March 11, 2014

A Review of Acadian History Up To 1763



Hugs for Claudette and Ellen


NOTE: I reviewed Acadia history to determine what effect, if any, it had on the real characters in my novel Intertwined Love. One family (my ancestors) relocated to Downeast Maine before 1769. Often the sources were confusing or conflicting. If you note any errors in this article please let me know in the comment box at the end.

Europeans found piles of shells on the North American coast, evidence of Native American life

Europeans found piles of shells on the North American coast, evidence of Native American life

Long before the first European settlement in North America the northeast coast was inhabited by Native Americans:

  •  day Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, the Gaspé peninsula of Québec, and eastern New Brunswick
  • the Maliseet inhabited the watershed of the St. John River
  • the Passamaquoddy  inhabited the area around the St. Croix River

This land was well known in European seaports: France, Spain, the Basque country, Portugal, and West Country England.


In 1524 Giovanni da Verrazzano,  a Florentine explorer serving the King Francis I of France, designated the entire Atlantic coast north of Virginia as Arcadia.

The name Arcadia may have been inspired by classical Greek poetry or it may have come from a Micmac word, rendered in French as “cadie,” meaning a favorable piece of land.

Mt. Desert Island across Frenchman Bay from Lamoine Beach, Maine

Mt. Desert Island across Frenchman Bay from Lamoine Beach, Maine

In 1534 King Francis I of France sent Jacques Cartier—with two ships and sixty-one men—to seek a northwest passage linking the Atlantic, above the continent of America, with the Pacific. Cartier.

After discovering the inlet of the St Lawrence river, raising a cross with the royal arms on the Gaspé peninsula, and naming the region New France, Cartier returned to France and claimed New France for his king.  An attempt to found a colony came to nothing.

To finance colonization, the 1588 French King granted North American fur trade monopolies. Pierre du Gua de Mons (a.k.a. Sieur de Monts) received a trade monopoly between the 40th and 60th parallels  (Maryland to Alaska), with the understanding that he establish a colony there.

Samuel de Champlain sailed from France, on April 7, 1604, with more than 100 colonists in a fur-trading expedition led by Francois Grave Du Pont, who received a fur trade monopoly in New France from” King Henry IV.  In New France, Champlain selected an island in the St. Croix River, which he named Ile Sainte-Croix (holy cross). There he established the first successful European settlement in the New World. He too claimed this settlement—plus Maine and south to the Hudson River—region for the King of France. Champlain became memorialized as the “Father of New France” and “Father of Acadia.

These French settlers, among the first Old World settlers to identify themselves as North Americans, called themselves “Acadiens” or “Cadiens.”

After nearly half of the colonists died (and others suffered dangerous illnesses) during the first winter, the colony moved to Port-Royal on the Bay of Fundy (in present-day Nova Scotia). There the settlers cleared and cultivated land.

Pierre du Gua’s monopoly, not having sufficient income to justify continuing to supply the colony, was revoked in 1607. The colony was abandoned—the last Acadians left Port Royal in August 1607. Pierre Du Gua (1558-1628), financially ruined, sold his proprietary rights to the Jesuits.

That same year English settlers established Popham Colony at the mouth of the Kennebec River. It disbanded a year later.

In 1610 Sieur de Poutrincourt, a French nobleman, returned to Port-Royal. He converted the Memberton and local Mi’kmaq to Catholicism, hoping to gain financial assistance from the government, and became financial partners with the French Jesuit colony of Saint-Sauveur on Mount Desert Island.

The Jesuit colony  was considered, by London to be a violation of the Charter of the Virginia Company. The British, in 1613, sent an expedition commanded by Samuel Argall to destroy the colony.

Argall returned, in November 1613, and burned the occupied site of Port-Royal to the ground while settlers were away nearby. The setters then lived with the Mi’kmaq and French attempts to colonize New England stopped.


New France defined its southern border at the Kennebec River.

In 1620 England’s Plymouth Council, a follow-up of the Plymouth Company and part of London’s Virginia Company, owned the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts even though it did not initiate the colony. The Plymouth claimed land in what is now designated as New England, land previously part of the Virginia Colony between the 40th and 48th parallels. It included rights that extended “from sea to sea” and included all of present day New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

plymouthlondonboundariesIn 1621 a charter granted by James I, gave rights of settlement in the territory of Acadia to Sir William Alexander. Boundaries weren’t defined.

In 1622 the Plymouth Council  granted colonial settlement rights in the Province of Maine to Sir Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason. In 1623 King James I granted 6,000 acres to Captain Christopher Levett to found the third North American colony in Casco Bay near present-day Portland. Thus, the land claims of France and England overlapped.

Southern Acadia’s border was positioned between New France and New England in the south. Its boundaries that flip-flopped as control passed between the French and British.  

