History of Pomquet
The name Pomquet, also historically spelled Pomquette, is derived from the Mi'kmaq word "popumkek" or "pogumkek" likely meaning "sandy beach", "a good place to land", or "a sand beach with bushes growing on it". All of these are in reference to Pomquet Beach. The name "Pomquet" pays homage to the first inhabitants of the area – the Mi'kmaq.
It is not known when the first native people arrived in the Pomquet area. Mi'kmaq artifacts have been found in several locations along the shores of Pomquet Harbour, and Acadian oral history suggests that at least two burial grounds were present, one in Pomquet Point and the other in Monk's Head, at the site of the first chapel in Pomquet.
Pomquet was first settled by Acadians in 1773. These Acadians were exiles from St. Malo, France. They arranged passage to Nova Scotia with merchants from the nearby Isle of Jersey, a British possession. The families likely initially arrived in the Acadian community of Arichat, Cape Breton and then traveled to Tracadie and Havre Boucher, before moving westward along the coastline to Pomquet Harbour.
The first non-Mi'kmaq families to arrive and settle on the shores of Pomquet Harbour were named Broussard, Duon (now Deon, D'Eon and DeYoung), Doiron, and Vincent (all Acadians) and Louis Lamarre, a Frenchman. When they arrived, 23 Mi'kmaq families were living in the area. In 1789, these five families were issued land grants along Pomquet Harbour and Taylor Creek (located near the present community hall) by the Nova Scotia government.
These families were joined between 1785 and 1794 by another group of exiled Acadians who had made their way from St. Malo and were likely related to the first group of settlers by marriage. These families were named Brosard (Broussard), Landry, Boudrot (now Boudreau), Melançon (now Melanson), Rosia (now Rogers), and Daigle, and accompanied by Louis Morell of Quebec. Another 16 land grants were issued in 1793 to the original settlers and to those following them.
In 1817, two soldiers (likely originally from Belgium), captured by the British during the Napoleonic Wars and imprisoned on George's Island in Halifax Harbour made their way to Pomquet. They were Jean-Baptiste Reny-Rombaud or Reny-Rimbeau (now Rennie) and Jean-Baptiste Vendome (now Venedam). Settlers that arrived later in the 19th century included Philipart (likely French), DeKrauz (now Cross) from St.Pierre-Miquelon, Toupais (likely French), Drouillet (origin unknown), Wolfe (from Chezzetcook), Benoit (from Tracadie), and Deslauriers (originally Jacquet from Quebec and now Delorey) from Tracadie.
The early settlers were self-sufficient, and initially survived mainly by fishing. They fished flatfish (flounder), eel, and smelts from Pomquet Harbour, trout and salmon from Pomquet River, and mackerel and lobsters from St. George’s Bay.
After a few years, the settlers began clearing the land for growing crops and raising livestock.
From the initial arrival by Acadians, the settlement of Pomquet was linked to the Acadian communities of Arichat and Cheticamp in Cape Breton, economically, culturally, religiously, and by familial connections. The first Acadian and French settlers in Pomquet were mostly Roman Catholic and shortly after their arrival, were served by the Roman Catholic Church.
For the first few years after their arrival, the goal of the Acadian settlers was survival, establishing a claim to the land, and then clearing the land for farming. They were aided to a great extent by the Mi'kmaq and their knowledge of and respected connection to the land.