial system was still going strong. LeBorgne was still making his claim against Denys and LaTour. When Denys got his royal grant to the St. Lawrence area in 1654, LeBorgne had to give St. Peters and Nipisiguit back to him. A letter by Meneval on Nov. 7, 1689 shows that Belle Isle was the seigneur of most of the Port Royal area.
Over the years, the Acadian seigneurs like LeBorgne really didn’t live up to their part of the deal. They were supposed to bring settlers to the New World and to take care of them. There’s no record of them building mills or bake-ovens. They basically just tried to collect rent (cens et rentes). Corvees or charging for fishing or cutting lumber are not mentioned. [Clark, p. 120] The system ended (as far as the British were concerned) when Agathe de LaTour married a British soldier named Campbell in 1733 and received 2000 pounds for her “rights.” [Clark, p. 119]
The Acadians weren’t exactly the best tenants. They’d pay token amounts unless heavily pressured. The seigneurs usually got little for the land. The Acadians were almost like freeholders, and paid little taxes. A map of the seigneuries was done in 1700 and sent to France, but no one can find it. Since their days in France, the Acadians thought that the only way to have land was get it from a seigneur, who got it from the king. Acadians also probably thought the land they farmed was the seigneur’s, and therefore the king’s. In Acadia, grants were poorly described and often overlapped, leading to conflicts. [Clark, p. 114] We find numerous records of legal cases brought by the Acadians; they, like the Canadians, were very litigious.
In 1657 or 1658, Sir Thomas Temple came to Acadia aboard the Satisfaction. He was given the governorship by Commonwealth authority in 1657 (which was confirmed after the Restoration in 1662). His grant of Acadia came from Cromwell, and was shared by LaTour and William Crowne. LaTour soon sold his share and moved to Cap Sable to live out his days. Temple kicked out some of LeBorgne’s men at LaHave in 1658 and some French fishermen at Port Rossignol in 1664. Temple established his presence at Rossignol and at Mirligueche (Lunenburg), but Temple’s control of the colony probably only extended to the immediate neighborhood of Port-Royal and a few other sites. Temple himself lived in Boston and seldom visited Acadia. [Clark, p. 107]
We find an Order of the Council of State (Apr. 14, 1657) that states:
A convoy to be provided for several ships bound to Newfoundland, and instructions given to the commander to make one of them ready with all speed to carry Col. Thomas Temple and his company to his plantation in Nova Scotia or Acadia, in order to his settling in the forts and government there, according to his patent and commission from his Highness. [Interregnum, Entry Bk., Vol. CV., p. 790]
Also, there is a message (Nov. 12, 1657) from Capt. Peter Butler of the Satisfaction to the Navy commanders.
After receiving Col. [Thos.] Temple and his company on board, sailed for Boston, New England, and then made for St. John’s Fort and Port Royal, intending for Newfoundland; but meeting with violent storms, and getting short of provisions, returned for England; neither he nor his company are ashamed to speak of the goodness of the Lord in preserving them from such great dangers. [References. Vo. 174. 69]
Supposedly, there was a list of colonists of 1658 that was around in the 1950s, but it cannot be found. Dulong discusses the missing list at his Michel Forest webpage.
According to a document in the Boston archives, Pierre LaVerdure, his wife Priscilla Mellanson, and their sons may have been aboard that ship. Though the parents and possibly one son were thought to have moved on to New England, two of the sons … Charles and Pierre … stayed in Acadia. They adopted their mother’s name (Melancon/Melanson). When the Grand Pre area was settled, Pierre was a captain and a leader in that community. In fact, government orders were sent through him.
Other settlers that may have settled in this period were Laurent Granger and Roger Caissy. Though the English didn’t make a real impact on Acadia, it did produce a time where the settlers had little contact with the French, but more contact with the New Englanders. Some learned a bit of English to communicate. They learned to get along with the English. And those born in this period were those in charge once England took over for good in 1710. Many of the first generation of Acadians were born at this time. [Daigle, p. 23]
In 1666, France made the decision not to send more colonists to the New World. They thought it “would not be prudent to depopulate its kingdom to populate Canada.” [PAC, C11A, 2:199, “Colbert a Talon”, Jan. 5, 1666] Meanwhile, many English were still making the trip to avoid religious persecution and for economic success. In 1670, Acadia had about 400 people, while Massachusetts had 40,000.
France regained Acadia after the Treaty of Breda in 1667. LeBorgne’s son Alexandre LeBorgne de Bellisle became governor from Canso/Baie Verte to New England. Temple caused enough problems and delays that the official change of hands didn’t come till 1670.
Hector d’Andigne de Grandfontaine received the surrender of the English forts at Port Royal and Jemseg in 1670, and of the Cape Sable area a bit later. Some of the French may have headed back to France back in 1654. [Clark, p. 108]. Most of the 1670 population had been born in Acadia. The Minas settlement started between the Riviere St. Antoine (Riviere des Habitants/Cornwallis River) and the Gaspereau River. It spread to beyond the Canard, Petit Habitant, and Pereau to the foot of the North Mountain. It also extended to Pisiguid and Cobequid. At Chignecto Bay, settlement began at Beaubassin and spread to the Missaguash, La Planche, Hebert, and Maccan, Aulac, Tantramar, Shepody, Petitcodiac, and Memramcook rivers, the marsh of the Minudie peninsula, etc. [Clark, 109]
Though the Treaty of Breda in 1667 returned Acadia to France, Temple caused delays so that the new French governor (Hector d’Andigne de Grandfontaine) didn’t take official control till 1670. He brought 30 soldiers and 60 settlers with him. His job was to restore French authority and keep the English out. He established his headquarters at Pentagouet. Acadia was now a Crown colony. Because it was between 2 rival colonies (New France and New England), Acadia was often the subject of dispute and attack. Though a royal colony, it received little help from France. To obtain materials they couldn’t make or grow themselves, the Acadians continued to trade with the New Englanders, even though this was forbidden. [Daigle, p. 24-25]
With the arrival of Grandfontaine in 1670 came the directive to conduct a census. The first census in 1671 is our earliest look at the people who made up Acadia. Since few 17th century Acadian church records have survived, we gather much of our genealogy from the census reports.
The 1671 Census was counted 392 people, though there were others not counted. Most (350) of the population was in Port Royal, though there were scattered areas of settlement around Acadia. A few were included, but not all. Others (ie. Clark, Rameau) have estimated the population of Acadia at this time as high as 500.
In the early 1670s, Jacques Bourgeois led a group of settlers to the Beaubassin area. This area, probably visited by Bourgeois in his travels, held the largest area of marshland in Acadia.
Grandfontaine was replaced in 1673 by Jacques de Chambly.
In the summer of 1674, Julian Aernoutz, a Dutch naval officer in command of the frigate Flying Horse, was ordered “to take, plunder, spoil, and possess any of the garrisons, towns, territories, privileges, ships, persons, or estates of any of the enemies of the great States of Holland.” He sailed to New Orange (New York) and met Capt. John Rhoade who told him how easy it would be to conquer Acadia. By August 1, he had arrived at Pentagouet (military headquarters of Acadia). He found Chambly in charge with only thirty men and quickly captured the fort. He couldn’t spare to leave men behind. He did write a short account of the conquest and put 2 copies in 2 glass bottles and buried them in the ground. After destroying the fort, they moved eastward. After less then 2 hours of fighting. they took Ft. Jemseg and the area was plundered. Bottles with a written record of the conquest were buried there as well. Aernoutz declared that the area would now be called New Holland. But, like the English often did, once the valuables of the colony were taken he left them alone. [Daigle, p. 25] De Chambly and Joibert were taken prisoner by the Dutch at this time. Upon returning to Boston, the cannon and other plunder was sold.
1676: In 1676 Cornelis Steenwyck was appointed as governor of Acadia by the Dutch. But by that time, the French authorities had returned to Acadia. For more information on the Dutch “period” of Acadia, check out the books Capt. Francis Champernowne,the Dutch Conquest of Acadie,and Other Historical Papers, (p. 127-159) edited by Albert H. Hoyt (Boston,1889) and Cornelis Steenwyck, Dutch Governor of Acadie, A Paper read at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Historical Association in Ottawa by John Clarence Webster (1929).
