Map of Richmond County with points of interest...
Simplistic map of Nova Scotia, showing relative positions of Louisdale and Halifax.
More detailed map showing Isle Madame and Lennox Passage, and a small portion of the Cape Breton mainland.
Short History of Isle Madame
Shortly after Columbus discovered North America, French, English and Basque fishers came to Isle Madame during the summer as a base for their fishing, whaling and walrus-hunting expeditions. These fishing areas were bountiful and in time a number of fishers began to settle Isle Madame. The first to settle were the Basque with names: Goyetche, DesRoches and Baccardax. They intermarried with the Acadian families that followed at a later date.
Isle Madame is the name of the largest island in an archipelago situated off the southwest coast of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia; near the Atlantic Ocean entrance to the Strait of Canso, which separates Cape Breton Island from the mainland of Nova Scotia. Until recent years, well over half the population of Richmond County lived on this island. Arichat, the most important town on Isle Madame, is also the capital or Shiretown of Richmond County. Petit-de-Grat on Isle Madame was settled by Acadians before the Deportation.
Fishers have frequented the waters off Isle Madame and the south coast of Cape Breton Island for more than three centuries. The first Frenchmen to settle in this area, at least on a temporary basis, were brought out in the 1640s by Nicolas Denys who founded the short-lived fishing station of Saint-Pierre (later called Port-Toulouse, now known as St. Peters), located on a narrow stretch of land separating the Atlantic Ocean and the large inland waterway, Bras d'or Lakes.
When France lost Acadia in 1713, it founded the colony of Ile Royale (Cape Breton Island) which was protected by the immense Fortress at Louisbourg. French settlement on Isle Madame occurred during the French regime at Louisbourg. During this time two French merchants, D'Aroupet and Hiriat, turned Petit de Grat into a major fishing and smuggling centre. Many French and British officials of the time estimated that there was a greater volume of goods moving through Petit de Grat than through Louisbourg.
It was the cod fishery, and not agriculture, that formed the economic basis of the new colony. In order to populate the island, France tried to entice Acadians to leave their fertile lands along the shores of the Bay of Fundy. For various reasons, very few of them were tempted by these invitations. In fact, recent research has shown that only 67 Acadian families moved to Cape Breton between 1713 and 1734 and even some of these families eventually moved back to mainland Nova Scotia. The Acadians settled in the two main out ports of Cape Breton, Port -Toulouse (St. Peters) and Petit-de-Grat, and became involved in coastal trade with Louisbourg.
Some of Isle Madame's Acadian families, notably the Gerroirs, LeJeunes and Doirons, settled on Isle Madame during the Louisbourg period. Most of Isle Madame's population was composed of French fishermen brought to Isle Madame by Hiriat and D'Aroupet. After the fall of Louisbourg in 1758 virtually all of these early settlers left Isle Madame. Most of the ancestors of Isle Madame's present day Acadian population arrived in the years after the Fall of Louisbourg.
Families such as the Boudrot's (Boudreaus), Samsons (Sampsons), Martels (Martells), Dugas, DeCoste, Bouchers, Petitpas, Vigneaus, Fougeres, Marchands, Poiriers, and Landrys were settled in the Port Toulouse (St. Peter's) area at the time of the Fall of Louisbourg. After being forced off their land many of these families spent years in exile or hiding in the woods before finding their way to Isle Madame. Other families such as the Forets, the Theriots (Theriaults), the Babins, the LeBlancs, the Forgerons, the Bellefontaines, the Lavandiers, the Meuniers, and the Richards were expelled from Old Acadie, that is the Bay of Fundy region, in the Great Expulsion of 1755 and like the families mentioned above made their way to Isle Madame after a number of years in exile.
Almost every Acadian in Richmond County today can claim descent from the cluster of families who immigrated to Cape Breton in the early part of the eighteenth century. Their family names are Coste, Petitpas, LaForest, Boudrot (Boudreau), Dugas, Boucher, Vigneau, Fougere, Langlois, Marchand, and Samson.
After the peace treaty of 1763 a considerable number resettled on Cape Breton, mainly in the Canso Strait and on Isle Madame. Charles Robin operated a fishing establishment at Canso Strait. He employed a number of Acadians who came mostly from the islands of St-Pierre and Miquelon, located off the southeast coast of Newfoundland, still owned by France.
