A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #2: Settlement, Revolution & War. TOC
Part 1, "Pre-Revolutionary Settlement" TOC
Ch. 6 - "The Re-Coming of the Acadians."

Up to the mid-18th century, Nova Scotia had, almost exclusively, a French speaking population.1 Then the fabric of Nova Scotia changed. This was mainly accomplished by the deportations of 1755, when, with war clouds looming and in the name of provincial security, approximately 6,000 of these people were forced, without compensation, to give up their lands and chattels and to board transports which were to see them away to strange and foreign lands. It might be estimated that close to twice that number constituted the Acadian population at its peak, in 1749. Though 1755, for the Acadians, was the most significant year in their dispersal, the uprooting of these people was to take place over a number of years. A couple of thousand, through the years 1749-53, fearing the worst, fled into the French territories that then existed: Isle St. Jean (Prince Edward Island) and Isle Royal (Cape Breton). During the deportation of 1755, yet more were to flee: a number of the Chignecto Acadians fled either to Isle St. Jean or up the coast of northern New Brunswick (as we know it today). The Cobequid Acadians (likely the entire community of them) fled to Isle St. Jean. In 1758, the French islands of Isle St. Jean and Isle Royal, in a feat of arms, were captured by the British. The Acadian refugees which were then huddled together there were deported and scattered, yet again.2

Though the struggle between the French and the English ran on for a couple of years beyond 1758, the deportation of the Acadians had pretty much come to its end in that year. In September of 1760, France lost its last stronghold in America when Articles of Capitulation were signed at Montreal. In that same year British engineers and sappers completely demolished Louisbourg which had been the mightiest fortress in all of America. The authorities at Halifax, thereafter, were not so much concerned about the Acadians that remained in the province, about 2,000. In 1762, however, they became seriously worried. It was in April of that year that news arrived at Halifax that a military force (a small fleet with 900 troops) had come across from France, attacked and captured St. John's, Newfoundland. In the result the fortifications at Halifax were beefed up. The batteries on George's Island, at Point Pleasant and near the Dockyard, were all strengthened. 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. This real threat made the Halifax authorities to once again focus on the problem of having French speaking people in the province. Thus, in that year, in 1762, the best part of the 2,000 Acadians then left, being considered to be but prisoners of war, were transported to Boston. On arrival, the authorities at Boston, remembering their experience of 1755, told the captains of the transport ships not to allow their passengers to disembark and that they were to bring these displaced people right back from where they came.

Given the scare of 1762, directly the Acadians returned from Boston they were locked up. We see where there were a considerable number of prisoners both at Fort Edward (Windsor) and Fort Cumberland (Amherst area). Those that were not locked up were closely watched and tolerated only because they made themselves useful in such things as road building and in repairing dykes.3 Murdoch reports that as of 1764, there were 232 families of Acadians (1056) located at Halifax; 77 families (227) at Fort Edward; 23 (91) at Annapolis Royal; and, 73 (388) at Fort Cumberland.4

The war having been concluded, there was certainly no good reason to keep up the persecution of the Acadians, though their presence caused a lingering unease. In a report to Lord Halifax, dated the 18th of December, 1764 (the war had by then been over for a year), thinking they had a continuing "zeal for the French and aversion to the English," Governor Wilmot wrote that the Acadians had resolved to leave the province of their own accord, and that, indeed, "six hundred persons including women and children, departed within these three weeks for the French West Indies." The concern that the authorities back in England might have for this development is that while Nova Scotia maybe safer without these French people, they would but go and strengthen the French colonies in the West Indies to the detriment of the English plantations. Wilmot anticipated this concern and concluded his letter with these words: "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 likely to gain any considerable advantage from them."5

With the departure of the 600 Acadians for the West Indies, late in 1764, the fate of which has yet to be told, the low point for the Acadian population in the province had been reached. 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 a refreshing change in the official attitude towards the Acadians. The 1767 census (the details of which we shall pick up in Chapter 8 of this part) discloses that there was located in Nova Scotia 1,265 Acadians "about equally divided between the Peninsula and the outlying parts," that is the eastern corner of present day New Brunswick. The breakdown from the 1767 census is as follows: 271 at Cape Breton, 197 at Canso, 200 at Halifax and 140 at Windsor. In 1768, we see the first upturn, when, in that year, steps were being taken to settle Acadians in "Cape Breton under the protection of temporary licenses." (We shall pick up the settlement of Cape Breton (1764-1770) in Chapter 10 of this part.)

Notwithstanding the sentiments of Governor Wilmot and his policy of general riddance, as is vividly expressed in his letters, the English government sent a specific message to Wilmot instructing him, that upon taking the oath of allegiance, Acadians were to be considered citizens and allowed to settle. The persecution of the Acadians was finally to come to an end in 1768, when Lt. Governor Michael Francklin signed a warrant designating a stretch of land along St Mary's Bay located in the western part of the province (see map) for the settlement of French Acadians to be known as Clare. Two months later the first Acadian family took up residence at Clare.6 Both in 1771 and in 1772, additional grants of land situated on the west side of St. Mary's Bay were given to individuals certain of which bore names that we readily associate with the "French Shore": Aimable Doucet, 350 acres; John Babin, 150; Isidore Mirot, 200; Basile Mirot, 250; and, Basil Boudrot, 300. By 1775, we see further grants: Como, Bellivo, Gaudet, Dugas, Terriot, Sonier, Melanson, and Tobo. These and other names were listed and submitted to Council as those who had taken the oath and were to be given grants ranging from 80 to 360 acres.7 The community, as Haliburton observed, grew, such that by 1800 there were 175 families located at Clare (1050 souls). By 1828 the population was 2038.8

[NEXT: Bk. 2, Pt. 1, Ch. 7 - "The Early Settlement of Liverpool and the Perkins' Diaries."]

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