L'Ardoise Parish History

L'Ardoise Parish History

The following five articles about the L'Ardoise Parish and its history appeared as a 2 page spread (pages 6-7) in the May 22, 1969 edition of the Antigonish Casket. (microfilm #1214 P.A.N.S.)


by Bishop John Cameron

Les Saints Anges Gardiens

In 1752 the governor of Ile Royal, Count de Raymond, ordered his surveyor to map the coast of the island and his secretary to take a census of the people.  This was the man who in 1753 was fired for spending so much money on a road that would let the English enemy travel so readily into Louisbourg.  The surveyor was LaRoche and the secretary Thomas Pichon.

It was on account of this excellent census that Bona Arsenault was able to trace the pioneer stock in St. Esprit, Port Toulouse and L'Ardoise.  These people, for the most part had been supplied with priests who officiated at St. Esprit and Port Toulouse forts and militia.

In 1752 Pichon found 230 around Port Toulouse not counting the Kings officers and soldiers, 61 people in L'Ardoise, ant 137 people in Arichat and Petit de Grat combined.  From then on the population trend increased and the number of Roman Catholics increased rapidly on Isle Madame so that the parish of Arichat was the first parish to be formed, boosted by the people of Petit de Grat, Acadiaville and d'Escousse, and the fringe settlements on the mainland.

The next item recorded is the schedule of Father Bailly, of Caraquet, New Brunswick, who made Arichat his headquarters in the early fall of 1771, almost 20 years after the above census taking.  He visited L'Ardoise and stayed four days baptizing, marrying, etc.  Father Bailly spent the winter in Halifax ministering to the Catholics of Chebucto Bay and on his return to Bay Chaleur in spring called at Port Toulouse for an indefinite number of days when he no doubt ministered to all those aware of his presence.

Father Bourg was the next to appear on the scene.  In 1785 he recommended to the church authorities in Quebec that something, be done for Arichat and the vicinity in which L'Ardoise was to play a part.  On his way from Halifax to Bay Chaleur in the early spring of 1786 he directed the people of Arichat to build a chapel.

In June 1786 Dr. Wm. Phelan received an appointment to Arichat.  He was an Irishman educated in Rome, spent some time in France and understood and read French well.  His opening sentence in his report read ''The inhabitants here have built a tolerable shell of a Chappel''.  He had a tough time of it in Arichat over financial and other matters and disagreement among the parishioners - a second church was built across the harbor.

Dr. Phelan travelled extensively for besides Ile Madame, L'Ardoise to River Inhabitants, his missionary domain covered Antigonish Bay (Tracadie and Pomquet) and also Cheticamp.  He resigned in April of 1792 and retired in the U.S.A., where he died in 1795.

The next missionary priest sent to the parish of Arichat, of which L'Ardoise was a part, was Father Francois Lejamtel.  He was stationed in Saint Pierre and Miquelon for six years and with the French Revolution breaking out in 1789 the clergy were obliged to take a schismatical oath.  He refused along with other Acadians, landed in Nova Scotia where he took the oath of allegiance.  In September 1792 he was installed as second pastor of Arichat and neighboring areas.

The next year 150 Acadian families who had migrated to St. Pierre in 1765 followed Father Lejamtel back to Nova Scotia settling in Ile Madame, the mainland and Little Bras d'Or. Father Lejamtel also had to travel extensively to cover not only the areas of  Richmond County but also Margaree, Cheticamp, Little Bras d'Or, and even the Magdalens.  In 1799 he even had a request from the people of Sydney to serve them twice a year and the Irish of Louisbourg demanded his services still more.  In 1805 Father Lejamtel reported that the Sydney people built a chapel but that it was to small to accommodate the congregation. 

On account of the tremendous influx of Scottish emigrants to eastern Nova Scotia about this time and other reasons the population was increasing rapidly and Father Lejamtel was obliged to confine his activities to those people of his own language.  As a coincidence in 1790, Father Angus Bernard MacEachern had landed with 250 Scottish Highlanders in P.E.I., and with more youthful vigor and knowledge of Gaelic he was able to relieve Father Lejamtel of part of the gulf shore and South Inverness County areas.  About this time also Scottish Highlanders were pouring into Antigonish and Cape Breton as well as P.E.I.  With them came Father James MacDonald who was appointed first pastor of the new parish of Arisaig in 1793.  Father Lejamtel was relieved of his Cheticamp and Margaree duties but his work was still mounting with the Richmond County population increases.

