Yarmouth Vanguard, August 15, 1989
We saw in last week’s sketch that Father Desenclave had told Captain Gorham that there were 21 Acadian families up the Tusket River, whom Gorham was not able to apprehend. He told Major Morris that there were 130 Acadians in all. We do not know if we’re [sic for were] included in this number, the Acadians from the settlement of Pubnico, of Argyle and of Chebogue. If so, it was surely not all of them, if we judge by the number of Acadians who were of this third Expulsion.
Gorham, in October, 1758, had sent an Acadian with a letter addressed to those who were hiding in the woods, whom he summoned to give themselves up. On their part, they sent him a letter, telling him that they had written to the Governor of Massachusetts to see to it that they would be able to stay on their lands or at least to accept them in his territory.
We have a copy of this letter of the Acadians, which is in English. It is dated from “Cape Sables, September 15th, 1758”, and addressed “To His Excellency Thomas Pownall, esq. and Honourable Council in Boston”. Here are a few excerpts… “If it might please your Excellency and worthy Council to settle us here in this land where we now live we shall ever hold our bounded duty to love and honour you with our last Breath, and … we are heartily willing to do whatever you require … also willing to support and maintain the War against the King of France … We are in all about 40 families which consist of about 150 souls … We beg that if we may no longer stay here that we may be received into New England to live as the other Neutral French do for we had all rather die here than go to any French Dominions to live.” It is signed Joseph Landrey.
The previous Winter had been exceptionally long and severe. These Acadians were not able to face again such a Winter in the woods; that is why they were ready to do anything to avoid another harsh Winter, anything except to fall into the claws of Lawrence, who was regarded by the Acadians as a heartless tyrant.
The letter was given to Mark Haskell, a merchant who was dealing with the Acadians of Cape Sable. He was to convey it to the Governor of Massachusetts. No doubt that the letter had been written by Haskell himself, as he says: “The foregoing is what I received from the mouths of Joseph Landrey and Charles Dantermong, two of the principal men of Cape Sables.”
Pownall was very sympathetic to the plea of the Acadians. He would have wanted to send someone right away to get them. But his Council was of another opinion. Their argument was that these Acadians were “enemies of the Crown.” In reality, having lived for 45 years under British rule, they were British citizens of Nova Scotia. But since they had pledged to stay neutral in case of war (notwithstanding what is said in this letter) and being of French extraction, they were considered to be more partisans of France than English subjects. Moreover, England and France were at war since May 17, 1756, the Seven Year War. Thus Massachusetts could not give shelter to these “enemies.”
As a consequence to these deliberations, the Council found the Good Samaritan Mark Haskell guilty of dealing with the enemy. He was thrown in prison for his good deed.
Pownall, on his part, had only one thing to do, send the Acadian letter to Lawrence, which he did, although reluctantly. January 2nd, 1759, he writes: “For the case of the poor people of Cape Sables it seems very distressful and worthy any relief can be afforded them. If Policy could acquiesce in any measure for their relief, Humanity loudly calls for it.”
All that time, the Acadians were to spend an atrocious Winter in the woods, when some of them were to die of hunger, of cold and even of grief. Receiving no answer to their plea, they became desperate, so much so that, notwithstanding how much they dread to give themselves up to Lawrence, they sent at the beginning of Spring a few of their companions to Halifax with the offer to put themselves in the hands of the British authorities.
Lawrence, realizing that there was no escape for them, was not in a hurry to go to get them. It was only at the beginning of Summer that he asked Major Erasmus Philips, who was in Annapolis, to take those “Lands ruffians, turned pirates” to Halifax. The task of picking them up was entrusted to Captain Gorham, the same one that we saw last week who apprehended most of the Acadians who were sent into exile in France in the Fall of 1759. He arrived in Halifax with them on June 29th; they were 152 in all.
They were placed on George Island, in Halifax Harbour, where there were already six Acadian prisoners from the St. John River. Here, where they were to stay till November, they had much to suffer, sleeping “under the stars”, most of them not having anything to cover themselves, their clothes having been taken away from them. Eight died on the island; there was one birth.
They were scheduled to be shipped to England November 3rd. They had already boarded the “Mary the Fourth”, when, that same evening, rose one of the worst storms ever to hit the coast of Nova Scotia. The departure was postponed till the 10th. They arrived in England seven weeks later, on December 29th. Finally, they disembarked in Cherbourg, France, on January 14 (1760). Four had died during the crossing.
We still have eight letters, originals, written between this date and 1775 from Cherbourg by members of the d’Entremont family to their very close relatives who returned to Pubnico. Even a hundred years ago, some people from Pubnico were still corresponding with descendants in France of these exiled Acadians.
Next week, I will tell you about this return from exile of the ancestors of today’s Acadians in Yarmouth County.