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Gordon - Vue de Savannah dans la Georgie

Gordon – View of Savannah in Georgia

Acadian refugees in the United States original 13 colonies

Grand Pré in Nova Scotia is considered by many to be the historic and spiritual center of Acadia. This majestic site of cultural identity is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since June 30, 2012. It commemorates the deportation of the Acadians, decreed July 28, 1755 and extending until February 10, 1763 date of the signing of the Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Years War between France and England. For many Acadians around the world, Grand-Pré remains the heart of their ancestral homeland and the symbol of the bonds that unite them to this day, as well as a source of inspiration for the future of the Acadian people.

Grand Pré in Nova Scotia (photo credit: Allan Lynch)

During the years of the deportation, called the “Great Upheaval”, nearly ten thousand Acadians were torn from their ancestral lands to be deported mostly to the United States original 13 colonies. Some colonies decline to receive those “internal enemies” who refuse to pledge allegiance to the British crown since 1713, when Acadia was ceded to England by the Treaty of Utrecht. Virginia, the most populous of the thirteen American colonies, deported them again to the United Kingdom at the expense of the state. Basically, the authorities of the original colonies did not know how to treat the Acadian refugees. Are these “French Neutrals” really enemies of England or simply displaced British subjects? This explains why the treatment reserved for Acadians is not uniform from one American colony to the next. In most cases, however, they are given modest accommodations, rationed supplies and an opportunity to integrate with the local population as “indentured servants”.

Acadians in Exile (painting by Robert Dafford)

As majestically depicted by the famous Cajun painter Robert Dafford in his work “Acadians in Exile”, the pride and vitality of the Acadian people are remarkable. They are gracefully embodied in the face and posture of the nameless black-haired lady at the end of a long day. Her head straight up in a ragged shawl, standing upright in a foreign seaport beneath the watch of red coats, she radiates among her compatriots who had become laggards in the holds of unsanitary transport ships that wrecked devastating havoc. Like the bronze statue of Evangeline at Grand Pré, she has her eyes set on the future.

An Acadia full of pride and vitality

Throughout the original American colonies where Acadian refugees did live through hardship and misery, the anecdotes of an Acadia full of pride and vitality never vanished. They have, however, been buried in a sea of words within countless books, articles and summaries that mainly focus on the tragic fate of a nation in exile. Here are some discoveries here and there at random:

In Georgia, the manufacturing by Acadian refugees of quality oars and other products related to navigation and shipbuilding quickly finds markets in the French West Indies to the delight of the English-speaking authorities.

In South Carolina, Basile La Noue, born at Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia, becomes a business leader, a director of the Bank of Charleston, and an elected member of the State General Assembly, that is to say, the Legislature.

In North Carolina, Augustin Deschamps espouses Elisabeth White. From their happy union are born at least nine sons and three daughters. For many years until 1793 Augustin successfully operates a ferry on the Chowan River.

In Virginia, Acadians, dispersed in three groups not to pose a large threat, remain less than six months. They are under the daily surveillance of British soldiers and do not have the opportunity to humanely interact with the inhabitants of the colony.

In Maryland, some fifty Acadians are warmly lodged at the Wye House, owned by Colonel Edward Lloyd III, who is engaged in a public campaign to help the Acadian refugees. The President of the General Assembly houses five Acadians in his manor.

In Pennsylvania, St. Joseph’s Church founded in 1733, where many Acadian refugees are parishioners, is the oldest Catholic church in Philadelphia. Its marriage register from 1758 to 1786 contains a multitude of happy moments in the life of deported Acadians.

In New York, the Acadian people leave their mark in the boroughs with simplicity and good taste through the British regime of indentured servitude which, at that time, is similar to that of the French colonies of America, from Quebec to the West Indies.

In Connecticut, the pretty “Acadian House”, listed in The National Register of Historic Places of the United States, is voluntarily make available by its owner to René Hébert, also called Groc, his spouse Marie Boudreau (Boudrot) and their twelve children.

In Massachusetts, the Court approved, on April 22, 1757, the medical expenses for the care of Charles Meuse’s family, and on December 21, 1758, the expenses incurred by the community of Sherborn for supporting widow Gourdeau and her ten children.

The Acadian refugees’ return (painting by Claude Picard)

In the aftermath of the Treaty of Paris, approximately 3,600 Acadians left the original American colonies in small bands, as illustrated by the talented Acadian painter Claude Picard, to return to live in French Canada. Most of them choose to settle in Quebec. Very few come back to Nova Scotia, preferring to go to present-day New Brunswick or the Malpeque region of Prince Edward Island (formerly Isle Saint-Jean), far from English pressures. Another 4,500 leave for Louisiana (then under the control of a Catholic Spain). Some are content to stay in the United States. Thus, begins New Acadia, which becomes over time a significant, proud and noble diaspora.

Resolution 294 of the United States of America

In recognition of the Acadian people’s vitality, the December 9, 2003 Proclamation of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom designates July 28 of each year (from 2005) “A Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval”. In support of this royal proclamation, the House of Representatives of the United States of America formally adopts on July 25, 2005, Resolution 294 and all its recitals (whereas) one of which states that the 10,000 men, women and children exiled from Nova Scotia two and a half centuries ago are the ancestors of many of south Louisiana’s French-Acadian or Cajun people.

List of the Acadian communities

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