Exploring the eastern shore of Acadia in 1607, Champlain was welcomed in a small harbor west of Canso by a french fisherman named Captain Savalet. Capatin Savalet was from St-Jean-de-Luz and stated that he was about to undertake his 84th voyage across the ocean. A bit of calculation tells us then that this sea captain had been come to these shores since 1565. To honor him, Champlain named this place Savalet. Port-Hélène was the only other place named by Champlain during this voyage.
Nicolas Denys recorded that a rading post was establied by Sieur de la Giraudière on Rivière Sainte-Maire about 1654. This place is near what we know today as Sherbrooke, Québec.
Not much has been said about Chebucto - (Chebucto later named Halifax by the British would be long remembered in history because of Charles Lawrence who ruled Acadia from there and caused the Acadians to be deported.) Demeulle found three or four settlers there in 1686. A census taken by Joseph de Gargas in 1687/88 mentions one house, 3 french settlers and 33 Mik'maq living here.
Sieur Mathieu Des Goutins was made seigneur of Mouscoudobouet in 1691 - this place was also known as Chezzetcook and the older inhabitants still call it that - however, there is not documentation to show that Des Goutins ever acted as seigneur of this land French chronicolers have said very little about Mouscoudobouet and only 13 people were recorded in 1671 as having colonized the land.
After the first fall of Louisbourg in 1745, Beauharnois and Hocquart reported that a man and three children three leagues east of the entrance of Chibouctou were living there. This may well have been Chezzetcook. In 1748, seven or eight families were reported from Chegekkouk. Finally, in 1749, Cornwallis mentioned that there are a few French families on each side of the bay, about three leagues off.
The first record of an Acadian living here names Claude Petitpas. Born at Port-Royal in 1663, he was the third child of Claude and Catherine Bugaret. His father was Claude Petitpas, Sieur de Lafleur and was born in France in 1626, arriving in acadia circa 1640. Claude senior was appointed Notary of the Tribunal at Port-Royal. Claude junior married about 1686 to Marie-Thérèse Amérindienne who was a Mik'maq woman. They moved to the Mouskoudabouet and by 1706 they had raised seven children.
After the death of Claude Petitpas' wife, he moved his family to the safety of Port-Toulouse (now St. Peter's), Cape Breton. On January 7, 1721, he married for a second time to Françoise Lavergne, daughter of Pierre and Anne Bernon, who had been the domestics of Father de Breslay at Port-Royal but who had also decided to move to the safety of Cape Breton because of the unrest existing in Acadia at this time. Acadia was now under British rule but Cape Breton (then Ile Royale) still belonged to France. Claude and Françoise raised four more boys, three of whom eventually came to Chezzetcook and two of these three settled there permanently.
Before the colonization of Chezzetcook, it should be said that a great deal changed in Acadia. Louisbourg fell to the British on July 26, 1758 and again on September 8, 1760. Montréal fell to the British and with all of this all French dominion over Canada came to an end. When Louisbourg fell, of course all French and Canadian outposts on Cape Breton were destroyed and as usual, this included the church and house of the French Missionary, Pierre Maillard at Chapel Island. when Father Pierre Maillard wrote his last will and testament on April 12, 1759, he named Louis Petitpas as his executor. Louis was born in 1726 and was the son of Claude and Françoise Lavergne. From a very early age, Louis had been very close to Father Maillard and worked as his right hand man.
On September 29, 1759, Father Maillard and the Acadians were threatened with famine and death by the sword by Henry Schomberg, a British officer at Louisbourg. However, because the English authorities at Halifax feared that Father Maillard had some influence over the Mik'maqs whom they called patriach, they apointed him the official agent to the Mik'maqs. In the summer of 1760, Father Maillard went to Halifax and requested from Governor Charles Lawrence that his two faithful servants, Louis Petitpas and Jean-Baptiste Roma, be allowed to join him there. This request granted, these two men took care of the needs of the misionary until his premature death on August 12, 1762.
For several years thereafter, Louis Petitpas with his schooner the Longsplice carried on a great deal of trade between Halifax and Boston. His was a 35 tons schooner. On May 7, 1781, he presented the following petition to the Senate and House of Representatives at Massachustts:
The petition of Lewis Benjamin Petitpas of ChesirCook harbour in the Province of Nova Scotia - merchant - Humbly shews
That he was originally an inhabitant of Louisbourg formerly within the jurisdiction of the King of France but since the Conquest of the Country has lived at the English Settlements in Canada but lately in Nova Scotia where his Father's family removed; All persons of this description in that Country and Commonly called French Neutrals are Considered Enemies to the British Government and oppressed with the most intollerable taxes. -
Your petitioner unwilling to submit to the Oppression and desirious of becoming a Subject of a Nation in Alliance with his own, prays that this Honourable Court would grant him a permit to withdraw his property from Nova Scotia into this Commonwealth and a passport to proceed on his business with Security from Capture by American Cruisers... And as in Dutybound will ever pray - Louis Benjamin Petitpas.