The year 1803 featured, to the Arichat mission, the first official visit of a church dignitary, Bishop Denaut from Quebec.  He wrote from Arichat to Bishop Plessis giving him all particulars about the place, population, distance, and issued certain orders to the Indians of Chapel Island.  Of Father Lejamtel he wrote in part ''He has a great expanse in territory, extending in every direction''.

His statistics show that L'Ardoise had 52 adults and 43 children out of a total of 1000 for the whole mission.  He confirmed over 1000 including very young children in the Arichat mission.  Many of them must have been adults who came from other parts of Cape Breton.  He continued his directives.  The priest at Arichat was to get one quintal of cod from each family in the mission, or if a farmer, t6he 26th part of all grains.

The financial affairs were to be administered by committees of wardens.  That a glebe house be built in Arichat on the site of the old, to be 30 feet square.  A committee of seven was appointed to assess quotas on the seven or more districts in the mission.  For the people of L'Ardoise he had a special message ''The contribution of an inhabitant of L'Ardoise shall be only one third ... being so far away they cannot long remain members of the Parish of Arichat''. 

Time was grinding slowly and another administrator from Quebec paid an extended and official visit to all the missions in Eastern Nova Scotia.  Bishop Plessis who made the visitation in 1815, wrote in details of his travels and today his views on conditions and people at that time makes for interesting reading.

Father Lejamtel by now was completely worn out by the many demands of his scattered mission and resigned in 1819 having labored for 27 years as pastor of Arichat.  Father Gavlin was made parish priest having been transferred from Cheticamp.  In the spring of 1820 L'Ardoise was named a mission of Arichat and a set of books opened to chronicle the areas births, marriages and deaths.

The idea was eventually when a cleric was available, to establish a parish to administer to the people of St. Peters Bay area from Grand Digue Ferry to L'Ardoise.  Also if he could speak English he could attend to the newly arrived Scottish people from St. Peters to Red Islands.  Of equal importance  was that he could look after the Indians who had been for 50 years petitioning the government and church officials for a leader.

In 1820 the province of Cape Breton was joined politically to the province of Nova Scotia.  Father Angus B. MacEachern of P.E.I. was consecrated bishop in June 1821 and was now responsible for all the Catholics in Cape Breton Island as well as the mainland.

Father Hudson who succeeded father Gaulin as pastor of Arichat received notice from Bishop Plessis that he was sending him a young  Irish priest to take charge of  the new parish of L'Ardoise.  The name was Father Henry MacKeagney and his first entry in the parish books is January 8, 1823.  L'Ardoise became the ninth parish in the diocese. IN march of 1823 he reported to Bishop Plessis that he had visited the whole area including Red Islands and also attended to the Indian mission at Chapel Island.  He had in all 654 communicants who attended to their Easter duties.

It seem that the glebe house at L'Ardoise was not completed to Father MacKeagney's liking and he decided to stay at the Micmac mission for a few months.  Father MacKeagney's stay was not long in L'Ardoise.  On account of the accelerating increases in population in eastern Cape Breton a priest was urgently needed there and L'Ardoise was again put under Father Hudson at Arichat.  Father MacKeagney's headquarter were to be Sydney.

The people of  L'Ardoise and River Bourgeois objected strenuously and drew up, signed and forwarded a petition to Bishop Plessis.  Responsibility for the Indians mission was shifted to the Bras d'Or mission to lighten the burden.  We now see one of the reasons for Father Vincent’s stay in L'Ardoise from August 14, 1825 to June 3, 1826 and why he was so very welcome.