These early settlers lived in conditions just barely above the subsistence level. Unable to hold public office, vote, teach or attend school or even own land due to Nova Scotia's anti-Catholic penal laws they lived at the mercy of the local authorities. This was mainly the local fish merchant, Charles Robin, a French Anglican from the Channel Islands. Robins fishing and trading operations extended around the Gulf of St. Lawrence region and Arichat was his headquarters. Fishermen on Isle Madame sold all of their fish to Robin and so he was able to control the price. He also owned the only store, meaning that all fishermen were forced to purchase their goods from him at his prices. Given his monopoly position it is not surprising that Robin exploited the Acadian fishermen of Isle Madame to the limit of their endurance. Robin was followed by other Jersey merchants including the Janvrins, the Levescontes, the Gruchys, the Huberts, the Jeans, and the Moores. Many of these firms continued to exploit Isle Madame's fishermen until well into the twentieth century. The Robin firm did business at Robins in Arichat until 1910. The Levesconte operation in D'Escousse only closed its doors in early 1930's.
In 1774, the Acadian Cape Breton population had reached 1,011 people, almost half living in Arichat and Petit de Grat on Ile Madame. By the time the Frenchman, Sieur de la Roque, carried out his detailed census of all the settlements on Ile Royale (Cape Breton) in 1752, there were about 35 Acadian families settled on Isle Madame along with several families from France. Sieur de la Roque provides the following description of life on the tiny island:
The nature of the soil is not suitable for cultivation, as in addition to the fact that fogs are constantly prevalent during the whole of spring, the quality of the soil can only be described as a mixture of earth largely composed of clay, and an infinite number of rough stones heaped upon the top of another. . .
The settlers on this island follow various callings, in order to secure a livelihood. Those who are not engaged in the cod fisheries, are employed in navigation during the summer, whilst in the winter they make cord wood, which they sell at 9 livres a cord, delivered at the coast, whilst as a general rule all the settlers endeavour to add to their earnings by finding keep for a few head of cattle. The whole coast is practicable for small vessels, and a landing can be very easily effected at almost any point. . .
Petit Degrat is suitable only for the cod fishery. None of the people who are settled there have any other occupation. Fish are very abundant and none finer are found at Ile Royale. . .
The harbour of Grand Nerichac (Arichat) makes one of the finest ports that there is in the country. A survey shows that it is well fitted for those carrying on the cod fishery by means of vessels.
Hundreds of Acadians took refuge on Cape Breton, especially in Louisbourg, during the early 1750s. The majority of them were loaded onto ships and transported to France in 1758 after the fall of Louisbourg. A few of them, however, were able to escape this deportation and, along with the older Acadian families, went into hiding or fled to the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon (off the southeast coast of Newfoundland, still belongs to France). They gradually made their way back to the region they had once occupied. For example, in 1765 both Charles Martell and Homer Mombourquette, originally from Louisbourg, were living on the south coast of Cape Breton in the community of L'Ardoise.
Several documents lead one to conclude that Isle Madame was not quite deserted between 1758 and 1763. There were Acadian families already established on Isle Madame when Charles Robin founded his fishing establishment in Arichat in 1765. Normally the Jersey merchants returned to their native island in the late fall, but in 1768 Charles Robin decided to spend the winter in Arichat. In his diary, he refers to several Acadians including Rhene LeBlanc, Simon and Charles Fougere, Claude Dugat, Rhene Therriau, and Anselme Bellefontaine. In the following entries, for example, he gives an idea of the friendly relations he established with his neighbours with whom he conversed fluently in French...
Tuesday, February 21st : Geo. Bichard sewing a main sail for Rhene Therriau's schooner, as we have nothing to do and Therriau is a good neighbour and has a great deal of work to do against the spring which made me offer him to get that job done for him.
Tuesday, April 11th : Early this morning went to the village and soon after came back with Anselme Bellefontaine's wife and her sister, as they promised yesterday to come and see me, being the last time they will venture over the ice this spring, after dinner went with them to the village.
In 1768 Lieutenant-Governor Francklin prepared a list of the inhabitants on Cape Breton Island who had made improvements to their land and who therefore should have been eligible for land titles. Seven names were mentioned with regard to Petit-de-Grat: Charles Fougere, Charles Dugas, Louis Boudrot, Joseph Boudrot, John Peters, Peter Fougere, and Joseph Gaudin.
The census of 1771 indicates that there were 400 inhabitants on Isle Madame most of whom were concentrated in Petit-de-Grat and Arichat.
