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  Background music: "Evangeline" sung by Marie-Jo Theriault
Part the First;   ...Down the long street she passed, with her chaplet of beads and her missal... "DOWN THE LONG STREET SHE PASSED..." illustration of the legendary Evangeline in her native village of Grand Pré, from Clayton Edward's 'The Story of Evangeline', an adaptation of Longfellow's legend and poem. 

For a truly beautiful and unique experience, drop in at the University of Virginia's Electronic Text Center to see and read the original text and original illustrations of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie" published in 1847. Please be patient... you'll be downloading 115,000 bytes of data. This link takes you directly to the book... 

Our history books make clear the motives of the colonial powers in their exploration of the New World and much is written in those books of the settlements of Jamestown, Quebec and Plymouth in 1607, 1608 and 1620. Unfortunately, not as much is written of the earlier Acadian settlements of Ste Croix Island and Port Royale, in 1604 and 1605.  And, less is known of the Acadians and their search for a better life. For most of us, our knowledge of the Acadians is limited to Longfellow's beautiful poem, 'Evangeline'.

So the question is: Who were the Acadians? Why were they willing to move from their homes in France and take on the dangers and hard work of emigrating to the New World? Was it that bad to live in seventeenth-century France?


The written story of the Terriot family opens in the quiet, sun-washed, feudal village of Martaizé in the medieval province of Poitou in west central France. It is the Middle Loire area, an area of pastoral countrysides and rich farmlands which stretch from horizon to horizon as far as the eye can see. Parts of this story are recorded historical fact. The rest of our history is an interpretation of related facts, which is based on the recorded history of those times. The year is 1601, the year that Jehan Terriot was born.

Life for Jehan Terriot would be simple but not easy. Born to Charles12 and his wife, a peasant farming couple in Martaizé, he began working with his father at the age of ten tending the few heads of livestock and working a small plot of land rented from <<Charles de Menou >> Lord d'Aulnay of Charnisay and his mother, Nicole de Jousserand. The "Seigneurie" (pronounced ‘seng-ur-ie’)13 of Aulnay included an area made up of La (Grande) Chaussée, Aulnay, and Martaizé in the region of Loudun. These villages apparently were all part of the Parish of Saint-Clement de la Grande-Chaussée which managed the records for the parishioners from these villages.

Life in France in this period was anything but pleasant. It was rare for common people such as the Terriot’s to own land because nobility and royalty owned much of the land. Disease was rampant because of overpopulation, lack of basic sanitation, and neglect by the ruling classes. Education was reserved for the middle class, the nobility and royalty. So, it was virtually impossible for a common farmer or tradesman to improve his standard of living.

STE-JOAN OF ARC/STE-JEANNE D'ARC... after her victory at Orléan... in full dress and carrying her standard... in King Charles the VII's court in Chinon. Next was her march to Poitier, capital of the ancient province of Poitou, to be questioned by the Church. This march took her through La Grande Chaussée the ancestral parish of the Terriot's... 

(This is an illustration of a painting  'JOAN OF ARC' by a student of Dominique Ingres by permission from the website of Saint Joan of Arc Center, Albuquerque, NM. If you don't think you know everything about St-Joan of Arc, we highly recommended that you "drop in" to the Center. You will not be disappointed)

St-Joan of Arc at Chinon reporting to King Charles

Although France had earlier succeeded (with the help of a young maiden named Joan of Arc) to push the English off the European continent, the two countries continued to batter themselves at every opportunity. To make matters worst, the Catholic Church had weathered the war of the Popes two hundred years earlier but was now corrupted with political power. An example was Cardinal Richelieu who ruled (on behalf of the King of France) over the province of Poitou from his seat in the city of Richelieu, just a few kilometers from Martaizé. The powerful Cardinal often affected the daily life of Jehan’s family.

