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Acadia and the Acadians

The Watcher

TRIBE Member
Was doing some ancestry and came across this... it's quite the read.

A detailed account of the history of l'Acadie (Acadia, in English), the Acadians and the notorious "Expulsion of 1755" is beyond the scope of this article. Rather, I will present the highlights in their history up to the period of the "Expulsion." ...

L'Acadie, as it was called by the French, is better known today as the Maritime Provinces - namely Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island (formerly Ile St. Jean), New Brunswick, a part of lower Canada (Québec Province), and a part of eastern Maine. The French explorer, Samuel De Champlain, claimed this region for the King of France. In fact, that area plus Maine all the way to the Hudson River was thus claimed. The area was named Arcadie by the explorer Jean Verrazano in 1524 because of the beauty of its trees. Champlain referred to it as Arcadia.

The first European colony in Acadia was in 1604 by the French at a place they called Port Royal which, today, is Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. In 1621, James the First of England gave a grant to Sir William Alexander, of that great territory of Acadia. Between 1621 and 1713 Acadia changed hands several times between France and England. From 1713 on, Nova Scotia was claimed by England whereas Cape Breton Island (formerly Ile Royale) became part of Nova Scotia only in 1763 after it had been conquered by the British.

Nova Scotia and many towns in other parts of Acadia was the home of thousands of French ever since the first 1604 settlement. This was now their homeland, a land they had occupied for over 150 years and nearly 6 full generations by the 1750's. They were primarily fishermen and farmers. By the early 1700's, France was no longer interested in Canada. In 1713, King Louis XIV, who had ruined France through his interminable wars, placed one of his grandsons on the Spanish Throne (Philippe V) and, not to be hampered by the British in this task, he made concessions to them. One concession was ratified through the Treaty of Utrecht on April 16 of that year in which he ceded to England the French Colonies now known as New Foundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. The thousands of French who lived there were essentially abandoned by their native country. The French Proviso in that treaty states that French vessels will be made available to all those who wish to be repatriated to France or to the French Colony of Quebec and may take all their money, goods, and other valuables with them and must do this between April 1713 and January 1715. The British Proviso states that those French Colonials who wish to remain on their lands must swear allegiance to the British Crown and become British citizens. They will remain free to practice their Roman Catholic Religion. If they refuse to swear allegiance to the King of England, they will be liable to have all their properties confiscated and be deported to other British Colonies on English vessels.

This Treaty hit the Acadians (Frenchmen all) like a bolt of lightning. They had no intentions of becoming British subjects; neither had any of them been consulted. They decided to stay put, holding on to their lands and properties, refusing to be repatriated or deported to Quebec. Thus, the Acadians became de facto rebels to both France and England.

From 1713 to 1755, intermittent wars were carried on in Europe between France and England. Officially, France had nothing to do with its former colony of Acadia, but secretly (and profitably) made effective use of the good offices of the Acadians for military services. The British learned about this and openly accused the Acadians, now British Subjects, of playing the odious role of informers and traitors.

In 1746, the Acadians were told to arm themselves because Louis XV of France was going to try to recapture Acadia from the British. France was on the verge of freeing them from the hated British oppressors, but was in vain due to the strength of British forces in the nearby Colonies (US). A final effort was made by France through the Governor General of Quebec to evacuate the Acadians to the Quebec areas before the British carry out their threat of deporting them to British-controlled areas. The Acadians did not think the danger so real or imminent, and they refused to budge. The Acadians sealed their own fate.

Who Were The Acadian People?

Port Royal, Acadia (now Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia) was the first successful French settlement in the New World. It was christened as such by the explorer, Samuel de Champlain. In 1604, some 150 colonists under Pierre du Gast de Monts established the tiny colony. Soon, another settlement was formed across the bay and named it Ste. Croix. These settlements flourished until October 1613 when British soldiers from Virginia under Captain Argall invaded the colony, destroyed their buildings and sent the colonists fleeing in the woods, where, for 14 years they eked out a living like nomads or dwelt in the homes of the local Indians. In 1632, the treaty of St.Germain-en-Laye restored Acadia once more to France.

