Acadian ties to the Municipality of Argyle in the County of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, run deep, stretching back more than three centuries. Skilled farmers, mariners and builders, these early French settlers helped shape the landscape and communities of this coastal region of southwestern Nova Scotia, known to them as Cap-Sable.
Though these early Acadian settlers regarded themselves as politically neutral, their fate remained inexorably tied to the larger power struggles going on in Europe. Fearful of the threat posed by the high numbers of Catholics of French origin in their midst, Governor Charles Lawrence ordered the deportation of Nova Scotia's Acadian population in 1755. Though the Acadians of Cap-Sable avoided the deportation longer than most, raiding of their settlements began in 1756 and they were removed. However, it would not be long before many of those exiled to the New England colonies returned. Starting in 1767, several of the original Acadian families, as well as a number of new families who collectively would found post-Deportation Argyle, made their way back to the region.
The Acadians brought with them the traditions of the Catholic faith. The Church played an important role in their lives, with a sphere of influence stretching well beyond religious matters. The records kept by the Roman Catholic priests in the region, and in particular the richly detailed records of Rev. Fr. Jean-Mandé Sigogne, provide some of the only written evidence of the lives of these early Acadians of Argyle. Indeed, in many cases, these records supply vital links to the pre-Deportation Acadian families recorded in the earlier parish records of Saint Jean-Baptiste at Annapolis Royal, presented in 'An Acadian Parish Remembered.'
The post-Deportation Acadians of Argyle were served by a series of missionary priests who visited the region intermittently over the first thirty-two years of settlement, yet very few records of their activities remain. It was not until 1799, with the formation of the Parish of Sainte-Anne, that the Acadians of Argyle had a resident priest and formal records were kept in a consistent manner. For the next fifty years, religious life for the Catholics of Argyle centered around the parish of Sainte-Anne in the community of Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau, with new parishes eventually being formed in some of the neighbouring communities. An 'Acadian Parish Reborn' presents the records generated during the first fifty years, from 1799 to 1849.
Early French Settlers in the Argyle Region
The Municipality of the District of Argyle, which today makes up approximately one-half of the County of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is a region rich in Acadian history and culture. Prior to 1755, present-day Argyle lay within Cap-Sable (Cape Sable), an area stretching along the southwestern coast of the province, roughly from what is now Yarmouth (Cap-Forchu) to Baccaro in today's Shelburne County.
The first French-speaking colonists came to Cap-Sable in the 1640s, settling in the vicinity of what is now Central Chebogue in Yarmouth County. By the time of the Deportation (1755-1763) there were several small communities established along this coastline, in locations now known as Chegoggin, Roberts Island, Argyle, Argyle Head, Tusket Falls and East Pubnico, all in modern-day Yarmouth County.
Pubnico was founded in 1653 by Philippe Mius d'Entremont, who along with his wife, Marie Hélie, and their eldest daughter, was brought over from France by Charles de LaTour. Mius d'Entremont established his first home at what is now East Pubnico, where some of his sons and descendants would remain. Over the years, however, the father appears to have lived at various times in Annapolis Royal and spent his final days in Grand-Pré, at the home of one of his daughters.
Other descendants of Mius d'Entremont dispersed similarly, as families do, to places further removed from their ancestral home. A century later, Mius d'Entremont descendants were scattered along the coast of Cap-Sable, including at modern-day Barrington and Baccaro. Some branches of this family used the surname d'Entremont, while others adopted Mius, Muise or Meuse.
The Deportation and Return of the Acadians
The history of the Acadians of Argyle was shaped by the century-long tug-of-war between France and Britain for control of what today comprises the Maritime Provinces of Canada. In the early 1600s, French explorers established the first permanent European settlements in the colony they named Acadie (Acadia), which included much of what is now Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and parts of Maine and New Brunswick. For the first hundred years of Acadian settlement, wars between France and Britain meant that at different times they found themselves under French or British colonial rule. By 1755, there were an estimated 10,000 Acadians living in various parts of Nova Scotia.
The British gained control of the colony with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and renamed the territory Nova Scotia. As a condition of remaining where they had lived for decades, the Acadians were asked to swear allegiance to the British monarch. Although their political neutrality was well known, this was the first time they had been asked to define their political loyalty. They were permitted the "free exercise of their religion" but were not allowed to vote, hold office or join the army. Wishing to maintain good relations with both the French and the British, most Acadians took the oath on condition that they would not have to take up arms against the French in the event of war.
With rising tensions between France and Britain in Europe and North America during the first half of the eighteenth century, the neutrality of the Acadians was increasingly brought into question. British officials were concerned with the threat posed by this large French Catholic presence in Nova Scotia, as well as by their friendship with the Mi'kmaq, who in turn favoured the French.
Following the return of the fortress of Louisbourg to France as a condition of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, tensions escalated. The flashpoint came in 1755, in the border region between British and French territory at the Isthmus of Chignecto (the present-day border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick). On 4 June 1755 the British, with the help of 2,000 volunteer troops from New England, laid siege to Fort Beauséjour. Several hundred Acadians in the area had been persuaded to abandon their neutrality and fought alongside French troops in defense of the fort. Two weeks later, the French were forced to surrender.
Shortly thereafter, on 28 July 1755, Governor Charles Lawrence passed an order to deport the 'French inhabitants' from the colony of Nova Scotia. This event, which began in 1755 and continued for several years, became known to the Acadians as the 'Le Grand Dérangement' ('The Great Upheaval').
In southwestern Nova Scotia, the communities at Cap-Sable were spared briefly, perhaps because they were relatively isolated and less populous than larger centres at Grand-Pré, Annapolis Royal and Pisiquid (Windsor). Some were not raided until 1756, and Pubnico remained intact until 1758. When the British arrived to deport them, some Acadian families in the region were sent directly to Massachusetts, while others were taken first to Halifax and afterwards exiled to France.
In their book, The Acadians of Nova Scotia: Past and Present (1992), Sally Ross and Alphonse Deveau have observed that, regarding the Acadians deported from Cap-Sable to New England, "It would appear that the Acadians in this corner of mainland Nova Scotia were among the last to be deported, but they were the first to return." With the exception of the Moulaison family who avoided exile entirely, the Cap-Sable Acadians began to come back as early as 1767. They found, of course, that the lands they had previously cultivated were now occupied by others. Like all returning Acadian exiles, they were forced to begin over again, carving land and homes out of the wilderness, frequently in new areas of the colony.
The Incorporation of Argyle Township
The first New England Planters arrived in southwestern Nova Scotia within three years of Governor Charles Lawrence's Proclamation in 1758 inviting English-speaking settlers into the colony. Among other inducements, they were promised that townships would be formed and named when the population of each amounted to 50 families.
By June 1762, when the first census of Nova Scotia was taken, there were two small Planter settlements in what is now Argyle, at Abuptic (present-day Argyle) and Pubnico, totaling 22 households Although the number of Anglophone settlers grew in the years following, the increase was relatively modest through the first decade, since a number of the households listed in 1762 did not remain permanently.
Argyle Township was officially incorporated by the provincial legislature in 1771, so one assumes that only by that time had it reached the required 50 families or households — a threshold accomplished once Acadian families began to return to the area after 1767.