Nova Scotia Archives

An Acadian Parish Reborn

Post–Deportation Argyle – First 50 Years of Catholic Parish Records 1799-1849


Acadian Families of Argyle

When considering the Acadian families of Argyle, it should be noted that a few who settled there after the Deportation had very old ties to the region. Families such as d'Entremont and Mius (Muise, Meuse) had been there since the 1650s, while the Amirault family had lived at Cape Sable for several generations. Certain other families settling in post-Deportation Argyle also had connections with these old established families through earlier intermarriage.

Most other Acadian families who settled in Argyle during this period, however, had not lived there previously. Instead, they had resided in other parts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but with very few exceptions had all been deported to New England. They were fortunate in that they had been exiled to a place that made a physical return to Nova Scotia possible. By contrast, few Acadians deported to England, France or the Caribbean ever found their way back to the Maritimes.

A very few Acadian families settling in post-Deportation Argyle had not actually been deported at all. Some of them initially evaded the British, only to be captured afterwards and imprisoned in Halifax or elsewhere in the colony, then freed and allowed to settle in various parts of Nova Scotia. It is also known that in some areas of the Maritimes, small groups of Acadians were able to avoid deportation by abandoning their settlements and retreating deep into the wilderness, far removed from the coastline. With one notable exception this appears not to have been the case in Argyle.

According to the late Acadian scholar, the Rev. Clarence J. d'Entremont, every Acadian family who settled in post-Deportation Argyle can be accounted for in the primary records of the time as having returned from New England or some other identified place of exile. The sole exception is the family of Joseph Moulaison. Although specific details of where this family resided in Cap-Sable during the Deportation have been lost, it seems obvious that they managed to evade the fate of their compatriots.

This is confirmed by a record in the Yarmouth County Registry of Deeds, dated 27 June 1764, whereby Ranald MacKinnon deeded 250 acres of land to Joseph 'Mollisiong' — a full three years before the return of the first Acadian exiles from New England to southwestern Nova Scotia. This makes the Moulaison family the first Acadian family in post-Deportation Argyle — because they had never left.


Argyle's First Post-Deportation Acadian Families: Resettling Argyle and the Founding of New Communities

In 1767, a small group of settlers arrived in Pubnico from Massachusetts. They were 24 in number and included the following families:

  • Charles Amirault, his wife Claire Dugas, and four of their children. One of the four, their daughter Marguerite, had married Pierre LeBlanc while in exile in Massachusetts.

  • Jacques Amirault (a brother of Charles), his wife Jeanne Laure, and several of their children, some of whom were married adults.

  • Charles Belliveau, his wife Agnes Gaudet, and seven of their children.

  • Charles Belliveau (son of the above Charles), his wife Marguerite Bastarache, and three of their children.

  • Marguerite (Amirault) d'Entremont, widow of Jacques d'Entremont (who had died in Massachusetts in 1759), with five of her children, three sons and two daughters. Some of those children had been married while in exile.

It is believed that Pierre Hinard and the family of Joseph Mius II also returned in 1767, settling in what is now Wedgeport, in Yarmouth County.

In the years following 1767, various other Acadian families continued to find their way back to the region. In many cases their exact date of return is not known, although most re-settlement of Argyle occurred during the two decades between 1767 and 1787.

After Pubnico and Wedgeport, the other communities settled by returning Acadians are those known today as Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau (formerly Eel Brook, including a small adjoining peninsula known as Rocco Point), Abram's River, Hubbard's Point, Amirault's Hill, Sluice Point, Surette's Island, and one or two other islands that were settled but not long occupied.

The Acadians and New England Planters in Argyle Township were joined in the 1780s by American Loyalist settlers — political refugees forced to leave the new United States at the end of the American Revolution. In Rev. J. R. Campbell's History of Yarmouth County (1876), the author quotes from a first-hand account given by the daughter of the first Loyalist to arrive in Tusket, on 11 May 1784. According to her reminiscence, "At this time there was no one settled on the river [Tusket River], but the French." This makes it clear that by 1784 there were Acadian families at Sluice Point, Amirault's Hill and Hubbard's Point, all on the eastern side of the river, while on the western side were the Acadian settlers at Wedgeport.

Later, as the Acadian population grew, additional outpost communities were founded by these same families, including such villages as the Bellevilles, Bell Neck, Quinan, Comeau's Hill, and Pinkney's Point.


Old Acadian Surnames in Argyle

Predominant family names include Amirault, Babin, Belliveau, Boudreau, Bourque, Clairmont, Corporon, d'Entremont, Doucet/Doucette, Duon (now d'Eon), Frontain, Hinard, LeBlanc, Mius (Muise/Meuse), Pottier and Surette.

To these sixteen surnames one can add a few others, represented by the maiden names of the wives of some of the original settlers. These surnames include Bastarache, Bellefontaine, Hébert, Laure, Pellerain, Préjean, and possibly one or two others.


