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iMMWifflM'ttY PUBLIC LIBRARY
3 1833 03247 8544
Gc 929, 2 M48cl
Deveau, J. Alphonse, 1Q17
Diary of Cecile Murat
A Story of Saint Mary's Bay
1795 to 1825
by J. ALPHONSE DEVEAU
PO ° w 46801-2270
OF CECILE MURAT
November 22, 1795:
Today my "papa" gave me this little book with a blue
cover and pages so white and said to me: "To my dear
little girl for her fifteenth birthday." Then he kissed me
tenderly on the forehead.
I looked at the book, surprised, and blurted out: "What
should I write in that ?"
"Why, the doings and pretty little thoughts of Cecile
Murat." , , _,
Cecile Murat, well — that is nobody but me. My
"papa" is Casimir LeBlanc with whom I am living in a
little house at the foot of the hill at Church Point. (1)
He is not really my "papa", but he has been more
than a father to me. And If I am able to write these few
lines legibly, it is with thanks to him, for very few people
in this village are able to read and write.
However, isn't it strange that I am the only Murat ot
the "Point"? In fact, I believe that I am the only Murat
along St. Mary's Bay.
"Mama" LeBlanc, whose name is Martha, has taught
me a lot, too. Thanks to her I can cook, sew and knit with
the coarse wool that we have. I can even make my sell a
dress. That is not too difficult, for the dresses worn by
young girls like me are very simple and of coarse cloth, in
fact, everything is coarse and simple and poor around
here, people, houses and clothes.
My "mama" has also taught me a great deal about
our religion. She is a very religious person, having lived
for many years in a convent in France while her husband,
whom I call my "papa", was in the French navy
How nice it would be to live in a convent where
there is mass every day. It has been so Jong since we
had a mass around here that many of my little girl friends
do not know what it is. We do have prayers that people
call "messe blanche," in the little church on the Point 2 ).
That is why this village is called Church Pom These
gatherings for prayers are better than nothing, but it does
not satisfy me at all.
— 1 —
Every Sunday, in the forenoon, the people of the vil-
lage wend their way to the little church, which is really
nothing but a cabin, and there Casimir leads us in singing
the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Credo; and we recite the rosary.
After it is over we return home by the path leading
to the "chemin du roi" (king's highway). Some laugh
and gossip (how the women can gossip about their neigh-
bours!) while others, the older men, are silent and sad.
No doubt they are thinking of former times and former
homes. I have heard that they have been asking for a
priest for many years, but without success-
But right now what puzzles me is why I am the only
one of my family here and why I have neither brothers
nor sisters, neither cousins, nor uncles, nor aunts, like
all my little companions have. Where are my real mother
and father? Why does Casimir and Martha LeBlanc speak
a slightly different French than our neighbours? I must
So my dear diary, I close you until I find the answer
to these questions that are bothering me.
(1) Casimir LeBlanc's house was situated near the
house now owned by Joseph Stuart at Church Point.
(2) There is a little chapel on the site of this small
church near the lighthouse at Church Point.
December 1, 1795:
Last night, beside the flaming fireplace, Casimir told
me the story of my life and of his. I am going to try to tell
it as I heard it.
Casimir was born in Pisiquit (a strange name, isn't
it?) Like all the young men at that time, he worked on
his father's farm, hunted, and trapped. At twenty he
married Martha Daigle, and with his father's help cleared
himself a farm of his own at the edge of the village.
Forty years ago this year, at the end of the summer's
harvest, Casimir, along with the other men of the village,
was summoned to Fort Edward by the English commander
and never returned to his home. A few days later, two
soldiers came and told Martha to come along with them
and bring what she could. She and the other women of the
village were herded to the fort, but at least she was re-
united with her husband. Others were not as fortunate
and many husbands and wives were separated forever by
this cruel uprooting.
— 2 —
Then they were placed aboard an old ship and sailed
many days on the ocean. During the long voyage many
died of sickness and grief. However, some hoped that they
would be left on the shores of France. Great was their
grief when they learned that their destination was Liver-
However, fate took a hand here and as they neared the
English Channel, a French privateer captured the British
ship and took it and its unwilling passengers to St. Malo.
Casimir was so grateful to this privateer that he re-
solved to join its crew as soon as he could provide for
the safety of his wife. At St. Servan, Martha entered a
convent, and Casimir returned to St. Malo where he
"shipped" aboard the same privateer that had rescued him.
This was his undoing for he was soon captured and land-
ed in an English jail. There, he met a young fellow coun-
tryman, Pierre Murat, with whom he struck up a lasting
Casimir explained to me that England and France
were at war then, over a piece of land in some far-off
country, Austria, I believe he said- It seemed that a king
named Frederick of Prussia had taken a province, Silesia,
from a queen, Maria Theresa; and now Maria Theresa
was trying to get it back. France had helped Frederick
to get this province before, and now was helping Maria
Theresa to get it back. Countries do such silly things and
fight just as little boys do. I will never understand either.
At the end of the war, Casimir returned to France,
broken in health, and spent some time in a hospital in
Paris. After many months he returned to St. Servan to
his beloved Martha.
At St. Servan, Casimir could find nothing to do, and
hearing that there was a chance to return to Acadia with
the fishermen of Jersey Island, Martha and Casimir moved
there. Casimir made many voyages to the banks off
Acadia, and finally brought Martha to Arichat. where
Neither one was too happy there and when t hey
learned that it was possible for the Acadians to obtain
grants of land along St. Mary's Bay, Casimir came by
fishing boat to look over the situation. He liked the place
and found many friends from Pisiquit and Grand Pre-
— 3 —
He immediately decided to stay. He joined the second
group of Acadians returning from Massachusetts and
obtained a grant of 280 acres at Church Point. Since then
he has prospered.
I'm too saddened now by the story of my own family
December 8, 1795:
I finally got back enough courage to keep on. But ttie
story that Casimir told me is so sad that I do not know
where to begin.
I believe I should start with the events that preceded
my arrival here.
After the war my father went back to sea and become
a sea captain, master of his own ship. He traded at first
with the West Indies. Then, when France sent supplies to
the American colonies, my father entered that trade and
decided to settle in Boston with my mother, Francoise.
They left Bayonne, France in the fall of 1780. When they
arrived in Boston, Pierre Murat's family had increased by
one, me, for I was born at sea, on November 22nd, the
feast of Saint Cecilia, (hence my name).
I do not remember much about my stay in Boston
except that mother always seemed sad when my father
was not with us. I do remember (I believe I was six years
old) that father arrived one day from a voyage looking
happier than I had ever seen him on his arrival.
"I have found Casimir!" h2 exclaimed.
"Who?" inquired mother, surprised.
"A great friend from France who was in the service
"Where is he? Why did you not bring him with you?"
"He is in Church Point, in Nova Scotia. He invited us
to go there. He wants us to share his wealth and his pro-
Some time after this, father took me aboard his ship
and we left mother behind with my little sisters, Fanny,
Polley, and the baby, Soukie. I still remember how Fanny
and Polley cried to be allowed to come with us, while
the baby slept peacefully in all the upset of departure.