Shortly thereafter, Cardinal Richelieu of France appointed his cousin, Isaac de Razilly as governor of Acadia. Razilly successfully recruited some 300 "picked men" and "engaged bachelors" from the villages in the provinces of Brittany and Touraine. This new group of settlers came from a sturdy, industrious, and religious element in those provinces.

The descendants of these early people were not a learned people. Only a few were even able to read or write. They were a simple, industrious, and kindhearted people who lived unto themselves but with an open heart of justice and charity to everyone. They were a gentle race. In many ways, they were like the Amish. An orphan was welcomed in any home and was treated as a natural child, while the poor and aged were given special care by the community. They made their own clothes, shoes, tools, and utensils. They cultivated their fields, trapped, and fished as a group. They lived a life of unambitious peace with the world around them and wore out their lives in strenuous efforts to reclaim the marshlands and fresh-water fields by building dykes - a work at which they were unequalled experts. They clung to the simple manners, customs, and old French tongue of their forefathers. They lived in a state of innocense and equality comparable to that of the first centuries.

One of the outstanding traits of the Acadians was their profoundly religious character. An English traveler wrote that, in the Acadians, he rarely met with either malice or vengeance and that he did not know of drunkenness and swearing among them. Archival records report that, for many years, crime, theft, debauchery, and illegitimacy were unknown in their communities. Paternal authority policed their villages and towns.

Religion and their strict observances and rules of their Catholic Faith was the very heart of their lives. In it they were baptized, married, and hoped to be buried; in it they found all that was of joy and interest to them. They lived and let live in comfortable poverty. Even in their hour of bitterest suffering and trial, they did not envy the wealth, power, or happiness of other peoples. They opposed any act of carnage or war. Good or bad, they accepted their lot in life without complaining as the will of God. Such a Christian philosophy was possible only in a people who were deeply moral and lived with a clear conscience. Such were the traits of the Acadians as a whole.

In 1654, British forces again invaded the Acadian colonies with a surprise attack. In 1667, Acadia was again restored to France in the Treaty of Breda. At this time, there were a little over 400 Acadians, almost all were living south of the Bay of Fundy.

In 1690, the British from New England, under Sir William Phips with a force of more than a thousand men, once again attacked the Acadians. They stormed and destroyed Port Royal and carried away prisoners of war to Boston. In 1697, the Treaty of Ryswick restored Acadia to the French crown.
In 1701, the Acadian population stood at 1,450 souls - 466 at Port Royal, 498 at Minas, 189 at Beaubassin, 75 at La Heve, 50 at River St.John, 40 at Miramichi, and the rest scattered in 35 other places.

The final attack by the British was in 1710 when Queen Anne ordered the recovery of Nova Scotia for the English crown. A force of 1,500 New England soldiers supported by a strong fleet beseiged the colony, beginning with Port Royal, which fell after four savage and persistent attacks. When the Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713, Acadians numbered about 2,500 souls.
Shortly thereafter, Britain established its first colony on Nova Scotia naming it in honor of Lord Halifax. British settlers were brought in and military garisons were established for control of the region.

From 1713 to 1755, the Acadians lived under the despised rule of the British. The British did not understand the character of these Acadians and were led to believe that they could not be trusted since they were resistent to swearing an unqualified oath of allegiance to the British crown. Due to the centuries of conflict between France and England, the British believed their loyalties were to the French crown and, in case of conflict, would rally under the French flag and cause them problems. Although there were a few cases where this happened, the vast majority of the Acadians simply wanted to be left alone to raise their families, practice their faith, fish, hunt, and cultivate and improve their land. They had no desire to get involved in the politics and conflicts of the period. The Acadians, in a very true sense, became scapegoats who suffered much for actions committed by their arch-enemy in North America and other parts of the world in their centuries-old conflict for supremacy. The Acadians thus became easy victims of hardened and conscienceless statesmen. The British accused the entire Acadian people of inciting trouble with the Indians as far as Boston - an accusation with no substance nor proof. History would prove their suspicions of the Acadian people to be totally unfounded. But, it did not deter them from taking out their vengeance upon this innocent group of people. At 3 PM on September 5, 1755 in the Catholic Church at Grand Pre, Nova Scotia began one of the sorriest hours in the annals of British colonial history which resulted in one of the widest dispersals of a people in written history rivaling that of the Hebrews in the Biblical period.

