Grand-Pré National Historic Site

Grand-Pré National Historic Site

Grand-Pré National Historic Site is a park set aside to commemorate the Grand-Pré area of Nova Scotia as a center of Acadian settlement from 1682 to 1755, and the deportation of the Acadians which began in 1755 and continued to 1762. The original village of Grand Pré extended four kilometres along the ridge between present-day Wolfville and Hortonville. Together with the adjacent marshland, this area was designated a Rural Historic District by the Government of Canada in 1995. []

Settlement of Grand-Pré

Grand-Pré (French for "great meadow") is located on the shore of the Minas Basin, an area of tidal marshland, first settled about 1680 by Pierre Melanson dit La Verdure, his wife Marguerite Mius d'Entremont and their five young children who came from nearby Port-Royal which was the first capital of the French settlement of Acadia ("Acadie" in French).

Pierre Melanson and the Acadians who joined him in Grand-Pré built dykes there to hold back the tides along the Minas Basin. They created rich pastures for their animals and fertile fields for their crops. Grand-Pré became the bread basket of Acadia, soon outgrew Port-Royal, and by the mid-18th century was the largest of the numerous Acadian communities around the Bay of Fundy and the coastline of Nova Scotia (Latin for "New Scotland").

British rule

In 1713, part of Acadia became Nova Scotia, and Port-Royal, now called Annapolis Royal, became its capital. Rather than leave, the Acadians chose to live under British rule. However, they were asked to take an oath of allegiance to the British crown. This oath became a bone of contention for the next 40 years. Many signed a conditional oath in 1730 on the premise that they never be forced to take up arms against the French.

War between England and France

Everything changed in 1744 when England and France declared war. The French from Québec and fortress Louisbourg tried to retake Acadia. There were attacks and counter attacks. Halifax became the new capital of the colony in 1749. But the majority of those living in this British colony were Acadians. Their numbers were growing and they lived on the richest farmland. Those governing the colony believed something had to be done to encourage more Protestant settlers to come to the area.

Deportation (le Grand Dérangement)

In 1755 the Acadians in the Minas area had their boats and their guns confiscated. The French Fort Beauséjour was captured. Acadian delegates, in Halifax to present a petition, were imprisoned. The governor, Charles Lawrence, decided to settle the Acadian question once and for all. The Acadians were to be expelled from Nova Scotia and dispersed among the British colonies to the south, from Massachusetts to Georgia.

Lieutenant Colonel John Winslow arrived in Grand-Pré with troops on August 19, 1755 and took up headquarters in the church. The men and boys of the area were ordered there on September 5. Winslow informed them that all but their personal goods were to be forfeited to the Crown and that they and their families were to be deported as soon as ships arrived to take them away.

Before the year was over, more than 6,000 Acadians were deported, not only from the Minas Basin area but from all of Nova Scotia. Their villages were burned to the ground. Thousands more would be deported until England and France made peace in 1763.


When the poem, "Evangeline", by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was published in the United States in 1847, the story of the Deportation and le Grand Dérangement, the great uprooting, was told to the English-speaking world. Grand-Pré, forgotten for almost a century, became popular for American tourists who wanted to visit the birthplace of the poem's heroine, Evangeline. But nothing remained of the original village except the dykelands and a row of old willows.

Preservation of the site

In 1907, John Frederic Herbin, poet, historian, and jeweller, and whose mother was Acadian, purchased the land believed to be the site of the church of Saint-Charles so that it might be protected. The following year the Nova Scotia legislature passed an act to incorporate the Trustees of the Grand-Pré Historic Grounds.

Herbin built a stone cross on the site to mark the cemetery of the church, using stones from the remains of what he believed to be Acadian foundations. He sold the property to the Dominion Atlantic Railway in 1917 on the condition that Acadians be involved in its preservation.

In 1920 the Dominion Atlantic Railway erected a statue of Evangeline conceived by Canadian sculptor Philippe Hébert and, after his death, finished by his son Henri. The railway deeded a piece of the land and funds were raised to build a memorial church in Grand-Pré. Construction began in the spring of 1922 and the exterior was finished by November. The interior of the church was finished in 1930, the 175th anniversary of the Deportation, and the church opened as a museum.

The government of Canada acquired Grand-Pré in 1957. It was designated a National Historic Site in 1961.

External links

* [ Grand-Pré National Historic Site of Canada] at Parks Canada
* [ Société Promotion Grand-Pré] (key reference) en and fr
* [ Evangeline Trail] (in Nova Scotia)
* [ Acadian Memorial] (in Louisiana)
* [ Les Ami(e)s de Grand-Pré] fr
* [ Musée Acadien of the Université de Moncton] en and fr
* [ Acadian Ancestral Home] A Repository of Acadian History & Genealogy

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