The history of our Acadian ancestors began in 1604 when Pierre de Guast, Sieur de Monts, a native of Saintonge, a nobleman of the court of Henry IV of France, came to Acadia to found a colony. His reward for this work was the lion’s share of the fur trade. Accompanying De Monts were Champlain, Poutrincourt and Pontgrave, names well known in connection with the history of New France.
In 1604 De Monts set out to explore this new land by sailing up la Baie Françoise (Bay of Fundy). He visited the mines of pure copper at Cap D’Or (Golden Cap), also named Cap-des-Mines. It is quite certain that the Mik’maqs would have been familiar with the mines since pieces of copper were found with their remains on the shores of the Basin.
Looking for what he considered suitable land to settle, De Monts was not impressed with the starkness of the rocky cliffs of Blomidon nor the north shores of the bay. Actually, had he continued just a few miles farther south, he would have come to rich lands. Instead he continued his passage along Baie Française. (The French called the Bay of Fundy both Baie Françoise and Baie Française. The word Fundy derives from fond meaning the end or top of the bay.)
PORT ROYAL ~ 1604-1710
The First Settlement of Acadia
The history of La Cadie or L’Acadie began with its first foundation – Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal), in 1604. A grant of Port Royal was made to Poutrincourt by De Monts. With the French noblesse were both Catholic and Protestant clergymen, laborers and artisans. These explorers spent the winter on an island at the mouth of the St-Croix River. This was the spot De Monts had chosen for his headquarter. It proved to be a terrible choice, for after a dreary winter; half of the party had died of scurvy. The survivors returned to Port Royal and settled this land.
In 1607, De Monts lost his lion’s share of the fur trade and the colonists abandoned Acadia. In 1610, a party sailed for Acadia once more, this time under the leadership of Poutrincourt. Samuel Argall destroyed Port Royal in 1612. A few of the French colonists then remained in the country among the Indians.
For the next 10 years there was little mention of Acadia. The fur trade continued, and the fishing industry increased. The French continued in the country and forts were built on the St. John River, Rivière St-Jean, and at Cape Sable. In 1621, James I gave Acadia to Sir William Alexander who became the Earl of Stirling, and the country received the name it would ultimately retain, Nova Scotia.
The treaty of St-Germain-en-Laye, in 1632, gave Nova Scotia to France once more. It was at this time that the French succeeded in establishing colonies in this place. The Commander named to lead this new expedition was Isaac de Razilly along with his kinsmen d’Aulnay de Charnisay and Nicholas Denys de la Ronde. It is at this time that 300 persons were brought to Acadia. Between 1639 to 1649, Charnisay brought other settlers. In 1651, Charles Étienne de la Tour brought even more settlers.
Descendants of approximately 100 French families
The Acadians are descendants of approximately 100 French families who settled along the shores of the Bay of Fundy,
during the 17th century. Original settlements extended from Cape Sable Island to the Petitcodiac River Basin. A distinct Acadian culture gradually evolved. The Acadians fished and farmed valuable farmlands that they claimed from the bay by building dykes. A sense of community life and independence grew as they worked together to survive. By 1750, the population in Acadia exceeded 10,000.
The Great Deportation
In 1755, fearing that the Acadians would support the French; the British government demanded that they sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to the Crown. Most refused, wishing to remain neutral. The Great Deportation/Great Diaspora of the Acadians eventually resulted as the governor of Acadia, Charles Lawrence used this as an excuse to rid the country of a people he believed to be a threat to England. From 1755 to 1762, it is estimated that as many as 10,000 Acadians were deported to the New England Colonies, and to England where they would be imprisoned for years before being expatriated to France by the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763.
The Acadians were dispersed as follows:
2,000 to Massachusetts
700 to Connecticut
300 to New York
500 to Pennsylvania
1,000 to Maryland
400 to Georgia
1,000 to Carolinas
Acadians were also deported to Virginia
In addition, 1,200 were sent to Virginia but were never let off the ships. After several months in the harbor, they were sent to England prisons. Most of these were finally repatriated to France but ironically, they did not fit there either. Their attitudes, customs, and language had changed. Other than sharing a common religion and more or less a common language, the Acadians had little in common with the French.
More Deportations would follow the one of 1755. When the British realized that a good number of Acadians had gone to Ile St-Jean [Prince Edward Island], it was decided that they too would be deported. In 1758, the Deportation of Acadians from Ile St-Jean took place. These Acadians were deported to France. Hundreds of lives were lost at sea when the Duke William and the Violet went down.
It is however interesting to note that some Acadians escaped the Deportation on Ile St-Jean by escaping to Malpèque. The British did not realize they were in hiding in that place and they were never deported. Some of these families are those who would later become the founders of Tignish. The families consisted of Arsenault, Bernard, Chiasson, DesRoches, Doucet, Gaudet, Poirier and Richard.
We Invite You to Come to the ACGS Library to Review the Acadian Collection and Learn More About Your Ancestors!
** The contents of this historical information is graciously shared to us by a long time member of the ACGS and owner of the Acadian & French-Canadian Ancestral Home website acadian-home.org, Lucie LeBlanc Consentino. To see all that Lucie’s site has to offer please click the link above. An enormous thank you to Lucie Consentino for allowing the ACGS to share her work with our members.