The injustices, hardships, and cruelties the Acadians suffered at the hands of the British can be compared, in many ways, with that of the European Jews under Nazi Germany. The basic differences were that no mass exterminations were carried out as in the Holocaust and their population was, by comparison, small. The difference ends there since all other types of inhumanities were perpetrated upon these innocent people.

The British "Final Solution" for the Acadians was deportation. It all started at 3 PM on September 5, 1755 at the Catholic Church in Grand Pre. Following the orders and plan of the Lieutenant General, Governor Lawrence, following the decree of the King of England, the British Council at Halifax unanimously decided to begin deporting the Acadians immediately to various British Colonies outside of Canada. The vessels needed for this were to be commandeered in the King's name. By this time, the Acadians numbered some 13,000 on the Acadian peninsula alone. More and more British troops had been arriving and the Acadians were accutely aware that big trouble was brewing.
A proclamation was issued accordingly to "all the inhabitants of the district of Grand Pre, Minas, River Canard, etc. ..... to attend the Church at Grand Pre on Friday the fifth instant, at three of the clock in the afternoon, that we may impart to them what we are ordered to communicate to them; declaring that no excuse will be admitted, on any pretense whatever, on pain of forfeiting goods and chattels, in default of real estate. - Given at Grand Pre 2d September, 1755."

That Friday, 418 of the residents presented themselves at the Church as ordered. Colonel John Winslow, having tricked them into this assembly, announced to them that they were to be immediately deported outside of the Province and that all their properties and goods with the exception of their cash monies and personal belongings were hereby confiscated by and to the benefit of the British Crown. Soldiers surrounded the church to prevent any escapes.

Waiting to be shipped out. The news of this spread quickly and those who could escaped to the woods, but in vain. Their country was laid to waste. Deported from Grand Pre alone were 2,242 Acadians. The Acadians were lined up and driven to the tranport ships. Women and children were loaded on boats as fast as could be provided. As if to deprive the exiles of even the hope of return, the British burned to the ground 255 of their homes, 276 barns, 11 mills, and one church while the transport vessels were still in sight. Despite the promises of Colonel Winslow to keep families together, most families were seperated immediately - parents from their children, wives from their husbands, children from their siblings - many to never see each other again. The Acadians were placed under arrest and were loaded on the ships with no choice in the manner. They took only what they were wearing and what little monies they had on their person at the time. Some of the ships used as transports were not seaworthy. Consequently, two of the ships, the Violet and the Duke William, with two groups of 650 Acadians went to a watery grave in the icy mid-Atlantic on December 10 of that year. Only one lifeboat with 27 survivors lived to tell what happened. "I do not know," observes 19th century American historian George Bancroft, " if the annals of the human race keep the record of sorrows so wantonly inflicted, so bitter and so lasting as fell upon the French inhabitants of Acadia."

About 2,000 Acadians managed to escape arrest and they wandered through the woods like hunted animals, half-clad and half-starved, in ever search of some near relative. Some made it safely into Quebec where they established new lives in such towns as l'Acadie, Becancour, Nicolet, and others. Of those escapees was one of my own 6th generation paternal ancestors, Laurent Doucet, son of Paul Doucet (a direct descendant of Acadia's first governor, Germain Doucet) and Anne LeBrun. How they survived this terrible ordeal is almost miraculous. Today, the direct descendants of these escaped Acadians number over 230,000 souls, including one-third of the present population of New Brunswick.