He was thus granted safe conduct signed by Governor Hancock. Posting the required 500 pounds bond, he left Boston on May 9th for Halifax. Once there, he was soon threatened with imprisonment because of his talk about the revolutionary American colonies. By July 1st, he left with his belongings for Chezzetcook where he picked up his wife and children. His daughter Marie-Henriette remained in Chezzetcook as she was married to Alexandre Bellefontaine.
Interestingly, instead of heading to Boston, Louis Petitpas sailed north to his old home in Toulouse (St. Peter), Cape Breton. Here, he picked up the rest of his belongings eventually making his way to Boston. Ironically, Louis was perhaps the first Acadian to become a naturalized American and he made the most of it.
Claude Petitpas and Françoise Lavergne also had sons Jean-Baptiste born abt 1722 and Joseph born abt 1731. They may not have been as entrepreneurial as their brother Louis but they are actually of greater interest to descendants whose roots a found in Chezzetcook. These two Petitpas' are the once who colonized Chezzetcook and became the ancestors and progenitors of the Petitpas' of this place.
Approximately three weeks before his death, Governor Charles Lawrence wrote this letter on October 19, 1760 to General Whitemore at Louisbourg, the commander of the British in Cape Breton:
...I find myself under a necessity of Complying with a Request that Mr. Maillard (Father Maillard) has made to me, that the Families of a Louis and Joseph Petitpas may be permitted to attend him here: These two men have always had a particular attachment to Mr. Maillard and may be very useful as interpreters of the Indian Language and otherwise, wherefore I am to Request Your Excellency to Permit them to Come hither together with Six more families Viz. Abraham Lavandière, Amand Braulds, Sigismond Braulds, Jean Baptiste Romas, Jacques Petitpas, and Jean Petitpas, whom I intend to employ, as they are recommend to me by Mr. Maillard, to be most Skillfull people in making Dikes & wares to keep off the sea frm our Marsh Lands about Mines & Piziquid; and whose fidelity he assures may be depended on. Lawrence
The broken dykes that Lawrence refers to were heavily damaged from a hurricane that had struck Grand-Pré and Windsor September 1759 and they had been unattended for four years. Whitemore complied with Lawrence's wishes.
To understand the delicate situation of the Acadians as well as the attitude of the British authorities towad them in the mid-18th century, we need only recall that the policy of the British was not to conquer because there were already British subject occupying land in Nova Scotia since the Treaty of Utrecht signed April 11, 1713. As the British saw it, the Acadians were an obstacle to their conquering the rest of Canada thereby making it difficult for them to destroy French control Québec province. The British objective was greatly achieved by the Great Deportation in 1755 followed by the ruthless destruction of Louisbourg in 1758. To boot, the relentless pursuit of the refugees along the shores and rivers if what is now the Maritime Provinces and on to the capitulation of all Canada to the British on September 8, 1760, with the fall of Montréal.
During the truce that followed and lasted another five years after the signing of the Treaty of Parish on February 10, 1763, the British authorities seemed unable to know what to do with the Acadian prisoners held in the forts of Cumberland, Windsor and Halifax. The French inhabitants of Québec who had never been British subjects, were openly accepted as such and left in full possession of their properties and rights. However, the Acadians who were British subjects since 1713, were on the whole denied their citizenship and deprived of all their possessions. The ablest of the Acadian prisoners had been recruited under military guard to work at various times at wharf construciton, squaring logs in the woods, opening roads in the country and repairing dykes around Grand-Pré.
It would not be until 1768 that the authorities in Halifax, encouraged by General Amherst and the English Board of Trades, would finally allow the Acadians Licenses of Occupation in 1771. Thus they would receive land grants, especially in the western part of the province now known as Clare. The land here was nothing compared to what they had been forced to give up in the beautiful Annapolis Valley.
Thus it was that Jean-Baptiste and Joseph Petitpas, as well as others, moved to the Chezzetcook area. The went pretty much as Squatters until proper land titles were eventually made out to them.
This is the story of how one pioneer family, thanks in part to the providential protection of Father Maillard and his faithful children of the woods, as he called them, came to Chezzetcook and the nince subsequent generations of Petitpas descendants followed.