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Beaubassin
Founding of Beaubassin

Jacques Bourgeois, d’Aulnay’s former surgeon and a farmer, moved to Beaubassin soon after 1671.  He had been in the area before, and probably like the trading prospects and room for growth.  It had much more of the valuable salt marsh that could be converted to good farmland.  The original settlement of the area was on the south side of the Missaguash River, around the area on which Ft. Lawrence was built. The group (of Bourgeois and 5 other families) was settled in less than 5 years.  Michel Leneuf de La Valiere (Nicolas Denys’ son-in-law) had visited the settlement and had obtained a seingeurie of the area (10 leagues square - about 1000 sq. mi.) in 1676.  [Clark, p. 141; Trueman]

He had to leave the current settlers and the land they had (and planned on acquiring) alone.  LaVilliere settled on Tonge’s Island (between the 2 ridges).  He put a stockade around his buildings and dyked off some land.  Like the settlers, most of the buildings were logs, though some outbuildings (stables, barns) may have been of planks.  A 1682 list of 11 men at Beaubassin who didn’t accept the concession contracts were Pierre Morin, Guyou Chiasson, Michel Poirier, Roger Kessy, Claude Du Gast, Germaine & Guillaume Bourgeois, Germaine Giroir, Jean Aubin Migneaux, Jacques Belou, and Thomas Cormier.  Few new people arrived before 1686.  La Villiere brought in engages from outside of Acadia, at least one married an Acadian girl.  [Clark, p. 142]

There’s a 1680s description (by Demeulle?) of the area.   There were vast meadows.  Over 20 homes were on the borders or islands of the marsh.  Each farm had many outbuildings, 12-20 cattle, 12 pigs, 12 sheep.  The livestock were kept in stables only 2-3 months in the winter, or to fatten them up before butchering them.  Many were probably lost to wolves.  They depended on livestock, and had been neglecting crops ... though soon the fields should be ready for larger crops.  Women made linen and woolen cloth for clothing.  Both men and women wore Indian mocassins made by themselves.  He noted the short distance across the isthmus and suggested a possible canal to shorten the Quebec-Port Royal journey; in part so the Acadians would trade more with Quebec than New England.  [Clark, p. 143]

      The population of the area, unsteady at first, grew steadily from 1690 on.  It went from: 127 (1686) to 101 (1687/8) to 84 (1689) to 119 (1693) to 174 (1698) to 188 (1701) to 246 (1703) to 271 (1707). 
     There were a large number of cattle.  But since the cattle were only milked while the calves were suckling, there was a shortage of milk (and of butter).  LaVilliere and Bourgeois both build gristmills by the late 1680s.  Jacques also had a sawmill. 
     Gradually, the produce in Port Royal found its way to Beaubassin ... ie. fruit trees (apple, pear, plum) and were established by 1700.  The more severe winter may have prevented cherry trees from surviving. 
     The area didn’t grow as much as Minas.  Perhaps because LaVilliere left for Canada, and his son-in-law replacement (Sebastien de Villieu) did poorly.  Sebastien gave eviction orders and took back the land of settlers who had squatted at Shepoudy.  Raids by Benjamin Church (where buildings were destroyed and cattle killed) in 1696 and 1704 were harmful.  The gypsum and coal were probably used regularly, but didn’t seem to attract much attention.   Grindstone Island hadn’t become known for its products. Coal veins could be observed at Joggins when sailing by (but no harbor and the tide made it difficult to take advantage of).  The isthmus was a crossroads for Indians.  [Clark, p. 144]

Beaubassin was the first and major settlement on the Chignecto isthmus.  The Chignecto was a vague area (like Minas) which spread from Shepody around to River Hebert.  There were many ridges ... 100-150' above sea level ... rising like islands above the marshy grassland.  Villages were built on the hills.  The main marsh areas were north of Cumberland Basin, which had 4 rivers: La Planche, Missiquash, Aulac and the Tantramar .. each about 12-15 miles long.

     Robert Hale, a merchant from Beverly, MA, visited Beaubassin (which he called Mesequesh) in June 1731 and wrote the following account in his journal.

