Shédiac, New Brunswick

Shédiac was once called La Batture*
Named Shédiac by the Mi'kMaw, it means running far in.

The first settler to come to La Batture* in 1803 was Simon LeBlanc, son of Pierre-Victor dit Pierrotte LeBlanc and Marguerite Saulnier to René LeBlanc and Anne Thériault to Antoine LeBlanc and Marie Bourgeois to Daniel and Françoise Gaudet. Simon married Marguerite Poirier about 1798. Marguerite was the daughter of Joseph Poirier and Marguerite Arsenault.

Simon and Marguerite built a log cabin slightly west of Elmbank, which later became the home of Miss Eleanor Tait. It was likely also 1803 when Jean-Baptiste Vautour, son of Pierre-Joachim Vautour and Marie-Josèphe Vivier dit Molleur, and his wife Marie Doiron, daughter of Pierre dit Pitre Doiron and Marguerite Léger (to Pierre dit Gould Doiron and Anne Forest to Pierre Doiron and Madeleine Doucet to Jean Doiron and Marie-Anne Canol), also became settlers of La Batture. They settled on the Scoudouc River shore which later became Riverside Drive.

Then came Sylvain Arsenault, son of Pierre Arsenault and Marguerite Poirier to Abraham dit le Petit Abram Arsenault and Marie-Josèphe Savoie to Pierre Arsenault and Marie Guérin, whose wife was Scholastique Haché dit Gallant, daughter of Michel Haché dit Gallant and Anne Melanson to Michel Haché dit Gallant and Marie-Anne Gravois to Michel Haché dit Gallant and Madeleine LeBlanc to Michel Haché (Larché) dit Gallant and Anne Cormier to Pierre Larcher and unknown spouse, put up a little house close to the LeBlancs. One of their daughters, Henriette, became the mother of Senator Poirier who brought great honor to the Acadians.

After them came Joseph Richard, son of René and Perpétue Bourgeois, and his wife Marguerite LeBlanc, daughter of Charles LeBlanc and Marie Barrieu to François LeBlanc and Marguerite Boudreau to Jacques and Catherine Hébert to Daniel and Françoise Gaudet; then in 1804 or 1805 Joseph-Michel Petitpas who married Madeleine Donnelle (aka Downing/Downey) came. He was the son of Nicolas Petitpas and Osite-Blanche Benoit to Jacques Petitpas and Geneviève Serreau to Claude Petitpas and Catherine Bugaret. They set up housekeeping close to the site of the present St. Joseph's Church. Simon Poirier who married Henriette Arsenault, daughter of the third settler, himself became the sixth settler in 1826.

Others among the first nine known settlers were Pierre LeBlanc who married Marie Landry and built on the site of the later where the Honorable Dr. E. A. Smith later built his home, opposite the Frenette Funeral Home on Main Street; François Vautour who married Nanette Poirier, the sister of Simon, and Dominique Gauvin from Fox Creek who married Blanche Poirier, Nanette's sister.

Nanette Poirier Vautour donated the property on which St. Joseph's Church, rectory, convent and cemetery were built. In fact, Nanette was the first to be buried at St. Joseph's Cemetery on April 13, 1871. Senator Poirier, one of the most eminent of all Shediac Acadians, comes properly by his inheritance. He was a great-grandson of the original Pierre Poirier of Shédiac Bridge, the grandson of Raphael, who was an early leader in the Grande Digue colony, the maternal grandson of Sylvain Arsenault, shediac's pioneer settler, and the son of Simon Poirier, another pioneer. He was also a blood relation of most of the other first settlers of Shédiac.

The Community called Shédiac

Shédiac is interestingly situated - For starters, the river which enters the bay at Shédiac is not the Shédiac River but the Scoudouc River. The Shédiac River is three miles north at Shédiac Bridge. Nor is Shédiac Cape, where the general community called Shédiac began, in Shédiac town but two miles north including Gilbert's Corner, named for William J. Gilvert, a direct descendant of the English explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who settled there in 1860.

