History of the Acadians in Walpole

THE OLD HOUSE IN WALPOLE -Where Lived and Died in Exile Jacques D'Entremont

(The Walpole Times - May 1966)

The following article, dealing with the early history of Walpole, was written by Rev. Clarence J. d'Entremont on 71 Center Street, Fairhaven. It is hoped that the people of Walpole will take interest in this article which tells them of a phase of their history of which they may not know too much.

The student of American literature knows through the study of Longfellow's poem Evangeline of the Expulsion of the Acadians. These people, of French origin, lived in Nova Scotia, then called "Acadie", where "the richest was poor, and the poorest lived in abundance." By the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, their land passed into the hands of England. Summoned by their conquerors to pledge allegiance to the crown of England, they asked to remain neutral in case of war so that they would not have to fight against their mother country. For this reason the whole population, about 18,000 of them, less some 2000 fugitives, were boarded on ships and vessels, between 1755 and 1759, even up to the Treaty of Paris, in 1763, and "scattered like dust and leaves" all along the American Atlantic coasts and the shores of England.

Massachusetts received about two thousand of them and placed them, under its care, in its different towns.

There is in Walpole the remains of a cellar on which stood the house where lived in exile, with his family, one of these Acadians, Jacques d'Entremont (1680-1759), son of Jacques Mius d'Entremont and of Anne de Saint-Etienne de la Tour, and where he died July 28, 1759 (1). This house belonged at the time to Jeremiah Dexter. Isaac N. Lewis, in his history of Walpole (2), calls this house "the old house", although at the time of Jacques d'Entremont it must not have been so old, as Jeremiah Dexter, who probably built it, is mentioned for the first time in 1748 in the history of Walpole (3).

Jacques d'Entremont was, with the members of his family, among the 70 Acadians from Baccareau Passage, Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, whom Colonel Prebble, after burning all their buildings, 44 in all, brought to Boston on a Friday, the last day of April, 1756 (4). They were destined to North Carolina; a vessel under the command of Thomas Hancock, was to take them there. But after embarkation, they came back on shore and refused to re-embark.

May 11th, Jacques Amirault and Joseph d'Entremont addressed a letter to the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts and his Council stating the reasons why the group refused to go to North Carolina, begging that they be allowed to stay in Massachusetts (5). Three days later, May 14th, Thomas Hancock, who it would seem had written of his own hand the petition of May 11th, to which Jacques Amirault and Joseph d'Entremont affixed their marks, appeared before the lieutenant governor and his council to discuss this matter. It was decided to give to these Acadians a delay of 14 days, during which they would be under the care of Thomas Hancock (6). The 14 days having elapsed, it was decided to distribute these families in the several seaports of the "Province".

August 20th, 1756, we find in Marblehead, Jacques d'Entremont with his family, that is, his wife, nee Marguerite Amirault, and his children, Ann, (b. 1732), Marguerite, (b. 1734), Joseph, (b. 1739), Paul, (b.1742), and Benoni, (b. 1745) (7). Jacques d'Entremont and Marguerite Amirault had had at least two other children, namely, Jacques, the oldest, married in 1753 to Marguerite Landry, exiled with his family to England and then to Cherbourg, France, where he died in or before 1767; and Marie, married to Rene Landry, brother of Marguerite.

In the summer of 1756, Anne d'Entremont married in Marblehead Abel Duon who had been among the 70 Acadians who arrived from Cape Sable to Boston April 39th and who was quartered at Marblehead with the d'Entremont family. The following year, that is June 1st, 1757, we find this family in Medfield, along with Paul and Benoni, sons of Jacques d'Entremont (8). March 1st, 1758, Jacques d'Entremont, his wife, his daughter Marguerite and his son Joseph are found in Walpole, where they had been transferred (9).

A few months later, on November 8th, 1758, Joseph d'Entremont sent a petition to the lieutenant governor, stating that being in Walpole with his aged father and mother, a brother and a sister, while another brother, a brother-in-law, a sister and her child were in Medfield, asking, for different reasons, if it would be possible for the family to be all united together at the same place.

