Grand Pre and Nova Scotia History

My wife inherited the Stewart House, which has been in her family since it was built, so we like to get the local Grand Pre history correct.

The story of the Acadians has, over the years, been as much about myth as history.  It was popularized by an American writer who never actually came to Nova Scotia.  The basic story line is:  the French settled Nova Scotia through land grants to Seigner d’Aulnay de Charnisay and Charles de la Tour.  A fortress village was constructed at Port Royal, near the town of Annapolis Royal.  Despite the harsh winters, the peasants managed to survive and eventually thrive.  They brought with them, from northern France, knowledge that would prove to be highly useful along the body of water known as the Bay of Fundy, the ability to construct dykes and reclaim the fertile topsoil that lay beneath the water. The peasants had large families and soon spread out from Port Royal to other fertile areas, settling in considerable numbers in the area known as Les Mines (Minas Basin).  The principal village was called Grand Pre (Big Meadow).  The never-ending battle between the French and English took an unfortunate turn for the Acadians in 1710, when the British took possession of the fort at Port Royal.  From that point on, Nova Scotia would belong to the Crown.

In the spring of 1746, France assembled a giant armada to retake the fort in Annapolis Royal and raid the Eastern Seaboard on New England.  A contingent of French soldiers was dispatched from Quebec to coordinate a land/sea attack.  However, the grand plan was not to be.  Thanks to fierce storms, incompetent admirals and disease, the fleet self-destructed.  In the meantime, about 500 soldiers were dispatched from Boston to aide in the defence of the fort at Annapolis.  When the attack failed, the Governor of Annapolis Royal sent the Yankee troops to Grand Pre for the winter to live off the prosperous Acadians in that area.
Hearing about the “Bastonais” living among the Acadians, the leader of the Quebec troops decided to attack in the middle of winter.  It meant traversing some 300 km on snowshoes.  Discovering that his own troops were outnumbered, he chose to attack in the middle of the night.  It was to be the bloodiest battle in Nova Scotia history.  The numbers differ considerably according to the accounts, but at least 70 men died.  The French claimed victory, but it would make little difference in the long run.  Eight years later the British would insist that the Acadians take an oath of allegiance to the Crown.  When they resisted, the peasants were loaded on ships and sent far and wide.  Their villages were burned and their livestock all killed.  Many of the Acadians ended up in Louisiana, where they took up residence in the swamps of land that would later become part of the United States.  The peasants from Nova Scotia would come to be known as Cajuns.

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