The Story of The Acadian Bells:
The Others of Cape Breton
Apart from the three bells of the Fortress, there were other bells in Louisbourg at the time of the Acadians.
At the Monastary [sic] of Saint Claire, there were two of them, the Marie-Joseph Bell and the Georges-Angelique Bell. This monastary was founded by the Recollet Fathers, whom I have spoken of a number of times. They had arrived in Acadia in 1630, being then the first priests in the Cape Sable region, where they had a monastary which had been erected for them by the members of the Company of New France, on the Sand Hills of Villagedale, Shelburne County, close to Fort Saint Louis that I told you about in my sketch No. 43. They would have established here a bishopric, if their superiors in France had not rejected their project; it would have been the first one in Canada. This was at the time of Charles de La Tour. Their monastary was burned down in the Fall of 1642 by Charles d'Aulnay, along with the fort. These were from the Province of Aquitaine, the name that used to be given to the south-western corner of France; while the Recollet Fathers who erected the Saint Claire monastary were from the Province of Brittany. They arrived in Louisbourg from Placentia, Newfoundland, in 1714, after the Treaty of Utrecht. Their chapel served as a parish church till 1730 and even after.
The Marie-Joseph Bell was blessed on February 19, 1724. It took its name from its godmother, Madomoiselle [sic] Marie Jeanne LeMoreau, of La Rochelle, and from its godfather, Joseph Lartigue, merchant and member of the Supreme council in Louisbourg. It weighed 30 pounds.
The George-Angelique Bell was acquired later, in 1757 only. It came from an English vessel which had been seized by Capt. La Croix, a buccaneer on the coasts of Acadia. It weighed 100 pounds. It was blessed on September 12 of that year. It had as godfather Sieur Georges Grondin and as godmother Dame Angelique Grondin, sister to Capt. La Croix, who gave her their names. Unfortunately, this bell was not to be heard for even a whole year, because on July 26 of the following year, Louisbourg was to fall into the hands of the English.
There are no records as to what happened to these two bells. There has been in Chester a bell, made in France in 1700, which had belonged to a monastary. There was a long latin inscription on it and its edge was ornamented with a crown of flowers very well intertwined. In 1840, when a new church was erected, a new and larger bell was installed. The monastary bell was then put in a vessel, which was fishing off the Grand Banks, to be used as an alarm bell. It was taken back to Chester, where it stayed for a while, when it tolled to announce a happy occurrence, as to usher in the New Year, to proclaim a wedding, etc. It then was installed atop of a post aboard a superb vessel, the Peerless. This vessel was finally sold, and we then lose track of its bell. Fifteen years later, the Peerless was found in Valparaiso, Chili, by the one who had been its chief petty officer in Nova Scotia; it had been converted into a pontoon for coal, still having atop its post the same bell.
We have every reason to believe that this French bell from a monastary which had beached, one way or another, in Chester, was one of the French bells of Saint Claire's Monastary in Louisbourg.
In Louisbourg, the King's Hospital had also its bell. This hospital, made of stone, seems to have been built in 1716, when the Brothers of Charity of St. John of God took charge of it. Its bell is called, in documents, "La cloche de l'Institut," the Bell of the Institute. It hung on the exterior wall of the left wing, facing the yard. It was used to announce the divine office, meals, working hours and certain important events.
There was still another bell in Louisbourg, that of the Notre-Dame Of The Angels parish, founded in 1722 by the Recollet Fathers. It had its bell, even two bells, one in each of its two steeples.
We do not know what became of these bells, neither of the one of the hospital. In 1878 was found in the ruins of Louisbourg a bell, which was picked up by the captain of the bark "The Moselle." Were inscribed on it the date 1674 and the words "Franco Nicolas Sol de Salvador Lorenzo." On each side, there was a cross. Many theories have been given to explain the origin of this bell. Some have said that it might have belonged to a vessel of the Spanish Isles which was trading in Louisbourg. It could very well have been the bell of one of the buildings in Louisbourg, civil or religious.
We find other bells also elsewhere in Cape Breton at the time of the Acadians. n Ingonish, now in Victoria County, which was founded in 1720, a church was built in 1729, when it received, this same year, a bell, to which was given the name of Jean-Françoise (anglice John Frances). It had a long inscription in French, which I translate: "For the parish of Ingonish I was named Jean-Françoisse (sic) by Jean Decarette and by Françoisse Vrail, godfather and godmother. Le fosse Huet made me in 1729."
After the conquest of the island in 1758, it was only in 1849 that it was unearthed at the site where the church had stood. It was still in perfect condition. It was brought to Sydney, and that is as much as we know about it, although an author, J. G. Bourinot, wrote in 1892 that it was brought to New England, where most of the relics of this type at the time have found their way.
Another important parish in Cape Breton was that of Saint Ann, now in Victoria county also. The settlement itself dates back to 1629. But it was only in 1716 that a church was erected here by the Recollet Fathers. It had its bell, although it was very small. La Cloche de Sainte Anne de L'île Royale (St. Ann's Bell of the île Royale, the name given then to Cape Breton). It is not known what happened to this bell. But in 1903, an author, C. W. Vernon, was saying that the bell used at this church was found a number of years ago and carried to the United States.
Next week, we will see what we can find around Minas Basin and around the Isthmus of Chignecto.