Pierre de Joybert de Soulanges et de Marson took over the governorship role from 1677 to 1678. When Marson died in July 1678, Frontenac (governor of New France) wanted to take over Acadia so he sent Michel Leneuf de La Valliere as commander (though this was never approved by the king). LaVilliere moved his family to Acadia and set up his headquarters at Beaubassin (The headquarters for Acadia was often outside of Port Royal.). It is thought that he didn’t get official approval from the king because he sold fishing licenses to the English. The Compagnie de la Peche Sedentaire (Compagnie d’Acadie), formed in 1682, complained about him. The Compagnie was designed to encourage use of Acadians to dry and salt the fish, though it never really succeeded.
Another census was taken in 1678. The 1678 census listed parents (no ages), number of sons and daughters (no names or ages), and livestock.
Valliere was replaced in 1684 by Francois Marie Perrot, who continued LaValliere’s practices. [Daigle, p. 27] Perrot portrayed the Acadians as having a simple, pastoral existence. They lived better than Canadians … for they never lacked bread or meat. But they weren’t as industrious, and never put away harvests in case of a bad year. The dowries were usually less than 20-25 francs in goods, a cow in calf, a ewe, and a sow. Well-off families sometimes included a feather bed. [Clark, p. 141]
In the mid 1680s, a number of Port Royal settlers decided to move north to the Grand Pre area. The leader of this group was Pierre Terriau. Other early settlers were Claude and Antoine Landry, Rene LeBlanc, and Pierre Melanson. By 1686 in Minas, there were: 57 people, 10 families, 83 acres tilled, 90 cattle, 21 sheep, 67 pigs, and 20 guns.
Another census was done in 1686. The 1686 census included more information than the one of 1678.
The Treaty of Whitehall in 1686 said that “their colonies in America shall continue in peace and neutrality”, but it was ignored. In just a few years, they would see that the treaty would be ignored.
Priests at the Seminaire de Quebec were urged to go to Acadia. Saint Vallier produced a written report of his 1686 visit, Estat present de l’Eglise et de la colonie francaise. Father Petit had established a school at Port Royal in the 1670s. The soeurs de la Congregation may have opened a girls school there in 1687. [Daigle, p. 32]
Perrot was replaced as governor by Louis Alexandre des Friches de Meneval in 1687.
In 1688, Meneval noted that there was a shortage of labor and manure for developing the uplands. There was a shortage of tidelands that would be easy to dyke. He said this was the reason that 25-30 people (mostly younger) had moved to Minas in the last 6 years. [Clark, p. 141]
During the War of the League of Augsburg (1689-1697), New France’s Gov. Frontenac made 3 mid-winter attacks on New England … at Schenectady, NY, Salmon Falls, MA, and Fort Loyal, ME. Massachusetts wanted to strike back, and the nearest available French target was Acadia. [Daigle, p. 29]
Perrot’s successor, Meneval, only had 100 soldiers with him. In 1690, William Phipps brought 7 ships and 700 men, captured Port Royal, plundered anything of value, and returned to Boston. In a reference to a memoir of Feb. 4, 1691, Beamish Murdock’s A History of Nova Scotia, or Acadie (1865-67), 1, p. 195, says 28 homes were burned, along with the church. They didn’t touch the mills and farms up the river. He left a council of Acadians to conduct business. The Port Royal Acadians swore an oath of allegiance to England … hoping to calm things down and avoid further English persecution. Phipps took Meneval and the French soldiers back to Boston as prisoners, but left no troops in Port Royal. He was busy with plans to attack Quebec and basically left Acadia alone. Later that same year, 2 English pirates came and burned houses and killed people and livestock. [Richard, 1, p. 38]
Meneval was replaced in 1691 by Joseph Robinau de Villebon, who governed until 1700. His headquarters were along the St. John River. Documents from his tenure are featured in the book Acadia at the End of the 17th Century by John Clarence Webster and give a more detailed look at Acadia of that day.
One of the personalities mentioned in Villebon’s writings was the French privateer Baptiste. To the English, he was essentially a pirate. Supported by the French, he captured many English ships over a span of years. Since he recruited a crew from Acadia, some Acadians may have been part of his adventures.
The river was the major avenue of communication, even in winter. Canoes were usually used, though they walked with snowshoes when it was frozen over. Men, women, and children were able canoe handlers. Cadillac, who wrote of the area in 1692, said “The creolles … travel most of the time by bark canoes. Their wives do the same, and are very bold on the water.” [“The Cadillac Memoire”, p. 81] Meneval wrote of how the Acadians used “canots d’escorce comme les sauvages, ou d’autres petits canots qu’ils font eux mesme d’une troue d’arbre creuse” [AC, C11D-2(1), 206: 1688] He may have meant dugouts or canoes made of one large piece of bark. They also used larger boats (ie. fishing skiff), especially when carrying large loads. [Clark, p. 135]
Another census was taken of Acadia. The 1693 census included the names and ages of all family members. Another record, let’s call it the 1695 census, was made of those in the St. Jean River area in 1695. On June 3, 1693, Abraham Boudrot (son of Michel Boudrot and Michelle Aucoin) returned from Boston (according to Villebon’s journal). This shows that Acadians would sometimes travel to New England on business.
Beginning in 1695, an agent of the Acadia Trading Company, named Tierberge, started sending in reports on Acadia from Fort Nashwaak. In a memo dated Sept. 30, 1695, he notes that the Pentagoet River was important because of the potential fur trade in that area. There were 3 settlers on the River at that time: St. Castin, Ranault (works for St. Castin), and Des Lauriers. Both St. Castin and Des Lauriers had a wife and a child. St. Castin’s wife was an Indian woman. All 3 settlers use to have several homesteads, but had been burned out by the English. They now hid their goods in the forest to avoid pillage. The settlers had no cattle.
The Port Royal Acadians don’t trade with that area much, for fear of the English finding out and attacking. English ships were often in the area, looking to capture goods. The fort (Nashwaak Fort) was 25 leagues up the St. John River … too far away to be much help.
Tierberge (Webster, p. 141-4)
Acadia was the weakest colony in North America at the time. It’s small population made it an easy target. The wars in Europe gave the New Englanders a reason to attack Acadia. As a result of the war of the League of Augsburg, d’Iberville attacked the English Fort Pemaquid in Maine and took it in spring 1696.
To retaliate, Massachusetts sent Col. Benjamin Church in the fall to attack the Acadian settlements. [Richard, 1, p. 39] They arrived at Beaubassin on Sept. 20. The following day, 400 men disembarked (including 150 Indians) and were among the settlers before they realized it. They found that the Acadians had left, taking with them their most valuable possessions. Soon, Germain Bourgeois arrived as a representative of the Acadians. He asked them what they wanted and brought a document showing that they had sworn loyalty to the British King. The British leaders told them not to worry, they weren’t there to harm them. He even told his many not to take anything or kill the livestock (except for food). Germain took the officers back to his home for a drink. But meanwhile, the soldiers set about killing as many animals as they could find. Only a few Acadians believed his statements and returned to the area. To those who returned, the English emptied the Acadian homes and barns and took everything of value. For the majority of Acadians who stayed away, their buildings were burned to the ground. The dykes were messed up, which meant 3 years till the land could be planted again. The Church, which had been spared the first few days, was also burned down. It may be interesting to note that one of the English ships was led by John Alden, grandson of the Pilgrim founder of the same name. He opposed the English attack. After 9 days, they departed and went to the St. John River … taking with them some Acadian prisoners. At least 2 of them were released. Bourgeois, who had been on Alden’s ship, and Arsenault were put on a vessel and told to return to Beaubassin … no to go to Fort Naashwaak. But they went to the fort anyway, and gave Villebon this report of events. (Villebon letter, Oct. 29, 1696, Webster, p. 94-96). Accounts were also given by Church in his The History of the Great Indian War (1845 edition), though the accuracy is questionable. He says, of the 1696 attack, that the people at Beaubassin “were troubled to see their cattle, sheep, hogs, and dogs lying dead about their houses, chopped and hacked with hatchets.” [Clark, p. 113]
The dispute was settled by the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, which ended the war in Europe. But the peace would only last 5 years. The War of Spanish Succession (1702-1713) in Europe meant another opportunity for the English to attack Acadia. On June 30, 1697, Tierberge wrote some notes on Acadia while at Fort Nashwaak.
