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A History of the County of Yarmouth, N.S.
Chapter X. Township of Argyle. When set apart. Successive settlement of Argyle, Tusket, Rel Brook and Pubnico. The D’Entremonts


ON the 6th of July, 1771, it was resolved by the Council “that the lands lying between the Township of Yarmouth and Barrington be erected into a Township, and to be called by the name of “argyle.”

This was just ten years after the settlement of Yarmouth, and the inhabitants being comparatively few, the circumstances had not demanded any formal designation of the district. But frequent grants and continuous settling in an undefined territory was troublesome, hence the action of the Council. Land grants in Argyle to persons nonresident, were frequent and important. Already Lieut. Ranald McKinnon’s settlement and grant have been detailed. Subsequently, on September 6th, 1773, grants were made to Edmund qnd Joseph Crawley, of 1000 acres, on the peninsula called Nonparison. And on the same date, a grant of 1000 to John Morris, consisting of the whole Island, now known as Morris’s Island. In October, 1765, some of the most beautiful and valuable lands on the Tusket River had been granted, amounting, in the aggregate, to 10,000 acres, to Governor Wilmot and other members of his family; and about the same time, 2000 acres to the Rev. John Breynton; all of whom were non-residents. I trace much of the subsequent stagnation of the Township of Argyle to this fact, that its best lands were owned by persons who never saw them, and who were in no way concerned about their improvement, further than the question what they would bring.

Already we have seen that as early as 1763, John Frost, and fifteen other heads of families, had settled at Argyle. Here those sixteen, together with seven others, who had subsequently arrived, settled, without any distinct tenure, until the 22nd of June, 1771, when they presented a memorial to the Council, setting forth “That they had settled themselves, in virtue of Governor Lawrence’s proclamation, and had there cultivated lands; therefore, praying that they may have a grant of the said lands, amounting to two thousand acres, and three small islands containing one hundred and twenty acres.” This petition was granted on July the 10th of the same year.

Prominent amongst the petitioners are the well-known names of Frost, Goodwik, Nickerson, and Spinney,—all of whom were from New England. The last named family, that of John Spinney, who came from Portsmouth, with seven sons* is as striking an example as can Anywhere be found of numerical increase. I am informed, by an old and respectable member of the family, that John Spinney, who came to Abuptic in 1762, is the ancestor of probably five hundred living descendants, about half of whom are in the County.

Similarly wide spread is the family of Frost, two members of which, John Frost, Esq., and Captain Jeremiah, were prominent men in their day. John,- besides being a preacher, was also a magistrate,—and in neither capacity did he escape without serious trouble. On the 8th of July, 1775, the complaint of Ranald McKinnon,- J. P. for Queen’s County, was read before the Council, setting forth that “He had been assaulted and knocked down by John and Hugh Nickerson, and that on complaint to Mr. Frost, one of the Justices of the Peace, for redress, he could obtain no other answer, than that the said Nickerson had already lodged a complaint against the said McKinnon. It was ordered that a copy of the complaint he sent to the said Frost, and that he be called on to answer it. The answer confesses He had found the offenders and acknowledges his ignorance of the- due method of proceeding. The Council Resolved that the said Mr. Frost should be suspended from the office of Justice of the Peace, until further order.” As he did exercise his office afterwards, it is evident he was reinstated. But he got into much more serious trouble. In the month of August, 1775, the Militia having been called out, in consequence of the attitude of affairs in the New England States, John Frost, Esq., and Captain Jeremiah Frost, were complained of by Benoni D’Entremont, and other French Acadians, of harassing them. Joseph Crawley appeared before the Council, substantiated the charges, and proceeded to prefer others to the effect—

That the said Captain had used arguments to seduce the Acadians from their duty, hy telling them they would find the advantage of taking part with the Americans.”

And further declared that—

“Justice Frost, in one of his puhlic discourses, expressed his hopes and wishes that the British forces in America might be returned to England confuted and confused.”

The result was the opinion of the Council—

“That Jeremiah Frost, Captain of the Militia in Argyle, he dismissed from any command in said Militia, and from any other employment under Government.”