You will perhaps notice that the dates of Father Vincent sojourn in L'Ardoise, as written in a shorter write - up, are entirely different - the author adding a few months on both ends of his stay.  I took my dates from an excellent 200-pages book  " Pioneer Monks in Nova Scotia'' by Reverend Luke Screpfer, O.S.A.. 1947.  The above dates are taken from ''A History of  the Catholic Church in Eastern Nova Scotia'' by Reverend A. A. Johnston, 1960.  With Dr. Johnston's reputation for accuracy  and his long years of research in church history, I must come to the conclusion that the dates in the monastery volume are not entirely authentic.

L'Ardoise remains without a priest until Father Potvin was appointed in October 1828.  The next pastor was Trudel from October 1829 to September 1832.  The next pastor was Father Patrick MacKeagney who was pastor from December 1832 to June 1841.  He was a brother of Father Henry MacKeagney and also the politician James MacKeagney.

In 1840 River Bourgeois became a mission of  L'Ardoise.  Father Julian Courteau became the next pastor and stayed in L'Ardoise for 28 years.  A special articles on him written by Msgr. Gignac of Quebec, is appearing in another column.

The next pastor was Father James Quinan, greatly beloved by the people of L'Ardoise, River Bourgeois, d'Escousse, and later Arichat.  His stay was from may 29, 1969 to January 1876 a space of six and a half years.  He was in charge of River Bourgeois mission two months only when he was created a parish in 1869.  He was vicar general of the diocese 1892 - 1900.

I believe that the Quinan youth hall in the Sydney Parish was named such to honor him.

Father Richard came as pastor of  L'Ardoise in February 1876 and stayed a year and a half, followed by Father Daniel G. MacIntosh who left in October 1878 to become pastor of North Sydney.  It was the next pastor, Father Ethier, December 1878 to 1883, who along with the wardens decided in 1882 on building a new church for L'Ardoise.  It was Father Ethier who tutored Amable E. Mombourquette (native of L'Ardoise) who was ordained as priest in 1889.  This church was dedicated in august 1888.  Next to L'Ardoise came Father Lauchlin J. MacPherson, Cloverville, the man responsible  for the building of the church.  He came in the fall of  1883 and stayed 12 years before being transferred to d'Escousse.

Father Hugh P. MacPherson was the next pastor in L'Ardoise, being appointed pastor in October 1895, having been curate at River Bourgeois, Arichat, L'Ardoise for a couple of years and pastor of  West Arichat 1892 - 1895. Father Hugh P. MacPherson was a brother to Lauchlin J. MacPherson, it was the second brother act for L'Ardoise pastors since the MacKeagney pastor brothers.

This remarkable man ran through three or more careers, 14 years as assistant and pastor, 30 years as Rector of Saint Francis Xavier University, 21 years as Vicar General and 13 years as college president-emeritus.

This particular MacPherson clan, I believe landed from Scotland on the highlands halfway between Judique and Glendale (or Rear Centennial) and after a generation, some of them moved to Antigonish County.

The next pastor and the man destined to have the longest sojourn in L'Ardoise was Father Alfred Boudreau, a native of Port Felix, Guysborough County who was here for 44 years out of a total of 145 years from the time of the first appointment to the fall of 1968, leaving about a century to be divided between 16 other pastors.  Actually four pastors, Father Courteau, Father Placide LeBlanc and the MacPhersons accounted for another 68 years.

Father Placide LeBlanc was appointed pastor in September 1950.  Before his coming, Father Boudreau had as assistants Father A. Doucet, now pastor o West Arichat and Father Paul Boudreau.  Father LeBlanc was assisted by a number of curates -- Father Hector MacNeil, Father Bisson, Father Jean, Father Anthony O'Brian, Father Stanley MacDonald, John J. MacDonald (2), Father George Arsenault and Father James Mombourquette, a native of the parish.

Father Gerard Rogers came to L'Ardoise as assistant in July 1964.  On the resignation of father LeBlanc in January1967, Father Rogers was appointed administrator until September 1967 when he was appointed to the Extension Staff of St. F. X., with headquarters at Port Hawkesbury.  He was responsible for organizing and carrying through, within the framework of the newly proclaimed Act, the Manpower evening classes being held in the Consolidated High School at L'Ardoise the last couple of years.

Father Alex MacKinnon was the next pastor for a year but resigned to assume his duties in Central America where he had previously spent some fruitful years.

