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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada


Extracts of Matters of Historical Interest from "The Huissier, News For and About the Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff" By The Fortress of Louisbourg Heritage Presentation Staff


(July 21, 2007)

The following is an extract from an article
written by Ken Donovan entitled,
Imposing Discipline Upon Nature: Gardens, Agriculture
and Animal Husbandry in Cape Breton, 1713-1758,
November 2006.

Prior to coming to Cape Breton in 1739 to take over his father’s farm in Little Bras d’Or, Boularderie junior recruited agricultural workers in Normandy and “all the utensils necessary for the cultivation of the land.” Over an eight-year period Boularderie employed 25 workers who developed a successful farm including a fine manor house, barn, stable, dairy, dovecote, oven, windmill, watermill and kept 50 sheep, 25 cows, six oxen, six mares and one stallion. “I had land in production,” he noted, “which yielded beautiful wheat and vegetables as in France, moreover I had brought fruit trees from France, which also succeeded” (Du Boscq De Beaumont, 287).

            Apple trees, grown from seed, had been introduced to Cape Breton during the 1630's. The apple trees of St. Anns had been first planted in 1632 and harvested in 1680.8 When Monsieur Melchin visited St. Anns in 1713 he reported seeing apple trees that “had been thought to have been planted by the late Mr. Denis” (CAOM, DFC, No. 271). Throughout the eighteenth century the French in Ile Royale imported apple cultivars from France and New England. Eight apple trees, for instance, were brought to Cape Breton from New England in 1732 (Moore 1975, 43). In 1752 43-year-old Maurice Leveque and his family had apple trees in St. Anns. “They had made a clearing for a garden in which they have grown all sorts of garden produce”, noted the census taker, “and in which they have six apple trees bearing fruit.” (De La Roque, 42). The remains of these French-regime apple trees can still be seen in the Mira River area. Scottish immigrants who settled on the Mira in the early 1800's took seedlings from the French trees and planted them on most of the farms from Hillside down to the mouth of the river. Subsequent generations of apple trees found in this area may still contain some of the genetic stock of the original apple trees introduced during the French regime.9 Known as the “French apple”, the apples were small, had white flesh with a bright, red skin and made excellent apple jelly. Florence McIntyre, born 1927, noted that her great grand father, John MacKinnon, planted the orchard on her property from seedlings grafted from the French apple trees (Florence McIntyre, personal communication).

            Louisbourg officials toured Ile Royale and reported on agricultural production, including fruit trees, as well as exotic plants and animals. Commissaire ordonnateur François Bigot, for instance, sent two large cages of ducks and another large cage of passenger pigeons to the king’s menagerie at Versailles on the ship Caribou during 1744. Bigot specifically entrusted Captain La Saussaye, commander of the vessel, with this special cargo.10 Established in 1662, the king’s menagerie was actually a farm with a dual function since it had a dovecote, barns, cowsheds and dairy as well as a small residence sheltering exotic animals and rare birds (Mabille 1991, 172- 4).

            The Ile Royale ducks and passenger pigeon were intended to be added to the royal collection. Passenger pigeons, grouse, Canada geese and other waterfowl such as black duck, eider, scoter, long-tailed duck, and blue-winged teal formed an integral part of the Louisbourg diet, particularly during the migration season.11 Other Cape Breton fauna were sent overseas. On 8 December 1744, for instance, Louisbourg metal worker Michel Vedrine was paid 52 livres for the construction “of an iron cage for a beaver sent from Louisbourg to the king’s menagerie at Versailles” (AN, CllC, v 12, f 148). (One livre was the approximate equivalent of one British shilling).

            Some new vegetables, such as potatoes, were also introduced during the 1740s and 1750's. Louisbourg officials, for instance, imported 16 bushels of potatoes in 1742 from Boston and by 1757 former governor Raymond urged officials in France to send seed potato, among other vegetables and grains, to Louisbourg for planting by the end of April 1757.12  The planting of potatoes in Cape Breton reflected similar innovative efforts throughout the region. The New Englanders who had captured Louisbourg  (1745-49) imported hundreds of bushels of potatoes.13 Meanwhile, the British had harvested  potatoes in Halifax as early as 1750. The Acadians, in turn, had grown potatoes, on an experimental basis, in Acadia throughout the 1750's.14

8.Anonymous memoire, 1706, CllC, vol. 8, fols. 10-39, AN.

9.The French apple trees planted on the Mira and at St. Ann’s would have bred true, providing nobody had planted a different cultivar in the vicinity. The saplings taken to the Mira would then be original stock but their progeny could easily have been planted in proximity to other French or New England imports. The next generation could well be the products of various crosses, depending on which apple trees the bees had visited. Pixie Williams, botanist, to Ken Donovan, 6 June 1994.

10.Duck and pigeons sent to France on the Caribou, 1744, F 1 A, vol. 35, fol. 41, AN.

11.Louis Franquet, Memoire on Ile Royale, 10 December 1750, article 14, piPce 24, Comité technique du Génie, BibliothPque, Paris.[Génie]

12.Raymond to the Minister, 3 March 1757, Valonges, France, Series A 1, vol. 3457, piPce 9, Archives du Service Historique de l’Armée. For the potatoes imported from Boston, see the unloading of the ship Le Trialle from Boston, 16 October 1742, B, 272, f 102v-3, Archives départmentales, Charente-Maritimes, La Rochelle, France [ACM].

13.Charles Frost to William Pepperell, Falmouth, Mass., 12 November 1745, p. 364, Pepperrell Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

14.Clarence d’Entremont, ed., “Major Morris Report on His Raid from Pubnico to Chegoggin, 1758", Les Cahiers, Societe Historique Acadien, vol. 2, no.4 (Mars, 1967), pp. 257-72. For the growing of potatoes in Halifax in 1750, see letter of a British officer, Halifax, to Arthur Dobbs, Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, 13 August 1750, in D 162/50, serial 8911072, PRO..