It was my second voyage at, sea, although I do not
remember the first. Everything seemed so strange; the
splashing of the waves, the spray on the decks, the flutter-
ing of the sails, the creaking pulleys, the screaming ropes.
__ 4 __
Then came the St. Mary's Bay fog. This fog, damp, cold
and almost always there, greeted me that day and has
stayed with me since.
Finally through the mist, appeared 'Tile a Serapliin",
that I have learned to like, for it is there that landed the
first inhabitants of Church Point.
We did not land there, however. Instead we chose to
land at that point of land, with its little church perched at
the edge, at its own risk.
There was a large crowd of people there, all poorly
dressed and accompanied by many children. But my atten-
tion was soon held by an older couple who came to meet us.
Father carried me to them, and thrust me in the arms of
the lady while he embraced the man, shouting: "My good
Casimir, my good Casimir". I guessed the woman was
Madame LeBlanc, and I felt attached to them right away.
A week later my father sailed for Boston. He was to
return in two weeks bringing mother and my sisters. I was
to remain with the LeBlanc's as Casimir and father had
agreed that it would be useless to expose me again to the
dangers of the sea.
From the tip of the point of land I waved to the vanish-
ing ship while Madame LeBlanc tried to dry my tears and
comfort me, saying:
"Do not cry, my dear little one, he will be back in a
Nevertheless I wept a long while that night. To make
me feel worse, a storm raged outside, and I could hear the
huge waves breaking on the shore.
Every day for three weeks, I went to the end of the
point to see if I could catch the glimpse of a ship. But
each day I returned crying, and was comforted by Madame
LeBlanc. One day, I noticed the LeBlanc's were crying with
me. I understood I would never see my father again. The
ptorm had taken him and his crew.
My mother and my sisters remained in Boston. The
LeBlancs have offered to bring me back to Boston but
Mother has taken such a dislike for the sea that she wrote
to the LeBlancs to keep me here, and so I feel I belong here
and they look upon me as their very own. I am so happy
with them. Mother has stopped writing to me, not for
lack of affection, but to make it easier for me to give all
my love to Casimir and Martha LeBlanc, and I do love
them so. Yet how I long to see my dear mother and my
sweet little sisters! When I asked my new "papa" Casimir
to go to Boston, his eyes filled with tears. I do not want
to cause him any grief, so I shall never ask him again.
1. The real names of Cecile's sisters were Francoise,
Pauline and Marguerite-Sophie.
December 25, 1795:
Noel, Noel; a word which should be full of joy, and yet
today I'm so sad. "Mama" LeBlanc has explained to me
what this feast was like in former days. She spoke to me
of the midnight mass, of the adoration by the shepherds,
of the Infant Jesus in the Manger. Here we have nothing;
no priest, no mass. We have recited the rosary and sung
Christmas hymns and that was it.
People are begging for a priest, out nobody seems to
answer their prayers. Our last priest was Father Phelan.
However, it seems that no one liked him and that he had
made every effort not to be liked.
New Year's Day, 1796:
Today I feel happier. We had a huge "rappie pie".
This is the dish that the Acadians prefer above all. It is
easy to make and so very satisfying. All that you need are
potatoes, pork, fresh meat and salt. It is good with any
meat, and also with clams (very delicious) but most often
people use fowl. In this one we had the meat from three
wild ducks brought to us by "Janie" Melanson. He is a.
fine young man who often calls on Casimir.
I asked Casimir about this "pate-a-la-rapurc" as I
was curious to know how it came about. It seems the
Acadians, on their return from exile, had nothing but
potatoes as staple food. They discovered that by grating
the potatoes and extracting the starch they were made
more palatable and you could make a limited quantity of
meat go farther. The starch then can be used for our
Casimir believes this became a dish out of necessity.
This is how we make this dish !
— 6 —
First of all you cut your fowl in pieces, cover with
water and cook it. It is better to add finely chopped onions.
Peel, wash and grate potatoes, noting how much you have
in your pan. Squeeze potatoes in a cotton bag, about two
cups at a time until quite dry. Pack in a bowl. — When
potatoes are all squeezed, loosen them up in a large pan.
Add boiling broth from fowl, gradually, and stirring slowly.
If there is not enough broth, add boiling water until you
have as much potato mixture as before they were squeezed.
Add salt and pepper to taste. We spread half of this mix-
ture evenly over the bottom of a large tin pan, then put
the meat over this layer of potato then cover the meat with
the rest of the potato mixture. The pan is then placed in
the hot oven by the chimney for two hours.
January 6, 1796:
This feast of the Kings, or Epiphany, is a happy feast
with us. I have just returned from a party at the Melan-
son's where we had the ' 'Kings' Cake". And it is I who
caught the ring. What a pleasant dream ! Why am I so
Well, first let me tell you about this famous cake. It
is a molasses cake in which you put a ring, a bean, a
silver coin and a nut. It is cut at the evening meal of the
feast of Epiphany and whoever gets the ring will be the
first to get married. The person who gets the bean is the
king of the feast. The lucky person who gets the coin will
become rich. The nut seems to be there for a laugh.
This morning I got up before sunrise to see the sun
"dance". It is a belief that the sun moves crazily in the
sky when it is just at the horizon. Most everybody gets up
early to get a glimpse of this and also to get Pascal water,
that is water taken from a spring at sunrise on Easter
morning. This water is kept religiously until the following
Easter. It is said to have the blessing of God upon it. Every
household sees to it that it has its bottle of Pascal water.
It is our holy water for the sick and the dying, and we use
it at burials. We do not have the real holy water for we
have no priest to bless it. It also may cure illness.
Alas, another great feast of the church and no priest !
We again had a "white mass". However, things are begin-
ning to move. A number of men met here last week and
asked Casimir to write a petition to Governor Wentworth,
to ask him to obtain a priest for us. He did so, and will
take it to Halifax this week.
Fifty-six householders signed it, or rather put their
"cross" to it, for only fourteen of them could write their
name. It's a sad state of affairs, but it is not surprising
for they have had no chance to learn since 17^5.
May 1, 1796:
My "papa" LeBlanc has come back from Halifax, very
satisfied with his meeting with the governor. The latter
has told him: "The Acadians are loyal, honest, and are
worthy British subjects. It is a great pleasure for me to see
that these sentiments have proven themselves under my
administration. I consider them the most faithful subjects
of His Majesty."
Let us hope that this request is more successful than
the others. My "papa" reports that Father Jones, an Irish
priest in Halifax, is also working hard to find us a priest.
June 2, 1796:
Today I went fishing far from shore in Saint Mary's
Bay. The sea was so very smooth and I was not the only
girl out fishing today. In fact, it is not uncommon for
Acadian women to take their place in the fishing boats of
their husbands or their brothers. In my case it was not
a brother but "Janie" Melanson. I wonder if I will suc-
ceed better in catching a husband than I did in catching
Tonight I asked "papa" Casimir about the Melanson
family and this is what he told me.
