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"Un Petit Coin d'Acadie"
"A Little Corner of Acadia".

by: Judy Bellefontaine Judy Bellefontaine

Nestled amid the rolling hills, deep green fields and bright blue Atlantic waters of Chezzetcook Inlet along Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore, is the Acadian community of West Chezzetcook. "Chezzetcookers" as residents of this area sometimes refer to themselves, includes several other communities which surround the Inlet. These communities are Grand Desert, Head Chezzetcook, East Chezzetcook and Lower East Chezzetcook. Of these villages, the community of West Chezzetcook and Grand Desert, is home to the largest number of original Acadian families. Evidence has been found, in written references, of the existence of a few French families in the Chezzetcook area as far back as the 1740's.

However, the names of these early families have not as yet been located in historical documents and are in all likelihood lost to time. The permanent establishment of Chezzetcook occurred following the release of Acadian prisoners (held since the deportation of 1755 and others captured later) by the British, at Halifax in 1764. Some of the earliest settlers mentioned in historical records,whose names can still be found today, are those of Bellefontaine, LaPierre, Wolfe, Roma, and Petitpas.

Other families who followed these Acadians to Chezzetcook shortly thereafter, whose names can also be found today are Murphy, Bonin, and Mayet. Later came the Juliens, Fauchers, Mannettes, Robicheaus and others. Scottish, Dutch, German and of course British peoples were also part of our early ancestry and existed in harmony within or close by our community. Names such as Ferguson, Gates, Conrad, Crawford and Porter.

The Acadians of Chezzetcook made their living from farming, fishing, and forestry work. At one time there was also a shipbuilding industry and a brick factory. The clam beds of Chezzetcook Inlet were so fruitful that for many years a bountiful harvest allowed many families to be supported by the digging and processing of the clams at a factory which shipped much of its product to the United States.

Many families added a small income to their daily lives by selling their products at markets in Halifax and Dartmouth. These products consisted of items such as fresh vegetables, eggs, wild berries and clams. Peaceful, hard working and contented people, these Acadians faced many hardships and difficult situations particularly in their efforts to acquire ownership of land and later in their need to find work in the city. The retention of their French language was nearly impossible given the strong influence of the larger anglophone population and the limited opportunity for schooling in their own language of origin.

Chezzetcook is located some 25kms from downtown Halifax and can be reached very quickly via the new highway #107, by taking exit #19 or exit #20. However, an alternate and far more picturesque route is suggested, and that is to follow the Marine Drive. Marine Drive follows highway #207 and meanders along the seacoast. This drive provides magnificent scenic viewpoints and outstanding photographic opportunities.

The marshlands of Grand Desert and West Chezzetcook Inlet are world famous for their most interesting and unusual ecosystems. Many studies have been conducted on these tidal salt marshes. In addition to their beauty, these marshlands are the habitat of a significant waterfowl population. Bird watchers from near and far are delighted and amazed at the numerous and varied types of birds which frequent this area. In certain seasons, an estimated 25,000 wild birds of various species are present along the shores.

Acadian life in the past was centered around the religious activities of the Parish. This is still true today and the magnificent century old Roman Catholic church of St. Anselm's dominates the community. Standing statue on a hill overlooking the village and the Inlet, this brick and wood structure of a French Baroque design, is a tribute to the deep faith and hard work of its founding parishioners. To the south of the church is a small religious "Grotto". Built in the fall of 1937, it is a representation of Bernadette and the apparition of Our Lady of Lourds at Lourds, France.

This little alcove presents a tranquil enclave where one can pause to rest and spend a quiet moment in meditation. A walk through St. Anselm's pristine graveyard located directly behind the church, would be particularly interesting to genealogists. For those who are interested, the stones will take you back in time and here you will read many original Acadian names of our ancestors. Some of these names have since disappeared, lost in the passing of many generations. There are headstone which date back to the early to mid eighteen hundreds. Some of the following businesses are found in this community.

In Grand Desert, there is a rather unique General Store, operated by the LaPierres. In West Chezzetcook, a Hilltop Craft Store on Bellefontaine Road is the newest business, opened in March, by the Robicheaus. Also on Bellefontaine Road is a most interesting costume shop called Maddies Costumes, proprietors are the Mannettes. Supportive of our fishing and clamming industries, there is Chezzetcook Fisheries owned and operated by the Poiriers on Petain Station Road and Searise Fisheries, operated by the Purcells on Hill Road. A. & G. Bellefontaine Hothouses is operated by the Bellefontaines, also located on Hill Road. On the Shore Road, we have Laughleton's Arts & Crafts, proprietors are the Brannens and we also find the Chezzetcook Tea Room whose tasty delights are offered up for our enjoyment by the Richards.

West Chezzetcook/Grand Desert has recently embarked on several Community Economic Development projects which are creating excitement and enthusiasm as work gets underway. The West Chezzetcook/Grand Desert Community Interest Group, is currently carrying out fundraising events in order to finance some of the one hundred or so projects identified as being priorities. A few of these projects are as follows:

The West Chezzetcook/Grand Desert Community Interest Group is well aware of the work it has set out for itself. The delivery of any number of the identified projects will require participation and significant commitment from everyone in the community. The true challenge for our future is to find a way to continue to provide an environment for community economic development and yet preserve the unique charm and quiet solitude of this delightful little corner of Acadia.

  • The Chezzetcook Harbour revitalization project which addresses the environmental issues concerning our clam beds and salt marsh hay. Attention is being focused on the goal of reopening and managing our clamming business by restoring the industry to its past productive levels.

  • The purchase of an older Acadian home to be restored and turned into an Acadian museum.

  • A community newspaper called " GrandChezz Review " is preparing to print its third issue and is being well received by everyone.

  • The development of multi-use trails using existing abandoned railbeds and/or seacoastal lands is of growing interest to the residents of West Chezzetcook, Grand Desert and the neighbouring seaside community of Seaforth.

  • Ties are being developed between Chezzetcook and other Acadian communities in concert with La Federation Acadien de la Nouvelle Ecosse, (FANE).

© Novacan IS

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All contents © 1995 - 2017 Highway7.com unless otherwise attributed
Highway7 E-zine, a publication of Hatch Media, is an electronic journal with a focus on commercial, historical, cultural and ecological issues concerning the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in Canada. Topics include a growing resource of currently more than 300 articles. More articles and image galleries are added frequently as new material is brought to our attention. With Highway7.com, our primary aim is to serve, inform and reflect the rural communities on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia, as well as to acquaint new residents, visitors, tourists, and investors with the special beauty and enormous potential of our region.
Last Change: 01-Feb-2017