History of Grand-Pré
Grand-Pré National Historic Site
Grand-Pré National Historic Site of Canada commemorates Grand-Pré area as a centre of Acadian settlement from 1682 to 1755 and the Deportation of the Acadians, which began in 1755 and continued until 1762.
In designating Grand-Pré as a national historic site in 1982, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada also recognized the strong attachment that remains to this day among Acadians throughout the world to this area, the heart of their ancestral homeland. Grand-Pré is a symbol of the ties that unite them.
The area around the Minas Basin was a centre of Acadian settlement from about 1682 until 1755. In all, some 2,200 Acadian men, women and children were deported from Les Mines, almost a third of the nearly 6,000 Acadians deported from Acadie in 1755.
Putting down roots
Families from France first settled in Acadie in the 1630s. In the early 1680s, Pierre Melanson and Marguerite Mius d'Entremont and their children moved from Port-Royal to found Grand-Pré on the upland that overlooked the vast salt marsh or meadow from which the settlement took its name. Others followed and a vibrant Acadian community flourished along the rivers and shores of the Minas Basin.
By the beginning of the 18th century, the area of Les Mines was the largest population centre in Acadie. In 1750, an estimated 2,450 Acadians were living there, with another 2,500 in the Pisiquid and Cobequid areas, which had originally been considered part of Les Mines. Grand-Pré was the largest individual settlement in Acadie, with an estimated 1,350 inhabitants. The village extended two and one-half kilometres along the uplands and consisted of houses, farm buildings, storehouses, windmills and the parish church of Saint-Charles-des-Mines.
Agriculture flourished in the area of Les Mines. Acadian families built dykes to enclose and drain large sections of salt marsh and planted crops and reaped bountiful harvests from the fertile land reclaimed from the sea. They shipped surplus grain and cattle to New England, and, after 1720, to Louisbourg, the capital of Isle Royale.
Conflicts and wars
Under both the French and the British, the residents of Les Mines exhibited a strong spirit of independence, made possible in part because of the distance separating them from the authorities at Port-Royal/Annapolis Royal.
The area of Les Mines was not immune to the struggle between Great Britain and France for supremacy in this part of North America. During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), successive French expeditions used Les Mines as a camping place on their way to attack Annapolis Royal.
In 1747, Grand-Pré became the scene of battle, as a French-Amerindian force from Québec attacked British and New England troops who were occupying the Acadian village before their planned attack on the French at Beaubassin. This event is commemorated by a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque located a few hundred metres south of the national historic site. It is also dramatized in the exhibit hall within the Visitor Reception and Interpretation Centre.
Through this difficult period, most Acadians adhered to the policy of neutrality, which had been recognized by the Nova Scotia authorities in a qualified oath of allegiance sworn before Governor Philipps in 1729 and 1730. In 1755, on the eve of the Seven Year War, the acting governor and the Council of Nova Scotia decided to force the Acadians to take the standard unqualified oath, and, if they refused, to deport them. The Acadian representatives did refuse.
Lieutenant-Colonel John Winslow from New England was placed in charge of the deportation from the area of Les Mines. In all, some 2,200 Acadian men, women and children were deported from Les Mines, about a third of the nearly 6,000 Acadians deported from Nova Scotia in 1755.
In 1764, the British authorities finally permitted Acadians to return to Nova Scotia. Their former lands, however, had been settled by New England Planters in the intervening years. Acadians were forced to settle elsewhere in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Québec.
Grand-Pré is more strongly identified with the Deportation than any other site because of the detailed journal kept by Winslow in 1755, and because of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow chose it as the setting of his epic poem Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie published in 1847.
Longfellow's poem became a rallying point for the Acadian people following its publication in 1847. The story of a young Acadian girl from Grand-Pré, separated from her betrothed, touched millions of people around the world. Much more than a fictitious character, Evangeline symbolizes the perseverance of the Acadian people.
John Frederic Herbin purchased the site of the church and cemetery of Saint-Charles-des-Mines in 1907 and established Grand-Pré Park as a memorial to the Acadians. Two years later, Herbin erected a stone cross to mark the cemetery. In 1917, he sold the park to the Dominion Atlantic Railway on condition that the church site be deeded to the Acadian people. The railway company assumed responsibility for the park and landscaped the grounds the same year. In 1920, the company unveiled the statue of Evangeline near the park entrance, close to the train station.
At a special ceremony at Grand-Pré during the 1921 Acadian National Convention, the Société mutuelle de l'Assomption took official title to the church site. In 1922, the Société mutuelle de l'Assomption built the present day Memorial Church with funds donated by Acadians across North America. The interior of the Memorial Church was completed in 1930.
Grand-Pré continued as an important focus of the Acadian renaissance throughout the 1920s and beyond. The 1956 agreement between the federal government and the Société Nationale l'Assomption, acting on behalf of the Acadian people, acknowledged that "the Grand-Pré Park is considered the most important historic Site by the Acadian people, that it recalls their saddest and most heroic moments and must remain for future generations the example of courageous people whose culture and actions shall enrich more and more the Canadian nation".
The Government of Canada acquired Grand-Pré Memorial Park in 1957 and declared it a national historic site in 1982.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
UNESCO determined that the Landscape of Grand-Pré encompasses cultural characteristics that are so exceptional they are of importance to present and future generations of all humanity. Grand-Pré National Historic Site is at the heart of the Grand-Pré Landscape being recognized for its outstanding universal value.
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