The First Nations
Native peoples have lived around the Chignecto Isthmus for thousands of years. Travelling in family groups and small nomadic bands, they moved from area to area harvesting seasonal food sources.
Early French explorers were quick to establish links with the native peoples who had a remarkable understanding of the land and could also supply them with large quantities of furs. One early authority wrote,
”[The tribes] assemble in the Summer to trade with us … they barter their skins of beaver, otter, deer, marten, seal, etc., for bread, peas, prunes, tobacco, etc.; kettles, hatchets, iron arrow-points, awls, puncheons, cloaks, blankets, and all other such commodities as the French bring them.”
In time, the French settlers of Chignecto and the native people developed a mutual dependence. A census of 1687-88 recorded 21 Indians among the permanent inhabitants of ‘Chicnitou’.
As well as providing exotic pelts and feathers for the European fashion houses, the Mi’kmaq acted as guides and paddlers for French expeditions. Early travelers also took lodging at native settlements during long inland treks.
The French fur trading post eventually became the basis of the Acadian settlement. Agriculture[, that?] initially had supported [illegible], soon became
In 1676 Michel Le Neuf, Sieur de la Vallières, was granted all the land between Peticodiac and Tatamagouche as his seignueire. He called his new possession, “Beaubassin.”
Beaubassin is located on the edge of the Tantramar Marsh (from French ‘tintamare’ noise). At first it was known as the Bourgeois Colony after Jacques Bourgeois, former surgeon to d’Aumay at Port Royal which was the first French settlement in Canada (1605) now present-day Annapolis Royal. Along with family members, he had moved to Chignecto in 1672 to farm and to expand his fur trade. When La Vallières arrived some [illegible] years later he did so with instructions not to disturb those already there. He built his home instead on higher ground between the Fort Lawrence and Fort Beauséjour ridges.
Beaubassin was slow to be settled. The first settlers favoured Port Royal and the Minas Basin instead. In 1691 the population numbered 120 people, but by 1737 over eighteen hundred people were living at Beaubassin.
In 1750, under threat from British forces, the missionary L’abbé Le Loutre convinced the Acadians [illegible] to cross the Missaquash River into French controlled territory. After the evacuation, Le Loutre and his Mikmaq [illegible] burned Beaubassin to the ground. Thus, not only preventing the Acadians from returning, but also, he sincerely [believ]ed, deterring British settlement of the area. Later that year, however, Colonel Lawrence began construction of Fort Lawrence in the same vicinity.
Farming the Marshlands
Despite many attempts by their governors to convince the Acadians to clear and farm the woodlands, they chose instead to cultivate the deep and fertile soils of the marshlands. By dyking and draining the marshes, large new agricultural areas were created.
The Tantramar Marshes served primarily as pastureland. They were capable of supporting, as DeMeulles remarked in 1686, one hundred thousand grazing cattle. Beaubassin quickly developed as a place for rearing livestock. Most inhabitants kept cattle, hogs and sheep, all fattened on the marshland grass, or misette. The little land that was ploughed was planted in wheat, peas, flax, oats, barley, and hemp. Most Beaubassin farmers, however, opted to trade livestock to other farming areas for wheat.
Much of the dyked land has now been abandoned and has become overgrown. The massive dykes re[main], however, as a testament to the ingenuity and perseverance of the early Acadians.
Dykes and Aboiteaux
Prominent features on the marshes around Amherst are the massive dykes of earth, many standing several metres high, which were constructed in the 17th and the 18th centuries. The dykes kept the sea at bay in all but the most extreme tidal conditions. Water levels were controlled through the use of aboiteaux, or wooden sluice gates, which opened seaward. These valves allowed fresh water out at low tide and prevented salt water from getting in at high tide. The principle was outlined by Sieur de Diereville in 1708:
”To grow wheat, the Marshes which are inundated by the Sea at high Tide, must be drained, these are called Lowlands, & they are quite good, but what labour is needed to make them fit for cultivation! … it is done in this way; five or six rows of large logs are driven whole into the ground at points where the tide enters the Marsh, & between each row, other logs are laid, one on top of each other, & all the spaces between them are so carefully filled with well-pounded clay that the water can no longer get through. In the centre of the construction, a Sluice is contrived in such a manner that the water on the Marshes flows out of its own accord, while that of the sea is prevented from coming in.”
[Illustration captions, from left to right, read]
• (Above) “Homme Acadien”
• (Left) A Mi’kmaq encampment
• (Background) Mi’kmaq garments
• Rendering of Chignecto in the Beaubassin area.
• (Background) Detail of the Chignecto region.
• (Background) Dyke building required the labour of a great many people. The men in the centre are constructing the aboiteaux while the others work on the dyke itself.
Location. 45° 51.175′ N, 64° 15.596′ W. Marker is near Fort Lawrence, Nova Scotia, in Cumberland County. Touch for map. Marker is 50 meters NNW of the Nova Scotia Welcome Centre. Marker is at or near this postal address: 90 Cumberland Loop, Fort Lawrence, Nova Scotia B4H 3Y5, Canada.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 kilometers of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Fort Lawrence and English Settlement (here, next to this marker); Natural History (here, next to this marker); Amherst – Modern Period 1800s and 1900s (here, next to this marker); Beaubassin (within shouting distance of this marker); Un hommage à/A Tribute to Jacob (Jacques) Bourgeois (within shouting distance of this marker); Beaubassin 1672-1750 (about 90 meters away, measured in a direct line); Trans Canada Highway (about 120 meters away in New Brunswick); Jonathan McCully (approx. 4.2 kilometers away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fort Lawrence.
More about this marker. The marker is heavily checkered from weathering and is difficult to read.
Also see . . .
1. Mi'kmaq. (Submitted on January 1, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. History of Acadia. (Submitted on January 1, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Founding of Beaubassin. (Submitted on January 1, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
4. Beaubassin National Historic Site of Canada. (Submitted on January 1, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
5. Mi'kmaw History - Overview. (Submitted on January 1, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
6. Acadian Aboiteaux [Dike and Suice Gate System]. (Submitted on January 1, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Categories. • Colonial Era • Man-Made Features • Native Americans • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on January 1, 2018. This page originally submitted on January 1, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 71 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on January 1, 2018, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.