CANADA

Rivière-du-nord, NB

Historical Village Lets Visitors Savour the Past

Woman baking bread at Village Historique Acadien in Rivière-du-nord, New Brunswick

One of the Village Historique Acadien’s hundred costumed interpreters stacks round loaves of bread, baked in the outdoor clay oven at the Mazerolle Farm.
JOHN MASTERS/Meridian Writers’ Group

THE WOMAN in the white cap and apron is withdrawing the 31st and final round loaf of bread from the outdoor clay oven. It’s past noon and she’s been here, in this forest-backed clearing, since 6:30 this morning. She tears open the loaf and hands pieces to a couple of visitors. Its steaming aroma fills the air.

The scene is modern, of course, but it would have looked—and smelled—the same in the 1850s. This is the Mazerolle Farm, a small Acadian holding. There’s a barn and a yard for the pigs, turkeys and hens, a square-timbered cabin for the family and a garden growing corn, potatoes, cabbages, savory, onions, peas and turnips. It’s probably tidier now than it was in the mid-19th century—the cabin’s plank floor is swept clean, the pots and pans neatly shelved—but otherwise the Mazerolles would certainly recognize it, if they could find it. Originally located outside of Fredericton, it’s now part of the Village Historique Acadien, 290 kilometres northeast of the provincial capital.

On its 32 hectares the village presents dozens of examples of how Acadians lived and worked in New Brunswick in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The earliest building, the Martin House, dates from 1773, just a decade after the British authorities stopped deporting the French-speaking Acadians—purportedly exiled because of questions about their loyalty to the crown, but in no small measure because the Acadians, who were well-established in Canada’s Maritime provinces when the British took possession, had a lot of the region’s choice farmland.

The Acadian Expulsion, which began in 1755, sent most of the estimated 10,000 Acadians to far-flung British or French possessions, and to Spanish-held Louisiana, where they became known as Cajuns. Many of the Acadians who returned after 1763 came here, to the northeast coast of New Brunswick. The town of Caraquet, a 20-minute drive from the historical village, is today the heart of Acadian culture.

When the village is open, from early June to mid-October, a hundred interpreters are onsite daily, in period garb. At the Martin House, for example, Roger Theriault plays Jean-Balthazar Martin. He may be in his yard, cutting brooms from white birch. Nearby, in a barn-sized shed where the Charles Robin Company used to process cod, Normand Gaudet, as Robin, explains how 448 pounds of dried and salted fish were packed into each barrel.

Across a covered bridge, the early-20th-century side of the village includes a reconstruction of the Château Albert, a 1907 hotel that was rebuilt here in 2000. Visitors can rent a room for the night (and page through the 1897 Sears Roebuck catalogue by each bedside) or just have a drink in the bar. There’s also a general store selling everything from 5¢ peppermints to Mason’s Ironstone Old Chelsea china ($400 a set). Or they could go back to the gift shop at the village entrance, which is where the round loaves of bread end up, and for $3 take a still-warm piece of history away with them.

 

ACCESS

For more information on the Village Historique Acadien visit its website at www.villagehistoriqueacadien.com.

For information on travel in New Brunswick visit the Tourism New Brunswick website at www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca.