Story of Old Labrador



Congratulations on the Lunenburg Barnacle. Your comments on the new names for Lunenburg locations were welcome and informative.

Paul Labrador’s story is extraordinary. The establishment of his name reminds us all that the Acadian-Mi’kmaq lived in Merliguesche (a Mi’kmaq-French name for the region), for generations before the Lunenburg Township was established in the early 1750s.

Paul, or “Old Labrador”, as the English authorities called him,  was head of the Guédry dit Labrador clan who were merchants, trading boat owners, fur trappers and hunters, and fishery dealers, who had made their homes in the district we now call LaHave, Lunenburg, Martins Brook and Second Peninsula, Mahone Bay, Martins River and Martins Point. 

The word Martin has French origins. They traded from Boston to Louisburg and family members were well-known seamen and pilots. Their home community was a port of call for merchants and fishers. They were well integrated with the folk native to the area, spoke their language and, indeed, many identified themselves as Mi’kmaq.

In 1749, Cornwallis in his initial crossing with settlers and soldiers first made a landing at Merliguesche, and noted the solid dwellings and cleared productive land.

Winthrop Bell, in his definitive history, gives credit to the story that Old Labrador offered the assistance of a local pilot to the new arrivals, guiding them to Chebucto (soon to be Halifax). 

This may be the explanation for Old Labrador’s favoured status. He and other family members had long been active in resistance to British expansion on the American and Acadian frontier. 

Yet, he was allowed to keep his holdings in 1753/54 when the British established Lunenburg and parcelled out the land into house and garden lots and 30-acre farms. 

Labrador’s nephew, Deschamps, was even paid ‘12 pence per day’ to work as ‘Guide and Pilot’.

The peaceful times did not last. Old Labrador and his people were swept up in the ongoing French-British wars and the Mi’kmaq-Acadian resistance to British and settler incursion on their homelands. 

In the 1755 deportations of French speakers from the Lunenburg area, many of Old Labrador’s kin were rounded up, imprisoned and deported. Others fled to their Mi’kmaq relatives and friends.

Old Labrador disappears from the records. His farm was given to Colonel Sutherland, the Lunenburg commander and governor, for services rendered. The Mi’kmaq branch of his family, the Labradors, have continued to make their distinguished mark on Lunenburg County history, and include present-day celebrated canoe builder, Todd. The anglicized branch are the Guidrys.

In 2004, Lunenburg hosted a reunion of old Acadian families whose roots are in what is now Lunenburg County. 

So, Lunenburg Town’s new names play their part in recognizing and honouring the rich heritage of the county.

Bob Sayer is a published historian, former Supervisor of Lunenburg Town schools, and an inductee of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame and Canadian National Soccer Hall of Fame.


Comments

2 responses to “Story of Old Labrador”

  1. Alison F Strachan

    Interested to read this as I’m looking closely at events that occurred before and after the signing of the 1760 Peace and Friendship Treaty by Colonel Lawrence and the Lahave “Indians”. If Old Labrador’s land was transferred to Col. Sutherland after 1760 (and I’m thinking it likely was in the land grants of 1761), it is a direct result of that Treaty and the good faith extended by the Mi’kmaq in entering into a Treaty that would continue to ignore their peaceful rights through the next few centuries would shine a brighter light on the circumstances surrounding the parties agreement. The 1760 Treaty, in my research, was the Treaty relied on by Donald Marshall, Jr. in R. v. Marshall (1999) that established certain rights to fish arising out of that treaty that paved the way for English settlement and economic growth (except for those pesky Privateers that overtook the Town of Lunenburg and took Creighton hostage a few years later for a couple of days). It would be so good to hear the story told from those most affected, the Mi’kmaq or even to put it into a better contextual history than that what we’ve been handed over the years by folks like Winfred Bell and Mather DesBrisay. I look forward to that.

  2. Tom McFall

    Check out

    Joan Dawson, “”Old Labrador” of Lunenburg,” Historic Nova Scotia, accessed May 2, 2023, https://historicnovascotia.ca/items/show/171.

    She writes about the Guedry dit LaVerdue family in the Merliquesche (now Lunenburg) area before 1686 and how they became Labradors due to a British error.

    Joan also provides interesting 18th C maps of the area.

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