René de Forest was born in 1670 near Port Royal, Acadia, to Michel de Forest and Marie Hebert. Acadia had been at the heart of a dispute between the French and English for control of the region, and René was born into the middle of that conflict.
The 1671 census shows his father, Michel de Forest, age 33, wife Marie Hebert, age 20, and children Michel, age 4, Pierre, age 2, and René, age 1. They also had 12 cattle, 2 sheep, and 2 arpents of cultivated land.
An arpent of land was equal to either about 192 linear feet if measured along a riverbank, for example, or about .84 acres. A typical French practice, in Louisiana, arpents are long, narrow parcels of land along streams and waterways.
The entire 1671 census consisted of 67 Acadian families at Port Royal, which included the area up and down the rivière Dauphin, now the Annapolis River, from the confluence with the Bay of Fundy up to about Bridgetown today.
Forty-eight families had land listed, meaning 19 families had no cultivated land, even though they were listed as farmers. The most wealthy man had 30 arpents. Several had between 1 and 6 arpents. This means that René was by no means wealthy, but was in the normal range. He also had more cattle than most, so perhaps that made up for less cultivated land. I’d bet his cattle were grazing on uncultivated land.
René’s actual birthday is reported as January 11, 1670, on WikiTree, with two sources provided that I cannot verify by original records. His birth was not listed at the Nova Scotia Archives in the church records because the remaining records did not begin until 1702. It would be interesting to know where earlier researchers obtained the date of January 11th. Regardless, based on the 1671 census, we know the year of his birth.
His father was listed as a widower in the 1678 census with 4 sons and 2 daughters. The youngest child listed was age 3, which tells us that Marie died sometime between 1675 and 1678. If they had another child in 1677, that child died too.
René’s mother died when he was young. He was between age 5 and age 8. That must have been devastating for a young child. I hope he had at least some memory of her.
Probably with help from his siblings and relatives, Michel raised those children and farmed for the next few years. Somehow, someplace in the midst of all this, René learned to read and write – well – at least he was able to write his own name.
In 1684, a new governor was appointed to serve in Acadia who complained that the Acadians never put anything away for a bad year and their dowries were small – a few francs and a cow in calf, a ewe, and a sow. This made me smile.
In 1686, another new governor reported that the Acadian people had scattered and lived far from each other, their homes being built behind the marshes along the river. Several families left the region a few years earlier to establish villages elsewhere, but René’s father was not one of them.
René’s father, Michel, remarried a decade or so later, about 1686, to Jacqueline Benoist.
In the 1686 census, listed along with other census years on the Acadian-home site, Michel, 47, is listed with Jacqueline, who is noted as age 13, along with his children by Marie. René is listed as age 16. I question both his age and his stepmother’s as well. Her parents were shown in the 1678 census as having two girls, one born in 1671 and one in 1677. If Jacqueline was born in 1671, she would have been age 17 in 1678. Much more reasonable than a 13-year-old married to a 47-year-old man. If she was born in 1677, she would have been 11 in 1678, clearly not old enough to marry. I’m betting that she was 17, not 13. Still, her stepsons were older than she was.
Michel seems to be doing fairly well, or at least reasonably, given that he has a gun, which was an absolute necessity both for hunting and defense, 5 arpents of land, 8 sheep and 4 hogs.
Michel and Jacqueline had their only child, a daughter, Marguerite, in about 1687.
Then, along came 1690, a red-letter year.
In 1690, Acadia was again plundered and burned by the English out of Boston. The church and 28 homes were burned, but not the mills and upriver farms. This suggests that the Forest farm may have escaped being burned, although we certainly don’t know for sure.
The English were clearly in charge now. René would have been about 20. The Acadians had been preparing for this eventuality, amid lesser attacks, for years.
Michel died about 1690, or more specifically, between the 1686 census and May of 1690, and his widow remarried very shortly thereafter.
We don’t know exactly when or how Michel died, but he was 50ish – so he probably didn’t die of old age. His death certainly could have been related to the 1690 attack. His widow’s quick remarriage would have provided safety and security for herself and her children – and maybe Michel’s children from his first marriage, too.
Michel’s death made René an orphan by the age of 20. I wonder if the family stayed on the land Michel was farming. What happened to his younger siblings when his stepmother remarried? Who raised them? Where did they live?
