Acadian exiles in Ipswich, 1755

The French and Indian War, as it is now known, began in 1754 and ended with the French defeat in 1763. Expeditions were planned against the French strongholds on Lake George, Fort Niagara; and against the Acadian settlers in Nova Scotia. Massachusetts men played a conspicuous part in the war along with British forces. British and Colonial Forces captured the city of Louisburg on Cape Breton Island twice, first 1745 during King George’s War, and again in 1758 during the French and Indian War.

To maintain the land route between Louisbourg and Quebec, the French built Fort Beausejou, located in present-day New Brunswick. The conquest of the fort by the British in June, 1755 was followed by the systematic destruction of Acadian villages and farms. Governor Charles Lawrence of Halifax ordered the deportation of their 11,316 inhabitants, known in Canada as “Le Grand Dérangement.Their homes and barns were burned, their cattle were confiscated by the soldiery, and the inhabitants were crowded into small vessels and shipped to New England, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the Carolinas.

Portrayal of the burning of Acadia, by Claude Picard
Portrayal of the burning of Acadia, by Claude Picard

Col. John Winslow, one of the British officers in Nova Scotia, wrote in his journal:

“We are now hatching the noble and great project of banishing the French Neutrals from this province; they have ever been our secret enemies and have encouraged the Indians to cut our throats. If we can accomplish this expulsion, it will have been one of the greatest deeds the English in America have ever achieved; for, among other considerations, the part of the country which they occupy is one of the best soils in the world, and, in the event, we might place some good farmers on their homesteads.”

Col. Winslow’s journal entry on October 8th reveals a newfound sympathy for the unfortunates:

We began to embarke the Inhabitants who went very unwillingly, the women in great distress, carrying off their children in their arms, others carrying their decrepit parents in their carts, and all their goods, moving in great confusion, and appearing a scene of woe and distress.

The British forced deportation of Acadian s
Deportation Grand-Pré by George Craig

It is estimated at 11,000 Acadians were expelled. Approximately 2,000 Acadians arrived in Boston harbor early in November, 1755, The ships were overcrowded, and passengers frequently died of disease, cold and starvation. Parents complained that their children were removed from them and distributed to English families as “nothing more than slaves.” The surviving deportees were ordered to be distributed among the towns, it being understood that they would not be “Town Inhabitants.”

The Acadians arrived in a very destitute condition, and the townsfolk of the various communities received these people of “strange language and Catholic in religion” with resentment, even complaining that the new arrivals were “dead weight.” An Act was passed authorizing Commissioners for each County to “provide necessary tools & implements for husbandly work, weaving spinning & other handicrafts work for each family.” The “Neutral French,” were ordered to stay within the bounds of the town where they were located, and if found elsewhere, they were to be “set in the stocks, not exceeding three hours; for a second offence, to be publicly whipped on the naked back, not exceeding ten stripes.”

On February 9th, 1756, the Landry family arrived in Ipswich. Records indicate they may have been originally assigned to Needham and Waltham. Susanna How of the inn now known as Swasey’s Tavern received them, and at her hostelry, Margaret Landry, wife of John, gave birth to a son, named in honor of the town for its hospitality, “John Ipswich Landry.” Dr. Samuel Rogers, whose house is now the Rogers and Brown Bed and Breakfast, provided shelter until Feb. 19th, when they found a permanent home in William Dodge’s residence at 59 Turkey Shore Rd. The Town provided them with food, a loom and tackling and two spinning wheels, plus, scythes, hoes and spades for their gardens.

The Landry family:

  • Francis Landry, aged sixty-seven, and Marie-Josephe Doucet, his wife, aged sixty-five, both infirm. Charlet Landry, their son, aged thirty-six, was non-compos mentis. Another son, Germain who was in exile with them in Ipswich married Marguerite Benoit in 1760 while in exile. Post-exile they settled in L’Assomption, Quebec
  • John Landry and Margaret, his wife, and children
  • Paul Breau and his wife Marie-Joseph-Landry, his wife, and children. The children identified with the children of the Town and were known as Molly, Peggy, Nancy, Susan, Matty and Francis. When their exile ended they, went to St-Jacques de l’Achigan in Quebec.

