It was in 1604 that 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.
Samuel de Champlain

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.

De Monts sailed into the Basin to Partridge Island. There a captain of one of the ships found a large sample of amethyst. The stone was broken in two pieces and De Monts received one of them. When they returned to France, these specimens were cut and mounted in beautiful settings and presented to the king and queen.

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.)


Ships Like The French Sailed To Acadia
Ships like these Deported the Acadians

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.

Among the men traveling with De Monts was an apothecary by the name of Louis Hébert. Louis would later return to France then go to Québec taking his family there with him.

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. The British colony of Jamestown, Virginia, settled in 1607, was growing rapidly. 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. To help in this enterprise of an annual fishing, the Order of Nova Scotia Baronets was established.

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. (From these first Acadian settlers descend the millions of Acadian descendants throughout the world). Of the 300 who came in 1632, there were perhaps twenty families. Others married young women who were brought from France at a later date.

Three Capuchin friars who took charge of the Acadian missions had come with Razilly. Records of births/baptisms, marriages, deaths/burials were always recorded by the priests. Many of these registers were destroyed or lost during the Deportation years so that it is impossible to know from which parishes some of the ancestors came from in France.

In 1636, the building of dykes was begun in an effort to keep the salt tides of the ocean from flooding the marshes. The Acadians succeeded in this endeavor. Consequently, agriculture grew in great proportions as more and more of this rich land was brought under cultivation. The Acadians also became skillful in the care of the dyke-protected meadows. In all parts of New France, seigneuries - large tracts of land - had been granted to members and friends of the governing body of the country, the Hundred Associates. It was their duty to settle the country, protect the settlers and to support the mission.

It was not too long before rivalry arose between two of the seigneurs in Acadia. La Tour and d'Aulnay-Charnisay, the one living at the mouth of the St. John River, the other at his fortified trading-post on the Penobscot, resulted in open war, which continued to 1645, when, during the absence of La Tour, d'Aulnay captured Fort La Tour. The defense was bravely conducted by Lady La Tour but without avail against such a superior force as d'Aulnay displayed. The Lady was forced to witness the execution of her courageous followers. It has been said that she died of grief because of this cruel act. D'Aulnay died in 1650 and La Tour became governor as well as lieutenant for the king in Acadia. He also married the widow of his late rival.

In 1654, a force from Boston under the command of Major Sedgewick, took Port Royal and Fort La Tour while the boundary between Acadia and New England was being disputed. La Tour immediately shifted his allegiance to England. Acadia was restored to France in 1667 but it was 1670 before the representative of France took possession. This country now became a part of New France, a province of the mother country - governed directly from Paris. After all the sacrifice of time and money, the population of Acadia had now risen to about 400. Most of these inhabitants lived in Port-Royal.

In 1675, it was from Port Royal that the first few Acadians left to settle land in Minas to what was the foundation and beginning history of Grand-Pré. In a mere few decades, this area of Acadia would become the breadbasket of the country.

Under the leadership of Grandfontaine, the population of the country doubled in sixteen years and during that time great agricultural innovations were made.

In 1689, France and England went to war again hardly missing a beat until 1713. Acadia was captured once more when the fort at Port Royal (now Annapolis) was unable to withstand the attack. Acadia was retaken in 1690. In 1710, a garrison of less than 300 men at Port Royal capitulated to a New England force and Acadia passed out of the hands of the French for the last time. Port Royal was renamed Annapolis Royal in honor of the British queen.

  • NOTES:
  • 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.

    An Acadian Farm

    The artist is unknown to me. This painting hangs in the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is an Acadian Home at Belle isle. The Belle isle marsh was settled by 1679, and there may have been as many as 30 houses by 1750. the settlement was abandoned and destroyed in 1755 at the time of the Expulsion.

    (A post card of this painting was purchased by me on my trip to Nova Scotia in 1998 - I purchased it at Fort Beauséjour. Produced by the Department of Education of the Nova Scotia Museum, it has been posted on this web site for educational purposes only so that Acadian descendants can see what the farms of our ancestors looked like. Nothing is posted on this web site for profit.)

