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A History of Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia
Chapter IV  The First Permanent Settlers

IN 1598, the Edict of Nantes, which assured more religious freedom to the Calvinists of those days, was drawn up at Nancy in France. This measure was ahead of the spirit of its times, and was particularly disliked by all devout Catholics who considered it nothing short of an insult to the divine power of the Church. On every occasion during the following years prelates and priests strove to excel one another in the breaking of the spirit, if not the letter, of this law, while at the same time, they kept up a constant agitation to have its fair and wise provisions repealed. When Louis XIV, who was an ardent Catholic, became King of France, the Catholics redoubled their efforts and finally in 1685, that monarch signed its revocation. In the following years the French Protestants, as well as those of other countries, suffered intolerably at the hands of Church and State. Previous to the Revocation, the Reformed Church had made progress in a disputed territory between France and the Duchy of Wurtemburg. This district was finally, with its Protestant population annexed to France, but in the annexation treaty, full freedom was allowed to the Protestants living within its borders.

As it had been especially provided that the Revocation should not apply to this district, its inhabitants, in marked contrast to their more unfortunate neighbours, suffered no molestation in their worship. In time, however, on the slightest pretence, this provision of the Revocation was broken, and here, as elsewhere, the Reformists were forced to bear the full burdens of a religious persecution. Orders were given that all the children should be baptized in the Catholic Faith, and finally, to stunt the growth of the Reformation, all the Protestant churches were ordered to be destroyed. One of these churches was at the town of Montbeiiard. This old town is one of the connecting inks between this rather ancient history and the present village of Tatamagouche. We shall repeat the following incident which occurred there, as it is told in Patterson's “History of Pictou County:”

“Orders were given that one of their* chapels should be taken from them and handed over to the Romanists. Fifty young men, among them George Tattrie and Peter Millard, assembled at it, armed only with stones, prepared to resist. A detachment of troops was sent against them, with a priest at their head. He warned the party gathered of the uselessness of their resistance. They, however, refused to yield, when a section of the troops were ordered to fire, which they did, killing two and wounding others, among them George Tattrie, who received a ball in the fleshy part of the leg. The order to fire was answered by a volley of stones, by which some of the soldiers were badly injured, and it is said, one killed. The Protestants were again summoned to surrender, but refused, until the priest called on the whole detachment to fire, when they submitted and saw the house where their lathers had worshiped given to their enemies.

The above story was told on two occasions to Dr. Patterson by George Tattrie, a son of the George Tattrie mentioned therein and the father of George Tattrie (spar maker). The last time was in the year 1873 when Tattrie was over ninety years of age.

After this incident, the persecuted, having decided to leave the land of their nativity, gladly welcomed and accepted the offers which the British Government was then making to those who wished to settle in the New World. Tattrie and Millard, who -were old soldiers, both having fought at the battle of Fontenoy, in 1745, joined the expedition. In 1752 they had made full preparation, and putting what few goods they possessed on rafts, drifted down the Rhine until they at length reached Rotterdam. Here they took ship for England but their troubles, though many, were not over. The Government had promised to provide them with passage and supplies, but failed to do so and the whole party was left without means of support at Portsmouth. Finally the Government was induced to act, and in the following spring four vessels were sent to remove them to America, two of which sailed for Halifax and the others to South Carolina. In the Halifax vessels were two hundred and twenty-four immigrants who were first landed at George’s Island but shortly afterwards moved to Lunenburg.

One of their Pastors in the old land was one DesBarres. He had a son, Joseph Frederick Wallet, who inherited that spirit of independence which his father so fervently preached. He, however, preferred to show this spirit in a more militant manner, and so at an early age joined the armies which were then opposing the King of France.

In 1756, he sailed as a lieutenant for America, where he raised and, for a time, commanded a corps of artillery. He was present at the siege of Quebec, and it was in his arms, so the story goes, that Wolfe fell when he received his mortal wound.1 The next year saw the final defeat of the French in America, and in 1763 the Treaty of Paris brought the conflict to a close. The many wars that the British Government had waged, while they left its treasury empty, added millions of acres to its already vast domains. A great deal of these lands was at once granted to those who had aided in their conquest. DesBarres presented his claim and, so highly successful was he, that at one time he owned a good part of Falmouth, the whole of Minudie, the best portions of Maccan and Nappan, and twenty thousand acres at Tatamagouche. The Tatamagouche grant bears date August 25, 1765. A copy of it will be found in Appendix A.

