St. Joseph district of the village of Memramcook
St. Joseph district of the village of Memramcook, whose actual church dates from 1855 (author evoluc, without modification, license CC BY-SA 2.0)

Formed in 1995 by the amalgamation of the village of St. Joseph and several neighbouring hamlets, the village of Memramcook extends on both sides of the Memramcook River and on the east bank of the lower Petitcodiac River, to Pointe Beaumont (map below). In the 18th century, this agricultural area experienced a real renaissance. A first Acadian village was founded around 1700 on the same location, then destroyed by the British in 1755 at the time of the deportation of the Acadians. After the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1763), it was nevertheless one of the few villages colonized again by Acadian refugees. It is even considered the cradle of New Acadia. Here is its story…

In that fateful 1755 summer, the population of the Acadian village had escaped deportation, thanks to the French victory during the Battle of the Petitcodiac. In November 1755, when Captain Scott, charged with destroying the village, arrived on the scene, most of the Acadians had fled and some had hidden in the surrounding woods. To avoid dying of hunger, several refugees made themselves prisoners in the British forts of the region. Therefore, it was not until the signing of the Treaty of Paris that the British released their prisoners and became more accommodating…

Memramcook topographic map (author Ewan ar Born, without modification, CC BY-SA 3.0 license)

For the Acadians, the prospect of returning for damming and cultivating the lands of the Memramcook marshes was a powerful incentive. The Nova Scotia authorities, however, denied them the right to occupy their former lands now reserved for Anglo-American settlers. Around 1766, when the first group of Acadians released from the British forts settled in the present-day La Montain-McGinley region, the territory appeared to be unoccupied. Around 1770, three other groups of Acadians settled a little further south, still very freely, on the sites of Saint-Joseph, Anse-des-Cormier and across the river, on the site of College Bridge. Among these pioneers were Richard, Léger, Belliveau, Gaudet, Bourgeois, Girouard, LeBlanc, Bastarache family members… Did they know their luck was a happy combination of circumstances?

The Acadian renaissance

The Acadians occupied two land concessions whose owners of British origin showed little eagerness to establish (Protestant) settlers on grounds that they had undertaken to develop. In consequence, they  fully enjoyed a royal peace until 1784, when the province of New Brunswick was created. Meanwhile, in 1781, faced with the growth of the Acadian population, the bishop of Quebec had canonically established the parish of St. Thomas of Memramcook, the first in New Brunswick, which served all villages in the region from Cocagne to Menoudie. In 1785, the population of the parish had already reached 160 families, or 960 people…

The town of Bouctouche in 1893
The town of Bouctouche (in 1893), founded by families of Memramcook in 1786 (image in the public domain)

The new province quickly passed a law requiring that all landowners apply for recognition of their property rights, otherwise they would be expropriated. This is how the Acadians from the east of Memramcook were able to obtain a title deed. Conversely, those of “La Pointe”, between the Memramcook and Petitcodiac rivers, had to pay an annuity to the owner and engage in an endless legal battle to obtain the property title. This “fight for land” combined with the lack of space along the marshes discouraged more than one. Many Acadians then chose to found or populate villages along the coasts of southeastern New Brunswick. At the end of the 18th century, the future village of Memramcook thus became the cradle of New Acadia.