During Jehan's childhood, <<Sieur De Monts>> settled Ste Croix Island in 1604 but finding the winter very hostile, moved the settlement across the Bay of Fundy to Port Royal in the next year.  Two of the victims of that horrible winter on Ste Croix Island, one a Catholic missionary and the other a Huguenot Protestant minister were buried in the same grave by the surviving members of the expedition who were obviously contemptuous of their petty rivalries. (For a brief description of the early history of the colonization of Acadia, see Gilles Theriault's article titled "Un Peu D'Histoire")

St-Croix Island... seen from the American side of the St-Croix River ST-CROIX ISLAND/ISLE STE-CROIX. That fateful piece of land (shown in the center background) in the middle of the Ste-Croix River which turned out to be so hostile to the first group of French colonials. Winter of 1604-1605 on this island was a very bleak and fatal winter for many in that group. No fresh water and little to eat... very poor choice for a first landing. 

This stretch of the Ste-Croix River which opens into the Atlantic a few miles south, today forms the natural boundary between the United States and Canada. The US National Park Service (St-Croix Island) and Parc Canada are preparing plans to expand the existing historic site into an Acadian national park here that will focus on this piece of Acadian history. It is more than a little overdue! 

The abuse of the church triggered its Reformation about a hundred years earlier and the Protestant movement that was sparked by Martin Luther and John Calvin was raging. Now, it was Catholics against Protestants, which included especially the Protestant Huguenots in France. The city of La Rochelle became sympathetic to the Huguenot cause at one point only to receive the wrath of Richelieu. Richelieu sealed the port, put the entire city in siege, and starved the city into submission. Jehan Terriot was then in his late twenties and working on the La Rochelle tidal marshes close-by.

Jehan12 had the good fortune of working as an apprentice with an order of Monks from the Netherlands who were involved in reclaiming the tidal marshes and lowlands around La Rochelle, on the west coast of France. Under the guidance of the monks, he learned the skill of building the ‘aboiteau’. An <<aboiteau>>is a boxed wooden valve or gate which when installed in a dike or levée, prevents the sea water from entering the marshlands at high tide, but at low tide allows the ground water to run off the diked marshlands and out at sea. This removes the salt from the marshlands and reconditions those lowlands into rich, productive farmlands in 2 to 3 seasons. This approach for creating new farmlands involves much less work than clearing acres of forest and pulling stumps by oxen.

Since the turn of the century, England and France had been involved in an endless battle-treaty cycle over New France and Acadia. This cycle continued in 1632, when the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye returned New France and Acadia once again to France. On 10 May, Cardinal de Richelieu who was then Minister to King Louis XIII organized two commercial companies: one to colonize Quebec and a second, to colonize Acadia. Richelieu appointed his cousin and counselor from Touraine, <<Isaac de Razilly>> as Lieutenant General of New France and Governor of Acadia. Razilly, in turn commissioned Charles de Menou, his cousin as his Lieutenant and asked Charles de Menou to accompany him on the expedition to Acadia. Razilly planned to recruit most of the men for his expedition from the provinces of Touraine, Berry and Brittany with the rest coming from the province of Poitou in the villages of La Grande Chaussée, Aulnay, and Martaizé. Since Razilly and Charles de Menou’s families owned this area of Poitou, they knew the people and thus were in good position to select the most capable and most skilled men.

SIEUR d'AULNAY de Charnisay 
(Courtesy Fort Point Museum, La Have, NS.)
Charles de Menou was a man who was interested in people and who had a special interest in the diking practice. Therefore, he knew Jehan and knew of his experience in building dikes and the aboiteau. So he invited Jehan to join the 300 select men ("hommes d’elite") in an expedition to Acadia in 1632. At this time, Jehan was 31.

Although Perrine Brault 2 was ten years younger, Jehan knew her very well because she also lived in the Seigneurie of Aulnay. Surely, Jehan by now had hopes of marrying Perrine but he would not act on those hopes for another 3-4 years. To this adventuresome young man, this invitation was very appealing. It was an opportunity of a lifetime if the colony succeeded but there were also the high risks and life-threatening hazards to consider.

The risks started first of all with the two-month crossing over the North Atlantic to Acadia. Sailing against the prevailing westerly winds, the sail from France at best would be a six week sail, some times stretching to ten weeks. Often disease would break out on-board because of the poor sanitary conditions on the ship and the shortage of fresh food after the first few days at sea.

