Grand Pre Notes.
Grand Pre! The very name brings to the mind a picture of dykes and orchards, of Acadian relics and hospitable farm-houses. How many thousands, closing their eyes after reading “Evangeline,” have been wafted where
“Distant, secluded, still, the little village of Grand Pre,
Lay in the fruitful valley.”
And how many have awoke from their short day-dreams to wish that they were really in this beautiful land – this veritable Eden – the Garden of Nova Scotia!
Visitors to many other famous spots are often disappointed. They have heard such highly-colored accounts of the beauty and attractions of these places, that the reality seems tame to them. But the expectations of visitors to this village are fully realized, and Grand Pre, built like Rome on seven hills, and overlooking the beautiful Basin of Minas, is the same quiet, dreamy, delightful place that every stranger has imagined it to be.
The history of the village, rather than its beauty, is what especially attracts tourists. The midnight massacre of Colonel Noble and his troops was one of the most cowardly undertakings ever recorded. No monument marks the spot where, on that cold night in January, 1747, those brave men fell.
Although, in connection with the expulsion of the Acadians, more tragic scenes were enacted at Chignecto than at Grand Pre, Longfellow’s poem has made the sud scenes at this place familiar to all, and consequently Grand Pre is the favourite resort in the Maritime Provinces of lovers of history and romance.
And never was there a sadder time than when these poor people were collected on the shore, where the ships were waiting to take them far away from their beloved village. That bitter anguish must have filled their hearts when,
“As the wind seized the gleeds and the Burning thatch, and, uplifting,
Hurled them aloft through the air, at once
From a hundred house-tops
Started the sheeted smoke with flashes of flame intermingled.”
The same dreamy atmosphere that made Sleepy Hollow the home of legend and fireside tale, seems to encircle this quiet little village. A place like Grand Pre that did not have its full share of ghosts and legends would be hard to find.
One oft-told tale is about two Frenchmen who came here years after the Expulsion, and took two pots filled with gold from an old thatched barn. Everyone has a different version of the story, and many disputes arise, some contending that their was only man and a single pot of gold. It is impossible to be skeptical about this tale, for everybody here will show you the exact spot where the barn stood.
There are also stories of a Frenchman, a gold mine, which became to Grand Pre to find, by the aid of several strange maps and charts. No wonder that DeMille, after residing in this region, should write that weird tale “Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder.” The farmers here seem as contented and happy as their Acadian predecessors. “The life of a farmer for me!” I heard a fine-looking agriculturist exclaim yesterday, “Away from the dust, that discomfort of city life – except when a fellow gest a peck or two down his back pitching hay; free from the petty annoyances of life – except, well, when horses balk.” The orator had been half a day trying to show a balky mare the error of her stays, and a smile of peace and contentment lighted up his face as he spoke.
The apple crop in this land of Evangeline and Gravenstein will be a short one this year. The fruit growers are not grieving, as they remember the immense crop of last year, and how the prices, in most cases, were not sufficient to cover the cost of the barrels and the freight. A few fortunate ones made from ten to twenty cents per barrel, not counting the labor of picking, etc, but some lost over a hundred dollars on their crop, and many apples were left to rot in the orchards. “Another mild winter and another good apple year,” said one farmer, “would ruin the country.”
The apple-trees bloomed very full but the number of apples on the trees is below the average. The caterpillars have been particularly thick, and the molbs this year laid more eggs than they have for many years. This is “a Baldwin year,” and there will be a good crop of that variety. The plum crop will be a failure. The bay crop on the Grand Pre is the best in quality and fully equal in quality to any crop since the great Saxby flood of twenty years ago, except, perhaps, that of 1881. There will be about an average crop of hay on the uplands.
Oats will be above the average. In spite of the fact there are more potato-bugs here than ever before, the potatoes are looking fine.
Sackville people may be surprised to hear that the airawherry crop was very large here. This year has been a first-rate one for small fruits.
The gardens here are beautiful, and gardeners are well satisfied. Two pickle factories in the vicinity are buying cucumbers and the people here find cucumber-raising very profitable.
Very few shad have been caught in the Seine at Long Island this year. The farmers leave haying to wage war upon insects, worms and bugs.
The potato-bugs delight
To display their appetite,
And the farmer has been crying,
“Come ye creatures Insectivorous,
For the currant-worm is feeding,
And the pesky moth is breeding,
Oh! From the caterpillar and the cabbage-worm deliver us!”
The small work doth (illegible)
I have tried to do something original – write an article on Grand Pre without quoting “Evangeline” but have dismally failed. For although one is apt to get the idea on reading it that the expulsion was entirely the fault of the English still, there is no sweeter poem, and no one can improve on the poets description of the place he saw only in his dreams.
A resident of the village, with Longfellow’s hexameters coursing through his brain, wrote a poem for an American paper, of which I quote a few lines:
“In the Acadian land, on the shores of the Basin of Minas,
Easy of access by railway and almost as easy by water,
Stands the modern Grand Pre…..
Less than a league to the north of the station, Long Island,
Famed for its gravelly beach the resort of Sunday-School picnics,
Stretches its far-reaching arms, protecting the beautiful meadow…
Gone with the forest primeval are the beasts that once wandered within it.
But in the proper season good sport may be had with the wild duck
This is the modern Grand Pre.
Come down and see how you like it.”
Grand Pre, July, 22nd, 1889.