The Governor, having considered the state of the Militia in the Township of Argyle, and the disposition of the New England people and the Acadians there, and the necessity of putting them under a command of a proper .and well qualified person, proposed that

“Lieut. McKinnon, who had been long resident there, and well acquainted with the inhabitants, and haying already a command in the Militia there, do take on him the command of all the Militia in the County of Queens, and of the French Canadians in the County of Clare, with the rank of Colonel of Militia. And, in order to put the Militia of that County on a proper footing, especially as from the declaration of Mr. Joseph Crawley it appears that pains had been taken by ill-minded persons to seduce the French Acadians from their allegiance to the King.”

The Governor further proposed—

“That Mr. McKinnon do, without loss of time, proceed to Argyle with twenty men of the recruits now raising here for the King’s service, and he furnished, with four barrels of gunpowder and ball in proportion, to be by him accounted for.”

And the Governor acquainted the Council—

“That he thought it would ha proper to recommend Mr. McKinnon to the General, for the rank of Captain in the army.”

All of which was done.

Leaving the Argyle settlement, we must retrace our steps once more in point of time to 1767. In that year many of the

FRENCH ACADIANS,

who had been carried away, returned to Nova Scotia, from which they had been banished. Their s was certainly a hard lot. Distrusted hy the English, those of them who did not seek refuge in France, who were carried to the States, were finally driven from thence as Papists. It will be remembered that the D’Entremonts, who did not flee to their ancestral home, were carried to Primbury and Walpole, in Mass. They came back in the year mentioned above, after about ten years’ exile. And on the 5th of October, eighteen families, indiscriminately described as “Acadians,” having applied for land whereon to settle, it was advised “that on their taking the oath of allegiance, land should be assigned to them in the neighbourhood of Barrington and Yarmouth.” Some of those families settled finally at Pubnico, and others at Eel Brook. The names will show at a glance that all were not Acadians; hut other circumstances indicate that although some of them were purely English in descent, they were probably hound together by the ties of a common faith. As co-religionists they were in search of a home where they could enjoy their religion free and unmolested. On the 6th of November, 1771, their request for land was granted. Then upwards of 2000 acres were granted to Philip Brown, Walter Larkin, Benjamin Sealy, Lange Amereau, Charles Belliveau, Ahel Duon, Peletiah Goodwin, Joseph, Paul, and Benoni D’Entremont. There is no doubt hut that, although for the more part the descendants of the Larkins and other families are now Protestant, they were at first apparently bound to the French Acadians by religious considerations. There are records of an early date of members of their families having been baptised, confirmed, married, and buried as Roman Catholics. The families of Hines, Larkins, Murphy, and' Lennox, were originally of Irish extraction. Nearly opposite the house of Mr. Manasseh Larkin, at the head of the river, stood the primitive Acadian Chapel and Presbytery, and nearer the shore, on a beautiful knoll, the traditional last resting place of the pre-expulsion Acadians is still pointed out: but there is no trace left of its former sacred character, and it is now used as a fish-curing ground.

On the property of Mr. Reuben Larkins is the first English burial ground, which was used from about 1767. It lies in a most ruinous and decayed condition, without any marks of loving care. Briars and thorns cover the old tombstones, many of which have fallen and lie broken and neglected.

Once more then we find the d’Entremont family occupying their ancestral domain. They settled at Pub-nico Point, on the west side of the harbour. There was plenty of fowl, moose, and fish; and all the water and land convenience they desired. The story of their return is well told by the Cure Goudot:—

“They landed on the shores of Nova Scotia. One of the D’Entremonts reached Halifax, and the Governour who knew at least from history, the family of the D’Entremonte, asked him where he and his family were going? 'To Canada to enjoy our religion,’ replied he. ‘Stay here,’ said the Governor, establish yourselves upon whatever part of the coast you please, and I promise to supply you once a year with a priest,’ They chose Pobomkon, which had belonged to their ancestors: and the Governor faithful to his word, sent them every year a Canadian Priest, to whom the English Government granted £60 per annum.”

