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150 : Miscouche, I.P.E. 1817-1967, pp. 44-45. Texte écrit par Soeur Antoinette DesRoches (Soeur St-Emmanuel).

Le Musée acadien à Miscouche

Une impressionnante cérémonie a marqué le 25 août 1964 à Miscouche – les célébrations du centenaire de la Confédération dans cette paroisse et l’ouverture officielle du Musée acadien Inc.

Le premier ministre Walter Shaw et les membres du conseil exécutif étaient de la fête. Il s’agissait de la première fois que le cabinet de la prvince se réunissait dans ce village acadien. Le Dr. J. Aubin Doiron, président du Musée acadien Inc. agissait comme maître de cérémonie. La journée avait débuté par un grand défilé par les rues de Miscouche.

Le Dr Doiron a profité de l’occasion pour introduire les membres du Comité de l’exécutif du Musée acadien Inc. : M. Édouard J. Gaudet, vice-président; M. Ben W. DesRoches, trésorier, Soeur St-Emmanuel, secrétaire; et les directeurs, MM. Tilmon S. DesRoches, Alphée Gaudet, Tilmon B. Gallant, Cyrus J. Gallant.

M. J. Edmond Arsenault, secrétaire général de la Société St-Thomas d’Aquin et vice-président de la Société Nationale des Acadiens, exprima sa reconnaissance aux réalisateurs de cette grande entreprise. Il ajouta que l’Abbé Pierre Arsenault de Mont Carmel avait été l’instigateur du musée car il avait fait une collection d’objets il y a plusieurs années. Il a parlé du courage des Acadiens qui malgré leur pauvreté ont fait tant de progrès. Il y a une magnifique école acadienne, Évangéline, et d’autres à Tignish, Miscouche et Rustico.

M. Arsenault a souligné également le grand travail accompli par la Société St-Thomas d’Aquin. Il a présenté au président du musée un don substantiel de la part de la Société Nationale des Acadiens.

Le grand historien de l’Île, le Dr J. Henri Blanchard, qui vient de publier en anglais un volume sur l’histoire des Acadiens de l’Île prit la parole en anglais. Il parla de quelques faits de l’histoire acadienne. M. Blanchard a fait le souhait que le musée acadien de Miscouche soit le symbole de plus de progrès et de liberté pour les Acadiens.

La chorale de Summerside sous la direction de M. Gabriel Chiasson a exécuté quelques chants dont Ave Maris Stella, Évangéline et Partons la mer est belle. La fanfare de Miscouche était également présente.

L’Hon. Henri Wedge, représentant acadien de l’Île, fit la présentation d’un chèque de la part du gouvernement comme contribution au musée.

Le premier ministre Walter Shaw, déclara ouvert le Musée acadien de Miscouche. Parmi les dignitaires présents, on remarquait : Mgr Nazaire Poirier, le Père Jean Buote, le Père Joseph Leclerc, le Père Naùaire Gallant, les Pères Kelly de Miscouche et L. McDonald de Wellington; M. Albert Gallant, inspecteur d’école et président de la Société l’Assomption pour l’Île.

Après l’ouverture du musée, il y a eu le couronnement de Mlle Dina DesRoches, la reine des fêtes du centenaire à Miscouche, aussi des amusements, le banquet, etc.

Le Comité du Musée veut conserver les noms des donateurs suivants qui ont donné 500$ au musée : Société St-Thomas d’Aquin de l’Île, le Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec, le Gouvernement de l’Île, et le Village de Miscouche qui a donné l’octroi du gouvernement pour la célébration des fêtes de la Confédération en 1964.

Along the curving shores of Malpec (now called Richmond Bay) on the northern coast of Ile St. Jean were the farms of many hundred Acadians who had settled in the parish of Malpec. The parish church of Malpec which was dedicated to the Holy Family was situated at Low Point or Pointe-aux-Vieux and history gives us the name of l’Abbé Dosque as its last pastor. The site of this church can be easily distinguished as well as the remains of the old cemetery, a great part of which has been washed away by the sea.

This burial place is the last home of many of the earliest Acadians. The father of Joseph Arsenault (Joe League and a Half), Louis DesRoches and wife, Abram Arsenault and wife, were all laid to rest within its precincts.

