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This remarkable Acadian woman4,5 was designated as a person of national historic significance at a ceremony in Chéticamp on August 15, 2016.

Looking back on Jeanne Dugas’ life and that of her family allows us not only to discover the destiny of this remarkable woman, but also allows us to understand the story of her people during the Deportation of the Acadians. Discover the Acadia of the Maritimes in Jeanne Dugas’ footsteps, from Louisbourg to Chéticamp passing through Grand-Pré, New Brunswick, the banks of the Saint-Lawrence and Halifax.


A bit of history


Jeanne Dugas is born October 16, 1731 in Louisbourg on Ile Royale (today, Cape Breton). She is the last of nine children to Joseph Dugas, prosperous shipbuilder and navigator and to Marguerite Richard.

The smallpox epidemic that occurred during the winter of 1732-1733 will take the life of her sisters, as well as her father’s, leaving Marguerite at the head of the family and her deceased husbands affairs. She can keep his business afloat.
 
In 1736, Marguerite Richard remarries to Philippe-Charles Saint-Étienne de la Tour, grandchild to Charles de la Tour, former Governor of Acadia.
 
In 1738, the family moves to Grand-Pré where Marguerite dies in 1746.

Once the War of Austrian Succession ends in 1748, the family returns to Ile Royale, which remains a French possession.

During the census of 1752, Jeanne Dugas is shown as being married to Pierre Bois, coastal sailor, and settled with his brother around Port-Toulouse. The marriage took place in 1750. They leave Port-Toulouse and we lose track of them for a few years.
 
Pierre and Jeanne reappear in the Registouche Census in 1760 and we learn that Pierre would have actively participated in the Battle of Restigouche.
 
In 1761, the couple settle in Népisiquit. It is probably in this location that they are arrested during organized raids by Roderick Mackenzie in the Bay of Chaleur. They are imprisoned at Fort Cumberland and transported to Georges Island, in the Halifax Harbour in 1763. They are freed on August 12, 1763.
 
The Abbot Bailly of Caraquet meets up with them in Arichat during his visit there in 1771.
 
In 1784, they are listed in the registers of Cascapédia (today’s New Richmond) in the Gaspésie. Jeanne’s brother is also listed.

In 1785, the couple leaves for Cape Breton where they participate in founding the community of Chéticamp. Jeanne Dugas will be a midwife for many years. Pierre dies in 1809.

In 1812, she tells her story to Monsignor Joseph-Octave Plessis, Bishop of Quebec, during his visit to Chéticamp. She mentions she was displaced 15 times during her entire life. Despite all these moves, persecution and imprisonment, Jeanne was always able to care for her family.

She dies and is buried in Chéticamp on October 16, 1817 at the age of 86.

 

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