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  Grand Pré  
Minas had 3 different meanings: 1) all the settlements along the shores of the Minas Basin, 2) all the settlements between Cape Blomidon and the mouth of the Avon (excluding Cobequid and Pisiquid), 3) the Grand Pré nucleus and the banks of the Cornwallis River.  The eastern end of the Annapolis-Cornwallis valley is drained by 4 rivers between North & South Mtns.: Pereau Creek, Habitant Creek, Canard River, Cornwallis River (Riviere St. Antoine in the 1600s, Riviere des Habitants in the 1700s). [Clark, p. 214]

Further south in a 500 ft. gore until within 5 miles of its mouth is the Gaspereau.  The population in this area in 1714 was 530 [Gaspereau River - 37, Grand Pré - 287, Cornwallis River - 94, Canard River - 76, Habitant Creek (&/or Pereau Creek) - 36; according to Morris].  Sometimes Habitant and Pereau were called (together and separately) Riviere des Vieilles Habitants.

The first settlers in the area came to Habitant and Canard, then to Grand Pré. Many willows were planted in their days there.  Miles of dykes eventually protected the pastures.  It would become the most populated area of Acadia. [Herbin, 95]

Entrance to Minas Basin
Founding of Grand Pré

Though it was founded after Port Royal and Beaubassin, Grand Pre was very successful due to: 1) being pretty much ignored by New England raiders and French officials, 2) weak seigneurial control, and 3) good marshlands.  It seems to have been established in 1682 when 2 well-to-do Port Royal inhabitants moved there.  Pierre Terriau settled on the Riviere St. Antoine (today's Cornwallis River) and was soon followed by others, including Claude and Antoine Landry and Rene LeBlanc.  Pierre Melanson’s family (son of d’Aulnay’s tutor, married to Marie Marguerite Mius d’Entremont) and one other (a hired hand?) were also early settlers at Grand Pré.  [Clark, p. 148]  Melanson was the seigneurial agent, a leader in the area, and captain of the militia. 

By 1686, there was another family at Grand Pré and 7 families at the St. Antoine (total - 57 people ... 10 families, 83 acres tilled, 90 cattle, 21 sheep, 67 pigs, and 20 guns).  The census lists only 5 farms.  People moved there from Beaubassin and Port Royal.  Gargas (in 1687/88) said there were about 30 families there “where all the young people from Port Royal [are] settled.”  Visitors remarked of the area’s isolation from interference.  The population quickly increased from 57 (1686) to 580 (1707). 

Minas, 1750s

The settlements at Habitant were Antoine, Aucoin, Brun, Claude, Claude Landry, Claude Terriau, Comeau, De Landry, Dupuis, Francois, Granger, Hebert, Jean Terriau, Michel, Navie, Pinous, Poirier, Saulnier, and Trahan. The settlements at Minas were: Comeau, De Petit or Gotro, Gaspereau, Grand LeBlanc, Grand Pre, Granger, Hebert, Jean LeBlanc, Jean Terriau, LaCoste, Landry, Melanson, Michel, Pierre LeBlanc, Pinour, Pinne, and Richard. (Eaton, p. 29)

Villebon, who visited in October 1699, said there wasn’t much cod fishing at Minas, but the tidal streams had shad and gaspereau (alewives).  Gargas has said in 1687/88 that the rivers had shad, trout, gaspereau, and shellfish. [Clark, p. 150] The main crops were wheat, rye, peas, and oats.  He mentioned the women spinning and weaving wool and linen.  There was one sawmill and another planned, a windmill, and 7-8 water gristmills. [Clark, p. 151]

New England traders made their way into the basin.  By 1701, there were 33 families (188 people) at Pisiquid.  There were also 3 families at Cobequid, where Mathieu Martin was given a seigneurie in 1689.  By 1707, Cobequid had 17 families (82 people).  Pisiquid was growing, but not as well.  The area developed both farmland and took care of their livestock. 

Brouillan visited Minas in 1701.  He reported that they had abundant cattle, and that they could export 700-800 hogshead of wheat if they chose to. But they were very independent ... being separated from offical control ... and were used to deciding things for themselves.

