“The settlement of Les Mines is at the head of the Bay of Fundy. There is no cod fishing there. The settlers can fish in the summertime for shad. There are enough of these and a kind of herring called gaspereaux to feed everyone. The lands here are very good for crops. The settlers grow wheat, rye, peas, oats and all kinds of vegetables.
“There is a sawmill in Les Mines and another is to be built. They have a windmill and seven or eight water mills.”
Les Mines, which included Canard and Grand Pre, was thus described by Joseph Robineau de Villebon, Commandant of Acadia from 1690 to 1700. Commenting on the lifestyle of Acadians who moved to Les Mines from Port Royal, de Villebon said they chose to settle on land around the Minas Basin because they preferred to farm marshes rather than clear wooded uplands.
When de Villebon wrote these words in 1699 Les Mines had a population of 487 and was growing rapidly. By this time the settlement was almost two decades old and apparently included areas as far east as Windsor. In his Kings County history, A. W. H. Eaton writes that Les Mines (he called it Minas) was settled in 1680. Using J. F. Herbin as a reference, Eaton notes that Les Mines included all the land bordering on the Canard, Cornwallis, Habitant, Gaspereau and Pereau rivers and included Piziquid or Windsor.
The Grand Pre of Les Mines, Eaton writes, was much larger than it is today and at the time of the expulsion contained “225 houses, 276 barns, 11 mills and a large number of outhouses or sheds.” Two decades after Les Mines was settled Grand Pre (or what is Grand Pre village today) had a population of 487. Five years before the expulsion Grand Pre’s population had reached 5,000. On the Internet, at a site devoted to Acadian history, one can find posted the Acadian population at Grand Pre over a 50-year period; Grand Pre’s growth in this period was extraordinary, as can be seen by these census figures for various years: 1701 – 487; 1707 – 677; 1714 – 1,031; 1730 – 2,500; 1737 – 3,736; 1748 to 1750 – 5,000.
When we look at other sources, these population figures appear to be questionable. Eaton gives the Les Mines population at the time of the expulsion as 2,734, for example. Eaton also gives the total Acadian population in and near Les Mines as 8,000 around the time of the expulsion; one encyclopedia gives the Acadian population as 6,000 in Nova Scotia in the expulsion period and I’ve seen figures from other sources that are different. The 1976 publication, Life in Acadia, says that in 1755 the Acadian population numbered 18,000, suggesting perhaps that the Internet postings are plausible.
We’ll sort out the Acadian population figure at another time. What I set out to do in this column was give surnames of Acadians who lived in Les Mines and who were among the deportees. Many of these names can be found in the local telephone directory and undoubtedly some trace their ancestry to these Acadians.
Among the Acadians deported from Grand Pre were the following: Boudro (Boudreau), Commo (Comeau), Benoit, Blanchard, Braux (Breau), David, Doucet, Duon (Duaron), Dupuis, Hebert, Landry, LeBlanc, Richard, Sonnier, Terriot (Theriault, Therio), Tibodo (Thibodeau), Trahan and Vincent. Of the above family names there were 56 LeBlancs, 41 Herberts, 42 with the Landry surname, 13 Dupius and 27 Boudreaus.
The above surnames could be found in the Windsor area and along with the following, were on the list of Acadians held prisoner at Fort Edward: Melanson, Gaudet, Deveau, Suret, Dubois, Robicheau, Beliveau, Dugas, Gautreau, Girouard, Bourgeois, Potier, Gallant.