In 1763 when peace was proclaimed and the panic subsided, many of the Acadian exiles returned to Ile Saint Jean. Some of these accompanied by several families from the marshes of Tantramar, settled along the shores of Richmond Bay. As it was the custom to avoid the site of their former villages, those who came back to the parish of the Holy Family settled several miles south of the original village of Malpec upon township Seventeen on land which subsequently passed into the possession of Colonel Harry Compton. Here about the yera 1772, they built their little church which was of logs and was only twenty feet in length. This tiny sanctuary dedicated to St. John the Baptist was situated between the River Platte and North St. Eleanors. It was attended by mission priests who occasionally visited the Island in vessels on their way to and from the Acadian villages on the mainland. No cemetery was ever opened near this church. The Acadians were afraid of the desecration of their dead and therefore buried them on a small island opposite to George Inman’s Point. The distance from the shore to this island was found to be inconvenient and in the year 1774 a cemetery was opened upon high land in a locality which afterwards took a name from an old store built there by an English Firm and which is called to this day “Le Vieux Magasin”.

No presbytery was every built in this locality, and the Abbé Beaubien, when he served the mission lived at Joseph Gaudet’s. In 1816, the Acadians availed themselves of an offer made them by Colonel Compton and purchased six thousand acres of wild uncleared land for six hundred and twenty-five pounds. This land was in a locality called in the Indian tongue Minuescoochk signifying “little grassy island”. Here they brought their goods and chattels in the year 1817-1818. The old people of Miscouche say that Prospere Poirier was the last to leave River Platte. The first French settler to come to Miscouche was Meleme Arsenault, the father of Hon. Joseph Octave Arsenault.

The colony from Riviere Platte for the first year after their removal attended mass at River Platte. The following summer they dismantled the old church and with the fragments of that ancient structure and some new material, they built a chapel twenty-five in length by twenty in width. The site chosen for the new church was then the property of Sylvestre Lebrun and is now owned by Archibald Gillis. The first mass in ths church was celebrated by Mr. Cecile in July 1819. Rv. Father Cecile, curé of Rustico at that time, attended Miscouche. He boarded at the home of Armand Richard and put up his horse in the stable of Mr. Gillis.

... In1799, the Abbé de Calonne and the Abbé Amable Pichard arrived from France and empowered with faculties from the Bishop of Quebec undertook the charge of the French missions in Ile Saint-Jean. The Abbé de Calonne became possessed of a tract of land near Port-la-Joie and took up his residence in that locality for a short time, but finding the services of more than one missionary priest to be sorely needed in the French parishes, he undertook the care of Malpec, Tignish, Cascumpec and Bay Fortune. It was his custom to pass a part of each year at Malpec and there in the humble presbytery of Saint John the Baptist, this scion of one of the proudest families in France was residing when Township Seventeen passed into the ownership of Lieutenant Colonel Harry Compton. This gentleman, a retired officer of the English army, left England for St. John’s Island inthe year 1803, accompanied by his family which he intended to establish on his colonial estate. They were Protestants. Arrivd at Malpec, the Compton family found one of the most cultured clergymen of the Catholic Church a resident at their very gates and the friendship which grew up between them ended only with the death of the Abbé de Calonne, in 1822.

To his Catholic tenants, Colonel Compton at first showed the greatest kindness and evinced the warmest interest in their well being. They had gradually moved in from the shore and had begun to farm on a larger scale than formerly, encouraged by the example and advice of their landlord. Their cottages clustered round the entrance of the road which led to the Pavillion (Colonel Compton’s mansion) and with the addition of the houses of some English emigrants formed a pretty little village named by Colonel Compton, St. Eleanors.

Here early in the century came an Englishman named Marsh who erected a large wooden building painted a dark red, in the immediate vicinity of the Church, and opened a store selling all sorts of merchandise adapted to the wants of the growing settlement. Colonel Compton’s house was generally filled with guests, several of his relatives were settled near him. The courtly and distinguished Abbé was his frequent visitor and a happy and properous tenantry called him “Seigneur”. Trade was brisk in those days at the “old red” store” and Malpec Bay then an accessible harbour for shipping was a busy port.

A letter was sent from Colonel Compton to Mgr Denaut, Bishop of Quebec, whom the Colonel most earnestly begs that a priest may be sent to his Acadian village, saying: “It is now near a year since my dear friend the Abbé de Calonne left the Island in all which time, except about a month that Mr. McEachern was here, Mass was not celebrated in my village which contains upward of two hundred Roman Catholic souls; I speak of the Acadians only for the Catholics of the village are more than double that number. I am writing of that village in which the Church is situated which your Lordship directed should be considered the Cathedral or Mother Holy Roman Catholic Church in the Island. I am proprietor of the Township of which the village forms a part and together with a family which is Roman Catholic reside in this village. I have as I understood was your Lordship’s wish, attached to the Church six acres of cleared land, the inhabitants have repaired the church in a good manner and the tithes they pay are considerable and daily increasing”. In the year 1807 a petition on behalf of the Acadians of Prince Edward Island addressed to Lieutenant Governor DesBarres and praying for a passport for a French priest was drawn up by Colonel Compton and sent to Quebec for the approval of Mgr Plessis.

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