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Langill Family History

written by Bernard Joseph (Bernie) Langill and Robert John (Bob) Langill


Most surnames originated from one of four things: occupation, location, characteristic or father’s name. The Langill surname was derived by location, during the 14th century. The family originated from the town of Longueville, located in Normandy, on the northern coast of France. The name implied a “dweller near the long city.” The earliest known ancestor and patriarch to our family was a man named Daniel Languilles, who was born ca 1632, and is thought to have left Longueville to seek refuge in Montbeliard sometime before 1680. When he moved to Montbeliard, he changed his last name to “Languilles,” a common practice at the time. By 1700, the name was spelled “Langille” or “Langill.”

The following is a brief history of the Langill family over the past three hundred years, and the influence that religion, politics, wealth and power played in developing the conditions on both sides of the Atlantic, during the 17th and 18th centuries, that paved the way for these people to relocate from Montbeliard, France to Halifax, Nova Scotia and throughout North America.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, religious persecution was occurring on the European side of the Atlantic; during this same period, a power struggle was taking place between Britain and France over land claims and disputed boundaries on the west side of the Atlantic, in the Maritime provinces. The power and wealth that both these two countries stood to gain in their bloody conflicts with each other derived from the rich resources available through hunting, fishing and agriculture. As we know, Britain was victorious over the French.

The French Acadians, who were Catholic, developed and occupied most of the land at that time; they preferred living their own ways, trading with various outposts to the South, etc. The British attempted to force them into submission and to swear allegiance to the Crown. Those who wouldn't were deported or sent in boatloads to the southern States. Because the British had a problem bringing their own people to the New World and to offset the Catholic population that remained, they were forced to look elsewhere throughout Europe.


The Langills were among the early settlers of Nova Scotia and they emigrated from Dampierre-Outres-les-Bois, in Montbeliard, France in 1752. Dampierre is located only a few miles from the Swiss border. Montbeliard was unique: German-ruled, peopled mainly by French-speaking Protestants who owed allegiance to German rulers, surrounded by France on three sides and Switzerland on the fourth. Most of the Montbeliard people were farmers, wood-cutters, stone-cutters, weavers, thatchers and blacksmiths; they were hard-working and God-fearing people.

These French Protestants became known as Huguenots (Hyoo-ge-nots]. The name may have come from Besancon Hughes, a Swiss religious leader. The Huguenots believed in the teachings of John Calvin who developed a special form of reformation in Switzerland in the 1500's that spread to other countries, and were members of the Reformed Church. The French Roman Catholics gave them the name Huguenots. During the reign of Henry II, they became a large and influential group in France and, as they grew stronger, the Catholic government persecuted them more and more. They became the centre of political and religious quarrels in France in the 1500's and 1600's.

In 1598, Henry of Navarre became King and he issued a new law, the "Edict of Nantes," which granted complete political and religious freedom. This new law gave the Huguenots freedom to worship in about seventy-five towns and cities where Calvinism prevailed. The Huguenots thus formed a sort of Protestant republic within the Catholic kingdom. It was during the reign of Louis III that the Huguenots lost their political freedom but were allowed to continue freedom of worship until 1685, when Louis XIV repealed the Edict of Nantes. Thousands of Huguenots began to leave France to new homes in other parts of the world: England, Prussia, the Netherlands and the Americas. Some of the laws against the Huguenots were relaxed shortly before the revolution began in 1789 but they didn't get religious and political freedom until 1791, when a new Constitution gave equal rights to Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jews. The English Protestants whom Calvin influenced were called Puritans. From his ethical concerns, Calvin developed the pattern of church government that today is called Presbyterianism.


During the period from 1685 to 1791, while much of the persecution of John Calvin's Reformed Church was taking place, another form of persecution was being imposed by the British on the first settlers of the New World, at the French Acadian colony known as Acadia. During the struggle between the French and English for domination of Nova Scotia, Acadia held a strategic position, alternating from a French to a British colony, and was the major reason why the Acadians remained neutral. Acadians were a very industrious and hard-working people. The French invited the Acadian population to accept French laws to stop the English from fishing and trading in Acadian territory. They refused and eventually became the battleground between France in the North and England in the South. Situated between two great colonies of the New World, the Acadian colony was accustomed to being governed alternately by two powers. Attacks, plundering and robbing against the Acadians from the founding of their colony were taken in stride, and even under severe conditions, they continued to progress and prosper in many ways. Due to the constant change of government, the Acadians could never accept the feudal system.

