St George's Bay Mi'kmaq


There is some question as to the origin of the name of De Grau. Some sources state it comes from a French phrase meaning "we are finished," and most likely referred to the completion of the summer fishery in the area. It may, however, be named for Petit Degrau, an Acadian community in Cape Breton, or Cap De Grau, a French fishing station at Quirpon. Rouzes Brook, located in De Grau, was originally called Capstein Brook.

A Le Roux was reportedly the first settler in De Grau, which was viewed by explorers of the area as the first beach on the cape suitable for drying fish. He was a merchant, and bought dried cod to sell to Halifax schooners. Four graves, now unmarked, sit on the east side of the brook. Buried on the LeRoux land, they may have been family members.

The Chiasson was also one of the first families to settle in the area. Acording to Thomas W Leblanc, who published a series of articles in the Evangeline (Newspaper), of Monton, N.B. called " the Acadian ones of Newfoundland" on 15 April 1948- (Phillip) Nazaire Chiasson from Cheticamp settled in Cape-St-George about 1855. It is said that Phillipe-Nazaire and his brother Jullian Chiasson came ashore and built a log cabin in the trees east of Rouzes Brook. They were from Cheticamp but had been participating in the fishery off Red Island.

A Roman Catholic church was built before 1850 and visited by Father Belanger from Sandy Point in the 1850s. Father Dubourdieu was the first resident priest. The first cemetery in the area was consecrated in Cape St. George, (located in a field on property now owned by Archibal Kerfont) but soon after the church was built in De Grau, a new one was consecrated in that community to serve the coastal communities. A parish priest served De Grau and Cape St. George from 1918. The first post office was built around 1890, as was the first school, and the first teacher was a Miss Muse. This was later renovated by the Association des Terre Neuviens Francais to serve as a community centre. The association recognizes the French speaking tradition but not the aboriginal history and culture of the area. Hopefully, this will soon change.

In 1945, there were 194 residents. In 1973, the French immersion classes were offered.

In 1979, Notre Dame du Cap High School, considered to be located on the edge of De Grau just east of Cape St. George burned down but was rebuilt - later it was an english language all grades school and today a combined primary and elementary school. An all French language primary and elementary school is housed in the former english primary and elementary school across the road.

The first telephone was located at my grandfathers house (Gopy Joe-Mic Benoit) who also took in boarders. His last two story house still exists in De Grau.

Growing up on the Port au Port Peninsula, in "the old days"use to be quite an adventure. When I get my father and mother talking about it-they give a very detailed account of hard times, living off the land and making do with little or nothing. People were hunteres and gatherers, they were rugged, "rough and tumble", worked hard and partied hard. In the end most were happy with their lives.

Growing up in the 1970's - my family, like most families, had a horse, some cattle, sheep, hens and pigs. My mother milked the cow, separated the milk to make cream, made butter, buttermilk and cheese. We collectively had to tend the pastures, make the hay. We did not bail the hay- it was all loose. Some was put in a barn. We used horse and cart and a pickup truck, as well as a farm-all tractor with a trailer to move it. Some was put in hay stacks outside. We planted our own vegetable- but mostly potatoes. Dad fished codfish in summer, smelts in winter and also snared rabbits. He cut logs, sawed them in his sawmill and sold the lumber. Mom knitted wool socks, mittens, sweaters, from wool spun from our sheep. She would sew bed cloths from large flour bags and buy flanette from the local store to make cloths. We were always told that we were Mi'k Maq when I was growing up. We just didn't make a big deal of it. My older relatives spoke french mostly. They would speak french amongst themselves and english to us.

When mom was young:

When my mom was born in the 1930's Abbott and Haliburton already had a general store on the bank on the shore in De Grau. They had purchased the land from Victor Damois, who owned a huge block of land in the area. Later, when the store was replace with another up next to what is now route 460, they purchased the land from Victor's son in law, (my great grandfather) Joseph (he went by the name Joe M. Benoit and he first married Ellen Damois.

The men would fish and barter the dry fish for bulk foods and supplies like molasses, flour, flanette, sugar, candy, lamp oil, spices. She said the big supply ship would come to the wooden wharf in De Grau every six months. "You knew when the supply ship came in," she said , "because it would sound it's fog horn 3 times. Everyone would go down to the shore and help unload the supplies. The ship would drop off supplies and leave with a load of dry cod fish.

Before that we used boughs from trees to sweep the floor-"there were no straw brooms when we were young," she says. They used stove ashes for a variety of purpose. Mom learned a lot from her grandmother- who knew a lot of the Mi'k Maq ways. They boiled ashes to extract the lye. This was used to wash cloths. To make a soap like substance to wash with she said: "We would steep fish livers and mix the oil from it with the lye."They always had sturdy homes because there was always a sawmill in the family. For those who didn't built log cabins , wigwams were used by some and mostly for temporary lodging.

In my grandmother's day:

My mom told me stories of her great grandmother Desiree who lived the ways of the Mi'k Maq. She could speak the Mi'kmaq language. She was a small weather beaten woman who raised a large family with very little. Her husband Mic (Michel Benoit) who had came from the Margaree area, Nova Scotia with father Luc, had abandoned her. He ran off with big Annie, old Jack Moses' wife to New Brunswick. He is buried in a county next to the Quebec and New Brunswick boarder.

As far as medicine was concerned you also were on your own. Mom says "Grammy Desiree would steep cod livers to make cod liver oil that people would take when sick or anaemic." "She would also steep alder and dogwood roots to make a pain remedies," my mother says. The same structures were used to make spools and shuttles necessary in the process of preparing wool. Unique concoctions were made of roots and berries and the like.

There were no horses in the earlier days. To get about people used oxen and cart in summer and oxen and sled in winter or just walked everywhere. In those days, one would travel by boat to Port au Port, Stephenville and Sandy Point at different times through the passing years, if one wanted supplies.

Food consisted of wild berries for jams and sauces, fish, rabbit, sheep, chicken, beef, and mutton and vegetables.

Nick Names:

People mostly called each other by nick names. Dad's grandfather was known as Johny Mic, even though his name was Jean Edward Benoit. Johny Mic's father was Michel and he was called Mic. Likewise, Johny Mic's brother was called Joe Mic even though his name was Joseph Benoit. My mom called him Gopy Joe. My dad's great grandmother was known as Jane (Genevieve Benoit and married Julien Chiasson)was also known as "Jenny on the Flake" because she had a curious habit of spying on the fishermen as they dried their fish on large flakes. Genevieve's grandfather was Francois Benoit , the first Benoit to come to Newfoundland and her grandmother is Anne L' Official, a M'ikmaw lady. Benoit's Cove is named after her great Uncle Raphaiel Benoit or her Graet Uncle Sabastien Benoit. Julien Chiasson's son was known as Bea, (lived in Piccadilly) because he was known to be a braggart- his real name was Julian, Jr. there are many such stories of how various people got their nick names- many with colourful explanations. But, it is history and it is important to know the people beyond their baptism, marriage and death records

Place Names in De Grau:

Cornects Brook

LeMoine's Lane

Rouzes Brook

De Grau Cementary

The Prey

Simon's Lane

Benoit's Lane

Little Mesh

Big Mesh

Northeast Mesh

Grizzle Pond

Community Pasture

Articles of Interest in De Grau, NL.

Local Mi'kmaq left in dark

Degrau native living her dream

Website Copyright 2003-2004 Jasen Sylvester Benwah

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