At this point, René was an adult – whether he was ready to be or not.
1690 – The Loyalty Oath
The political situation in Acadia was extremely inflamed and very tense. In an attempt to diffuse the situation, the Acadians agreed to sign a limited loyalty oath. Essentially, they simply wanted to remain neutral in the warfare between France and England, not fighting “for” either side. Hence, their nickname of French Neutrals.
The Massachusetts State Archive holds the original oath with signatures because the priest, in possession of the oath document, was kidnapped in May of 1690 and taken to Massachusetts. I wrote about this oath, including a transcription with signatures, here. The title of the article is “1695 Loyalty Oath,” because that’s the year in the Massachusetts Archives. The oath document was physically in Massachusetts at that time, having been transported by the priest, but that’s not when or where it was signed.
Wee do swear and sincerely promise that wee will be faithfull and bear true allegiance to his Majesty King William King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland.
So helpe us God.
René signed his own signature on the May 1690 Oath of Allegiance in Port Royal. It’s worth noting that his father did NOT sign, so Michel was deceased by this time. And he may have been very recently deceased.
Mark Deutsch provided additional important information in a comment on the original article, as follows:
This oath was actually forced upon the residents of Port-Royal by William Phips, commander of a force from Massachusetts that captured Port-Royal in May 1690 without a fight. Phips had seven ships, 64 cannon and 736 men, more than the entire population of Acadia. This was during King William’s War, mostly fought in Europe, as usual, but with North American involvement. In his own words, Phips reported, “We cut down the cross, rifled the Church, pulled down the High-Altar, breaking their images”; and on 23 May, “kept gathering Plunder both by land and water, and also under ground in their Gardens”. see Dictionary of Canadian Biography. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/phips_william_1E.html
“An employee of the Compaignie d’Acadie had buried the cashbox, and Phips had him tortured until he revealed its location…The New Englanders also confiscated the 4,000 livres from the colonial treasury.” p. 89, “A Great and Noble Scheme” by John Mack Faragher.
“As the looting continued, Phips summoned the inhabitants hiding in the woods ‘forthwith to come in, and subject yourselves to the Crown of England…swearing allegiance to their Majesties, William and Mary of England, Scotland, France (sic) and Ireland, King and Queen’. Otherwise he declared, ‘you must expect no other Quarter, than what the Law of Arms will allow you. Fearing slaughter, the frightened residents cautiously returned to their homes. On 24 May, Phips administered the oath of allegiance to the adult males” p. 90, supra.
After giving orders to his men to impose this oath to everyone, both French and Native they could locate in Acadia, “and upon refusal hereof to burn, kill, and destroy them.”, he sailed back to Massachusetts. Later in 1690 Phips made an attempt to take Quebec with 34 ships and 2,300 men, but Governor Frontenac, familiar with Phips’ reputation of course refused surrender, and Quebec could not be captured. King William’s War ended in 1697 with the Treaty of Ryswick and Acadia was reaffirmed to be French, although the capture and pillaging of Prot-Royal had not resulted in any British government of the town and there was no attempt to exert control over the outlying villages or obtain oaths. The oath from the men of Port-Royal was promptly retracted as made under duress and fear for their lives.
Around 1695, René married Françoise Dugas. The couple welcomed their first child, Marie, in 1696, the same year that the British attacked Acadian again. Once again, burning homes and slaughtering animals.
By the time the next census rolled around in 1698, René Forest was listed as 28 years of age, his wife, Françoise Dugas, age 20, Marie, age 2, Marguerite, age 1, with 18 cattle, 22 sheep, 2 hogs, 16 arpents of land, 40 fruit trees and 2 guns. The location is given as Port Royal. I wonder if René had a spare gun, or if the second one was his father’s. Comparatively speaking, 16 arpents of land is a lot. The fruit trees would have been very important and would have taken a few years to produce, so Rene was clearly invested here, and investing in the future as well.
In 1701, the census showed René Forest, 31, Françoise Dugas (wife), 22, Joseph, 3, Francois, 1, Marie, 5, Marguerite, 4; 1 gun, 12 cattle, 18 sheep, 3 hogs, 6 arpents of land. (Port Royal)
Now I wonder if the 16 arpents of land in 1698 was supposed to be 6, or the 6 in 1701 was supposed to be 16.
