PIERRE MELONSON OF GRAND PRE (February 14/03)

Around 1919, W. C. Milner wrote a history called The Basin of Minas and It’s Early Settlers. As I mentioned here, the history was published in serial form in the Wolfville newspaper, the Acadian, and later bound as a paperback.

Milner’s work, to use a book dealer’s phrase, was a limited edition and is “very scarce;” however, followers of this column will be familiar with the work. I’ve quoted Milner here numerous times in recent years as my source of historical information.

At one time Milner was chief archivists for the province; as such he had access to documents that dabblers in history can only dream of perusing. Thus his work is literally a historical goldmine that contains facts about early day and extracts from various original documents not published elsewhere.

Until recently I quoted Milner from photocopies I obtained decades ago. Last autumn a reader in British Columbia alerted me that a bookdealer in Ottawa was offering a copy of Milner’s work in the estate sale of the Dr. Franklyn Hicks collection. I am happy to report that I have retired my much-thumbed photocopy of Milner’s work; his book now stands beside other treasured works, such Eaton’s Kings County history, Hutchinson’s Nova Scotia Directory for 1864, Woodworth’s D.A.R history and Esther Clark Wright’s book, Blomidon Rose.

From time to time I plan to run excerpts from Milner’s book in the column. Starting off, here’s what Milner wrote about Pierre Melonson (Melanson) the man of Scottish origin who led the first Acadians to settle in Kings County.

“The pioneer Acadian settler at Grand Pre was Pierre Melonson, a resident of Port Royal. He was both a farmer and a tailor. He was not noted for his courtly manners.

“When Father Laurent Molin of Port Royal was taking up the census of 1671, (Melonson) gruffly refused to answer questions. He was then 47 years of age. He had seven children, the oldest being 16 years of age. He was the owner of a herd of horned cattle. He was also a land owner at Port Royal, according to the statement made by Notary Courant at Port Royal.

“Melonson was well connected. He had a brother Charles, a well-to-do man; Mires d’Entremont, seigneur of Pobimcoup (Pubnico), was a brother-in-law; Jacques de Latour had married his daughter. These connections did not attract settlers with him to Grand Pre; he seemed to favor an isolated life. He was, however, a very successful farmer and he started a colony, one of the richest in French Canada.

“He was undoubtedly a descendant of Mr. Melonson, who was among the settlers introduced at the Scottish fort at Annapolis by Sir William Alexander half a century previously, and who remained in the country when that settlement was withdrawn.”

Undoubtedly there are many of Pierre’s descendants now living here; and while he founded Grand Pre, undoubtedly the village of Melanson received its name from this pioneer settler.

In his Kings County history, Arthur W. H. Eaton recognised Melonson’s role in founding Grand Pre, adding however that another settler from Port Royal, Pierre Terriau, moved to this area at the same time.

Grand Pre will be a focal point during upcoming Acadian celebrations and undoubtedly Pierre Melonson will be saluted as the first settler there. Let’s hope his Scottish origin will be noted.

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