In 1604 (a few years before Jamestown) Sieur de Monts brought 120 Frenchmen to settle in what is now Nova Scotia. The settlers suffered starvation, disease and death, like Jamestown. Yet survivors persevered, built homes and finally began to thrive.
The Acadian communities were of both the land and the sea. Since many of the Acadians had migrated from the Loire River Valley of France, they knew how to build dykes. These dykes reclaimed fertile lands from the sea. The opening and closing of the dykes was a close-knit community effort. Remains of these dykes can be found in Nova Scotia today.
Although primarily fishermen, the Acadians planted orchards, gardens and field crops. They were the first to introduce wheat to North America. They learned to become self-sufficient using what God provided to survive. Like the Dutch, they carved wooden shoes to wear. The women knitted long wool socks for the men to wear with their knee high pants. The men and boys often walked through wet reeds to open and close the dykes.
The Acadian men and women fashioned their own harnesses and tools, soap and candles. The truly sustainable Acadian communities relied on one another. No orphan went homeless, no widow without firewood.
The Micmac native Americans befriended their hardworking neighbors. Because of a shortage of women in the early years, men often married native American women.
Then in 1613, Samuel Argall, from the colony of Virginia, took a contingent of ships to Penobscot and other close-by settlements, burning the homes of the Acadians and capturing some to take back to the colonies to use as slaves. Perhaps the Acadians had better trade items of furs and fish. Perhaps the English colonies were trying to clear the Atlantic coastline for themselves. Who knows? There was a long standing animosity between the English and French. Argall made two more raids on Port Royal (now Halifax) in the next six years, stealing provisions and livestock, again burning homes. The surviving Acadians, who were often hidden by the Micmac, would begin each time the laborious task of rebuilding their homes and their lives.
In the next hundred years, the land of Acadia changed hands between the English and the French 20 times. It was a pawn. Not once did the Acadians swear allegiance to England. They did not want to fight their own countrymen. The Acadians became known as the “neutral” French.
The worst was yet to come. These peace-loving people faced coercion and the shattering of families. I think of these early settlers as I drive down country roads in Autumn when the crops are lush and beautiful. It was the month of harvest, September, 1755, that horrors for the Acadians truly became unbearable. Even a people, constantly exposed to the vicissitudes of two warring countries for 150 years, did not expect this. By now the Acadians number had grown to close to 20,000.
In next Sunday’s publication, I will relate what happened to the Acadians. There may be many in our community with Acadian blood coursing through their veins. Lambert, Martin, Gentil and Simon are a few Acadian surnames found regionally.
Psalm 24:4-5 “Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, who have not pledged themselves to falsehood, nor sworn by what is a fraud. They shall receive a blessing from the Lord and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”
©Ann Rains August, 2009
Subscriptions are free! Just fill out the box below.