GLIMPSES FROM GRAND PRE HISTORY (July 2/99)

Historians rarely dwelt upon the fate of the Acadians after the tragic expulsion in 1755 and we must turn to sympathetic writers such as John Frederick Herbin for this tragic tale. Forced to leave Nova Scotia with little more than they could carry, separated from their families and dumped in various areas of the United States, the impoverished Acadians suffered a fate similar to that of other refugees.

In his Grand Pre history, Herbin follows the Acadians after the expulsion. It is a terrible tale of hardship, rejection and tragedy, and if you are proud of your New England, Planter ancestry, I suggest you avoid reading it. The treatment of the Acadians, from the expulsion to their resettlement, is a shabby page in our history.

On the lighter side, Herbin included many interesting asides about the history of this area while writing about Grand Pre and the Acadians. On the origin of “Acadia,” for example, he tells us that it comes from the Micmac language. “The frequent use of the word ‘Cadie’ or Acadia by the Indians led to the adoption of that name for the country inhabited by them,” Herbin says. Kaddy or Cadie, (as seen in Shubenacadie, Tracadie, etc.) is the equivalent of region, field, ground, land or place, Herbin said.

Herbin has an interesting discussion on the word “aboiteau.” which to us in this area today generally means the sea walls and sea-gates that control the waters of the Minas Basin. “The part of the dyke with the sluice is called an arboiteau, aboiteau, abateau,” Herbin writes. Note that one of Herbins spelling of aboiteau has an “r.” In an earlier column on aboiteaux I mentioned the tendency of some locals to pronounce aboiteau incorrectly as “arboiteau;” according to Herbin, however, pronouncing the word with an “r” is historically correct.

There were two Acadian churches in this area, at Grand Pre and at Canard. “The district of Minas included the parish of St. Joseph at Canard River and that of St. Charles at Grand Pre,” Herbin said. The “district” Herbin refers to included all the lands bordering the Gaspereau, Cornwallis, Canard, Habitant and Pereau rivers. Herbin said that the district included what is now Avonport, Hortonville, Grand Pre, Gaspereau, Wolfville, Port Williams, New Minas, Kentville, Starr’s Point, Canard, Cornwallis, Pereau, and at one time Windsor.

On the origin of Minas Herbin writes: “Minas, Manis, Menis, as it has variously been called, was named by the French Les Mines and referred to the south shore of Minas Basin, from which the name was derived. Mines, later Minas, owes its name to the fact that veins of pure copper had been found at Cape D’Or, called also Cap des Mines. Hence the adoption of the names Minas Basin, Minas the region, Minas the French settlement south of the Minas River (the Cornwallis River).”

Some historical quickies from Herbin’s history:

A census taken here in 1671 lists Acadian surnames and many are found in today’s telephone books.

Wolfville was originally an Acadian village. “It (Wolfville) occupies the site of an Acadian village,” Herbin writes.

The Acadians began dykeing in Nova Scotia as early as 1636. Minas was first settled in 1761 and the chief founder, according to Herbin, was Pierre Terriau.

Starr’s Point may have been the site of a Micmac burial ground. Herbin mentions the find of Indian skeletons, noting also that “various; stone implements and arrow heads have been found in the same locality.” A kitchen-midden “with its heaps of large clam shells, bones of various animals and pieces of copper, hand implements of stone, axes, adzes and arrow heads …” was discovered near Starr’s Point.

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