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Relics of the Acadian Period

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Relics of the Acadian Period, by W.F. Ganong

Following is a description of several ancient artifacts from New Brunswick, from an article of the same title published in The New Brunswick Magazine, Volume 1, Number 1, Saint John, N.B., 1899. “Ancient” is to say that the artifacts are from the early days of European habitation; from the Acadian period.

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Relics of the Acadian Period

In the Educational Review for March, 1897, I pointed out the interest that attaches to relics of the French or Acadian Period in New Brunswick, and described several of the more important of those known to me. These included:—the Dedication stone of the Indian Church of Saint Jean Baptiste, built in 1717 at Meductic, the Chapel Bell of the Indian Church at Kingsclear, the Athol cannon (since mounted in front of the new school building at Campbellton) and some minor objects. In the present paper are contained some additional facts upon this very attractive subject.

The Chapel Bell of the Indian Church at Kingsclear

There can be no doubt that this bell, which still calls the Maliseets of the Indian Village at Kingsclear to worship, is the same that their forefathers heard sounding from the church of Saint Jean Baptiste at Meductic in the last century. Its history has been traced in Mr. Raymond’s monographic account of the “Old Meductic Fort” (in Volume I of the Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society), and in the article in the Educational Review above referred to. No description of the bell itself, however, has yet been published. In the summer of 1897, I was able, through the kindness of Father O’Leary, who is in charge of this mission, to examine the bell and to make wax impressions of its inscription. It hangs in the belfry of the Indian church, is of the usual bell shape, 11½ inches high, 8 in its smaller and 14 inches in its extreme diameter, and is perfectly plain except for some ridges running around it and the design shown in the accompanying cut, drawn from the wax impressions, and here reproduced three fourths the actual size [obviously to a different scale in this blog posting]. Four raised fleur de lis radiate from a circle, within which is a wreath surrounding a crown below which are two words, the first IACQVES, perfectly distinct, and the second, very indistinct, HURES or possibly HURET. The indistinctness is due to the corrosion of the letters through weathering. This name Jacques Huret is no doubt the name of the maker, and it is disappointing that no other inscription occurs upon the bell.

Pic1

In the old church register preserved by Father O’Leary occur some very interesting entries of which one refers to the bell. The register is entitled,—“Registre de la Mission d’Ekouipahag en La Riviére St. jean dans la province de La nouvelle ecosse commencé au mois d’aout mil sept cent soixante sept par nous pretre sousigné, successeur du pere germain jésuite. les actes des baptemes, mariages et sepultures faits par le missionaire ont eté perdus ou pendant la guerre, ou pendant lespace de trois ans que cette mission n’a point eté deservie. charles francois Bailly ptre.”

The following refers to the bell:—

“Nayant plus de sauges malecites en le premier village depuis le R p Sauvergeat jésuite je fis enlever un tabernacle autrefois doré, uns statue de la ste vierge deux chandeliers de cuivre un encensoir et navette aussi de cuivre, je fit aussi detruire la chapelle qui ne servoit plus que de refuge aux voyageurs pour les plus profanes usages, il y avoit aussi une moyenne cloche qui je fis aussi enlever avec le reste pour etre transporter a ekouipahag. et le tout doit etre restitute [illegible word] mission est retablie. Charles francois Bailly.”

Thus we see that the bell was brought from Meductic, which had been abandoned by the Indians, to Aucpac [Springhill] by direction of Rev. Charles Bailly himself, and that the chapel at Meductic was destroyed by his orders to prevent its profanation by voyageurs. There are also in the Kingsclear church a brass censer, supposed to be that mentioned in the register, and a processional cross, with fleur de lis, said by tradition to have been brought from Meductic. These articles were of course taken to Kingsclear when the Indians removed there from Springhill in 1794.

The Rochefort Bell of St. Mark’s Church Westmorland

Curiously enough, another New Brunswick church has in constant use a bell associated with the Acadian period of our History. It hangs in the belfry of St. Marks Church at Mount Whatley, Westmorland. My attention was first called to it by Mr. W.C. Milner, Who so thoroughly knows Westmorland history and antiquities; and the rector, Rev. Donald Bliss, allowed me to examine it. It is considerably larger than the Kingsclear bell and in perfect preservation. It is 17 inches high, 22 in extreme and 7½ inches in least diameter. It is rather elaborately ornamented, many lines and ridges encircle it, and on one side are three raised fleur de lis arranged in a triangle. Near the top, there runs around it a line of raised scroll work of much beauty. Beneath this line is the most important feature of the bell, a perfectly preserved raised inscription, which, as traced directly from the letters, is given below, reduced to about two-thirds the actual size [obviously to a different scale in this blog posting]. Though for convenience in engraving and printing the words are here arranged in four lines, on the original they run in a single line around the bell.