"Mond. 28. 5 A. M. I rose & after Breakfast walk

8 P. M. When wee came to our Boat (which wee left at highwater, wee found her aground near 1/4 of a Mile, but as the Shore was all descending, Muddy & very Soft & Slippery with our Guide's help wee made a Shift to Launch her, and it being by this Time young Flood wee put away for Mesequesh, a Small Village about 2 Leagues farther up the River, tho' indeed it is the largest in this Bay; but as it was now dark wee were obliged to keep in with the Shore lest wee shou'd miss the Crick, up which wee were to go abut 3/4 of a Mile to the Town; but the wind blowing very hard & right on upon the Shore, wee were put to much dificulty, & once got upon a Rocky flat a considerable distance from the Shore where wee had like to have Stove our Boat to pieces, but at length wee espied the Creek & thrust our Boat in & soon had Smooth Water, & about 11 P. M. wee got up to the Town, to the House of one William Sears the Tavern Keeper, who let us in & gott water to wash our Legs & feet (bedaubed with Clay in coming ashore) & other Refreshments.'d about to see the place & divert myself.

There are but about 15 or 20 Houses in this Village, tho' it be the largest in the Bay, besides 2 Mass Houses or Churches, on one of which they hang out a Flagg Morning & Evening for Prayers, to the other the Priest goes once a day only, Habited like a Fool in Petticoats, with a Man after him with a Bell in one Hand ringing at every door, & a lighted Candle & Lanthorn in the other.

3 P. M. Wee had design'd now to go down to our Vessel, but the wind blowing very hard at S. W. wee were Oblig'd to quit our purpose till next Highwater for 'tis impossible to go against the Tide. I went to see an Indian Trader named Pierre Asneau, who lately came from St. John's in Canada River, with Furs & Seal Skins; they go up this River till they come to a Carrying place of about 10 miles over & then they are in that River, so that tis not half so far to N. found land that way as to go all by water.

When I came to enquire into the Price of things, I found their Manner is to give no more (or Scarce so much) for our Goods as they cost in Boston, so that all the Advance our Traders can make is upon their Goods. All this Province are oblig'd by Proclamation of Gen. Phillips to take Massachusetts Bills in Payment, except where it is otherwise agreed between Buyer & Seller. But tis no Profit to our Traders nor theirs to take any Money except Just for Change, & Money is the worst Commodity a Man can have here, for as our Traders fell as cheap or cheaper than they Buy, it will be but loss to take money cause in ye 1st place our Traders will not take it of them for ye afore writed reason; 2d the Indians with whom they Trade will not take, for all the Furs & c. which they take up when they deliver their Furs. 3. They have no Taxes to pay & 4th They trade but little amongst themselves, every one raising himself wt he wants, except what they have in Exchange from ye Traders, & as a proof that they are govern'd by this Maxim, I need only say, that when I came to pay my Reckoning at ye Tavern, ye Landlord had but 5d in Money, tho' he is one of ye wealthiest in the place.

I can't understand that there are more than 400 Families in the Goverm't of Nova Scotia (Exempt of Georgia) who live all either at Annapolis, Menis & Checnecto, except a few Families at St. John's & some other places.

This Night wee lodg'd at Sears's again & at supper were regaled with Bonyclabbler, soop, Sallet, roast Shad, & Bread & Butter, & to day wee din'd with Mr. Asneau at his Brother's upon roast Mutton, & for Sauce a Sallet, mix'd with Bonyclabber Sweetned with Molasses. Just about Bed time wee were surpriz'd to see some of ye Family on their Knees paying yt Devotions to ye Almighty, & others near them talking, & Smoaking &c. This they do all of them (mentally but not orally) every night & Morning, not altogether, but now one & then another, & sometimes 2 or 3 together, but not in Conjunction one with the other.

The women here differ as much in ye Cloathing (besides wearing of wooden Shoes) from those in New Engld as they do in Features & Complexion, wc is dark eno' by liuing in the Smoak in ye Summer to defend ymselves against ye Muskettoes, & in ye winter against ye Cold.

