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Fort Vieux Logis
Hortonville, Nova Scotia

Historical Background
Landscape Setting
Archaeological Research

Historical Background

The establishment of Halifax in 1749 substantially increased Britain's investment in Nova Scotia, and the colony's welfare, hitherto neglected by the Board of Trade, now became a matter of some consequence. Early in September of that year, Governor Edward Cornwallis ordered a detachment of soldiers from Annapolis to Grand Pré in order to establish a permanent garrison. Records indicate the resulting fort, called Vieux Logis (after the Acadian locale in which it was built), was occupied by mid-October.

Nova Scotia was a contested land in the years leading up to the Seven Years War, and the imperial French, together with many of the region's aboriginal people and a disaffected minority among the Acadians, sought to thwart Britain's designs for the colony by waging an undeclared, guerilla-style war. Many of the Mi'kmaq seem to have regarded Britain's unilateral founding of Halifax a breach of the peace terms of 1725, which created a framework for negotiating such settlements. Fort Vieux Logis, as an outpost of Halifax, quickly became a target in this struggle. On November 27th, 1749, while surveying the fort's environs, Lieutenant John Hamilton and eighteen soldiers under his command were surprised and captured by a party of 300 Mi'kmaq and Maliseet warriors. Following several unsuccessful attempts to take the small fort, the war party withdrew to Chignecto with hostages in train.

In a 1753 despatch to the Lords of Trade, Charles Lawrence proposed the abandonment of Vieux Logis, describing it as follows:

This Fort was erected very late in the Fall of [1749] . . . As it was then too late in the year to build Barracks they were obliged to enclose three French Houses in a triangular Picketing with half Bastions. The Situation which they were obliged to take up on Account of these houses is upon a low flatt Ground Commanded by a Hill, and so Exposed to the Weather that in deep Snows it has been often Possible to Walk over the Palisades.

Despite its unpropitious beginning and relatively brief lifespan, Fort Vieux Logis was the locus of British power in the Minas region for four and a half years, and during this time perhaps a hundred English-speaking soldiers regularly lived among the Acadians at Grand Pré. Little or nothing has been written about these men, their fort, or their relations with the Acadian community they were sent to monitor. Over time, it is likely that relations between soldier and habitant normalized somewhat, just as they had done at Annapolis Royal, and although the fort was abandoned in the spring of 1754, the patterns established by its garrison doubtless led the community to view Colonel John Winslow's arrival, a year later, as nothing particularly unusual.


Landscape Setting

It is evident from the primary documentation that this fort was located on the uplands south of Deportation Creek, near a landing on the Gaspereau River. Dr. Sherman Bleakney has recently identified the location of this landing place, an outcrop of black shale running north of the old wharf at Horton Landing. This natural feature provides a stable surface in a tidal river estuary dominated by muddy and slimy banks, and offers the most convenient place on the river for loading and unloading vessels. This fact was not overlooked by the Acadians, and indeed the Acadian place name, "Vieux Logis," which pre-dates the establishment of the fort, leads me to suspect that this strategic area was occupied by the earliest of the Port Royal colonists in the 1680s.

During the 1747 Battle of Grand Pré, Beaujeu's detachment came to Vieux Logis to capture the New Englanders' ships and supplies. Charles Deschamps, Sieur de Boishébert, who was involved in this action, later maintained that his detachment forced a guard house here, located only a gunshot away from the shore. In 1755, Colonel John Winslow mentions a landing place at "Villogee," apparently a mile and a half east of his camp at the Church of Saint Charles (the modern Grand Pré National Historic Site). And Charles Morris, in 1748, recommended "the Vieux Lodgées" as the most appropriate site for the town plot of a projected Protestant township among the Acadians. This plan was finally engaged in the summer of 1760, with the establishment of Horton Township, and the area is still known as Hortonville to this day.


Archaeological Research

In December 1999, I noted an historic midden at the corner of a field near the Gaspereau River at Hortonville. Ceramics from the midden suggest an occupation dating from the early 18th century through to the 19th century, which encompasses the Acadian, British military, and Planter periods at Vieux Logis. Aerial photographs (including an infrared series) reveal anomalies in the field immediately southwest of the midden.

A geophyisical survey of the anomalies was conducted in July 2000 with the kind assistance of Mr. Duncan McNeill. The results indicate the presence of large quantities of buried stone in the vicinity of the anomalies and at the adjacent field boundary. Our working hypothesis is that generations of farmers likely removed much of the structural stone from the site after the mid-18th century. Despite this, intact archaeological deposits likely exist below the zone of agriculturally disturbed soil.

In the autumn of 2000, students from Saint Mary's University took part in test excavations at the site. The project was a collaborative effort between David Christianson, Stephen Powell, and Jonathan Fowler (the former two representing The Nova Scotia Museum). Initial test results yielded artifacts confirming the broad period of occupation at the site, but failed to identify architectural features. An additional program of testing is planned for 2003.

Copyright© 2003 Northeast Archaeological Research