The following is the genealogical table of the D’Entremont family, so far as it applies to the fifth generation of those who are now in this County. The correctness of it is certified by the French historian E. Rameau, and is taken from a paper in his handwriting left by him in the Parish Register of Pubnico: I have left out the collateral branches.

Philippe was he who arrived in 1691, as first Baron of Pobomcon, and his sons Abraham, Philippe, and Jacques— the last of whom only is here named,—were married to the daughters of De La Tour. One or two persons still living, recollect having seen the old men Paul and Benoni. The latter was the first French Acadian magistrate in the Province; an office to which he was appointed about 1810; and he was also a Judge in the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. His son Simon, who is the oldest living member of that family, was the second magistrate, the first French member of Assembly; and also the first French collector of Customs.

The French settlement which is known as TUSKET RIVER, below the village, was settled about 1766, immediately after Banald McKinnon vacated his first residence on Amirault’s Hill for his second home .at Argyle, by Jacques Amirau (corrupted from Amirault into other forms, as Amero and even Mero), Joseph Moulaison, Jean Pierre Muis and Charles Doueette The district known as EEL BROOK, (Indian Ooptomagogin, “the place for eels,”) was settled, as was also the Wedge, about the same time as Pubnico. The same causes operated in both cases. Eel Brook was taken possession of in 1767 by seven Acadians, none of whom had been deported. They were Jean Bourque, Dominique Pothier, Joseph Babin, Pierre Surette, Pierre Muis, Louis Muis, and Pierre LeBlanc;—the last named for many years having for the more part, in common with other Acadian families, adopted the English form of their name.

Dominique Pothier is said to have been one of twenty-nine, who escaped from a prison in Port Royal, by making a hole with their pocket knives, under the prison floor, to the outside of the prison court, a distance of twelve yards.

THE WEDGE

(Indian “Nizigouziack,” and “Olsegon”) was likewise settled by returning Acadians in 1767. They were originally four in number, viz: Eustace Corporon, Pierre Robicheau, Jean Doucette and Pierre Inard. Eustace Corporon was brought back from Boston, where he and others had been carried, about the year 1758, to pilot a vessel looking after Acadians, ■ chiefly in the Tusket and Argyle Rivers, with which he was well acquainted. They explored the Tusket, on the banks of which Corporon saw Indians, who however would not injure him. They left the Tusket for the Abuptic, and while lying at the mouth of the river, a boat’s crew landed on a marsh, on which were some sheep; the Indians were waiting ready for them. There were eight men left dead on the marsh; and Corporon took to the woods with the Indians. The French Acadian is now a most important element in this County; and if the numerical increase continues for a hundred years in the same ratio as it has during the past century, and the English ratio be no greater, they will be more numerous than the English. It is therefore of the first magnitude, that their. education should be of such a kind as to fit them, as a whole, to fill that position well which Providence seems to design for them. General information is much needed among them; and particularly a fair, impartial account of their own history in this Province. As an illustration of this, one of the most intelligent Acadians, a gentleman and a magistrate, writing to me as late a£ 1872, says, with the greatest simplicity and child-like confidence in the accuracy of his conviction, that “all the French were scattered from the country because they would not take the oath of abjuration against their own Homan Catholic religion”. To the leisured few, a drive on either side of the Pubnico harbour is very pleasant, and will amply repay the tourist. The shores are varied by numerous coves, as pleasing to the eye as they are convenient to the inhabitants. In the fruitful and cultivated fields and cleared lands which skirt the shores, and which are backed by the deeper woods, stand numerous and comfortable Acadian homesteads. Time, which tries all, and also which cures all, has given the Acadian ample revenge. For, where in 1775 there could, at the best, have been, but a very few log huts of the rudest kind; when comforts were at once few and uncertain, and the guides of their consciences hostile to England and their own interests, there are now nearly two hundred substantial, well built houses, for the more part well furnished with all manner of useful and ornamental effects; the people happy and contented, and conspicuous only for every feeling of loyalty and attachment to the British throne.


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