The next census is in 1703, where René Forest is listed with his wife, 4 boys, 4 girls, and 1 arms-bearer, which would have been him.
In 1707, we find René Forest and wife, 4 boys less than 14, 2 girls less than 12, 8 arpents of land, 14 cattle, 24 sheep, 15 hogs, and 1 gun.
We know where René lived, based on the 1707 census.
Fortunately, the location has been reconstructed by MapAnnapolis, here.
The red star marks this satellite view from Google Maps.
By 1708, the tension was reaching fever pitch again, and it was becoming evident that attacks would follow, probably sooner than later.
This time, the English unquestionably meant business.
One Capt. Morris wrote that the channel south of Goat Island was shallow and rocky; north of the island, it was wide and deep, but there was a strong ebb and flow of the tides. The 5 miles from Goat Island to the fort had water, even in low tides. Small vessels could travel as far as 18 miles above the fort, near present-day Bridgetown. René lived about 12 miles upriver, but below Bridgeton. Large boats could go 9 miles further to “the falls” on the tide if they could stand being beached at low tide. But the bottom was “intolerably rocky and foul.”
On September 24, 1710, Port Royal was attacked again by the English who sent five ships and 3400 troops. That’s 3400 soldiers against about 1700 total Acadians, including women and children.
The 300 Acadian soldiers gathered in Fort Royal and made a valiant attempt to hold the fort, and with it, Acadia.
The Acadians, with their 300 soldiers, which would have included all able-bodied men, stood absolutely no chance, although they did manage to hold the fort for 19 days under siege. The episode became known as the Siege of Port Royal, or the Conquest of Acadia.
Here is what we know about the battle:
As the fleet sails north, it is joined by a dispatch ship sent by Thomas Matthews, captain of the Chester; it was carrying deserters from the French garrison, who reported that the morale of the French troops was extremely low. Nicholson sends the ship ahead with one of the transports; as they entered Digby Gully , they received fire from groups of Micmacs on the coast. The ships retaliate with their guns, with neither side taking any casualties. On October 5, the main British fleet arrived at Goat Island, about 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) south of Port-Royal. That afternoon, the Caesar transport runs aground while attempting to enter Annapolis, and is eventually swept away by the rocks. Her captain, part of her crew and 23 soldiers died, while a company commander and some 25 other people fought ashore.
The following day, October 6, British marines began landing north and south of the fortress and town. The northern force was joined by four New England regiments under the command of Colonel Vetch, while Nicholson led the remaining New England troops as part of the southern force. The landings were uneventful, with fire from the fort being countered by one of Fleet’s long-range bombers. Although later accounts of the siege state that Vetch’s detachment was part of a strategic plan to encircle the fort, contemporary accounts report that Vetch wanted to have command somewhat independent of Nicholson. These same accounts state that Vetch never came within range of the fort’s guns before the end of the siege; his attempts to erect a battery of mortars in a muddy area opposite the fort, across Allain Creek, were repulsed by the fire of cannon. The southern force encountered guerrilla-type resistance outside the fort, with Acadian and native defenders firing small arms from houses and wooded areas, in addition to taking fire from the fort. This fire caused three deaths among the British, but the defenders could not prevent the British on the south side from establishing a camp about 400 meters from the fort.
Over the next four days the British landed their guns and brought them to camp. Fire from the fort and its supporters outside continued, and British bombers wreaked havoc inside the fort with their fire each night. With the imminent opening of new British batteries, Subercase sent an officer with a flag of parliament on 10 October. The negotiations started badly, because the officer was not announced correctly by a beater. Each side ended up taking an officer from the other, mainly for reasons of military etiquette, and the British continued their siege work.
On October 12, the forward siege trenches and guns within 91 m (300 ft) of the fort opened fire. Nicholson sends Subercase a demand for surrender, and negotiations resume. At the end of the day, the parties reach an agreement on the terms of surrender, which is formally signed the next day. The garrison is permitted to leave the fort with all the honors of war, “their arms and baggage, drums beating and flags flying.”
René Forest, now 30 years old, would have marched out, head held high, one of those proud but defeated men.
This hurts my heart.
Conditions of Surrender
The requirement to leave must have pained the Acadians greatly, but they had no say in the matter.
