ACADIAN CONNECTION - The Casket - Wednesday, November 1, 2000
THE VILLAGE OF
Port Felix - A brief history by Rose Casey and Perle Connolly
Up until 1869, Port Felix, Guysborough County, was originally known as Molasses Harbour, Early Acadian settlers named it because a keg of molasses washed up on shore.
The main industry in the area is fishing. The land was not fertile for farming, and people were limited to tending a few milk cows, sheep, oxen, horses and chickens and crops, along with crops for their own - use. Berry-picking in the summer and early fall supplemented their income.
The early Acadian settlers arrived about 1797 from Chezzetcook, where they had been living since about 1758 after the fall of Louisbourg. Following the American Revolution, many Loyalists flocked to Nova Scotia, and the Acadian settlers were refused land grants in the Chezzetcook area, so many left that area, traveling down the eastern shore and settling in Molasses Harbour (Port Felix), Charlos Cove and Larrys River.
Life was difficult when the settlers first arrived, as they were isolated from the rest of their Acadian friends. In 1815, Bishop Plessis of Quebec visited the area and told the people he would be at Larrys River to meet with residents of these three communities. The Acadians traveled there, where the archbishop performed baptisms, confirmations, and marriages and heard confessions. Trying to convince the settlers to relocate to the more hospitable Arichat, the Acadians were determined to build their communities. There were no churches or schools and Rev Francois Lejamtel would visit occasionally from Arichat.
The families of Molasses Harbour gathered and built their own church, St. Joseph's Roman Catholic, in about 1845. Before then, they traveled to St. Ann's Church in Guysborough or to Arichat, to receive the sacraments. Rev James Drummond became the pastor at Guysborough in 1848 and included Molasses Harbour in his rounds.
St. Joseph's, Port Felix was established in 1851, with Father Drummond its first pastor. He lived in White Head or White Haven as it was called at that time. Rev Felix Van Blerk, a Belgian priest, took over the parish duties when Father Drummond resigned in 1864. Father Van Blerk must have made an impression on the villagers because the settlers petitioned to have the village named in his honour.
When Father Van Blerk left in 1874, Rev. Martin A. MacPherson took over his duties, then Rev A, Vanrenturgen, followed by Rev. G.M. LeBlanc in 1878. Rev Placide LeBlanc remained in the parish the longest, arriving in 1916 and remaining until 1950. Today, St. Joseph's Church is a mission of St. Peter's, Larrys River, and St. Joseph's, Charlos Cove, is a mission of St. Peter's as well.
Four parishioners were ordained to the priesthood: Msgr. Alfred Abraham Boudrot, son of Hubert Boudrot and Sophia Doiron; Rev. Gerald L, David, son of William Walter David and Lucy May Fougere: his nephew, Rev, Gerald David, son of Alphonzo David and Gertrude Hall, and; Rev Robert Emmet Cashin, son of Francis Emmet and Velda Cashin.
Many of the family names of today are those of the original settlers:
Avery, Bellefontaine, Boudreau David, Deslaurier (Delorey), Doiron, Fougere, Gerrior, LeBlanc, Mannette, Pellerin, Petitpas. Richard and Roi (King). By 1864, the families of Meagher (Marr), Samson and Bowden arrived, the Cashins were a short distance away at Cashen Cove, along with the Lavandiers and DeCostes who came from Havre Boucher to join their Acadian friends.
St. Joseph's parish hall was built in the early 1930s next to the cemetery and was built under the guidance of Rev- Placide LeBlanc. When running water became a necessity, the hall had to be moved across the road, next to the church, where the hall now sits. The parish hall was completely finished and restored in the 1950s, under the guidance of Rev T. Power, Social gatherings and fundraising events are still held there today.
Port Felix had two postal offices, one on the west side, established in 1868, with Alex Boudrot its first postmaster. When the office closed permanently June 18, 1969, Velda Cashin was postmistress. The east side postal office open in 1903, Frank Fougere was its. first postmaster. Beatrice George was postmistress when the office closed in 1969.
By the 1930s, there were two one-room schoolhouses. On August 22, 1956, nine Sisters of Notre Dame sisters arrived and a new school was built on Chapel Hill, close to the church and parish hall. This school served the east and west sides of Port Felix. As school enrolment declined, the school closed and today, Acadian children attend elementary school in New Harbour and high school in Canso and Guysborough, The old schoolhouse now houses the Port Felix Volunteer Fire Department.
Port Felix had its own co-op store, opening in the 1920s in the home of William Walter David. His son Alphonzo assisted in the operation and Delphine (Pelrine) Cashin was the clerk. The store closed in the 1950s to leave the general store operated by William and Charlotte Bond to serve the needs of the village, A credit union also served the community for many years before it closed.
Electricity came to Port Felix in the summer of 1949, with the church, glebe house and schools the first to enjoy the commodity Joseph F. King, living on the east side, also was among the first to receive electricity. Another major change happened in the early 1960s. when paved roads ran through the village.
In the early 1970s, a few residents donated a parcel of land in east Port Felix, and the community developed the Port Felix rink association. The association later built a ballfield.
Also part of the community was a fishermen's storage shed. Fishermen used the building to do repairs to boats, engines and to store their fishing supplies during the winter months.
Today, there are few commercial fishermen left in the community. The harbour that once was bustling with fishing boats remains quiet.
Port Felix Is scenic, with its harbour and rugged coastline. surrounded by islands such as Goat of Burying Island, Potato Island, Sheep Island. Hog Island, Tanner Island and Ebber Island. It is situated on the eastern shore of Guysborough County, 22 km from Canso