Father Stanley MacDonald is now the esteemed pastor of L'Ardoise parish since 1968.  Knowing him, I feel that any reference to his achievements and qualifications would be embarrassing to him.  In short, he was the man responsible for the redecorating and for the re-dedicating of the Saint-Anges-Gardiens Church at L'Ardoise on Saturday May 17, 1969.

Early Inhabitants Of The Parish

Before proceeding with the scant information, which we have on the early pioneers to L'Ardoise, let us mention a few dates and events in history, which had an influence on these people settling on our shores.  We may safely guess that most of the first people came from the east, but from where, Placentia, Louisbourg, Saint-Esprit?  Keep in mind that 32 years had passed from the time of the Placentia Exodus in 1713 to Louisbourg to its destruction n 1745.

There are 21 years from Placentia to the church opening in Saint-Esprit.  Of one thing we can be quite certain, most of the non-soldiers moved out of Louisbourg after the fall in 1745.  They did not settle in Saint-Esprit where the population dropped from a high of 546 inhabitants in 1737 to only 89 in 1752.

In 1744 Father Maillard blessed a new church  for the then thriving settlement of Saint-Esprit.  So we must surmise that the French civilians went further west to the next area of Saint-Onge, the old name for L'Ardoise.  Tradition has it that the present church, Les Saints-Anges-Gardiens (Holy Guardian Angels), was called such on account of the old settlement name.  It is a mistake in spelling.  Dr. Johnston points out that Saint-Onge is a real place on the coast of France, from where possibly some of the pioneers had come.

Father A. A. Johnston in his meticulously authentic History of the Diocese of Antigonish, mentions François Coste as the first inhabitant and a refugee from Louisbourg.  Seven years later in 1752 L'Ardoise could boast 61 souls, almost as many as Saint-Esprit.

Dr.Bona Arsenault wrote two exhaustive volumes " Histoire et Genealogie  des Acadiens " in which he traces the origin of certain families in L'Ardoise, Port Toulouse, Petit de Grat, Isle Madame, etc.  In addition he covers the other populous Acadian settlements in the Maritimes such as Ile Royal, Bras d'Or, Port Royal, Beaubassin, Grand Pré, Cobequid Ile Saint-Jean etc.

From these books we learn that François Briand left Saint Malo, France, and was a fisherman in Saint-Esprit.  He was married to Rene Marchand and was 39 years of age when the church was opened, after which he moved to L'Ardoise.  Pierre Briand was then a child of nine.  George Bonin, another pioneer in L'Ardoise, was 20 when the church was opened and married Marie Diers of Ninganiche (Ingonish).  Jean Fougère was born at Châteauneuf, France.  He also fished at Saint-Esprit and was 31 at the time of the church opening.

Jean-Baptiste Martel seems to have come from Québec and had five children in L'Ardoise between 1734 and 1744.  He could well be the John Martel who was the first man to officially take up land in this or another part of the island.  His land was No. 747 C. B. C. L. and was located opposite Kavanagh or Saint Peters Island and west of the lake.  This meant a crown lease from the then Province of Cape Breton.

Gabriel Samson (spelled without the P) was born in 1683 and another pioneer who came East.  He came from Lévis, Québec, and married at Port Royal to Jeanne Martin in 1704.  His sons Michel (born 1706) and Mathieu (born 1709) lived at (or near) Port Toulouse in 1727.  Michel was married in 1729 to Jeanne Testard and had four sons, Michael Jr. (1739), Sebastien (1741), Fabian (1741), and Joseph (1749).  He also had four daughters who no doubt married locally.

Michel Senior's brother Mathieu married Marguerite LaPierre and also had eight children.  In 1747 when his oldest boy Pierre was 12, he moved away from Port Toulouse to Beaubassin near Sackville, N. B.  With the dispersion in 1755, it would be interesting to know where they next landed.

Mathieu had a son Mathieu Junior born in 1747.  A certain Mathieu Sampson was the next to take up land in West L'Ardoise No. 761 C. B. C. L.  There may be no connection.  A group of Sampsons, either brothers and or cousins, took up five lots of land No. 809, 12, 23, 14, and 15 in the crossroads Lower L'Ardoise area.  Since they had to appear in person and since it would seem that the crown leases were processed the same day, it must have been a real L'Ardoise day at the capital of Cape Breton for two others, J. Mombourquette and Anthony Mombourquette, took out lots No. 810 and 811, respectively.

