News Release Archive
NS MUSEUMS--RARE ACADIAN COSTUME ON DISPLAY
A skirt and jacket worn by Marguerite Bellefontaine, an Acadian
who lived in Chezzetcook, Halifax County, from 1824 to 1910, is
on display at the Museum of Natural History, Halifax, until March
2 as part of Celebrating l'Acadie, a seven week festival of
Sixty years ago provincial museum curator Harry Piers discovered
the striped wool skirt and cotton jacket in Chezzetcook, east of
Halifax. He also learned that these costumes were still
occasionally seen in Digby County as late as 1935.
The skirt is the only complete example known to survive. Early
clothing is rare because women often recycled old clothing for
Marguerite Bellefontaine made the skirt in the mid 1800s and wore
it to church on Sundays. Though she was born 70 years after the
Expulsion of the Acadians, her clothes and those of the other
women of Chezzetcook were very similar to those worn by their
great-grandmothers in the 1750s.
Mr. Piers, in a museum report, wrote about the skirt; "such
costumes without a doubt were practically the same as those of
the period of Evangeline".
Around the same time as Marguerite made her skirt, an American,
Frederick S. Cozzens, visited Nova Scotia and wrote a book about
his travels called Acadia, or, a Month With the Blue Noses,
published in 1859. He included in his book two lithographs based
on ambrotypes (a very early form of photograph) of two Acadian
women from Chezzetcook. The two women in the pictures are wearing
skirts similar to that of Marguerite.
Cozzens calls the Acadian costumes "nothing modern" and describes
the two women photographed: "These are the first, the only
likenesses of the real Evangelines of Acadia".
Ronald Labelle in his book, Acadian Life in Chezzetcook, quotes
French historian Edme Rameau who visited Nova Scotia in the
latter half of the 1800s: "Chezzetcook, that is the name of this
village, originated with a certain number of Acadian families who
had been captured at various times after their banishment. They
were led to Halifax, where they were held captive for a long time
on an island in the middle of the south harbour and that it is
called ile Rouge (Devils' Island). There they lived at times from
prison rations, and at other times from the fruits of their
labour, when they were permitted to work for the townspeople.
Finally 10-12 years after the great catastrophe, they were
permitted to settle a few leagues north of Halifax at the little
harbour of Chezzetcook."
Among these early settlers were two men: Jean-Baptiste and
Alexandre Bellfontaine and their families.
The Museum of Natural History is open Tues-Sat 9:30 a.m. to 5
p.m., Wednesday 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Contact: Joan Waldron 902-424-7398
trp Jan. 31, 1997 - 11 a.m.