In Arichat, the largest group in Acadia, there were 174 people belonging to 35 families, in Petit de Grat 37 people for 9 families, and in D'Escousse 73 people belonging to 15 families. There family names were: Benoit, Boudrot, Forest, Fougere, Girouard, Guidry, Landry and others. By 1774 the number of people living in Arichat and Petit de Grat had risen to about 500.
Nova Scotia's anti-Catholic laws were abolished in 1784 which helped Isle Madame's rapidly expanding Acadian population. By 1786, the population of Isle Madame had increased to such an extent that Arichat was assigned its own resident Catholic priest making it the second oldest Catholic parish in Nova Scotia. At the time of its creation the parish of Arichat took in all of Eastern Nova Scotia, PEI, and the Memramcook Valley of New Brunswick.
According to the first resident missionary on Isle Madame, Father William Phelan, there was a chapel in Arichat when he came in 1786. Unfortunately the next 50 years of parish records for the whole of Isle Madame were lost when the presbytery in Arichat was destroyed by fire in 1838.
The distribution of land throughout Cape Breton took place more haphazardly than on mainland Nova Scotia. As a result, the majority of settlers lived on Isle Madame for a long time, often more than 20 years, before they obtained titles to their land. As the amount of habitable land and water frontage was limited, Acadian migrations to Isle Madame came to an end by the early 1800s. In 1811, for example, there were approximately 1,200 inhabitants, 90 percent of whom were Acadian. The same census also indicates a surprisingly large number of livestock considering the poor soil: nearly a thousand sheep, about 500 head of cattle and around a dozen horses.
Following the coastline around the archipelago, the main settlements of Isle Madame were D'Escousse, Rocky Bay, Petit-de-Grat, Arichat Harbour, Arichat, and West Arichat.
Acadians also settled along the south coast of mainland Cape Breton in two main localities: L'Ardoise and River Bourgeois, which lie a few kilometers on either side of the former French settlement of Port-Toulouse (St. Peters). By 1824, for instance, there were about 30 Acadian families living in River Bourgeois with surnames like Landry, Samson, Bourque, Boucher, Fougere, Pitre, and Babin.
When settlers applied for titles to their land, they were often asked their age, where they were born and how long they had they had been living in Cape Breton. By selecting a few representative cases from the Cape Breton land Papers, one can see that Isle Madame was resettled not only by descendants of families who had immigrated to Ile Royale in the early 1700s, but also by Acadians who had lived in exile for many years. The following show the complex fabric of resettlement in Richmond County:
Charles Landry, requested title to his land in 1810, he was 70 years old, had 9 children, 7 of whom were living in Cape Breton, he was born in the territory of present-day New Brunswick in 1740, he had been living in Arichat since 1780.
Nicholas Petitpas, requested title to his land in 1815 he was 60 years old, and had 9 children, he was born in Louisbourg in 1755, he had been living in D'Escousse since 1785.
Moses LeBlanc, requested title to his land in 1809, he was 44 years old, he was born in St. Malo (France) in 1765, he had been living in Arichat since 1784 he took the oath of allegiance in Arichat 1793.
Paul LeBlanc, requested title to his land in 1815, he was 46 years old and had a wife and 2 children, he was born in Belle-Isle-en Mer (France) in 1769, he had been living in Cape Breton (presumably Arichat) since 1775.
Cyprian Samson, requested title to his land in 1815, he was 51 years old and had 12 children, all living with him, he was born in Cape Breton in 1764, he had been living in Petit de-Grat since 1785.
Marie Babin, is one of the very rare women whose name appears in a petition for land, she petitioned Governor Ainslie in 1818 for title to 140 hectares (340 acres) located in West Arichat for herself and her children, Joseph, Peter Paul, Abraham, Susan and Madeleine, her husband, Pierre, died after receiving title to a lot of 90 hectares (230 acres) in 1803, she was granted the land immediately, Marie and Pierre Babin appear to have met and married in Arichat. Marie was born in Port Toulouse (St. Peter's) and Pierre was born in the Grand Pre region and deported to Massachusetts with his family in 1755.
As was the case elsewhere, Acadians were permitted to resettle provided they signed the oath of allegiance to the British monarch. Many Acadians in Isle Madame appear to have taken the oath in Arichat in 1793. This is no doubt due to the fact that between 1792 and 1793, several hundred Acadians who had taken refuge on the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, returned to Cape Breton, mainly to Isle Madame. They decided to leave the French islands because they refused to take an oath under the new constitution of France instituted in 1792 after the French Revolution. Such was the case of Father Francois Lejamtel who left Miquelon with about one hundred Acadians. For most of the 22 years he served Cape Breton, he was the only priest.
