Le Grand Derangement described in Madawaska Centennial Journal

Separation of families was the cruel strategy enforced during “Le Grand Derangement”.  It was the terrible period in 1755, in Nova Scotia, when the cruel British upheaval separated families and dispersed them in ships to many foreign ports. Some refugees were able to reassemble or escape the deportation.  A group of the refugees found their way to the territory of Madawaska, in Northern Maine and South Eastern Canada. This history was chronicled in an article I found published in the Madawaska Centennial, a 1969 publication.

Le Grand Derangement

A historical account about the Great Displacement known by Acadians and their descendants as Le Grand Derangement.

Historic synopsis: The Expulsion of the Acadians, also known as the Great Upheaval, the Great Expulsion, the Great Deportation and Le Grand Dérangement, was the forced removal by the British of the Acadian people from the present day Canadian Maritimes, parts of an area also known as Acadia. The Expulsion (1755–1764) was part of the British military campaign against New France. The British first deported Acadians to the Thirteen American Colonies and, after 1758, transported additional Acadians to Britain and France. In all, of the 14,100 Acadians in the region, approximately 11,500 Acadians were deported  (a census of 1764 indicates that 2,600 Acadians remained in the colony, presumably having eluded capture).

Grand Pre 1755 Le Grand Derangement

Le Grand Derangement in 1755 in Grand Pre Nova Scotia (Acadia)- separation of families by the British during the deportations.

No specific author’s by line is attached to the historical account of the tragic circumstances published in the 1969 Centennial report. Yet, the description about the deportations is compelling because the story is personal to so many Madawaska citizens, who are descendants of the deported Acadians.

In the opening paragraph, the author wrote, “The past of the Acadian people who came (to Madawaska) from Nova Scotia is a long story of persecution by the English, (it was) a century of uncertainty, (a period) of continuous struggle with unequal arms.  It is no wonder that one man who could not endure it any more asked, ‘Does God not make any more lands for the Acadians’?”

Acadian refugees in Ipswich Massachusettes

Acadian refugees in Ipswich Massachusetts

“…the famous order for all men, from the oldest to boys about ten years old were summoned on Friday, September 5, 1755 (263 years ago), to meet at the St. Charles Church in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia.  Additionally, the ‘special message from the king’ was read in other nearby parishes. Some families fled to the woods with whatever belongings they could carry. Unfortunately, 418 Acadian men and boys were locked inside the Grand-Pre church and heard with disbelief what Lieutenant Colonel John Winslow read to them, while someone translated. They and their families were to be deported.

Acadian Cross at Grand Pre Nova Scotia

Acadian Cross at Grand Pre Nova Scotia- L’Heureux photograph

Separation of families was common during this tragic process.

An article in the History News Network by John Mack Faragher,  described the situation: “The campaign against the Acadians, which lasted until…1763, claimed thousands of lives. Acadian property was plundered, their communities torched, their lands seized. After the war, many of the surviving Acadians returned to the Maritimes, but not to their old farms on the Bay of Fundy, which, in the meantime, had been granted to English-speaking, Protestant settlers. Most of the surviving Acadians created new communities in what would become the province of New Brunswick, Canada, while several hundred others migrated to French Louisiana and became the ancestors of today’s Cajuns.” Faragher wrote about “When French Settlers Were the Victims of Ethnic Cleansing in North America”  in his book published in 2005,  “A Great and Noble Scheme

Faragher claims that the deportation of the Acadians was planned well in advance of the king’s order.  ” …carried out by officers of the government in accordance with a carefully conceived plan that had been years in the making, and included the seizure and destruction of Acadian records and registers, the arrest and isolation of community leaders, and the separation of men from women and children.”

In the centennial report, the names of Acadian refugee families who arrived in Madawaska in June of 1785 were Duperre, Potier, Daigle, Fournier, Cyr, Ayotte, Thibodeau, Sanfacon and Mercure. Some dispersed into Quebec but the Cyr family stayed the most localized in Madawaska. Others arrived later and their names were Cormier, Violette, Amirault, Martin, Mazerolle, Leblanc, Gaudin, Hebert, Theriault, Comeau, LeBlanc, Legere and Gaudet.

My husband’s paternal great-grandmother was a Sanfacon and his grandmother was a Savoir (a branch of the Thibodeau family).

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized the Acadian deportation in 1847, with the publication his internationally acclaimed and best selling epic poem titled “Evangeline“, also made into a silent film starring Dolores des Rio.

Le Grand Derangement and its impact on families continues to be discussed even 263 years after the events occurred.  These human tragedies are deeply personal and impact families for many generations.  They are traumatic generational memories and rarely forgotten.

Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 27 years.