He had been serving there for the past 2 years. He notes that they survived the British attack of the previous year, and Villebon had added a second line of palisades (of 15″ posts) around the fort for better protection. Their condition wasn’t the best. He notes that not even 6 men would be able to go out on expeditions. Tieberge mentions that there were only 8 families along the St. John River, including 3 brothers D’Amours, des Chauffours, de Clignancourt, Martel, Baptiste, Bellefontaine, Desrochers, la Jarne, and la Treille. Though they are producing goods, they had no mill to grind grain. And the other Acadian settlements didn’t trade with them much because of the traveling distance and the fear of the nearby British. Things were so bad, even the Indians were starving. They had to eat the skins of the moose they had killed. He goes on to describe the activities at Port Royal, Minas, and Beaubassin. Despite the constant French-English conflict, the English brought brandy, sugar cane (from Barbados), molasses, utensils, and trade-goods. In return, the French gave them furs and grain. Boston had been in famine, and the grain was needed in New England. Occasionally, shipments of grain were brought to New England by the Acadians.
The Acadians at Port Royal and Minas were afraid that their settlements might be attacked and burned, as was Beaubassin the previous year.
He also notes that a Quebec ship had been at Baie Verte, trading merchandise with the settlers. (Webster, p. 152-5)
Much like the Beaubassin area (but 25 years later), Pierre Thibodeau let settlers to settle at Shepody (Chipoudy) in 1698. He had been a miller at Pre Ronde at Port Royal. He and his sons went to the Shepody area and encouraged friends (Blanchards) to settle the Petitcodiac. Three of Thibodeau’s sons first wintered the area in 1699/1700. They did very well at trading furs with Indians. Sebastien de Villieu objected, saying they were on his father-in-law’s seigneurie without permission. Pierre wanted to compromise, but de Villieu didn’t. When de Villieu was ready to deal in 1702, Pierre’s group refused because they had sent a petition to France and thought they’d get their own seigneurie. In 1705, the decision was made that is was only a concession to La Villiere’s seigneurie.
There were 7 families (33 people) at Shepody in 1702, and 5 families (13 people) at Petitcodiac. By 1707, there were about 55 people (14 families and 7 engages), 12 horses, 70 cattle, and 50 sheep. The outbreak of war and de Villieu’s actions put a damper on further settlement of the area. It wasn’t raided, but English ships blocked any goods from coming from Port Royal. Rameau estimated 75 people there in 1715 (but 80% of European blood). One of Thibodeau’s group, his son-in-law Mathieu Des Goutins, was the 2nd and last chief civil officer, or king’s clerk, in Acadia. He became procureur general in 1693, similar (but on a lower level) to Canada’s intendants. He served after Gargas from 1688 to 1710. [Clark, p. 145]
A census was taken in 1698 of Port Royal, Beaubassin, and the St. Jean River areas. The 1698 census includes the names and ages of all family members, as well as a count of livestock, land, and munitions.
In 1699, the governor at Port Royal (Villebon) urged that they build a fort with 300-400 men for protection from the English and pirates. Corn and cattle were being raised in the Grand Pre area. Governor Villebon sent 4 men to a cliff to search for copper to work (for 10-12 days), but they didn’t find much. A few specimens were sent to France.
Villebon heard that the Grand Pre Acadians said they’d join the English if they showed up.
So he sent a garrison there. The Acadians then sent a group to help build a fort. Melanson, the chief man, transmitted orders from the authorities. [Herbin, 30]
If you read French, be sure to check out Sieur de Diereville’s account of his journey around Acadia in 1699-1700.
Gradually, the Acadians began to develop their own culture, and no longer considered themselves pure French. By the turn of the century, their numbers had reached 2,000. But they weren’t growing like New France and New England.
A census was done about 1700. The 1700 census, which contains data on Port Royal and Beaubassin, includes the names and ages of all family members, as well as a count of livestock, land, and munitions.
Another census was done about 1701. The 1701 census covered the Port Royal, Beaubassin, and Minas areas and included the names and ages of all family members, as well as a count of livestock, land, and munitions.
The first governor of the 18th century was Sebastien de Villieu, who served as administrator from 1700 to 1701. He moved the capital of Acadia back to Port Royal in 1700. He was replaced by Jacques Francois de Brouillan (1701-1704).
The War of Spanish Succession in 1702 in Europe meant more trouble for Acadia. The Massachusetts colonist saw a new opportunity to turn Acadia into an English colony. [Daigle, p. 33]
The third census in 4 years was conducted about 1703. The 1703 census covered Port Royal, Minas, Beaubassin, and Cobequid; but it only have the names of the head of the household, if a spouse was present, and the number of girls and boys.
De Brouillan was replaced as governor by Simon Pierre Denys de Bonaventure (1704-1706). Port Royal was attacked again, albeit unsuccessfully. Col. Benjamin Church, who had pillaged and burned French settlements and killed their cattle in 1696, led an expedition at the end of May 1704 to attack the French and Indians at Chignecto & Mines [Clark, p. 113] In writing about the 1704 attack at Mines, Church notes that he “gave orders to his men, to dig down the dams, and let the tide in, to destroy all their corn. Of the 1704 attack at Chignecto, he “did them what spoil he could.” The emotional and blood ties in this rural community held them together. [Daigle, p. 31] The looting of the settlements, however, made this a very troubling time for the Acadians. Due to the English presence in nearby waters, it was difficult for supplies from France to be delivered. Many of their “imported” goods came from privateers working in the area. In 1709, for example, at least 35 ships were taken. [Daigle, p. 33-34]
In 1705, Church led 550 men to Acadia in 2 gunboats, 14 transports, 36 whaleboats, and a shallop. The killed and captured prisoners all along the Bay of Fundy. Church himself led the smaller vessels to Minas, where he cut the dykes (flooding the pastures and destroying the crops) and pillaged the settlements. When he met some resistance, he destroyed 3 villages, pillaged, and killed their cattle. Governor Dudley had told him to take what he could and to burn houses. Only a few houses at the heads of the rivers survived. The reason given for the attack was revenge for Indian attacks in New England … and they said the French had instigated the Indians. Church was an impetuous, stubborn, 65 year old former Indian fighter known as “squaw-killer”. They say he was so fat that he kept a strong soldier with him to help him over fallen trees. Though the Massachusetts government thanked him, the people saw him as a coward … attacking defenseless people. [Herbin, 36]. In 1705, Governor Bonaventure sent 4 soldiers to Minas to bring back the king’s bark, La Gaillarde, loaded with wheat. He gave the church a chalice, a pyx, an ostensorium, and complete set of Eucharist ornaments. Evidently these things had been stolen by Col. Church. This also indicates that probably only 1 church (there were 2 at Minas) was pillaged. [Herbin, 37]
The final French governor of Acadia was Daniel d’Auger de Subercase (1706-1710). Governor Subercase only had 160 soldiers, 3/4 of them young men from the “quays of Paris.” He asked for help, but France ignored him. They lived off of “the booty of corsairs” for the next 3 years. In 1710, the harvest failed and an epidemic drove away the corsairs. [Richard, 1, p. 41].The 1707 census covered the same areas as the 1703 census and included the same information, except that the children are listed by 2 age ranges. Col. March led the next attack on Acadia. Men from Rhode Island and New Hampshire joined Massachusetts in an 11 day siege of Port Royal, but it failed. Embarrassed, March went to Casco instead of Boston. He wrote to the Governor Dudley and blamed the failure on his officers and soldiers. Boston was upset; plans had already been made to celebrate a victory at Port Royal. March was ordered to try again. He declined and put second-in-command Wainwright in charge. The second siege, in August 1707, also failed. [Richard, 1, p. 39-40]. As for religious leadership in French Acadia, it had been served by 40-50 priests up to 1710. Regular parish priests had been there since 1676 (Port Royal), 1687 (Grand Pre), and 1686 (Beaubassin). They assisted with the “governing.” The main function of the priest in the life of an Acadian was to perform the sacred rites of baptism, marriage and death.
