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By Tom McCoag / Amherst Bureau
© Halifax Chronicle Herald - June 22, 2000
| Fort Lawrence - A pasture near the provincial
border here looks like any other farmer's field, but a recently discovered
aerial photo has local groups urging the federal government to preserve
the site. The hand-coloured, infrared military photo taken in 1958 shows
the foundations of 40 buildings that once were Beaubassin, an Acadian village
the French destroyed 250 years ago during the opening salvos of a war that
ultimately saw Britain wrest control of North America from France. A group
of people will meet here today to develop a strategy they hope will lead
Ottawa to do an archeological dig at the site.
"Beaubassin is important to the history of North America because what happened (there) started a chain of events that ended up changing the geopolitical face of the continent," Bernard LeBlanc, curator of the Acadian Museum, said in an interview.
"We fear important artifacts could be lost from this important historical site if development is allowed to take place. That has already happened when a private landowner was allowed to build on the former site of Fort Lawrence."
Meeting participants will include Maritime Acadian groups, the Institute for Acadian Studies at Universite Ste. Anne, the Acadian Museum in Moncton, Fort Lawrence Heritage Association and Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey.
Established in 1671, Beaubassin was on the Nova Scotia side of the Missaguash River. It was the second Acadian village to be established after Port Royal and, with 22 families, was one of the largest such settlements. In the early 1700s the river became a disputed boundary separating French and British territory. The Acadian village was caught in the middle of the dispute because Beaubassin was on the British side of the border. The French burned the settlement in 1750 when British military forces arrived to establish Fort Lawrence. They wanted to keep the buildings out of British hands and to force its Acadian inhabitants to move to the French side of the river. The British built Fort Lawrence near the site of the burned village. It was from there, on June 4, 1755, that the British launched their successful conquest of French North America when Lt. Col. Robert Monckton led 300 British regulars and 1,950 New England troops on nearby Fort Beausejour. The fight lasted 12 days before the French surrendered the fort on June 16, 1755. The Acadian expulsion began less than two months later when captives from Fort Beausejour were imprisoned in Fort Lawrence. The Fort Lawrence Heritage Association's efforts to have the 52-hectare,
privately owned Beaubassin site preserved began about a year ago when Gerald Trenholme gave the group the aerial photo. Group members showed the picture to Mr. Casey, a history buff who immediately recognized its historical significance.
"This field, because it has been pastureland since the village was destroyed in 1750, is relatively undisturbed. That means there should be a lot of important artifacts there that only a proper archeological dig can uncover. That's why the federal government needs to protect the site," the MP said. Association chairman Ben Griffin believes archeologists would be busy because coins, pottery, tools, bottles and cannon balls have turned up. "I was just out to the site with a metal detector and the thing was going off the scale, so there has to be a lot of stuff there. If we don't protect it soon, we could lose it," he said.
A copy of the photo can be seen at the Fort Lawrence interpretive centre.