Apr 11, 1713 The French colony of Acadia was ceded to Great Britain
When the Peace of Utrecht was signed on Apr 11, 1713, France ceded Maritime
provinces to Britain. The French colony of Acadia, now Nova Scotia, was ceded to
Great Britain. The Acadians had come from western France to fish and farm. Those
who would not swear allegiance to the crown were later deported. Many of these
deportees eventually landed in the bayou country of Louisiana.
Galeemacha Column, by Earl J.
The story of the Acadians is a fascinating one,
and has another unusual facet...no major literary work on Cajun history has been
published. I have gathered information from several publications about the
Cajuns, and will present a short version of Cajun history.
The Acadians were mostly French colonists who
came to Acadia (now known as Nova Scotia), probably as early as 1604. The
records reveal that Louis Hebert, the ancestor of the large number of Heberts
now living in Louisiana, arrived at Fort Royal in Nova Scotia on July 27, 1606.
He was a son of a druggist to Catherine of Medici, Queen of France.
Pierre Comeau, the ancestor of most of the
Comeaux' in Acadiana, was born in France in 1597 and arrived in Acadia (Nova
Scotia) in 1636. He was a cooper by trade, and married Marie Bayol in
A census taken in Nova Scotia in 1671 revealed
families of Bertrand, Blanchard, Bourg (Bourque), Brau (Breaux), Comeau,
Cormier, Dupuy, Doucet, Girouard, Hebert, Landry, LeBlanc, Richard, Robichau,
Terriau (Theriot), Trahan, Thibeaudeau and Vincent. The Bourg, Brau, Cormier,
Dupuy, Girouard, Hebert, Landry, LeBlanc, Robicheau and Thibeaudeau families
came from around Vienne in Southeast France.
Later, in 1686 and 1710, we find families with
the names of Dubois, Herpin, Leger, Marceaux, Mouton, Simon, Baudoin, Primeau,
Duhon, Picard and Guidry at Nova Scotia.
These people farmed, trapped, raised livestock
and did all of the usual things associated with colonization of the New World.
In spite of the hardships of colonization, they grew and prospered. But storm
clouds were on the horizon for our ancestors.
The clouds gathered as the bitter rivalry between
the English and the French came to a boiling point. This rivalry was rooted in
the desire of each nation to establish a complete trade monopoly in the New
The result of the rivalry was a series of wars
between England and France, known collectively as the Commercial Wars. The first
was King Williams' War (1689-97) followed by the war of Spanish Succession
(1702-13), and the final struggle, beginning in 1754 and known in American
History as the French and Indian War.
Since England's colonies in New England and
France's colonies in Canada and Acadia (Nova Scotia) bordered each other, they
became involved in these conflicts, which were deepened by great differences in
language, customs and religion.
Thus the stage was set for the unique tragedy of
the expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia.
The expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia
(Acadia) by the British followed these series of wars between the British and
French in which the British were the victors and, as the spoils of war, took
possession of Nova Scotia.
It is significant to note that during the French
and English war, the Acadians, who were ultimately to suffer tragically as a
result of the wars, remained more or less neutral throughout. During the wars,
the Acadians found their homeland a battlefield between the two warring powers,
and the were victims of numerous raids by both sides. They saw their houses
burned, livestock slaughtered and crops laid to waste.
Peace came in April, 1713, and by the treaty of
Utrecht, King Louis XIV, the Magnificent Roi Soleil (
face="Comic Sans MS">rwah solay ee,
meaning Sun King), sacrificed Acadia to the British. Under the treaty, the
Acadians were granted the option of remaining on their land with religious
freedom, or leaving Acadia and forfeiting their land. Since there was really
little choice, the Acadians stayed on but for the next 40 years their times were
Soon after the treaty the British, who wanted the
fertile Acadian land for their own settlers, began a series of persecutions of
the Acadians, striking at their national origin and their religion. Some sought
to leave, but learned that for the most part the option had been revoked and
they were prohibited from leaving.
