Isle Madame - In 1718, fishermen from St. Malo in France settled in D’Escousse. The family names of early Basque families that came to Isle Madame were Goyetche, Baccardax, Josse and DesRoches. They intermarried with the Acadian families that eventually settled here. The first permanent settlement on Isle Madame occurred during the French rule at Louisboug. Some of the earliest Acadian settlers had names such as Gerroir, LeJeune and Doiron. After the fall of Louisbourg, most of these families had to leave Isle Madame but returned later after spending some time in exile.

Most of the ancestors of Isle Madame’s present Acadian population arrived here in 1758 after the fall of Louisbourg. Some of the names of families that settled here at the time are Boudrot (Boudreau), Samson (Sampson), Martel (Martell), Dugas, DeCoste, Boucher, Petitpas, Vigneau, Fougere, Marchand, Poirier, and Landry. Some of the family names of those settlers who came from Old Acadie after years of exile are: Foret, Theriot (Theriault, Terrio), Babin, LeBlanc, Forgeron, Bellefountaine, Lavandier, Meunier and Richard. In 1752, the following family names were recorded in D’Escousse: Bernard, Langlois, Poujet, Josse, Joseph and Bouget.

In 1764, the British allowed Catholics to own land if they signed the Oath of Allegiance to the English King. In 1775, there were 18 houses in Arichat, 5 in D’Escousse and 4 in Petit de Grat. The Acadians had to leave Isle Madame because American privateers were threatening them. Only 6 families remained.

Many of the early settlers were not permitted to hold public office, vote, own land, teach or attend school because of Nova Scotia’s anti-Catholic laws. These laws were finally abolished in 1784. in 1752, there were about 35 Acadian families that had come here from France. They made their living through cod fishing, making cordwood and keeping cattle.

A fish merchant, Charles Robin, from the Channel Islands, had a monopoly on the fish trade here. The Robin’s firm was in Business here until 1910. The names of other Jersey merchants that came to Isle Madame were Levesconte, Gruchy, Hubert, Jean, and Moore. The Levesconte’s operated until the 1930’s. other Jersey families associated with Isle Madame and Richmond County are, Javrin, Bourinot, Malzard, Gurcy, LeLacheur, Fixott, Briand and Mauger. In 1771 the population of Isle Madame was 400. In 1774 the population of Isle Madame was about 1000. In 1776 John Paul Jones, his American competitor, burned the stores of Charles Robin to the ground.

After 1775, a fish company owned by the Janvrin family from the Jersey Islands, was granted a large island. This island is now called Janvrin’s Island. By 1786, the population of Isle Madame had increased to the point that a Catholic priest was assigned to the area. His parish included all of Eastern Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Memramcook Balley of New Brunswick. The first resident Priest was Father William Phelan. In the 1790’s Laurence Kavanaugh, expanded his fishing operation to Isle Madame. He was the first Catholic elected to the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly.

By 1811 the population of Isle Madame was 1200 90% were Acadian. They owned 1000 sheep, 500 cattle and 12 horses. By the 1800’s, large numbers of schooners were built, owned and operated by Acadians on Isle Madame. During the 1830’s, sixty vessels a year were being built in Arichat.

Some of the names associated with the shipping business throughout the 1800’s were Thomas LeNoir, Charles Boudrot, Isadore LeBlanc, Benjamin Gerroir, Elias Boudrot, Mellam Poirier, Simon Babin, and Dominique Girouard.

In 1812 and again in 1815, Monseigneur Plessis, Bishop of Quebec, made pastoral visits to Isle Madame. In the 1820’s, a number of Irish, English and Scottish immigrants arrived on Isle Madame. Families that settled in Arichat were the Flynn’s, Hennessy’s, Barret’s, Power’s, Phalen’s, Madden’s and Tyrrel’s. Rockey Bay became home to the Kent’s, Kenny’s, Fowley, Bowen’s, Lafford’s, Flynn’s, Boyle’s, Stone’s, Kelly’s, Doyle’s, Wilson’s, Dunn’s, Kehoe’s, O’Hearn’s and Keating’s. The percentage of Acadians dropped from 90% in 1811 to 66% in 1938.

Several elementary schools were established on Isle Madame by the late 1820’s. All the teachers were English speaking. Until the Second World War, Irish Gaelic was still heard in Rocky Bay. Henry Martell was the first Acadian from Cape Breton elected to the Legislative Assembly. He represented Arichat and Richmond County from 1840 until 1863. Throughout our history 10 Acadians, all residents of Isle Madame, have been elected to represent Richmond County in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly.

In 1846 Father Denis Geary, from Ireland, took a census of the parish of D’Escousse and found the following names: Armstrong, Barry, Bonin, Bouchard, Boudrault, Boudroit, Brannan, Britten, Burke, Cordeau, Cullarton, DesRoche, Donohoe, Doyle, Dunn, Findley, Foret, Fougere, Goyetche, Hearn, Josse, Kavanaugh, Kehoe, Kelly, Landrie, Langlois, LeBlanc, McDonald, McDonnell, McGrath, Martell, Meloney, Mullins, Nutting, Petitpas, Poirier, Samson, Smith, Tyrell, Twolmey and Walker.

In the 1850’s, Right Reverend Colin Francis MacKinnon, the second Bishop of Arichat, established an institution that would serve as a seminary and classical college for lay students and future priests. In 1866, this seminary-college was to moved to Antigonish where it became St. Francis Xavier University.

Fater Hubert Gerroir, was the first Acadian born in Nova Scotia to become a priest. He began his ministry in Arichat in 1854. He fought 20 years for French-Language instruction in schools attended by Acadian children. In 1856, a convent school was opened in Arichat under the direction of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal. A few years later another convent school opened in West Arichat.

In July of 1861, Bishop MacKinnon confirmed 103 people in D’Escousse. When the glory days of shipping were over many still fished or worked on their small farme. Many immigrated to the USA and continues to the pride in the history of their ancestors. Today the fields that once produced food for the tables are slowly being taken over by forests.