The British were required to transport the garrison to France, and the capitulation carried specific protections to protect the inhabitants. The conditions provided that “inhabitants of the cannon firing range of the fort,” meaning 3 English miles, may remain on their properties for up to two years if they wish, provided they are prepared to take the oath to the British Crown.
There’s that oath issue again.
If they took the oath, they had two years to move their “moveable items” to a French territory which was any of the rest of Acadia, at least until the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
481 Acadians pledged allegiance to the Queen of England, and the French troops left Port Royal, now renamed by the English to Annapolis Royal. I bet the Acadians refused to call it that.
450 English soldiers remained, but they clearly didn’t want to be there. By June of 1711, only 100 were left – the rest having either deserted or died.
Then, there was Bloody Creek.
One of the reasons I suspect that René’s father, Michel, was killed in or as a result of the British attack of 1690 is René’s continued resistance. Not just resistance either, because all of the Acadians were resisting in one way or another. The attack at Bloody Creek probably illustrates the depths of René’s conviction and his hatred of the British.
In 1711, a detachment from Fort Anne went upriver and was ambushed by a band of Indians. Thirty soldiers, a major, and the fort engineer were killed at “Bloody Creek, 12 miles east of Annapolis Royal.” The Native people were closely allied and often intermarried with the Acadians.
Note the location of Bloody Creek, and the René Forest “village.” Who lived in that village anyway? I doubt that an ambush happened on the river in front of René’s home, and he knew nothing about it and did not participate.
Nope, I’m not buying that for a minute.
While there were 11 fewer soldiers, in the end, it made no difference in the outcome.
On April 13, 1713, Acadia passed to England, with France ceding all of Nova Scotia or Acadia with its 2000 residents. One author reported that in the past century, France had sent less than 200 colonists to Acadia and, at that point, had focused on Louisiana.
This 1713 map shows eastern New England and southern Nova Scotia, Port Royal is at point A, Boston at point B, and Casco Bay at point C.
The English pressured the Acadians from 1713-1730 to take an oath of allegiance and become British subjects. The Acadians refused, expressing three points of concern:
- That they be able to continue their Catholic faith unimpeded
- That the Indians (allies of the French) might attack an Acadian who fought against the French
- That the English take the Acadians’ history into account
While in 1710, none of the Acadians wanted to leave, by 1713, they had accepted their fate and actually wanted to move to a French-controlled territory and away from the British.
In 1714, the last census was taken, and René is listed with his wife, 5 sons, and 5 daughters.
From the Acadians in Grey website, we discover that René received permission from the French in August 1714 to settle on Île Royal, but, like most of his brothers, he remained in British-controlled Acadia. However, records show that his brother Jean-Baptiste was in Beaubassin by 1726.
This is actually surprising, given a 1714 letter from the English Governor of Acadia.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Oh, the irony.
By sometime in 1714, the Acadians were ready and wanted to leave and join the other French families. However, Vetch, the English governor, reversed his position when he realized how strong that French settlement would be, and that he would have no farmers to govern.
- Vetch noted that except for 2 families from New England, the Allens and Gourdays, all of the rest of the Acadians wanted to move to French-controlled areas. This would clearly have included René.
- He notes that there are about 500 families in Acadia, which he calls “L’Accady and Nova Scotia” but that there are also 500 families in Louisbourg, plus 7 companies of soldiers. The French king had given them 18 months of provisions and helped them with ships and salt for the fishery to encourage Acadian settlement there.
- He states that if the Acadians move from Nova Scotia to Isle Royale, it will empty the area of inhabitants. He’s concerned that the Indians who have intermarried with the Acadians and share their religion would follow, along with their trade, making Isle Royale the largest and most powerful French colony in the New World.
- He says that 100 Acadians who know the woods, can use snowshoes and birch canoes, plus knowledge of the fishery, are more valuable than five times as many soldiers fresh from Europe.
- He noted that some Acadians, mostly without many belongings, had already moved, and the rest planned on doing so in the summer of 1715 when the harvest was over and the grain was in.
- The Acadians would take their 5000 cattle with them, plus many sheep and hogs. So, if the Acadians move, the colony would be reverted to a primitive state devoid of cattle. It would require a long time and 40,000 pounds to obtain that much livestock from New England.
- Last, he noted that the treaty didn’t give the Acadians the right to sell the land.
- He stated that the Acadians wouldn’t have wanted to go if the French officers (speaking for the French king) hadn’t threatened that they’d be treated as rebels if they didn’t move.
