Grand Pre Acadian Village in Nova Scotia

Grand Pre Acadian Village in Nova Scotia

Grand-Pré National Historic Site is a park set aside to commemorate the Grand-Pré area of Nova Scotia as a center of Acadian settlement from 1682 to 1755, and the deportation of the Acadians which began in 1755 and continued to 1762. The original village of Grand Pré extended four kilometres along the ridge between present-day Wolfville and Hortonville (where the British fort Fort Vieux Logis was located). Grand-Pré is listed as a World Heritage Site and is the main component of two National Historic Sites of Canada.

History of Settlement

Grand-Pré (French for great meadow) is located on the shore of the Minas Basin, an area of tidal marshland, first settled about 1680 by Pierre Melanson dit La Verdure, his wife Marguerite Mius d’Entremont and their five young children who came from nearby Port-Royal which was the first capital of the French settlement of Acadia (Acadie in French). Grand Pre is located in Nova Scotia Canada.

Pierre Melanson and the Acadians who joined him in Grand-Pré built dykes there to hold back the tides along the Minas Basin. They created rich pastures for their animals and fertile fields for their crops. Grand-Pré became the bread basket of Acadia, soon outgrew Port-Royal, and by the mid-18th century was the largest of the numerous Acadian communities around the Bay of Fundy and the coastline of Nova Scotia (Latin for “New Scotland”).

Queen Anne’s War

During Queen Anne’s War, the Raid on Grand Pré (1704) happened and Major Benjamin Church (military officer) burned the entire village. After the war, in 1713, part of Acadia became Nova Scotia, and Port-Royal, now called Annapolis Royal, became its capital. Rather than leave, the Acadians chose to live under British rule. However, they were asked to take an oath of allegiance to the British crown. This oath became a bone of contention for the next 40 years. Many signed a conditional oath in 1730 on the premise that they never be forced to take up arms against the French.

King George’s War

Everything changed in 1744 when England and France declared war. During King George’s War the French from Québec and fortress Louisbourg tried to retake Acadia. There were attacks and counter attacks. During the war there was the Battle of Grand Pre.

Father Le Loutre’s War

Acadian Memorial Cross, at nearby Hortonville, marking the location of the deportation and the site of Fort Vieux Logis

Father Le Loutre’s War began with the establishment of Halifax, which became the new capital for the colony in 1749. Shortly after the war, the Mi’kmaq attacked the British fort at Grand Pre Fort Vieux Logis in the Siege of Grand Pre.

French and Indian War

The British Conquest of Acadia happened in 1710. Over the next forty-five years the Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to Britain. During this time period Acadians participated in various militia operations against the British and maintained vital supply lines to the French Fortress of Louisbourg and Fort Beausejour. During the French and Indian War, the British sought to neutralize any military threat Acadians posed and to interrupt the vital supply lines Acadians provided to Louisbourg by deporting Acadians from Acadia.

In the Expulsion of the Acadians (1755), during the Bay of Fundy Campaign (1755), the Acadians in the Minas area had their boats and their guns confiscated. The French Fort Beauséjour was captured. Acadian delegates, in Halifax to present a petition, were imprisoned. The governor, Charles Lawrence decided to settle the Acadian question once and for all. With the help of Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts, the Expulsion of the Acadians began, and the Acadians would be expelled from Nova Scotia and dispersed among the British colonies to the south, from Massachusetts to Georgia.

Lieutenant Colonel John Winslow arrived in Grand-Pré with troops on August 19, 1755 and took up headquarters in the church. The men and boys of the area were ordered there on September 5. Winslow informed them that all but their personal goods were to be forfeited to the Crown and that they and their families were to be deported as soon as ships arrived to take them away. At exactly the same time, the Acadians in the neighboring village of Pisiguit were informed of the same declaration at Fort Edward.

Before the year was over, more than 6,000 Acadians were deported, not only from the Minas Basin area but from all of mainland Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Their villages were burned to the ground. Thousands more would be deported in the second wave of the Expulsion of the Acadians, which involved the deportation of the Acadians from Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island (1758). The deportation continued until England and France made peace in 1763. In all, 12,000 Acadians were deported, and half would die from drowning, starvation, imprisonment, and cold weather.


When the poem, Evangeline, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was published in the United States in 1847, the story of the Deportation and le Grand Dérangement, the great uprooting, was told to the English-speaking world. Grand-Pré, forgotten for almost a century, became popular for American tourists who wanted to visit the birthplace of the poem’s heroine, Evangeline. But nothing remained of the original village except the dykelands and a row of old willows. There is a bust of Henry W. Longfellow on site by Sir Thomas Brock.

Preservation of the site

In 1907, John Frederic Herbin, poet, historian, and jeweler, and whose mother was Acadian, purchased the land believed to be the site of the church of Saint-Charles so that it might be protected. The following year the Nova Scotia legislature passed an act to incorporate the Trustees of the Grand-Pré Historic Grounds. Herbin built a stone cross on the site to mark the cemetery of the church, using stones from the remains of what he believed to be Acadian foundations.

Archaeological activities

Grand-Pré National Historic Site is also the location of an archaeological site sponsored by St. Mary’s University, Parks Canada, and Sociéte Promotion Grand-Pré. While excavations have been undertaken by Parks Canada since 1971, the field school has been operational for ten years, during which archaeologists have identified the cemetery for the Acadian period, the cellar of an Acadian house immediately to the east of the Memorial Church, and has conducted test pits throughout the site looking for evidence of the parish church, St-Charles-des-Mines. Acadian artefacts that have been unearthed include fragments of Saintonge ceramic, nails, wine bottle glass, window pane glass, a 1711 French silver coin, spoons, belt buckles, buttons, clay pipes, etc. There seems to also be evidence of the occupation by New England troops, as well as considerable evidence of the New England Planter occupation period beginning in 1760.

I visited this site in 2006. There I bought my copy of Evangeline. Always wanted to read it, and finally did.

Location: 10-C2