Another pioneer was Noel Amyot born 1712 in Plevenon, France, reared in Saint Malo and landed at L'Ardoise Bay in 1728.  He married Marguerite Boy or Bois from Port Toulouse and had following family Marguerite (1744), Jean (1748), Madeleine (1750), Pierre Amyot (1751).

Bois or Boys also lived at L'Ardoise Bay.  Pierre Bois born 1682 at Saint-Jean-des-Champ, reared in Coutances, France, and married Marie Coste.  He arrived in L'Ardoise in 1712.  His offspring were Judith (1725), Jean (1730), Cecile (1731), Pierre (1732), Joseph (1733), Madeleine (1735), Charlotte (1738), Genevieve (1741).  Jean married Judith Poujet of Port Toulouse, Pierre married Jeanne Dugas of Louisbourg.  He was a coaster by trade and lived at Port Toulouse.

There is scant notice of a Cecile Longuespée married to a Pierre Bernard of Ile Madame with nine children from 1722 to 1748, also a Marie Longuespée, daughter of Vincent and married to Herne (Ernest) Lambert of Ile Madame.

Levigne seems to be another forgotten name around L'Ardoise.  Nicolas was born in 1684 in Saint Denis, France, and was married to Anne Clemenceau and arrived at L'Ardoise Bay at the age of 40 in 1724.  They had seven children from 1718 to 1750, all girls except Charles who married Madeleine Petitpas of Port Toulouse.  He was a coaster in the L'Ardoise area.  His servant was Gilles Poirier born in 1739 in Saint-Esprit.  Captain Charles had the following offspring : Anne (1743), Charles (1746), Cecile (1747), Benoit (1749) and Joseph Levigne born in 1739.

Thomas is supposed to be one of the early Irish pioneers along with the Murphys, Powers, Keefes, Fitzgeralds, Fitzsimmonds, and Jones who inhabited Lower L'Ardoise.  However, we find in Arsenault's TOME II reference to a Julien Thomas born 1722 in Plancoet, reared in Saint Malo, who was one of the many fishermen working in the service of François Picard at Saint-Esprit.

Church Dedication 81 Years Ago

Last Sunday was a red-letter day in the parish of L'Ardoise.  It was the day announced by the worthy pastor for the solemn dedication of the church of that mission.

On Saturday afternoon the good people of  the place turned out in large numbers and came to Saint Peters with their long train of wagons to meet his Lordship who was expected to arrive that evening by the S. S. Marion but owing to an unusual delay the boat did not put on an appearance until a late hour of the night, causing much disappointment to all parties.

About one o'clock Sunday morning his Lordship with is friends arrived at the Glebe House in midst of rain, fog and darkness, after having travelled over seven or eight miles of bad roads and in disagreeable wet weather.

He must have doubtless felt uncomfortable and wearied, suffering at the time as he was from the effects of an accident with which he met in Antigonish shortly before then.

The country about L'Ardoise is of a hilly undulating nature.  The public road principally follows the sinuosities of the shores.

On a prominent hill facing the sea on the southward, gradually sloping on all sides, and to which are built two wide streets from the main road, is the magnificent site on which the new church is built.

It is a pretty spot and commands an excellent view of the sea and surrounding country.  The church is a massive building, well painted and presents a very imposing appearance.

It is called the imposing church of " The Angel Guardian ".  Its size is 102 feet by 60 feet with a vestry of 40 feet by 30 feet, a small sized church in itself.

The plan of the church was made by the late John MacLellan of Prince Edward Island, who built many of  the P. E. I. churches, in which I may mention Tignish.  It was he who finished the church and vestry outside, and the vestry inside also.

The church is built in a Roman style, with a row of large windows below corresponding in build with the style of architecture, and one of circular windows of medium size above.

The chancel window is of a handsome stained glass, in which are impressed figures of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  Under the name of Jesus is inscribed in Latin the words : Ecce Agnus Dei; under that of Mary: Ave Gratia Plena; and of Joseph : Ite Ad Joseph.

