Yarmouth Vanguard, Tuesday, June 26, 1990
Last week I told you about Benoni d’Entremont whose vessel, the “Bonaventure”, was captured by the pirates and recaptured by Benoni with the help of several men. He had a son whose name is well known in our annals for having been the first Acadian to sit on the Nova Scotia Parliament, having been also the reason why what was called the “Big Oath” that the members of the Assembly had to take was suppressed. He was Simon d’Entremont.
He was born in West Pubnico, Nov 28, 1788. His mother was Anne Margureite Pothier from Wedgeport. Having recieved from his father, a large track of land in East Pubnico, this is where he established himself, his house being, at the time, one of the first to be erected at the beginning of the French section of the village in Upper East Pubnico.
Having had but a scanty formal education, he studied by himself, and he could speak and read French, English, Latin and MicMac; he could say the “Our Father” in these four languages. After becoming a Justice of the Peace in 1838, he was always known among the French people as “Simon Square”, sic for “Squire” (Simon pronounced in French).
July 30. 1810, he married Elizabeth Larkin, daughter of John Larkin and of Marie Belliveau. She died February 16, 1830, while giving birth to her ninth child. The following year, Simon married Elizabeth Thériault of Meteghan, daughter of Charles Thériault, dit “Lescate”, and of Natalie Melanson, who also gave him nine children. Simon must have been a witty man, according to what we read in one of his biographies; being close to his 100 year of age, a woman who was visiting him asked him how namy children he had had; he answered: “Eighteen..and if I had had the right woman I could have doubled that number.”
He was to be very active in the civic affairs of Yarmouth County just like his father. In 1836, what is now Yarmouth County was separated from Shelburne County and the right to elect its own Representative at the Legislature of Halifax was granted to the district of Argyle. Simon decided to put his candidacy against Thomas Willett of Argyle. He won by a margin of 63 votes, which was enough at the time not to require a recount. At that same provincial election, another Acadian was elected, namely Frederic Robichaud, for what was the County of Annapolis, both being the first Acadians ever to be elected in Canada to any Parliament. But when the Chambers convened in Halifax, Robichaud was sick; that is why Simon d’Entremont is considered to have been the first Acadian to have ever taken his seat in a Legislature, that which took place January 31 of the following year. Robichaud took his seat over three weeks later, January 25.
When Simon d’Entremont was asked before taking his seat to take the “Big Oath”, which had been published in 1788, in the reign of King George II, he looked at it and when he saw that he would have to swear that he did not believe in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and that the veneration of Saints is pure superstition, he handed back the document, saying: “I would rather swallow a dog-fish tail first than swear to that.” A dog-fish, as you might know, would be impossible to swallow on account of its sharp, hard fins pointing towards the tail.
When he was summoned in the name of the law to take the oath, little did the officer realize that his newcomer M.L.A. knew more about the law, probably, then he did himself. In fact, he know that the oath had been abolished eight years before by the British Parliament, even though members were still urged to take it. The matter was brought to the attention of the Lieutenant-Governor, who authorized that from now on, the only oath to be taken would be to be faithful to the laws of the land.
After taking this mitigated oath, Simon d’Entremont took his seat in the midst of the applauds of his colleagues, who had admired his courage and to the great satisfaction of the whole province for which he had won a great victory. Although, he represented his district but for one term, it was enough for him to be considered for the rest of his life, a symbol of religious liberties.
He died in East Pubnico, September 6, 1886, in his 98th year. Father MacLeod recorded in the church registers, his funeral with these words: “Interned Sept. 10. 1886, Simon d’Entremont with all the rites of the Church he served so well. He was the first Roman Catholic member sent to the Provincial House of Assembly. He absolutely refused to take the oath against his Holy Religion. His friend, the Hon. Joseph Howe, dispensed him from taking it. Mr. Howe, the last time he visited the County of Yarmouth, paid him a visit, and passed a night at his home. – W. MacLeod”.
His remains rest in the Catholic cemetery of the Immaculate Conception Church in East Pubnico. In 1967, the French people of the place, to mark the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the foundation of their village and the Centennial of the Confederation, erected on his tomb a magnificent stone with the following French inscription, which I translate: “SIMON d’ENTREMONT -1788-1886–1836: First Deputy elected to the Legislature of Nova Scotia by the Township of Argyle–1837; First Acadian to sit in the Chamber–Refused to take the heretical Oath of Allegiance–‘I would rather swallow a dog-fish tail first.”
Simon d’Entremont still has many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren in East Pubnico and elsewhere.