Based on the 1710 edict and the 1713 ceding of Acadia to the British, combined with the constant pestering to sign an oath, I somewhat doubt his last assertion. However, the fact that half the Acadians were in Louisbourg which was being subsidized by the French king, and was ruled by the French, must have made the unwelcome mandatory move edict of 1710 look pretty attractive by 1714.
I have to wonder why René declined to go before the governor changed his mind. Perhaps René maintained hope that things might still right themselves, right up until he didn’t anymore. Maybe he didn’t want to depart without his brothers, who were likely the other residents in the René Forest Village.
The Acadians truly believed they were leaving, though, because they didn’t plant crops. Now, what were they to do?
The Acadians tried any number of avenues to leave, including making their own boats, but they were seized, and the Acadians were essentially held hostage on their own lands with no crops or resources.
Still, they refused to take that bloody oath.
The next few years were a mess.
In 1715, the English shut the gates to the fort, and the Acadians were prevented from trading with either the English soldiers or the Native people.
By 1717, when some of the Acadians had planted their fields again and decided to remain on peaceful terms, the Indians were upset and threatened the Acadians, fearing they were defecting to the English side.
Everyone was upset with everyone else, and the situation was untenable. However, in the background, the Acadian families continued to marry, have, and baptize children. Life didn’t stop because life as they knew it might end. It also might not.
There is no remaining baptism record for René’s child born in 1710, the year of the siege, but children were born to René and Françoise in May of both 1713 and 1715. Then, in July of both 1717 and 1719.
For René, every child that was added to the family probably ratcheted up his anxiety level. He needed to protect and provide for his wife and children. He all-too-clearly would have remembered what happened to his parents, especially his father.
1720 – Another Ultimatum
The English didn’t want to lose their source of supplies, so they wanted the Acadians to stay, but on English terms. The Acadians were difficult, if not impossible, to control. It had been a decade since the English had taken control of the fort, told the Acadians they had to leave, and then reversed their position four years later. Everyone was weary, and the Acadian families had to be incredibly tired of the constant upheaval and uncertainty.
As for René and Françoise, 13 of their 14 children had been born, and their oldest was 24.
Late in 1720, General Philipps issued a proclamation that the Acadians must take the dreaded oath unconditionally or leave the country in 3 months. He also said they couldn’t sell or take any of their property with them, thinking that would pressure the Acadians into taking the oath. However, they still refused, saying that the Indians were threatening them.
When the Acadians requested, “let us harvest our crops and use vehicles to carry it,” Philipps figured that they were planning on taking their possessions with them and denied their request. He may have been right.
The Acadians felt that their only ” escape ” route was by land instead of the typical water route, so they began to create a road from Minas to Port Royal, about 70 miles.
In response, the governor issued an order that no one should move without his permission. He also sent an order to Minas to stop work on the road.
The English stated that the Acadians desired to take the Port Royal cattle to Beaubassin, about 215 miles today by road but not nearly as far by water. Beaubassin was a fortified French possession.
Exasperated, Philipps pronounced the Acadians ungovernable, stubborn, and added that bigoted priests directed them. The Acadians probably wore those badges with pride.
Philipps went on to say that the Acadians couldn’t be allowed to go because it would strengthen the population of their French neighbors. They were also needed to build fortifications and to produce supplies for the English forts.
He stated that the Acadians couldn’t leave until there were enough British subjects to be settled in their place, and he hoped that plans were being made to import British subjects. Furthermore, he expected problems from the Indians, who didn’t want the Acadians to leave, and rightfully blamed the British.
France started sending people to Ile Royal. The fort at Louisburg, destroyed in 1758, was begun in 1720. Other settlements in the region included St. Pierre near the Straight of Canso, which had slate mines, and Niganiche, further north on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a fishing port. The French were strengthening their hold on the region.
No wonder those areas looked so attractive to the Acadian families. They would finally find peace among other French families – if they could just get there.
During this time, René’s last child was born and baptized in the fall of 1723, but there’s a suspicious lack of a child in 1721, which suggests that there might have been a child who was born and died, and the records went missing, if they existed at all.
The Port Royal church records are not indexed by witness name, so the only way to discover if your ancestor stood as a witness to a marriage or burial, or a godparent at a baptism, is to happen across the record.
