From this special time and place at the beginning of the 21st
century, please join me in a journey from the beginning of this story
in the 17th century.
For centuries the Pisiquid river has been the highway for native people coming and going from their village where the salt water meets the fresh water at high tide. But this time the incoming tide carries different people. They are descendants of the settlers at Port Royal, and they are scouting for farm land. Along the way, perhaps at the Mi'kmaq village at the mouth of Halfway River, perhaps at the meeting place near the junction of the Pisiquid and Sainte Croix Rivers, they meet with the natives to ask permission to enter their territory. The Acadians and Mi'kmaq are long time allies and friends.
As they move up this beautiful river valley on the rising tide, they see virgin forest covered hills rising gently from the river. They see small streams flowing down from the high ground, along which are bountiful meadows. They also see vast stretches of salt marsh. This is what the Acadians are looking for - they have the technology to harness the salt marshes and turn them into rich farmland. The streams will provide power for their grist and saw mills. The forests and waters will provide game and fish for their table. Protected from the cold winds and waters of the Bay of Fundy and from marauding pirates and
raiders, they decide to settle the valley that the Mi'kmaq call
All but forgotten and ignored by governments, the settlements
prosper and grow in number. Wars, treaties and political intrigues blow over like the north winds across the mountain tops, but rarely touch them.
Settlements are most often located above the flood plane near where streams join the river, or beside meadowland along larger streams. The settlements often carry the surname of a family leader such as; Forest, Landry, Babin, Breaux, Thibedeau,Vincent, Trahan.
During the first years they are visited on occasion by troops of soldiers in blue jackets speaking their language, then by troops in red jackets speaking a foreign language, but other than seeking shelter and buying provisions, neither cause them trouble or pay them much heed.
The settlers are nearly self sufficient, trading their excess products indiscriminately to New Englander traders and the French fortification at Louisbourg.
The population of Pisiquid district grows to 3,000.
The settlers did not forget their religion, the parish of Assumption is established in 1698 on the east side of the Pisiquid near Windsor and in 1722 the parish of Sainte-Famille is established on the west bank of the Pisiquid. The parish church is built in the village of Babin, on a hill overlooking the lower river ford on the trail to Grande Pre. A cemetery is located nearby, on the very spot we stand today.
Life is good.
Then, suddenly all is swept away. The struggle between France and England for control of North America comes to this peaceful valley. There follows 10 years of bloody guerrilla warfare during which the Acadians are deported, their villages burned or abandoned and their Mi'kmaq allies decimated.
Over the next 250 years all surface traces of Sainte-Famille
cemetery are erased under generations of the farmer's plow. But the first European settlers of this valley are not forgotten. Acadian historians and genealogists keep a candle burning. The saga of the Acadians is kept alive in the folklore of those settlers who replaced them in this valley. Passionate local historians, like Roland Meuse, collect anecdotes and artifacts of the period. Then, in his township books, our dear departed friend and inspiration, John Victor Duncanson, provides a history of Acadian settlements in Pisiquid district, including the location of Sainte-Famille cemetery.
The recent accidental disturbance of the site brings it to the attention of Provincial authorities, which leads to its purchase by the Committee for the Preservation of Sainte-Famille Cemetery. With this purchase the site is preserved in perpetuity. The people of Falmouth now have a historic site of national and international significance dedicated to the first European settlers in this valley.
For their hard work and persistence in bringing this project to fruition, members of the Committee for the Preservation of
Sainte-Famille Cemetery and the West Hants Historical Society,
particularly Lucille Amirault, Donna Doucet and Cheryl Adams, deserve our deepest thanks and gratitude.
I would also like to recognize Cathy Greeno who has worked
diligently throughout the summer in the planning and organization of this event.
To all of those who have assisted and to you ladies and gentlemen, for your support and encouragement - Thank You.
Posted with permission of the author and presenter:
Lucille forwarded to me your request to post on your website the text of the presentation made at the recent dedication of the Sainte-Famille Cemetery. I am honored that you consider these words worth posting and am pleased to give permission to do so.
Of course, our primary objective is to preserve our heritage, but we must also raise awareness of its importance to the social and cultural fabric of our country. I hope that our efforts here have, in some small way, contributed to these goals.
John D. Wilson