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Michel BASTARACHE dit BASQUE - Biography

BASTARACHE, dit Basque, MICHEL, settler, b. 7 February 1730 in Annapolis Royal, N.S., son of Pierre Bastarche, dit Le Basque, and Marguerite Forest; m. there 12 June 1753 Marguerite Gaudet, and they had at least seven children; d. 15 Jan. 1830 in Tracadie, N.B.

When the deportation of the Acadians began, Michel Bastarache, dit Basque, and his brothers Pierre and Jean-Baptiste settled in the area around Fort Beausejour (near Sackville, N.B.) where they became renowned for their bravery. In August 1755, Michel and Pierre were taken captive; Pierre was imprisoned in Fort Cumberland (the former Fort Beausejour), and Michel at Fort Lawrence (near Amherst, N.S.). Michel escaped, with 85 other Acadians, during the night of 1-2 October through a tunnel they had dug under the walls of the fort, but he was soon recaptured and taken to Fort Cumberland. On 18 October he and Pierre were among the 960 Acadians who, on Robert Monkton's orders, were embarked on ships bound for South Carolina.

Forcibly uprooted from his native land and separated from his family, Bastarche could not endure exile. Thus in the spring of 1756 he fled through the woods, accompanied by a dozen of his compatriots, including Pierre. Together they made their way on foot across the colonies of North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. When they reached the shores of Lake Ontario, they fell into the hands of the Iroquois. But a fur trader who had considerable influence with the Indians secured the captives' release by paying the ransom demanded; he took them to Quebec, where they arrived in September 1756. That similar exploits occurred is attested in a letter dated 19 April 1757 from Governor Vaudreuil [Rigaud] to the minister of Marine: "8 Acadians who fled Carolina have reached the Saint John River. 4 of these Acadians have come to Quebec. I have questioned them."

From Quebec Bastarche and his brother went ot Panaccadie (Moncton, N.B.), where a few Acadian families were hiding since the search for Acadians was still going on in the region. There Bastarache learned that his wife had sought refuge on Ile Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island). Despite the risks of the trip, he went to the island, found his wife and returned with her to go into hiding at Miramichi (N.B.) where Pierre Du Calvet found them living in 1761. Within two years, however, they and four children were prisoners at Fort Cumberland. There, on 24 Aug. 1763, the family joined with some 70 others in indicating their desire to go to France, but because they were considered British subjects they were refused permission to leave.

Bastarache's whereabouts over the next few years are not certain. By 1769, however, he was at Cape Marinqouin, where a number of former prisoners from Fort Cumberland had settled; on 9 April he had three children baptized there by Abbe Charles-Francois Bailly de Messein. Later he went to live on the west bank of the Memramcook River, at a place now called Cormier Cove, on lands belonging to Joseph Goreham. Probably in 1787, Bastarache and his son-in-law Joseph Saulnier moved to Tracadie, north of Miramichi Bay, and settled on adjoining lots. The two men may be regarded as the founders of Tracadie, for although the Robert, dit Lebreton, family had been in the region a few years before, they did not settle there permanently until later. Bastarche built his house on the shore, near a spring, and shortly began farming. After a few years he quit his land, on which the parish church would be built around 1800; he then went to live farther inland.

In 1815, when Dr Andrew Brown was gathering material for his history of Nova Scotia, and in particular of the Acadian people, James Fraser, a Miramichi merchant, recounted the the exploits of the Bastarahces: "Michel OBask and his Brother Peter OBask with 12 others travelled through the Woods from Carolina some say from New Orleans to the head of the river St Lawrence and from there came in a Canoe to Cumberland to vizit their wives familys and native land. Both the Basks are alive in the neighborhood of Miramichi." According to Placide Gaudet, however, Pierre had died on 25 March 1796. Michel passed away at Tracadie on 15 Jan. 1820, at the age of 89; he left a great many descendants, among them the Basques of Gloucester County.

Corrine LaPlante

Author of Article: Corinne LaPlante
Title of Article: BASTARACHE, dit Basque, MICHEL
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5
Publisher: University of Toronto/ Université Laval
Year of publication: 1983
Year of revision: 1983
Access Date: August 4, 2015

Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume 5 edited by Francess G. Halpenny, 1983

1820 Death Tracadie
Acadia, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1670-1946

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