Located on the waterfront between Granville Ferry and Port Royal, the Melanson Settlement National Historic Site is one of our region’s more recent commemorative sites. More than just a memorial to one family, the Melanson Settlement represents all of the Acadian families who once lived in this area. Imagine a number of small, family based settlements laying themselves out along the shores of the Annapolis Basin. Here the Acadians worked tirelessly to reclaim fertile land from the salt marshes by building dykes to hold back the tides of the Bay of Fundy. As one of the best preserved examples of this unique style of farming and community living developed by the Acadians, the Melanson settlement is an excellent choice as a representative of the early Acadian presence in our province.
It is very, very difficult to find something positive which came out of the Acadian deportation of 1755 - 1764. During these traumatic years, the French speaking Acadians of Nova Scotia (Acadie to the Acadians) were removed from the farms and communities which they had been developing for 120 years. Families were broken apart, people were killed or lost at sea, and homes were burned to prevent the Acadians from coming back. Without a doubt, this is the most devastating event in the history of the Acadian people. When this is the framework, it is very hard to find a cloud with a silver lining.
Surprisingly, the Melanson Settlement and sites like it do provide a very small silver lining. When the Melanson Settlement was destroyed, the British burned the site to the ground. While this does nothing on a humanitarian basis, it provides a wonderful archaeological site. Fortunately, the lands of the Melanson Settlement were not redeveloped after the Acadians were removed. With the exception of some light farming, this site has remained untouched since the descendants of Charles Melanson were loaded onto ships. Because of this, the archaeological work at the Melanson Settlement in the 1980s has given us a great deal of our current knowledge about the material culture of the Acadian community. We have been able to learn about the types and sizes of houses as well as the type of tools used by the Acadians. We have also been able to learn about the Acadian diet and their trading patterns with Europe and New England. Since the whole community was destroyed at the same time, there is little chance of post 1755 material contaminating the site. Thanks to the destruction of the community we have been able to learn a great deal about it. As I said, in the broader sense, it is a very small silver lining.
If you visit the site today, you will find a short trail with some interpretive panels which tell the story of the settlement. From the viewing platform you can look off to the right and see a dyke holding back the water in much the same way that those built by the Melanson family would have. To the left is a hill where much of the settlement is actually located. The trail purposefully avoids the hill to discourage people from conducting their own digs. The main archaeological feature which can be seen from the viewing platform is a foundation which may have once housed a windmill.
As a final note, I feel that I need to mention that the commemorative plaque at the site mentions that the site was "abandoned". When the man with the bayonet poking in your back tells you that it is time to go, I feel that this is stretching my concept of abandonment.
All for now,
All for now,