The Acadian governor Daniel Subercase kept asking France for assistance, but none was forthcoming. New England, on the other hand, did receive help from abroad. England sent 5 ships and 3400 troops to assist the New Englanders. They headed for Acadia and reached Port Royal in on September 24, 1710. Since Subercase had only 300 soldiers, the resistance was futile. Three quarters of the men were from the “quays of Paris.” [Richard, 1, p. 41]
Though Port Royal held out for 19 days, Subercase surrendered on Oct. 12, 1710 to the English forces, led by Francis Nicholson. [Herbin p. 38 says Oct. 10]. The terms of the surrender only referred to Port Royal and the immediate area. The 5th article said that the inhabitants within cannon-shot (3 English miles) of Port Royal could stay there for 2 years, “they taking the oath of allegiance and fidelity to Her Sacred Majesty of Great Britain.” So they had 2 years to move to French territory with their movable items. They took an oath, though we don’t know exactly what it said. This amounted to 481 (according to a list presented to Gen. Nicholson). The rest of Acadia was still French territory till the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. [Richard, 1, p. 67] But the French never lost hope of one day regaining Acadia. [Daigle, p. 34]. The French troops left Port Royal. Nicholson saw that things were quite bad, and even had to give the French soldiers provisions for the trip back to France. [Richard, 1, p. 42] Nicholson and his troops left Oct. 28. Col. Vetch stayed behind to act as Lieut. Gov. He had about 450 soldiers. Desertion and disease took its toll on the garrison, so that only about 100 were left by the following June. Acadians outside of Port Royal saw this as an opportunity and brought this to the attention of de St. Castin (who had been Lieut. of the district). [Richard, 1, p. 68]. So Vetch sent troops out to observe their actions. On one trip, the English were captured till a ransom was given. Thinking there was a deal between the aggressors and some in Annapolis, arrested Guillaume Bourgeois, Jean Comeau, and Pierre LeBlanc of Annapolis; and Germain Bourgeois of Beaubassin and Francois Brassard of Chipody (who were passing through Annapolis). We don’t know what came of this. Saint Castin took 42 Abanakis Indians and crossed the Bay of Fundy. Captain Pigeon had taken 80 English soldiers up the Annapolis to surprise some Indians. The Indians had been threatening those in Annapolis not to suppy the English with wood for their fortifications. Saint Castin surprised the English and 30 of them were killed; the rest were made prisoners. This place has since been called Bloody Creek. Abbe Gaulin, priest at Mines, organized 200 men to assist Saint Castin. But the garrison at Annapolis received reinforcements and the plan was dropped. [Richard, 1, p. 69-70]
The inhabitants of Port Royal sent a letter to the governor of Canada (Vaudreuil) asking for assistance to help them leave. Vetch had been treating them harshly, and saying that they were lucky that they weren’t treated worse. They passed along 3 ordinances of Vetch to illustrate his mistreatment. They again asked if he could “furnish the necessary assistance for our retiring from this unhappy country.” [Richard, 1, p. 71-72]. Minas sent a group to Port Royal to see what was in store for them. They couldn’t get any information, but Mascarene (an officer with a French background, who could speak the language) was sent to deal with the people at Grand Pre. Mascarene arrived in Grand Pre on Nov. 12, 1710 on the brigantine Betty. He had 59 soldiers, a lieutenant, and a surgeon with him. A captured French vessel was also brought, with furs on board as a present to the governor. An Acadian passenger from Minas was sent to the people with the message, assemble at a good landing place and Mascarene would give them instructions; the soldiers were not there to bother them, but merely to protect Mascarene. The following day, at noon, he landed at Grand Pre on a flat-bottomed boat with 42 men. [Herbin, 39].
Since his message had been so well received, 150 Acadians showed up. He told them that his mission was peaceful. Vetch’s instructions were that they were to be prisoners of war, and that they and their goods were for the government’s use. Mascarene just told them that the soldiers would be peaceful, as long as the Acadians did their duty. They marched to a house which was to be used as headquarters and 4 houses around it to hold the men. The boat was 9 miles offshore, so they stayed in the houses for the night. The creek that they sailed in on only had the tide 1 1/2 hours a day, anyway. Peter Melanson and 5 others (Alexander Bourg, Anthony LeBlanc, John & Peter Landry) were chosen to be deputies to bring the word to those who hadn’t heard it, that they and their property was now the government’s. [Herbin, 40]. They were asked to pay 6000 livres ($1200) in money or in poultry; plus, 20 pistoles ($80) every month to maintain the governor’s table. This would allow them to travel to and trade with Port Royal. Col. Vetch also wanted to tax the Acadians to pay the troops. [Daigle, 34] They explained that because of the actions of the previous French governor, they could only come up with 1/2 of that amount … 1/3 of the people were very poor. They pleaded for him to accept this amount, and to have power to compel those who didn’t want to contribute. They made up a list of people and their proportional “tax” amount. Jean Landry (one of the 6 and captain of the vessel) took charge of the furs (value – 60 pistoles) to bring them to Port Royal. The Acadians were paid 16 livres for the lodging, and the soldiers marched the 3 miles to the awaiting boats. [Herbin, 41]. A document was written on Nov. 16 saying that the deputies were given the power to collect the money. Though Vetch wanted to get as much money from them as possible, 6 months of sickness had reduced his forces to 100 men and he couldn’t impose the tax. The Acadians weren’t used to being taxed and found every excuse possible not to pay, or to pay as little as possible. And when the Acadians were asked to help by working on fortifications, a number of excuses were offered up … horses were too thin, the Indians might attack, there was ice on the river, etc. This uncooperative attitude would stay with them through the years. [Daigle, p. 35]. The fort, which was weak, was blockaded by the French. Abbe Gaulin (parish priest at Minas) tried unsuccessfully to get 200 men to aid the French. Just about the only English immigrants to Acadia before 1749 were a few English traders at Port Royal. Many thought that Acadian would be returned to France after a treaty, as with the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697; but this wasn’t the case. Instead, English occupation began for the first time. There were now 400 English soldiers there. [Daigle, p. 34]
In 1711, Vetch left to join Nicholson in a projected expedition against Montreal. Sir Charles Hobby was left in charge of Port Royal. When the Montreal project fell through, Vetch returned to Port Royal (where he held office till summer 1714). Vetch served as lieut-gov. of the garrison; Nicholson was appointed governor on Oct. 20, 1712, but left to go to London to plan the Montreal expedition. Nicholson held the title (though wasn’t present) till 1717. Vetch was replaced (as lieut.-governor) by Major Caulfield, who in turn was replaced by Captain Doucette in 1717.
The Treaty of Utrecht, signed on April 13, 1713, gave Acadia to England. In the treaty, France ceded “All of Nova Scotia or Acadia comprised in its ancient limits, as also the city of Port Royal.” [Richard, 1, p. 73]. More on the treaty can be found in Corinne Laplante’s M.A. thesis at the Universite de Moncton (1972), “Le Traite d’Utrecht et l’Acadie: une etude sur la correspondance secrete et officielle qui a entoure la signature du traite d’Utrecht.”
