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Lecture given by Philippe Thériault (1999)

Lecture given by Mr. Philippe Thériault, Chairman of the Association des familles Thériault d’Amérique Inc., to the members of the “Renaissance” chapter, 6 June 1999 and published in the newsletter Le Terriot. Text reproduced with the kind permission of Philippe Thériault as revised by his sister Hélène. (Translated from French by John Mark Hopkins)

The Thériaults in Acadia, from 1604 to 1763

It was in August 1605 that Samuel de Champlain disembarked at Port-Royal (an indentation in French Bay) with the remnants of 70 settlers who had been recruited in France. More than half of that number had died at Île Sainte-Croix (Maine) by the previous spring, of smallpox (an infectious disease) and of scurvy (a nutritional deficiency), two conditions for which there was no known cure at the time. It was around 1634 that volunteer plowmen were recruited again in earnest in France to come and colonize this part of New France.

Around 1636, our ancestor Jehan Terriot left his native Poitou for Acadia.

The story began again in Port-Royal with the first arrival of French settlers in 1636. By 1670 the population reached 400, and by 1714 it was 2,900. We should not believe that our ancestors had completely tranquil lives, however, as between 1604 and 1713 Acadia changed hands seven times!

Starting in 1670, the population began to spread towards the back of the bay, into the region of Beaubassin in 1672, and into the Minas Basin in 1680. They discovered fertile soil there, although it was often flooded by the strong tides of French Bay (Bay of Fundy). The Acadians ingeniously constructed a system of dikes in which they installed aboiteaux (sluices) which allowed the water to run off and prevented flooding.

In 1710, following a war between the British and the French, Port-Royal fell into British hands. They renamed the place Annapolis Royal, in honour of Anne Stuart, Queen of England.

In 1744 war broke out again between the two powers. Louisbourg had grown a lot in the preceding years, so 2,000 English and Scottish military settlers were brought in for balance. The French suffered a serious setback when the Duke of Anville’s fleet was decimated by a storm, but to the great consternation of the British, Louisbourg was returned to French control by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.

The British settled in Grand-Pré in 1749 and in Beaubassin in 1750.

In 1754 Charles Lawrence was appointed governor of Nova Scotia. From that moment the situation evolved rapidly, as Lawrence began openly to plan the deportation of the Acadians.

The Deportation from 1755 to 1763
 
Lawrence decided to settle once and for all the question of the oath and thereby the fate of the Acadians. Lawrence and Murray summoned the representatives of the Acadians in July to have them sign the oath. The Acadians refused and were taken prisoner on the spot.

Lawrence’s plan was to expel the Acadians and to replace them with colonists from New England.

Colonel Winslow was appointed by Lawrence for the Minas district. The order was given to capture the men and to hold them until boats arrived. The situation was the same for Monckton in Beauséjour and Frye in Petitcodiac. Winslow established his quarters in the presbytery and the church at Grand-Pré, where on September 5th he summoned 418 Acadian men whom he imprisoned in the church itself.

Among the deported, there were at least a half dozen from the Thériault family. Amidst the preparations for embarkation several managed to flee. It was certainly a time of confusion and desolation.

On November 1st 1,500 Acadians were loaded on boats to be deported to Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. On December 13th the last Acadians from Grand-Pré, some 600, were also deported. Then the destruction of the villages began.

Life on the boats was not easy; overcrowding, bad food, lack of hygiene, disease and even two shipwrecks took many lives.

 In 1756 Virginia refused to accept 1,150 Acadians and sent them to England where they were confined in warehouses before being returned to France in 1763 - to Saint-Malo, to Belle-Isle-en-Mer, in Normandy and Poitou.

In 1758 massive deportation began again. Colonel Rollo began emptying Île St-Jean [P.E.I.]. As the large population centres were being emptied, 1,500 people managed to flee to Miramichi and Canada. The brothers Paul and Joseph Thériault settled at Rivière-Ouelle, Québec around 1759. They are the ancestors of the Thériaults in the Côte-du-Sud region.

In 1760, 2,000 people were arrested, sent to Halifax and held for boats to deport them.

In 1762, 1,300 Acadians were deported to Boston. Massachusetts refused to accept them. They were returned to Halifax where they were held as prisoners.

In Virginia, out of fear that the Acadians might join with slaves and stage a rebellion, the authorities decided to send them to England. Lawrence sent out a letter to various governments in order to prevent the Acadians from returning to Acadia. The number of Acadians who were deported will never be known, nor will it be known how many died from disease, exposure, desolation and misery.

A peaceful, industrious and honest people whose only faults were their language and their faith were thus exiled in brutal and infamous fashion, thrown out of their homes and lands.

Post-Deportation

After peace was restored in 1763, there was a wave of Acadian migration from the American colonies. Many returned to Nova Scotia. Around a hundred from Massachusetts settled on St. Pierre and Miquelon Islands; others headed to the Antilles.

In 1766 several hundred Acadians from Nova Scotia arrived in Louisiana, which had been Spanish territory since 1762. Around a hundred travelled to Québec in 1766. The most important wave of immigration to Louisiana took place in 1785.

The Spanish, anxious to reinforce their position in Louisiana, recruited 1,600 Acadians who had been deported to France and England.

In 1764 some 600 Acadians went to the Antilles only to go back to Louisiana. St. Pierre and Miquelon Islands received 300 Acadians in 1764-65. The Thériaults on the Magdalen Islands came from Miquelon in 1792.

For the Acadians who escaped the Deportation, their fate was scarcely more desirable. They travelled by the hundreds along the St. John and Miramichi rivers in order to arrive at what is now the Acadian Peninsula of New Brunswick.

Acadians and Amerindians waged war against the British and held them at bay. While hiding in the woods their lives were miserable, but they were at least not still subservient to the British. Many travelled to Canada and settled on both sides of the St. Lawrence.

By the end of hostilities in 1763 it is estimated that there were still around 2, 600 Acadians in the Maritimes.

According to the Treaty of Paris of 1763, New France was ceded to Great Britain. In 1764 the Acadians were allowed to return to Nova Scotia but were required to settle in small groups.

TO THOSE WHO BEAR OUR NAME (Thériault)

For new adventure didst thou often pine
From thy turmoil-stricken land;
Thou prayedst to heaven for a sign
That poverty and misery would be banned.

On your continent you were inspired
To ask for help from heaven’s grace;
This country of Acadia much desired
This hope-filled and enchanted place.

Thy ship was poised to cross the seas
With promise-puffed-up sails didst thou depart;
For baggage hadst thou naught but these:
Thy youth, thy faith, thy arms, thy heart.

One day at Fundy Bay thou cam’st ashore,
Her banks like mothers’ arms ope’d wide;
Thy new homeland didst thou adore
And tookest thy first steps with pride.

And in the house of God thy hands designed
When thy vanquisher put out the light
The dice were cast, thy fate aligned;

Thy cries were carried through the night.

Our noble father in our hearts shall ever stand;
Thy descendants will declare thy fame.
In this America that’s now thy land
They shall ever venerate thy name.


Philippe 1992

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