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  • Châtellerault
    – Voyage in Poitou within the history of the Acadian people
Henri IV Bridge in Châtellerault
Henri IV Bridge in Châtellerault, near the Acadians’ Promenade (author Juliofsanguino, CC BY-SA 4.0 license)

It is a discreet memorial stele located on the edge of the Vienne, Acadian Promenade, in Châtellerault. It recalls that in the spring of 1774, 972 Acadian refugees had landed there to join the agricultural colony of the Marquis de Pérusse des Cars.

The Acadians, driven from their native Acadia, came to Poitou on their ancestors’ land, some enthusiastically, but most were skeptical or resigned. The agricultural colony dreamed of by the marquis was a failure, but some families remained in Poitou on what had become the “Ligne acadienne” (Acadian Line) between Monthoiron and La Puye. Did the Acadians know that only 50 kilometres away was a country dear to the two great artisans of the initial colonization of Acadia? Let’s go back in time…

The first settlers of Acadia

In 1632, Isaac de Razilly was appointed lieutenant general of the king, responsible for reviving French colonization in Acadia. He was born in Oiseauxmelles castle (today Château des Eaux Melles), in Roiffé (Vienne), north of Loudun. His lieutenant and cousin, Charles de Menou d’Aulnay, from the south of Touraine, owed his second name to the seigneury of Aulnay, south of Loudun, which his mother had left to him. Their expedition left Auray (Morbihan) on July 23rd (or maybe the 4th?). And, it arrived at La Hève (on the south coast of present-day Nova Scotia) on September 8th. It had 300 inhabitants, of unknown origin, including craftsmen, soldiers and fifteen families (Isaac de Razilly), among the first original families of French Acadia.

Charles de Menou d'Aulnay
Charles de Menou d’Aulnay (image in the public domain)

In 1639, Charles de Menou d’Aulnay took over from Isaac de Razilly, with the title of lieutenant general. Until his accidental death in 1650, he had about twenty families settled in Acadia, which seems considerable since he did it by his own means, without official assistance (Charles de Menou d’Aulnay). It is thanks to these two great colonizers that we owe the initial settlement of French Acadia, concentrated in the period 1632-1650. Did some of these families come from the Loudunais and more particularly from the village of La Chaussée, three kilometers from Aulnay, where a commemorative plaque suggests it? No one really knows it so far. Let’s now go again to 1774…

In Châtellerault, nearly 1500 Acadian refugees gathered at the end of June, expecting for a massive colonization in Poitou that never saw the light of day. The first of them had arrived in October 1773, while the Acadian Line included only the first farms still under construction. By the spring of 1776, most Acadians had left Poitou and gathered in Nantes from where they emigrated to Louisiana in 1785.

Farm museum in Archigny
Farm museum of the Ligne acadienne in Archigny (author Remi Jouan, CC BY-SA 3.0 license)

Of the 57 new farms comprising the Acadian Line, there remain today only thirty, including the farm museum Archigny. About 50 kilometres northwest of Archigny is the Maison de l’Acadie at La Chaussée, a stone’s throw from the former seigneury of Aulnay, a stronghold of the great colonizer to whom Acadia owes a great deal.

A core of Acadians remained in Poitou until April 30, 1784, gathering 34 people out of 91: among them were three brothers-in-law Pierre Boudrot, Marin Daigle and Ambroise Guillot, and their families.

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