This family came originally from Scotland and bore
the name Mellensen. Peter Mellensen came to Port-Royal
from Boston, so it seems, during the years that Acadia was
the domain of Sir William Alexander, who changed the
name to Nova Scotia. Peter married Marie Mkis d'Entre-
mont, accepted our religion and our language, and his
family adopted the name Melanson. Peter Melanson and
Peter Terriot were the founders of Grand Pre. In 1755
they were taken to Boston and returned about fifteen years
later to Saint Mary's Bay. (I'm so glad they did).
— 8 —
June 24, 1796:
Today, the feast of Saint John the Baptist, is a double
feast for me. First of all, it is the feast of a saint whose
name I love, for it is my "Janie's" real name. Then the
brig "Hannah", captain Pierre Doucet, has cast anchor off
Church Point. The arrival of the "Hannah" is always a
gay occasion for this village and its neighbouring hamlets,
Grosses-Coques, Belliveau's Cove and Little Brook.
They unloaded a great deal of cargo from Boston, ever
cloth of high quality ordered especially for me by my dear
"papa" and "mama" LeBlanc. It appears that the men oi
the village are in for a gay old time, for I saw many rum
barrels rolled on the beach. Our Acadians seem to like
this liquor too much.
# * # # *
June 25, 1796:
Capt. Pierre Doucet has personally come to bring me
a letter from Mother. Dear little diary, how happy I am
today ! I cried and laughed at the same time. I was so glad
to hear that she is well and so are my little sisters, al-
though they do not like the puritan atmosphere of Boston.
They would all like to return to France, to the sunny
and smiling land of Bordeaux. But mother hesitates to
undertake the long sea voyage, and furthermore she's a-
fraid of bringing back her daughters to the native land, for
a terrible revolution is going on.
She learned that King Louis XVI and Queen Marie
Antoinette were guillotined. The Dauphin has disappeared
and thousands of people have perished. Apparently we are
lucky to be here after all.
"Papa" LeBlanc received a letter from one of his
friends from France, who is now living in Philadelphia.
His name is Moreau de Saint-Mery. He reports that many
nobles and other people who have had relations with nobles,
fearing for their lives, have left the country and taken re-
fuge either in England or America. This Moreau de Saint-
Mery chose the United States. I believe he did well.
In his letter he tells about his escape from France with
a young man that he took for a priest, a non-jurer, in
other words, one who would not swear to the new constitu-
tion of France, that made the Church subject to the State.
It seems to him that this fellow's name was "Sigogne"
(Stork) , a strange name for a priest.
— 9 —
Be that as it may, this young man stayed in England
while Moreau, who does not like England, took the first
ship to the United States and reached Philadelphia, a city
that Moreau had grown to know through a man he had
met in Paris, a fellow named Benjamin Franklin. Many
fugitives from France are already there. Casimir has been
thinking of inviting some of them to Church Point. How
wonderful it would be to meet some charming young man
from France !
Now, why am I talking like that 9 My heart belongs
to "Janie" Melanson.
October 13, 1796:
If this handwriting is uneven, it is because I'm still
shaky from fright. We had the most terrifying experience
We had gone to sleep peacefully, as usual, when mask-
ed, armed men entered the house. That's not hard to do
because the doors are never locked. Nobody does so around
here. It is unheard of. These scoundrels pulled us out of
bed and dragged us before the fireplace. They started up
the fire, and threatened to burn us if we did not tell where
Casimir had put the money that he had received for horses
sold to the Loyalists at Digby two days ago. When their
threats failed to make us talk, one of the thieves ripped
the shirt from Casimir's back. Another shoved a spade
into the embers, and when it was good and hot applied
it to Casimir's back. Not a word did he utter, but I
screamed my head off until one of these ruffians slapped
me so hard that I fell down.
However, this seemed to unnerve them and they grab-
bed what they could and were rushing out of the door when
Marc, a young dim-wit living with us, called their attention
to a bolt of cloth hidden behind the sofa. The three
hesitated an instant, then seized the cloth and fled.
A few moments later, people from the village, among
them Janie and his father, arrived on the run. How happy
I was to see them ! But I quickly ran to my room, for I
knew I wasn't a pretty sight after having been bruised and
shoved by these scoundrels.
The villagers started after the thieves, but the latter
made good their escape with our precious possessions.
But they got no money for it had already been spent.
— 10 —
I wanted to slap Marc for telling about the cloth. But
the poor boy isn't too bright, and he thought he was doing
the right thing. He feared, so he says, that these thieves
would return unless they got everything. Nevertheless,
I was so mad that I pushed him and he fell into a barrel
of water we have by the door.
November 22, 1796:
What a celebration we had today ! It seems to me
that all the people of the village came here to wish me a
happy birthday and leave me a gift. However these gifts
were not all for me. There were some also for the family.
This makes me feel how much this little community is
just like one big family. My birthday was but an occasion
for them to make up for the damages done to my parents
by the bandits. We now have plenty to pass the winter
through. (Always a difficult time in this area).
Then my "papa" let us have a real party. We danced
and we danced. We danced this new dance called "French
eights", although it is not a French dance at all, but comes
to us from New England.
Strange, isn't it, that of all the folk dances of old
France, none have been preserved by these people. But,
after all, when you think about it, the long years of the
Expulsion were not conducive to dancing. The people had
to work so hard and there was little time nor spirit for
merry making. And so the dances must have been for-
gotten and lost then.
What fun ! Pitre Theriault played the fiddle as if he
were possessed and everybody was laughing, singing, and
having a good time.
I think I danced with all the boys of the village. But
now I recall only those with "Janie". I noticed he left all
the other girls aside to dance with me.
Today we went to the little chapel on the "Point" for
a "white mass". Everybody joined in singing the Kyrie,
the Gloria and Christmas hymns, led by Casimir. Of
course, we have no organ. The only music that we hear
there is the murmur of the waves striking the shore at
the foot of the cliffs.
— 11 —
I fear that someday the poor little chapel will fall
from the cliffs to the gravel below. It shakes in the wind,
whistling through the joints of the boards. This makes it
difficult to pray with attention. Today, however, the wind
was calm and snow blocked all the joints. It was so crowd-
ed, that in spite of the fact that there is no heat in it, every-
one was almost suffocating.
Returning from the chapel, I found "La Coueche",
whose real name is Madeleine, wife of Charles-Marin Belli-
veau, struggling through the deep snow.
The poor lady ! I asked Casimir about her and he told
me this story, which I'll write here as I heard it.
When Pierre LeBlanc and Francois Doucet arrived at
the 'Tie a Seraphin", in 1771, the men, the women, and the
children began to cry, discouraged by the sight of the thick
forest before them, and by the memory of all they had
lost — land, homes, and loved ones. Then Madeleine,
daughter of Pierre LeBlanc, grabbed an axe that one of
the men had dropped and tackled the first tree, saying:
"We have wept enough; let's set about building a shelter
for the night."
Encouraged by this action, the men started to chop
trees, the children to gather branches, and the women to
prepare bedding and food. A shelter was quickly put up.