After the war, DesBarres was engaged in making charts of the Nova Scotian coast and, while at Louisbourg, heard of the condition of his compatriots at Lunenburg. They were anything but satisfied. He at once offered to let them land from his estate at Tatamagouche. In this he was actuated by selfish as well as unselfish motives. The land as it then stood was practically of no value to the owner who was continually in need of money to defray his various expenses. At the same time it cannot be doubted that DesBarres had a genuine interest in his old countrymen, and considered that he was aiding them as well as replenishing his own coffers. DesBarres’ scheme, while a good one for himself, was clearly impracticable. Men were not willing to pay rent when equally good land all around them was theirs for the asking. However, these men at Lunenburg seemed in such a dissatisfied condition that a number gladly accepted his offer. Each family was to have one lot containing eighty acres or less; tor six years no rent was to be paid; in the seventh year the tenants were to pay five shillings for a lot; on the eighth, ten shillings, and on the ninth, one pound, which would be the fixed rate thereafter. The landlord also provided cattle, the tenants agreeing to give him half the increase. Later on we shall see how this last condition on one occasion brought rather disastrous results to the first tenants.

In the year 1771 or 1772, about eleven settlers arrived at Tatamagouche from Lunenburg. They were George Tattrie, who settled on what is now the Donaldson farm; George Gratto; David Langille, who settled a little nearer the village on the Lombard place; his son James, who took a farm near him on the French River; George Matatall and Matthew Langille, who settled where the village now stands; and James Bigney, who had his house on the bank of the French River, close to where the late Miss Margaret Campbell resided. Either at this time or a little later came Peter and John Millard who took up lots between French River and the Block House. There were also three other settlers who did not remain- Ledurney, who settled on Waugh’s River; John Lowe and John Buckler. Some time afterwards, there came from the same place or quite near it, John Frederick and John George Patriquin. Their stay was short, as they soon removed to River John.

Twenty years had elapsed from the time of the departure from their old home until their arrival at their new one at Tatamagouche. Like AEneas of old, they had been “much tossed about on land and on sea.” Many of them who had left in the full strength of manhood found that they no longer were young, while their greatest task yet remained before them. They must indeed have been discouraged when for the first time, they viewed their long sought after home. The primeval forest extended to the water’s edge, save on a few places where the French had made clearings, which were of great assistance to them, the more so because of the non-arrival of the promised vessel load of farm implements. Within thirty miles there was not a house or shelter of any kind, not a living creature except Indians and wild animals, and to the newcomers neither of these was a very welcome sight.

Whatever their feelings may have been, they lost no time in getting to work, first to erect slight shelter for themselves and then to put in as best they could their crop for the first year which, in the absence of any implements, was a small one. The first year they suffered greatly.

What few provisions were absolutely necessary they obtained from Truro, paying as much as twelve shillings a bushel for wheat. These they carried on their backs to Tatamagouche, over thirty miles through the woods. It is said that they would have starved to death if it had not been for some greens which they found growing on the marshes. These they boiled and used continually as their principal food. This, along with fish and game, gave them a bare existence and kept starvation away.

We may now give the history of the various families as it has been given to us. George Tattrie was the one already mentioned in connection with the fight around the old church. He had three sons, Louis, David and George. The first, born in 1785, obtained in 1812 a tract of land at Louisville, near River John, where he had settled eight years previously. David, the second son settled on the French River near where Robert Tattrie now lives. His children were George, John, Ephraim and Edward. George, the third son, who died sometime n the “seventies”, married a Matatall, and had several children, all, or nearly all, of whom settled on the French River. Among them were George (spar maker), Annie, who married a Patriquin, James, Levi and David.

David Langille was twice married before he left his native land. By his first marriage he had one son, John James, whom we have already seen settled with him on the French River. By his second marriage he had no children. While he was sailing down the Rhine he fell in love with and married the widow of a Spanish soldier. She, by her former marriage, had one son who took the name of Langille and, after his arrival here, settled at Point Brule. By his third marriage, David Langille had five sons: Nicholas, who went away to the United States and was not heard of afterwards; John David, John George, John Frederick, and John Louis. The last four, about 1792, took up land at Louisville between Tatamagouche and River John. John George became an elder of the Presbyterian Church at River John in which office he was succeeded in turn by his son and grandson, who each bore the name Ephraim. John Lou s had also one son, David, who was an elder of the same church in River John.

