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Book #1: Acadia.TOC
Part 2, "The English Takeover: 1690-1712"TOC
Chapter 6, "Diereville (1700)."

Not much is known about Diereville. He was a French surgeon who, after coming to Port Royal in 1699, stayed for a year. He was apparently hired by certain La Rochelle merchants to establish trading connections in Acadia and then to report back to them. Once back home, in a curious mixture of prose and verse, he wrote of his Acadian adventure: recounting his travels and his experiences; describing the local flora and fauna; telling of the state of the beaver trade; and setting forth an invaluable record of the life and customs of the native inhabitants of Acadia. Diereville's book, for historians, has become one of the premiere contemporary descriptions of Acadia in the dawn of its second century, the year of 1700.

Diereville had departed La Rochelle on August 20, 1699 in the vessel Royale-Paix (a Merchantman which had 14 cannon in ballast (p. 51)1 with a capable captain that smoked a pipe "with two clerks and a consignment of merchandise to be used in trading at Port Royal." (p. 3.)

It is interesting to read that both the beginning of Diereville's overseas trip to Acadia and at the end are punctuated with life threatening events. The first of these events I tell now, the second I tell of later on. It concerns the tricky business of getting aboard a high-sided ocean going sailing vessel, such as that being boarded by Diereville and his friends at La Rochelle, during August of 1699. It was windy and he had to climb up a rope that had been dropped down to the long boat that had been rowed from the jetty to the side of the large sailing vessel held to the harbour bottom by a heavy-duty cable. There, the "six stout Sailors" held the long boat to the large vessel as best they could, while the young doctor awkwardly shinnied from protrusion to protrusion, dangerously, up the heaving side, in the spray and in the wind. He made it aboard, however, and later "had the satisfaction of seeing that even the most agile of them (the 22 crew members of the Royale-Paix) were as much troubled in climbing the ladders of the shrouds, as I had been in ascending a simple rope." (pp. 4,14,42.)

After about a 42 day run westward over the broad Atlantic,
2 the Royale-Paix, likely around October 1st, ran into what we now call Halifax Harbour and which, then, was known as Bay Senne, or Bay Saint, as named by Champlain.3 The Royale-Paix was low on water and wood, and had just come in from quite a blow. In the vicinity of the Grand Banks, Diereville had spotted 10 English fishing vessels (p.73). So we would have seen, in 1699, during a beautiful time of the year for these parts, October, the French sailing vessel, Royale-Paix, travelling down the full length of the harbour (Halifax) and coming into what is now called Bedford Basin.4 Maybe, coming back up in the harbour, where the Halifax city stands today, Diereville sees "a pleasant prospect; at its edge a building used for drying cod. ... It was half as long, & quite as wide as the Mall in Paris, built on a fine beach along the River, at a distance which permitted the water to pass under it at high tide & carry away the refuse of the Cod." (p. 74) This was a French fishing station (degras) which by this date, October, 1699, was deserted.5 But there came to the wind blown sailors (Diereville and company), as they surveyed their surroundings, a group of Indians, a few quietly at first, more and boisterous later. Some had "little bark canoes." This was Father Thury's flock which could be found along the Shubenacadie system.6 Father Thury was a missionary from Quebec, who, back in 1685, had come to Acadia. More recently, 1698 and 1699, Thury was busy trying to draw all the Indians together at one place (Halifax in the winter and Shubenacadie in the summer). Father Thury died, June 5th, 1698, with his faithful native followers about him. Diereville observes that the Indians were very gentle people, though "armed with Musket & hatchet." "I gave them a good breakfast of Meat & Fish & they munched Biscuit with the best appetite in the world, & drank Brandy with relish & less moderation than we do; ... on sitting down to table, they said their prayer devoutly & made the sign of the Cross, &, when they had finished, they gave thanks with the same piety. Each had a Rosary around their neck." (p. 77.) It would appear that Diereville stayed but a couple of days, but he was there long enough for the Indians to take him to a "Wood nearby," there Father Thury had been buried but four months before; "A Tomb of stakes, covered with bark." (p 78.)

Diereville plainly spent a number of days with his new found native friends, but not too many, as we see that he was to arrive at Port Royal on October 13th. Upon arriving at Port Royal, the Royale-Paix was anchored well off the shore and the captain and a few hands headed to the village in a long boat. Everybody on shore was scurrying; the initial belief of the inhabitants was that pirates were making another visit to Port Royal (a regular event for these deserted people). "The Settlers had, in the meantime, taken their most valuable possessions to hiding places in the Forest. When we landed & they knew that we were their friends, we saw the Carts coming back all loaded." (p. 82.)