Part of the persecutions was an insistence by the
British that the Acadians take an unqualified oath of allegiance to the British
Crown. Since this could involve infringement upon their practice of their
religion and bearing arms against their fellow countrymen from France, the
Acadians refused. After this refusal, the British began to plan the ultimate
expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia.
In the ensuing years, the Cajuns proved their
loyalty to England by refusing the join the rebellious acts against the Crown.
This, however, was not enough, and the Acadians continued to live in suspense as
to their future.
Finally, in 1755, the expulsion was affected
under the order of Lawrence, Lieutenant Governor of Acadia. On September 5,
1755, at the Acadian Settlement of Grand Pré (
face="Comic Sans MS">gron-pray), all of
the Acadian men and boys over 18 years of age were assembled at the church. They
numbered 411. There a Colonel Winslow told them that their lands and livestock
were forfeited to the Crown and that they were to be driven out of Acadia. Some
of them never saw their wives and families after this assembly.
Twenty of their number were released the next day
to visit the families of the 411 and tell them the sad news. After several days,
they were paraded to the harbor, where they were loaded on five ships and
Among the families in those first 411 were 27
Boudro (Boudreaux), 12 Commo (Comeaux), 2 Benoit, 2 Blanchard, 2 Braux (Breaux),
1 David, 2 Doucet, 1 Duon (Duhon), 13 Dupuis, 41 Hebert, 42 Landry, 56 LeBlanc,
14 Richard, 4 Sonnier, 13 Terriot (Theriot), 4 Tibodo (Thibodeaux), 16 Trahan
and 2 Vincent. One of their number was a Louis Arceneaux, who was to achieve
immortality as the Gabriel to Longfellow's Evangeline.
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This first expulsion preceded many others over a
span of a decade, at the end of which most of the Acadians in Nova Scotia had
been placed on other ships bounded for New England, to join the original
Some of the Acadians evaded capture, armed
themselves and became guerrillas in the woods of Nova Scotia.
But for the great bulk of the Acadians, their
homeless wandering had begun and was not to end until many years later, when
they established a new Acadia in Southwest Louisiana.
The expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia by
the British was neither easy nor complete. Many of the Acadians, after British
trickery resulted in the quick deportation of the first 411 Acadians, many fled
to the woods and took up resistance against expulsion.
The British Crown placed prices on the head of
the renegade Acadians, and the British Army roamed throughout Acadia (Nova
Scotia) for over seven years searching out those who had escaped
Joseph Brossard (Broussard), nicknamed Beausoleil
face="Comic Sans Ms">, meaning Pretty Sun), was one of the Acadians who escaped
deportation by fleeing to the woods. There he became chief of a minor resistance
force of Acadians who waged guerrilla warfare against the British. The British
were unable to capture this clever Cajun and his band.
After the defeat of Montcalm in Quebec,
Beausoleil realized that the French cause in Canada was dead and that further
resistance would be futile. He and his band surrendered to the British at Fort
Cumberland on November l6, 1759; they were held as prisoners of war until peace
After his release Brossard went to the island of
Santa Domingo and then worked his way to Louisiana, where he was commissioned as
a captain in the militia at St. Martinville in 1762. He is the ancestor of many
of the Broussards who now populate Southwest Louisiana.
Other Acadians who resisted expulsion escaped to
various parts of Canada and Newfoundland and the many islands off the Canadian
coast. They remained there and today their descendants number over half a
The vast majority of the Acadians, however, were
put on ships bound for the English colonies, England, France, Santo Domingo and
South America. The ships furnished for their transportation were inadequate and
the rations furnished to them barely prevented starvation. An estimated 20% of
the Acadians deported died aboard the ships and their bodies were thrown into
the sea without religious services.
Some of the ships were sent to Virginia, where
the colonial government refused them admittance. The Acadians spent a miserable
winter aboard ship; the ships eventually sailed for England but more than half
aboard had died before they reached there. Members of this party made their way
to France, and finally to Louisiana.
In Pennsylvania the Acadians were kept on board
ships for two months. In Georgia they were permitted to land but were banished;
most of them made their way into the hostile interior.
