Acadian log cabin
Acadian log cabin like here in Caraquet’s Village historique acadien, on Chaleur Bay (Photo credit: J.-F. Bergeron, Government of New Brunswick, without modification)

The first settlers of Tracadie, a Mi’kmaq name meaning “ideal place to settle,” arrive in 1728. Working cooperatively as a group, they build an Acadian log cabin of the size needed to adequately house four distinct families, that is to say the Boudrot, the Bourg (Michel and Charles, two families) and the Belliveau. They settle on the western shore of Tracadie Bay, a peaceful place where drinking water is close at hand. Together, they are twenty people, eight adults and twelve children. Being all peasants, Tracadie then becomes a small agrarian community where the air is clean and where life is good. Michel Bourg is the only one owning a schooner. Perhaps they all arrive at the same time by sea. In 1728, Tracadie is the fourth largest colony on Isle St. Jean (297 inhabitants in total), after St. Peter’s Harbour (116), Port LaJoye (105), and Savage Harbour (27). The site is idyllic. The Mi’kmaqs couldn’t have chosen a better name.

In 1735, after seven years of community life, Tracadie doubles its population and becomes, with a production of 104 bushels of grain, mainly wheat, oats, barley and peas, the third largest producer of cereals on the island after Port LaJoye (231 bushels) and St. Peter’s Harbour (205). In 1752, according to the census of Sieur de La Roque, Tracadie has 80 inhabitants, that is to say 20 adults and 60 children. This is a growth rate of 400 percent since its founding in 1728. Its inhabitants, most of them Acadians, are divided into ten families that stretch as far as the Étang-des-Berges (now Stanhope) where the families of Joseph Boudrot and Jacques Chiasson did settle. These two families alone have among them four oxen, five cows, three calves, a bull, a heifer, a sow, a mare, 13 pigs and 15 fowls. The place is perfect.

Lighthouse of Stanhope
The lighthouse of Stanhope, formerly l’Étang-des-Berges (Photo credit: Tony Beck, fineartamerica, without modification)

Spared from the deportation of 1758

Entrance to Tracadie Bay
The difficult entrance to Tracadie Bay (Courtesy of marinas.com)

The land surveyor La Roque in his 1752 census describes the difficulties preventing easy entry into Tracadie Bay. He points out: “In the middle of the entrances lies a channel, sixty fathoms in width running north-north-east by south-south-west, and having throughout its length a deposit of fifteen to sixteen feet of water at high tide”. It is therefore not surprising to learn from historians that due to the risks of perilous navigation, especially at low tide, all the families of Tracadie and those of Étang-des-Berges seem to have escaped the deportation of 1758. They most likely stay where they were.

Beginning in 1749, the Acadians of Nova Scotia (formerly Acadia) are increasingly oppressed to take an oath of allegiance to the British monarch. In addition, a threat of deportation is being felt. As a result, a large number of Acadian families decide to leave their Protestant and Anglophone Acadia to settle on Isle St. Jean, a Catholic and Francophone territory. Double occupancy / doubling up of residential cabins becomes a common occurrence. In 1755, the population of the island climbs exponentially to reach approximately 4,250 inhabitants on the eve of the deportation of Peninsular Acadia. For 3,100 of them it will be a waste of time. With the fall of Louisbourg in July 1758, the island French colony also fell into the hands of England, which then decided on a mass deportation to France. The few Acadian families (name and number unknown) who did take refuge in Tracadie or l’Étang-des-Berges, via a Mi’kmaq portage path connecting the river of the Northeast (now the Hillsborough River near Frenchfort) to the end of Tracadie Bay, would have been spared.

Portage path
Some portage paths did become carriageable roads (Photo credit: Keith Watson, Welcome PEI, without modification)

According to W. Earle Lockerby, a respected writer from the island, the buildings (churches, houses, barns, and mills, etc.) of the deported island communities in 1758 were not burnt down as they were in Nova Scotia in 1755. Hundreds of buildings were found unharmed after the deportation. In fact, Edward Whitmore, Governor of Cape Breton Island (formerly Isle Royale) and St. Jean Island, points out in his written report to the British Prime Minister that the buildings were not destroyed.

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