Land of Evangeline
Source: Annapolis River Valley
Mouth: Bay of Fundy
General direction of flow: west
Main Characteristics: Acadian heritage, tourism and agriculture
The pink and white blossoms of the apple orchards in the Annapolis Valley are
renowned throughout North America. The Annapolis Valley is also remembered as
the site of the first European colony in Canada. But it is famous most of all
as the original homeland of Canada’s French-speaking Acadians.
It is symbolized by the image of Evangeline, the fictional young Acadienne woman
who lost her lover in a mass deportation by British military governors that broke
the homes and hearts of thousands of Acadian families.
The Annapolis valley was not carved by water as are most river valleys. Instead,
the river flows through a wide trough that parallels Nova Scotia’s northern shoreline
on the Bay of Fundy. ’The Valley,’ as Nova Scotians call it, is really home to
two rivers flowing in opposite directions. The Annapolis River flows westward
through the valley while the Cornwallis flows eastward.
The earliest inhabitants of the valley were the Mi’kmaq who lived throughout
the present-day Maritimes, particularly in what became Nova Scotia and Prince
Edward Island. They are members of the Algonquian family of languages.
The entire Annapolis River basin was claimed for France by Samuel de Champlain
in 1605. Champlain was determined to establish a farming colony. His French colonists
expected the climate to be similar to that of the south of France, with its Mediterranean
climate of hot, dry summers, and warm, wet winters, since both were at roughly
the same latitude.
Champlain did not understand that any warming effects of a low latitude would
be overcome by the chilling effect of the Labrador current and the frigid winds
blowing across the Bay of Fundy from the continent of North America.
None of the early European colonizers really understood North America at first,
and all relied on the aboriginals for survival. Yet, Champlain’s French settlers
persisted in the colder climate and established at Port-Royal, the first agricultural
settlement established by Europeans in present-day Canada. The settlers at Port
Royal built the first water-powered gristmill in North America. They imported
the European technique of making dikes to create farmland from the marshy mudflats
along the river. Their system of dikes has been maintained and expanded ever
Three times in the 17th century, the French settlement of Port-Royal was captured
by the English. Each time, however, a peace treaty returned it to French control.
Champlain’s settlers and those who followed were the ancestors of today’s Acadian
The fourth and last capture of Port-Royal saw the settlement pass permanently
to British hands. It was renamed ’Annapolis Royal’ in 1710 for Britain’s Queen
The deportation of the Acadians in 1775 is still regarded by many people as
a great wrong. The Acadians did refuse to swear allegiance to the British Crown,
but they promised to stay neutral in any future war with France. This was not
enough assurance for the British military governors who dispersed the Acadians
to their colonies in the present-day United States.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem, Evangeline, transformed the story of the Acadian
deportation into a legend. It has helped to make tourism in the Annapolis Valley and in the
valley of the adjacent Cornwallis River a key segment of the economy in northwestern Nova
The arrival of New England settlers after 1755, followed by British Loyalists
after the American War of Independence in 1783, again changed the cultural character
of the valley. The Napoleonic War brought a boom in shipbuilding, prosperity
and more immigration.
Champlain’s original vision has been fulfilled. The Annapolis Valley is a serene
region of prosperous farms, towns and villages. The only invaders today are tourists
who come to photograph apple blossoms, watch whales in the Bay of Fundy, and
drive the length of the Evangeline Trail.
Annapolis River (Adobe PDF document)
of Canada (All pages in a zipped file)