The Adventure Of Benoni d'Entremont With The "Bonaventure"
Benoni d'Entremont was quite a man. Born in 1745 in what is now Barrington, he was sent at the age of 11 or 12 with his family into exile in Massachusetts, where he stayed ten years. After his return from exile, he became involved in the civic affairs of Yarmouth county. He was the first Acadian Magistrate and Justice of the Peace in Nova Scotia, recorded in 1780; first Assessor for the Municipality of Argyle the same year, and the first Treasurer of that district, having been appointed the following year. In 1813, he was appointed a Justice of the Interior Court of Common Place for the County of Yarmouth, a position he had already held for many years in the District of Argyle.
In 1799 he built the first house made of boards in Pubnico, which is still standing. He must have been a rich man, if we consider that at the time a man's wealth was measured according to the property that he owned.
Tradition has brought down to us many events and occurrences relating to him. He had a vessel, the "Bonaventure," in which he made frequent voyages to Halifax and St. Pierre et Miquelon. In 1781, on his return from St. Pierre et Miquelon, his vessel was seized by pirates on the coast of Shelburne county. I am giving here what has been written from tradition, although the event has been recorded in parts at the time that it took place, that is during the third week of March.
As he was about to put in Lockeport, he saw a vessel approaching from the south. Thinking that it might be coming from Pubnico, he decided to wait as he might get news from home. It happened to be a pirate vessel. Seizing the "Bonaventure," the pirates sent Benoni and his men ashore. They reached Lockeport.
It seems that Benoni had aboard a certain amount of liquor that he had purchased at St Pierre et Miquelon. He was sure that the pirates would help themselves copiously and that with the help of a few men from Lockeport, the "Bonaventure" could easily be recaptured. Simon Perkins, of Liverpool, in his diary (1766-1812) gives us the name of these men, viz., John Barry, Archelaus Crowell, and one or two of the Lockes, one of whom is given elsewhere as John Locke. It happened that the "Bonaventure," being becalmed, had only gone two miles from the shore.
Under the cover of darkness, our rescuers, with loaded guns beside them, started to tow with muffed oars toward the "Bonaventure". From Perkins' diary, we calculate that this was taking place on the evening of the 18th of March. They were able to reach the "Bonaventure" without being noticed; in fact, no one was on deck. They did not have any trouble whatsoever to board the vessel. Making a tremendous noise and firing their guns, they ran to the stairway leading to the hold where the pirates so "gloriously drunk" that they made no resistance.
It seems that when the pirates seized the vessel, they kept with them one of Benoni's men as pilot, by the name of Captain Kinney. He was a great help in subduing the pirates. Being the only one sober, he passed up their guns, sheath-knives ad everything else that could be used as arms. Then the sliding door leading to the hold was nailed, keeping the pirates prisoners down there.
It seems that the pirates were heading south and that the vessel was retaken at Jordan River. Perkins, in his diary, writes in fact: "Monday, March 19th - Capt. Kinney arrives with his shallop. She, having been retaken by Mr. Dentremount, John Barry, Archeleus Crowell, and one or two of the Lockes at Jordan's River". From here, the vessel would have been brought to Lockeport to the accompaniment of jeers of the villagers, and brought before the Magistrate for trial. Many people, who had suffered in the past from privateers, wanted the pirates to be hanged. But Benoni, "with true Acadian preference for milder punishment", according to one report, said that they had been punished already by the loss of their firearms, asking to let them go free, telling them to make their way back home and never to come back.
And that is one of the many adventures relating to pirates whose account has been brought down to us from the days that many of these marauders roamed the seas in search of prey. I have recounted already a few of them in these sketches.
Here is another one of these adventures, in which the pirates who seized Benoni's vessel were involved. This story was told by one of Benoni's grandsons, Cyriaque d'Entremont (1840-1941) to Clara Dennis, author of "Down in Nova Scotia" (1934 p. 265). The Captain of the pirates, as soon as Benoni identified himself, told him: "I was to your house a few days ago and found the folks all well, the place was pretty bare of everything, but we did not stay long, being anxious to catch you". This house in West Pubnico was just a log-cabin which they ransacked without finding anything. Paul, Benoni's brother, having seen the pirates entering the harbour, would have gathered in haste what was of value and hid it in the woods. There was some money in the house amounting to two hundred and fifty pounds which he hid in the partitions of the house. Then he took his gun and hid himself in the woods, "taking care to remain within call lest the pirates molest the women folk." It could be that the pirates would have asked the women by threats to tell them where was the man of the house, and that they would have told them that he was, at the time, on his way back from St. Pierre Miquelon.
And there are many other stories that old people used to tell about pirates. It was said that at the oncoming of pirates, three or four men would show themselves at the skirt of the forest dressed in a certain way, and then they would turn their coat or jacket inside out or dress otherwise, to make believe that they were numerous. It seems that at times, this scheme would work.