Courage returned and has never left this people since.
Casimir also told me he had been a witness to the
marriage of Madeleine's older sister, Elizabeth, born on
a Boston wharf, on November 25, 1755. In 1779, she mar-
ried Sylvain Pothier, now of Tusket Wedge. (1)
The last priest to pass through here authorized
Casimir to receive the marriage vows and he has received
so many. I hope it will not be long before he receives
mine, for already some of my friends are married.
(1) Tusket Wedge — now Wedgeport. By a strange
coincidence, the son of this Sylvain Pothier, also named
Sylvain, married Marie, second daughter of Cecile and
February 15, 1797:
Today we had the funeral of Charles Melanson. Death
is always a sad event, but doubly so here because the vil-
lage is like a large family and every family shares the
sorrow that befalls the stricken ones.
The body is kept as long as possible at home, in a
coffin made of rough boards. Then it is carried to the
little chapel on the ' 'Point " where we recite the Service
for the Dead, a slow and plaintive chant in Latin. The event
is saddened by the mournful appearance of the "Point"
itself and of the chapel, gray and weather-beaten, without
even a bell to toll the dirge. The funeral procession wends
its way painfully on the path to the cemetery. Six men
carry the closed coffin on their shoulders, followed by
relatives, all in tears and weeping aloud. The women, their
faces half-covered by large black veils which fall on their
shoulders, recite the rosary for the deceased. The men fol-
low, holding their leather caps in their hands.
One lady carries a small vase of ' 'pascal water" (1) and
a small fir branch. At the newly-dug grave, she sprays
the water on the coffin and on the mound of earth and
then passes it from hand to hand and each one pays tribute
to the dead by doing the same and saying "May he rest
(1) Water from a spring fetched on Easter morning
before sunrise, a custom previously described by Cecile.
I have some more sad news to write here, "Mama" Le-
Blanc is very sad for Casimir has left us. He has sailed for
Antigua, with Captain Pierre Doucet, aboard the brig
"Hannah" in order to seek permanent markets for the
products of Saint Mary's Bay. He will be gone all summer.
I believe he said he would stop at Philadelphia on the way
back, to see some of his acquaintances from France who
have settled there since the start of the Revolution. He
will also stop at Boston to see mother and my sisters.
# * * # *
November 22, 1797:
Today is my luckiest day! First of all, it is my birth-
day. "Papa" LeBlanc has just returned from his long trip
with many lovely things for me, and a letter from mama
with a few lines from each of my sisters. But that's not
all ! Imagine ! A handsome young man, Pierre Paradis.
has arrived with Casimir. Casimir met him at Moreau de
St. Mery's. He is from Bordeau, native land of the Murats.
I would have liked it so much if mama and my sisters,
Fanny, Polley and Soukie, could have come too; but alas,
mother does not want to venture on the ocean, unless it is
— 13 —
to return to France. This, she plans to do as soon as
conditions in that country are more favourable. She tells
me to be very obedient to the LeBlancs and to respect them
as if they were my real parents. I am going to write to
tell her that is not hard to do. They are so good to me.
I just wonder what effect the arrival of Pierre Paradis
will have on Janie. Will it make him jealous. I believe
he loves me but he does not say so. I wish he would !
# # # # #
We have just finished the "rappie pie" dinner. This
morning, we all went to church on the "Point", if such a
building can be called a church. And, was it ever cold !
And snow to our knees ! Pierre Paradis almost perished
from both. He is still shivering.
It seems to me that he has a good deal of disdain for
our poor customs, but he must understand that this is our
way of life. I hope he will take to them as much as I did
and be happy with us.
Poor young man, he is warming up his insides with
rum from the West Indies. Naturally he finds it a poor
substitute for the wines of his native country. While I am
writing this, I glance in his direction. How tall and straight
he is ! No doubt the hard toil of our young men bends and
shortens their "frames", for one can see that Pierre has
never toiled with the ax or the saw. He says he can handle
a sword with the best of them, but that will be of little use
to him here.
I believe that all the young people of the village were
here tonight. We sang and danced as we never did before.
Never have I seen such spirit. It seems that our people are
awakening, and it seems that I am awakening to something
Alas, however, this year I was not the lucky finder of
the ring in the cake. Madeleine Doucet was the lucky girl.
They say she will soon be married to Joseph Comeau.
Janie Melanson seems to avoid me now.
■X* ^? ^ %~ ^
Now I know why Pierre Paradis came here. It is for
the same reason that papa came. Casimir wants him as
his heir. I also believe he wants me to marry him.
— 14 —
But alas, Casimir's plans always seem to be blocked
by a cruel fate. Pierre is fed up with Saint Mary's Bay. He
wants to return to Philadelphia and take me with him.
Must I follow him ? Is my love for him strong enough to
allow me to leave my benefactors just at the time they
need me the most ? I wish Janie would be more ardent. I
leave you here my dear diary, without an answer.
May 26, 1798:
He is gone ! Three little words that mean a great deal.
Yes, today Pierre Paradis has sailed away with Captain
Doucet in the "Hannah".
It would have been too wonderful but it couldn't be.
My place is here. My heart tells me so; and yet, my mind
tells me I should have gone with him. Who knows ?
"Mama" LeBlanc is smiling now for the first time in
weeks, and Casimir appears pleased and sad at the same
Pierre will stop first at Boston where he will deliver
a letter to mama from me, and to Docteur Montigny from
Casimir, begging him to find us a priest from among the
clergy driven from France by the Revolution. Let's hope
this attempt will bring results.
November 1, 1798:
What cruel fate dogs our efforts ! We were awaiting
the return of Captain Doucet and his ship for news from
Pierre Paradis and from Dr. Montigny. Yesterday, some
fishermen from Grand-Passage brought us the sad news.
The Hannah struck a reef and the bodies of Captain Doucet
and his crew were washed ashore.
Shall we ever know the results of our requests for a
priest, and will I ever hear from Mama again ?
July 21, 1799:
What news ! What news !
We were at Joseph Dugas' at Grosses Coques yester-
day when he arrived ! Who ? Why, the priest that we
have been awaiting for so long ! He is Father Sigogne.
The same one that Moreau de Saint-Mery mentioned in his
The first thing he did on arriving was to give us his
blessing. What joy ! We were all so happy we felt like
shouting and weeping at the same time.
— 15 —
He appears very weak and thin but his eyes reveal
great strength of soul- He already has our affection and
our loyalty. He told us he had left England on the 14th of
April and arrived in Halifax on June 12. From Halifax he
was taken by a fishing boat to Tusket (now Sainte-Anne-du-
Ruisseau. From there he walked here in two weeks.
The last Sunday of July, 1799:
A memorable date for me and for many others along
the French Shore, as it is often called, for today we had
a real Mass. The little church could not hold half the
people that flocked from everywhere, from "Up the Bay",
down to Salmon River. There were all kinds of dress —
and there were even Indians, all drawn here by the pre-
sence of Father Sigogne. How fortunate we are ! Now,
we'll have a priest to marry us, if ever Janie asks me !