The deportation continued unabated over a period of 8 years. Between 1755 and 1763, Governor Lawrence kept unloading the Acadians along the American coast - over 2,000 to Boston, where the Bostonians treated them like slaves, 700 from Grand Pre and Port Royal to Connecticut, and about 250 poor, naked, and destitute to New York. New York rid the major part of her Acadian exiles by persuading them to emigrate to Santo Domingo, where most of them perished miserably from the torrid sun. Lawrence exiled 754 to Philadelphia where, being held captive aboard the ships in the harbor for three months, smallpox killed 237 of them. Some 2,000 more were removed to Maryland where several hundred of them escaped to Louisiana, Quebec, and the West Indies. To North Carolina, Lawrence sent 500, and to South Carolina, 1,500 Acadians. The Carolinians cleverly enticed them to leave in some old boats for Acadia. Of these, only 900 arrived at the River St.John. Another 400 were banished to Georgia where, preferring death anywhere in the tropics to slavery with the blacks in the cotton fields and sugar plantations, they fled. Wherever they went, the Acadians were unwanted, shunned, cheated, despised, and heartlessly allowed to die without even the care and affection given to pet animals. Only Connecticut was prepared to receive the exiles sent to her and treated them as a group humanely. In all, nearly 3,700 Acadians were dispersed along the coast in the British colonies of America. There is no doubt that every Acadian would have preferred exile in France to banishment to any other place.

The method of dispersing the Acadians has scarcely an equal in history. Said Edmund Burke, "We did, in my opinion, most inhumanely, and upon the pretenses that, in the eye of an honest man, are not worth a farthing, root out this poor, innocent, deserving people, whom our utter inability to govern, or to reconcile, gave us no sort of right to extirpate." How right was his judgement. There were many pitiful separations in families. One case is particularly well-known. Due to the small number of transports, Rene Leblanc, notary-public of Grand Pre, his wife, and their two youngest children were put on one ship and landed in New York, but their eighteen other children and 150 grandchildren were loaded aboard different ships and dispersed among the colonies. There were deliberate separations of husbands from their wives and fathers from their children. Men would come back home from their work in the woods or fishing boats only to find their families gone, their homes burned to the ground, and the British soldiers waiting to arrest them and force them aboard ships for permanent banishment from their lands. Yet others were taken to various ports in England as prisoners of war and placed in concentration camps such as at Liverpool.

The Ultimate Fate of the Acadians

... Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ... forever immortalized the trajedy of the Acadian deportation in, perhaps, his most well known poem "Evangeline." Published in 1847, this poem is over 100 pages in length and is a tale in verse which gives an account of a young Acadian girl's life, Evangeline, and her family before, during, and after the deportation. Due to the deportation, she is separated from her young love, Gabriel. Though she is a fictional character, this tale is representative of the many hardships and sorrows of the Acadians in this period. A statue of her now stands in front of the Catholic Church at Grand Pre. In the poem, Evangeline finally locates Gabriel on his death bed.
Evangeline - Grand Pré, N.S. The exile of the Acadians is not a simple one. Oscar William Winzerling, author of the excellent book on this subject, Acadian Odyssey, titled one of his chapters "Exile Without End" - truly an understatement. For many Acadian families, ... their wanderings were only the beginning. ...they were sent to various ports in England. After linguering in concentration camps several years, various French ministries finally succeeded in repatriating them to ports in France. There, they met new problems, not always being welcomed by the native population, and often mistreated, taken advantage of, and given land unsuitable to earn a livelihood. A group of 138 of them were sent to help establish a colony in French Guiana in South America where many perished in this tropical inferno. Those that survived were repatriated to France. The Acadians were promised one thing after another by the French ministries and, with few exceptions, were always let down. Finally, in October 1773, 497 Acadians out of a group of 1,500, arrived in a place called Grand'Ligne in the Poitou region of France. In the meantime, the others were housed on the south side of the city of Châtellerault on a street still called "Rue Acadienne." This was the result of yet another project by the French government to find a suitable home for the exiled Acadians. There were about 625 Acadian families in France. Except for a small group of 160, the colony failed due to the exploits of certain French agencies which had a keen interest in wanting this to happen so that the good Acadian farmers might return to the maritime ports and further their business interests. This added to the plight of the Acadians, again believing they had been tricked and cheated, their morale was further eroded to the point of discourgement and distrust of anyone who came to them with promises of help. In 1776, 1,340 of them retired to the city of Nantes. From there, they dispersed in two groups - some went to Rouen, Caen, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux, the rest stayed in Nantes. The Acadians in France were later approached with the possibility of settling in Louisiana - where many of the exiled Acadians eventually went. After 29 years of aimless exile, frustrated dreams and unscupulous abuse of their gentle nature, the first group of 156 Acadian volunteers boarded the frigate Le Bon Papa under Captain Pelletier in Nantes for the 81-day voyage to the Spanish Colony of Louisiana. In all, there were seven Acadian expeditions to Louisiana which enabled the removal of 1,596 exiles from France. Le Bon Papa arrived at New Orleans on July 29, 1785 with its precious cargo. Only one death was reported in the 36 families on that vessel, that of a young daughter of Eustache Govin, which marred an otherwise perfect voyage.