Then there were the uncertainties which would face him in Acadia. He was not sure of ever being able to return. Certainly, much hard and perilous work would be required and work with men that he did not know. Nevertheless, he trusted Charles de Menou, and the opportunities were certainly there to build a new life and to own land. In the end, he accepted Lord d’Aulnay’s invitation to join the expedition to Acadia15 and planned to sail later that year.


Model of ship which took our ancestors to La Hève... compliments of Fort Point Museum, La Have, NS.On 20 June 1632 [ref:9, p.247], two ships, the Saint Jehan (250 tons) and l'Esperance en Dieu (Hope in God) sailed from La Rochelle after taking on a few men (which included Jehan Terriot) and the provisions necessary for the expedition. The flotilla headed for Auray in Brittany, not far from the major port harbor of La Havre. There, a third ship joined the first two and the remainder of some 300 recruits was boarded. The 300 ‘hommes d’elite’ (elite men) consisted of soldiers and their officers, missionaries and some farmers, tradesmen and hired men. Theophraste Renaudat, the founder of the French press in 1632, reported this news in his newspaper 'The Gazette'.

The flotilla left Auray on 28 July 1632 and sailed west across the North Atlantic. The sail was actually relatively short, not quite six weeks. They dropped anchor on 8 September at the mouth of the La Hève River (present-day La Have) on the south shores of Acadia. It was the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother.

But, it was also the Fall season and there was no time to spare. Winter would be setting in soon. Therefore, the settlers immediately started the task of building a settlement. They first constructed a fort on the point at the entrance to the La Hève River then some dwellings for the settlers. After, they built a dwelling for the missionaries, a chapel, and a monastery for the Capucins monks who were also part of the colony.

During the next year, an area of land starting from the river and going west of the fort for about 15 kilometers was cleared. The area immediately surrounding the fort was a large promontory rock and could not be cultivated.

In this large undertaking, Razilly’s principle associates Charles de Menou and <<Nicolas Denys>> aged 36 and 34, respectively, played important roles in the settlement of Acadia. Charles de Menou dedicated himself to getting the colonials settled in and concentrated on organizing and directing their work. Nicolas Denys, son and grandson of provincial officers in Tours, and an accomplished businessman and skilled negotiator, took the main task of developing the fisheries in Acadia and the fur and lumber export trade to France.

In 1634, Razilly in a letter to Cardinal Richelieu confirmed that Fort Sainte-Marie-de Grâces at La Heve? was fully prepared to ‘defend the Cross and the Fleur de Lis’ and its arsenal included a battery of 25 canons.

In spring of 1635, with the settlement well established, Jehan returned to France to proceed with his plan. After returning to France, Jehan and Perrine married and started their lives together as soon-to-be Acadian settlers. They made plans to sail in the spring of 1636 on the Saint-Jehan.

Back in Acadia however, in December of 1635 after Jehan left for France, Governor Razilly died suddenly at the age of 48 years. Razilly passed all of his possessions to his brother Claude, But since Claude showed little interest in coming to Acadia and in the interest of the colony, Razilly left Charles de Menou his closest collaborator and partner, in charge of overseeing his possessions and the colony. Razilly was buried in La Hève16.

Now in charge of the colony, D'Aulnay decides to move to Port Royal in 1636,  where he establishes a new "Fort Royal" five miles upriver from the original habitation. Unfortunately, D'Aulnay would not be left to lead the new colony without complications. <<Charles de La Tour>> in his enterprise with the colony had made many powerful friends in the King's court. He contested D'Aulnay's role in leading the colony and invoked a conflicting claim to the colony based on his 1631 commission from Louis XIII. At the same time, he moved his headquarters from Cape Sable to the St. John River, where he built a fort and set out to hinder d'Aulnay in a fifteen year civil war. Using his father's English connections, La Tour would  occasionally call in assistance from Boston in raiding d'Aulnay.


The following spring in late March of 1636, Jehan and his new bride, Perrine Brault gathered their worldly possessions into their carts and prepared for their voyage.27[ref: 29] It was a custom of the period for colonials to marry before their departure for Acadia.