On February 11, 1726, Jacques Forest, 26 years old and lived at Beaubassin, son of Jean Forest, habitant of Beaubassin, and mother Elizabeth La Barre married Marguerite Giroard, 21 years old, daughter of Jacques Giroard and Anne Petitpas, deceased. The witnesses were René Forest, uncle of the groom, and Francois Forest, son of René Forest, along with Jacques Giroard and Pierre Le Blanc, son of the late Pierre Le Blanc.
This Annapolis Royal church record tells us that René’s brother Jean did, in fact, move to Beaubassin. Jacques married a local girl, though, so he may not have been in Beaubassin for too many years. Clearly, there was some back and forth between the locations, even though it was a long way.
That Oath – AGAIN
In 1725, former Governor Armstrong, already familiar with the Acadians, returned. He was reported to be a violent man with a bad temper,
However, Armstrong realized he needed the Acadians and convinced the Port Royal Acadians, representing about one-fourth of the Acadian population, to take the oath by reminding them that England would not allow Catholics to serve in the Army. As they had stated many times, the Acadian concern was having to fight against their countrymen and family members, including the Native Americans.
Happy just to convince them to sign something, anything at all, Armstrong offered to allow them to take the following oath:
“I do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George the Second, so help me God.”
This meant that they wouldn’t have to “take up arms” against the French or Indians, they could leave whenever they wanted, and they had the freedom to have priests and to practice the Catholic religion.
In 1729, that oath was considered too lenient and declared null and void. Everyone was unhappy, very unhappy.
That’s when a bit of trickery served everyone’s interest by buying peace for two decades.
Philipps, who had replaced Armstrong again, reported that the Acadians took this oath:
“I sincerely promise and swear, as a Christian, that I will be utterly faithful and will truly obey His Majesty King George the Second, whom I acknowledge as the sovereign Lord of Nova Scotia and Acadia. So help me God.”
That’s what Philipps reported, but the actual oath continued on a second page, as follows:
“… that the inhabitants, when they have sworn hereto, will not be obliged to take up arms against France or against the Savages, and the said Inhabitants have further promised that they will not take up arms against the King of England or against its government.”
The priest and a notary signed as witnesses, but Phillips only sent the first part back to England, securing peace. No one on either side of the Atlantic was any the wiser. Only Philipps knew.
Everyone in Acadia must have heaved a sigh of relief. For the first time in memorable history, in more than three decades, everyone was relatively happy.
Acadian families continued to worship at the Catholic church in Annapolis Royal. Babies were born and baptized. Betrothals and weddings were celebrated. Another generation of Acadians would be buried in the cemetery adjacent the Catholic church, which was also adjacent the fort – the center of the Acadian community.
We know from a combination of birth records that began in 1702, combined with later marriage records, that René and Françoise had at least 13 children, with four additional suspicious gaps of three or four years between children, which often signals a baby that died prior to existing church records, or a stillbirth, which would not be recorded in the church records. Of course, with all the upheaval, some events probably just never made it into the official register, or some portions of the register were missing.
Six girls and seven boys graced their lives.
Their last child arrived in October 1723 when René was 53 years old, and Françoise was 47.
René witnessed all of his children’s marriages except for Charles, the youngest, who reportedly married in 1745 in Beaubassin. In 1745, René would have been 75 years old, probably just too old to travel the distance from his home to Beaubassin, assuming he even knew his son was getting married. More than 100 miles by water for an old man, even under the best of circumstances, was just too much.
Several of René’s children’s marriage records include his signature which confirms that the 1690 signature is his. It does cause me to wonder where he learned to read and write. As I view the later parish records from Port Royal, fewer and fewer people can write their names, so literacy in Acadia wasn’t a priority. They were just too busy surviving, and the priests would read them whatever they needed to know.
René was the godfather of one of his grandchildren, the first child born to his son Francois in 1729. He may have been the godfather to some of his daughters’ children as well, but I did not view each of those records – only the Forest records.
René’s children married in the following order, with his signatures where available. Not all priests recorded any or all signatures. Others just had a big old signing party, and everyone signed!
Marie – 1718
Joseph – 1720
Marguerite – 1724
Francois – 1727 – the record exists, but no signature.
Mathieu – 1728 – the record exists, but no signature.
