As early as the year 1504 the coast waters of Nova Scotia became known to French fishermen and traders of Bretagne and Normandy. During that century several attempts were made to colonize the country, but not for a hundred years was a permanent settlement established in Acadia.
The frequent use of the word Cadie or Acadie by the Indians led to the adoption of that name for the country inhabited by them. Many geographical names were still in use early in this century in the province of New Brunswick. There was Shubenacadie, Tracadie, Chicabenacadie,, etc.. The Malicites of New Brunswick pronounced the word Quoddy, and so likewide, it can be found in places named Passamaquoddy, Noodiquoddy,etc.
Acadia, or Acadie, as it was known in its earlier history, formed a part of the French dominion in America called New France. Acadia embraced Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and a large part of the State of Maine.
Minas, Manis, Menis, as it has been called from time to time, was named by the French Les Mines, and referred to the south shore of Minas Basin, from which the name came. Mines, later Minas, owed its name to the fact that veins of pure copper had been found at Cape D'Or, also named Cape-des-Mines. Thus was derived the names Minas Basin; Minas, the region; Minas, the French settlement south of Minas River (the Cornwallis River). Minas would have included all of the shores or land bordering on the Gaspereau, Cornwallis, Canard, Habitant and Pereau rivers. That would have included those places known as Avonport, Hortonville, Grand-Pré, Wolfeville, Port Williams, New Minas, Kentville, Starr's Point, Upper and Lower Canard, Cornwallis and Pereau. The French settlement at Piziquid (Windsor) was for a time included in Minas.
Various points in Acadia had been settled by the French before these beautiful lands sloping to the waters of Minas Basin became the scene of colonization. Yet report of its wonderful richness, its seclusion and beauty, had made Minas known a century before it received a permanent settlement. The Grand-Pré - the great prairie - and the broad sheet of basin receiving into its bosom a hundred streams, fine stretches of forest, the vast acres of marshlands, bold bluffs and undulating hills lay like a garden, the favorite haunt of Micmac Indians and the retreat of an occassional pirate or corsair, until the beginning of its history about 1675.
The aborigines of Acadia were called by the French, Souriquois, and in the 18th and 19th centuries they were known as Micmacs. When the French first came they numbered about 3,000. The Micmacs came originally from the southwest and took possession of Acadia, driving the Kwedecks - Iroquois - towards the St. Lawrence and established the Restigouche as the northern boundary of the Micmac territory. They permitted the Malicites, who were once a part of the Abenaki nation, to secure the St. John without opposition, reserving a village site at the mouth of the river. The Micmacs were of the Algonquin family of Indians.
When the French came to Acadia they found that the Indians had a name for every sea, basin, lake, river, brook, hill and land in the country. It had been home to the Micmacs for centuries and they knew every part of it. Their language was beautiful and poetic. In time the French gave beautiful and suggestive names to many parts of the country. Many of these were changed to English names when the land was lost to the British. The Micmacs were an honest and intelligent race, and always maintained their friendship for the French. Much of our history was influenced by these natives. Harsh and aggressive treatment never won their friendship.
Occassional visits of the French to Minas revealed to them the rich land that existed in this country; and later, when Port-Royal had grown too large to furnish the youth with land, these virgin fields became settled.
Here the rivers were unobstructed by dyke or whatever else. The red tides rose and fell, (color of the earth), flooding the marshes and mixing with the crystal waters of the many mountain streams. Only the coarse salt grass moved in the flow of the sea where now stretch out the broad hay meadows of Minas Basin. No horses or cattle grazed on the slopes. No sheep fed in pasture or clearing. No smoke but of Micmac camp or bark wigwam rose in the air. No church spire pointed to heaven and told of the Son of God. Over the whole extent of the waters no ship spoke of man's industry and of a people's commerce. Here waited a rich heritage ready to reward toil and peace, a very haven of refuge. But through what a fire of persecution and tears was it to be brought about! By what tyranny and injustice! Through what bloodshed and what devastation of homes and families was the foundation of this nation's greatness laid!
NOTE OF INTEREST: The Micmac language has been preserved in a dictionary of more than forty thousand words, and a large amount of valuable linguistic material and Micmac mythological lore has been preserved by the late Silas Tertius Rand, who labored among the Micmacs for more than forty years.
In 1604 Pierre de Guast, Sieur de Monts, a native of Saintonge, a nobleman of the court of Henry IV of France, came to Acadia to found a colony. He was given the monopoly of the fur trade to reward him for this work. With De Monts were Champlain Poutrincourt and Pontgrave, names well known in connection with the history of New France.
In 1604 De Monts sailed up la Baie Française - Bay of Fundy (the word fundy is derived from fond, the end, or top, of the bay) - on an exploring expedition. He visited the mines of pure copper at Cape D'Or (Golden Cape), also called Cap-des-Mines. These mines were undoubtedly known to the Indians, for among their remains found on the shores of the Basin, pieces of copper were sometimes found.
De Monts sailed into the Basin to Partridge Island, where the captain of one of the ships found a large specimen of amethyst. The stone was broken in two pieces, and De Monts received one of them. On their return to France the specimens were cut and mounted in beautiful settings, and presented to the king and queen.
Looking for a suitable place to settle, De Monts was not favorably impressed with the stern appearance of the rocky cliffs of Blomidon and the north shores. He missed the rich lands just a few miles further south. He continued along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy - Baie Française.