    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. (In the future and throughout their deporation to the Colonies, they would now be referred to as the French Neutrals.) 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. He attempted to annihilate the world of all Acadians.

    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 finally allowed to return to Nova Scotia in 1764. However, the fertile lands that once were theirs were now occupied by other settlers. Since the British would not allow the Acadians to form large settlements, they gradually settled along the various remote coastal regions of the province such as Baie Ste-Marie.

    Acadians signing the Oath is by Nelson Surette.
    Permission was granted for use on the Acadian Ancestral Home Web site.


    Of the several documents exchanged down the years between France and England concerning Acadia, the Treaty of Utrecht, signed July 11, 1713, is the most critical in its consequences. England is given full jurisdiction over what is now Nova Scotia, except for Isle Royale (Cape Breton Island) and Isle-Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island).

    In June 1713, a letter from Queen Anne reassured the Acadians regarding that they had nothing to fear under their new status. However, first they are asked to leave the territory but then they are allowed to remain and keep their property on condition that they sign an Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown. In essence, the oath was supposed to recognize their right of worship and neutrality in the event of war. During four decades they were sucessful in obtaining that these basic rights be met.

    In 1714, Governor Vetch assigns Major Paul Mascarene, a Huguenot who became Lieutenant-Governor of the colony, arranges for the first election of four representatives among the Acadians. An imposing quantity of letters, requests, and petitions demonstrate a remarkable argumentative talent.

    From 1720 on, British pressure increases. When George II is crowned king of England, the Acadians' concern and worry grows. They know the king's aversion to Catholics and they again echo their right to freedom of worship and political neutrality according to the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht. The messengers are thrown in jail, and a revolt of the outraged population is avoided only when official assent to these conditions is brouht forward. Robert Wroth, a young office, is authorized to negotiate the signing of the Oath of Allegiance by the Acadians. Two years later, Governor Philipps is also said to have assured that the following conditions would be respected if the Oath were signed:

  • 1. Exemption from bearing arms as long as the Acadians remain subjects of the King of England.

  • 2. The right to leave the British territory at their own convenience and thereby be freed of their oath.

  • 3. Entire freedom of worship and the right to the ministration of Catholic priests.
  • The English version of the Oath, differs from the French version given to the Acadians to sign. Nowhere in the English version is it clearly stated that Acadians are assured protection of these rights.


    I do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George the Second, so help me God.

    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.

    Note: Those sent to North Carolina and Virginia were not allow to disembark the ships because they had not been expected and they were not wanted. They sat on the beaches for six months. Having arrived in the fall of 1755, they were sent to England in the spring of 1756. Once in England, they were dispersed to Bristol, Falmouth, Liverpool and Southampton where they were detained (held prisoners) for seven years. When the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763, they were repatriated to France. Many of these Acadians who had been in British prisons were the ones who eventually went to Louisiana in 1785 to reunite with others who had gone there in 1763 from Maryland.


    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.

    Acadian Flag

    It was during the occasion of their second national convention, held in Miscouche on Prince Edward Island in 1884*, that the Acadians of the maritime provinces chose their flag and national anthem. They adopted the French Tricolor in order to demonstrate that they were not forgetful of the origins of their ancestors. What distinguishes the Acadian flag from that of France is a star "Face of Mary", situated in the blue rectangle of the former, for the color blue is symbolic of the Virgin Mary. This star, "Stella Maris", which is praised in the Acadian national anthem, guides the Acadian people through their hardships.

    It bears the papal color as being representative of the unwaivering adherence of the Acadians to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1984, we witnessed the 100th anniversary of the act which, for Acadians, having chosen this flag and anthem is symbolic of their emergence as a people.

    *In August, 2000, the Federal Heritage department of Prince Edward Island at Miscouche, unveiled an Historic Places plaques commemorating the second Acadian National Conference in 1884. (This information received from James Perry/Poirier who lives on Prince Edward Island.)

    Massachusetts State Archives
    Excerpts and informational background from The History of Grand-Pré by John Frederic Herbin
    Collège Ste-Anne, Church Point, Nova Scotia

    © Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
    Acadian & French Canadian Ancestral Home
    1998- Present

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