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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

Miré Region - Rouillé and German Villages

When Governor Raymond arrived in Ile Royale he was determined to succeed where his predecessors had failed in making the colony agriculturally self-sufficient. His assessment of the colony's potential was optimistic and his scheme ambitious. He proposed that 1,000 soldiers be set to work on the Miré clearing land. In addition to being paid 40 livres for every arpent cleared and seeded, the soldiers would receive the going rate for firewood cut in the process. Those soldiers willing to settle on the land would be given seed, tools, equipment and livestock with which to start farming. By this plan Raymond foresaw the clearing in just one summer of 4,000 arpents of land, of which 3,000 would be cultivated and 1,000 cleared for prairie. The yield in produce, the governor was certain, would exceed the colony's needs. [1]

The Minister of the Marine, Rouillé, was not entirely convinced by Raymond's arguments. The plan, he noted, would be very expensive to implement, while shortages of grain in both France and Canada would make it difficult to supply sufficient seed. However, the biggest obstacle to the minister's concurrence was his inability to accept such a positive appraisal of Ile Royale's agricultural potential. All previous testimony had indicated that there was not enough land of sufficient quality to support such an ambitious undertaking. Raymond was instructed to grant land to anyone who would put it "en valeur", and to assign soldiers to clear some land on both Ile Royale and Ile St. Jean. [2]

In September 1752 Raymond reported that he and an expert in argiculture had toured the Miré region. After seeing the harvest reaped by some settlers that year they were convinced of the excellence of the land and of its ability to meet the colony's needs. [3] He permitted 22 soldiers to marry and establish themselves near the Grand Lac de Miré. They were given rations from their former companies, as well as tools, utensils and nails with which to build a new community. Commissaire-ordonnateur Prévost believed this endeavour would amount to nothing. The soldiers, he said, were essentiallv freeloading. [4] In a rather blatant move to win ministerial approval, Raymond called the new settlement "Village Rouille" in the minister's honour.

The new settlers were apparently not sufficiently established to be mentioned by La Roque in his 1752 census. In 1753, however, the census taker reported that the former soldiers seemed well disposed to fulfill their promise to His Majesty. They had cleared the land and planted several species of grain and légumes. These had done very well for the first year. Included among the residents of the village were:

In addition to the Village Rouillé, Raymond authorized a second settlement along the road to Miré. Composed of German-speaking people from the Palatine and Ruhr regions of Europe, this settlement was known as the Village des Allemands. It was located a short distance east of the Village Rouillé, from which it was separated by yet another Montagne Du Diable. [6]

The commissaire-ordonnateur, Prévost, felt that the choice of the location had been a mistake. The village's potential for success, he wrote, would have been far better on the opposite shore of the "lac". The land at the chosen site was unfruitful, capable of producing only hay. Wheat stood no chance of success, in Prévost's opinion, and "menus grains" might succeed the first year but would suffer for the next two or three seasons. Even at the Miré, he pointed out, the climate was a problem since there were only two recognizable seasons on the island -winter and spring. [7]

Raymond had charged that Prévost failed to provide seed for the settlements. This, Prévost declared, was a malicious lie. He had tried to find the needed grain, but none was available. There had been 18 barriques of grain in the magasin at Louisbourg which the governor sent to Baie Verte. Had this been retained in Louisbourg, Prévost was certain there would have been sufficient seed for the cleared areas. Lack of seed was not holding the villages back, Prévost charged. The problems were due to the direction given by the military officers placed in charge of farming operations. These officers organized the residents into corvées which performed their work as a service to the king. Prévost found that he had no voice at all in what was decided because the people listened only to the officers who "judge the inhabitants, punish them, rule on their interests and, in a word, have established themselves there as the Lords in each village ..." [8]

The census taker offered no assessment of the quality of land in the German village in 1753. He did, however, list the following residents:

By 1756 the outlook for the two villages was not bright. Governor Drucour wrote that the Village Rouillé had all but disappeared. Most of the soldiers who had accepted his predecessor's offer were either aged or bad specimens drawn by the promise of three years free rations. These men had married the "catins et les ivrognes" of the colony, settled near the Miré and did little work. [10] His view was supported by a report of the chief engineer a year later which listed only five families remaining in this village. The soil there was not as good as at the German village, Franquet declared, but they could have raised gardens. Used to the lazy life of troops, he said, they preferred hunting to working the land. Soon the village would be deserted, but for the moment it was occupied by: 

Though Franquet noted that all five had been residing in the village for five years, only two, Framboise and St. Brieux, appear on the 1753 census. [11]

The population of the German village had also dropped by 1756, though not as drastically. Although Franquet said that the soil there would produce grain and vegetables, little was actually produced. Even the yield from the gardens was disappointing, due mostly to the climate. There was, however, a "moliere" in the middle of the community which was "un grand avantage par le qualité de foin qu'elle produit". A sawmill, built by Le Roy on the stream which flowed from Lac Majeur, was abandoned sometime before 1756 because wood suitable for boards and planks had been exhausted in the vicinity of the mill. Erected hastily, the sawmill, moreover, had been in need of extensive repairs. The residents of the village included:

In May 1757 Charles Violet, who resided at Louisbourg, took Benedict Mayhein to court when his cow, which had wintered at Mayhein's property, died while giving birth. The calf could not be saved. Mayhein and several witnesses on his behalf were said to be inhabitants of the Village Rouillé, yet most spoke only German. Mayhein's name does not appear on the 1753 census or on Franquet's list four years later. The names of the witnesses, however, are included on these lists as residents of the Village Des Allemands, not the Village Rouillé. [13]

When Holland reported on the Miré in 1767 he was enthusiastic in his praise for Raymond's policies. The villages, he said, "supplied the Town of Louisburg [sic], with a considerable Quantity of Grain, & other Vegetables, & in all probability would have surpassed the most snguine [sic] Expectations". At the Village Rouillé, Holland continued, "Grain of all sorts" had been raised. The woods near the German Village were open with no underwood or brush. There were all kinds of timber, and though the soil was a bit stoney, it was generally good. He estimated that 120 acres had been cleared. In short, Holland felt that Raymond deserved praise for initiating the villages instead of the criticism he had received. [14] If the reports of the French officials were true, it would appear that Holland's assessment was too positive. It is likely that his report is responsible for the stories of the villages that have been handed down over the years.