This little stone church dates back to the 11th century. It is the church that served the villages around La Chaussée including Martaizé for many centuries. The sanctuary of the church is very spartan which connotes the common nature of its parishioners. As we sat in that little church, we thought of the generations of Terriot's who passed through its portals for their baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, their marriages and their funerals.  Click here for a photo of the church today. Today as back then, it is surrounded by other buildings which protect it. One of those buildings today is La Maison de L'Acadie, which marks the village's very important Acadian connection.

Ancestral place of baptisms, weddings and funerals for so many Theriault's...

As was their tradition in their faith, they gathered at their church "L'Eglise de La Chaussée". And, as written by G. Massignon and M. Caillebeau, a number of carts gathered in front of the little church of La Chaussée loaded with the farmers, their families and their few belongings. They awaited Monsieur Le Curé's blessing and fond farewells from their friends. Vincent Landry, the Notaire, was there amid the crowd. Then Martin Le Godelier, Lord of the village, solemnly lead the expedition away as they slowly started their five-day trip to La Rochelle and their eventual destination in the New World.

Later, on April 1st, they along with about a dozen other families boarded the Saint-Jehan in La Rochelle. Aside from those who boarded in La Rochelle, the Saint-Jehan transported a number of families, some hired men and a few Basques from Champagne, Anjou, Dijon, and Brittany. But, at the top of the manifest for the ‘Saint-Jehan’ was Jeanne Motin, daughter of Louis Motin (associate to Isaac de Razilly) who was on her way to Acadia where she and Charles de Menou would marry. While no doubt special accommodations were prepared for Jeanne Motin, the other passengers including Jehan and Perrine made do with the standard fare.


When the Saint-Jehan arrived in May of 1636, Aulnay had decided to move the colony from La Hève to Port Royal where arable land was very abundant. As shown in the map below, the location chosen in Port Royal for the new settlement was not the area that was first settled in 1605 on the north side of the basin of Port Royal (marked with a star)  but on a point at the mouth of the Dauphin River (present-day Annapolis-Royal) on the southern banks of the basin (marked with a circled star). It wasn't long before the Terriot's and the others from La Hève became established in Port Royal. Few, if any families remained in La Hève.

PORT ROYAL... THE EARLIER AND LATER SETTLEMENTS... with Jehan and Perrine's Acadian homestead

Once settled, the Acadians started their families. Soon after their arrival in 1636, the first born in Acadia was Mathieu Martin, second son of  Pierre Martin, neighbors to the west of Jehan and Perrine's homestead.  Then in 1637, after settling in their new home in Port Royal, Jehan and Perrine received their first born son, which they named Claude. The second generation of Terriot's was begun.

As shown on the map above (left click on the map to enlarge), the early Acadians settled on both the northern and southern banks of the Rivière-au-Dauphin, a gentle river which flows west and empties into the Bassin de Port Royale. The banks of the river had large expanses of lowlands and marshes ideal for the Acadian's diking technique for agriculture. Of the settlers who were with Jehan and Perrine in this early time period, many were friends from their home parish of La Chaussée which included the parishioners from the villages of Martaizé and Aulnay and other smaller villages in the area. Some of their family names were Blanchard, Bourg, Doucet, Gaudet, Guérin and Poirier.[ref: 27] Others like the Giroire's, Boudrot's, Brault's and DuPuys would arrive in later years. There were other Acadian settlers like the Martin family arriving with the Terriot's who were from other areas in France.

Most of the early Acadians settled on the stretch of the river to the east of the Port-Royal settlement as Jehan and Perrine did. The area west, between Port Royal and the Basin would be settled later. Some of the Terriot's neighbors included the Blanchard's to the east, and to the west, the Gaudet's and the Martin's. Others like the the Doucet's were a little farther away but in the same neighborhood.[ref: 28]

The practice at that time was to allocate a 'concession' to each settler which consisted of a narrow band of land about two acres wide at the river and going back a distance of 30 acres to the virgin forest in the interior of the land, or a total of about 60 acres. Of this acreage, a single farmer with no help (i.e., no sons nor hired hands) would typically be able to clear and cultivate 5-6 acres at best.28  The secret to prosperity was very simple: a large family with a large number of strong, healthy and ambitious sons.

