A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia. TOC
Part 6 -- The Deportation of the Acadians TOC
Ch. 17 --
"The Wanderings of the Acadians."

During the deportations of 1755, in total, around 6,000 Acadians were shipped out of the province. It might be estimated that close to twice that number constituted the Acadian population at its peak, in 1749. A couple of thousand, through the years 1749-53, fearing the worst, fled into the French territories that then existed: Île St. Jean (Prince Edward Island) and Île Royal (Cape Breton). The Acadians that did not get caught up in the English net, in 1755, may have amounted to three or four thousand.1 The bulk of those made their way out of the province: the Chignecto Acadians either to Île St. Jean or up the coast of northern New Brunswick (as we know it today); and, the Cobequid Acadians, likely to Île St. Jean and Île Royal. Certain of the Acadians, those in the areas of Cape Sable and the Annapolis River, having avoided the English, retreated to the woods, whence they waged, for several years, guerilla warfare. By the end of 1755, however, the Acadian strength in Nova Scotia was certainly broken, for all time. The Acadians which were transported in 1755, were distributed down along the eastern coast of North America, beginning with Massachusetts. They arrived unannounced. Further it was expected by Governor Lawrence that these foreign strangers should be accommodated. There was absolutely no word received as to who was to bear all the expense involved in keeping these people. Needless to say, the governing councils in the English colonies were not too impressed with these events.

Though not very much is known of them, it is for sure that the sufferings of the Acadians who had been dumped on foreign shores were great. However, those who were left behind were to put up with their own sufferings. Acadians, through the years of The Seven Years War, 1756-1763, and for many years thereafter, were to be driven from pillar to post. My ancestors did not, apparently, fall in with the English: they managed to evade them by making their way to the then French territory of Île Royal (Cape Breton). Sixty-two year old Jean-Baptiste Landry with three of his sons (38 year old Jean-Baptiste, 35 year old Joseph and 27 year old Alexis) with a battery of 15 children made there way from Piziquid (St. Croix) to Île Royal during August, 1751. (See map.) They apparently intended to put roots down at Riviêre dux Habitants (near St. Peters); but they did not stay long at that place. Members of this family, it would appear were subsequently to make their way to Île St. Jean being listed there in 1752, then others at Chédabuctou around 1763, and then at St. Pierre & Miquelon in 1767. One of these Landrys, Pierre, by 1766, was located at Miquelon, and by 1766 at Chezzetcook.2

But only a few Acadians were ever to make their way back to their native land.3 Those who did, certainly did not head directly into any part Nova Scotian territory being watched by the English; and none, indeed, that I can see, were ever to return to their old homesteads. A year after the war came to an end, in 1764, instructions were received to permit the Acadians to settle back into the province and hold lands upon taking the customary oaths. The lands, however, that they were permitted to occupy, were not to be the rich lands which they and their forefathers had once worked.4 The land grants given to the Acadians were generally located in the extremities of the province: in the Cape Breton and Yarmouth areas, which are known more for fishing than for farming.

Directly the Acadians disembarked at the various ports of the English colonies, they attempted to carry out plans to get back to their beloved "Acadie." We see that in July of 1756, within months of their deportation that a number of them were retained at Boston. These intrepid Acadians had "procured small vessels and embarked on board them in order to return by coasting from colony to colony, and that several of them are actually on their way." Lawrence urged his fellow governors to "stop them and to destroy the vessels."5 A number of the governors, especially the ones to the south, were not only disinterested in stopping the Acadians; but, indeed, encouraged the Acadians to keep moving along. Whether any of these deported Acadians in their small boats were to carry themselves all the way back to Acadia, is questionable. We have heard the stories how some, if not by boat, then by foot, made their way through the territories we today know as the State of Maine and the Province of New Brunswick.7 That they then got themselves around the English forts at Chignecto and then over the Cobequid range, so to come to the heart of Acadia at Minas -- well, I doubt if any made it. What if they had made it back? They would have found nothing but burned-out ruins! And, by 1760, the returning Acadians would have found English people. English people protected by English soldiers. English people who had taken over the farm lands of Acadia.

Lawrence, at whose feet the decision to deport the Acadian population must be laid, died during October of 1760. It took a couple of years before the British government were to get an official replacement over to Nova Scotia, in the meantime Jonathan Belcher administered the government, and, the anti-Acadian policy continued. This is not surprising since the The Seven Years War between the French and the English continued. While there was not to be much action in Acadia after 1758; still, there were scares. For example, during April of 1762, news was heard at Halifax that St. John's, Newfoundland had been attacked and captured by the French.8 The worry was that Halifax would be the next target of the French. There followed extensive work on the Halifax fortifications, such that batteries were added to those already in existence on George's Island, more were erected at Point Pleasant and near the Dockyard, the walls of the eastern redoubt at Dartmouth were repaired, and a boom of "timber and iron" was established near the mouth of the Northwest Arm.9 The English were far too concerned about their own safety to give any thought to displaced Frenchmen; indeed, in 1762, the "French Neutral prisoners" were collected up and lodged (likely at Fort Edward), and, French fisherman were denied any right to set to sea.

