DUGAS, JOSEPH, settler; b., probably in 1738, in Cobequid (near Truro), N.S., eldest child of Pierre Dugas and Isabelle Bourg; m. 1764 Marie-Josephte Robichaud in Annapolis Royal, N.S., and they had seven children; d. 26 Feb. 1823 in Anse des LeBlanc, N.S.
In 1751 Pierre Dugas and his family moved from Cobequid to Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island). Along with other Acadians there, Pierre, his wife, and six children were victims of the deportation supervised by Colonel Lord Rollo* in 1758. Embarking on the Tamerlane, they reached Saint-Malo, France, on 16 Jan. 1759 and were later found at Saint-Servan. Young Joseph Dugas, however, does not appear among the children of Pierre and Isabelle who landed in France. Nor is he listed among the prisoners at Fort Cumberland (near Sackville, N.B.), Fort Edward (Windsor, N.S.), or Halifax.
According to one family tradition, Joseph had moved to Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), at the age of 16, enrolled in the French militia there, and was wounded and taken prisoner at the fall of the fortress in 1758 to British forces under Jeffery Amherst*. The story continues that while in hospital Joseph was nearly poisoned but managed to survive; he then escaped and made his way to the Baie des Chaleurs, joining about 800 Acadians already settled in the region. This account may be true but its veracity is doubted by the Acadian historian Placide Gaudet*, who rather believes that Joseph’s capture by British forces took place in October 1760 at the fall of Restigouche (Que.), the site of a large concentration of Acadian refugees [see Jean-François Bourdon* de Dombourg]. Gaudet’s claim is supported by another Dugas family tradition, according to which Joseph lived at Restigouche, in the Miramichi region (N.B.), and in the vicinity of Fort Cumberland before moving to Pisiquid (Windsor, N.S.) and then to Annapolis Royal. Whatever the case, it is known for certain that after the Treaty of Paris in 1763 Joseph went to Annapolis Royal, where in 1764 he married Marie-Josephte Robichaud, daughter of Prudent Robichaud and Marie Richard. The Robichaud family had been among the Acadian prisoners at Fort Edward.
In 1764 the British government informed the authorities of Nova Scotia that Acadians willing to take the oath of allegiance could return to the colony. Three years later Lieutenant Governor Michael Francklin*, responding to the appeals of Acadians who had returned from exile, set aside lands for an Acadian settlement along St Mary’s Bay. During the summer of 1768 this area, given the name of Clare, was surveyed by John Morrison, deputy provincial surveyor, and divided into lots. The lands surveyed later became known as the Bastarache Grant.
When in 1767 the government had announced its intention of creating a settlement along St Mary’s Bay, Dugas had taken it upon himself to explore the territory from the mouth of the Sissiboo River to Chicaben (Church Point). In September 1768, accompanied by his wife and his four-year-old daughter, Isabelle, he again travelled to the bay and this time settled at a place later called Anse des LeBlanc. The following spring a large group of almost 100 Acadians joined Dugas in the region, and in the next few years still others arrived. Among the new settlers were Pierre Le Blanc*, Pierre Doucet*, and Amable Doucet*.
Dugas’s wife had been pregnant at the time she and Joseph left for St Mary’s Bay and, 20 days after their arrival, a baby boy was born and named Joseph. During that first year in the region the couple had to overcome the many difficulties of their isolated life in the wilderness, the nearest neighbour being some 50 miles away. The mere fact that they and their two children survived, depending only on their own resources, shows ability and initiative well above the ordinary. Perhaps Joseph’s greatest accomplishment was in laying the foundation of the well-integrated subsistence economy by which the settlers of St Mary’s Bay prospered even into the 20th century. Following Joseph’s example each settler skilfully combined the occupations of fisherman, farmer, lumberman, builder, and hunter.
Little else is known of Joseph Dugas and his family. On 8 Sept. 1769 Abbé Charles-François Bailly* de Messein celebrated the first mass in the present district of Clare in Dugas’s rude dwelling at Anse des LeBlanc; the next priest to visit the area was Joseph-Mathurin Bourg* in 1774. Joseph Dugas the younger, the first Acadian born in Clare, settled at Grosses Coques; his house is still standing and bears a plaque commemorating both his birth and the establishment of Clare Township. A monument to Joseph Dugas the elder and his wife was erected in front of the Joseph Dugas School at Church Point. The inscription on the monument notes in part that “the courage of this couple, who faced and surmounted all the difficulties of survival by themselves, has inspired a feeling of pride among all the settlers who followed them.”
Arch. de l’évêché de Bathurst (Bathurst, N.-B.), Caraquet, reg. des baptêmes, manages et sépultures, 1768–73 (mfm. at Centre d’études acadiennes, Univ. de Moncton, N.-B.). Centre d’études acadiennes, Fonds Placide Gaudet, “Généalogies acadiennes,” 1580 (mfm. at PAC); “Notes généalogiques sur les familles acadiennes, c. 1600–1900,” dossier Dugas–3. PANS, MG 1, 258. Bona Arsenault, Histoire et généalogie des Acadiens (2v., Québec, 1965). Antoine Bernard, Histoire de la survivance acadienne, 1755–1935 (Montréal, 1935). P.-M. Dagnaud, Les Français du sud-ouest de la Nouvelle Écosse . . . (Besançon, France, 1905). Émile Lauvrière, La tragédie d’ un peuple: histoire du peuple acadien de ses origines à nos jours (nouv. éd., 2v. , Paris, ). Arthur Melançon, Vie de l’abbé Bourg, premier prêtre acadien, missionnaire et grand-vicaire pour l’Acadie et la Baie-des-Chaleurs, 1744-1797 (Rimouski, Qué., 1921). I. W. Wilson, A geography and history of the county of Digby, Nova Scotia (Halifax, 1900; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1975). Placide Gaudet, “Mort de deux patriarches de la Baie-Ste-Marie,” L’Évangéline (Weymouth Bridge, N.-É.), 31 mars 1892.