The 1755 Exile
|An Acadian woman who was there told
her story of the deportation of what had happened. It was recorded
by Thomas Miller for the Historical and Genealogical Record of the first
settlers of Colchester County.
On the second day of September, 1755, the French inhabitants of Cobequid
Village (now Masstown), lying on the north side of the bay, and upper part
of the Township of Londonderry, were engaged in their fields at their work,
it being harvest time. With the afternoon tide three vessels were
seen coming up the Bay. Two of them prepared to anchor, one opposite the
Village, and the other at Lower Cobequid, whilst the third ran further
up the shore. Curiosity was rife. Who were they,and whither were they going!
Their curiosity was still heightened by the appearance of a person in the
garb of a curate, who informed them that the following notice ~ as posted
on the door of the Church: "'To the inhabitants of the Village of Cobequid,
and the surrounding shores, as well ancient as young men and lads, ordering
them all to repair to the Church the next day at three P.M. and hear what
he had to say to them." Signcd by John Winslow.
Meanwhile the sailors landed, and were freely supplied with milk, and anything they wanted, by the farmers. Small parties of Soldiers landed, chatted with the people, examined their farms, or strolled to the uplands in search of partridges, and in the afternoon of the third day of September they joined the people as they repaired to the Church. The moon rose, and the sisters strolled out and ran to the Church to a certain the cause of their delay. When they arrived at the Church, to their great astonishment, they found it surrounded by soldiers, who answered their inquiries by pointing their bayanets, and ordering them to go home. They met many of the women from the houses nearest the Church, and all anxious and sad at the detention of their friends. At daybreak the following notice was read, which was stuck on the fence opposite the Church: ''Cobequid, September 4, 1755. All officers, Soldiers, and Seamen employed in His Majesty's Service, as well as all His subjects, of what denomination soever, are hereby notified that all cattle, viz., horses, horned cattle, sheep, goats, hogs, and poultry of every kind that was supposed to be Vested in the French inhabitants of this Province, have become forfeited to His Majesty, whose property they now are; and every person of what denomination soever, is to take care not to hurt, destroy, or kill any of the above named animals, nor to rob orchards or gardens, or to make waste of anything in these districts, without special
order given at my camp, the day and place to be published througliout the Camp, and at the Village where the Vessels lie. Signed by John Winslow, Lieut.-Colonel Commanding."
When the people read this notice they were speechless with terror; death stared them in the face. In the meantime three hundred men and boys found themselves close prisoners in their own Church. Some of the boys screamed aloud, some attempted to force the door, but they were overawed by the muskets of their guards. Day dawned at length over the wretched prisoners; they wished to be allowed to return to their families for food; this was refused, but their families were ordered to supply food to them. A few of these prisoners were sent out during the day to inform those who dwelt at a distance from the Church if they did not immediately surrender, their houses would be burnt and their nearest friends shot. One of these messengers attempted to escape; he was shot, and his house and
barn set on fire. Thus the work of destruction was commenced. About ,"200 married women and upwards of 100 young women, besides children, were ordered to collect what they could of apparel, and prepare to embark. In vain the men entreated to know wither they were going, but no answer was given. By noon, the 5th of September, the beach was piled with boxes, baskets and bundles; behind them were crowds of weeping women and children; children crying for their mothers, and mothers looking for their children; sick men and bedridden women were carried by strong maidens, or tipped out of their carts which bore them to the spot. A little before highwater the prisoners in the Church were ordered to form six deep and march to the place of embarkation; they refused to obey the command. The troops were ordered to fix bayonets and advance on the prisoners. This act produced obedience, and they commenced to march. When they came to the beach, and saw their property, their mothers, wives, children, and sisters kneeling on each side of the road, one long, loud wail of anguish went up from them on account of being so suddenly torn away from their houses and homes, the place of their nativity, their flocks and fields, which were then covered with the crops of the season, with some of the wheat cut, and the remainder ready for cutting, and separated from their wives and families, leaving behind them their Church and the graves of their kindred, to be dispersed among strangers in a strange land, among a people whose customs, laws, language, and religion were strongly opposed to their own. The women were ordered the same afternoon to embark in another ship. About midnight all were on board, except one or two women who had escaped to visit their forsaken houses the next morning, and witness the sad havoc that had been made the night before by some of the British soldiers who remained, by setting fire to a number of the houses of the village. Among these was the Chapel, of 100 feet in length and 40 feet in breadth, which contained a large, heavy bell. This chapel stood in a field which is now owned by Alexander Vance, near the house of Mr. Lightbody, of Masstown. This place took its name from the fact that the French had their place of worship or masshouse there. Mr. Vance informed the writer, that he had recently ploughed up some of the melted metal of the bell, and the spot upon which it stood was pointed out Mr. Thomas Fletcher, who was one of the first settlers in this place after the French were driven out.