January 2nd, 1759, this petition was sent to a committee who, January 13th, decided that the members of the family who were in Medfield would be removed to Walpole (10). It would seem that this decision was not carried out, not immediately at least, because June 1st of that year, Benoni, Abel and his wife are still in Medfield (11); these two last are still there August 22nd, 1760 (12).

After the death of Jacques d'Entremont, July 28th, 1959 (13), his son Joseph and his daughter Marguerite are transferred August 22nd, 1760, to Chelsea (14), at which date Paul and Benoni are said to be "retained" in Walpole with their ......

We can recapitulate these events in the following chronological order:

- April 30th, 1756, arrival in Boston of the family of Jacques d'Entremont;

- August 20th, 1756, this family is in Marblehead, along with Abel Duon;

- Summer of 1756, marriage in Marblehead of Abel Duon and Anne d'Entremont;

- June 1st, 1757, Abel Duon, his wife, Paul and Benoni are in Medfield;

- March 1st, 1758, Jacques d'Entremont, his wife, Marguerite and Joseph are in Walpole; Between the preceding and the following dates, Paul is transferred to Walpole;

- November 8th, 1758, petition of Joseph so that all the family would be united;

- January 13th, 1759, it is decided that the family would be united in Walpole;

- July 28th, 1759, Jacques d'Entremont dies in Walpole;

- August 22nd, 1760: Paul and Benoni are "retained" in Walpole with their mother; Joseph and Marguerite are sent to Chelsea; Abel and Anne are retained in Medfield.

On August 23rd, 1766, "Captain Amiro" received a permit to clear his vessel from Boston for Quebec. Undoubtedly this captain was Ange Amirault, who, ten years earlier, in the month of February of 1756, being not yet 20 years of age, sailed in his small vessel from Cape Sable to the shores of Massachusetts to ask of his future father-in-law and mother-in-law, already in exile, the hand of their daughter, Natalie Belliveau, who, like himself, was still in liberty at Cape Sable (16).

The fact is that the Amiraults, the Belliveaux, the d'Entremonts and the Duons arrived by sea (17) to Nova Scotia, on their way to Quebec, at the end of the summer of 1766, 200 years ago, this very year. Having received from the civil authorities of Halifax the permission to stay in Nova Scotia and the promise of the service of priest, they settled the following year, in 1767, in Pubnico, the land of their ancestors (18).

While in Walpole, the d'Entremont family lived in "the old house" of Jeremiah Dexter (19). Lewis tells us that this house was near the old cemetery, corner of Main and Kendall streets (20). A couple of old people, well in their 80's, now deceased, maybe of the Everett family, whom we met in Walpole in 1957, residing across from the old cemetery where they had lived practically all their lives, told us that the old house of Jeremiah Dexter, which they had seen in their young days, was located west of the cemetery, of Main street and of Neponset River, about 100 feet north of the dam.

Last August, Mr. K.W. Arthur, residing at 16 Pemberton street, showed us, at some 150 yards behind this house, the remains of an old cellar, the only one in this vicinity, corresponding exactly to the location given us in 1957 by the old people mentioned above. Thus there can be no doubt as to the precise spot where stood the old house of Jeremiah Dexter, which was occupied by the family of Jacques d'Entremont during its exile in Walpole.

How long did this family occupy this house? Surely between March 1, 1758, and August 22, 1760, that is at least 2 1/2 years. Probably they had been there before, and surely after. But we have no documents to tell us precisely how long. We have no documents to tell us neither who lived in this house after the Acadians. The old people who located for us the house told us that its last occupants were members of a colored family by the name of Diggs. The census of 1880 of Walpole gives, in fact, the name of the family of Richard H. Diggs, as living in Walpole at this date, himself a carpenter, being 41 years of age, his wife, Sarah E., 37, and eight children, ranging in age from 18 years to 4 months, all said to be mulattos. Twins of 3 years and the baby of 4 months were born in Massachusetts; all the others were born in Maryland (21).

