Sunday, May 15, 2011

12 - Refuge

I have been thinking a lot about the political climate of the Little Bras d'Or area in the mid 1700's. I have been trying to piece together some of the history from the limited resources that I have available to me. After a little bit more research, I learned that some of the settlers in Bras d'Or also came from an area in Nova Scotia called Pisquit, which is present day Windsor and Falmouth, Nova Scotia. It appears that some who were living in Cape Sable and LaHave left those areas and some settled here for a time. All of this occurs between 1748 and 1752. The same time frame as the infamous scalping proclamations. The following quote comes from Charlene MacKenzie in the book" Lejeune and Young's, An Acadian Mi'kmaq Family", by Lark Blackburn Szick, 1997:

"The matriarch of the Lejeune and Roy family was Edmee Joseph Lejeune, seventy eight year old widow of Charles Chauvet dit La Gerne. The Chauvet family had lived at the St. John River, and at LaHave and had moved on to Pisquit for safety." pg. 1


Chapel Island, Nova Scotia
Photo by Verne Equinox Source: Wikimedia Commons
 Pisquit, was a Mi'kmaq word meaning "Junctions of the Waters." It was the largest Acadian settlement and was closest to Halifax. Given that the British stepped up their efforts against the Acadians and Mi'kmaq in 1749, Pisquit would not have been a safe haven by any means. In 1750, the British erected a fort in Pisquit, known as Fort Edward and the first commander was none other than Captain Gorham, of the infamous rangers, who were responsible for so many atrocities. It was definitely not a safe place for our ancestors from Bras d'Or to be. Shortly afterwards, in 1755, the Acadians would be deported to Louisiana with some Mi'kmaq among them.


Cape Breton Island (then known as Ile Royale), had been returned to French authority with the signing of a treaty known as "Aix-la-Chapelle" in 1748. Their close connection to the French was the main reason Mi'kmaq populations looked to Cape Breton as a haven from British Authority.  In addition, The Bras d'Or lakes region holds special spiritual significance to the Mi'kmaq people. This area in Cape Breton was the birthplace of the Mi'kmaq God, Glooscap (Kluscap), and the area of Chapel Island in Cape Breton, is considered to be the capitol of the Mi'kmaq nation. It was known as Mniku, which means island, and has been a meeting place for the Mi'kmaq people for as long is as known in the culture. In the early 1750's, a Roman Catholic missionary named Father Malliard, erected a chapel on the island. There is an annual gathering on the island every year which celebrates Saint Anne, the patron saint of the Mi'kmaq. There is a wonderful video by Mi'kmaq film maker Catherine Anne Martin, which documents one of these visits to Chapel island. Here is a link:http://www.nfb.ca/explore-by/director/Catherine-Anne-Martin

According to Lark Blackburn Szick's book by 1752, "a small group had settled at the little entrance to the Bras d'Or under the protection of Sieur de LaBoularderie. It was around this time that the extended family of Lejeunes, Guedry, Benoits, Chauvets and others left Pisquit and settled at Little Bras d'Or and Baie des Espagnols which extended from the little entrance of Bras d'Or eastward to Sydney Harbour. At Sydney Mines, called La Mine by the French, they settled at Indian Cove at the site of future Greener's Mine and at Lloyd Cove near Cranberry. " pg. 1

The French stronghold in the area was the Fortress of Louisbourg and was located only about 35 miles from the Bras D'or area. It was the capitol of the Island and was returned to the French with the treaty in 1748 offering more security to the displaced Mi'kmaq. The fortress had been the most extensive European fortification in North America. It was the third busiest port, behind only Boston and Philadelphia. It was an important investment to the French because the fishing industry in North America was at the time more lucrative than the fur trade. Louisbourg was situated in an area close to the Grand Banks and over 400 fishing boats and 60 schooners sailed daily to and from the port at its height of activity. In 1752, by the time settlement at Bras d'Or had been established by my Mi'kmaq ancestors, the French population in Louisbourg had grown to 4,174 people. You can visit the fortress today. It is currently the largest reconstruction project in North America. Here is a link: http://www.fortressoflouisbourg.ca/Fortress-Louisbourg/mid/12/sid/35

So, I will continue my search. I have been asking people in the Bras d'Or area for help as well, but it appears that much of the history of the area is held by various people and not gathered in one place. I hope I can help dig some of it up. For now, in my search, the people who settled at Little Bras d'Or have refuge for a short time.

Sources: Wikipedia, (Pisquit, Chapel Island, Fortress of Louisbourg)
               LeJeune and Youngs - An Acadian Mi'kmaq Family, Lark Blacburn Szick, 1997

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