Minudie is a small rural community located in the estuary of the Hebert River, named after Louis Hébert, one of the first Acadians and co-founder of Port-Royal, who navigated the waterway. In the oral history of the place it is said that members of the Mi’kmaq First Nation invited the people of Port-Royal to come to “Menoodeh” meaning “Small Handbag” in the native language, to hunt or settle there with their family. It was in the spring of 1672 that half a dozen Acadians arrived by boat and the first European dwellings were erected. The following year 12 other arrivals from Port-Royal joined the new colony situated at the end of a small peninsula resembling a handbag, in front of the current Amherst Point migratory bird sanctuary which provides a habitat for an impressive variety of hawks, owls and songbirds. Over time the landscape of Minudie, carpeted with woodlands, ponds, marshes, pastures and generous fields, attracted several settlers.
Around 1680, Jean Labarre and his wife Catherine took root in Minudie where they were recorded in 1686 with their daughter, Marie-Élisabeth, who married Jean-Baptiste Forest of Port-Royal around 1698. Their descendants still live in Minudie despite the fact that at the end of the summer of 1750 their ancestors had to burn down the houses and take refuge on the northern shores of the Missaguash River in French territory. See in this notebook the community of Amherst (Beaubassin) for more information. During the 1755 Great Upheaval, the families of Minudie were deported to the Anglo-American colonies as far south as Georgia. Most did not return to Minudie which became, in 1765, the property of J.F.W. DesBarres. He invited Acadian families to become tenants on his vast domain. Among the respondents were Pierre Doiron and Anne Forest of Minudie who did settle on the rural estate of DesBarres in Nanpanne (now Nappan). But who is this ambitious landlord?
The Elysean Fields of Minudie
Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres (originally from Montbéliard in France) was a military engineer in the armies of General James Wolfe. As a lieutenant in the Royal American Regiment he participated in the capture of Louisbourg in 1758 and in the battle of the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City in September 1759. In addition, he fought at the battle of Sainte-Foy in 1760, and that of Signal Hill against the French at St. John’s, Newfoundland, in September 1762 (the last engagement between France and Great Britain in North America). In 1765, DesBarres received 1,000 acres of land at Minudie as a government grant for his military service. He bought an extra 5,000 acres. Then, having a communicative mood, he baptized his fields of delectable wild plants, the “Elysian Fields” (Champs-Elysées).
St. Denis Church, more precisely its old wooden pews, are today the only vestiges of the Acadian pioneers of Minudie. The church, restored in 1977, reflects the cultural, social, religious and architectural history of an Acadia that is still vibrant despite the Elysian Fields’ decrease in local population. It is the third Catholic church built since the Mi’kmaqs invited the residents of Port-Royal to come and live in “Small Handbag”. The first church was a small chapel erected in 1678. It was burned down 77 years later by the “Red Tunics” during the expulsion of the Acadians. In 1768 with the return of some Acadian families, a second chapel (this time dedicated to St. Anne) was built on the grounds of the previous one. Having acquired the Elysian Fields from the DesBarres’ estate, Amos Seaman, a businessman, had the St. Denis church built in 1848 next to the village school on land he graciously gave to the archbishopric. Hilaire Arsenault, a seasoned carpenter from Minudie, oversaw the work. The first mass was celebrated in the spring of 1849 by Thomas Lyons, the first resident priest.
Morphed into a prosperous community around 1870 with a population peaking at more than 600 citizens, Minudie counts today about thirty residents. They are proud to dedicate themselves to maintaining and restoring their rich heritage. In fact, most are descendants of the original Acadians. Each year, many visitors come here to find their roots, connect with the past and delve into the history of Minudie, a small community whose pride deserves recognition.