As with Cheticamp, the Acadians were attracted to Isle Madame because the Robin Company offered employment in the fishery. For a number of reasons, however, the company did not become a monopoly on Isle Madame, and consequently the fishery evolved differently from Cheticamp. First of all, Charles Robin suffered a setback in 1775 when his stores were burned by his American competitor, John Paul Jones. Several other fish merchants moved to Isle Madame partly as a result of Robin's weakened position, but mainly because of its location with respect to the fishing banks and the international trade routes. One of these companies belonged to the Janvrin family, also from Jersey. They were granted the large island off Arichat, now called Janvrin Island.
Another company was owned by Laurence Kavanaugh of Irish descent who expanded his operation from St. Peters to Isle Madame n the 1790s. His father had originally established his business in Louisbourg in 1760. Kavanaugh was the first Catholic elected to the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly several years before the abolition of the Test Oath. It would appear that government officials were more interested in his considerable fortune and influence than in the fact that he was of the Catholic faith!
The Jersey families associated with Isle Madame and Richmond County are Robin, Janvrin, Bourinot, Jean, Malzard, Hubert, Gurcy, LeViscount, LeLacheur, Fixott, Briand, and Mauger. Despite the fact that they represented a very small percentage of the population, these families occupied virtually all the important judicial, governmental and military positions in Richmond County until the mid-1800s. This reflected not only the economic and political power of Protestant merchants but also to the educational disadvantage of the Acadians. The Jersey families who first settled on Isle Madame were bilingual, well-educated and they had the distinct political advantage of belonging to the Church of England.
The Jersey merchants and the Kavanaughs were all dependent on Acadian manpower. The majority of Acadian men on Isle Madame were fishermen and sold their catches to these companies. However, unlike the situation in Cheticamp, the Jersey merchants did not own all the fishing vessels on Isle Madame.
A large number of schooners were built, owned and operated by Acadians. Some of the most famous Acadian names associated with the shipping business throughout the 1800s were: Thomas LeNoir, Charles Boudrot, Isidore LeBlanc, Benjamin Gerroir, Elias Boudrot, Mellam Poirrier, Simon Babin, and Dominique Girouard. The Jersey companies did, however, maintain their monopoly in the area of equipment and supplies-including commodities like salt, indispensable for curing fish.
As the nineteenth century unfolded prosperity became the rule rather than the exception. By this time it was becoming increasingly obvious that Arichat was going to be one of the major ports in Atlantic Canada. Sitting at the entrance to the Strait of Canso, which was itself the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Arichat was ideally suited to act as a stopover place for vessels headed to Upper or Lower Canada or to the American Colonies. As well Arichat was well suited to act as a base for merchants engaged in the so called triangular trade in which North Atlantic fish was exchanged for Caribbean rum and molasses and European manufactured goods. To these geographic advantages was added the fact that Arichat possessed one of the largest and deepest harbours on the Eastern seaboard of North America.
Monseigneur Plessis, Bishop of Quebec, made two pastoral visits to Nova Scotia, the first in 1812 and the second in 1815. He visited Arichat on both occasions and was particularly impressed by the activity and appearance of the port in 1815. The following entry in his diary gives an idea of the export trade and the growing prosperity of Isle Madame. Bishop Plessis approved of the trades in the fishery and shipbuilding, but he considered the so called triangle trade immoral and dangerous, because it often implied smuggling the "demon rum."
In the midst of these spiritual dangers, Arichat has assumed an entirely different aspect materially. Even within the last three years there is a notable difference and a considerable betterment. The houses are more attractively constructed, and the people dress better. They eat better food, such as bread (which the Acadians know so well how to do without); not that their fields produce more grain, for they do not cultivate them, but because they have money enough to buy, flour.
There is also much more activity in the harbour. Many more ships come and go, and still bargains are made. Some of these ships carry coal from Sydney, and others plaster from Antigonish. Some even go to the Strait of Belle Isle to gather from its rocks, eggs of sea gulls, starlings, magpies, cormorants and other sea birds.
The economic growth of Arichat attracted a number of Irish English and Scottish immigrants during the 1820s. As a result of this influx of English-speaking settlers, the relative percentage of Acadians in Arichat, where almost half the population of Isle Madame was concentrated, dropped from 90 percent in 1811 to 66 percent in 1838. These new migrations into the area had much less impact in other parts of the island. Petit-de-Grat, West Arichat, Poulamon and D'Escousse were still Acadian and French-language strongholds in the 1880s.
