Wednesday, June 29, 2011

15 - Exile

What a history I am learning of my family and home province of Nova Scotia. It reads like something out  of a work of fiction.  My post today is taken from information that I learned from reading Lejeune and Youngs, An Acadian Mi'kmaq Family by Lark Balckburn Szick. This part of the story is attributed to Elva E. Jackson with notes by Lark Szick. This is a great resource for those of us interested in the history of the Bras d'Or area as well as the specific history of the Lejeune and Young families. If you have an interest after you read some of this today, you can purchase the book through the author at There is much more than what I have included here.

The peace found at Little Bras d'Or after escaping the British on the mainland of Nova Scotia was not to last long. The instability in Nova Scotia was to reach Ile Royale (Cape Breton) soon after they arrived. While official war between the English and French resumes in 1756, fighting began almost two years earlier in the new world.

We know by records and from Ms. Szick's book that many of the families  were settled in the area of Little Bras d'Or (or French Village) by 1750."The men of French Village fished during the summer and felled trees and cleared land during the winter. With the strong fortress not far away, they felt comparatively safe." (pg. 40c) On the mainland there was much upheaval, as mentioned in my previous post, and the "news of these tragic happenings gradually filtered through to Little Bras d'Or and other isolated French communities on Ile Royale. Because they were devoted to the families they left behind, there was great anxiety and sorrow. With the seeming impregnability of the fortress of Louisbourg, however, they were probably thankful that they had left the mainland for French territory five years earlier." (pg. 40c)

Unfortunately for these families, The Fortress did fall to a large British force. "As the siege went on, the Acadians in the outlying settlements subject to British marauders, began to despair. After Louisbourg's capitulation 26 July 1758, the British, determined to rid Ile Royale and Ile St. Jean (present day Prince Edward Island also French territory) of all the Frenchmen loaded them on ships, and sent them to France. The Lejeune and LeRoi families, caught in the maelstrom, their homes burned, were among those deported." (pg. 40c)

This is where a bit of the confusion begins in my mind and perhaps is a part of the answer to my original
question as to why they begin to hide their identities. It is obvious that the Mi'kmaq and French had a close relationship. There were a few French ancestors originally, but I cannot find much evidence in my own line that they were French beyond those ancestors. They are Mi'kmaq according to the documentation that I have and remain in clusters in this community with marriages common among them. I can only assume that it may have been safer to identify with these French communities, or perhaps, this is simply how they viewed themselves due to the influence of French ancestors generations before. They were, according to Szick's book, and to the records we have of births abroad, a part of these communities who were deported.

At the time of the deportation, these families are originally sent to France. Many died on the voyage either by sickness or shipwreck. According to Szick's book the next record of these people is found at various English and French ports and the Lejeune and LeRoi families are found at Rochefort, a city several miles north of La Rochelle, on the Bay of Biscay in southwestern France. These people were given a small allowance by King Louis XV as "a slight recognition of the losses they had endured for their loyalty." (pg. 40d), but apparently were not happy. After the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 at the end of the Seven Years war, the Acadians claimed their chance to return to the new world. In the agreement, France was granted two island off the coast of Newfoundland called Saint Pierre and Miquelon. "In April 1763, about 300 fisherman and former residents of Ile Royale arrived at Saint Pierre and Miquelon. During 1774, another contingent of Acadians arrived.....until 850 Acadians were there." (pg. 40d)
Map of St. Pierre and Miquelon. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Miquelon, France. Source: Wikimedia Commons
After a short time at Miquelon, the governor issues a decree and orders the Acadians to France or Cape Breton. According to the book, this was caused by opposition to woodcutting by the Newfoundland Governor. The request to return to Cape Breton confused the Acadians causing them to feel abandoned again because "During this period, though there were still a few scattered communities -chiefly French- settlement was actually forbidden." (page  40d) They returned to the area and many would remain permanently.

After two years, the economy improved and Acadians (some from Little Bras d'Or) were
permitted to return to Saint Pierre and Miquelon. "Forces beyond their control were working against them however, and they were not to remain there long. When the thirteen colonies declared independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, France sympathized with the rebels. War was subsequently declared between France and Great Britain on 6 February 1778. A blockade by the English and the seizure of ships bringing food supplies to Saint Pierre and Miquelon, brought the community to the edge of starvation. Then, the Governor of Newfoundland sent three frigates and an armed vessel to the French Islands and everything was set on fire -237 houses, 126 fishing cabins, 89 storehouses, 6 bakeries, 79 stables and a number of shallops. Without even being allowed to save their clothing, all the inhabitants were deported to France, where they disembarked at several ports. The Lejeune and LeRoi families, once more uprooted, were taken to LaRochelle." (pg. 40e)
La Rochelle, France Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to the book, after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, passage back to Saint Pierre and Miquelon was offered by the King along with a living of six months. Although well treated in France, the Acadians returned to the islands once again. After a short time at Miquelon, they decided to return to Little Bras d'Or (or French Village) in 1785 and they rejoined their family members who had remained there. "At Little Bras d'Or, where practically everyone was related to each other, they were again a close family unit." (pg. 40e)

My next post will be from Nova Scotia. Next stop Mawio'mi Powwow on Halifax Commons with my video camera!

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