History of Argyle

electionThe Municipality of the District of Argyle, which today makes up approximately one-half of the County of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is a region rich in Acadian history and culture. Prior to 1755, present-day Argyle lay within Cap-Sable (Cape Sable), an area stretching along the southwestern coast of the province, roughly from what is now Yarmouth (Cap-Forchu) to Baccaro in today's Shelburne County.

The first French-speaking colonists came to Cap-Sable in the 1640s, settling in the vicinity of what is now Central Chebogue in Yarmouth County. By the time of the Deportation (1755-1763), there were several small communities established along this coastline, in locations now known as Chegoggin, Roberts Island, Argyle, Argyle Head, Tusket Falls and East Pubnico, all in modern-day Yarmouth County.

Pubnico was founded in 1653 by Philippe Mius d'Entremont, who along with his wife, Marie Hélie, and their eldest daughter, was brought over from France by Charles de LaTour. Mius d'Entremont established his first home at what is now East Pubnico, where some of his sons and descendants would remain. Over the years, however, the father appears to have lived at various times in Annapolis Royal and spent his final days in Grand-Pré, at the home of one of his daughters.

Other descendants of Mius d'Entremont dispersed similarly, as families do, to places further removed from their ancestral home. A century later, Mius d'Entremont descendants were scattered along the coast of Cap-Sable, including at modern-day Barrington and Baccaro. Some branches of this family used the surname d'Entremont, while others adopted Mius, Muise or Meuse.

The Deportation and Return of the Acadians

The history of the Acadians of Argyle was shaped by the century-long tug-of-war between France and Britain for control of what today comprises the Maritime Provinces of Canada. In the early 1600s, French explorers established the first permanent European settlements in the colony they named Acadie (Acadia), which included much of what is now Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and parts of Maine and New Brunswick. For the first hundred years of Acadian settlement, wars between France and Britain meant that at different times they found themselves under French or British colonial rule. By 1755, there were an estimated 10,000 Acadians living in various parts of Nova Scotia.

The British gained control of the colony with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and renamed the territory Nova Scotia. As a condition of remaining where they had lived for decades, the Acadians were asked to swear allegiance to the British monarch. Although their political neutrality was well known, this was the first time they had been asked to define their political loyalty. They were permitted the "free exercise of their religion" but were not allowed to vote, hold office or join the army. Wishing to maintain good relations with the French and the British, most Acadians took the oath on the condition that they would not have to take up arms against the French in the event of war.

With rising tensions between France and Britain in Europe and North America during the first half of the eighteenth century, the neutrality of the Acadians was increasingly brought into question. British officials were concerned with the threat posed by this large French Catholic presence in Nova Scotia, as well as by their friendship with the Mi'kmaq, who in turn favoured the French.

Following the return of the fortress of Louisbourg to France as a condition of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, tensions escalated. The flashpoint came in 1755, in the border region between British and French territory at the Isthmus of Chignecto (the present-day border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick). On 4 June 1755 the British, with the help of 2,000 volunteer troops from New England, laid siege to Fort Beauséjour. Several hundred Acadians in the area had been persuaded to abandon their neutrality and fought alongside French troops in defence of the fort. Two weeks later, the French were forced to surrender.

Shortly thereafter, on 28 July 1755, Governor Charles Lawrence passed an order to deport the 'French inhabitants' from the colony of Nova Scotia. This event, which began in 1755 and continued for several years, became known to the Acadians as the 'Le Grand Dérangement' ('The Great Upheaval').

horse carriageIn southwestern Nova Scotia, the communities at Cap-Sable were spared briefly, perhaps because they were relatively isolated and less populous than larger centres at Grand-Pré, Annapolis Royal and Pisiquid (Windsor). Some were not raided until 1756, and Pubnico remained intact until 1758. When the British arrived to deport them, some Acadian families in the region were sent directly to Massachusetts, while others were taken first to Halifax and afterwards exiled to France.

The Incorporation of Argyle Township

The first New England Planters arrived in southwestern Nova Scotia within three years of Governor Charles Lawrence's Proclamation in 1758 inviting English-speaking settlers into the colony. Among other inducements, they were promised that townships would be formed and named when the population of each amounted to 50 families.

By June 1762, when the first census of Nova Scotia was taken, there were two small Planter settlements in what is now Argyle, at Abuptic (present-day Argyle) and Pubnico, totalling 22 households Although the number of Anglophone settlers grew in the years following, the increase was relatively modest through the first decade since a number of the households listed in 1762 did not remain permanently.