The inside of the church was finished by Mr. John C. MacDonald, of Antigonish.  It is done of wood.  The church contains three rows of pews, numbering one hundred and thirty-eight in all, grained in ash color and finished with walnut trimmings.

It has a full gallery finished in colors and style corresponding with the pews, and supported on pillars of ash color with heavy capitals of Scotch granite imitations.

The altars are three in numbers made in roman style by the late Mr. MacLellan.  They are painted beautifully white and richly set off  with gold leaf ornamentation.

The vestry also has three rows of pews built and finished after the models of the pews in the church.  Being of wood and painted white is the ceiling of the church, which gives a neat appearance to the whole interior of the building.

It is a most substantial structure, and although built on a very high exposed place it is a guarantee against any ordinary storm.  It cost $17,000, four thousand dollars of which is yet to be paid.

The parish is a large one, the largest of  the island of Cape Breton counting between four and five hundred families, and I have no doubt whatever but the brave Frenchmen will foot every dollar of the debt as the bills come due.

At ten o'clock the bishop, accompanied by many priests and clerks, arrived at the church, whence they proceeded to the vestry, where his Lordship was robed in pontificals and the others dressed in soutanes and surplices.

After all the people had gone out of the church, the bishop with his clerical attendants proceeded outside to the front of the church and commenced reciting the prayers used according to the Roman ritual on such special occasions.

There they formed into line of procession and marched around the church, the bishop reading all along the prayers of the dedication and continually sprinkling the building at the same time with holy water, while the choir replied in a grave and solemn tone.

After having made a tour around the church the clerical procession entered inside, where a similar ceremony took place and afterwards the procession proceeded to the vestry.

Then the church bell was rung, announcing to the congregation that the church was dedicated to the service of God and that the divine service of the day was about to begin.

High Mass was commenced immediately; his Lordship celebrating assisted by the Reverend M. MacKenzie, River Bourgeois, deacon, and Reverend M. A. MacPherson, P. P., Little Bras d'Or; subdeacon in the sanctuary were noticed Reverends John MacDougall, P. P., Red Islands; James M. Quinan, P. P., Arichat; Roderick Grant, P. P., Iona; D. J. MacIntosh, P.P., North Sydney; Angus Cameron, D.D., P. P., Christmas Island; Angus Chisholm, D. D., P. P., D'Escousse; Alexander Beaton, P. P., Little Arichat, Reverends Messrs. Mombourquette of L'Ardoise and O'Ryllie, of Oregon, U. S. A.

The church is supplied with a magnificent organ, which would be a credit to any city in the Maritimes.

The choir was composed, with few exceptions of people of the parish.  I have had the pleasure of listening to church music in many parts of the Dominion of Canada and of the United States and I am Prepared to say that I have not heard better church music for many years past.

And the learned world knows that there is no music so solemn, grand and captivating as that of the Catholic Church when correctly rendered.

Miss Sarah Boyd, daughter of Mr. Donald Boyd, merchant of River Bourgeois, was the talented young lady who played so adroitly and harmoniously on the organ, while the sweet melodious voices of Miss Minnie Cameron, Saint Peters, later Mrs. Andrew MacDonald, Sydney and Miss Annie Hureau, of Hureauville, later Mrs.William Boyd, in the parish of  the Reverend D. P. MacDonald, could distinctly be heard over the whole building. 

Other voices there were, and many of them sweet, lovely and charming, and I am sorry to say that I am not able to mention the names of the parties.

It is sufficient to say that the L'Ardoise choir is one of the best in the Dominion of Canada, and that independent of any outside assistance.

The Bishop, although he had to contend with many difficulties in coming to L'Ardoise under adverse circumstances, and being very fatigued yet stood it nobly, and sang mass with that force, energy and correctness which is always the characteristic of the good, holy Right Reverend Father.

After communion Reverend James Quinan, of Arichat ascended the pulpit and preached in English.

His sermon lasted thirty-Five minutes.  It was eloquent and forcible, and delivered with zeal and earnestness and must have produced a good effect among the devout people listened to it so attentively.

