This year marks the tricentennial of the founding of the French colony of Île Saint-Jean—the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the first French and Acadian settlers on PEI.
Michel Haché dit Gallant and Anne Cormier were among the first Acadian families to settle on Île Saint-Jean. They are the ancestors of all the Hachés and Gallants in Canada. They settled at Sqmakn–Port-la-Joye where Michel was the harbour master. The surname Gallant is still one of the most common family names on the Island today.
Although not as numerous as the Gallants, the Acadian Martins are also the descendants of a family that settled on the Island in 1720. The heads of this family were Pierre Martin and Anne Godin who put down roots at the head of the Hillsborough River in what is now Cherry Hill.
These two pioneer families were eventually joined by numerous other Acadian families. The first members of the Arsenault family came to the Island in 1728 and settled on the western shores of Malpeque Bay. Today, their descendants are almost as numerous as the Gallants.
This tricentennial is an opportunity to learn more about the footprint that the French Regime (1720-1758) left on the Island. According to recent censuses, a quarter of the Island’s population claims to have Acadian or French ancestry. Many of these Islanders no longer have French family names because intercultural marriages have been common on the Island since the middle of the 1800s.
Travelling across the Island, place names such as Souris, Naufrage, Pinette, Morell and Crapaud are permanent reminders of the French heritage in this province. St. Peters, St. Peters Harbour, St. Peters Road, and St. Peters Island, all come from the French name Saint-Pierre. Saint-Pierre was given to those localities in honour of the Count of Saint-Pierre, from Normandy, who lead the creation of the colony that was given the name Île Saint-Jean.
This is the ideal time of year to visit some of the sites that showcase the French and Acadian history and heritage on the Island.
There are five historic sites especially recommended: Sqmakn–Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst National Historic Site; the Greenwich Interpretation Centre at the PEI National Park; the Acadian Museum in Miscouche; the Roma at Three Rivers National Historic Site; and the Farmers’ Bank of Rustico Museum.
Explore, take an informative virtual visit, and share the bilingual website acadie300ipe.ca/en
—Submitted by Georges Arsenault