The transport ship with the men on board drifted down to the mouth of the Avon River, and there awaited the other vessel that had the women and children on board. At daybreak she was in sight, and they drifted down the Bay with the saddest freight on board that ever sailed out of Cobequid; and as the vessels stood out to pass Blomidon, the third vessel that had run further up the Bay joined them, freighted with the French inhabitants who Here gathered from the places now called Onslow, Truro, Clifton, and Selma.
With a favorable wind these miserable, houseless, homeless wanderers were borne out of sight of the place of their nativity; night hid from their view forever the blue mountains of Cobequid.
It may here be mentioned that while the French inhabitants of Truro were hunted by the British soldiers as the partridge on the mount, some of them fled for a hiding place, and encamped in the woods up the Salmon River, in the deep of the brook Mr. William Murray had his mills on recently, and from this the brook took its name as French Village Brook. One of the females who had escaped, or had been left behind on account of a boat being overloaded, returned that night to her former place of abode, and there remained during the night altogether unconscious. In the morning, when she returned to consciousness she was too weak to stand; it was some hours before she realized the full horrors of her situation. After a time she was able to crawl to the door, and there the scene which surrounded her was fearful. The first object she beheld was the Church, the beautiful Mass House, a blackened heap of ruins. She was recalled to a sense of her forlorn situation by her cow which came to her, asking by her lowing to be milked. She milked her cow and partook of some of the milk with a crust of bread, which revived her so much that she set out to see if she could find any one remaining in the village; but there was no one to be found. Cattle had broken into the fields, and were eating the wheat; horses were running in droves through the fields. On the evening of that day, cows and goats came up to their accustomed milking-place, and lowed around the desserted dweelingspigs yet fastened in the pens squealed with hunger; and the oxen, waiting for the master's hand to free them from the yoke (for the were used in moving the goods to the vessels) were bellowing in agaony of hunger; they hooked and fought with each other, running through tile marsh, upsetting the carts or tumbling into ditches, until death put an end to their sufferings. The pigs were rooting up the gardens. She sat down on the doorstep beholding the desolation of the Village, when an indian approached her and told her to come with him. She inquired the fate oi her people. "Gone," said he, "all gone," pointing down the Bay; "the people everywhere are prisoners; see the smoke rise·, they will burn all here to-night." He pointed up the Bay; two or three blazing fires attested the Indian`s story as true. He assisted her in gathering some of the most valuable things that were left. The Indian then piloted her to his wigwam, near the edge of the forest; here she found about a dozen of her people, the remnant left of what was once the happy settlement of the village of Cobequid (now Masstown). They waited about the woods on the north side of the Bay for more than a month to set if any more stragglers could be found before they would start to go to Miramichi. At length they were joined by about twenty of the French inhabitants who had escaped from Annapolis. These persons informed them that: the houses and crops in Annapolis were burnt by the soldiers who were sent up the river to bring them to the ships. Some fled to the woods; some, besides this party, crossed the Bay, intending to go to Miramichi through the woods. After another week's travel they met with a party that had escaped from Shepoudie (now called Shubenacadie). From these persons they learned that about two hundred and fifty buildings were burned along the sides of the river, and that while they were firing the Mass House there, the Indians and French rallied and attacked the British soldiers, and killed and wounded about thirty of them, and drove the remainder back to the ships.