Our ancestors were severely mistreated in
Massachusetts and the Carolinas. Everywhere in the New World the Acadians went
they were mistreated, except in Maryland. Maryland was the only state to afford
the wanders a welcome, due probably to the fact that the state had a large
Catholic population. One of the Acadians who found solace in Maryland was
Emmeline Labiche, who later made her way to St. Martinville and achieved Cajun
fame as the model for Longfellow's Evangeline.
Most of the dispersed Acadians did not remain in
the English colonies where they were unwanted. Many made their way back to
Canada and Nova Scotia, or to Louisiana. Some, however, stayed in the English
colonies and changed their names, like LeBlanc to White, Brun to Brown. One of
Louisiana's most distinguished citizens, Edward Douglas White, who became Chief
Justice of the United States Supreme Court, reportedly descended from a family
of LeBlanc's who had changed their name during the Cajun wanderings.
Because they were a pitiful lot, broken-hearted,
penniless, spoke a foreign language, practiced a different religion and were
descendants of a people who were natural enemies of England, the Acadians were
cruelly received throughout most of the English colonies. It is no wonder that
these exiles, as soon as they were able to travel, sought places of refuge where
the French flag still flew.
Some Acadians went to France and then most of
them found their way to Louisiana. Others went to Santo Domingo, Guadeloupe and
Martinique from the English colonies. But because they were poor and could not
afford slaves and were unable to withstand the scorching climate, the Acadians
eventually decided to head for Louisiana to join their compatriots already
The first Acadian arrivals in Louisiana landed in
New Orleans in the fall of 1756...a year after their departure from Acadia. They
came from Maryland, the Carolinas and Georgia.
Some had traveled overland making use of the many
tributaries flowing into the Mississippi River. According to Judge Voorhies, his
grandmother was among those who came from Maryland. She had adopted Emmeline
Labiche, the Evangeline of Longfellow's immortal poem. His grandmother also told
him that Emmeline became demented when she did not eventually meet Louis in St.
Martinville and found out that he had already married someone else. Mercifully,
she died shortly thereafter.
The bulk of the Acadian population, at the time
of the dispersal, stayed in Canada or ended up in Louisiana. They were attracted
here because it was French, and the French government guaranteed them food and
tools for a year.
The first Acadian colony in Louisiana was
established on the Mississippi River 60 miles North of New Orleans, the site of
present-day Donaldsonville. Some also settled along Bayou Lafourche, beginning
In 1757 the Governor of Louisiana opened up to
colonization the vast prairie land of the Attakapas and Opelousas Indian country
in the Southwestern corner of Louisiana. Settlements sprang up along the various
bayous, such as the Teche and Vermilion. Le Yoste des Attakapas (Fort
Attakapas), later to become St. Martinville, was one of the first and chief
settlements of the area.
Acadians began to arrive at Fort Attakapas in
1765. One of the documents which was preserved is a contract dated April 4,
1765, between Antoine Bernard and several other Cajuns, under the terms of which
Bernard agreed to furnish the others with cattle to begin vacheries (vahsh--ree,
or cattle raising farms). One of the parties to the contract was Joseph
Broussard, nicknamed Beausoleil, about whom we have previously written.
Beausoleil died on October 20 of the same year and was buried near the site of
the present-day town of Broussard.
The Acadians who arrived here during
that period met Canadians and Frenchmen who were already living in this region.
Some of them bore the names of Decuire, Deshotels. Fontenot, Hollier, Latiolais,
Patin and Stelly.
Cattle raising became the chief industry of the
Acadians, but it was neither as organized nor as profitable as it is for Cajuns
today. The animals were allowed to graze on the prairies without much
The Acadians were destined not to live under the French flag.
No sooner had they arrived here and began to make their new homes when, in 1762,
France ceded Louisiana to Spain.
Later, Napoleon came to power in France
and on November 20, 1803 he obtained, in a trade, Louisiana from Spain. He
bought Louisiana, as it turned out, to sell it, and 20 days later he sold the
Louisiana territory to the United States for $25 million dollars... the biggest
real estate transaction in history. Thus the Acadians, as well as others living
in Louisiana, passed from the Spanish government to the French government to the