79. AN ACCOUNT OF THE FLIGHT OF THE ACADIANS AT THE TIME OF THE EXPULSION
Yarmouth Vanguard, July 3, 1990
We know that at the time of the Expulsion of the Acadians, many of them took to the woods. Some were caught in their flight; others succeeded in reaching “Canada” (Québec). Among the accounts that have come down to us, there is one which tells us of the flight through the forest of some ten families of Belliveaus, Gaudets, Bourques, etc., who, after struggling a whole year in the woods, finally reached the St. Lawrence River. We owe this account to an old Belliveau grandmother who, many years after, related to her grandchildren this flight, with many details.
Around the end of the summer, 1755, when they learned that they were to be embarked on ships and sent to some far away places, these families took to the woods. It could be that, after spending a harsh winter they decided to try to reach Québec. They figured that by following the Indians, they would be able to do so. But the Indians did not venture far from the coast. Moreover, the Indians, while the men were out hunting for food, were somewhat impertinent towards the Acadian families. That is when they separated from them and tried their luck through the forest without their guidance.
Among them were old people, pregnant women, small children and even babies, without counting those who were cripple. Women carried their younger children on their shoulders, men carrried the luggage, cleared the way from shrubs and thickets, explored the premises, avoided swamps, did some hunting and fishing, and, as the sun went down, prepared the encampment for the night. The march was very slow. Many times they had to build, with an axe and knives, a rudimental emergency raft to cross the many rivers that they met.
Hunting was done with bow and arrow, becuase they did not have any firearms; they set traps also. They managed to fashion hooks for their fishing lines. They fed on all kinds of wild animals that they would catch, beavers, partridges, fish, etc. In summer, they ate also herbs and berries.
In the morning and in the evening, when the birds announced the dawn of day or when the evening twilight started to overshadow the surroundings, all knelt for the morning or evening prayers, commending themselves to Almighty God for a peaceful night or for a safe journey during the day ahead.
It is a miracle that they were able to journey on, after weeks and weeks, surrounded by perils at all times, without real harmful occurences, although they were pressed continuously by poignant anxieties.
It seems that they had undertaken their journey late in spring or early in summer. In October, not having yet reached the St. Lawrence River, they started to worry, wondering if they would have to spend another winter in the forest. The days were getting shorter, and finally the snow started to fall. What were they to do? Encouraged by those who were stronger, more ambitious, more resolute, they kept on, taking a day at a time, and that until close to the end of October.
Finally, “three days before All Saints’ Day” (October 29) they arrived at Cacouna, just below Rivière-du-Loup, about more dead than alive, but grateful for having reached at last wide open spaces, and civilization. They were to winter here.
In the spring they were again on the move, when they started to row up the river, towards Montreal. Finally they reached St. Gregoire, fifteen miles south-east of Monteal. They might have heard that there were already there some Acadians of the Dispersion, maybe some of their relatives.
Mrs. Belliveau, from whom we hold this story was not in the group who had made this journey, but she had gotten all the details of the flight from her neighbours, at St. Gregoire, whom she had herself joined after having been sent into exile in one of the southern colonies, along the Atlantic coast, where she lost her husband. After some time, she was able to reach Boston and join another caravan who also journeyed towards Montreal. Luckily enough, she found here some of the husband’s relatives. Some years later, her children and grandchilden whom she had not seen for a long time, joined her. They are the ones who jotted down her account for posterity. She “died in their midst” of a ripe old age.