The Acadians eventually became victims of an economic blockade, were attacked, plundered, and, finally, forced to surrender as their standard of living continued to erode. During the thirty years of peace that followed, the British expected many English settlers, but few came. The Acadian population increased very quickly and even though they were not supposed to farm new land, they did it anyway. The Acadians gave their new occupants a difficult time and presented many reasons for not paying their taxes and wanting to remain neutral. The British were not interested in installing a democratic government within their new colony, since the Acadians were in the majority. It was decided that the best way to keep them quiet was to make them swear an unqualified oath of allegiance. The Acadians wanted to remain neutral, however, because they could not foresee who might emerge as the final winner and they wanted to remain French and Catholic without having to fight against their fellow countrymen.

In July of 1755, Charles Lawrence, Lieut. Gov. of Nova Scotia, ordered Acadian deputies to appear before him in Halifax to swear this unqualified oath of allegiance to the Crown of England. They refused, were thrown into prison and eventually deported. During the following months, Acadians were assembled under different categories, loaded into boats and dispersed to British colonies all along the Atlantic seaboard. Many Acadians took refuge in Northern New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton Island. It was a lost cause: many were captured and used to work on dykes, roads, and fortifications. Death by starvation and sickness was the only relief from the misery and deprivation that some of the British colonies inflicted upon them.


The concurrence of French Protestants fighting for religious and political rights in Montbeliard, France, with a long-standing Maritime war with France over Nova Scotia which finally gave possession to Britain, was timely and a bit ironic. Several thousand Acadians had been forced off their land and farms and deported; the door was now open for the British who wanted Protestant settlers to come to their new land to offset the number of French Catholics and who offered enticing packages to do so. Anyone desiring to settle in Nova Scotia and become a British subject was offered fifty acres of land, free from rent and taxes for ten years, ten additional acres for each member, and further benefits for cultivation skills: all families fully maintained for twelve months, with all materials and implements necessary for housekeeping, cultivation, clearing their lands, and erecting and maintaining living accommodations.

In towns throughout Central Europe, a proclamation was posted by Mr. John Dick of Rotterdam, an appointee for His Majesty's Commissioner of Trade and Plantations. It's probably safe to say that anyone suffering religious and political persecution at that time would have been more than anxious to grasp this opportunity after many years of oppression. Several hundred of the foreign Protestants from the Montbeliard area (Huguenots) were signed up and prepared themselves for the long journey to the New World. They were so anxious to leave that many paid their own passage for the two- to three-week trip of seven hundred miles down the Rhine River from Heidelberg to Rotterdam, Holland. Among the many who left the Montbeliard area at that time were members of the Langill family.

The British ship Betty left with 161 people from Rotterdam on May 16th, 1752, and on May 30, 1752, 258 people followed on the Sally. Onboard the Sally were David Langille and his new wife Marie Catherine David, his children Jean Jacques 1st, Jean Jacques 2nd, Marguerit and also Marie David’s son Jean-Jacques (whom David adopted)! On the Betty were David's brother Matthew and their two cousins: Leopold Frederick (with his wife Marguerite Sandoz) and David Langille. Anyone living on the North American continent whose surname is Langill or Langille can attribute their ancestry to one of these six Langille men who emigrated from their ancestral home in Montbeliard, France in 1752.

After a long journey, the ships arrived in Halifax Harbour. The Betty had had a good voyage, arriving on July 14, 1752 with 154 passengers who survived the journey. When the Sally arrived, however, forty of her passengers had already died. The port authorities feared a contagious disease aboard and left her at anchor for another three weeks in the harbor. She docked on Sept. 6, 1752, with 218 passengers having survived. Included in the dead were David’s wife Marie Catherine (on the Sally) and his two youngest children, Marguerit & Jean Jacques 2nd. For strategic reasons and after several months in Halifax, the British authorities relocated these early settlers to Lunenburg in 1753, where they were assigned their lots and began their lives as pioneers.

David Langille*, son of Daniel Langille & Francoise Prenot; born: Feb.24, 1701, Dampierre-les-Bois, Montbeliard; died: May 13, 1766, Dampierre-les-Bois, Montbeliard; married Catherine Boutenot in 1720 in Montbeliard. Catherine born: 1698; died: Jan.12, 1749.

Eight children, surname: Langille, two of whom came to Canada:
David: born June 29, 1721, Montbeliard; died: March 29, 1753, in Halifax (he was aboard the Betty);
married 1): Catherine Quaislet on April 12, 1746, in Dampierre-des-Bois, Montbeliard;
Catherine born: unknown; died: 1752, in Montbeliard.
married 2): Catherine Ames on August 31, 1752, in Halifax.
Leopold Frederick: born June 26.1728; died: Aug.17, 1817, in Halifax;
married Marguerite (Margaret) Sandoz on May 11, 1751 (both aboard the Betty).