On January 10, 1730, son Joseph died and was buried the following day – in the deepest winter. I wonder how they managed to dig the grave, or maybe they pre-dug a few graves in the fall.
Joseph was only 32 years old and left behind three small children and a pregnant wife. His fourth child was born the following August and named for him. I hope that Joseph and his family lived in the René Forest Village so that René and the others could help them. Large, nearby families meant survival. Based on Joseph’s age, his death was assuredly some sort of accident or sudden illness.
It’s apparent, given the 3 and 4 year gaps in the census and other records that René and Françoise had lost babies or young children, but Joseph was his first older or adult child to perish. Without modern medicine, early deaths were more common than today, but the saying that parents aren’t supposed to bury their children still holds.
A year and a few days later, daughter Marie would marry. I wonder if René quietly stopped by Joseph’s grave to say hello.
Marie – 1731
Jacques – 1734
Catherine – 1737
Elizabeth (Isabelle) – 1738
Anne – 1740
Jean – 1743 – the record exists, but no signature.
Pierre – 1744 – the record exists, but no signature.
Charles – probably married around 1745, but is missing in the Port Royal/Annapolis Royal marriage records.
Sadly, daughter Marguerite died on May 27, 1747, about 53 years of age, leaving behind six children and her husband. This would have been a sad day for René and Françoise, who were actually fortunate that “only” two of their adult children died – but I’m positive that “fortunate” is not how they felt.
I’ll include additional information about the children in their mother, Françoise Dugas’s article.
René’s Death and Burial
In 1750 and 1752, there is a René Forest shown in Menoudy, now Minudie, near Beaubassin, but we know this is not our René because our René died at Port-Royal on April 20, 1751.
Father Defenetaud dutifully recorded René’s death and burial. He states that René Forest was about 80 years old, died on April 20th, and was buried the following day, April 21, 1751.
The witnesses were Claude Godet, Mathieu Forest, and Francois Forest. Both of the Forest men who witnessed the burial were his sons.
René’s funeral would have been held in the Catholic church in the town he had known as Port Royal. I’d wager he forever refused to call it Annapolis Royal – the British name assigned to Port Royal after the humiliating 1710 defeat.
René’s life had been full of adventure – most of it unwanted. Born in Acadia, he had never known anything else, so maybe the never-ending drama just became normal at some point.
If the reports are accurate, in late 1714 or early 1715, René, along with the other Acadian families, had wanted to remove. Yet in August 1714, when he received permission to go to Ile (Isle) Royal, present-day Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, where Louisbourg is located, he did not.
René spent the rest of his life right there on the Annapolis River, or as he called it, the rivière Dauphin, beside Bloody Creek, which he may well have named when those British soldiers had the bad judgement to travel upriver and were ambushed there in 1711. Perhaps that name served as a warning to others and as a small victory for the Acadians. I’d bet money René was all in on that, especially if his father died as a result of the 1790 British attack. The Acadians, it seems, were beaten, but their spirit was never defeated.
René spent his entire life trying to hang on to his life, culture, and his farm in Acadia – sometimes by nothing more than a thread. Often by sheer tenacity – refusal to surrender.
After the Priest said the final prayers, René’s family and neighbors would have lowered his casket and filled the hole with Nova Scotia’s dirt, each member dropping a handful at a time.
René’s grave was probably marked with a white wooden cross, perhaps made by his sons, plus maybe a small stone of some kind, but that didn’t last long. When the Expulsion began in 1755, the English burned everything, and as the final insult meant to erase the Acadians, the cemetery was destroyed.
Today, the Garrison Graveyard is being mapped and studied, hoping to identify the grave locations of the more than 500 Acadians buried here. The same location is also the site of English graves and post-Expulsion burials, with perhaps 2,000 graves in total.
Perhaps it was for the best that René died before the Acadian Expulsion began. He would have been about 85 years old in 1755, herded onto a ship with other suffering Acadians, only to see his beloved Acadia burn. It would have probably killed him, horribly, and his family would have had to endure watching, assuming they hadn’t been separated.
I’d much rather think of a stubborn, elderly, grey-haired French-speaking man living on his farm in the René Forest Village that he had protected with every ounce of his being for his entire life, surrounded by his loving wife and family who lived nearby, maybe singing songs of comfort to him as he peacefully slipped away to the land of his ancestors.
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