Argyle Township was officially incorporated by the provincial legislature in 1771, so one assumes that only by that time had it reached the required 50 families or households — a threshold accomplished once Acadian families began to return to the area after 1767.

Municipal History

More specific information can be found at Argyle Township Court House & Archives (ATCHA) or by contacting the Heritage Development Officer, Judy Frotten at (902) 648-2493 or by email at jfrotten@argylecourthouse.com.

Argyle originated with the Grant of the Township by the Government of the Province of Nova Scotia in 1771. The bounds of the area extended from Little River to the west to Wood's Harbour and Oak Park to the east to what is now known as East Kemptville to the north. Thence West to a point where it adjoins Yarmouth and Clare. Thence South and West by the courses of the Tusket River to the Burnett Grant Line following same to the place of beginning and including all of the Islands lying offshore (The Tusket Islands, Seal Island, etc.)

The choosing of the name Argyle is, by some, attributed to Lt. Ranald McKinnon who had received a large grant of land in what was to become the Township in 1766. This man and members of his family exerted a large influence on the development of the area for many years.

The Township was part of Queen's County from 1771 to 1784. Then it became a part of the newly established Shelburne County. In 1832 the Bounds of the Township were altered and the eastern bound on the coast was established at Pubnico Beach at Lower East Pubnico and the east boundary of the Township was altered to what exists today.

In 1836 the County of Yarmouth was set off and Argyle Township became one of the two districts therein. Settlements by Europeans in Argyle predate the establishment of the Township by more than a century. It started with the arrival of the La Tours in the area, then known as Cape Sable. This area comprised all of South West Nova Scotia from Yarmouth to Shelburne. La Tour established his people at various places along the coast, mostly at river mouths, to carry on trade with the Indians of the area and to pursue the fishing industry. These settlements were not large but were growing and continued to exist until the time of the expulsion of the Acadians in 1755. With the expulsion of the majority of the Acadians accomplished by 1759, the Government of the Province in Halifax undertook a major effort to obtain settlers from the New England Colonies. In Argyle, the first of these English settlers began to arrive in 1760, establishing themselves in such places as East Pubnico, Abuptic and Little River and various other places. With the return to the Province of some of the Acadian exiles in 1766, further settlements were established on the west side of Pubnico Harbour and on both shores of the lower end of the Tusket River. The next influx of settlers came in 1784 and 1785 when the Loyalists started to arrive from the American colonies. These people settled in various areas of the Township with the largest numbers settling on the Tusket River and its tributaries. From these three main groups, most of the inhabitants of present-day Argyle Municipality originate.

Government with the representation of the people of the local level came into being with the establishment of the courts of the General Sessions of the Peace in 1789. In the case of the Townships of Argyle and Yarmouth, the General Courts of Sessions were held jointly. The first meetings of these Courts were held in various places in the two Townships. Meetinghouses and taverns were used for this purpose in both places. In 1803 the Court decided to establish a Gaol and Court House at Tusket Village, this being considered a central point for the two areas. This first Court House opened on October 29, 1805, at its present site in Tusket Village. This building with several modifications and additions continued to serve as the seat of Government in Argyle until 1976 when more modern and commodious quarters were provided for the purpose, nearby the original building. Argyle and Yarmouth continued to function jointly until 1855 when Yarmouth elected to try the Municipal Council form of government. The experiment did not work out for them and in 1858 they reverted to the Township system. However, since 1855 the two units have continued to function on an individual basis. In 1880 with the coming into force of the Municipalities Incorporation Act, Argyle has operated with an elected Municipal Council as it does today.

With the coming of the increased settlement starting in the 1760s, the development of industry and trade went forward in the area. Shipyards were set up to build vessels of all types from sloops to full-rigged ships that sailed the oceans of the world. Lumber mills were established to provide the materials for building these vessels and also to provide export cargo for them. The fishery was a very important part of the economy of Argyle from its first days and it continues so today. The wooden shipbuilding industry was a major employer for many years but with its decline in the latter decade of the last century, Argyle's economy suffered greatly. There was a large out-migration of people to the United States and to other areas of Canada. However, those that remained have survived recessions, depressions, and other economic disasters and have adapted to prevailing conditions and continue to do so to this day.