Grand-Pre is a National Historic Site in Canada. It is a wonderful place to remember the Acadians of Minas Basin. When deportation cause them to be moved from their homes, many of them immigrated to Canada. There they will create new homes, find jobs, and make communities where they felt safe. They worked hard, continued their faith, and brought many elements of their culture to Canada.
Deportation was a struggle, and many were in poverty. They had to face the unknown to find a better place. They didn’t give up, they pressed on to find a home where they could live their lives peacefully. Today, Grand-Pre offers an amazing place to remember them and their culture. They sacrificed plenty to make a life for their families and future generations. At the same time, they created a strong foundation for Canada with their contributions.
Grand-Pre features a church with beautiful stained glass and amazing statues. It is known as Memorial Church and it was created in 1922. The lush garden that surrounds this church is well cared for. There are green trees and shrubs, colourful flowers, and unique plants. Inside the church, there are lovely paintings and statues that welcome everyone inside. The exhibits in place are designed to educate tourists about the history and culture of Acadians in this area.
The story does have a happy ending, many of them successfully lived in Canada. They created opportunities, jobs, and communities to help each other. However, there was plenty of hardship and tragedy that lead them to that point. They could have given up due to deportation but they choose to be strong. They choose to find alternatives so they could thrive again.
What is Acadie
An Italian explorer by the name of Verrazano founded Acadie in 1524. He fell in love with this area he was exploring. It is located along the Atlantic Coast, found in North America. Today, that area is known as Nova Scotia. He remembered a poem he has read about ancient Greece and the beauty it had to offer.
When maps of the New World came out, the name Acadie had stuck to identify that area. The name Acadie means “land of” and Verrazano thought of this place as some of the most beautiful lands he had ever laid eyes upon.
In the mid-17th Century, Europeans from France came to Acadie and created a French colony. Their children are the generation that became known as the Acadians. The original group was about 500 people. Today, there are millions of people in the world that can tie their ancestry back to these early beginnings in Acadie.
The word Grand-Pre means large meadow, and people began to settle here in 1680. Among the first was Pierre Melanson dit La Verdure. He came with his wife, Marguerite, and their 5 children. They made the decision to escape the constant conflict in Port Royal and create new opportunities. They had a desire to keep their children safe and to see them be successful as adults.
Grande-Pre is found along the Minas Basin shoreline. Today, it continues to be a place of marshlands. To deal with this, dykes were built by those that settled in the area. This prevented the tides from the basins from destroying their crops or the land. Instead, they were able to successfully utilise it to create pastures for animals and fertilise their fields.
By the mid-18th Century, Grand-Pre was the largest known Acadian community. There were several smaller ones located around the coastlines of what is today Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy. Many referred to the Minas location as the bread basket because the people there were thriving.
In 1744, England and France were at war. The French tried to take over Acadie. There were numerous attacks. In 1749, Halifax became the new capital. Even so, the majority of people residing in this colony were Acadians. They were growing in numbers and doing very well with the rich farmland. Government leaders decided to take action to get more Protestant settlers to come to this area.
In 1755, the Acadians of Minas had their world turned upside down. The government took their guns and boats. When Acadian delegates show up in Halifax with a petition, they are put into prison. Governor Charles Lawrence deported all of the Acadians from Nova Scotia. They were sent to the British colonies in the south. This ranged from Massachusetts to Georgia. To back this up, Lieutenant Colonel John Winslow and his troops arrived in Grand-Pre on August 19th, 1755. They made the church their headquarters.
The families were forced to leave with nothing but their personal belongings. The military claimed all that was left behind for the Crown. The families have no choice but to do as they are told. They await the ships that will come to take them to new destinations. More than 6,000 Acadians were deported from Minas Basin and Nova Scotia by the end of 19755. The villages were burned and all they had built was destroyed.
The deportation continued through 1763. It came to an end when the war between England and France was over. The families suffered and struggled during 8 long years of deportation. It is believed over 10,000 people were deported due to these actions.
Historical Value and the Poem Evangeline
The poem Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow got people all over to take notice of deportation and what these people we going through. It was published in the USA in 1847. It was coined as the “great uprooting” and it didn’t sit well with people. When people started to visit this area, they found nothing of the Acadians remained.
The land was purchased by John Frederic Herbin in 1907. He was a poet, jewellery maker, and historian. His mother was Acadian and he wanted to protect that history in her honour. A year later the Nova Scotia legislation acknowledged it as the Grand-Pre Historic Grounds. Herbin placed a cross made from stone at the site. He used stones that were remains of the Acadian community.
In 1917, he sold this property to DAR (Dominion Atlantic Railway). They placed the statue of Evangeline there in 1920. It was created by Philippe Hebert but he died before he was able to finish it. His son, Henri, stepped up and completed the project. Advocate groups were underway to raise money for the Memorial Church to be created at Grand-Pre. It was finished in 1930. Today, the church is a museum and a historical reminder of the Acadians.
In 1957, The Canadian government acquired Grand-Pre. It was identified in 1961 as a National Historic Site. There have been plenty of changes over the years, but the goals remain the same. It is a place to honour the history and culture of the Acadians. In 2003, the visitor centre was created for the many tourists that visit annually.