Acadian Stories and History

The Acadian Story & the Salt Marshes of the Upper Bay

The salt marshes of Chignecto Bay – Bay of Fundy – are not only essential to the health of the Bay, but their presence have influenced the early human history of the area.

In 1604 Sieur de Monts, with his geographer Samuel de Champlain, made their epic journey into the Bay of Fundy. They called it Baie François. During that first winter, they settled on the island of Saint Croix, on the US and Canada border. The location was not the best and half of the settlers (thirty six men) died of scurvy.

The following year, the colony moved across the Bay to Port Royal, and here began the Acadian story of North America. No other group which colonized North America developed settlements based on the reclamation of salt marshes. Therefore the early Acadian story is interwoven with the salt marshes that surrounded much of the Bay of Fundy. In New Brunswick (and northern Nova Scotia) the most abundant marshes were found in Tantramar, Memramcook and Chipouday – now the community of Shepody on Route 114.

It was no coincidence that Acadian history and salt marshes are linked. In their homeland, they were familiar with the practice of reclaiming land from the sea, a process much more appealing then cutting trees, digging out stumps and clearing rocks.

The technology used to reclaim a salt marsh for agriculture use was the aboiteau – a simple but ingenious devise that allowed fresh water to drain from the marsh but prevented salt water from re-entering. It consisted of a wooden clapper valve that opened at low tide under pressure of the fresh water against it, but closed when the tide came in.

The part of the Bay of Fundy coastline that is now Fundy National Park was not settled for another 200 years. The Acadians were not interested in this area of rocks and trees because there were no salt marshes. In the mid 1800s, as the demand for quality lumber grew, settlers finally arrived, establishing sawmills, shipyards, and communities now visited by tourists from around the world.