At four o'clock the church bell rang for evening prayers.  The parish of L'Ardoise is so thickly settled that hundreds of families are situated within a couple of miles of the church.

When all the people had entered the sacred edifice and had taken their seats and the priests and clerks had assumed their respective places in the sanctuary, and silence and devotion had rested upon the heads of the pious congregation, the Reverend Dr. Angus Chisholm, of D'Escousse, stepped into the pulpit and preached in French an extempore sermon on Jesus Christ, the great Doctor and Redeemer of mankind.

The Reverend Doctor is a young priest of great ability, who had distinguished himself most eminently while pursuing studies in Laval University.  His discourse on the occasion was very creditable indeed.

I must not close this hasty description of L'Ardoise, its church and the imposing ceremonies of last Sunday without congratulating Reverend Lauchlin MacPherson, the good pastor of the parish, on the success of his efforts and the unanimity of good feelings, which exists between himself and people.

Early on Monday morning the Bishop and priests, and many of the good people of L'Ardoise, drove to Saint Peters, where the Bishop took the S. S. Neptune, joined by his clerical friends who accompanied him to Mulgrave, were they bid him adieu.

Father Julian Courteau Served For 28 Years
Pastor of L'Ardoise Parish (June 1841 - May 6, 1869)

The following excerpt is taken from a life history written by Msgr. Joseph Gignac, Seminary of Québec, and translated in 1936 by Dr. A. A. Johnston, diocesan historian.

Father Courteau, who had set out in 1826, had to give all of his priestly life to the Cape Breton missions.

For 15 years he served the missions of Chéticamp and Margaree, which were the most distant in the vicariate, and in 1841, Msgr. Fraser entrusted to him the mission of L'Ardoise, which was only thirty miles from Arichat.

The L'Ardoise mission at that time comprised a territory 40 miles in length, inhabited by Acadians and Catholic Irish and Scots. The Catholics were grouped at L'Ardoise, Saint Peters, and River Bourgeois .

Two chapels had been built, one at L'Ardoise and the other at River Bourgeois. The inhabitants made their living by the fisheries, which at that time were more extensive than they are today.

Father Courteau took possession of his post in the spring of 1841, and served it until his death. All of the entries inscribed in the register of baptisms, deaths, and marriages at L'Ardoise from July 3, 1841, to April 5, 1869, were made by him.

He also made all the entries in the River Bourgeois register from June 29, 1841 to November 24, 1868, except for an interval of six months.

Father Courteau used to officiate at L'Ardoise for two consecutive Sundays and go to River Bourgeois for the third Sunday. The distance from L'Ardoise to River Bourgeois is 15 miles.

During the Winter Father Courteau used to travel this distance on horseback; in the summer he made use of a modest wagon, which he had made with, is own hands.

It was a great event, we are told by the old people of River Bourgeois, when on the third Sunday, Father Courteau came into sight on the Saint Peters road and made his entry into the River Bourgeois mission.

On Saturday he heard confessions there. On Sunday he held the usual services, baptized children born since his last visit, solemnized marriages and officiated at funerals. On Tuesday or Wednesday he would return to L'Ardoise, which was his habitual place of residence.

When Father Courteau could not go to River Bourgeois, the faithful used to go to L'Ardoise, which is only 15 miles away. This happened often enough for marriages.

Mr. Micheal Boudreault, an old man more than seventy years of age, told us: " In the first fortnight of January, 1869, several couples, intent upon contracting marriage in the presence of Father Courteau, could be seen on the road leading to L'Ardoise, accompanied by their witnesses and their relatives. On the snow-covered road they wore moccasins, which were much better adapted for walking, and they put on their French boots only for the marriage ceremony. After the marriage they once more put on their moccasins to return to River Bourgeois. "

This custom, he said, enabled the newly-weds to make their honeymoon immediately after the marriage, and also this 30-mile walk, on difficult roads and during the rigorous season, sharpened their appetite for the dinner that followed.

About the middle of April 1869, in the 72nd year of his age, Father Courteau felt the approach of the illness, which was to carry him off. In his last moments, he was assisted by Father L. R. Fournier, a priest of the province of Québec. He died on May 6, 1869.