The days of sailing vessels ushered in an age of unparalleled prosperity on Isle Madame. Around the shores of Isle Madame, particularly in West Arichat and D'Escousse, ocean going vessels were constructed in record numbers by the same Acadian fishermen who had been oppressed by Charles Robin. In Arichat alone in the 1830s upwards of 60 vessels a year were being constructed. Five forges were needed to supply the metal work necessary for these vessels. By 1867 over 400 listed Arichat as their home port, hundreds more sailed out of West Arichat, D'Escousse, and Petit de Grat. So many Spanish, French and American vessels visited Arichat in those years the governments of those countries maintained consular agents at Arichat to look after the affairs of their nationals. By the 1860s Arichat could boast two high schools, a Catholic Cathedral, two Protestant Churches, a grand court house, 24 large wharves, several lawyers, several doctors, a Masonic temple, several hotels, up to four bars, and a newspaper. Needless to say, this activity attracted a good deal of immigration to Isle Madame.
Several families including the LeNoirs, the Hureaus, the LeBruns, the Murys, the Covins, and the Franks migrated directly from France and were quickly absorbed into the local Acadian population. Other families such as the Davids and Lindens first popped up on Isle Madame when their forebearers jumped ship in the Strait of Canso, swam ashore and met and married local girls, thereby assimilating into the Acadian majority.
One group that did not assimilate readily was the Irish immigrants to Isle Madame. In Arichat such families as the Flynns, Hennessys, Barrets, Powers, Phalens, Maddens, and Tyrrels long maintained their separate Irish identity. Indeed Arichat's St. Paddy's day celebrations were judged to be the most exuberant east of Montreal.
In Rocky Bay the Kellys, Doyles, Wilsons, Dunns, Kehoes, O'Hearns and Keatings were even more devoted to their Irish heritage and succeeded in producing what is today the most distinctly Irish community in Cape Breton. Indeed up until the Second World War the ancient Irish language was still to be heard in Rocky Bay.
Rameau de Saint-Pere, who visited Port Toulouse (St. Peters), on Cape Breton, in 1860, met an Acadian bearing the name of Fougere, probably Charles Fougere the son of Joseph Fougere, who told him:
"My father was from Port Toulouse. I was born in Arichat in 1761. During my youth there were 18 houses in Arichat, five at D'Escousse, four at Petit-de-Grat. During the War of Independence, in 1775, the Acadians had to leave Ile Madame where they were threatened by American privateers. Only six families stayed. The rest escaped to Halifax and, from there, part of them settled at Chezzetcook. Then, once peace was restored most returned here.
The old settlers of Port Toulouse emigrated to Saint-Pierre to L'Ardoise. I stayed three years at Chezzetcook. I often saw the women hauling wood which the men took to Halifax in boats. When I was 22 years old, around 1783, there were but two families at Cheticamp: Pierre Bois and Joseph Richard dit Matinal."
Because of its thriving economy and its central location for travel by water, Arichat was chosen as the seat of the new diocese that was created to serve the eastern counties of Nova Scotia where thousands of Scottish Catholics had immigrated in the 1790s and early 1800s. The parish church of Notre Dame l'Assomption in Arichat became a cathedral when the first Bishop of Arichat was ordained in 1844. Although the seat of the diocese was transferred to Antigonish in 1880, Arichat was an important political and educational centre.
Several elementary schools were established on Isle Madame by the late 1820s although all the teachers were English-speaking. The major advances in education were made during the 1850s under the influence of the second Bishop of Arichat, Rt. Rev. Colin Francis MacKinnon. As soon as he took office, Bishop MacKinnon expressed his eagerness to establish an institution in Arichat that would serve as a seminary and classical college for lay students and future priests. Most of the students who attended Bishop MacKinnon's Seminary-College were Scottish although there were a few Acadians. In 1855 after only two years of operation on Isle Madame, the Seminary-College was moved to Antigonish where, in 1866, it became a co-educational institution, St. Francis Xavier University.
By the 1850s Acadian leaders throughout the Maritimes were emerging to spearhead the movement for educational and linguistic rights for French-speaking citizens. One of these leaders was Father Hubert Girroir. He began his ministry in Arichat in 1854. Father Hubert Girroir was the first Acadian born in Nova Scotia to become a priest. A native of Tracadie, he served in Arichat, Cheticamp and Havre-Boucher. For almost 30 years he fought for French-language instruction in schools frequented by Acadian children-not an easy task in a diocese dominated by Scottish priests who, like the Irish, believed in the future of an English-language Church.