September 30th, 1799:
Last week, two of my girl friends went to Saint John
and when they came back to the envy of all of us, they had
hats, real hats, bought in a store. This is unheard of for us.
Here, women and girls wear only black kerchiefs when
they go to church.
Last Sunday these two girls dared to wear their hats
to church, although they were warned not to do so. Father
Sigogne took one long look at the hats as he came to the
altar but said nothing then. He waited till the sermon and
then the feared words flowed from his lips- He told these
two that they should be ashamed to despise the honoured
kerchiefs of their mothers, and to break a venerated tra-
dition of the parish.
I really did want a hat myself until then, but I do so
no longer. I'll keep on wearing my kerchief. Many of the
girls are miffed by the words of the priest. But the older
women are happy that their cherished black kerchiefs have
been thus maintained in their honoured position.
October 5, 1799—
Today I really have news to confide to my diary.
The whole parish is buzzing with gossip.
Father Sigogne has gone over to Sainte-Anne-du-Ruis-
seau and in his absence a young man and a young girl who
are first cousins went to Weymouth to get married before
a Protestant minister. Everybody is awaiting impatiently
— 16 —
the return of Father Sigogne, to see what he will say and
Some fear that if he does nothing, it will be the be-
ginning of many such scandals. In spite of the fact that
the good Father is dearly beloved by most, there are some
who hate his high-handed manner of doing things, and his
strict rules. Moreover, one of our Acadians, who has
abandoned his faith, is trying to induce all of us to follow
# * * # *
The third Sunday of November, 1799 —
I am still shocked by the events at mass today. Father
Sigogne was back and could scarcely contain his anger. He
had learned about the incident of the marriage of Jacques
and Marie. There is no lack of gossipers among the
As far as I remember this is what he said:
' 'There is a former parishioner sowing seeds of discord
in the area, in the form of false accusations against me
and the ridicule of our holy religion."
Then he attacked the guilty ones.
"I declare that the marriage of Jacques and Marie (1) is
void before God and before man. I command you two and
all those who took part in this mockery of our faith to
immediately leave the church and not to return."
Thereupon the young couple left, and so did the par-
ents, aunts and uncles of the bride.
(1) Names are fictitious, but not the incident.
The third Sunday of November, 1799 —
Today we witnessed an unforgetable scene at church.
The couple whom Father Sigogne had forbidden to enter
church two weeks ago, came and knelt before the altar,
and asked forgiveness for the scandal they had caused. The
priest, in his sacred vestments, came to them and pronounc-
ed this extraordinary sentence: "For the reparation of the
scandal you have caused, you will assist at mass, on Sunday
and on Feast Days, at the door of the church, the girl with
a white kerchief on her head, the young man with a white
kerchief around his neck. You will continue to do so for
seven years unless I or my successor rescind the penance."
What a terrible warning to those who might have had
the same intentions! Let's hope the good priest will soften
— 17 —
June 2, 1800—
I am now Mrs. Jean-Baptiste Melanson! We were mar-
ried yesterday before Father Sigogne. We are so happy
and everything is so rosy.
Janie had worked all winter in the woods and he felt
he had enough to start our household, so he dared ap-
proach Casimir and "mama" LeBlanc to ask for my hand.
The answer was not long in coming, on their part and on
After having paid the honorarium for the mass, which
the good Father has fixed at a shilling, we had ten pounds
sterling and three shillings.
Janie thinks that is all we have, but I have a surprise
for him. I bring a dowry of a hundred and fifty pounds
sterling from the LeBlancs, and all their property at their
However, weddings are not what they used to be here
before the arrival of Father Sigogne. Now the girls must
dance in one room and the boys in another room. Can you
imagine that! I believe many young people did not enjoy
my wedding because of that.
# dfc tit * $
Finally I find a moment to write down a few thoughts.
But now with a husband and a baby, I will have little time
for my diary.
Our first-born was baptized today by Father Sigogne.
Our Armand was the first baptized at the new baptismal
fount that our priest has made himself. He learned the
trade of cabinet maker while he was in exile in England,
and he has used this skill to reoair our humble church.
Yes, we do have a son, a darling little boy, who re-
sembles, I believe, the Melansons. If he has any Murat
features, I do not know. Mama could tell me if she could
I am going to write to tell her the great news. I hope
the letter reaches her before she leaves for France, for in
her last letter she intended to leave for Bayonne, France,
where she has inherited some property. She also mention-
ed that my uncle Joachim, papa's younger brother, is a
calvalry general in the French army and has married
Caroline Marie-Annonciade Bonaparte, sister of the First
Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte. They were married the same
year as we were, in 1800.
— 18 —
As the Revolution is over, and as we have an influ-
ential uncle in France, mama thinks that it is the right
time to return home, especially since she has very little
left to live on in Boston.
Father Sigogne has also brought other changes. A
bell from Port Royal, silent for over fifty years, has a
temporary belfry over the one and only door of the church.
This bell has been handed to Father Sigogne by Jacob
Troop of Annapolis.
This is the story going around about this bell. The
Acadians of Pointe-a-Doucet, near Port-Royal, on learning
about the fate of Grand Pre in those tragic days of 1755,
took their money to the village priest for safe-keeping.
The latter put this money in the bell of the little chapel,
after having taken it down from the Belfry. He then buried
it at night. The very next day, he was arrested by the
English and taken as a prisonner to Halifax. He never was
able to let his parishioners know the hiding place of the
treasure. It was not long before the latter were seized and
deported everywhere, never to return.
About twenty years later a colonist from New England,
Jacob Troop, found a bell while plowing his field. He never
admitted having found the money but his neighbours
maintain that he lived a few years without working and
that his plow remained for many years on the spot where
it struck the bell. At any rate, when this Jacob Troop heard
of the arrival of Father Sigogne, he brought the bell to him.
A very noble gesture on his part, I must say.
The last Sunday of August 1801:
Today a strange incident has troubled the peace and
happiness which prevails in the parish since the arrival of
Father Sigogne. Before beginning mass this morning, the
good Father turned toward the people and said very
"I ask Casimir LeBlanc to leave the choir."
And so my "papa" who is the choir master, still wear-
ing the white surplice and with his big hymn book, left
the choir, and retired to the back of the little church, from
where he continued to direct the singing as if nothing had
— 19 —
When I asked Casimir what had happened between the
two, he said he had words with Father Sigogne about the
fence that separates our land from that of the parish.
The first Sunday of September, 1801:
Today when I arrived at church. I found Casimir at
the door in a white surplice and still carrying his big hymn
book, ready to direct the choir from a distance. I found
this terrible but he did not seem disturbed over it at all.
Before intoning the "Asperges me", Father Sigogne
turned to the faithful and said:
"I invite Casimir LeBlanc to return to the choir."
Without saying a word and without showing the least
emotion, my "papa" returned to take his place in the choir
and led the faithful, singing the "Asperges me".
It seems the difficulty was cleared up during the week,
the good Father admitting he was wrong.
I asked Casimir how he could have remained so calm
during the whole affair. He simply replied:
"It is always easy to do one's duty."
