Yarmouth Vanguard, Tuesday, January 30, 1990
It is only after much hesitation that I have decided to make known the results of my findings with regard to Marie Babin of Surette’s Island, said to have been the last survivor of the exiled Acadians. Father Dupuis, the first residing priest of Surette’s Island, erected in fromt of the church a tombstone, consisting of a simple and rustic slab, to mark the place where she was buried. The inscription on it, carved in French by her grandson Marc Surette, reads as follows:
Wife of Chs. B. Surette
Who died Dec. 30, 1862
At the age of 110 years
Last survivor of the
Deported of 1755
Even though I may deprive the good people of Surette’s Island of their most precious historical treasure and do away with a tradition more than centennial and almost sacred, especially among the French people of the county of Yarmouth, I have to say in the name of truth that Marie Babin was not the last survivor of the Deported, that she was not even deported and that she did not die at the age of 110 years. It is in searching for documents to justify the inscription of her tombstone that I have arrived to these conclusions.
After she died, The Yarmouth Herald gave a brief sketch of her life, which has been reproduced by George S. Brown in his History of Yarmouth (p. 157), from which I extract the following paragraph; “she …was, according to the statement of her children, one hundred and eight years and ten months old at the time of her death; but she must have been at least two or three years older; for during her lifetime, she always said that she remembered distinctly that upon the arrival, in Boston Harbor, of the vessel which conveyed thither her parents and their fellow-exiles, the captain of the vessel himself carried her ashore in his arms.”
When she died on December 30, 1862, if she had been 108 or 110 years and ten months old, that would mean that she was born in February or March of 1754 or 1752. She must have been celebrating her birthday in February or March.
I have every reason to believe on the contrary, that Marie Babin was born in 1761, or, at the earliest, in 1760, probably in February or March, and that the following record, from the old church registers of Sainte-Anne-de-Restigouche, in Gaspesia, across from Campbellton, is that of her baptism: “March 6, 1761, I have baptized Marie, daughter of Pierre Babin and of Cécile Bois, her father and mother married together. The godfather bears the name of Joseph Babin and the godmother Marie Bois, who have declared that they did not know how to sign, in testimony whereof I have signed on the day and year as above. – Father Ambroise, Recollect.”
Bona Arsenault, in his works on the genealogy of the Acadians, gives 1761 as the year of her birth. Placide Gaudet, the most outstanding authority in the genealogies of the Acadian families, says that Marie Babin was born in February of 1760. This eminent scholar of Acadian history denies emphatically that she died at the age of 108 or 110 years; according to him, she was, at the most, 102 years old.
Joseph Oliver Babin, born in 1768, arrived in Surette’s Island at about the same time as Marie Babin. He used to call Marie Babin “the sister,” istead of “my sister,” as she was the only sister that he had. We know, through other documents, that he was the son of Joseph Babin and of Cécile Bois. He is the origin of the “Carino” family of Yarmouth County.
Marie Babin married Charles Henri Barromée Surette, called Gee-Gee, who was born around the end of 1762 or the beginning of 1763, which means that he was a year or two younger than Marie Babin. If Marie Babin had been born in 1754 or 1752, that would have meant that she would have been eight or ten years older than her husband.
According to documents that we have, Marie Babin got married when she was 25 or 26. If she had been born in 1752 or 1754, it would mean that the marriage would have taken place between 1777 and 1780, when her husband would have been 15 or 18 years of age, which would have been unwonted among the Acadians at that time. Also, they would have had their first child close to ten years after their marriage, that is in 1787, because it was in that year, in the month of March, that their oldest child was born, Marguerite Adelaide. Born in 1760 or 1761, married between 1785 and 1787, she had a child in 1787; that is in accordance to the rule set by genealogists, by which the first child, at that time, was born about a year after the marriage.
She could have been carried ashore in the arms of a captain, but it was not in Boston. The fact is that her father, who was from Pisiquid (Windsor), fled in the woods at the time of the Expulsion, and reached the Miramichi region or Baie des Chaleurs, where he married Cécile Bois around 1759-60, their first child, Marie, being born at the same place about a year after. A few years later, the family was still in New Brunswick, in 1768 on the St. John River. From here they went to the vicinity of Halifax.
And that is the true story, though disheartening it might be, of Marie Babin of Surette’s Islnad, who, instead of being the last survivor of the deported Acadians, who would have died at the age of 108 or 110, died at the relatively “young” age of 101 or not any older than 102 years, without having been really deported.
It might have been better for me not to stir her ashes, but to leave resting peacefully and secretly with her, in their sleep, the true, but nevertherless bitter facts I have revealed. May she now be left to persue her slumber, in the shadow of St. Joseph’s church, undisturbed by the roar of the mighty Atlantic, lashing the shores of Surette’s Island, or the incursions of intruders digging in her past. Her sweet memory will live on and on in the hearts of her people, as a lingering symbol of the simple and quiet life of their forefathers.