After the census of 1880, this family did not stay long in this house, because our informants told us that the house was demolished "about 75 years ago." As this was said in 1957, we have to conclude that it disappeared around 1882.

What were the conditions of life of those who occupied the old house of Jeremiah Dexter? Let us say first that the house they lived in was very small. By what is left of the foundations, it measured 24 by 28 feet. There is nothing left to make us believe that it was any larger. Built on the edge of a hill, a bank served as the northwest wall of the cellar, which must have been about 8 feet high, 23 feet long and 19 feet wide, the foundations being about two feet and a half thick. One could enter into the house directly from the hill, and into the cellar directly from the lower ground. Traces of erosion running toward the cellar are an indication that those who occupied the house had to cope with melting snow and the water flowing down hill on a rainy day. On the other hand, the Neponset River, at about 100 feet from the house, could overflow and its waters reach the cellar. These floods occur now and then.

Some have their marks in the history of Walpole, one at the beginning of the last century, and another more specially during the night of February 12 to 13, 1886, and the following day, when the whole valley of the Neponset River in Walpole was inundated. Directly south of the house, there was, and there is still, a dam, which was then covered by a foot of water which finally broke it to a depth of five feet (220. A fact worthy to be mentioned here, which is surely by a coincidence, is that at about 75 feet south of the cellar there is the distinctive marks of the Acadians: an apple tree. And what is more striking is that it is the only apple tree that can be found for least a mile or so around: This is what we learned at the Norfolk County Agricultural High School of Walpole. The apple of this tree, which is still beautiful and in abundance, is a "seedling of the Rhode Island Greening," as identified by the school just mentioned. This variety was grown and utilized extensively in the past for household use. The greening is an excellent apple for pies.

We will not attempt to give the details of the hardships that these Acadians had to suffer while in exile, here in Walpole or elsewhere. It is sufficient to glance over some of the documents of the Massachusetts Archives, especially volumes 23 and 24, and scan the items that different town had to furnish for their support to have an idea of their poverty and distress. Doctors' bills, like those on record for the care of old Jacques d'Entremont, suffering from a "canser," speak more loudly of their physical conditions than any descriptions we could give.

In the vicinity of "the old House" of Jeremiah Dexter, a great activity has been going on from the middle of the 18th century, and thus during the time of the Acadians, up to the end of the 19th. On these premises, known as the "Stetson Privilege," (23) a certain John Hall, already in 1754, had on the Neponset River, where is the dam, a saw mill. The Acadians witnessed this mill in operation.In 1779, John Hall was associated with his son-in-law, John Cleveland, who was the proprietor of the mill. John Cleveland, with Jeremiah Dexter and others, operated here also a blacksmith's show (24). In 1794, we find that the saw mill had been converted into a grist mill, the property of Ebenezer Hartshorn. Two years later, in 1796, Joshua Stetson, from whom are derived the terms "Stetson Privilege" and "Stetson Pond," cam from Randolph to Walpole and bought what became afterwards the "Stetson Privilege" and began to manufacture on Main street farm implements. Everett Stetson, his son, took over between 1827 and 1830 after which, till 1869 another son, Joshua, Jr., had here a cotton factory which became very prosperous and which, in 1869, was taken over by his own son, Edward P. Stetson, who operated it till 1890 (25). The land northeast of the dam, which used to belong to Jessie W. Bently, is now the property of the Union Oil Company of Boston, who operates on Main street the gasoline station "Philip's 66." This company is the proprietor of the land on which stood the old house of Jeremiah Dexter.

A path from Pemberton street, north of the premises we are talking about, starting about half way up hill, passes northwest and west of the cellar and leads to the dam. This path is about the dividing line between the land owned by the Union Oil Company of Boston and the land of Herbert Davis, who is proprietor of a part, at least, of the hill northwest of "Stetson Pond."