# * * * *
November 22, 1802:
It is now twenty-two years since I first saw the light
of day and now I have a husband and two babies, Armand,
who is a little over a year, and Rose, who is only ten days
We had Rose baptized today. Casimir and Martha Le-
Blanc, my foster parents, are her god-parents. We had to
wait those ten days because Father Sigogne was away in
the parish of Cape Sable, which includes all the Acadian
settlements south of Cape Fourchu, that the English call
He only came back today. How tired he appeared from
his voyage and no doubt, also affected by the quarrel which
rages in the parish of Saint Mary over the construction
of a new church.
The present church is falling in ruins and we just have
to rebuild. The question is to determine where to rebuild.
The people from Meteghan and people from Grosses Coques
and Anse des LeBlanc do not want to agree. The former
want the new church built nearer to them and the latter
will rebel if the new church is built farther away from them.
— 20 —
Never was the parish so divided and everyone seems
to blame Father Sigogne for it, although he is completely
innocent of favoritism for one side or the other.
The people from Meteghan have even begun to build
their own church at Meteghan River. Hearing this, Father
Sigogne lost all patience and excluded them from the sacra-
ments. No one knows how it will all end.
June 3, 1803: . , ,
It seems that all the people along Saint Marys Bay and
from "Uptime Bay" (1) were at the "Point". I went there
myself wtth my two babies. We even ate there while await-
ing for the great event that was to come.
Around one o'clock, a white speck appeared off Cape
<*aint-Marv We anxiously watched its progress, and in a
lw more hours the Utile fishing boat from Tusket-Wedge
landed at the beach and Monseigneur Denaut, oisluv ot
Quebec, stepped out on the gravel.
At a signal from Father Sigogne, we all knelt on the
beach to receive the benediction of the first bishop to come
to Saint-Mary's Bay.
(1) "Up the Bay" the people of Church Point referred
to points beyond Weymouth a~ "Up the Bay".
* * * # *
JUne i 4 was°among the four hundred and two persons who
received the sacrament of Confirmation from the i hands of
Monseigneur Denaut. There were there people : o al ages
including old white-haired men and women. Casimir and
Martha LeBlanc acted as god-parents for everybody, toi
only they had been confirmed before.
June 8, 1803: ^
Casimir left today with Father Sigogne to take Mon-
seigneur Denaut to Halifax through the Annapolis Valley.
It is marvellous to see the effect of the bishop s visit in the
region. The difficulty over the new church has been re-
solved. It will be built on the main highway here, and as
soon as possible the people at Meteghan will build a church
of their own. . # . • •
""^oday is the Sunday in the Octave of the feast of the
Blessed Sacrament and we had a procession. This time
there was a chapel set up near the foundation of the new
— 21 —
church being built on the east side of the "King's High-
way". After the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Father
Sigogne blessed the corner stone of the new church. In this
stone there is a new coin with the date 1806 on it.
June 9, 1806:
I can see the frame work of the new church going up.
All the men of the "French Shore" are working on it. They
came yesterday for the procession and remained to contri-
bute their day's work today. Every house in the village
was filled up last night.
We were not able to put up as many people as we want-
ed because the little house is quite full with our little family.
We have had two additions since I opened these pages the
last time. They have been baptized Marie and Joseph.
The work on the new church is under the direction of
May 1, 1808:
Today I left my five children with "mama" LeBlanc.
Yes, I have five now. Another has been born since the last
time I have darkned these pages. (It is another boy named
Pierre, after my deceased father). After having kissed them
all we went, Janie and I, to the blessing of the new Saint
At nine o'clock all the parishioners gathered at the old
church on the Point and which we always feared would
fall upon us. Father Sigogne gave to each of us some
object to carry and we formed a procession to the new
church. I carried the altar cloth, Janie took the missal.
December 26, 1810:
What a merry Christmas we had yesterday ! My
little family is my greatest joy, especially when I see my
little children, cheeks reddened by the wind and the cold,
returning from mass with their father. I had to stay
home with my very little ones. For me, those are the
nicest Christmas presents.
The English custom of giving gifts at Christmas,
and of having a big Christmas dinner with a fattened
goose, seems to take on more and more popularity with
us. We have had it this year.
— 22 —
Father Sigogne brings us happiness materially and
spiritually. It is probably the most prosperous Christmas
we've had. The harvest has been good. Our cellar has
everything which the people around here say is required
to get through the winter: a barrel of pork, a barrel of
corn beef, a barrel of salt herring, a quintal of salt cod,
two crocks of butter, a bin full of potatoes, a bin full of
turnips, a crock of salted cucumbers, a sac full of dried
beans, one of dried peas, one of dried blueberries, a
crock of pickled beets, corn cobs hanging from the rafters,
bags of wheat and oats in the "grenier". (the unfinished
upstairs of the house) a barrel of flour and a barrel of
cornmeal, strings of blood puddings hanging from the
floor joists in the cellar and a crock of headcheese, to-
gether with ten jugs of cider, and bottles of beet wine,
raspberry wine, blackberry wine, dandelion wine, and a
keg of juniper beer.
This year we have money on hand, as they say. The
"French Shore", as the English call the area from Salmon
River to Weymouth, is a hive of activity. Casimir says
that England is at war with France and needs ships and
No region is better situated for ship-building than
Saint Mary's Bay, with its numerous sheltered coves and
its great forests reaching to the water's edge.
In every cove there is a shipyard and on every stream
there is a saw mill driven by a waterwheel. We are selling
large quantities of timber for which we are paid in pounds
and shillings, and not by barter as had been the custom
up to now.
Money has been very scarce around here, since these
people have returned from exile to these inhospitable
shores. People had to get used to getting along without it,
and they did. For example the Acadian housewife makes
all her clothes and those of her family with yard goods that
her husband obtains from the English merchants at Wey-
mouth for his lumber or his farm products, butter, eggs
and potatoes. The husband makes the mocassins for the
whole family from hides that he tans himself. He makes
all the household furniture. Soap is homemade also- We
take the ashes of hardwood, put them in a barrel with
holes in the bottom; straw is spread over the bottom to
prevent the ashes from flowing out. Water is poured on
— 23 —
these ashes and the residue which falls in the pan below
the barrel forms lye which we then mix with animal fat
to make the soap which we use.
Sugar, salt, spice, tamarin, we get from our trade with
the West Indies in exchange for our lumber. Some also get
rum by the same means of barter. We make our own
wines. Here is how we make our raspberry wine:
We put about six quarts of raspberries in a two gallon
earthern crock. Stir it three times a day for three weeks.
We squeeze out the juice and add sugar and allow to
ferment for ten days, and then we put in bottles and we
let it stand for a year.
Some Acadians have now begun to carry on trade
themselves and they prove very adept at it. For example,
they cut wood on their land, saw it in their own mill,
build a ship with it, load it with their own lumber, sail
to the West Indies and sell it, both the cargo and the ship,
at a good profit. Then they return and begin all over again.
