GAUTIER, NICOLAS (sometimes Joseph-Nicolas), mariner, port official, and militia officer; b. 31 Aug. 1731 in Annapolis Royal, N.S., son of Joseph-Nicolas Gautier*, dit Bellair, and Marie Allain; d. 6 Nov. 1810 in Saint-Malo, France.
Nicolas Gautier was the third son of an Acadian family famous for its fight against British rule, and his life was repeatedly interrupted in one way or another by the great imperial struggle between France and Britain during the 18th century. When the War of the Austrian Succession spread to North America in 1744, Nicolas’s father declared for the French cause and, with his two eldest sons, Joseph and Pierre, actively aided the French forces. He was consequently outlawed, and his possessions destroyed; in 1748 he moved with his family to Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island), where he died in 1752.
Joseph-Nicolas had been an adept pilot, and this knowledge, as well as his anti-British feelings, he passed on to Nicolas and Pierre. As early as 1751 Nicolas was employed by Claude-Élisabeth Denys* de Bonnaventure, commander at Île Saint-Jean, in reconnaissance missions and in transporting Acadian refugees to the island. From 1752 to 1756 he acted as assistant port captain at Port-La-Joie (Fort Amherst, P.E.I.). Afterwards he commanded a corvette and, when the British besieged Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), in 1758, he used it to try to help keep open the lines of supply and communication between the fortress, its outpost at Port-Toulouse (near St Peters), and Île Saint-Jean.
The capitulation of Louisbourg to Jeffery Amherst* and Edward Boscawen* on 26 July brought the cession of Île Saint-Jean in its train [see Andrew Rollo*]; Nicolas and his family fled to the mainland. At Restigouche (Que.) he joined his elder brother Pierre in the militia, as adjutant; the small number of colonial regular troops were commanded by their brother-in-law Jean-François Bourdon* de Dombourg. After the general capitulation at Montreal on 8 Sept. 1760, the colonial regulars returned to France. Nicolas remained at Restigouche until October 1761 when, in a sudden raid, Captain Roderick MacKenzie, commandant of Fort Cumberland (near Sackville, N.B.), seized some 300 Acadians and transported them to Halifax. Nicolas and his younger brother Jean-Baptiste were among those seized.
At Halifax Nicolas married Anne, daughter of Joseph Leblanc*, dit Le Maigre; they were to have at least six children. They returned to French territory only in 1766, when they joined Nicolas’s brother Pierre and numerous other displaced Acadians on the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, which had been restored to France in 1763 to serve as ports for her fishing fleets [see François-Gabriel d’Angeac*]. Pierre’s career had been somewhat more active than Nicolas’s: he was a partisan with his father during the 1740s; on several occasions he reconnoitred military activities at Halifax, occasionally taking British scalps and prisoners; in 1755–56 he even undertook an arduous overland winter journey from Shediac to Quebec and back to deliver official despatches. He also worked for the French government as a private entrepreneur: between 1763 and 1766 he made three voyages between France and Saint-Pierre, transporting supplies to build up the new colony. In the latter year he was rewarded with an appointment as port captain of the islands, a position he had previously held at Île Saint-Jean. He did not, however, remain at Saint-Pierre. By 1769 it was evident that there were far too many Acadians dependent on the colony’s scarce resources and the French government removed many of them to France. Pierre Gautier went – perhaps as an inducement for others to leave – but did not stay in France. That year he was appointed port captain at Gorée (off the coast of Senegal), where he died in 1773 or early 1774.
Nicolas settled with his family on Miquelon where he fished and, according to references found in census records, acted as a coastal pilot. He appears to have passed a fairly uncomplicated life devoted to increasing his family and winning his daily bread until 13 Sept. 1778 when, France having declared war on Britain during the American revolution, the British descended on the islands, quickly extracted a capitulation from Governor Charles-Gabriel-Sébastien de L’Espérance*, and transported the inhabitants to France. There they remained until the islands were returned to France in 1783. At this time Gautier was made port lieutenant at Miquelon, with annual pay of 800 livres. Although he seems to have acted as port captain of Saint-Pierre for several years, he did not officially receive the appointment until 1792. Soon afterwards, on 14 May 1793, several British men-of-war with troops under James Ogilvie conquered Saint-Pierre, and again the population was deported. Gautier settled in Saint-Malo, where he seems to have been a pilot and where he passed the rest of his life.
Although the family’s extreme devotion to the French cause was exceptional among Acadians, the trials, tribulations, and transportations that Franco-British imperial rivalries visited on the Gautiers were suffered by the Acadians in general. Nicolas Gautier became a refugee a half dozen times during his life as the direct result of four separate wars. His eldest brother, Joseph, settled near Bonaventure (Que.), on the Gaspé coast; Pierre died in Africa; their youngest brother, Jean-Baptiste, ultimately settled in Rustico (P.E.I.); and one of their sisters, Marguerite, died in France.
AN, Col., B, 120: f.361v; 123: f.4; 125: ff.57, 63v, 100; C11B, 30: 21, 31 (transcripts at PAC); C12, 22: ff.44v, 60v; E, 200 (dossiers Pierre Gautier, Nicolas Gautier); F3, 54: f.469v; Section Outre-mer, G1, 413; 458–59; 463: ff.5, 118. Les derniers jours de l’Acadie (1748–1758), correspondances et mémoires: extraits du portefeuille de M. Le Courtois de Surlaville, lieutenant-général des armées du roi, ancien major des troupes de l’île Royale, Gaston Du Boscq de Beaumont, édit. (Paris, 1899). “Documents: recensements de 1760,” R.-S. Brun, édit., Rev. d’hist. de la Gaspésie (Gaspé, Qué.), 8 (1970): 30–36. Placide Gaudet, “Acadian genealogy and notes,” PAC Report, 1905, 11, pt.iii: 174. [Joseph de La Roque], “Tour of inspection made by the Sieur de La Roque; census, 1752,” PAC Report, 1905, II, pt.i: 88. Arsenault, Hist. et généal. des Acadiens (1978). J.-H. Blanchard, Rustico: une paroisse acadienne de l’île du Prince-Édouard ([s.l., 1938]). J.-Y. Ribault, Les îles Saint-Pierre et Miquelon des origines à 1814 (Saint-Pierre, 1962); “La population des îles Saint-Pierre et Miquelon de 1763 à 1793,” Rev. française d’hist. d’outre-mer (Paris), 53 (1966): 5–66.