John James Langille, only son of David by his first marriage, hail five sons: George, David, James, Joseph and Frederick. George removed to River John but finally settled in New Annan. Frederick removed to the United States and the other three settled in River John.

Matthew Langille had one son, George, who, in 1790, removed to River John. His father joined him there in the course of a few years, where he died in 1800 at the age of seventy-six. He was the first person to be buried in the old grave yard at that place.

With George Matatall came also his mother, old Mrs. Matatall, who had formerly been a nurse to Colonel DesBarres in his boyhood days. On one occasion, when he was Governor of Prince Edward Island, she paid him a visit. He took her to Government House and showed her every kindness. There were two George Matatalls, who were brothers. George the elder had been a soldier, and, after being long absent in the wars, was given up for lost and, on his return, he found another member of the family, born after his departure, who bore the same name. George, the younger, owned lot 30 West side of the site of the present village. In 1790, one George Matatall removed to River John.

James Bigney came from near Lake Geneva, Switzerland. He removed with his family to River John. His grandson, John George, was a Methodist minister.

In 1785 the Patriquins, John and George, removed to River John but, in 1790, John returned to Tatamagouche, exchanging places with Matthew Langille’s son George. George Patriquin had four sons: James, who removed to New Annan. David and George, who settled on the road from River John to Earltown, and Frederick, who, as we have already noticed, was presumably stolen by the Indians. He had also one daughter. Phoebe, who was afterwards married to Joseph Langille, River John. She was the' first white child to be born in that place.

These first settlers were of Swiss origin but, having lived in a small country whose borders were constantly being changed according to the varying fortunes of the powerful nations which surrounded it, they had, to a certain extent, adopted the language and characteristics of these nations. They understood and could speak the French language, their Bibles and other books being in that language. One of their descendants, now a lady of some sixty years, says that she can remember her father speak French, but “only once in a while”. They resembled the Swiss people in that they were industrious, sober and practical. They were good settlers and in a remarkably short time were making a comfortable living. As may be expected from people who gave up their old homes for the sake of their faith, they were devoutly religious. In the old land they were Lutherans but here most of them first allied themselves with the Presbyterian Church, as it was the first Protestant Church to send a minister to Tatamagouche.

These people, as a rule, showed good judgment in the selection of their, farms, taking advantage of the clearings that had been made by the French. They may have made a little money from lumbering, but it was not for a good many years after their arrival that lumbering or shipbuilding afforded any real means of making a living. By 1775 the little colony was apparently self-supporting, as in that year they were able to supply the Dumfriesshire settlers at Georgetown with potatoes.

In subsequent years they were joined by more of their countrymen. George Joudry was one of the earliest to come out. In 1790 he removed to River John. In 1809 came the three Mingoe brothers, David, John and George, along with their father who had been an old soldier2. They came to Tatamagouche from Philadelphia and finally settled on the “Back Road” to River John. They were the first settlers at that place. Their descendants now occupy the fine land where the original members of the family erected their first cabins among the stumps. These brothers wrere largely instrumental in the establishing of an Episcopal church at River John.

The old burying-ground of these pioneers was along the shore a little below the junction of French and Waugh’s Rivers.

“There on that beautiful wooded point silently sleep the heroes of the fight around old Montbcliard.” Time and tide, working incessantly, have carried away over half of this historic spot where forever the “rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.”

Once again the war clouds hang dark around old Montbeliard where, one hundred and fifty years ago, these men bravely prepared to die. There, where they, unarmed, bade defiance to Church and State, some of their descendants today are bravely fighting to preserve that liberty handed down to them by these men of old. But they heed it not— over their quiet, secluded graves the rugged spruces are keeping silent watch; trees which saw them when they first touched our shores, watched them as they struggled on, and finally, when life’s work was done, saw their bodies “returned to the earth from whence they came”. If today these primeval giants of the forest could speak, what a story they would tell!

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