Of course, the exact boundaries of Acadia were argued until 1763. Till then, France assumed that it had only given up the main body of present day Nova Scotia; they still claimed Ile Royale, Ile St. Jean, and the mainland coast (of New Brunswick). Acadia had over 2,000 people at this time, while New England had a population of 150,000. Though Louis XIV seemed to take an interest in colonization, it didn’t last long. In about a century, France had sent less than 200 colonists to Acadia. English colonies received more than that many people in a single year. When he should have been paying more attention to Acadia, he turned his interest to Louisiana. [Richard, 1, p. 44]. The 14th article of the treaty said that the subjects “may have liberty to remove themselves within a year to any other place, as they shall think fit, with all their movable effects. But those who are willing to remain here, and to be subjects to the kingdom of Great Britain, are to enjoy the free exercise of their religion according to the usage of the Church of Rome as far as the laws of Great Britain do allow the same.” In return for France’s good treatment of its Protestants, England (Queen Anne) relaxed the terms of the treaty for the Acadians. The addd terms were in a June 23, 1713 letter from the Queen to Gov. Nicholson. The letter says, that in return for the French king releasing people aboard his galleys (put there because they were Protestant), those subjects in Acadia and Newfoundland who want to be English subjects could “retain and enjoy their said lands and tenements without any molestations, as fully and freely as other our
subjects do or may possess their lands or estates, or to sell the same, if they shall rather choose to remove elsewhere.” [Richard, 1, p. 74]. So, they could stay and keep their religion, or they could move with their belongings. Also, they could sell their immovable property. Apparently, though, there was still a time limit of one year from the treaty (which was 3 months before the Queen’s letter). Her letter didn’t change that. [Richard, 1, p. 75]
It appears the Acadians were prepared to leave, but the English authorities kept putting up roadblocks (for 5 decades!). [Richard, 1, p. 76] Since taking an oath of allegiance might mean they might have to fight against Frenchmen, they would rather leave. France encouraged them to move to French at Ile Royale. A scouting group went to Louisbourg to see what conditions might be waiting for them their. They sent a report back, which seems to have been answered by the Acadians with a refusal (Sept. 23, 1713). The soil there was poor and their was inadequate pasture-land. They did acknowledge that if they had to take the oath, they’d leave anyway. They mention that “if they burthen us in respect to our religion, or cut up our settlement to divide the lands with people of our nation we will abandon them absolutely.” [Richard, 1, p. 81]. This reply upset the Louisbourg governor, M. de Costabelle. Even the priest (Gaulin), who Costabelle had hoped would talk the Acadians into coming over, sent the governor a note saying he wasn’t convinced of the governor’s promises and would prefer to see them stay under the English, “who are doing all in their power to prevent them from departing.” [Costabelle au Ministre, Nov. 1713; Murdoch, v. 1, p. 338]
Felix Pain, a Recollet missionary, wrote to the Governor of Cape Breton from Minas on Sept. 23, 1713. The letter explained what the Acadians had told the priest. They had large families and would die of hunger if they had to rebuild. The older Acadians (about 1/4 of the population) could farm the cultivated marshland of Grand Pre, but clearing new land would be too much for them. They stated that they would never take an oath of loyalty to the Queen of England, out of love for their own country, king, and religion. Even if any one of the 3 were taken, it would be too much. They were unsure of the English plans for them. If the English planned to hamper their religion or to cut up the settlements to give land to English settlers … they would just as soon abandon them. The land they saw at Isle Royale didn’t have enough meadowland, which was important for their cattle. The population of Minas was 1290 on Oct. 5, 1714. [Herbin, 44]. So land was also offered on Ile St. Jean, but Col. Vetch would not let them go there. He said that he was only the lieutenant governor, and they had to wait for Governor Nicholson to approve. BUT, Nicholson arrived AFTER the year had expired. [Herbin, 43]. In order to keep them put, the English forbid them to build boats and wouldn’t allow them to sell their property and livestock. The English saw Acadian movement to Ile Royale as a possible strengthening of French forces there. [Daigle, p. 35] As time went by, France stopped putting so much pressure on the Acadians to have them move to Ile Royale. If there were a war, they hoped Acadians in Nova Scotia would assist France. The government of Nova Scotia from 1713-1720 was led by a council of soldiers. Cases were submitted to a military tribunal. In 1720, government by martial law was ceased. Since most governors lived elsewhere, lieut. governors were dealing with the Acadians in Nova Scotia. Legislative matters were conducted by a 12 member council. The General Court (Nova Scotia’s court of justice) met 4 times a year. Though the American colonies had Assemblies, there was none in Nova Scotia (since it would have been made of Acadians). Acadian delegates were appointed; their job was to bring government orders to the people, and to bring the people’s needs to the government. These were the people who refused (in the name of the people) to take the oath. The 24 delegates included: 12 from Les Mines (like Alexandre Bourg), 6 from Port Royal (like Prudent Robichaud), 4 from Cobequid (like Charles Robichaud), and 2 from Beaubassin. They were usually some of the more prominent men of the community. [Daigle, p. 36]
A major task taken by the English was to get the Acadians to swear the oath of allegiance and become British subjects. It was common for England to require its subjects to take an oath of allegiance. Vetch tried to get them to take one from 1710 to 1713. The Acadians refused an unconditional oath, expressing concerns about their Catholic faith and not fighting against French & Indians. Vetch threatened expulsion, since refusal of the oath could be viewed as an act of rebellion. When he realized they might move to Ile Royale and strengthen French forces, he changed his mind. Jules Leger deals with this in his M.A. thesis at Canisius College (1963), “Guides to Understanding the Acadian Dispersion.” The Acadians expressed 3 points of concern: that they be able to continue their Catholic faith, the Indians (allies of the French) might attack an Acadian who fought against the French, and that the English take the Acadians history into account. [Daigle, p. 37] From 1713 to 1730, the Acadians were urged to take the oath of allegiance on a number of occasions. [Herbin, 48]
The only census taken (that gives names) of Acadia under English control was done in 1714. The 1714 census gives only the head of household, if the spouse was present, and the number of girls and boys … except for Beaubassin, where names were listed for all family members.
Vetch wrote a letter on Nov. 24, 1714 to London, showing why he hadn’t let the Acadians go. Evidently, they had sent him 6 questions, which he answered.
1) He calls the area “L’Accady and Nova Scotia” and says there are about 500 families (2500 people) there.
2) He notes that all (except for 2 families from New England … the ALLENs and the GOURDAYs) wanted to move.
3) He also estimates that there are 500 families at Louisburg, plus 7 companies (of soldiers). The French king gave them 18 months provisions and helped them out with ships and salt (for the Fishery) to encourage them to settle there.
4) As to the movement of Acadians from Nova Scotia to Isle Royale, he notes that it would empty the area of inhabitants. Even the Indians (with whom the French intermarried and shared their religion) by take their trade to Isle Royale to follow the Acadians. This would make Isle Royale a much larger colony. He says that 100 Acadians (who knew the woods, could use snow-shoes, and knew how to use birch canoes) were more valuable than 5 times as many soldiers fresh from Europe. They were also excellent in fishery. Such a move would create the largest and most powerful French colony in the New World.
5) He notes that some of them (without much belongings) have already moved, but the rest plan on moving the next summer when the harvest is over and the grain is in. They had about 5000 Black Cattle, plus many sheep and hogs, that they would take with them if permitted. So if they move, the colony will be reverted to a primitive state and be devoid of cattle. It would require a long time and 40,000 pounds to obtain that much livestock from New England.
6) He also wrote that having them sell the land wouldn’t be good; the treaty doesn’t even give them that right. He states that they wouldn’t have wanted to go if the French officers (speaking for the French king) hadn’t threatened that they’d be treated as rebels if they didn’t move. Nicholson arrived at Port Royal in July of 1714. [Herbin, 45-47]
They Acadians were waiting for Nicholson, to get permission to leave. But someone let him know what their leaving would mean, and he referred the matter to the queen. The queen died that August, and a series of delays, pretext, fraud, and deception followed.
The Acadians had sown 2 years worth of grain and were sure they were moving; they didn’t even plan on growing crops the following year. Nicholson arrived in the summer of 1714, after the one year deadline had expired. Major l’Hermite (who replaced Costabelle at Louisbourg) sent a letter to Nicholson on July 11, 1714. [Richard, 1, p. 82]
“Having learnt, sir, from several inhabitants of Port Royal, of Mines and Beaubassin, that he who commands in your absence at Port Royal (Col. Vetch), has forbidden them to leave, and even refused the permission to those who asked him for it, which event makes most of the Acadians now established on the lands of the King of England unable to withdraw this year …””That is what has determined me, according to the order given me by the King, to send thither M. de la Ronde Denys, into whose hands I have remitted the orders of Queen Anne; he will confer with you about the reasons why they are detained. I hope, sir, you will render all due justice, and that you will have no other view than to obey the behests of the Queen.” The other letter is from the same to the Minister and dated August 29, 1714: “He who commands Port Royal has forbidden the Acadians to leave the country before the arrival of Mr. Nicholson, so that all those who have come here had escaped. They represented to me that it was necessary to send an officer there in order to uphold their rights, the English having forbidden the missionaries to meddle with the affairs of the Acadians.” [Archives de la Marine et des Colonies].