They have but one Room in yr Houses besides a Cockloft, Cellar, & Sometimes a Closet. Their Bedrooms are made something after ye Manner of a Sailor's Cabbin, but boarded all round about yr bigness of ye Bed, except one little hole on the Foreside, just big eno' to crawl into before which is a Curtain drawn & as a Step to get into it, there stands a Chest. They have not above 2 or 3 chairs in a house, & those wooden ones, bottom & all. I saw but 2 Muggs among all ye French & ye lip of one of ym was broken down above 2 inches. When they treat you with strong drink they bring it in a large Bason & give you a Porringer to dip it with.

The Gait of ye pple is very different from ye English for the women Step (or rather straddle) further at a step than ye Men. The Women's Cloaths are good eno' but they look as if they were pitched on with pitchforks, & very often yr Stockings are down about their heels.

Capt. Blin of Boston who has been a Trader to Nova Scotia this many years, died about a month ago at Mushquesh & lies Buried on the plain below the Town not far from ye Pool, where he used to lay his Sloop.

June, Tues. 29. 3 1/2 A. M. Wee rose & went down to our Boat & made the Best off our way to our Vessel, but the wind being against us it was past 8 a Clock before wee got down, where when wee came wee found our Vessel loaded."


    There was a low ridge between the Missaguash and the La Planche, and a higher one between the La Planche and the Aulac.  Ft. Lawrence and Ft. Beausejour were build at the end of the two ridges in the 1750s.  Though the Missaguash became a boundary between English and French forces (and later, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), no such boundary existed until the mid 1700s.  Population of the area was: 350 in 1714, 450 in 1720, 800-1200 in the early 1730s, 1800 in the late 1730s, 3000-4000 in 1748.  In the late forties, population was even more confusing with soldiers, people in trade, and people heading for Isle Royale and Isle St. Jean. 
      Families were settled at: Weskak (also called Wehehauk, Oneskak, Peshkak, etc.; present-day Westcock), Pre des Bourgs (Sackville), Pre des Richards (Middle Sackville), Tintamare (Upper Sackville), La Butte, Le Coupe, and Le Lac (on the Jolicoeur ridge), Portage (at the head of the Missaguash), Minudie (Menoudie, the Elysian Fields), Maccan (Makan), Nappan (Nepane), Hebert River, and the old Beaubassin lands along the Missaguash and the La Planche.  Check the 1752 census to see who was settled in these areas.  More dykes could have made more area for settling.   The area was a strategic location for trading and communication (military, commercial) with French territory.   [Clark, p. 221]
    At the center of the old Beaubassin area (as described by Morris) were about 50 houses along the Missaguash, 1/2 mile from the sea.  There were also 4 families at Baie Verte that cut hay for the cattle on a 1000 acre midden. They made their living by trading with Louisburg and Canada. [Clark, p. 222]

   
     By the late 1740s, Gov. Cornwallis had decided that having the French in Chignecto was too dangerous and they needed to be moved out. In 1750, the English built Ft. Lawrence on the south side of the Missaguash where the original Beaubassin settlers had located.

     The population of the area in 1750 has been estimated ranging from 2000 (Morris) to 3750 (Rameau).  Using an average of about 3000, this would put 850 east of the Missaguash in the Cumberland Basin (River Hebert-125, Minudie peninsula-175, Maccan River-75, Nappan River-150, east of LaPlance River-50, Beaubassin from Missaguash to LaPlanche-275), 650 west of the Missaguash in the Cumberland Basin (Beaubassin on the Ft. Beausejour ridge-225, Aulac and LaCoupe-150, Tantramar-150, Pre des Bourgs-25, Pre des Richards-75, Baie Verte-25), 100 scattered about, and 1200 in the Shepody Basin (300-Memramcook, 400-Petitcodiac, 500-Shepody). [Clark, p. 223]

     Father LeLoutre had been urging the Acadians south and east of the Missaguash River to move north to French territory. Finally, in 1750, he led the Mikmaqs in burning down the Acadian buildings on the south side of the Missaguash River ( to coerce them into moving to the north (French) side.)

     In 1751, the French built Ft. Beausejour on the north side of the Missaguash River to counter Ft. Lawrence (which had been built on the south side of the river in Sept. 1750). It was captured and renamed Ft. Cumberland.