With regard to the place where Jacques d'Entremont was buried, Isaac N. Lewis, in his history of Walpole (26), speaking of the Acadians who had lived here, says: "Some did not survive their experience here, and, exiled and alone, found a too ready grave in the old near-by cemetery" (27). From this, some authors, like De Lue (28), who refers to this paragraph of Lewis, have concluded that Jacques d'Entremont was buried in "The Old Burial Place," in Walpole, corner of Main and Kendall streets. But it is not so. Jacques d'Entremont was buried in Roxbury, a distance of between 15 and 20 miles from Walpole, in the "Eliot Cemetery," at "Andrew Coyle Square," corners of Eustis and Washington streets.

Here is what Father Ferdinand Blanchet, pastor of St. Peter's parish, West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, wrote in 1860, in the church registers, with regard to Jacques d'Entremont:

"Last year, July 26, 1859, I have celebrated the centennial Mass that his descendants asked me to say for the repose of his soul. His tombstone can still be seen around Boston (Rockberry), (sic), and Louis d'Entremont, Esquire, now deceased, has read there the inscription on it, 5 years ago.

This Louis d'Entremont was a merchant at West Pubnico. Born in 1803, son of Charles Celestin and father of Marin, Avite, etc., whose names are still very familiar to the people of the place, he had known perfectly well the two sons of Jacques d'Entremont, who had lived ever since their return from exile in West Pubnico, namely Paul, who died July 19, 1841, and Benoni, who died February 21 of the same year: Louis was their grand-nephew. Surely it is from them that Louis, who was interested in the history of his family, learned where his great- grandfather was buried. It was the very year that he visited the tomb in Roxbury, in 1855, that he died, on Christmas Day. Forty years ago, in 1926, Abraham d'Entremont, of West Pubnico, also, son of Mathurin, now deceased whose family is known to have been very interested in the history of the Acadians, went to the Eliot Cemetery in search of the tombstone of Jacques d'Entremont. It is his mother who would have told him of the location where it had been seen. The mother of Abraham was a niece of Louis d'Entremont, by his wife, who would have told her niece where Louis had discovered the tombstone.

The author of these lines learned about this during the Summer of last year from Henry Boudreau of Brockton, then close to 90 years of age, who died this last month of March; he had accompanied 40 years ago his brother-in-law, Abraham d'Entremont to the Eliot Cemetery and had looked with him for the tombstone. But the tombstone was not there any more. In fact, already in 1872, the name of Jacques d'Entremont does not appear on the list of those whose tombstones were still readable at this cemetery (29). It is not surprising, because it is most probably that the tombstone on the grave of Jacques d'Entremont was only a slate stone erected by the piety of his sons, which was destined to last but for a limited time.

At the time that Jacques d'Entremont died there was in Roxbury another cemetery, that of the Catholic parish of St. Joseph, which cemetery is no longer in existence. This cemetery, being private, would not have accommodated the body of Jacques d'Entremont, who was under the care of the government of Boston. Similarly, the other cemeteries in the vicinity of Roxbury, in existence at the time, which we have all visited, could neither have received, for different reasons, his remains. We may ask ourselves why he was buried in Roxbury instead of Walpole, where there was, right close to where he died, a cemetery similar, seemingly, to the Eliot Cemetery in Roxbury. We believe that the real reason is the following: By the names of those buried in Walpole, it is obvious that this cemetery was a "private" cemetery, that is exclusively for the people of the town of Walpole; while by the names that appear on the tombstones of the Eliot Cemetery, which comprise statement, officials of the government, officers of the army, judges and the like, it would seem that this cemetery was of a more "public" nature, in the sense that it belonged to the government, or at least was under its care. The "French Neutrals," as the exiled Acadians were called, being under the care of the government, Jacques d'Entremont was buried in the cemetery of the government.

And that is the story of "the old house" of Jeremiah Dexter, where lived in exile with his family Jacques d'Entremont and in which he died. And that is the story of the cemetery where repose his ashes.

We believe that this constitutes the only case in which has been located the exact spot where lived an Acadian family in exile in what is now the New England States, and the cemetery where one of these Acadians is buried.