June 19, 1812:
Here I am alone with my seven little children- I
should not say alone, for Casimir and Martha LeBlanc are
still with me. But Janie is gone away, and I feel lonely
in spite of the fact that I work from sunrise to sunset and
beyond, to keep my little family dressed and fed.
My dear Janie has gone to Digby with the Militia
commanded by Colonel Anselme Doucet. We are now at
war with our neighbours, the United States. Nobody
seems to know exactly why, not even the Americans,
Casimir tells me. He has learned this last detail from his
friends in Philadelphia. However, good citizens that they
are, our Acadians have gone to the defense of Digby. It
seems that enemy ships were seen in the area. In the
meantime we are waiting patiently.
Casimir says that Napoleon is still master of Europe
but a slave to his pride. Uncle Joachim is now king of
Naples. Imagine, a king in our family ! However, that
will make no difference to us here. We will keep on living
— 24 —
August 15, 1812:
My dear Janie is back without injury. An American
vessel has been captured, and our militiamen have return-
ed to harvest the hay crop which would have been lost.
November 22, 1812:
War continues in Europe and privateers linger off our
coasts. Luckily, they have not threatened us yet. How-
ever, Father Sigogne brings us news from his parish at
Tusket (Sainte Anne du Ruisseau) that there have been
several encounters with these pirates over there.
On October 8, Father Sigogne tells us, one of his
parishioners, Francois Clermont, known as Sauge, who
lived with his wife and nine children on isolated Sheep
Island in Tusket Bay, saw an unknown ship drop anchor
off his island, and a boatload of evil-looking men came
ashore. Seeing this, Sauge took his musket and came out,
taking a position to the side of the house, behind a clump
of bushes. Apparently he did not conceal himself well
enough. He was taken and summarily shot in cold blood.
The pirates then entered the house and ramsacked it
from top to bottom. Even the baby in the cradle was
dumped on the floor. Then they went out, killed the pig,
and took it to the ship. Night was falling then and the
poor family was left all alone with their dead father.
Father Sigogne appeals to all his faithful to help this
poor family which has been so cruel struck by this
senseless war. We shall all help them, for here the mis-
fortune of one is felt by all.
1. According to Beamish Murdock, Volume III page
333, this ship was later captured by the Shannon, and
Sauge's murderer was identified as the first lieutenant.
November 22, 1813:
I always try to make an entry on my birthday for
I began this diary on my birthday. This year there is
another blessed event to record. On November 11, a little
angel came to us. We baptized her Marguerite-Sophie, the
name of my youngest sister, whom we always called
"Soukie". I hope to always keep this one with me; I
feel it will be So, God willing.
— 25 —
October 21, 1814:
We are very concerned about our poor dear Casimir.
He is very weak today and we fear that he won't be with
us much longer.
For many months he had been afflicted with a sore
leg. He had broken this leg, and it never seemed to heal
Francois Bourneuf, a young man who has recently
arrived from France, and came to see Casimir, took one
look at this leg and sent for a doctor who lives at Port-
Royal. When this doctor came he found traces of gan-
grene and to save the old man, now eighty-four, he ad-
vised removing the leg.
Yesterday was the appointed day. The doctor came
with Francois Bourneuf, who volunteered to assist him.
Before the operation Casimir ate a good meal. After
he had prepared himself and invoked God to give him
courage, he said: "Doctor, begin your work, I'm ready
if you are".
At the first stroke of the scalpel, Francois fainted and
had to be carried from the room. After that, whatever
help the doctor got came from Casimir himself. He never
complained of the pain except during the sawing of the
Poor Francois! He seemed so embarrassed and would
have liked to get away as soon as possible, but his great
concern for Casimir made him remain beside the old man
From what we know about this Francois, he has had
a very exciting and interesting young life. He first came
to this country against his will, having been taken prison-
er when his ship was captured at sea and brought to
Halifax. He escaped from prison at Halifax and made
his way to Pubnico, thence came to Grosses Coques, where
he is now staying with the family of Francois Gilly, who
have adopted him in the same way that the LeBlanc's
have adopted me. He taught school for a year. Armand,
Rose, and Marie have been inspired by his teaching.
Mrs. Gilly, Mr. and Mrs. Joppe LeBlanc and Francois
Bourneuf spent the evening with Casimir and Mrs. Le-
November 22, 1814:
Today is my thirty-fourth birthday. How time flies !
However these have been most happy years.
— 26 —
War is over between the United States and England.
We hear also that Napoleon is in exile on the island ot
Elba. We have had no news about our family, mama,
my sisters, and my uncle Joachim, the king of Naples.
France has been at war continuously since we last
heard from all of them. May God preserve them, but I
1. Joachim Murat was overthrown with the first
downfall of Napoleon, in 1814. When Napoleon returned
to power for one hundred days, Joachim made an attempt
to recapture his throne. The attempt failed and he was
taken prisoner at Pizzo and shot.
November 22, 1815:
Up to now, Casimir and I have tried to teach the
children. But with housework and the care of oabies, who
have been arriving quite regularly, I had to neglect the
schooling of my dear little ones, as also I had to neglect
However we do have a school master in the village
now, a Monsieur Bunet, who is from France or St. Pierre;
nobody seems to know for sure, and he is somewhat re-
luctant to speak of his activities before arriving here.
1. It seems Mr. "Bunet's" or "Bund's" (we find
two spellings of his name) reticence was justified. He
had been convicted of theft at St. Pierre's and whipped.
This information is contained in Francois Bourneuf's
June 24, 1816:
This is a great day for us. It is the feast of the
patron saint of my dear Jean-Baptiste (Janie) and yester-
day I received a letter from my mother. I cherish it so
much that I will stick it to this page.
TRANSLATION OF LETTER
Bayonne, March 24, 1816
Since 1803 when I wrote you the first letter telling
you about my unexpected departure (from Boston) and
my return to France, I wrote you many others which did
not have any more success (in reaching you) than the
— 27 —
first, so I do not know if either you or Mr. and Mrs.
Casimir are still living.
It is possible that my letters had not reached you
because of the troubled state of affairs due to the war
which prevented ships from leaving or reaching France.
But now I may hope that this one will reach you, and
that you will not neglect the first occasion to let me
know your dear news. After receiving yours, I would
still long to receive some from Soukie who is married in
Jamaica, and to see you both and to hug and kiss you.
I must tell you that Polley has been married for a
year, and ten days ago gave birth to the loveliest little
girl that you ever saw. Your sister Fanny is still single.
She is in good health and so am I, apart from the anxiety
which I always feel for your safety and that of your bene-
factors, whose great age and the calamities of the recent
war make me fear for their existence. If you do lose them
and are in want, book passage aboard the first ship that
you can find and come to your mother's arms which long
to hold you, and I will then have the pleasure of having
my oldest daughter by my side. At any rate, be sure to
write, give me that satisfaction and then I will write you
more at length.
If Mr. and Mrs. Casimir are still living, embrace them
for me many times and double your care for them in gra-
titude for all they have done for you, for the care you
have received from such good people cannot be repaid. I
pray you to give them our most sincere respect and
I close, embracing you with all my heart; and so
do your sisters. I remain forever your loving mother.
at St. Esprit — Bayonne.