The bridge leading into Shédiac town is not the Shédiac bridge, but the Scoudouc River bridge. Shédiac bridge spans the Shédiac River four miles away at Shédiac Bridge, N.B. Finally, the port of Shédiac is not at Shédiac but in fact at Pointe du Chene, two miles eastward. Shédiac Island is between Grande Digue and Pointe du Chene though it is in Shédiac Bay, which navigational charts have called Shédiac harbor. Lastly, the famed Shédiac beaches were never located in Shédiac but rather east of the town limits at Pointe du Chene, Belliveau Beach (The Bluff)Parlee Beach, Gould Beach and Brulé.

Dr. J. Clarence Webster recorded that a seigniory (seigneurie) was established at Shédiac in 1697, on March 29, and granted to Sieur Mathieu-Martin de Lino, a native of St. Nizier parish, Lyon, France, who became a merchant at Québec. It was given as a reward for his services as an interpreter in English negotiations. The grant extended five leagues (a league was three miles in this instance), along the coast of Acadia, opposite the island of St. John (P.E.I.). It ran between the concession north of the Cocagne River given to Sieur du Plessis, the French naval treasurer, and the grant given Sieur de la Vallière, in the vicinity of Barachois. This concession to de Lino was called Linoville and included Shédiac Island and Little Shédiac Island, known as Indian Island or Skull Island.

Shédiac is next found in historical documents in 1686, when the successor to Bishop Laval of Québec, Monseigneur de Saint-Vallier, made his pastoral visit by canoe. He made a reference to it calling it Chédic. The French explorer, Nicolas Denys, had explored this coast and published a description in 1672 which describes it from Cocagne (which he named from the old French word for land of abundance or cornucopia) to Cape Tormentine.

The community known in early history as Shédiac runs around the bay and includes Grande Digue, Shédiac Bridge, Shédiac Cape, Shédiac Town and Pointe du Chene and Barachois. Grande Digue was the first settled part of the area. The first place called Shédiac was known as Shédiac Cape. It runs between the Scoudouc River and the Shédiac River, its norther perimeter was Richard Hill and it includes all of the original English grants purchased by Joseph Williams and Samuel Cornwall. So therefore, the history of Shédiac is really the history of the bay!

Where does the name Shédiac come from?

The name Shédiac comes from the Micmac Indian word Es-ed-ei-ik which means running far in and which the French spelled Gédaique. There have been as many as 16 variations on early maps.

Pierre Arsenault of Beaubassin came to the are in 1714 looking for a place that Acadians could colonize. As a result of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the French and the English divided old Acadia, the peninsular portion - Nova Scotia - went into British control, leaving what is now New Brunswick under French control. Permission was given the peninsular French to travel out into French territories for ayear to seek new homes. A brief descript of Judayque(Shédiac) by Pierre Arsenault, perhaps the son of the Beaubassin explorer, was firs to settle on what is now Shédiac Cape. He described it as being 20 leagues from Cap Tourmentin and reported that he had stayed there for four days. He met some Indians in Shédiac and found that they were a tribe of MicMacs cultivating corn in the fields.

Shédiac has had a great deal of notable history over the years. And of course, its other notable in addition to Pascal Poirier is Placide Gaudet. Upon arriving at the visitors' center at Shédiac, there are plaques commemorating these two favorite and illustrious sons of Shédiac. Placide is buried at St. Joseph Cemetery with a new tombstone placed on his grave by the historical society. When the French began to plan on building at fort, they checked Shédiac as a possiblity. La Corne reported negatively and instead the fort was built at Beauséjour beginning on November 8, 1750. Between 1758 and 1755, missionaries and Québec military authorities choose Gédiaque as a place where munitions and rations were sent from the St. Lawrence. From Shédiac these supplies were sent overland to the Petitcodiac River and the Bay of Fundy (then called Baie Française). The old Indian route was by way of the Scoudouc River leaving a very short portage to the Memramcook River. An alternate route was from the mouth of the Shédiac’s south branch to Fox Creek. This line pretty much followed the old road between Shédiac and Moncton.

Sometime in the 1900’s, the historian-archeologist Ganong unearthed the foundation of a storehouse for French military supplies on the Shédiac River just west of the new highway bridge at a spot known to generations of sawmill hands and sports fishermen as Camp Lazy This was the site of the first Shédiac sawmill established by Alexander Nevers in 1825 and later a fishing camp owned by J.w.Y. Smith and others into the 1930’s. There is some possibility that an Indian fort existed on Indian (Little Shédiac) Island where Ganong found traces of an earthen rampart and ditch and some skulls in 1906.

Boishébert who had also ben active on the St. John River trying to save Acadian settlements there, later setup a refugee station at Cocagne. This became a thriving Acadian-French settlement and the first of the permanent villages on the east coast of the province, which was separated form Nova Scotia in 1784. It paralleled the arrival in the same decade of Pierre (Paiu) Belliveau leading a group of 12 families to establish a commune known as Village des Piau. Descendants of the Cocagne first settlers were later among those who created the present town of Shédiac.

As usual, there were land disputes here as elsewhere among the English and the Acadians. Acadian French civil rights, removed in 1755, had afterwards been restored and it is fascinating to see how these deprived Ancestors carried a legal case across the ocean to London in those difficult times but they did!

One assumption as to their drive to do this came from perhaps their mentor, Joseph Guéguen (Goguen), one of the four first residents at Cocagne. Cocagne had no priests or notaries so Joseph conducted religious services, did the necessary legal work and became its revered patriarch, a highly educated man in a then illeterate community.

Some uprooted Arsenaults, Poiriers, Gaudets and Haché dit Gallants went to work for William Harrington. Hanington had obtained a huge grant of land for which he paid 50 cents an acre - in 1976 the land he had owned with shore frontage was selling for $5,000 an acre. Anyhow, others seem to have migrated a bit further northward to Poirier Point, Grande Digue and Shédiac Island.

Eventually, mainland grants were made to Acadians in 1772 and other in 1791 to Poiriers, Downeys (Donnelles), a Casey, C\Hachés and Bonnevie. Both Pierre and Joseph Poirier, the original settlers at Shédiac Bridge, settled their families on that part of the mainland where their descendants could still be found in the 1970’s.

The oldest standing house in the Shédiac Bay area is likely that of Pierre Poirier built about 1797. It became known as the Elphège Poirier House located at Indian Point. Pierre’s son, Maximin was born there in 1804 and his great grandson, Joseph P. Poirier was still lvigin across the road in 1977.

The Bonnevies eventually moved from Shédiac Island to the Shemogue district, the Hachés, Donnelles/Downeys and Caseys/Caissies to the nearby mainland.

As we know, the Haché family is often referred to as Haché Gallant - The origin of that name is a most interesting one. The Shédiac Bridge people say that when the Gallants fled Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island at the time of the Acadian Deportation, they came upon an abandoned infant sleeping beside an axe on the island. They adopted it and ever since, the boy-child’s descendants have been called Haché-Galalnt. Haché is, of course, the French word for axe.

But there is yet another version to this name origin. The families father north in New Brunswick have said that the Haché-Gallants descend from Haché-Galand (or Haché-Gallant) a gallant archer, who was brought out from France by La Vallière with the Chiasson and Legassé/Legacé families. Archer pronounced ara-shay is also the French word for Archer. Whatever the origin of that name, the stories told about it are quite interesting.

The Oldest Churches

The Churches of Shédiac are important to the history of the area. Though there were important protestant and catholic churches, we will deal here with those that were catholic, given their connection to our Acadian Ancestors.

The first catholic chapel was built by Roman Catholic Missionaries at Grande-Digue in 1778. That pairhs got its present church in 1830. Grande-Digue was thus the mother parish of Shédiac’s catholic community. It was its pastor, Father Antoine Gosselin, who built Shédiac’s first chapel in 1859.

Shédiac’s catholics were originally served by visiting Grande-Digue pastors who stayed at the homes of Simon Poirier and his son Fidèle. In the beginning, the priest came on quite an irregular basis, then every fourth Sunday and on religious feast days. In between, the faithful would often cross the by by water in summer and go across the ice in winter to hear Mass.

History has it that the first Mass in Shédiac proper was celebrated in the home of Augustin Landry which was once on the site of what would become the Bank of Montreal on Main Street.

In 1859, Thadée Gauvin built the cahpel that continued to be used for services until its demolition in 1872. This was under the direction of Father J. M. Donnelly, the Grande Digue pastor, until Father Antoine Ouellet, of Madawaska County, was named first resident priest. In 1886, a rectory was built.

Besides Father Ouellet and Father Donat J. LeBlanc in 1907, the parish was served by Father Joseph Lapointe and Father F. X. Cormier. Father LeBlanc was pastor until 1924 and a large stone church was built under his pastorship. He was succeeded by Father Camille LeBlanc who later became Bishop of Bathurst.

Next came Monsignor Jean J. V. Gaudet who had been chaplain of the 165th New Brunswick Batalion in World War I. His succesor was Father Bourgeois who was the longest pastor of all. He received his Doctor of Divinity degree from the Gregorian Pontifical College in Rome and was reputed not only as a theologian but as an orator as well in both French and English. His reputation preceded him to Shédiac.

Under his pastorship, the Sisters of Providence came to Shédiac to open a hospice in 1911. The sisters took in the poor, the aged and the sick, crippled and incompetent until the government took over such care.

Father Bourgeois lived well into his 90s while living in retirement in Shédiac. He was then successed by Father Oswald Porelle in 1960, a native of Cap Pelé/Cape Bald. Father Porelle decided to replace the stone church which many parishioners considered a monument to their Acadian faith. It dominated the beautifully landscaped site and guarded by great shade trees, the church served as a physical and spiritual focus for the town. Its spire could be seen by sailors at sea and served as a guide to sailors and fishermen. It was one of few stone churches ever built in the archdiocese.

Anyhow, the wave of progress won even though the archidiocesan authorities were hesitant, they approved. In 1974, an ultra-modern masonry structure was thrust unhappily onto the Main Street and its architecture did not blend at all with its surroundings.

The beauty of this place that had been created by Father LeBlanc was demolished, the stone church knocked down and a cold, utilitarian structure took its place. Father Porelle did not long enjoy its turbulent ambiance. In 1975 he was sent as pastor to Shemogue.

One must wonder what some of these priests and supporting parishioners were thinking. In the 1970's, the beautiful church at Cocagne was sadly and unnecessarily demolished. It had been built by local artisans and opened in 1892. The original chapel, built in 1798, had been transported over ice in 1831.

Early Education in Shédiac

The Sisters of Charity founded the convent of Ste-Anne in 1886 and in 1888 they began a church school with Sister Julienne as its principal. It grew and served several generations.

In 1946, the school of Saint-Coeur de Marie/Sacred Heart of Mary, came into the parish under the direction of the Christian Brothers. Brother Florien-Marie was the first principal.

*Batture is French for strand or shore but the Acadians accepted the old-French version which means oyster bed. In his Glossaire Acadien, Pascal Poirier says the citizens of other times in Shédiac were known as batturiers.

References and Sources: Running Far In by John Edward Belliveau - ISBN 0-88999-070-0. This is a great book on the history of Shédiac and the Acadian Ancestors who lived there. It is a must if you don't already have this book!

© Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
Acadian & French Canadian Ancestral Home
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