De la Ronde and Pinsens arrived at Port Royal with the orders of Queen Anne about July 20, about the same time that Nicholson arrived. Nicholson promised to give the Acadians another year to leave if they wanted to. When he allowed them to hold assemblies to discuss the matter, they all concurred that they wanted to leave the country. [Letter from Mascarene to Gov. Shirley, April 6, 1748]. But though the Queen had given specific orders, and Nicholson acted like he would follow them … he didn’t. They were refused transportation on English vessels, and the French vessels weren’t allowed in port. The Acadians asked for time to build ships and to get rigging from France. But Nicholson did what he could to keep them in Acadia. The Acadians tried to order rigging from Boston, but Nicolson forbid it. He even seized the boats and ships they had already built. He must have initially seen the letter from the Queen and said he’d go along with it. But when his officers explained what the departure of the Acadians would mean, he probably changed his mind. [Richard, 1, p. 85]
The Acadians lived very peacefully and faithfully under English government. Caulfield became lieutenant governor in 1715 and sent 2 officers (Peter Capoon and Thomas Button) to offer the oath to the Acadians. They responded with flattery (thanks to King George for his kindness; he is such a good prince, etc.) and said that they would be obedient until they were allowed to move. But they wouldn’t take the unconditional oath. [Herbin, 49]. Queen Anne had died in early August 1714, so she wasn’t able to follow up on her command. The Acadians were strung along for a while, expecting that a decision would be forthcoming. Remember that many were so confident that they would be leaving by summertime that they didn’t even plant their fields in spring 1715. Costabelle wrote to the minister (Sept. 8, 1715) and noted that the Minas Acadians had enough grain for 2 years and hadn’t planted the land since they were planning to leave the country. [Richard, 1, p. 86]. Father Dominic had shown Costabelle a memoir that showed that the Acadians were ready to leave and hadn’t planted. Several had built ships to take them away. [Conseil de la Marine, March 28, 1716] A letter of Intendant Bégon, Quebec, Sept. 25, 1715, says that the English were doing everything they could to stop the Acadians from leaving. They wouldn’t allow them items needed for the move, wouldn’t let them sell their items & livestock, and would only allow them a few provisions to take. Costabelle wrote a letter on Nov. 6, 1715 that mentions how he complained to someone Nicholson had sent about the way the Acadians were being treated. That person, Capon, agreed that Nicholson didn’t have the orders to do as he did, but Vetch’s hands were tied. He couldn’t do anything without the King’s orders. Despite his first agreement to carry out the Queen’s wishes, Nicholson wouldn’t allow them to sail on English ships, he kept French vessels out of the ports, he wouldn’t allow them to purchase rigging from Louisbourg, he wouldn’t allow them to purchase rigging from Boston, and he seized their boats. [Richard, 1, p. 87]. Col. Vetch (who had been in London since the previous fall) wrote to the Board of Trade on Mar. 9, 1715 where he says that the Acadians would go if they could. He says that “unless some speedy orders are sent to prevent the Acadians’ removal,” they would move to and strengthen Cape Breton. [Richard, 1, p. 91]
He wrote another letter to the Board on Sept. 2, 1715. He noted that Nicholson had forbid trade between Acadians and the garrison (even keeping the Fort gates shut). He also prevented them from trading with the Indians. This had discouraged the Acadians to the point that they were building small boats to take them to Cape Breton. He again wrote to the Board on Feb. 21, 1716. He notes that few Acadians have left (but doesn’t describe why). He again notes that their departure would “ruin” Nova Scotia and states that to keep the inhabitants and their livestock in Nova Scotia would be “for the advantage of the Crown.” [Richard, 1, p. 92]. Gov. Caulfield wrote to Col. Vetch on Nov. 2, 1715 from Annapolis Royal. He notes that Nicholson had told the soldiers that the French were rebels and would cut their throats if they went into their homes. The soldiers were ordered to have no dealings with them and the gates of the fort were to be shut. But, the soldiers still needed the goods produced by the Acadians. Adams wrote to Capt. Steele on Jan. 24, 1715. He noted that they thought Gen. Nicholson’s arrival would mean that the place would be settled. But instead, he pulled down the forts, took many of the soldiers with him, drove away the Acadians … so that the place looked desolate. He spent most of his time cursing Gov. Vetch and his friends. All … English and French … reviled the man. [Richard, 1, p. 93] While in London, Vetch tried unsuccessfully to oust Nicholson.
Doucette took over as lieutenant governor in 1717. The French were still ready to move, rather than take the oath. But it appears by this time some Acadians had decided to stay put on peaceful terms. When the Indians learned of this, they threatened the Acadians. Though they had always been friends, they didn’t want the Acadians going over to the English side. Doucette demanded that they take the oath, but they thought by doing so it would tie them down … and they still wanted to move. They said if they were to stay, they wanted protection from the Indians and the oath would be stated so that they would not have to fight their own countrymen. But the governor wanted an unconditional oath. [Herbin, 50]. Nicholson, who later (1720-25) went on to become governor of South Carolina, was replaced by Col. Richard Philipps, who would be governor until 1749. But he only visited Acadia in 1720-22 and 1729-31. The lieutenant governor would be the acting authority in the land.
On May 9, 1720, those who had become British subjects were offered free exercise of their religion, guarantee to their property, and their civil rights. Official notices were translated into French to be distributed (this continued from 1720 to 1755). An offer was made that they could leave, but not take any of their possessions with them. [Herbin, 51]. They answered that they feared the Indians if they took the oath, and promised to be faithful and peaceful. They explained that they couldn’t leave in the year (allotted by the treaty) because no one would buy their land. The French government wanted them to move (but the land was poor), and the English government was underhandedly making them stay. The English didn’t want to lose their source of supplies. The Acadians were hard to control … the Minas Acadians even more than the Port Royal Acadians. [Herbin, 52]. General Phillips arrived at Port Royal (now called Annapolis Royal) in 1720. He issued a proclamation that they must take the oath unconditionally or leave the country in 3 months. He also said they couldn’t sell or take with them any of their property. He thought that this would really force them to take the oath. But the Acadians still refused, saying that the Indians were threatening them. When they said, let us harvest our crops and use vehicles to carry it, Philipps figured that they were planning on taking their possessions with them and denied. The Acadians felt that their only route of “escape” was by land, so they began to make a road from Minas to Port Royal. [Herbin, 54]. The governor sent out an order that no one should move without his permission, and he even sent an order to Minas to stop work on the road. The English stated that the Acadians desired to take the Port Royal cattle to Beaubassin, which was a fortified French possession. Philipps said that the Acadians were ungovernable, stubborn, and directed by bigoted priests. He went on to say that the Acadians couldn’t be allowed to go because it would strengthen the population of their French neighbors. The Acadians were also needed to build fortifications and to produce supplies for the forts. They can’t leave until there are enough British subjects to be settled in their place. He hoped that there were plans being made to bring in British subjects. He expected problems from the Indians, who didn’t want the Acadians to move. [Herbin, 55]. Though the Acadians wouldn’t move there, France started sending people to Ile Royale. The fort at Louisbourg was begun in 1720. The population of Cape Breton rose from 700 in 1715 to 2800 in 1723. Louisbourg was the largest settlement on the island. Other settlements included St. Pierre near the Straight of Canso (which had slate mines) and Niganiche on the Gulf of St. Lawrence (a fishing port). The fort at Louisbourg (which was destroyed in 1758) cost millions of livres to build. [Daigle, p. 38]. Though a military settlement, there were also 1000 people in the fishing industry at Louisbourg, and it served as a trading location. Ships arrived with goods (31 in 1717, 100+ in 1723, etc.). France sent clothes, cloth, hardware, salt, and wine. New France sent grain, livestock, lumber, and vegetables. West Indies sent molasses, sugar, rum, coffee, and tobacco. Acadians weren’t supposed to trade with Ile Royale, though it happened anyway. The isthmus sent livestock, furs, and grains. It is thought that the Acadians saved the money received for a rainy day. The governing force at Port Royal was too small and too far away to prevent this illegal trading. [Daigle, p. 39]
Doucette was lieutenant-governor again from 1722 to 1725. He was replaced by Armstrong, who was violent and had a bad temper. He had problems with everyone. This caused some French families to leave, and others to make the same plans. But he adjusted his attitude, for he too recognized the need to keep the Acadians where they were (for now). He got the Port Royal Acadians (which was about 1/4 of the population) to take the oath by reminding them that England did not allow Catholics to serve in the army. He sent 2 officers to Minas to try the same approach, but they failed. He then sent an officer to try. Wroth offered them the following oath to take … “I do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George the Second, so help me God.” This meant that they wouldn’t have to “take up arms” against the French or Indians, they could leave whenever they want, and they had the freedom to have priests and to practice the Catholic religion. [Herbin, 56] Since that time, they were often known as the “neutral French.”