In New Orleans, newly appointed Acadian commissioner, Anselme Blanchard, welcomed the exiles in the name of Spanish Louisiana. He looked after their immediate needs, registered them and they were given full liberty in the choice of their lands and guided them in the building of new homes. Oddly enough, the Spanish, having difficulty with their French names, began their naturalization by Hispanicizing their names. Thus Joseph LeBlanc became José Blanco and names not easily translatable were treated euphonically, such as LeJeune to El Joven and Babin to Vaven. They were given financial aid, tools, supplies, and most of them were soon settled in Manchac and along the banks of the Mississippi. When Spain's humane treatment of the exiles was learned abroad, family heads would make any sacrifice to leave France as fast as possible. Owing to the influx of Acadian exiles into Louisiana's district of Valenzuela, of which the town of La Fourche was the largest concentration of Acadians, the Acadian population grew by leaps and bounds. The descendants of these exiled Acadians have long been known or called Cajuns - an English corruption for the name Acadians. The transplantation of the Acadians to Louisiana was immensely successful. You have only to visit the neat settlements in Lafourche, St.Landry, Iberville, and St.Martinville today to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of their present life. From these communities have come many priests, bishops, educators, soldiers, merchants, professionals, and even Congressmen and governors. For this Acadian element, it was a success story. But others did not fare as well.
Of the Acadians who escaped to towns in Quebec, many eventually resettled in the Madawaska valley and the shores of Chaleur Bay.

Many attempted to return to Acadia. Of those in Boston, 60 families assembled in 1763 and were determined to march back on foot to their old homes and farms on Nova Scotia, pregnant women and all. Those who survived the 1,800 miles trek arrived to find everything changed. English families now occupied their homes and land. Their presence frightened the English children as if they were ghosts from a different age. Broken in body by hardships, starvation, and fatigue, and crushed in spirit by human animosity, these homeless people literally dragged themselves from hamlet to hamlet in search of some corner they could call their own in a land that, in all justice, still belonged to them. Shortly, the English authorities interfered and some of the exiles fled to Prince Edward Island. Others less fortunate, were held and forced to do the humiliating work of repairing the dikes for the new owners of the land who never achieved the success of the Acadians in developing the fertility of the fields in their beloved L'Acadie.

In 1763, 12,660 Acadians had been scaterred to 16 major locations, England and France being only 2 of these. By 1800, their population had almost doubled to 23,000. Of these, 4,000 Acadians from such diverse places as the Dominican Republic, Martinique, France, and the American Colonies were living in Louisiana. Some 8,000 were in Quebec and an equal number in the Maritime Provinces. About 1,000 remained in France, another 1,000 in Connecticut and other states, and another 1,000 were scattered to the four winds.

, Acadia and the Acadians, by Robert E. Chenard.
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room


TRIBE Promoter
My mom's side (Leblanc) is 100% Acadian ancestry.

Vive L'Acadie!



TRIBE Member
Was doing some ancestry and came across this... it's quite the read.

A detailed account of the history of l'Acadie (Acadia, in English), the Acadians and the notorious "Expulsion of 1755" is beyond the scope of this article. Rather, I will present the highlights in their history up to the period of the "Expulsion." ...


Sorry, wasn't going to repost the whole thing.

Welcome to my Grade 7 class! :p

Well, last year,.. because now I'm teaching Core French. :(
It's nice having students come up and say they miss my history classes.
I'm so bored. God I miss it.

Going to write my resume.
I just love the kids and staff at this school :/