Five days later, on May 11, Father Courteau's funeral took place. In the L'Ardoise register, under the date of may 11, 1869, we read the following entry: " On the eleventh of May, 1869, I, the undersigned, priest and vicar general of this diocese, buried in the church of this parish, the body of the reverend Julien Courteau, pastor of this parish, who died the sixth instant at the age of 72 years. Present were: the Reverend Father John MacDougall, Hubert Deslauriers, and L. R. Fournier. (Signed) J. Cameron, D. D.' V. G. "

The memory of Father Courteau is still venerated both at L'Ardoise and at River Bourgeois. On his grave, in the cemetery of L'Ardoise parish, the faithful have erected a monument in white marble on which is found the following inscription (in French):

Pray for the soul of Julien Courteau, pastor of the parish of L'Ardoise for 28 years. Born at Deschambault, Québec, October 12, 1797. Ordained priest in Québec, September 21, 1822. Died at L'Ardoise May 6, 1869. May his soul rest in peace. "

The parishioners of River Bourgeois wished to recall in their cemetery the memory of good Father Courteau. The French-speaking and the English-speaking Catholics erected to him there, a monument, which bears in the two languages the following inscription:

" Erected to the memory of Julien Courteau as a testimony of recognition of the 28 years of his beautiful life devoted to the spiritual and temporal good of his parish. They who instruct many unto justice shall shine as stars for all eternity. Requiescat in peace. "

(This month of May 1969 marks the centenary of the death of Father Courteau. His monument in the cemetery L'Ardoise is in an excellent state of preservation; but only small fragments remain of the stone that was erected at River Bourgeois. The inscription which appeared on the latter stone, and which is shown above on this page, should therefore be of added historic interest.)

Monastery Site Considered in 1826
by Unas Crupach

The full history of Father Vincent de Paul Merle is a fascinating one involving great trials, frustrations, hardships, perseverance, courage, accompanied by hope, optimism and saintliness.

However, there is only one period in his life that interests us in connection with L'Ardoise parish and that is his stay here at the L'Ardoise Glebe house during July 1825 to August 1826 and his finding of the famous " Père Vincent well ".

Briefly his stay in our midst had to do with a proposed monastery " to give service to the Indians " who were centered at " Ile Sainte Famille " in the Bras d'Or near Barra Head.

Lawrence Kavanagh was the man to see at that particular period. Having been duly elected previously, he was finally allowed to take his seat as a Roman Catholic in the Legislature Assembly in Halifax in 1823.

He would be the logical person to obtain permission from Mr. Jas. Kempt, the Colonial Secretary, for Father Vincent to found a monastery to service the Indians in Eastern Nova Scotia.

Furthermore, there was a land deal involved. Kavanagh had previously offered enough free land to Father Vincent on which to start a monastery.

So, in modern lingo, Father Vincent was merely checking " the resources at hand " during his sojourn of about 14 months in L'Ardoise. In fact it was one of these trips to Indian Island on that warm spring day in 1826 that Father Vincent ran across some parishioners doing " statute labor " on the roadway between L'Ardoise and Salmon River.

As tradition has it, the workmen remarked that they were thirsty, in which Father Vincent replied " Dig here under this rock where I point my cane. " Water has been pouring profusely from it ever since.

Last fall on the 200th anniversary of Father Vincent's birth, October 29, 1786, in France, the grade 10 history class from L'Ardoise High cleaned the spring and tidied up the surroundings.

I have run across no explanation why Father Vincent left Cape Breton for East Tracadie in 1826 and proceeded with a monastery in that area. He previously had sent his brother monks thither by way of a visit to Father Hudson at Arichat.

The Kavanaghs (including, Laurence Sr., Edward, and Sara) owned plenty of land, well over 4000 acres, in disjointed lots from Grand Greve, to the " Haulover ", to Carters Cove (in fact to Lower River, Petit de Grat, Half Island Cove, Guysborough County, to Port Hood).

Father Vincent died at Petit Clairvaux in 1853 at the monastery, which he founded some 35 years before L'Ardoise church was consecrated.

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Revised: Monday, April 30, 2012