As I pointed out in [a recent] column, the Melansons were a prominent family in the Acadian period. In the column, I referred to two sources – Herbin and Brebner – that suggested Melanson was Scottish and not Acadian in origin.
Thanks to a reader, E. Roger MacLellan of Kentville, some of what I called the mystery surrounding the Melanson surname has been cleared up. Mr. MacLellan has done some research on the Melanson’s Scottish connection, which he kindly left at this newspaper office for me to read. Since his material expands on the Melanson/Acadian connection and will be of interest to history buffs, I’ve taken the liberty of quoting and paraphrasing portions of it in this column.
The following is taken from historical data in the Public Archives of Canada, the Nova Scotia Archives and Acadian Archives at the University of Moncton:
The Melanson family, Pierre and Priscilla, came from Scotland as settlers for the English in 1657 with their three sons, all born in Scotland, Pierre, Charles and John. The Melansons settled on the north side of the Annapolis River; the area they settled was called Melanson Village and it was located a short distance to the east of the old Scottish fort.
One of the sons, Charles, remained on the farm after his father’s death. The oldest son, Pierre, moved to Grand Pre with his wife and children when the Acadians settled this area. Pierre is mentioned numerous times in Acadian documents and he may have given his name to the community of Melanson in the Gaspereau Valley.
The above supports historian John F. Herbin’s contention that the Melansons were of Scottish origin. The following quotes (from the archival material Mr. MacLellan left for me to read) offer additional evidence that the Melansons were Gaelic.
“Until de la Tour died in 1666, Acadian was a remarkable place for that era with authority divided between two French administrators, one of whom was beholden to Scotland and who received support from New England. In these circumstances, the remaining Scots settlers seemed to have been content to integrate themselves into the local Acadian French society. One source gives the names of those Scots who stayed as the Paisleys, Collesons, Melansons, Peters and Kesseys.”
“Over time they (the Scots settlers) became assimilated into French society and are now dispersed throughout North America with other Acadians, often with a name change. One such large group is the Melanson family, recorded in the census of 1671 and 1688, whose name is now spelled in a number of ways. In Stanford Reed’s book, The Scottish Tradition in Canada, (1976) it is suggested that the Melanson name may be a Frenchified version of MacMillan but the tradition within the Melanson family is that they were originally named MacLellan.
“Apparently relying on the 1671 census, some writers on early Acadian settlement conjecture that the Melansons are of Scottish origin but may have arrived with the early English settlers … However, there is an apparent absence of the surname Melanson in Scotland.
“Another Acadian source supports the Melanson family tradition of a name change from a MacLellan ancestor. They contend that Peter and Charles MacLellan emigrated from… Scotland to Boston. They later moved to Port Royal in 1657 where they settled, eventually changing their name to Melancon (sic).”