Arrival at Port Royal:
The crew of the Royale-Paix, of course were anxious to spend, finally, some time on shore; but, first, there was important work to be done. Certain of the Royale-Paix' auxiliary vessels had to be unlashed and lowered over the sides; deck covers had to be unnailed and unlatched; and holds to be gotten into. These unloading jobs were well under way and smaller boats had been lashed to the sides of the mother ship; it does not take too much of an imagination to see pulleys, ropes and sailors doing their job as great quantities of trading goods are heaved up and about. Before much of it got to shore, nightfall arrived; and tired men took to their bunks after a good meal, a few pipes and a grog or two. An unexpected storm of hurricane proportions came up in the night and before long very severe winds tried their best to pry the bower anchors of the Royale-Paix free from the muck of the holding ground. The ropes which held the smaller vessels to the larger, all in various states of being loaded, were soon worn through. That night the howling winds grabbed all loose things, both from the top and sides of the Royale-Paix and tore the works asunder and spread the pieces to the nearby shores of Port Royal. This upset was to have a great effect on Diereville's trading plans. He reports that one of the smaller boats, into which most all of his precious goods had been carefully transferred, went to the bottom with all of its newly acquired cargo. Next day, in the twilight of the storm, the shores were littered with barrels and crates; tossed and broken; contents everywhere and all of it very wet. To dry the merchandise, which first had to be rinsed in fresh water, all of it was spread out in the fresh air and turned, over and over: Port Royal must have been quite a sight. (pp. 86-7.)

Thus, Diereville was to be in very poor spirits during his first days at Port Royal. He wrote in his journal, "How can one live in such a place?" he exclaimed, "nothing but huts and hovels, woods and streams!" The warm greetings from all the inhabitants, however, soon revived his spirits. The inhabitants cared enough, too, for Diereville, to put him in occupation of the largest house in town; it consisted of three rooms with an attic and a part of a cellar made of "masonry."

Description of Acadians at Port Royal (1700):
The parish priest was in the leading line of the Acadian greeters.
7 The priest escorted Diereville to the small church (presumably having been rebuilt since Phips and his New Englanders had burnt it down in 1690). There, in this simple church the two men knelt and said their prayers "& then Monsieur le Cure took me to his room, which was ill-furnished, &, contrary to the rules concerning Presbyteries, at one end of the Church & adjoining it." On looking around Diereville observed "Across the marshes oxen draw the plough." The Annapolis River back then was called the Riviere Dauphin and had dwellings on each side of it running above Port Royal for a number of miles.8 "The other river called the Mill River [Allen's River] ... is not more than a league in length & much narrower. There are three Mills upon it, one for Wheat & two for Lumber, with three or four houses." There were approximately 500 people at Port Royal, a number which represented about half of the entire population of Acadia which consisted, at that time only of three communities: Port Royal, Minas, and Beaubassin. Acadian clothing was made of wool, and, they still wore "Hooded Capes" (The France of fifty years back). Their shoes were made of Elk and seal skin and are flat soled. There was no fishery in existence, though Diereville did attempt during the year of his stay to establish a "green fishery." Seal hunting went on and in addition to the skins of which they made use, the seals were a source of oil for burning and kegs of it have become trading commodities. In the pastures will be found sheep and cattle, and in the fields will be found cabbage & turnips -- "neither of these vegetables goes into the pot without the other, & nourishing soups are made of them, with a large slice of pork." At the beginning of the winter a number of their animals (pigs more often than cows) are killed and put into the salt barrel.

The Missions:
I did mention the le Cure at Port Royal, which leads me to say a word or two about the priests at Acadia. From a reading of
Governor Villebon's reports, we see that both the priest at Port Royal and at Minas were Recollects (the one at Minas, that "Foreign Mission," having newly arrived in 1699). In 1699, there were no priests to be found at Beaubassin or at Villebon's post at the mouth of the Saint John.9 The Micmac Mission was a mission which was separate from those established for the Acadians, both in kind and in place. Father Thury, to whom I earlier referred, had attended to the spiritual needs of the Acadian Micmacs. Father Thury, at the age of 48, died at Chebucto (Halifax) on June 5th, 1698.10 He had been at Chebucto since the previous year, likely though, in season, traveling back and forth on the Shubenacadie lake and river system. Thury was replaced by Father Maudoux. Villebon was not much impressed with Thury's replacement. From pass dealings, the two knew one another, and neither of the two could get along with the other. Villebon doesn't think that Maudoux was up to the job of gathering all the Indians into one place -- a French scheme struck upon just prior to Father Thury's death. Maudoux, Villebon pointed out, did not speak the language, and, at any rate, being the hunting and gathering people that they were, the Indians could not possibly live all gathered up in one place. Webster wrote that Father Maudoux succeeded Father Petit in 1693 and continued on there at Port Royal until its capture in 1710.

Diereville's stay continued through all the Acadian seasons to the following fall, 1700. The king's ship, l'Avenant, 45 guns, which had been sent to replenish the forts both at Plaissance and at the mouth of the St. John, called in on Port Royal. Diereville had made plans to return to France on a smaller company vessel and was glad to see he could return on the l'Avenant, which, on account of its size would normally give a fast and easy ride; besides, he would have the "courtesy & affability" to be found in "every Naval Officer." One of the reasons l'Avenant arrived at Port Royal was so she might pick up a cargo of "30 or 40 fine masts" which the people at Port Royal had prepared for shipping, and which was added to those shipped at St. John. Only Diereville was invited to come aboard the French navy ship. His two clerks were left behind to finish up their affairs and to follow along three weeks later in the smaller frigate which the company had sent from France. (pp. 192-3.)

Diereville departed Port Royal on October 6th, 1700, and arrived back home in France a month later, on November 9th. Thus, we see the end of Diereville's one year career at Acadia.

[NEXT: Pt. 2, Ch. 7 - The Last Years of French Port Royal: 1700-10:]

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