The following is an account of a 1720 visit to Minas is given. 
                The area is Minas, called Les Minas by the French due to the copper mines. Grand Pre is 30 leagues by sea and 22 by land ENE of Port Royal.  The harbor is wild and insecure.  Vessels (usually less than 40-50 tons) going there to trade use the tide (which rises 9-10 fathoms) to go up the creek (Dead Dyke) to the town of Grand Pre.  When the tide goes out, they are left on a 5-6 mile bed of mud.  There is a meadow (Grand Pre Dyke), stretching for 4 leagues that produces very good wheat and peas.  It could produce enough grain for a much larger area.  The scattered houses of the town are on high ground along the 2 “Cricks”, which run between it and the meadow.  There are a lot of cattle in the area.  They catch white porpoises (a type of fish) and make oil from its blubber (yielding good profits).  There are more people in that area than at Port Royal; and Indians also inhabit the area.  They have never had any force near them to “bridle” them.  “All orders sent to them, if not suiting to their humors, are scoffed and laughed at, and they put themselves upon the footing of obeying no government.”  They won’t submit easily to any terms unless a sizable force (300-400) landed and a Fort or redoubt of earth was built (with 4 cannons, upon their beloved meadow, big enough to hold 150 men).  Because of the harbor, the vessel bringing them would have to be 12 miles from the fort.  Any ships that rode in with the tide would be left on a bed of mud for 16 hours (and subject to burning). [Herbin, 53]

Minas area
p. 78, NSHS, #23 (1936)

In 1720, Mascarene referred to Grand Pré as a meadow of 4 leagues, dammed in from the tide, producing very good wheat and peas.  The settlement was composed of scattered houses, on high ground between 2 creeks (on kind of a peninsula).  This was the center of Minas until the exile in 1755.  Grand Pré had about 200 houses.  Two settlements (Melanson and Gaspereau) were along the Gaspereau. [Clark, p. 215]

From a Jan. 1747 report at Grand Pré (when British forces were destroyed), there were “low houses framed of timber and their chimney framed with the building of wood and lined with clay except the fireplace below.”  There were a few stone houses in the middle of town.  The only buildings were homes, barns, stables, churches, and mills. [Clark, p. 217]

The population in 1750 was 2450 [Pereau Creek - 50, Habitant Creek - 75, Canard - 750, Cornwallis River - 100, Grand Pré - 1350, Gaspereau - 125; from Morris].  [Clark, p. 216]

Click on image for larger view

Morris' 1749 plan for settling the English on Acadian land in the Minas area..


The area was emptied in 1755 with the deportations.  A list of the men deported from the Grand Pré area was compiled by Dudley LeBlanc in The Acadian Miracle.
In 1907, John Herbin bought the land on which the Grand Pré church had once stood. He built a stone cross at the area believed to be the Acadian cemetery. He sold the land in 1917, but made sure the buyers would protect the area around the cemetery.
Grand Pre Church, 1920s

In 1920, the DAR erected a statue of Longfellow's Evangeline on the grounds. The exterior of the memorial church was built in 1922, with the interior construction completed in 1930. It has been used as a museum to share the Acadian story ever since.

A 'deportation cross' was placed 2 km from the site in 1924. In 2005, it was moved to Horton's Landing - closer to the spot where they were actually sent away.

Grand Pre Memorial Park in the early 1900s
Click on image for a larger view
In 1997, the Société Promotion Grand-Pré was formed and co-manages the park with Parks Canada. In interpretive center was opened in 2003. It includes an exhibit hall, theater, and gift shop. There is currrently an effort underway to have the site recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Grand Pré NHS
Parks Canada maintains this site on the Grand Pré National Historic Site.  It has a lot of information about the Site (fees, hours, tour, etc.), as well as some background material.

                               View the Minas area in a larger map
Société Promotion Grand-Pré
     In 1997, the Société Promotion Grand-Pré was formed and co-manages the park with Parks Canada. Some of the interesting pages at the site include:
          - Archaeology at Grand-Pre
          - Hymns Sung at Grand-Pre in 1755
Nomination Grand Pré
     This group is trying to get Grand Prée recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Grand Pré
     Valleyweb maintains a number of sites in the area.  This site contains a few pictures, a bit of Acadian history, and links to related areas.
Grand Pré Historic Setlement
     This site is on the architecture at the Grand Pré Historic Site.  It seems that they are planning to construct some buildings similar to those found in l'Acadie.
The Church
     This is a nice photograph of the Church at the Grand Pré NHS at Images of Nova Scotia.
The History of Kings County by Eaton

Acadia: 1632-1653 * 1654-1670 * 1671-1689 * 1690-1709 * 1710-1729 * 1730-1748 * 1749-1758
May God bless you.
Copyright © 1997-09 Tim Hebert