The lieutenant governor thought Wroth’s offer was too lenient. When it was brought before the Council, the oath was declared null and void. The Lords of Trade in England weren’t happy about Armstrong’s handling of the oath, so Philipps was called on to come to Acadia to handle things. Philipps was well received at Port Royal in December of 1729. He soon realized that they Acadians were holding fast to their request for a conditional oath. [Herbin, 57]
The Acadians swore to the oath presented by Philipps. It said, “I sincerely promise and swear, as a Christian, that I will be utterly faithful and will truly obey His Majesty King George the Second, whom I acknowledge as the sovereign Lord of Nova Scotia and Acadia. So help me God.” That is all Philipps reported. But, the oath they took continued, ” …that the inhabitants, when they have sworn hereto, will not be obliged to take up arms against France or against the Savages, and the said Inhabitants have further promised that they will not take up arms against the King of England or against its government.” [Naomi Griffiths, The Acadians: Creation of a People, p. 26] This second part, a verbal promise, was notarized … but was not on the copy that Philipps sent to England. [Daigle, p. 38]. The people drew up a certificate, attested to by the priest (Charles de la Goudalie) and a notary (Alexander Bourg, called Bellehumeur). It was too late in the year to visit the other areas, but in April the Minas population had become British subjects. [Herbin, 57]. From 1730 on, the Acadians were known as French Neutrals. It was the first step towards to full allegiance, but this path was messed up by future actions. The Acadians began to realize that they were stuck with England, though England didn’t send many troops to the place. The Acadians were pretty much left to themselves for 15 years, though England was still waiting for an unconditional oath. For the Acadians, 1713 to 1744 was the most peaceful period of their existence. The population grew faster in this period that in any other. [Daigle, p. 39]
England had banned the Acadians from developing new land. But the rapidly increasing population forced them to do so. At Beaubassin, for example, they spread out to the Memramcook, Petitcodiac, and Chipoudie rivers areas. In the 1730s, England bought out the rights from the LaTour family and assumed the seigniorial system was over. England wanted to settle the new lands with their own settlers. England did try to collect taxes, but again the Acadians came up with a variety of excuses. Only 30 pounds were collected in 1732, and only 15 pounds in 1745. Generally, if the Acadians had a problems they settled it amongst themselves (priests, patriarchs) without going to the English authorities. [Daigle, p. 40]. Even though the Treaty of Utrecht allowed the practice of Catholicism “insofar as the laws of Great Britain allowed,” those laws of Great Britain were stacked against Catholicism. But the Acadians’ religion was not infringed upon by the English. The English allowed them their priests, but were concerned about their influence. They sometimes accused priests of creating an anti-English feeling … of using the sword more than the cross. [Micheline Dumont-Johnson, Apotres ou agitateurs: la France missionnaire en Acadie Trois Rivieres, Boreal Express, 1970]. The missionaries had some degree of influence on the Indians. But the Indians didn’t give them (or even their own chiefs) complete authority. The French officers at Louisbourg and Beausejour were jealous of their influence, and the English officers at Port Royal were wary of it. The Acadians were about as literate as any isolated section of New England. They were hard-working, skilled at their tasks, traded well, and had high moral standards. They just wanted to be left alone. For about 20 years, things were peaceful. The Acadians had put dykes in so that all of the land was available for farming. Farms were divided, since new land was reserved for Protestants.
Armstrong, who succeeded Philips, was governor till he committed suicide in 1739. In 1732, he tried to contract with Rene LeBlanc to build a 26×60’ building (granary/magazine) to serve as a barracks for troops; but Indians objected and the plan was dropped. Armstrong visited Minas in 1735 to administer the oath to those who hadn’t taken it, and to renew the treaty with the Indians. One event that occurred during his tenure was that he tried to force a priest (not in good standing) on them and they refused to go to church; so he refused them any priest. [Herbin, 61]
When war broke out in the 1740s (War of Austrian Succession), Louisbourg thought the Acadians would fight on their side, and England thought they might revolt also. The Acadians were still holding fast to their 1730 oath. Some may have gone one way or the other, but most stayed neutral. Louisbourg first heard of the news that war had begun (on March 15, 1744) and attacked a fishing port at the Canso straight. Another force from Louisbourg attacked Annapolis Royal (Port Royal) in August, but failed. In mid-winter of 1745, New France sent Sieur de La Malgue (with 100 militiamen and 400 Indians) to Nova Scotia. They tried to recruit help in the Acadian settlements. They arrived at Annapolis Royal in May. [Daigle, p. 41]. France wanted Acadia back. Mascarene (the governor’s representative who was a French Huegenot) knew that the Acadians wouldn’t give France aid, though French Canada thought they would. France invaded Acadia 4 times and supplied arms and ammunition … but they didn’t want to fight. They were living under a “mild and tranquil government” and didn’t want to stir the up trouble. They even objected when the French wanted the soldiers to spend the winter at Minas. [Herbin, 63]. France lost Louisbourg during this period of conflict. A large fleet was sent to recapture it and Acadia.in 1747. There were only 220 soldiers at Port Royal, but New England wasn’t far away. Troops under Chevalier de Ramesay were sent from Quebec to Chebucto (Halifax) in early spring 1747. But the fleet hadn’t arrived so he went to Port Royal. With still no signs of the fleet, he returned home. Finally, some of the fleet arrived at Chebucto. Ramesay returned to Port Royal, but the fleet still didn’t show up and he again returned to Quebec. Storms and plagues had destroyed the largest fleet France had ever sent across the Atlantic. Mascarene sent an appeal from Port Royal to Massachusetts governor Shirley for help, and 500 volunteers (commanded by Col. Arthur Noble) were sent. They got to Port Royal in fall 1747. Some were sent by ship to Minas, but returned due to bad weather. In November, about 100 marched over frozen ground to Minas and stayed with the inhabitants. The rest tried to make it by sea, but had to land (at French Cross, or Morden) and walk the last 40 miles. It took them 8 days to reach Minas. The landing place in the mouth of the Gaspareau was one mile from Grand Pre. The ships arrived safely with the supplies, which were left at the landing place for the winter. The soldiers stayed in 24 houses along the highway. To the horror of the Acadians, a British flag was hoisted on the church steeple. Ramesay had built a fort on the isthmus and controlled the area. Noble wanted to march on it and drive off the French. Near the center of Grand Pre was a stone building, where Noble put the cannon. Upon hearing that Noble wanted to attack him (and underestimating Noble’s troop size), Ramesay planned a night attack on Grand Pre. Since Ramesay had hurt his knee on the 2nd march to Port Royal, Capt. Coulon de Villiers was in charge. After 4 days of preparation, he left on Jan. 21 and led 240 Canadians and 20 Indians through 3 feet of snow. They reached Piziquid, 15 miles from Grand Pre, on the 9th. They divided into 10 groups as they approached the Melanson village, on the banks of the Gaspereau. They took shelter and warmth in the Acadian homes, and even found a wedding feast going on. The prospective bloodshed brought a somber tone to the evening. They learned that Noble’s men were in 24 houses on a 1 1/2 mile section of the main road in Grand Pre.
FRENCH SUCCESS AT MINAS
There were now 346 French, who divided into 10 groups. It was 2 in the morning and had been snowing for 30 hours straight. You couldn’t walk without snowshoes. They arrived at about 3. Noble was killed. The English surrendered a day later. Of the 350 member French force, there were 7 killed and 15 wounded. The English force of 525 had 100 killed, 15 wounded, and 50 captured. Eleven of the 12 houses attacked were taken. The Acadians at Minas had warned Noble that the French would attack, but he ignored them. Coulon left on Feb. 12, after burying the dead.[Herbin, 62-72]. Ramesay claimed that Minas owed submission to France. The Acadians wrote Mascarene (at Port Royal) asking what to do. Gov. Shirley sent a brig, 2 schooners, and 300 men to Minas who stayed there 4 days. Minas had its boats taken, so if they wanted basic goods (ie. salt), they had to make the trip 60 mile trip to Port Royal.