An academy or high school continued to function in Arichat under Father Girroir's direction. He succeeded in obtaining members of the French-speaking order of the Christian Brothers from Montreal to run the school from 1860 to 1866, but they were obliged to leave as a result of Charles Tupper's Free School Act of 1864 which placed certain stipulations on the qualifications of headmasters of schools receiving public funds. In an attempt to enable the Christian Brothers to stay and thus ensure the existence of a French secondary school on Isle Madame, Father Girroir addressed the following letter to the Premier of Nova Scotia, Sir Charles Tupper:
It seems that there is a fatality attached to the Acadian race: for since thirteen years that l have been in public life, I have worked like a man at my post, beggared myself for the education of the country, and, the moment that matters were assuming a fair state of existence, here comes a death blow that blasts all my anticipation's. It seems that, whenever an Acadian community is on the point of taking position among others, here must be something to thwart the efforts of many years. God help us! Nevertheless, my confidence in you makes me hope that you, Hon. Sir, will come to our rescue by granting us what we justly expect.
Neither Father Girroir nor any of his successors were able to obtain members of a French-language religious order to take over the Arichat Academy. As a result, it continued to function with lay teachers, several of whom were Acadian graduates of St. Francis Xavier, including Remi Benoit, a native of D'Escousse. Young girls were more fortunate to the extent that a convent school was opened in Arichat in 1856 under the direction of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal. A second convent school was opened later in West Arichat. According to a prospectus at the end of the 1870s the convent in Arichat offered a full "course of instruction in the French and English languages".
The first Acadian from Cape Breton to sit in the Legislative Assembly was Henry Martell, elected in 1840. For 19 consecutive years he represented the riding of Arichat Township and when this seat was abolished in 1859, he sat as a member for Richmond County until 1863. Only ten Acadians, all residents of Isle Madame, have been elected to represent Richmond County in the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly. Judging from the Debates and Proceedings of the House of Assembly, one of the most influential and outspoken of these politicians was Isidore LeBlanc who sat from 1878 to 1886. Twenty years after Father Girroir's efforts in Arichat, Isidore LeBlanc was still struggling to obtain French-language instruction. On April 17, 1879 he addressed his fellow members in French, a unique event in the history of the Legislative Assembly, requesting that a bonus be given to French-language teachers so that Acadian children could receive Instruction in their mother tongue. He stressed the enormous difficulty of acquiring knowledge conveyed in the English language, a language with which the children were unacquainted.
The wave of immigration ended about the same time as Isle Madame's economy sunk into an enduring decline. Eventually The traditional triangular trade route fell apart and Isle Madame's exports of fish were no longer in such great demand. Steam powered vessels came on the scene, eliminating the need in many cases to use Arichat as a stop over point. The Acadian ships masters were sailing seafarers and didn't like the age of steam and iron ships that was being thrust upon them.
As well, steam vessels and vessels made of iron required investments and technical expertise beyond the capacity of Isle Madame's sea captains and merchant class. The result of these developments was a long slow economic decline. Few new vessels were built, old vessels were allowed to deteriorate and slowly but surely the so called tall ships disappeared from Isle Madame.
The glory days of the past were over. But life went on as it does today. For many years many still fished and carried out light farming. Many immigrated to the US and there descendants still take pride in the history of their ancestors. Some carried on the seafaring tradition and served on many vessels plying the waters of the world returning home for short periods of time.
The topography of Isle Madame is rapidly changing as the fields that were once harvested of their crops now mostly lay idle. They are slowly returning to a wooded area, mother nature doesn't wait. Today, the economy is mostly supported by those who work in the industries of nearby Port Hawkesbury. The fishing industry as in all of Atlantic Canada is at a standstill while fish stocks at one time so plentiful have reached an unprecedented low.
But the Acadian way of live is still very attractive to the residents. For those that live elsewhere and visit the island it is like visiting a place that has been frozen in the past - not in the sense of being behind the times but of a way of life that was and still is very attractive.
On a visit to Cape Breton in 1998, Aunt Ethel came with my Mom and Dad and myself from Halifax for a visit to the area. We did a drive around Isle Madame and went through Petit de Grat. We did not stay long enough (in retrospect). Aunt Ethel did get a chance to visit her sister Rita, who at that time was living at a nursing home.
I seem to also remember something about fresh baked rolls at Rita's house, but I cannot reconcile the timeline or who I was with or where this house was.
These four pictures were taken on the 1998 trip.
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