Except for a few small groups of Acadians who took to the woods to escape the expulsion and bands of roaming Mi’kmaq, the dykes and uplands of Kings County lay vacant between 1755 and 1760. The history books tell that when the Planters arrived they found the abandoned ox carts and “at the skirts of the forest they saw many bleached skeletons of sheep and horned cattle that the winter after their owners left had died of starvation and cold.”
The quote is from Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton’s Kings County history and it seems to indicate that the livestock of the Acadians was abandoned after the expulsion and left to perish. Eaton also writes that some of the livestock of the Acadians had been confiscated to pay for the cost of the expulsion. And, he says, most of the dwellings and outbuildings of the Acadians were destroyed, some 206 houses and 237 barns in Canard, Habitant, and Pereau alone.
A booklet published in 2002 by the Societe Promotion Grand-Pre tells us that one of the reasons Lt. Col. John Winslow compiled a list of Acadians living in Grand-Pre was to find out “how much livestock (bullocks, cows, young cattle, sheep, hogs, and horses) there was to be confiscated in the name of the British King.” It would seem then that there was a move afoot to profit from the expulsion.
In other historical accounts of the expulsion, however, we’re told that while some Acadian livestock was confiscated and apparently shipped to New England, much of it was left to roam free. Some of it perished undoubtedly, but a couple of historical works hint that some of the Acadian livestock was rounded up and driven elsewhere just after the expulsion. Local folklore also has it that German settlers in Lunenburg County took advantage of the situation, “raided” Kings County and helped themselves.
By chance, I found that this is a fact. Reading M. B. DesBrisay’s Lunenburg County history recently, I came across an account of the expedition to Kings County to collect Acadian livestock and drive it to Lunenburg.
“On July 30th, 1756, Captain John Steignfort, with fifty armed men, went from Lunenburg to the Basin of Minas, and drove away 120 head of horned cattle and a number of horses, being part of the confiscated property of the French Acadians. The party returned to Lunenburg September 3rd with sixty oxen and cows, the rest having perished on the way – all the horses included.”
Calling it a “raid” is probably erroneous. Since the livestock was later divided up by a draw conducted by the military, it appears the whole affair had the blessing of provincial authorities.