Joseph Felt recorded that on November 21, 1757, the Town of Ipswich voted £20 for assistance to the refugees, the total number eventually reaching about twenty persons. “There was a priest among them, who used to bring along wooden ladles for sale. They were industrious. Both sexes of them wore shoes of wood.” ( Lucie LeBlanc Constantino. adds that priests were not allowed, and perhaps it was Peter/Pierre Préjean, who was assigned by the Bishop of Quebec to officiate at marriage of couples in exile.)

Acadians disembarking at Boston Harbor. Painting by Robert Dafford.
Acadians disembarking at Boston Harbor. Painting by Robert Dafford.

On July 11, 1764, the British government passed an order permitting Acadians to legally return to British territories, provided that they take an unqualified oath of allegiance. In February, 1766, Gov. Bernard addressed the House in their behalf; “I have had great compassion for this people, as every one must who has considered, that it was by the exigencies of war rather than any fault of their own that they were removed from a state of ease and affluence and brought into poverty and dependence.”

In June, 1766, a large number of Acadians took the oath, including 140 from Salem. Having been deprived of all assets, some tried to make it to Quebec or Nova Scotia by land. Arrangements were made for their removal by ship, and in August 1766, the transport was arranged. The Town of Ipswich refused to grant money to pay for their passage, but repayment was guaranteed by the Canadian provinces. Acadians who returned to Nova Scotia found their land settled by English colonists, and many eventually settled in the Petit Codiac River Valley in New Brunswick.

Sources and further reading:

3 replies »

  1. I am related to Marguerite Benoit who married Germain Landry in Ipswich (date I have is 1762, not 1760). The town selectman voted not to provide funds for the repatriation back to Quebec. I do not know how they made it (overland or by sea & then the St. Lawrence River) but Germain, his wife, and their aged parents, Francis and Marie-Josephe Landry, accompanied them and they all settled near Montreal at L’Assomption. Francis died that April 0f 1767 and his wife that December. It must have been a terrible strain to get from Ipswich to L’Assomption. Poor Marguerite only lived a few years past that, gave birth to one son, then also died. Some Massachusetts towns that “hosted” the Neutral French, as they were called, did better than others at supporting and making the transition smoother. Concord, Mass., for example, gave the Trahan family money and transportation to return. And one of the Trahan boys, born in Concord, went on to fight in the Revolutionary War.

  2. Some of my ancestors left the New London area in CT and went to Nova Scotia where the father and his three sons took over abandoned Acadian farms.
    Children, I was told, used to memorize Longfellow’s Evangeline in school.
    Some Acadians came to Gloucester. There was a house, now long gone, on the corner of Washington Street and Pine street known as the “French Neutral” house.
    It is the most heartbreaking story.

  3. I find this account incredibly chilling. As it happens my father’s family were part of the Winthrop fleet – – Puritans and my first known North American and sister spent part of his life in Ipswich in the 1600 s. However my mother’s family also came to the New World in the 1600s but under the French flag as Voyageurs, Les Filles du Roi ( daughters of the King ) and a literal builders of Montreal ( stonemasons ). The story of it Katie an expulsion is burned into my family’s history on both. The story of it Acadian an expulsion is burned into my family’s history on both sides One of the things I found interesting about the story is the name Rogers popping up It is my father’s middle name and I am still tracking down which Rogers family amongst the Puritans he comes from See as far back as I trace in the New World my father’s family only married other descendants of the Winthrop Fleet and my mother’s family only married other French Canadians It’s a poignant it’s not disturbing way to start the morning to read this article. At present I am reading David Hackett Fischer’s book “Champlain’s Dream “. I just finished reading the part about the war of the religions in France in the early life of Champlain and last night I reach the chapter where he was seeing the St. Lawrence seaway and the places that would become the settlements of new France for the first time How ironic to see this — this morning

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