Annapolis Valley is located in Nova Scotia. It is widely known as some of the best farmland in all of Canada. Farmers have thrived in this area, using the land for raising crops and livestock. The marshland in the area ensures there is ample water for the trees and grass to grow there. When you add the warm days and sunshine, the crops come out amazing!
Some of the crops grown in Annapolis Valley include various types of fruits, grains, and vegetables. Today, people from all over the world visit this area. They love the gentle nature and wild beauty it brings together. What many of them don’t realise though is the violent and tragic history of this location.
French colonists came to the Western part of Annapolis Valley, near the location where there was fur trading taking place. This was in the 1630s. The colonists were welcomed to share the land by those already inhabiting it. The relations among the people were very good. The Fresh settlers learned how to best maintain the land. They created amazing drains and dams so they could have control over the water, and not be at its mercy.
There were numerous times when France and England would fight over territories, including Annapolis Valley. The colonists didn’t worry about it too much, they stayed out of the political elements. They were focused on maintaining a life where their needs for food and housing were met. They created a society where they depended on each other and their culture was deeply rooted. While they were French when they reached Acadie, they soon proudly referred to themselves as true Acadians.
In 1710, Port Royal was now under the control of British forces. Acadie was changed to the name Nova Scotia. Acadians were now supposed to be loyal British subjects. They could remain on their land and practice their Roman Catholic beliefs if they swore an Oath of Allegiance in 1730. The governor of Nova Scotia, Richard Philipps told them they could remain neutral if there was a war between France and England. This is where their name “neutral French” came from.
In the mid-18th Century, war broke out between France and England. Both empires were demanding the Acadians come to help them. They didn’t honour their desire to remain neutral. The French moved the Acadians to the north into their territories. They build Fort Beausejour so they could see Fort Lawrence.
In mid-1755, there were said to be at least 200 Acadian men captured when England forces overtook Fort Beausjour. The French commanders verified they had forced these men to fight for them. They were not released and that sparked outrage among the Acadians. They were no longer willing to take an Oath of Allegiance because they didn’t want to choose sides, but they were being forced now to fight against the French. Since they refunded, it was decided on July 28th of 1755 to deport the Acadians.
Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Winslow, troops came into the area on August 19th, 1755. They started at Grand-Pre and marched to Annapolis Valley. They took possession of the Acadian church and turned it into headquarters for the military. On Sept 5th, 1755 males ages 10 and older were called to the church to hear the Royal Proclamation. There were 418 of them that showed up, and each of them was arrested. All of their property was taken and they were informed their families were going to be deported.
They were kept prisoners for several weeks while everyone waited for the ships to arrive to deport the Acadians. The first ships arrived that October, taking them to areas around Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The last people were deported in December. The area around Grand-Pre was burned to prevent any chance of refugees being able to call that area home.
An estimated 2,200 Acadians were taken from Grand-Pre due to deportation. Over an 8 year span from 1755 to 1763, more than 10,000 were relocated from the areas of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. When the war ended, they were allowed back to the colony in 1764. They had to agree to settle in small groups and stick to isolated areas.
The best farmland they had once known was no longer available to them. It was not inhabited by settlers from New England. They spoke English and they were known as planters. Even though you can’t tell today that there were once charred remains here, it is still in the history and the stories shared by Acadians and their ancestors.