Address my letters in care of Mr. Ripar, Ship Chandler,
* # # # *
Another great day for us! We had the second visit
of a bishop. This time it was Monsignor Plessis of Quebec.
Hundreds received confirmation and among these were
Armand, Rose, Marie, Joseph and Pierre.
Monsignor has also visited the site of the new church
at Meteghan and has decreed that it should be consecrated
to Saint Mande, no doubt in honour of Father Jean-Mande
— 28 —
November 22, 1817:
This year, we obtained more land. The district of
Clare was increased by 36,000 acres and the Melansons
obtained lots in this new grant of land. This new "con-
cession" or grant is ten miles back of Concessions and
named Corberrie, the name of the region where Father
Sigogne was born.
On November 6, we went to the blessing of the new
church at Meteghan.
I should not have gone, for I am still weak from the
birth of Madeleine and the road is very rough.
I hope that when the time comes to divide the parish
of Meteghan, it will not give rise to the disputes that
preceded the division of Saint Mary's.
November 22, 1819:
How I neglect this poor diary! Alas it's two years
since the last entry! But my growing children allow me
little time to do anything but to feed and clothe them, and
also to try to teach them something.
It is true that there is a school of sorts at Little Brook,
where Monsieur Brunet pretends to teach, but it seems
that he and his pupils often take long siestas. Father
Sigogne himself teaches them catechism and the Bible.
But, all in all, our poor little children get little education.
It is not surprising that so many do not know how to read
Last year we had another boy, Augustin, and this
year a girl, Rosalie. They are all in good health and grow-
ing like weeds.
* * * * *
November 22, 1820:
I absolutely wanted to make this entry today, for it
is my birthday and I am now forty. However it is only by
chance that I'm able to write this for this dear little boor-
was found among the few items we could salvage fron
the great fire which will forever haunt our memories.
I'm writing this in the house of Frederick Belliveau
one of two houses which were still standing after the fire
which ravaged the French Shore, beginning on Sept. 12.
This fire began innocently enough in the woods at
Little Brook, about two miles south of the church. Then
came a strong south west wind, which often prevails in
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this area. In a few hours the fire was out of control,
carrying all before it.
Seeing the fire approaching rapidly, Janie yoke rl the
oxen to the cart, we carried in Casimir, now an invalid,
and our dear little Rosalie and the baby. Janie took the
whip and we started for the large dunes about two miles
from here. I used an alder switch to hurry along our three
cows and twenty sheep. We were joined by other families,
with crying women and children and shouting men, bawl-
ing cattle, bleating sheep and barking dogs. It was like a
When we passed Frederick Belli veau's house, built
three years ago, Frederick himself was leaving. He made
the sign of the cross on the door and said: "God keep the
house, the fire may take the rest."
After this he joined us, taking only what he could
carry on his person. His family had already fled.
The fire was gaining mercilessly on us, going much
faster than our cattle and our children. We took to the
shore. From there we could see this wall of fire advancing
upon our village on a four mile front. The roar of the
flames was deafening and the heat unbearable even where
we were on the shore. We could see one house after an-
other engulfed by this red tide as you see the rocks of
the shore disappear under the rising sea. We thought it
was the end of the world!
It continued all day but at night a welcomed rain-
storm put out the fire before it reached Belliveau's Cove.
In all eighteen houses and twenty-three barns burned, and
also the church and the glebehouse.
Father Sigogne had tried to save the church by hav-
ing all his household carry water to keep the walls wet. It
was not long before they realized it was useless, and that
they should all flee for their lives. Gatien, his adopted son,
yoked the oxen, while Father Sigogne entered thp church
to gather the sacred objects. Absorbed with thjq task, he
almost tarried too long. Red hot embers carried by the
wind fell on the roof which immediately burst into flames
and rapidly collapsed. He hardly escaped in time and was
badly burned. However, the sacred vestments and the
chalice and books were saved and taken to the old chapel
on the Point which was not Immediately menaced by the
flames. After the fire was over, the good Father fell ill,
and he was cared for by the family of Pierre LeBlanc,
whose house also escaped the disaster.
— 30 —
There was only one loss of life. It was one too many,
however. This is how it happened. For some years now,
an old negro lived in a miserable shark near the church.
He did not want to follow the rest of us and so we let him
remain in a spot which we thought safe. Unfortunately, it
was not. He was surrounded by the fire and we found' his
remains later. We shall never know where he came from
and why he had come to Church Point.
This disaster has made us realize how little material-
things really count, and that what really counts is the
goodness and charity of people. The people of Grosses-
Coques, Beliveau's Cove and Meteghan have shared their
homes with us. The government sent us right away, bed-
ding and clothes, beds and building material. Everything
that we needed immediately. In a few days a fund of one
hundred pounds sterling was made available to us.
I believe that the vilage will rise quickly from its
ashes. Already, the charred tree trunks are being cut and,
in the spring, they will be sawn into building material
and we will start building again. Father Sigogne is also
planning a larger and more beautiful church.
We owe an eternal gratitude to Frederick Belliveau
and his family for having received us under his roof. (1)
It must be Divine Providence that has preserved them for
(1) Frederick Belliveau's house became the home of
Cecile's grand-daughter, Marie Stuart, who married Jean
Blaise Belliveau, grand-son of Frederick, also known as
"Tickine". This Marie Stuart Belliveau died in 1945. She
had been born in 1844 and baptized by Father Sigogne.
THE LAST ENTRY:
Casimir LeBlanc has left us for his eternal reward in
his ninety-sixth year. He will rejoin Martha who passed
away on September 17th, 1816. Thus disappears my great
benefactors who deserve the gratitude of all the French
Shore, for their charity knew no limit.
We ourselves we owe to them all we have. Casimir
helped us greatly during his lifetime, and now we inherit
all he accumulated.
It is fitting that this is the last page of this book and
should be dedicated to him who made it possible.
— 31 —
After the passing of the LeBlanc's, Cecile asked her
daughter, Marguerite-Sophie and her husband, James V.
Stuart, to leave Marshalltown, where they had settled
after their marriage, and to come and live with her at
The young couple accepted the offer and came back
to Church Point.
As Janie and Cecile Melanson's home was no longer
adequate, James Stuart constructed a new house near the
church. It is in this house, that now lives Jacques Stuart,
Cecile also learned about the death of her mother,
Francoise Murat, at Bayonne, France. This news profound-
ly afflicted Cecile and she went daily to church to pray for
her. A few months after Francoise's death, Cecile learned
that she inherited a part of her mother's property. But
she never received her share, however, for she would
have to go to Halifax to claim it and, at her age, it would
have been very difficult.
Cecile saw her sons and daughters married, except
Armand the oldest and Remi, who died at sea from yellow
Cecile passed her last days with Jean-Baptiste (Janie)
and Marguerite-Sophie and her husband. Jean-Baptiste
passed away first and a few days later, Cecile followed him
to her eternal reward, March 23, 1855.
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