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Little more is actually known of the history of this bell than is contained in this inscription, which shows that it was cast “To the glory of God” by F.M. Gros in Rochefort in 1734. The local tradition is that it hung over one of the Acadian churches in this region prior to the Expulsion, and in all probability this is correct. There were, however, at least three important churches in this vicinity just prior to the Expulsion, one at Tintamarre, (Upper Sackville) one near Fort Beausejour, and one at Beaubassin, near Fort Lawrence. But there is nothing to show to which of the three the bell belongs.

The corner stone of the Beaubassin church was found many years ago, and happily, it is now preserved in the Museum of St. Joseph’s College at Memramcook. The inscription is given in full by Rameau de Saint Pere in his “Colonie féodale”, (second ed. Montreal, vol. II, page 64,) showing that the church was built in 1723. Possibly it was on this church that the St. Mark’s, bell hung. It is of interest to note that it was made in Rochefort, in the very part of France whence most of the Acadians came to Acadia. Some facts of interest relating to old bells in Cape Breton, are given by Sir John Bourinot, in his “’Cape Breton”, 268.

The Bronze Flagon from the Old Fort on Miscou Harbor

There is in possession of Mrs. Alexander McDougall, of Oak Point, Miramichi, a bronze flagon of considerable interest. It was found some ten or twelve years ago on the site of the so-called, “old Fort” supposed to be that built by Nicolas Denys, about 1750, at the point called on the maps, Pecten Point, on Miscou Harbor. The finding of the flagon at this point and its sale to the late Mr. McDougall, is well known locally, as I am informed by Rev. J.R. Doucet, of L’Amec. Dr. Philip Cox has been kind enough to send me a description of it with two very good photographs. Dr. Cox describes it as follows:—“The circumference of the base is about fourteen inches, of the lip it was probably twenty-five. Depth about five and a quarter inches; thickness of bronze about one quarter inch. One trunnion can be seen in position, and with its mate probably supported it in a framework in which it hung of its own weight, as they are above the centre of gravity. There is an attempt at ornamentation on five oblong octagonal-shaped plates, about two and a half inches long by one and a half inches wide, which from their irregular outline and want of symmetry on the sides would seem to have been merely thin strips cut out and brazed on, but operatives in foundries say they would all have melted off by the heat which disfigured it, had they not been cast on. A horizontal rectangular one contained the date in relief. A series of small diamond shaped ones alternated with the five larger. There seems to be no particular design on these, though the surface presents a resemblance to confused leaves and vines and grooves.” The date, showing distinctly on the photographs, is 1601.

The interest of this flagon lies not only in its authenticity as a relic of the old settlement at Pecten Point, but also in the possibility it affords of determining what kind of an establishment stood there. We know that Denys had a settlement in this vicinity but do not know its exact site, and in all probability the old Jesuit Mission of St. Charles stood somewhere on Miscou Harbor. Since the flagon is so badly injured by fire, it is fair to infer that the building with which it was burnt stood where it was found. If now some expert in ancient vessels of this kind could tell to what use it was put, whether in some particular service of the church, or simply in the wassails of grand seigniors, thus pointing to the probable use of the building in which it was burnt, it would go far towards determining whether it was Denys’ settlement that stood here, or the Mission of St. Charles.

Other Objects

Of course the few objects mentioned in this and the preceding paper by no means exhaust the list of extant relics of the Acadian Period, but they include all I know that combine unquestionable authenticity with general historic interest. There are in the Museum of St. Joseph’s College, Memramcook, many minor objects undoubtedly belonging to this period. Among them is a key supposed to be that of the church of Grand Pre, though its history, as M. Placide Gaudet writes me, is altogether traditional and not documentary. Dr. Cox tells me that two old pictures believed to have been saved from the burning church at “Burnt Church”’ in 1759 are still in possession of that parish. The recently issued Proceedings of the Natural History Association of Miramichi mentions “a number of interesting relics of early French occupation” in their museum, and various medals, crosses, rings, etc. of this period are known in various parts of the province. M. Gaudet tells me the chalice used in the chapel of “Les Dames de Ste. Anne” in the church of St. Thomas at Memramcook is the one formerly used in the church at Tintamarre. This, with other objects belonging to that church, were hidden in the woods at the time of the Expulsion and were recovered in 1768 by some of the first colonists of Memramcook, who knew of their hiding place. M. Gaudet has also told me of other minor relics, without doubt of this period, and of course there must be among the Acadian families of Memramcook and elsewhere numerous objects descended to them from pre-Expulsion days. As to the authenticity of most such objects, however, the evidence is purely traditional, and while they have great personal interest for their possessors, they are of little general historic importance.

It is most unfortunate that New Brunswick has no provincial historical museum into which such objects can gradually be gathered, properly exhibited, and preserved for future generations to whom they will be of far greater interest than they are to us.

W. F. Ganong

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Written by johnwood1946

October 22, 2014 at 9:47 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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