Daniel III Langille, son of Daniel Langille & Francoise Prenot (brother of David*)
born: May 26, 1687, Dampierre-les-Bois, Montbeliard; died in Dampierre-les-Bois, Montbeliard;
married on December 2, 1711, in Montbeliard to Anne Brand, born: 1689, Dampierre-les-Bois,
Montbeliard; died: Dec.5, 1744, in Dampierre-les-Bois, Montbeliard.

Ten children, surname: Langill, two of whom came to Canada:
David: born Jan.1, 1715; died: July, 1804, in Tatamagouche, N.S. (he was aboard the Sally);
married (1): Madelaine Monnin, died in 1749 in France.
Son: Jean Jacques: born: 1736; died: 1794, in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia (aboard the Sally).
Son: Jean Jacques: born: Feb.17,1747; died 1752, while onboard the Sally.
Daughter: Marguerit: born April 7 1749; died 1752, while onboard the Sally.
married (2): Marie Catherine David (a widow) in June, 1752, in Rotterdam; died Sept. 29, 1752, in Halifax.
her son Jean Jacques: born: 1743, was adopted by David Langill. (all were aboard the Sally);
married (3): Marie Catherine Besanzan on Dec. 3, 1753, in Lunenburg, N.S.
Mathieu: born: 1726; died: 1800 at River John, N.S. (he was aboard the Betty).


In 1765, following the 1759 war between the English and French on the Plains of Abraham, a man named Joseph F.W. Des Barres, who was a military engineer and played an important role as a soldier, engineer, astronomer, and surveyor for the British, was given a 20,000-acre grant of land as a reward for his valuable services. This area included Tatamagouche Bay and several miles inland. After the expulsion of the Acadians, this land, which is now Cumberland County, was re-surveyed and Des Barres, rather than sell, decided to rent.

In 1771, one of Des Barres' sons was able to convince fourteen families living in the Lunenburg area to relocate to Tatamagouche. Among those who accepted the offer from Des Barres were David Langill and his son Jean Jacques, of the Sally, and David's brother, Mathieu. Their cousin Leopold Frederick Langill remained in Lunenburg and became patriarch of the South Shore Langilles. Descendants of Mathieu, his brother David and son John James have become known as the North Shore Langills.

The first settlers at River John were six men and their families, who were too free and independent to settle in Tatamagouche as tenants under Des Barres (who had refused to sell his land). River John is approximately twelve miles northeast of Tatamagouche; the land was owned by a company under the Philadelphia Land Grant, which was ready to dispose of it. In 1786 (approximately thirty-four years after landing in Halifax Harbour), among these first families who moved to River John were Jean Jacques Langill, adopted son of David Langill, and George Frederick Langill, son of Mathieu Langill. They built their log huts near each other on the hill at Smith's Point, where they intended to build a fortification for defense against the Indians. When additional settlers arrived, this plan was abandoned and each built on his own land.

Beginning in 1795, the children from David Langill's third wife began to move into the growing settlement of River John - John David, John George, John Frederick, and John Lewis (Marshville and Louisville Langills).

The settlers of this small community were deeply religious. For twenty-three years after the arrival of the first settlers, they had no regular pastor, but were not indifferent to religion and morality. They held religious meetings at which John George Langill, George Patriquin, and Christopher Perrin would lead and instruct those attending into the saving elements of gospel truth. Reverend John Mitchell was the Minister of River John from 1808-1841, followed by Rev. James Waddell 1844-1858 and Rev. Hector B. Mackay 1861-1885.


Langill / Langille

In and about the time that our ancestors were living in River John, the name “Langill” was spelled both with and without an e in many documents. In most of the original land deeds of River John from the 1820’s to 1880’s, the name is spelled “Langill.” In a few documents, the name is spelled both “Langill” and “Langille” in the same deed. Most of the families of the Nova Scotia north shore, who now spell their name “Langille,” were once listed as “Langill” in Church documents and land deeds.

In Nova Scotia, names were not standardized until around 1900, after which time most of the Nova Scotia Langills began to spell their name “Langille.” Any one who had spelled their name “Langill,” and left Nova Scotia before the standardization of the name, continued the spelling of the name as “Langill,” as is the case with our ancestor James Wadel Langill and his siblings.

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