Municipality of Clare buys back pivotal piece of its Acadian history

The community spent around $3,000 to buy a document signed by one of the area's first Acadian settlers.

Municipality purchased a 1768 oath that pledges allegiance to King George III

Acadians that returned to Nova Scotia after being expelled by the British had to sign an oath of allegiance to the King. This oath was signed by Antoine Solomon Malliet, one of the first people to settle in the Municipality of Clare. (Submitted by the Municipality of Clare)

A tattered and stained piece of paper pledging allegiance to King George III has become a prized possession for the Municipality of Clare on Nova Scotia's South Shore.

The paper is an oath of allegiance to the former King signed in 1768 by Acadian Antoine Solomon Malliet. He was one of the first permanent settlers in the area 250 years ago.

"To have this reminder that one of the first inhabitants of our area was French, francophone Acadian, I think to me that's very important," Natalie Robichaud, the executive director of the Acadian society in Clare, told CBC's Information Morning.

"It will hopefully engage people more and be interested in their history and their culture."

Warden Ronnie LeBlanc presented the newly protected oath of allegiance at a council meeting in January. (Submitted by Clint Bruce)

Malliet, along with thousands of other Acadians, had been expelled from the province by the British between 1755 and 1764. In order to settle in Nova Scotia in 1768, he had to swear allegiance to the King, and was then given a piece of land in what would eventually become the Municipality of Clare.

Robichaud said signing that oath would have been difficult for Malliet after seeing his people expelled by the British.

"It's not an easy thing to do for Acadians. They didn't just sign freely without really thinking about it, but by the same token, they really needed land to farm animals and build a house for their family, so I don't think they took it lightly," she said.

Somehow, the document he signed managed to survive through to today.

How the municipality acquired the oath

The oath went up for auction last fall in Halifax where a municipal councillor spotted it. After some research, the municipality decided the paper was too much of a piece of its history to pass up.

After paying about $3,000, the oath belonged to the municipality, said municipal Warden Ronnie LeBlanc.

"We're pretty excited the municipality has been able to purchase it. I think it's an artifact that the community will be very pleased to be able to view," he said.

The municipal council even brought in actors to reenact how Malliet made the decision to sign the oath and continue his life in Nova Scotia. (Submitted by Clint Bruce)

"It gives us a sense ... of being an Acadian, where we come from and the struggles that we faced and the fact that ... 250 years later we're still a municipality."

Once it was acquired, LeBlanc said the oath was professionally preserved and framed for its protection.

It's probably the most protection the sheet of paper has ever received. While Malliet was alive, he had to carry the oath with him almost everywhere.

A 'passport' for Acadians

"The oath of allegiance was essentially a passport that Acadians after the deportation had to sign ... and they'd carry that in their pocket when they travelled through Nova Scotia, basically to show that they had signed allegiance to the Crown," said LeBlanc.

He said the oath is an important part of Acadian history. As such, it will be given its own special display in the community's municipal building in Little Brook where anyone can come and see it.

The unveiling of the display will go ahead later this year to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Acadian settlers arriving in the area.

With files from Information Morning