Speaking of these Acadians, Willard De Lue (30), after telling of their return to their native land, says: "Thus they pass from our history - But whate'er the story, Walpole saw no more of them."

We may say that the descendants of Jacques d'Entremont now number well over 5000, including all the d'Entremonts and all the Duons, (now bearing the name of "d'Eon"), and most of the other Acadians now living of having taken origin in the Pubnicos, Nova Scotia, of whom the undersigned who has come back to tell to the people of Walpole the story of his ancestor whom they had sheltered in "the old house" of Jeremiah Dexter.


(1) Jacques Mius d'Entremont, baron of Popbomcoup, was the son of Philippe Mius d'Entremont, (1601-1700), who came to Acadia in 1651 with Charles de Saint-Etienne de la Tour and who in 1653 was made lieutenant governor of Acadia and received the barony of Pobomcoup, (now Pubnico, Nova Scotia); he was named king's attorney about 1670, an office he held until 1688. - Anne de Saint-Etienne de la Tour was the daughter of Charles de Saint-Etienne de la Tour, governor of Acadia.
(2) "A History of Walpole, Mass.", 1905, p. 97
(3) Willard De Lue, "The Story of Walpole", 1925, p. 297.
(4) The Boston Weekly News-Letter, Thursday, May 6, 1756.
(5) Mass. Archives, XXIII, 69.

(6) Mass. Archives, Council Records, XIII, (1755-1759), 80.
(7) Mass. Archives, XXIII, 106.
(8) Mass. Archives, XXIII, 406.
(9) Mass. Archives, XXIII, 626.
(10) Mass. Archives, XXIV, 76, 77A, 108, 110.
(11) Mass. Archives, XXIV, 108.
(12) Mass. Archives, XXIV, 389, 392. - Benoni's name appears, at this date, in these two documents, in the lists of the Acadians quartered in Medfield and of those quartered in Walpole. But most likely he was transferred around this date from Medfield to Walpole, from where his brother and sister, Joseph and Marguerite, were leaving for Chelsea.
(13) Mass. Archives, XXIV, 272.
(14) Mass. Archives, XXIV, 389, 392. - De Lue, p. 117.
(15) Mass. Archives, XXIV, 389, 392.
(16) From the French newspaper, "L'Evangeline", Weymouth, Nova Scotia, Thursday, July 13, 1893, article by Placide Gaudet on the Amirault family. - Ange Amirault, who came back from exile with this group, was a seafarer most of his life. - See H. Leander d'Entremont, "The Baronnie de Pombcoup and the Acadians", Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, 1931, p. 54.
(17) They did not "walk back overland from Boston through Maine, to their old homes:, as says De Lue, p. 119.
(18) The Yarmouth Herald, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Wednesday, November 25, 1964. - La Societe Historique Acadienne, Sixieme Cahier, 1964, Mancton, New Brunswick, p. 24. (11).
(19) Lewis, p. 97. - De Lue, p. 115.
(20) Lewis, p. 97.
(21) U.S. Tenth Census - 1880 - vol. 22 - Enumeration Dist. No. 504, Supervisor's Dist. No. 60, Page No. 5, Schedule 1: Inhabitants of Walpole, Mass.
(22) De Lue, pp. 274-276.
(23) De Lue, p. 240.
(24) De Lue, p. 261.
(25) De Lue, pp. 240, 261, 262.
(26) Lewis, p. 98.
(27) There has been in Walpole, apart from the d'Entremont family, other exiled Acadians, the families of Pierre Landry and of Pierre Robichaud.
(28) De Lue, p. 117. - H. Leander d'Entremont, op. cit., p. 51.
(29) Annual Report of the Cemetery Department of the City of Boston, for the Fiscal year 1903-1904, Boston, (1904), pp. 56 at sqq.: Epitaphs, First Burying Place in Roxbury, Copied in 1872 by Henry A. May.
(30) De Lue, p. 119.