Halifax was founded in 1749 and was the governmental headquarters. From Halifax to Minas was only a trail. Jean Melanson (from Canard) and Claude LeBlanc (from Grand Pre) made the trip in a few days to speak to Cornwallis on behalf of the people. They found that they were supposed to bring a proclamation back to their people and make it public. They had to take the oath without restriction. The deputies (representatives) from all areas returned to respectfully say no. Cornwallis said everyone had to take it without exception by Oct. 26 or lose their rights and property. The deputies went to the people, told the news, and reported to Cornwallis in a few weeks. What they brought back was a paper with a thousand “signatures” referring to the previous oath and how well they’ve “behaved” since then. It repeated their fear of the Indians and asked if they could take the same oath as taken under Philipps; otherwise they wanted to leave the country. Cornwallis was harsh about it. He wrote to the Lords of Trade saying he would use the Acadians while they were there. And he prevented the Acadians from leaving.
The French were building a fort at Beausejour. They got Abbe Le Loutre to try to talk the Acadians into moving to French territory. The Acadians were concerned about Cornwallis’plans. Actions by the French got some Acadians to join the Indians in acting against the English. It was too late in the year for a general withdrawal, though some left. [Herbin, 80]. The English sent ~100 men to Minas under Captain Handfield to prevent Acadian movements. It was too late to build barracks, so they enclosed 3 houses, in a triangular picketing with half bastions, on a hill. A blockhouse from Port Royal had been brought and set up in the camp. The “fort” was known as Vieux Logis. The people helped provide for the soldiers, helped poorer settlers build houses at Halifax, and cleared a road to Halifax about 18’ wide. [Herbin, 81]. In October 1749, 300 Indians (spurred on by the French) blockaded the Minas fort so the Acadians could leave; shots were fired, but no one was killed. But the people wanted to wait to hear from the governor, so the Indians left. The Indians surprised an 18 man group led by Capt. Hamilton and took them and notary Leblanc with them. By 1750, a fort (Ft. Edward) had been built at Pisiquid. Cornwallis still wanted them to take the oath, and they still wanted to leave the country. The English began importing settlers in 1750, but they had to be kept in the Halifax area until the Acadian issues could be solved. In late 1751, after years of service and in ill health, Gov. Cornwallis resigned as governor. In August 1752, Col. Peregrine Thomas Hopson – the former commander at Louisbourg who had been at Chebucto since 1749 -took over as governor. He sent most of the German settlers to Merliguish (which was renamed Lunenburg) in 1753. (NSHS, V. 1).
The Acadians were raising much more crops than they needed. Vieux Logis was falling apart, so the men were sent to Fort Edward. [Herbin, 82]. Hopson recognized the problems the Acadians had with the oath, and knew how important the Acadians were to the country. He made a treaty with the Indians, and would have helped the Acadians’ situation, but he had to retire as governor after 15 months due to health problems. He had laid out rules for the fair treatment of Acadians … that they should be treated as well as other subjects of England. [Herbin, 83]. Hopson was replaced by Charles Lawrence. Many documents show that Lawrence had desires to get rid of the Acadians. He used the acts of individuals to make charges against the whole population. He revoked Hopson’s orders (ie. not to use military force if they refused to comply). One example was that if an Acadian was ordered to get firewood, and he didn’t do it promptly … his house would be used for fuel. About 3,000 made their way to the northwest. Besides pressure from Lawrence, the Acadians had heard reports that Governor Shirley planned to take some of their land and settle Protestants among them, and offering privileges to the French who would convert. He had even sent a report to England on how to convert them to Protestantism. Many documents show that Lawrence had desires to get rid of the Acadians. The acts of individuals were charged to the whole population. The English openly stated their fear that the Acadians would join arms with the French. But the fact is that the English just wanted to get rid of the Acadians. When a number of Acadians were caught fighting with the French, it provided the incentive for Charles Lawrence to start the ball rolling. He revoked Hopson’s orders (ie. not to use military force if they refused to comply). One example was if ordered to get firewood, and they didn’t do it promptly … use their houses for fuel. [Herbin, 86]
On June 6, 100 men from Ft. Edward went to Grand Pre and split up, 2 to a house. They seized all arms and ammunition (and faced no resistance). Then the soldiers sailed back to Ft. Edward with the stuff. The Acadians didn’t know what was behind this … at least not yet. Actually, only 1/5 of the quantity was found. Soon after, an order was given for Acadians to give up their arms at Ft. Edward, and 2,900 were turned in. They then sent a petition to Lawrence. [Herbin, 87]. It notes that they could no longer take corn by ship because the English think they might be bringing corn or other supplies to Beasejour or St. John. They said they weren’t to blame if some people from Beaubassin were moving their cattle. It notes how their canoes were taken, and they would like them back for fishing. Then the poor could support their families with fish. They also note the taking of their guns, which they needed to protect their cattle from wild beasts and to protect their families. If someone had oxen in the woods, he would think of going get them without something to defend himself. [Herbin, 88]. It notes that since the Indians have left, wild beasts have increased and cattle are eaten by them every day. They also needed guns for protection from Indians. They were also upset at being declared guilty without even knowing what was done. Pierre Melanson of River Canard was on his boat (having not heard of an order to forbid it) and was seized. They wanted to be informed when (and why?) he wanted to confiscate their property. They heard that the governor ignored the petition, so they drew up another on June 24, 1755. They were very polite, even apologizing for being so timid in his presence. [Herbin, 89]
They offered to explain the petition to him. The petition was signed by 44 people from Minas, Canard, and Piziquid.
Lawrence accused the Acadians of aiding Indians (though the Indians had left the area and were in New Brunswick). The Indians had harassed the Acadians because they seemed too nice to the English. Some Acadians had gone to help the French, but only under penalty of death. For 40 years they couldn’t get titles to their land, or get any more land. [Herbin, 90]. They had produced tons of produce. There were 2 churches. Lawrence asked them to take the oath. They asked to go talk with the people, but were told that they had 24 hours to decide. He sent word to Murray at Piziquid, to get the Acadians at Minas to get new deputies, and if the oath weren’t taken … he’d remove them from the Province. The priests and the archives had been carried off by the English. Lawrence had hidden his plans from the English government till it was too late for them to stop him. He told the Lords of Trade that if the Acadians refused to take the oath, he’d send them to France. An answer from England was 3 months away. [Herbin, 91]
On July 5, 100 delegates went to Lawrence with a petition (signed by 203) saying that they’d only take the oath given in Philipp’s day, and not any other. They were put in prison (until after the deportations started). Abbe Daudin relates [the book has a long excerpt] that the only time the English had been talking to Acadians was to tell them that their days were numbered … that destruction awaited them. But they still hoped for the best. “Prayer was the only weapon they used against the English.” After Beausejour was taken, the English would have them go to the fort on holidays and sharpen instruments … telling them that one day they’d be used on them. [Herbin, 92]. He says that when the 100 got to Halifax, they were told that no statements would be heard from them. They were simply asked “Will you or will you not swear to the King of Great Britain that you will take up arms against the King of France, his enemy?” They responded, since they could only answer yes or no, it was a unanimous no. They added that taking such an oath would also tend to “despoil” them of their religion and everything else. Immediately the 100 were taken to an island off of Halifax and imprisoned till the end of October. Lawrence thought this would weaken them, but it didn’t. He would go out to the island carrying tools of torture (to scare them). He was like a tyrant. One of them said “… we have God for us, and that is enough.” When Lawrence threatened him with a sword, he presented his chest and said “Strike, sir, if you dare; I shall be the first martyr of the band; you can kill my body, but you shall not kill my soul.” In a frenzy, Lawrence asked the others if they felt that way, and they said with one loud voice “Yes, sir!”
The English carried off the priests, raised the English flag above the churches, and used them for barracks. The priests were insulted and mocked for 45 minutes when they got to Halifax. [Herbin, 93]. On July 28, 1755, Lawrence and the council decided to deport the Acadians. Since troops from New England were in the area (they had helped to capture Beausejour), he sent a note to Moncton letting him know that as soon as the transports (which had been ordered) arrived. [Herbin, 94].
I am grateful to Tim Hebert for providing me permission to post the above-noted information. Visit his excellent Acadian-Cajun web site.
Acadian Censuses are available from the following sources:
a) Archives Nationale, France:
1671, 1686, 1693, 1695, 1698, 1700, 1701, 1703, 1707, 1708, 1714, 1732, 1739 and 1752.
b) National Archives of Canada: (Censuses of Ile Royale and Ile St-Jean)
1713, 1715, 1716, 1717, 1719, 1720, 1721, 1722, 1723, 1724, 1726, 1734, 1737, 1748, 1749 and 1774.