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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



Microfiche Report Series 83


Margaret Fortier


Fortress of Louisbourg

Part Two - The Outports


One of the most striking features on maps of the eastern coast of Ile Royale in the 18th.century is a sand bar that is totally submerged today, but was sufficiently above the high water mark 200 years ago to allow construction of wharves and buildings. The presence of this "banc de grave" created a cove at Menadou in place of the open coastline down to Anse aux Cannes and Cap Breton. [1] As early as 1850 the sand bar is shown as being from two to five feet below high water mark. [2]

A 1716 plan indicates three fishing establishments on the northern side of the sand bar. A small barachois on the north coast of Menadou harbour was where ships which fished the area sought protection from storms. [3] That same year the minister informed commissaire-ordonnateur Soubras that no concessions were to be granted at Menadou or Gabarus. These two areas, he was told, were to be set aside for use by ships coming from France to fish off Ile Royale. Some graves were required for them to dry their catch before returning home. [4] These orders were repeated to De Mézy two years later when he succeeded Soubras as civil administrator of the colony. [5]

Despite these orders a concession was granted in 1727 to Pierre Carrerot for the establishment of a menagerie. The land extended from "la pointe du nord'Est de 1'entrée du barachois du havre de Menadou Une demy lieue courant lelong dud havre au Sud ..." [6] Following his death in 1732, the property was sold by Carrerot's heirs. The name of the buyer is not given, but the property is shown on a 1738 plan as belonging to André Carrerot. The same plan indicates that property to the south was owned by Jean Baptiste DeCouagne. While there is no record of this concession, one was found among DuCouagne's papers at his death in 1740. [8]

In 1751 Marie Joseph Cheron, André Carrerot's widow, rented her property at Menadou to Remy Bussac dit Rochefort for a period of nine years. According to this agreement Bussac was to build a piquet house for which he would supply the labour and piquets, and veuve Carrerot would supply the planks, boards, nails and iron. He was also to construct a barn with the same conditions as pertained to the house. The widow promised to supply cows and calves which Bussac was to care for. All future offspring of the animals were to be divided equally between them. Bussac was to plant a garden for which, during the first year, veuve Carrerot was to supply the seed. All produce from this garden was to be split equally between the two parties. In addition, veuve Carrerot would receive one-half of the proceeds from all wood cut and sold off her land. She would, however, reimburse Bussac for expenses he incurred in cutting the wood. Any wood required for maintenance of the habitation could be taken without permission. Finally, she agreed to provide Bussac with a canoe, tools and utensils for the upkeep of the place. [9]

In the course of his survey the next year, La Roque reported that the harbour at Menadou was good for cod fishing, while the land held fertile pasturage. The only resident listed was Bussac who had a steer, a cow and her calf, as well as eight hens. [10] The census taken in 1753 noted that the land near Menadou seemed good for limited use only. It was very high ground, and the weather was poor, with fog frequent. There was in the area slender wood, among which was good pasturage and prairie. The widow Carrerot's habitation was, at this time, occupied by Jeanne Borny, widow of Pierre Bertrand, and her children. Exactly how this came about is not know. Antoine Sabot was also listed as a resident of the Menadou area. [11]

A man accused of killing Bourville's livestock in 1737 testified that he trapped hares in the vicinity of Menadou where hunting was much more productive than at Louisbourg.

Holland wrote that in 1767 Menadou, or Wolfe Basin, had never been improved by the French though it had potential. Since the departure of the French, there were "seven Stages" built for the fishery, and the land "with great Industry" made into gardens. The result was that in the short period of time, Menadou had taken on "the Aire of a fishing Village". [13] In the 1860s Uniacke described Main à Dieu, as the name had become, as a "rather busy village" which encircled the harbour and depended chiefly on the fishery and coastal trade for its support. [14] The following statistics from the Nova Scotia census of 1861 indicate what the land around the harbour was capable of producing. All figures indicate output in 1860:

The statistics support Uniacke's perception of the place since Main à Dieu in 1860 had 197 boats engaged in the fishery, compared with only 69 at Louisbourg. Fourteen boats were constructed there that year. There was also a water powered grist mill in the community. [15]