Mt. Desert Island across the Jordan River

Mt. Desert Island across the Jordan River

In 1632, after the treaty of St.Germain-en-Laye restored Acadia to France. Cardinal Richelieu appointed his cousin, Isaac de Razilly as governor of Acadia. Razilly recruited about 300 “picked men” and “engaged bachelors,” sturdy, industrious, and religious, from the French provinces of Brittany and Touraine to settle in North America.  By 1650 Acadia had over 400 French inhabitants, including 45-50 families in the Port-Royal and La Héve areas. These families are considered to be the founders of the Acadian population

In 1636 the Acadians began building a system of dykes in an effort to prevent the ocean’s salt tides from flooding the marshes. Their success enabled much rich land to be cultivated. The Acadians also became skillful in the care of the dyke-protected meadows.    

In 1654, as French colonial power waned, British forces invaded the Acadian colonies with a surprise attack, seizing Port-Royal and holding Acadia for 13 years. In 1667, the Treaty of Breda restored Acadia to France.

Between 1677 and 1686 the provincial government of New York controlled Maine. In 1678 the Treaty of Casco was signed. According to its terms, the Abenaki recognized English property rights but retained sovereignty over Maine, symbolized by an annual land use tax for every English family. The treaty also stipulated closer government regulation of the fur trade.

In 1690 more than a thousand British from New England, under Sir William Phips, attacked the Acadians, destroying Port Royal and taking prisoners of war to Boston. In 1697, the Treaty of Ryswick restored Acadia to France.

In 1698 Father Sebastien Rasle (also spelled Rale or Rasles) built a mission at the Indian village in Norridgewock on the upper Kennebec River, which became a center for French-Indian interaction. With the coast east of Wells nearly devoid of English settlers, Rasle’s mission became the southern boundary of New France.

Cranberry field with Schoodic Mountain in the distance---all part of Acadia

Cranberry field with Schoodic Mountain in the distance—all part of Acadia

Port-Royal fell to the British for the final time in 1710, after Queen Anne ordered the recovery of Nova Scotia for the English crown. A force of 1,500 New England soldiers, supported by a strong fleet, besieged the colony, beginning with Port Royal. It fell after four savage, persistent attacks. 

The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht ceded to England the French Colonies now known as New Foundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, making Acadia a permanent British territory. The British established their first colony on Nova Scotia, named in honor of Lord Halifax. British settlers arrived and military garrisons were established to control the region.

The Treaty of Utrecht failed to define/fix a realistic French/English boundary. However, a British Proviso required the Acadians who wished to remain on their lands to swear allegiance to the British Crown and to become British citizens, although the allowed them freedom to practice their Roman Catholic Religion—the strict observances and rules of their Catholic Faith were the very heart of the Acadian lifestyle.

The Acadians had no intentions of becoming British subjects. Acadians who refused to take the oath of allegiance to King George were deported to Quebec. Those who remained held onto their lands and properties but  refused to be repatriated. Some took the oath of allegiance with the clause that they should not be bound to take arms against the French or their Indian allies. However, in 1720, Governor General Philipps ordered them to take the oath without reserve or to withdraw within four months, whereupon they prepared to emigrate with their property. But they were prevented from leaving.


On September 5, 1755, England’s “Final Solution” to clear the area of non-patriated Acadians was deportation. That Friday, 418 Acadians presented themselves at the Church as ordered, where Colonel John Winslow announced they were being immediately deported and all their properties and goods, with the exception of their cash monies and personal belongings, were confiscated by and to the benefit of the British Crown.  Soldiers surrounded the church to prevent any escapes.

Both present-day New Brunswick and virtually all of present-day Maine remained contested territory until the British ultimately defeated the French in North America in 1763.

Aerial view of Hancock County, Maine---part of Acadia then and now

Aerial view of Hancock County, Maine—part of Acadia then and now

Today, Acadia still has undefined borders. The term Acadia is used to refer to regions of North America that are historically associated with the lands, descendants, and/or culture of the former French region. It particularly refers to The Maritime regions having French roots, language, and culture: primarily in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, the Magdalen Islands, Prince Edward Island and Maine.



Welcome To Georgia in Downeast/Northern Maine

Sunset Photos at THE OVENS on Mt. Desert Island, Maine





  1. interesting…are you using this information in your book?

    Comment by merry101 — March 11, 2014 @ 10:23 pm | Reply

    • Probably some, but I’m not certain how much. Each point I research…seems to be only a little bit for the novel, although a couple of things have contributed to part or all of a chapter. One family I’m writing about squatted on the land when it belonged to France, then it went to Massachusetts, and then to the de Gregoires (not mentioned in Acadia…they were 1787). So they went from Acadia, to Massachusetts, to de Gregoire before getting a deed from the latter. Squatters, all!

      Comment by carolyncholland — March 12, 2014 @ 12:26 am | Reply

  2. Regarding the photo of Schoodic Mountain, it actually appears to be a blueberry barren in the town of Franklin that you are overlooking (I am a Franklin resident). Also, Schoodic Mountain is not part of Acadia National Park. Schoodic Point, in Winter Harbor, is part of the park and shares its name with the mountain. The mountain resides at the southern end of the unorganized territory Township 9 Southern Division.

    I was brought to your page by the photo as I was searching for an image to use for the cover of our town report and this is almost exactly the photo I wanted. I was curious if it was your photograph, and if not, who is the owner so I may request permission to use it.

    Comment by Roy Damien Gott — December 15, 2014 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

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