1755 compelled removing of the French teachers

Notes: In this essay, James Kences documents the great upheaval, or disruption, the forced removal of the French from the Canadian Maritimes in 1755 when the British and French were about to wage a war known as the Seven Years’ War on Europe . In the first wave of displacement, Acadians were deported to other British North American colonies. During the second wave they were deported to Great Britain and France, and from there significant numbers emigrated to Spanish Louisiana, where “Acadians” eventually became “Cajuns”. At least some of the refugees were in York for some time.

By James Kences

“So that the inhabitants do not have it in their power to return to this province … It is decided that they will be distributed among His Majesty’s colonies on the American continent.”

Governor Charles Lawrence issued this order in August 1755 to enforce the forced removal of thousands of so-called French neutrals from Nova Scotia in the Canadian Maritimes. The earliest group of deported French came to York the following year, and to these first unfortunates others would soon join, eventually reaching a total of 21 people.

An event known throughout history as the Grand Derangement or Great Upheaval brought an abrupt end to a familiar way of life. As the harvest approached, the men from the villages were brought together and interpreters confronted them with the harsh conditions. These men and their families should be deprived of their livelihoods – and only allowed to keep basic needs. “Their lands and tenements, all kinds of cattle and all kinds of cattle, are falling to them [British] Crown. “Hundreds of houses and barns were set on fire and destroyed.

The expulsion took place in the months before a formal declaration of war between England and France. In July 1755, the expedition of the British General Edward Braddock against the French Fort Duquesne at what is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, ended in an ambush that claimed the general’s life and also became an important incident in the life of George Washington, who led him at the age of 23 as a personal advisor.

In contrast to General Braddock’s frustratingly slow advance into the wilderness in the weeks leading up to the disaster, a second campaign against two enemy forts in Nova Scotia was swift and successful. The combined force, made up of 2,000 provincials under the command of Colonel John Winslow and the 280 regular soldiers under Colonel Robert Monckton, owned both locations in mid-June. Fort Beauséjour fell after four days and Fort Gaspereau surrendered without a fight.

Jedediah Preble, who served with Col. Winslow, was originally from York, son of Benjamin Preble, born in 1707. He eventually emigrated to Falmouth and was a resident of that town as early as the 1750s. He married Martha Junkins, daughter of Alexander Junkins, in 1733. Preble was a slave owner when he lived here. This is evident from the record of his slave Andrew’s marriage to Rev. Joseph Moody’s slave Phillis from 1736.

Immediately after the British conquest of Nova Scotia, residents were pressured to take an oath of submission and their refusal to submit should soon lead to deportation orders. The formal decision against them coincided closely with reports of General Braddock’s calamity, and the mounting prejudice and suspicion of the moment undoubtedly contributed to the grave measures taken from summer through autumn

The full backstory for these events can be traced back to the 1720s, when the Acadians expressed their intention to remain neutral in the age of Anglo-French conflict. Notwithstanding this collective commitment, far too much was being done against them as the two nations again approached war. For the French, the people were potential allies – for the British they were not only viewed as untrustworthy, but also as a source of material support for Louisbourg. As the future would prove, the land they owned was actively sought by New Englanders, who would flock to the region by the thousands in the early 1760s.

William Shirley, the governor of Massachusetts, suggested deportation as a strategy during the King George’s War in 1745, and a decade later, after Braddock’s death, he assumed command of the British military in America. The exact role Shirley played in implementing the policy is unknown, but some historians have argued that he was in fact “the architect of the deportation”.

The program was carried out with brutal efficiency and the Acadian people were subjected to a series of humiliating experiences when their farmhouses and other buildings were burned down and destroyed. They were instructed to board transport ships and endure unbearable conditions in tightly packed spaces below deck. They were destined for unknown, hostile locations and could expect to be treated as outcasts in the Atlantic coastal provinces.

Twenty-four ships left Nova Scotia with their passengers, and the captains of these ships included the well-known York names Donnell and Bragdon. Daniel Bragdon, the Master of Prosperity, brought 152 people to Virginia. Two thousand Acadians arrived in Massachusetts in mid-November and were distributed in small groups to the many cities. The money allocated for the assistance was insufficient, as calculated by Francis Jennings, who concluded that the total was about “a pound per person per year, or about two-thirds of a penny a day”.

As Jennings noted, “even in those days it wasn’t enough to make a living from.” French-speaking Catholics in the English colonies on the eve of the so-called Seven Years’ War – that was the dire situation the Acadians faced. We can only wonder how York as a congregation responded to the arrival of Peter Doucet, his wife, and seven children in January 1756. The family lived in the town until 1759, and Colonel Nathaniel Donnell was appointed to take care of them.

“To pay Col. Donnell in full for renting the house to Doucet.” An article on the Constable’s Book pages referred to the circumstances created by Doucet’s wife’s pregnancy and her extended recovery period. “She was upset all winter and couldn’t do anything to support the family,” explained Colonel Donnell. “I had to find wood for two fires most of the winter.” A teenage daughter, one of the older children, helped with housekeeping.

Few stray documents like the list of provisions entitled “Support the French Neutral Family in York” can survive to tell the story of Peter Doucet and the others who were here, but even these fragments are enough to keep us from looking to remind us they were here, and this may at least give us a pause to ponder the importance of this episode in York history.

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