The establishement of Port-Royal began the friendly relations between the Indians and the French that would continue for many years. Among other things, a profitable trade in beaver and other furs sprung up.
In 1606, Poutrincourt and Champlain, while coasting in a small boat on the north side of Minas Basin, found a cross, very old, and entirely covered with moss, and thoroughly rotted. This discovery was evidence to prove that the Basin had been visited by Christian people, and also led to the conclusion that trades must have visited Minas before the settlement of this country.
The history of La Cadie or L'Acadie, began with the founding of Port-royal, now Annapolis, in 1605, a grant of that portion of it having been made to Poutrincourt by De Monts. With the French noblesse were Catholic and Protestant clergymen, laborers and artisans. The company spent the winter on an island in the mouth of the River St-Croix which De Monts chose for his headquarters. After a terrible winter, half of the party was dead from scurvy. The survivors returned to Port-Royal and thus the settlement was established. In 1607, De Monts, and the colonists abandoned Acadia. In 1610, another party arrived under the leadership of Poutrincourt. Jamestown in Virginia, settled in 1607, was growing rapidly. Samuel Argall, from that place, destroyed Port-Royal in 1612 but a few of the French colonists remained in the country among the Indians.(Today, the Habitat at the original site of Port-Royal Fort may be visited.)
For the next ten years there was little mention of Acadia. The fur trade still went on and the fishing industry increased. The French continued to live here and forts were built on the St. John River and on Cape Sable.
In 1621, James I, gave Acadia to Sir William Alexander, afterwards Earl of Stirling, and the country received the name it was ultimately to retain, Nova Scotia. To aid in the enterprise of an annual fishing expedition the Order of Nova Scotia Baronets was established.
NOTE: Origin of the First Coat of Arms of Nova Scotia: The Order of Baronets of Nova Scotia was established on the principle that they should assist the plantation of the province at their own expense. Charles I, in 1625, conferred on each knight a space of land three miles wide and six miles long in New Scotland. The complete number of knights was to be 150. The insignia of the Order to be the arms of Nova Scotia, Argent, "the ancient arms of our said ancient kingdom of Scotland," on a blue cross, commonly called, a saltier azure, to be supported by the unicorn on the right side, and a savage on the left; and for the crest, a laurel branch and a thistle proceeding out of an armed hand, and a naked (sword?) conjoined, with the motto: Munit hae et altera vincit.
Melanson is the only name traceable to this Scotch period of rule.
The peace of St-Germain-en-Laye, in 1632, gave Nova Scotia to France, when effort was made with success to establish colonies in the country. a company was formed having for its commander Isaac de Razilly, his kinsman, d'Aulnay de Charnisay, and Nicholas Denys de la Ronde. At this time 300 persons were brought to Acadia. Charnisay, between 1639 and 1649, brought out others; and under Charles Étienne de la Tour, in 1651, others were settled. From these the Acadians of the Maritime Provinces of Canada descend, numbering today in the millions. La Tour is probably the only name dating from the arrival in 1605 of De Monts and Poutrincourt. Of the 300 who came in 1632, there were perhaps twenty families. Others married young women who were brought from France later.
With Razilly came three Capuchin friars, who took charge of the Acadian missions. Records of marriages, births/baptisms and deaths/burials were always kept by these spiritual directors but many have been lost so that it is not always possible to find from what parishes in France the first Acadian families came.
In 1636, dykes began to be used to keep the salt tides of the ocean from flooding the marshes. Agriculture rose in importance as the Acadians brought more and more of this rich land into cultivation. They became skillful in the care of the dyke-protected meadows. In all parts of New France, seigneuries, large tracts of land, had been granted to members and friends of the governing body of the country, the Hundred Associates. Their engagement was simply to settle the country, protect the settlers, and to support the missions.
The rivalry of two seigneurs in Acadia, La Tour and d'Aulnay, with one living at the mouth of the rivière St-Jean (St. John River), the other at his fortified trading post on the Penobscot, resulted in open war, which continued until 1645, when during the absence of La Tour, d'Aulnay captured Fort La Tour, but without avail, against a superior force; and the lady was compelled to witness the execution of her courageous followers. It is said she died of grief because of this cruel act. D'Aulnay died in 1650, and La Tour became governor as well as lieutenant for the king in Acadia - in addition to this, he married the widow of his late rival.
In 1654, a force from Boston, under Major Sedgewick, took Port-Royal and Fort La Tour, while the question of the boundary between Acadia and New England was in dispute. La Tour at once transferred his allegiance to England. Acadia was restored to France in 1667, but it was 1670 before the representative of France took possession. This country now became a part of New France, a province of the mother country, and was government directly from Parish. After all the sacrifice of time and money, the population of Acadia as at this date about 400. Port-Royal had the most of this number.
It was from this place, about 1675 that the few first Acadians moved to Minas, and gave date to the beginning of history at Grand-Pré. It was just a few decades when this section of the country became the most flourishing in Acadia.
After the coming of Grandfontaine, the population of the country doubled in sixteen years, and during that time agriculture prospered. A great deal of trade was carried on illegally by New Englanders.
In 1689, France and England began a war which continued until 1713. Acadia was again captured, the fort at Port-Royal, now Annapolis, unable to withstand the attack. Acadia was retaken in 1690. In 1710, a garrison of less than 300 men at Port-Royal capitulated to a New England force, and Acadia passed out of the hands of the French for the last time. The place was named Annapolis, in honor of the British queen.