The settlers made good progress: building a fort, several common habitations, the ‘maraits salants’ to produce salt, the levées and abôiteaux to keep the high tides off the marshes, and some barges, small boats and canoes to navigate the Dauphin River. They even constructed a monastery, which the colonials called ‘the seminary’ where a dozen or so Capucins monks lived. The monks served the colony by teaching and training about 30 sons of the colonials as well as young Indian Micmacs and Abenaquis. By 1640, the Capucins had four missions in Acadia: Port Royal, La Hève, Pentagoet (present-day Penobscot, Maine), and Canso.

This 15 year period of progress (from 1635 to 1650) was relatively unmarred by conflicts between the French and the English. The exception of course was the on-going feud between Charles de La Tour and Charles de Menou d'Aulnay. Whatever may be said about d'Aulnay's faults, he led a great agricultural establishment and made great progress for the colony. It was he who inaugurated the system of dikes which was afterwards became so widespread. Unfortunately, the incessant quarrels provoked by his competitve nature distracted from his efforts.

After basing himself on the St-John, La Tour attacked one of d'Aulnay's ships in 1639 and tried to storm Fort Royal, an attempt which failed. The feud was finally brought to an end when in 1641, D'Aulnay persuaded the French court to appoint him governor. and later received authorization to capture La Tour and arrest him. But La Tour continued to evade d'Aulnay and in 1647, while La Tour was away, d'Aulnay succeeded in capturing and destroying his fort at St-John. Tragically, Madame La Tour was killed in the attack and died at d'Aulnay's hands.

TERRIOT FAMILY: Second Generation in 1649With the exception of the occasional skirmishes between the 'feuding Lords', the Acadians were relatively unaffected by the on-going campaigns by La Tour and d'Aulnay. From the time of Claude's birth in 1637, Jehan and Perrine added another child to their family every two or three years. So that by 1646, their family had grown to five children: Claude, Jehan II (1639), Bonaventure dit Venture (1641), a little girl Jeanne (1643) and a son, Germain (1646). Eventually, they would have seven. So, the second generation of Terriot's was well in the making. By 1649, Claude was 13, Jehan II was 10 and 'Venture' was just 8 years old.

At this point, Claude was expected to begin working as a grown man. In that time, a boy was considered a man at the age of 14 and sometimes, girls would marry as young as 13 or 14. Before that time, a boy was expected to stay close to home with chores of gathering and cutting firewood, fetching the drinking water, feeding and cleaning the livestock, milking the cows and goats, hunting and trapping small game, etc.  In five more years, Jehan II and 'Venture' would also be able to 'put their shoulders to the task' of helping with the livestock, tilling the land, bringing in the crops and building the dikes.

In the meantime, much of this work fell on the original men who came over between 1636 and 1650. Others continued to arrive from France during this early phase of the colony which helped lighten the burden. In addition to providing for their growing families with more 'mouths' to feed, the men were expected to help with the common work of building dikes and building the common buildings in Port Royal. All dikes were considered common property and the responsibility of all Acadians. The reason was that if a segment of the dike failed, it affected everyone regardless of where the failed segment was.

By 1650, the settlement was well established with major diking projects under way. One of Charles de Menou’s main interest and preoccupation was the work of draining the great tidal marshes and prairies. So it was that on 24 May 1650, an apparently very cold day in the spring, Charles de Menou was on his way to check on the progress of this work along the Port Royal River when he capsized his canoe and died of cold and exposure. His body was later found by the Indians who transported his body to a cabin. Capucin Father Ignace de Paris who composed a memoir of this accident returned his body to the fort.

Thus, ended the Sieur D'Aulnay's chapter in the early history of the Acadians... a critically important chapter. Of the leaders involved in colonizing Acadia, all except Charles de Menou were primarily interested in the commercial aspects of the colony. Charles de Menou was distinguished from the others in that his vision was to establish a permanent population of Acadians. Although known as a 'hard driver', he was genuinely interested in his people. He was the one that had hand-picked the first men who came over in 1632 and dozens of others later. He accumulated huge debts in this process of bringing his carefully selected settlers from France. It was he who agreed to assume Isaac de Razilly's position to continue governing the colony. Without Charles de Menou, the Acadian colony surely would have been short-lived. It should be noted that some historians have judged Charles de Menou very harshly for his dealings with the de la Tours and the Bostonians. The ferocity of his actions were harsh and heartless it is true. However, to his Acadians, he was a loyal and dedicated leader. It would be some 37 years later, when Jehan's elder son, Claude as he turned 50 years old, signed and attested to the great contributions by d'Aulnay to the Acadian colony.(ref: 25, page 1486)

But by the time of his untimely death, the colony had been in Acadia nearly 20 years and were on the way to becoming established. Acadia held a promise for the future...

As an appropriate ending to this chapter, let me offer a glimpse of Acadian life as written by Rameau de Saint-Pere in his 1889 writing 'Une Colonie féodale en Amérique / A Feudal Colony in America' which I will translate for you:

"On Sundays, we saw the Acadian farmers emerging from all of the folds of this charming valley, some by canoe, others on  horse with their wives and daughters riding astride behind, while long lines of Micmacs decorated with all sorts of bright colors and bizarre ornaments, mingled  with them.

Around the manor and the church, d'Aulnay had kept great open spaces of land and open fields which they called 'Champs Commun/ Common Fields' where the Acadians would attach their mounts and leave their possessions.

On leaving church after Holy Mass, the Acadians would linger on the Common Fields during the warm seasons, while talking about their crops, their latest hunting and trapping excursions, their land clearing work,  d'Aulnay's latest undertakings and the thousand stories in their private lives, and in general to gossip in the custom of all french-speaking lands.

D'Aulnay often mingled with his people. He would tell of his adventures at sea or in battle and of his travels out to Indian lands. More than one old explorer who might have ridden with Latour and Biencourt, or been seen with Poutrincourt, would counter with his own stories and occasionally, the venerable Sagamos Micmacs would solemnly intervene in the conversation.

It was a good occasion to inform himself about the developments in each family. Always in good humor, he would predict the next marriages and talked about the establishment of new families in their new lands. Because it was one of his main hopes to expand and multiply the Acadian families which he considered with good reason to be the essential base, the vital force of the 'seigneurie' and the colony."

"Le dimanche, on voyait déboucher de tous les replis de cette charmante vallée les fermiers acadiens, les uns en canot, les autres sur leurs chevaux, amenant en croupe leurs femmes ou leurs filles, tandis que de longues files de Micmacs, couverts d'ornements bizarres et de peintures voyantes, se croisaient avec eux.

Autour du manoir et de l'église, d'Aulnay avait ménagé de grands espaces de terre et de prairie, qu'on appelait les champs communs où les arrivants attachaient leurs montures et déposaient leurs bagages.

En sortant des offices, on s'attardait vollontiers, durant la belle saison, sur les champs communs, en devisant sur les récoltes, sur la chasse, sur les défrichements de chacun, sur les travaux entrepris par le seigneur et aussi sur les mille incidents de la vie privée, ainsi qu'il est d'usage de commérer dans tous les pays français...

D'Aulnay se mêlait souvent lui-même entremis ces propos. Il recontait ses aventures de mer ou de bataille et ses courses dans le pays indien. Plus d'un vieux routier qui avait chevauché avec Latour et Biencourt, voire avec Poutrincourt, lui donnaient la répartie et de vénérables sagamos micmacs intervenaient quelquefois avec solennité dans la conversation.

C'était une occasion propice pour s'informer de ce qui advenait dans chaque famille. Tout en plaisantant, il fomentait les mariages et discutait l'établissement des nouveaux ménages dans de nouvelles fermes. Car c'était un de se soucis dominants de multiplier ces foyers domestiques, qu'il considérait avec raison comme la base essentielle, la force vitale de la seigneurie et de la colonie."