The war, of course, came to an end in 1763; so too, in that year Nova Scotia was to receive its new Governor, Montague Wilmot.10 In respect to the Acadians, Wilmot seemed to adopt the prevailing opinion of the English then residing in Nova Scotia. As he writes in 1764: "They are most inflexibly devoted to France and the Romish Religion, and being much connected with the Indians by intermarriages, their power and disposition to be mischievous is more to be dreaded."11 Wilmot enclosed a return bearing the date of 22nd March, 1764, setting forth the number of "families of French Acadians still remaining in the different parts of the province." I set out, the return, in part, next following:12

FamiliesNo. of Persons
At Halifax and the environs,132321056
King's County, Fort Edward,14 77227
Annapolis Royal, 2391
Fort Cumberland, 73388
TOTAL 4051762

It is not likely, as mentioned earlier, that many, if any, of the deported Acadians were to make it back to Nova Scotia; certainly not within the years immediately following 1755. The numbers of them in the province through these years, indeed, support the proposition that even more of them, with the encouragement of the government, were to leave the province. We see that Governor Wilmot had reported a count of 1800, or so, at the beginning of 1764; however by the end of the year there was but left only about 1200. Wilmot wrote:

"[Because] no reasonable proposals being able to overcome their zeal for the French and aversion to the English government, many of them soon resolved to leave this Province; and having hired Vessels at their own expense, six hundred persons including women and children, departed within these three weeks for the French West Indies ..."15
Governor Wilmot, who comes across to me as a terrible sort of person, seem to be of the view that this was good riddance to bad foreign rubbish. "Thus my Lord, we are in the way of being relieved from these people who have been the bane of the Province, and the terror of its settlement. ... their settlement in the West Indies removes them far from us, and as that climate is mortal to the natives of the northern countries, the French will not be likely to gain any considerable advantage from them."16

Not everyone shared Wilmot's view of things. Amherst, for example, thought, as of 1761, that the further expulsion of the Acadians served no purpose: "If the removal of the Acadians still remaining in the province [for security reasons, then] ... I should be the first to advise their expulsion; but as under the new circumstances of that valuable and flourishing province, I do not see that it can have any thing to fear or apprehend from those Acadians, but on the contrary that great advantages might be reapt in employing them properly ..."17

The low point for the Acadian population in the province appears to have been reached during the years, 1764-1767. The count as of 1767 was 1,265: 271 at Cape Breton, 197 at Canso, 200 at Halifax and 140 at Windsor.18 In 1768, we see the first upturn. In that year, steps were being taken to settle Acadians in "Cape Breton under the protection of temporary licenses."19 Governor Wilmot died in 1766, and with his death the appointment of Michael Francklin as the Lieutenant-governor was to come about. There then was to be a refreshing change in the official attitude towards the Acadians. This attitude is reflected in a letter which in part I next set out. The letter was one that Francklin wrote to Isaac Deschamps. It was written at Halifax and dated June 1st, 1768. Francklin was writing in response to an earlier letter which Deschamps sent advising that many of the Acadians in the Windsor area have "at length come to a sense of their duty to the King, by taking the Oaths of Allegiance."

"And you may .. give them from me the fullest assurances that I totally disclaim and disavow any intentions to make use of them as forces to be employed out of this province, and that such report could only have risen from weak or evil-minded people, and you may still further assure them, that they will be treated at all times with the same degree of indulgence and protection with His Majesty's other subjects. And to this you may also add that the government has not the least design either to molest or disturb them on account of their religion."20
In 1768, as Calnek concluded, from his perusal of the census results of 1768-70, of the total population of Annapolis Royal (513) broke down, as follows: 445 protestants and 68 Roman Catholics. Of the total: 370 were of American birth; 40, English; 8, Scotch; 20, Irish; and 67, Acadian. There were 99 families and the people were "almost wholly devoted to agriculture pursuits."21 "Of mills," Calnek continued, "there were eight -- four saw and four grist mills. Of vessels there were two schooners and nineteen fishing boats." Parts of Calnek's analysis was likely applicable to the entire province, but the people in the communities along the eastern coast of the province would have involved themselves in fishing; at Halifax, though some would have made their living at fishing, most would have been traders making a living off the military presence.

In July, 1768, "a warrant of survey was issued to 44 Acadian families for lands at St. Mary's, in the County of Annapolis. They were from Windsor and Annapolis."22 In later years the County of Annapolis was divided into two counties, Annapolis and Digby. Yet today, one of the largest concentrations of Acadians in the province can be found along the shores of St. Mary's Bay. These lands, however, were infertile and barren when compared to the valley lands which the Acadians had occupied, and which were then being preserved for English settlers: thank you very much.

Thus the settlement of the Acadians within the province of Nova Scotia began in 1768 and was to continue through the 1770s. It was the settlement of the Acadians then to be found in the province, not, by and large, Acadians that came back into the province (as mentioned, I am of the belief that few of the deported Acadians were ever to return.)23 By 1774, most of the Acadians then to be found in the province were to be found either in the Digby and Yarmouth areas (the south end of peninsular Nova Scotia) or in Cape Breton.24 The total population in Nova Scotia was estimated by Governor Legge in 1774 at "17,000 exclusive of the French Acadians, who may amount to about 1,300."25

The year 1774 was a significant year for all French inhabitants, whether in Acadia or in Quebec. All of Canada was governed by the British and had been since 1760. In the next dozen years the English leaders in London became increasingly more focused on their administrative problems in the English colonies along the eastern seaboard. The problems took a dramatic turn in 1773 when certain rebels in Boston threw a tea party. One thing became certain: the English could not deal with the unrest in the colonies and with the French problem in Canada all at the same time. Thus in October of 1774, the Quebec Act brought Canada under the control of Great Britain's parliament. Prior to that time, things happened by royal proclamation. The Quebec Act greatly extended the boundaries of the province of Quebec. The Quebec Act, also provided that Roman Catholics (which was to have great significance for the Acadians then residing in Nova Scotia) should no longer be obliged to take the test oath26, but only the oath of allegiance. Thus, as a consequence of the Quebec Act, the Roman Catholic population of Canada were relived of their cruel disabilities before people of the same belief in Great Britain and Ireland.27


[NEXT: Pt. 6, Ch. 18 - "The Summation."]

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