HACHÉ, JUSTE, schoolmaster, office holder, militia officer,
Juste Haché was the 13th child of a master carpenter who had no land to give him but was able to send him to school. After a good basic education, Juste obtained a licence to teach in Gloucester County in 1841. Most of his life was spent teaching reading, writing, spelling, and arithmetic in French to the children of Caraquet. It was an occupation that brought him little money. In 1853 he applied for crown land, to be paid for by road labour, but he did not finish the payments. Local government office provided useful extra income; Haché was elected assessor of rates at Caraquet in 1855, and he was to hold similar offices for most of his life. Nevertheless, poverty was a constant threat.
Haché’s record indicates that he served conscientiously and efficiently and that he wanted to help the people of Caraquet. In January 1855 he organized local fishermen to petition the House of Assembly for money promised them for their part in a rescue. They thought the prominent anglophone magistrate John Doran was withholding it. The gesture was a brave one for a struggling schoolmaster, since advancement from parish office to more lucrative county positions depended on the patronage of the magistrates and of the local assemblymen, who were also magistrates.
Later in 1855 Haché was able to take a more significant role in advancing Acadian interests. He was chosen to teach at the first academy offering secondary education in French in New Brunswick. The Séminaire Saint-Thomas at Memramcook had been founded in 1854 by Abbé François-Xavier-Stanislas Lafrance*, with whose brother, Charles-Édouard-François, Haché had become friendly when they were both teaching in Caraquet. Haché’s wife having died in 1852, he left his sons with relatives and moved to Memramcook for about three years, finding the enthusiasm for education in this community a stimulating contrast to the indifference of many Caraquet parents.
It was probably Haché’s own enthusiasm for study, noted by contemporaries, and the uncertain prospects of the academy that led him to accept an invitation from Bishop Thomas Louis Connolly* of Saint John to serve as sacristan at his cathedral and to study philosophy and theology there. But health problems, which he himself attributed to the epilepsy that had afflicted Abbé Lafrance, had caused him to return to Caraquet by January 1859.
The Caraquet community welcomed him back with immediate election to parish office, as commissioner of highways, and at Abbé Joseph-Marie Paquet*’s request he became choir leader and the authority on ceremony at the parish church. He soon re-established his school. It was, however, one of four at Caraquet sharing a provincial grant of £44 10s. 8d. and a theoretical local contribution of £64 10s. 0d. in 1859. His salary was therefore small. At the time of the 1861 census he was living with parents of pupils; his own two boys were still with their relatives. Haché married again in 1863, and his growing family increased the financial pressure. He was forced to seek the favour of the anglophone merchant magistrates and mhas to obtain better-paid appointments.
He had some success: in 1861 he took the Caraquet census, and three years later he became the community’s first Acadian postmaster. Appointment to a lieutenant’s commission in the 2nd Battalion of Gloucester County militia in 1864 reinforced his contacts with the magistrates and indicated special status since there were only two other Acadian officers in the unit. Yet when the more influential James Gordon Canning Blackhall sought the postmaster’s job in 1867, Haché lost it. His financial position apparently did not improve, for in 1871 he and his family were boarding.
The Common Schools Act of 1871, providing support for non-sectarian schools from a general tax, increased Haché’s financial problems. Led by one of their mhas, Théotime Blanchard*, most Roman Catholics in Caraquet refused to pay the tax, and all local schools were closed by the end of 1872. Haché signed Abbé Joseph Pelletier’s petition for recognition of the rights of Catholic schools, but when there was no government response, he was forced to look for another source of income.
This problem was solved in 1873 by his appointment as commissioner for Paquetville and Millville (Burnsville), two settlements being established under the Free Grants Act of 1872. This post provided a steady income three or four times greater than that from school teaching. At some point before the quarter sessions of 1874 he was also appointed a justice of the peace. When a vote was called in the sessions to choose between Blanchard’s list of parish officers elected by those who had not paid school rates and the list of officers chosen by the Presbyterian jp Robert Young* (on which Haché and his brothers were prominent), Haché voted against Blanchard. His option for tax-supported non-sectarian schools is understandable. It is possible that he had a client relationship with Young, who had been an mha when he obtained his first provincial appointments in the 1860s, and with the newly elected Samuel Hawkins Napier, also a Presbyterian. Haché found himself allied with the Protestants against many of his fellow parishioners in the resulting riots at Caraquet in January 1875 [see Samuel Robert Thomson*].
If there was resentment in Caraquet, it passed. Haché continued to hold office, as parish clerk and fisheries inspector, and to run the new settlements of Paquetville and Millville without serious criticism. He was also elected to the municipal council of Caraquet several times. The educational compromise of 1875, permitting religious instruction after hours, made the schools act acceptable to Catholics, and Haché began to teach again in 1878 when the new settlements needed less attention and provided less income. He continued to teach until partial paralysis disabled him in 1893. By 1881 he had land of his own, and he was able to provide land in Paquetville for the sons of his first marriage and an education at the Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière in Quebec for his third son. In that year he was also insisting on the right of the Acadians to greater representation in local government.
Notices of his death do not suggest that Haché was regarded as a traitor. Even allowing for the hyperbole of necrologies, he seems to have been a hard-working, likeable man with a sincere interest in the welfare of those around him.
A portrait of Juste Haché, held in a private collection, is reproduced along with his biography in Dictionnaire biographique du nord-est du Nouveau-Brunswick (4 cahiers parus, [Bertrand; Shippegan, N.-B.], 1983– ), 1: 46–47.
Arch. paroissiales, Saint-Pierre-aux-Liens (Caraquet, N.-B.), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures (mfm. at PANB). CEA, 510-1-1 (Haché à McManus, 14 mars 1881). NA, RG 31, C1, 1861, 1871, 1881, Gloucester County (mfm. at PANB). PANB, RG 4, RS24, S70, P73; S92, petition of Joseph Pelletier; RG 18, RS149, A3–4. “Documents inédits,” Rev. de la Soc. hist. Nicolas Denys (Caraquet), 1 (1971–72): 88–93. N.B., House of Assembly, Journal, 1850–92; Legislative Assembly, Journal, 1893–95. Courrier des Provinces maritimes (Bathurst, N.-B.), 18 juill., 26 sept. 1895. L’Évangéline (Weymouth Bridge, N.-É.), 19 sept. 1895. Gleaner (Chatham, N.B.), 18 July 1853. Voix d’Évangéline (Moncton), 4 juin 1936, 29 juin 1939 (lettres d’Augustin Haché).