Simon LeBlanc family lived in poverty in Massachusetts
Minister's diary records tale of Acadian Families
according to Jim Bradshaw

Rev. Ebenezer Parkman of Westboro, Mass., kept a diary, much of which has been perserved by the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. On Oct. 16, 1756, he made his first notation of contact with Acadian exiles sent to Massachusetts. "I am informed that a Family of French Neutrals... are come into Town & Dwell in Mr. Hammond's House." Over the next ten years, Parkman made some 150 diary references to the Acadians in exile in Massachusetts, giving a contemporary glimpse into how they lived. He apparently had regular contact with them. A report about his diary by Rev. Clarence J. d'Entremont and Rev. Hector J. Hebert in the "French Canadian and Acadian Genealogical Review" notes, "The sympathy and the warmth and the intimacy with which he treated the Acadians is Astounding, especially when one considers that they were strangers to his race and to his (Congregational) religion, enemies and prisoners of his country... The Acadian exiles from neighboring towns visited him, partly perhaps because he could read and write French."

One of the first Acadians to come into Parkman's acquaintance was Jean- Simon LeBlanc, then 35 years old, who had been sent with his family from Port Royal, Jean- Simon, his wife, and two of his daughters remained in Port Royal for nearly six months after the general expulsion of the Acadians to be sent away. His other six children were sent to Massachusetts with the first exiles.

"Simon LeBlanc, his wife and two daughters completed the number of people I was ordered to put on board the (ship) Snow Helena, Samuel Livingston, master, "Handfield wrote to Shirley, "but as his vessel was so very much crowded that he could not carry off the number I was ordered to put on board him, I did keep the above four persons with a design to have sent to them by ( another ship that failed to arrive, so) I now send the above mentioned four... the sloop Eagle and as I have always found ( LeBlanc) to be of an honest, peaceable disposition and ready to obey, I therefore... recommend (that) if he can be conveniently situated near to the rest of his family, I shall esteem it a particular favor."

LeBlanc was apparently reunited with at least two of his sons, Pierre and Amand. The family at first was sheltered for a short time in the home of Ebenezer Hammond. They moved form there to the home of Cornelius Bigelow, then on Jan. 12, 1757, they were moved to a schoolhouse, where, apparently, other Acadians were being sheltered. According to Parkman's dairy, on Sept. 17, 1757, he " went to the school house to see the French family there (of) Claude Du Gas ( Dugas)." This was Claude Dugas, fils, born1712, son of Claude Dugas, pere, and Marguerite Bourg.

According to the Genealogical Review report, "During the first months after their arrival (Parkman) visited (the LeBlancs) at least once a week... It was not long before the members of the LeBlanc family began to visit (Parkman's) parsonage. The first visit was recorded on Thanksgiving Day Nov. 25, 1756, when Madame Leblanc and her daughter Marie, notwithstanding a bad snow storm, dined at the Rev. Parkman's. Although Monsieur LeBlanc had also been invited...he was not well enough to come (according to Parkman's diary) ... Then the Leblanc girls and the Parkman girls became close friends.... The Acadian girls will often sit at the Parkman table... but ... the Parkmans are never mentioned as having dined at the Leblancs, which is understandable, oftentimes not having what was necessary for their own selves." The Review also notes," Documents inform us that the first few months of exile were particularly difficult for the Acadians. The traumatic experience specifically undermined the health of the elderly.

Monsieur LeBlanc and his wife were not spared. With regard to Monsieur LeBlanc, already 'himself Rheumatic,' whom we have seen could not attend the Thanksgiving dinner...we read in the diary that three days before Christmas, 1756, 'the poor man is still much out of health.'... During the same month of December, Madame Leblanc herself became sick; however her illness lasted but a few weeks... On January 12th, the very day the family had to over to the school house, she was again 'very sick.'"

The children, meanwhile, worked where they could. Parkman's diary notes that Amand worked for him from time to time, " in the corn field, the tobacco patch, the orchard, plowing, planting, hoeing, mowing, reaping," or "digging a water well to well water the cattle." Amand's brother, Pierre, somehow was able to borrow or purchase a yoke of oxen and went from farm to farm plowing and planting fields. Their sisters also worked. Parkman notes on May 18, 1757, "The French girls bring 33 yards of cloth which Magdalena has spun and wove for us." He paid a dollar for the cloth. Later he records, "I rode to Monsieur LeBlanc and got Magdalene... to come and was (clothes)." The LeBlancs also did what work they could for other people in the neighborhood. They stayed busy because they worked cheap. A government report of the day notes that " French Acadians... lobar at much lower wages" that those commonly paid others.

According to the Genealogical Review " These occupations of the Acadians in exile were in compliance with the ordinances of the Government of Massachusetts who, after sustaining them at first soon left themselves to earn their lining. But even then their remuneration was oftentimes very little or nil. Some documents even go to show that they were treated not any better than the slaves of those days. Not only did it happen that they would not get the necessities of life, but they were even deprived of what they already possessed. Generally the sufferings and hardships of the Acadians in exile and the harsh manners in which they were sometimes treated and the injustices they had to bear cannot be minimized."

One of the hardships for the Acadians who wanted to search for their families and friends was that hey were forbidden to travel from one place to another unless they had government permit to do do. The travel back alos kept them from going to church.

"This permit was not to be granted for more than six days, and could not include the Lord Day," according to the Genealogical Review report. "It was one way of preventing the Acadians from gathering together for their religious meetings on Sundays. Any transgression of this rule were to be punished by imprisonments ' in close Gaol (jail for the space of five days without Bail Mainprize and kept on bread and water only).

Copyright Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
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