Census of Chignecto and Outlying Districts in 1754
(Prepared by M. Placide Gaudet)
1.              Old Inhabitants ---
   Places
Men
Women
Boys
Girls
Vescack
11
11
17
25
La prée des Bourques
10
10
18
12
Prée des Richards
  6
  5
11
  9
Tintamarre
32
31
70
51
La Coupe
  5
  6
16
13
Lac
18
19
52
27
Beauséjour
16
17
31
22
La Butte Roger
  4
  4
  5
  5
Pont a Buot
---
---
---
---
   Total
102
103
220
164
Chipoudy
---
---
---
---
Petcoudiac
170
172
396
362
Memeramcouk
---
---
---
---
2.                   Refugees Settled ---
Vescack
  7
  7
  8
11
La prée des Bourques
  6
  7
15
11
Prée des Richards
  4
  3
  7
  8
Tintamarre
11
10
19
14
Jolicoeur
14
13
34
30
Lac
21
21
35
37
Beausékpir
20
20
21
28
Pont a Buot
12
11
16
20
Portage
  9
  9
24
17
Baye Verte
26
26
40
40
Gaspereau
  4
  4
  9
11
   Total
133
131
228
227
Chipoudy
  8
  7
23
21
Petcoudiac
  8
  8
10
  5
Memeramcouk
12
12
24
14
Cap. Tourmantin
10
10
16
16
Chimougouick
  8
  8
12
  9
Cap St. Laurent
  3
  3
  4
  6
   Total
49
47
89
71
3.      Refugees not settled ---
Lac
26
25
57
36
Beauséjour
  8
10
14
15
Pont a Bout
  7
  8
14
13
   Total
41
43
85
64
4.    Total for Chignecto ---
Old Inhabitants      589
Refugees Settled      719
Refugees unsettled      233
   Total   1541
Contributed by Ed Rogers

Beaubassin area, 1749
Morris' Plan for the Beaubassin area
Click on image for a larger view

Aerial view of the Beaubassin area
Beaubassin Today -     

     In the early 2000s, an organization known as the Fort Lawrence/Beaubassin Heritage Association worked towards the reconstrution of a full size replica of . Unfortunately, the county council shut down their plans. An archive of their website can be found HERE.

 

A Visit to Beaubassin - 2009

The next morning we headed for Ft. Beausejour. It was raining and thundering, so I thought it not a good idea to get on top of the mounds to take pictures. The building (right) holds a nice little museum. Unlike some fort sites which are just rolling mounds of grass, there are lower rooms that you can enter at Ft. Beausejour.

   
   
   
   

Looking straight out you see the location of Ft. Lawrence. The interpretive panel (click to see the large version of the panel) shows where it was located.

Inside the building are some nice exhibits. The room pictured above is the largest exhibit. Though they have a small gift shop, I found several items to purchase that I hadn't seen elsewhere.

We left and headed east to Ft. Lawrence.

 

   

To get to the Fort Lawrence site, exit on the road at the Nova Scotia welcome center. Keep going down the Ft. Lawrence road past the center.

You'll see the plaque on a pedestal on the right side of the road. The fort was located behind it, where a large gray metal barn now stands. This property was recently acquired by Parks Canada. Looking past the barn, you can see Ft. Beausejour in the distance. If you keep going down the road over the old bridge there are fields to your right. This is supposed to be the location of Acadian buildings of Beaubassin (yellow areas on the image, right).

   
   

You can see Ft. Beausejour across the river (circled)
Ft. Lawrence
   
LINKS
The Chignecto Isthmus and Its First Settlers [Flash version HERE]
     It was written by Howard Trueman (1902) and takes the English view (the Acadians had to be deported because they refused to take the oath). Though most of it is post-Acadian, it does have some relevant information.
Google Map of the Beaubassin area

                                                                View Beaubassin area in a larger map
Records of Chignecto [Flash version HERE]
      This is an article by Dr. William C. Milner which appeared in the Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, Volume XV, 1911.  The beginning has some Acadian information.
Fort Lawrence/Beaubassin Heritage Association
     This organization was formed to reconstruct a replica of the fort, but the county council forced them to cease their efforts. The site has disappeared, but this links to the archived version.
 
 
Acadia: 1632-1653 * 1654-1670 * 1671-1689 * 1690-1709 * 1710-1729 * 1730-1748 * 1749-1758
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Copyright © 1997-09 Tim Hebert