Acadian History

The Beginnings

The first Acadian settlement was founded at Port-Royal in Acadia, which is now Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. The French were led by Pierre du Gast, Sieur de Monts. Along with de Monts on that first voyage were Jean de Biencourt, Sieur de Poutrincourt; Samuel de Champlain, the king's geographer; Dupont-Gravé, a shipbuilder; Louis Hébert, an apothecary; and 120 other settlers.

They had arrived at the Bay of Fundy in 1604, and camped at Dotchet Island, but after a harsh winter in which 36 of the men died of scurvy, they moved to Port-Royal. The settlers built a fort there, and a replica of this fort can be visited today. Louis Hébert's room is reproduced with all his drawers and bottles for herbs.

There were three major Indian tribes in the area when the French arrived, 4,000 Micmacs, mostly in Nova Scotia, 5,000 Maliseet in New Brunswick, and 10,000 Abenakis in Maine.

Poutrincourt and Dupont-Gravé returned to France the first year. In the summer of 1605, Dupont-Gravé came back with another 40 men.

De Monts returned to France in the fall, and during that winter, 12 more men died of scurvy.

On July 27, 1606, Poutrincourt arrived back with more men and livestock. De Monts formed La Compagnie de l'Acadie, and granted Poutrincourt, by royal ordinance, the fief of Port-Royal.

The third winter, 1606-7, only seven men died of scurvy. The settlers had grown enough vegetables during the summer to keep some in storage for the winter. However, other merchants in France managed to get De Monts' commerce rights in Acadia annulled. De Monts and Champlain returned to France.

With no support from France, the settlers were unable to stay at their settlement. Poutrincourt sailed with all his remaining men back to France to find new backing. In the meantime, the fort was left empty for two years. During this entire time, the Micmac chief Membertou scrupulously protected the possessions of the French, and when they returned, they found everything exactly as they had left it.

A Second Try

Poutrincourt returned with two of his sons, Charles de Biencourt and Jacques de Salazar, and with Father Jessé Fléché, Louis Hébert, and Claude de Latour and his son Claude. Poutrincourt's son Charles was then sent back to France to find more food supplies for the missionaries. Unfortunately, when he returned, he was forced to bring with him two Jesuit missionaries who were supposed to hasten the conversion of the Indians. Not only did these individuals make life more complicated at Port-Royal, but also their going to Acadia infuriated the Protestant merchants who had heavily financed the settlement, and they withdrew their support.

Young Charles managed to win the support of the Marquess de Guercheville, who was already a patron of Father Briard, one of the Jesuits. She paid off the protestants and turned over her interest to the priests. Charles, his mother, the priests and the food supplies left France on January 26, 1611, and they arrived in Acadia after an arduous 4-month voyage.

As a result of continual disputes between the Jesuits and the Poutrincourts, Madame de Guercheville withdrew her support entirely. For an entire year, the colony was without any support from France at all. Then, to make bad matters worse, on May 12, 1613, a ship equipped by Madame de Guercheville sailed into Port Royal and commandeered stores, provisions, and church ornaments. They then sailed to Penobscot, Maine, to found their own colony.

This turned out to be unlucky for Port-Royal, in an unexpected way. The British, who had a thriving colony in Virginia, resented the French intrusion into Maine, and they burned the colony to the ground, killing anyone who resisted. Encouraged by this success, the British decided they could rid the entire North American continent of the French.

While the settlers were tending fields five or six miles away, the British burned down the settlement and carried off everything of value, including the livestock. The settlers built temporary shelters and began hunting game to get them through the coming winter.

Poutrincourt returned with provisions on March 21, 1614. He had gotten backing from Huguenot merchants in La Rochelle. He immediately returned to France with furs for the merchants, taking Louis H&eacure;bert with him. Neither of them returned to Acadia. Louis Hébert went to Québec, and Poutrincourt and his son Jacques de Salazar were killed in a battle in France.

