In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

McNutt's geography: Montresor map of 1768

Here is a detail from the Montresor map of 1768. John Montresor was a British engineer who mapped Britain's North American colonies, including Nova Scotia.  This map was made in the time after the Acadians had been forced out of Nova Scotia, and while efforts were underway to settle the area with New Englanders, Ulstermen and others.

The Acadians were forced to abandon Nova Scotia in 1759. The greatest concentration of Acadians had been along the Minas Basin  and Port Royal in Bay of Fundy. But there were also Acadians on the southwest shore, at Pubnico, at Cape Sable, and here, at Riviere au Rocheloy and Port Razoir.  

The French census of 1671 recorded three Acadians at Rivière au Rocheloy, as the western channel of Shelburne Harbour was then known. There were twelve Acadians at Port Razoir in the census of 1693 and fifteen in 1708.  In 1699, Villebon reported that:

"From Cap Nègro two leagues east ¼ north is the Rivière des Rochelois; the entrance is good only for small craft; there is an abundance of red oak. Half-a-league beyond the Rivière des Rochelois east south-east is Port Razoir, one of the finest harbors on the coast.  Its entrance is suitable for all vessels, and there is abundant fishing. The soil is suitable for cultivation, and there are many red oaks.  Another of Sr. d'Entremont's sons lives here with his wife and four children, ten or twelve horned cattle, and some sheep.  There is another settler with a wife and two children.  He is not prosperous but is a capable fisherman."

It is possible that these Acadians lived on the island.  A similar situation was found at Chebucto. Today we know Chebucto as Halifax. But in the 1680s "Chebucto" effectively meant McNabs Island in the outer harbour. It was also sometimes called "L'isle de Chebucto," and was the site of a well-documented French fishing outpost. The point of settling on an island in the outer harbour was for the quickest and easiest access to the fishing grounds offshore. McNutt's provided exactly this same accessibility.

The one critical requirement for a simple Acadian fishing community was a high cobble beach for drying fish. The cobbles didn't stick to the fish, like sand would, and provided a dry surface. McNutt's has at least two cobble beaches -- The Point and The Horseshoe -- which would have met this requirement.

Maybe some of the ruined stone cellars we find today were built by early nineteenth century settlers like Jonathan Perry on top of seventeenth century Acadian house sites.  A real archaeological investigation would help us know. But that's not likely to happen here anytime soon.  

The Montresor map shows that by 1768, less than a decade after the expulsion of the Acadians, the local French place names had already been lost. Roswald Island and Port Roswald are names in transition, soon to become thoroughly English: Roseneath and Roseway.  And if the Acadians once lived here, what remains of them is no more substantial than the fog that embraces the island today.

Thanks to Terry Deveau for the information in today's post. The Montresor map is in the public domain. 

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