Brief History of Surette's Island
Research by: G.J.LeBlanc (GrassRoutes)
Click on pictures for source or enlargement of picture
During the Golden Age (1713-1748) the Acadians had cultivated a remarkable sense of independence with respect to their neighbors. They remained proud of the French language, their Roman Catholic faith, their families and communities, as well as their culture and work. Many of these elements are still valued today.

The strong Catholic Faith of the Acadians is said to be the glue that kept these oppressed people together even after their expulsion from their lands in Nova Scotia to the USA, England, France and other parts of Canada during the years 1755 to 1763. Some probably did remain hidden in wooded areas but survival would have been rough.  In 1763 according to the Treaty of Paris  France lost all its territories in North America except the Islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon and the Louisiana territory. Acadians were allowed to return to Nova Scotia in 1764 with a few conditions: they had to take the oath of allegiance and they were ordered to settle at a great distance from the Islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. They were granted land in specific areas but kept in only if they agreed clear and cultivate these lands.  Most settled on the coast, and because it was poorer farm land then they previously occupied, many took up fishing as a means of existence.

In 1766 Ranald MacKinnon (The MacKinnons  of Argyle)a british officer was granted 2000 acres of land in the argyle area. he leased the land to Acadians in the area who cleared and developed the it.  Over 230 acres were eventually purchased by Acadians who settled the area. 

Most of the settlers of Surette's Island came from the parish of Saint Anne du Ruisseau (Eel Brook) which was formed by father Sigogne around 1799. (Brief Story of Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau) This was part of the territory of Cape Sable which we now refer to as Sheburne and Yarmouth Counties.  Saint Anne du Ruisseau was established about 20 years previous by a small group of Acadians who managed to escape deportation by the British.  One of these individuals was Pierre Surette. Pierre II was born in Port-Royal in1709. Pierre II Surette had married in Grand-Pre, September 30th, 1732(s). After the Treaty of Paris in 1763  he was released from a prison in Halifax, about 6 or 7 later he moved to SAR(s).

Surette's Island (Some information here is based on a book by Neil Boucher " The Development of an Acadia Village")

In 1801 a government grant was given to a group of Acadians that gave them the lands from Tusket southward to Morris Island.  Two brothers Fredrick & Charles-Baromme Surette (as far as I can conclude) went to Surette's Island. The grant required that the land be cleared and planted within a specific period (about 4 years).  An area consisted of over 8000 acres, granted to 27 Acadians.  Part of this was Surette's Island..Surette's Island (Y) :   Named after Frédéric Surette who with some others settled on the island (859 acres) in about 1812. 

On November 28 1855 the first mass was celebrated on Surette's Island in the home of Frederic Surette by Father J.P. Rolls of SAR parish.  This small chapel was constructed in 1934 to commemorate the location of this first mass.

The early inhabitants did not have their own church so they would have to row to SAR to attend church. By 1859 a mission church was constructed.  It was named "Our Lady of the Islands" and was a mission parish of SAR.  The population of Surette's island and Morris Island at this time was estimated to be about 300. 

The Catholic priest were one of the main factors influencing these early Acadian communities. The priest was usually the best educated member of the community and he often presided over disputes and legal documentation. Parishioners were encouraged to stay in the community, settle in the surrounding lands and develop them, rather than moving to other areas.  This policy was probably developed by one of the more influential priests of the area Fr. Sigogne.  He also took the first steps toward educating the Acadians of the area. He assisted in bringing in the first teachers and the first members of the legislative assembly.  After the Tupper's public school act of 1864 the province took up the role of education, however the parish priest still held the position of implementing educational policy in the rural areas. 

Though priest were not permitted to run for political office they helped influence legislation by openly favouring a particular candidate, not always of their own demoniation, that they felt would best serve the interests of the community.  The clergy also helped influence community development, sometimes on a large scale.  Father J.B. Depuis (served 1896-1901) and Father J.E. Hamelin (1901-1929) were largely responsible for getting the Surette's Island bridge constructed.

The pre-expulsion Acadians lived in areas that had fertile land that yielded abundant crops.  When some returned from exile the land they were granted was usually rocky and near the coast so many turned to the sea as a source of income.  The sea proved to be very profitable for the Acadians. However, after 1870 the industry declined. Between the 1st and 2nd world wars many people left for the Boston area.  Three hundred and fifty from the Wedgeport area alone. Morris Island was almost diserted.  Since many fisherman spent most of their time supplying the New England market, their famlies moved there.

Though Surette's Isand was isolated in the 1900's they remained in contact with activities in other Acadian areas via papers such as Le Petit Courrier, (, L'Evangeline and La Societe L'Assomption.  These publications tried to preserve the Acadian culture. 
Though many people moved from the area, some have moved back to retire, some for vacation and others on the internet through this web site. 

I hope you have enjoyed this brief look at the history of this area.  If you have any stories, information or links that you would like added here please drop me a line at  In the subject line please type Surette's Island.  Will be adding pictures of the area when the weather warms up.  Thanks for dropping in.  G.J.LeBlanc

Links to some Surette's who have signed our guest book
Surette Search on GrassRoutes

Home page Surette's Island
Search Yarmouth villages web site.

Although we do our best to be accurate, all researchers should consider verifying and researching their own personal information from primary and secondary sources. This is recommended because standard genealogical research practice is to always seek data from more than one source, and to be confident about your own research, it is a good idea to conduct further research via genealogy books, parish registers, census records (and their correct interpretation), vitals, etc.
Photo's by G.J.LeBlanc: GrassRoutes Internet.
Please fell free to copy pictures for non-commercial purposes such as school projects.
If you wish to print this I have found that
Virtual Museum  Pictures from Shelburne County Museum Shelburne , Nova Scotia
SURETTE'S ISLAND MEMORIAL  Memorial is in front of the church, Notre Dame des Iles, on Surette's Island
Acadian & French Canadian Ancestral Home  Excellent site with probably all the links you will need to Acadian information

Please sign our guest book

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Information can be added the villages pages by contacting