Poutrincourt's other son, Charles de Biencourt, died in 1624 and his estate was taken over by Charles de Latour.

English and French Politics

On September 10, 1621, King James granted Acadia and Canada to Sir William Alexander, count of Sterling in Scotland. In 1629, about 100 Scottish colonists settled at Grandville. By 1632, only 70 were left, and at that time Acadia and Canada were returned to France by the Treaty of St-Germain-en-Laye.

Cardinal Richelieu, a minister of Louis XIII, appointed his cousin, Isaac de Razilly, Governor of Acadia. This was resented by Charles de Latour, who considered Acadia his own. As a compromise, de Razilly's colonists were established to the east, at La Hève, while Latour and his mencontinued their fur trading at Cape Sable. Latour was also granted the Seigneurie of Jemseg, on the St. John River in New Brunswick.

Two of Razilly's main assistants were Nicolas Denys and Charles d'Aulnay.

In 1633, English traders established a trading post on the coast of Maine. Charles de Latour attacked the post and two guards were killed. The British vowed vengeance. Razilly informed New England authorities that they were not allowed north of Portland, Maine.

Razilly died in 1635, and his estates were taken over by Charles d'Aulnay. d'Aulnay and Charles Latour were appointed jointly as Lieutenant-Governor of Acadia. The two fought each other from the first. In 1641, Latour's commission was revoked, and d'Aulnay was named governor and lieutenant-general of Acadia. Latour continued to harass d'Aulnay, and ws declared an outlaw in 1644. He continued to harass the Acadian settlement until he finally took refuge in Quebec in 1645.

d'Aulnay was now in complete control of Acadia, but he drowned in 1647. He had gone into considerable debt to try to get the colony on its feet. Emmanuel LeBorgne, one of his principal creditors, sent a representative to Port-Royal to seize the fort.

Just at this time, Charles de Latour returned to France and was exonerated of all crimes and named Governor of Acadia by Louis XIV. He returned to Acadia with Philippe Mius d'Entremont, and he took over Jemseg for himself, and turned Cape Sable over to d'Entremont. This left Port-Royal for the widow of d'Aulnay. Charles de Latour then married the widow of his old enemy. He thus controlled almost all of Acadia, except a part still controlled by Nicolas Denys.

During the spring of 1652, Emmanuel LeBorgne put Nicolas Denys in irons, and took over Port-Royal. In 1654, Major Sedgwick of Boston took Port-Royal from LeBorgne. The English left Port-Royal under a Council of local inhabitants, headed by Guillaume Trahan. Charles de Latour paid 5,000 pounds for intercession with Cromwell, and was appointed a share of Acadia jointly with Sir Thomas Temple. Charles returned to Cape Sable, where he died 10 years later at the age of 73.

Meanwile Nicolas Denys had established himself at Bathurst, New Brunswick (called Nipisiguit at that time). LeBorgne again took him prisoner in 1654. Denys went to France and demanded reparation from LeBorgne, which was granted by the King, but by this time LeBorgne was a captive of the British. Nicolas died at Nipisiguit in 1688, a poor man 90 years old. He had had two sons, neither of whom left descendants.

Acadia is French Again

The British occupied Port-Royal from 1654 until the Treaty of Breda in 1667, when it was given back to France. In 1668 Alexandre LeBorgne, son of Emmanuel LeBorgne, was named provisional governor and lieutenant-general of Acadia. As compensation for the debts owed by d'Aulnay, he was granted seigneurial rights to the Bassin des Mines, at Grand-Pré.

On February 20, 1670, Hubert d'Andigny, Chevalier de Grandfontaine, was named governor of Acadia. Grandfontaine established himself at Penobscot. In the spring of 1671, French immigration to Acadia resumed.

(The above is primarily summarized from Bona Arsenault's History of the Acadians)


Please feel free to e-mail me with any comments: Linda Jones at linda@craftconn.com.


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Last Updated: Monday, January 20, 2003