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    – Beaubassin put to death by the French administration
Tantramar Marshes
Tantramar Marshes, a word derived from “tintamarre” in reference to the “discordant sounds” of the thousands of water birds that have made the marshes their habitat (Photo credit : Lisa Szabo-Jones, Alternatives Journal)

Beaubassin, near the current town of Amherst in Nova Scotia, is the first and most important colony of the isthmus of Chignectou linking, prior to 1713, Canada and Acadia (before becoming Nova Scotia). At the time, the entire region, delimited by the Tantramar salt marshes along the Mésagouèche River (meaning muddy river in the Mi’kmaq language), bore the name of Beaubassin. Numerous hills (30-46 meters above sea level) rise like islands from the surface of swampy meadows. On both banks of the river hamlets emerge on the hilltops, notably Pré-des-Richard (on the northern shore), Les Planches (on the southern shore), and the original village called Colonie Bourgeois (Beaubassin). It was from here, not from Grand-Pré, that the first deportation took place. Considered by the British authority to be the most rebellious, the inhabitants of Beaubassin were deported furthest on the Atlantic coast, to Savannah in Georgia and to Charleston in South Carolina (see the geographical area entitled Anglo-American Settlements). At present, nature has reclaimed the meadows. Today’s marshes are among the most populated breeding grounds in the world for some bird species, notably the Marsh Harrier.

Colonization of a beautiful basin

Jacques (Jacob) Bourgeois, the founder of Beaubassin, was a French surgeon. At the age of 22 he left the port of La Rochelle, France, aboard the ship Saint-François for a better life in Acadia. He arrived in Port-Royal in 1642 with 18 families that governor Charles Menou d´Aulnay took with him on one of his trips. It is very likely that Bourgeois was the first to practice medicine in Acadia. Thirty years later, with the aim of promoting the colonization of Beaubassin, he came to settle in the isthmus of Chignectou with his sons Charles and Germain accompanied by two of his sons-in-law. Together they erected a flour mill and a sawmill to form the original village. According to the first census of Chignectou / Beaubassin in 1686 by Mr. De Meulles who visited all habitations in person, the region had 127 residents spread into twenty families, 102 guns, 426 arpents of cultivated land, and 536 farm animals.

Old Acadian home
Old Acadian home full of charm (Courtesy of Acadia Historic Trail, Le Corridor Canada)

With the arrival of new families and births, the colony and its original village stretch along the waterways flowing westerly into the basin called Beaubassin named after the beauty of the area. Each inhabited hill becomes a hamlet bearing the name or nickname of its occupants. This is how Beauséjour, Aulac, Pont-à-Buote, Jolicoeur and Vescack were born on the northern shore. The southern shore, for its part, saw the birth of Beaubassin, the Butte à Roger, Ouescoque, Menoudie, Maccan and Rivière-des-Hébert. The church, cemetery, wharf and other community structures were located in Beaubassin. Towards the end of the French colonial period, a small chapel dedicated to St. Anne was built to accommodate the inhabitants farthest from the basin.

Map of Beaubassin and its surroundings on the southern and northern shores of the Mésagouèche River (source Encyclopédie du patrimoine culturel de l’Amérique française)

The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht caused a tear in the geopolitical fabric, while the southern bank of the Mésagouèche River came under British administration, the northern bank continued to be administered by New France from Quebec City. In their everyday life, however, locals did not see much of a difference. Then in 1750, the French administration put Beaubassin to death by forcing Acadians on the British side to burn all their buildings, including the church, and take refuge on the French side. It was then that the construction of an imposing fort began in the hamlet of Beauséjour. The regrouping of refugees on this hill led to a strengthening of Beauséjour. A chapel dedicated to St. Louis was built. This is how the Acadians who took part in the defense of Fort Beauséjour became victims of the first wave of the Great Upheaval of 1755, which actually amounted to an expropriation of land by expulsion. In the course of events, Beaubassin vanished from the maps of the world.