Later French Arrivals

Other French names are frequently encountered in the parish records presented in 'An Acadian Parish Reborn.' A number of these families were not Acadian, but instead came to Argyle directly from France and settled among the original Acadians. Occasionally, French settlers from Saint Pierre-et-Miquelon or from the Magdalen Islands also came to Argyle, but they are rare. Since these early settlers inevitably married Acadian women, their descendants today can claim Acadian blood and roots, even though the surname itself is not Acadian.

A reasonably comprehensive list of other French surnames found in Argyle includes Blanchard (although an old Acadian surname elsewhere, the Blanchards of Argyle are more recent arrivals), Boutier/Boucher, Cottreau, DeVillers, Dulain (now Dulong), Jacquard, LeFebvre/ LeFevre/ LeFeve/ LeFave, Maphre/Bertrand and Richard.

The 1838 census of Nova Scotia is a useful source for all Acadian and French surnames found in Yarmouth County in that year. Although one or two family names had disappeared by then, the enumeration represents almost all the Acadian families known to have returned to Yarmouth County and Argyle after 1767.


Irish Catholic Acadians

There were also a few Irish Catholic men who settled in post-Deportation Argyle and married into the Acadian community. Clearly language and culture were less of a barrier to marriage than was religion. In some cases, their descendants were French-speaking for several generations and have come to be considered as 'Acadian' within their communities. The oldest of these is the Hubbard family. Fitzgerald and Burke are similar instances that appeared somewhat later.


Links with Neighbouring Acadian Settlements

In the first century of post-Deportation Argyle, marriages between the Acadian and Anglophone populations were very rare. The majority of the English-speaking population in Yarmouth County was Protestant, and the Acadians were Roman Catholic. Occasional marriages occurred between Acadians and Irish Catholics, but otherwise the religious barrier was seldom breached. With the Catholic Church's rigid laws discouraging marriage of close relatives, the Acadians of post-Deportation Argyle invariably looked towards other nearby Acadian communities for prospective brides and grooms.

Fortunately, an even larger Acadian population existed not too far away in the region of Clare, in Digby County. Although Argyle and Clare are separated by a substantial block of Anglophone settlement and wilderness country, most of the Acadian communities were (and remain to this day) coastal. This played to their advantage, as early communication was more common by sea than it was over land.

Early priests in the region, both resident and missionary, served both Digby and Yarmouth Counties, which likely resulted in even more contact between the two regions. The priest typically had his permanent residence at Church Point (Pointe-de-l'Église) in Digby County and would come to Argyle for specific periods of time, then return to Church Point. It seems reasonable to assume that families with fishing vessels made trips to Digby County during those periods when they did not see their priest for months. Once marriage alliances were forged, this also meant that the families of the two regions had additional reasons to visit back and forth.

Some of the most common Clare and Digby County Acadian surnames appearing in the early Catholic records for Argyle include Comeau, Deveau/Devault, Doucet, Melanson, Robicheau/Robichaud, Saulnier, Theriault, Thibaud, Thibodeau and Trahan. Beyond Digby County, the closest Acadian community in post-Deportation Nova Scotia was at Chezzetcook in Halifax County, too far removed to sustain frequent contact or intermarriage.


Some Notes on Acadian Proper (Given) Names

The given name 'Thomas,' though a common Biblical name found in many French jurisdictions, was never used by the old Acadian families of Argyle. The only family who may have used it during early times were the Cottreaus in Wedgeport, whose progenitor came directly to Nova Scotia from France in the post-Deportation era. Instead of 'Thomas,' families in Argyle preferred 'Athanase,' which they translated as 'Tom' or 'Thomas' for English use.

Some of the more unusual names assigned to males in Argyle during the early days include Amable, Ange, Anselme, Appolinaire, Augustin, Barromé, Damase, Florent, Hilaire, Honoré, Hyppolyte, Mandé, Mathurin, Maximin, Onésiphore, Rémi, Silvain or Sylvain, Toussaint and Volusien. Those for women include Bibianne, Euphroisine, Léonice or Léonisse, Osithes, Pélagie, Perpétue, Radegonde and Scholastique.

Research into the origins of these given names demonstrates that with few exceptions, most can be found in any good encyclopedia of the saints of the Catholic Church. Many of the names, when first used, may have been suggested or imposed by the priest. The standard lexicon of names among early Acadian families was otherwise not particularly extensive, hence the surplus of 'Maries' among women and countless 'Jeans' and 'Josephs' among men.

With so many people bearing the same or similar first names, it is not surprising that the Acadian population was quick to adopt nicknames as a preferable way of identifying each other. In the earliest parish registers, for instance, there were enough 'Joseph Babins' in the local population that the priest, struggling to differentiate among them, described one as 'Joseph Babin dit Nadeau,' and others as Joseph Babin 'the elder' and Joseph Babin 'the younger.' This tradition has persisted into modern times in the Acadian communities of Argyle.



Argyle Township Court House and Archives