History of Grand-Pré PDF Print E-mail


Welcome to Grand-Pré National Historic Site of Canada. This site commemorates the Acadians of Minas Basin and the event which took them from their homes, the Deportation.

The gardens, the monuments, the church with its paintings, stained glass, and exhibits, and especially our guide-interpreters, are there to tell you the story of the Acadian people. It is a story of happiness and success, of sadness and tragedy.

Take the time to imagine the events that unfolded here and then go and discover the Acadian villages of today.


In 1524 an Italian, Verrazano, used the name Arcadia to name an area he was exploring along the Atlantic coast of North America. He was inspired by a poem praising an area in ancient Greece known for its pastoral beauty. Later maps of the New World showed the name evolving to Acadie and being used to designate the area that is now Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and a part of Québec and Maine. Some say the name Acadie came from the Mi'kmaq suffix e'kati, meaning "land of" or "place of."


In mid-17th century, a group of Europeans, mostly from France, came to Acadie to establish a French colony. The children of these settlers came to be known as Acadians. Today, several million people can say they are descendants of this original group of about 500 people.


Grand-Pré, French for "large meadow", was first settled around 1680 when Pierre Melanson dit La Verdure, his wife Marguerite Mius d'Entremont and their five young children left Port-Royal to escape the perils of living in the capital of a colony constantly in conflict.

Grand-Pré is on the shores of the Minas Basin, which even today is renowned for its tidal marshlands. Melanson and those who joined him built dikes to hold back the tides along the basin, creating rich pastures for their animals and fertile fields for their crops.

Grand-Pré soon outgrew Port-Royal, and by the mid-18th century was the largest of the many Acadian communities around the Bay of Fundy and the coastline of Nova Scotia. The Minas area was the bread basket of the colony. The Acadians prospered.


In 1713, a part of Acadie became Nova Scotia, with Port-Royal, now Annapolis Royal, as its capital. Rather than leave, the Acadians chose to live under British rule. 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 would sign a conditional oath in 1730 when they were promised they would not be forced to take up arms against the French or the Mi'kmaq.

Everything changed in 1744 when England and France once again declared war. The French from Québec and from their fortress in Louisbourg tried to retake Acadie. There were attacks and counter attacks. Halifax became the new capital of the colony in 1749. But the majority of those living in this British colony were Acadians. Their numbers were growing and they lived on the richest farmland. Those governing the colony believed something had to be done to encourage more Protestant settlers to come to the area.

1755 is an important date in Acadian history. The boats and guns of the Acadians in the Minas area were confiscated. The French Fort Beauséjour was captured. Acadian delegates, in Halifax to present a petition, were imprisoned. The governor, Charles Lawrence, decides to settle the Acadian question once and for all. They will 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 are ordered to assemble there on September 5. Winslow tells them that all but their personal goods are forfeited to the Crown and that they and their families are to be deported as soon as ships arrive to take them away.

Deportation - Painting by Renée Forestall

Before the year was over, more than 6,000 Acadians were deported, not only from the Minas Basin area but from all of Nova Scotia. Their villages were burned to the ground. Thousands more would be deported until 1763 when England and France once again made peace.




Beaubassin: On August 11th, 400 Acadian men, from numerous settlements scattered in the Chignecto isthmus and along the shores of the Chepoudy, Petitcodiac and Memramcook Rivers, are imprisoned in Fort Cumberland, formerly called Fort Beauséjour. On October 13th, 1,100 Acadians are deported toward South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Many perished along the way. For example, aboard The Cornwallis, only 210 Acadians out of 417 survived the voyage to Charleston.

The Minas Basin Area and specifically Grand-Pré: On September 5th, 418 Acadian men were held prisoner in the church and 183 men were held at Fort Edward. On November 1st, more than 1,500 men, women an children were crammed aboard vessels and deported to Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Pisiquid: Approximately 1,000 habitants are deported and their villages destroyed.

Annapolis Royal and villages on both sides of the Annapolis River: 600 persons were captured and on November 3rd, more than 1,600 Acadians were deported to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and North and South Carolina. Several families were separated.

It is estimated that approximately 6,050 Acadians were deported in 1755.


Pobomcoup (Pubnico) : Approximately 70 Acadians were deported.


Isle Royale: 4,000 Acadians were deported.

Isle Saint-Jean: 3,100 were deported to France – two ships sank and 679 prisoners perished. In the meantime, 1,500 escaped to the Miramichi area and Canada – today's province of Quebec.


Cape Sable: 200 Acadians were deported to France.


Acadians who took refuge in uninhabited regions were hunted down and deported


Halifax: 2,000 detained and 300 deported to France.


Halifax: Of the 1,700 remaining detainees, 1,300 are deported to Boston, and then sent back to Halifax as prisoners of war.
TOTAL: More than 10 000 Acadians were deported between 1755 and 1763.


When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Evangeline, was published in the United States in 1847, the story of the Deportation and le Grand Dérangement, the Great Upheaval, was told to the English speaking world. Grand-Pré, forgotten for almost a century became popular for American tourists anxious 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.

In 1907, John Frederic Herbin, poet, historian, and jeweller, 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.

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923)

John Frederic Herbin

For more information, please visit the Acadia University Library Website

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. He sold the property to the Dominion Atlantic Railway (DAR) in 1917 on the condition that Acadians be involved in its preservation.

In 1920 the DAR erected a statue of Evangeline conceived by Canadian sculptor Philippe Hébert and, after his death, finished by his son Henri.

The DAR deeded a piece of the land to la Société l'Assomption, a mutual insurance company owned and managed by Acadians. Through the Société Nationale l'Assomption, an advocacy organization, a committee raised funds to build a commemorative church in Grand Pré. Construction began in the spring of 1922 and the exterior was finished by November. The interior of the church was finished in 1930, the 175th anniversary of the Deportation, and the church opened as a museum.

Construction of Memorial Church 1922

The commemorative church committee erected a cross, in 1924, two kilometres from the church, in memory of the Deportation. The cross was moved in 2005 and is now located at Horton Landing, on the edge of the Minas Basin.

Deportation Cross - Photo V. Tétrault

The Deportation Cross

The government of Canada acquired Grand-Pré in 1957 and it was designated a national historic site in 1961.

In 1967, Gordon LeBlanc, Superintendent of the Grand-Pré National Historic Site from 1957 to 1979, installed an old blacksmith shop in that came from Wedgeport, Nova Scotia.

The Blacksmith Shop - Photo Chris Reardon

History of the Blacksmith Shop -- montage by the Ami(e)s de Grand-Pré

In 1997, the Société Nationale de l'Acadie (SNA) and the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse (FANE) established the Société Promotion Grand-Pré, a non-profit organization that co-manages Grand-Pré National Historic Site of Canada with Parks Canada.

In 2003, the new Visitor Centre opened its doors to the public.

Visitor Centre

The Visitor Centre


Feel the heartbeat of Old Acadie - still vibrant and proud!


Proud to be a
Parks Canada Partner

© 2014. Grand-Pré National Historic Site. Société Promotion Grand-Pré