St. Aspinquid’s Chapel

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St. Aspinquid Chapel (Chain Rock Battery, Point Pleasant Park, Nova Scotia)

St. Aspinquid’s Chapel was established by Priest Louis-Pierre Thury at Chebucto (present day Halifax, Nova Scotia) in the late 17th century. The chapel is a natural stone amphitheatre located by Chain Rock Battery on the Northwest Arm at Point Pleasant Park. There are numerous notable people interred in the burial grounds around the chapel and it is also the location of the Mi’kmaq celebration of the Feast of St. Aspinquid (St. Aspinquid's Day), which was conducted through much of the 18th century. During the French and Indian War two Mi'kmaw chiefs fought each other in a battle near the Chapel (1760).

St. Aspinquid[edit]

Tradition indicates Thury named the chapel after a Mi’kmaq Chief Aspinquid (Aspenquid), who converted to Catholoicism and drew many others into the faith. Thury arrived at Acadia in 1684 and travelled with St. Aspinquid throughout the region, including present-day Nova Scotia.[1][2] (During much of the 17th and early 18th centuries, Norridgewock on the Kennebec River and Castine at the end of the Penobscot River were the southern-most settlements of Acadia.)[3]

Chief Aspinquid was the "Chief Sacham of all the Tribes of Indians in the Northern District of North America." [4] During King William's War he was also a political figure who signed a treaty with Massachusetts Governor William Phips on August 11, 1693.[5] Captain Pasco Chubb murdered Chief Aspinquid at Pemaquid in February 1696.[6] Thury, a Mi'kmaq militia and others of the Wabanki Confederacy exacted revenge a few months later in the Siege of Pemaquid (1696).[7] As a result, Aspinquid was made a martyr and became a saint. He is buried at Mount Agamenticus in present-day Maine.[8][9]

After the death of St. Aspinquid, Father Louis-Pierre Thury officially became the missionary to the Mi'kmaq people at Shubenacadie and Chibouctou (Halifax) (1698).[10][11][12][13] Thury was the first missionary assigned to Halifax.

Feast of St. Aspinquid[edit]

Tradition indicates Thury celebrated Easter with the Mi'kmaq to coincide with their ancient spring festival. He renamed the Old Spring Feast the Feast of St. Aspinquid.[14] Historically the feast was the great social event of the year in the Mi’kmaq community, attracting various tribes of different native groups from all over the northeast region.[15] The festival was celebrated on or immediately after the first quarter of the moon in the month of May.[16][17] Throughout Father Le Loutre’s War the feast is reported to have ceased until after the Burying of the Hatchet Ceremony (1761).[18] Oral tradition indicates Michael Francklin convinced the Mi’kmaq to continue their tradition at St. Aspinquid's Chapel.[19]

But in 1786, evidence of Mi’kmaq support for patriots in the American Revolution alarmed the local authorities and further celebration of the old feast was forbidden.[20][21]

Battle at St. Aspinquid's Chapel[edit]

Tradition indicates that at St. Aspinquid’s Chapel in Point Pleasant Park, Halifax, Lahave Chief Paul Laurent and a party of eleven invited Shubenacadie Chief Jean-Baptiste Cope and five others to St. Aspinquid's Chapel to negotiate peace with the British.[22] Chief Paul Laurent had just arrived in Halifax after surrendering to the British at Fort Cumberland on 29 February 1760.[23] [24] In early March 1760, the two parties met and engaged in armed conflict.[25] Chief Larent's party killed Cope and two others, while Chief Cope’s party killed five of the British supporters.

Shortly after Cope's death, Mi'kmaq chiefs signed a peace treaty in Halifax on 10 March 1760. Chief Laurent signed on behalf of the Lahave tribe and a new chief, Claude Rene, signed on behalf of the Shubenacadie tribe.[26][27] [28] (During this time of surrender and treaty making, tensions among the various factions who were allied against the British were evident. For example, a few months after the death of Cope, the Mi'kmaq militia and Acadian militias made the rare decisions to continue to fight in the Battle of Restigouche despite losing the support of the French priests who were encouraging surrender.) [29]

Burial ground[edit]

Some of the notable people interred in the burial ground are Thury (3 June 1699), the first recorded burial in Halifax; Shubenacadie Chief Jean Baptiste Cope (1760); and Halifax Chief Paul the last Mi’kmaq chief of the Chebucto tribe.[30][31][32] The Duc d'Anville Expedition arrived with the crew dying of typhus, which spread to and devastated the Mi’kmaq who were at Chebucto, many of whom are interned at the burial ground (1746).



  1. ^ Don Awalt.The Mi’kmaq and Point Pleasant Park. 2004
  2. ^ Unaware of the Nova Scotia connection to St. Aspinquid, New England tradition has erroneously asserted that St. Aspinquid was Chief Passaconaway (For example, see Charles Beal. Passaconaway in the White Mountains. 1916. pp.47-48). There is a statue to Chief Passaconaway in Llowell Massachusetts that is erroneously labeled St. Aspinquid. Because of this confusion, the story states that he died at the age of 117 years. Because they had not found any reference to St. Aspinquid prior to the 19th century, some Maine antiquarians asserted that St. Aspinguid did not exist and was simply an invention of Americans of European descent. (See J. Dennis Robinson. White man invented St. Aspinquid)
  3. ^ Griffiths, E. From Migrant to Acadian. McGill-Queen's University Press. 2005. p.61; John Ried. International Region of the Northeast. In Buckner, Campbell, and Frank (eds). The Acadiensis Reader: Volume One: Atlantic Canada Before Confederation. 1998. p. 40
  4. ^ (See Nova Scotia Chronicle and Weekly Advertiser, No. 32, Vol. 2, June 5, 1770,p. 8)
  5. ^ Biography and History of the Indians of North America: From Its First Discovery By Samuel Gardner Drake, p. 121
  6. ^ Ancient Pemaquid. Collections of the Maine Historical Society, Vol. 5, p. 292
  7. ^ Beamish Murdoch. History of Nova Scotia. Vol. 1, p. 217
  8. ^ Hubbard, Rev. William. “History of the Indian Wars in New England …..1677.” b. ii 154 St. Aspinquid is usually associated with Mt. Agamenticus, where local legends claim he is buried under a great pile of stones. There is another possibility near Saco and the sea, Hubbard relates; “the other Town is called York, formerly known by the name of Agamenticus, from a high Hill of that Name.” Thury and his native flock, including possibly Aspinquid, were involved the attack on York.
  9. ^ The Mi'Kmaq and Wabanaki recognize Aspinquid as a Saint but he has not been officially canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.
  10. ^ "THURY, LOUIS-PIERRE". Dictionary of Canadian Biographies Online. Retrieved September 11, 2012. 
  11. ^ Journal d'une expédition de d'Iberville, p. 26
  12. ^ Acadia at the end of the 17th Century, p. 198
  13. ^ Acadia at the end of the 17th Century, p. 199
  14. ^ Don Awalt.The Mi’kmaq and Point Pleasant Park. 2004
  15. ^ In 1770, the Feast was held on May 31 and was hosted by two fishermen of European descent and attended by 12 tribes across the North including Mohawk and Penobscot (See Nova Scotia Chronicle and Weekly Advertiser, No. 32, Vol. 2, June 5, 1770,p. 8)
  16. ^ Akins indicates that the date is on or immediately after the last quarter, however, the evidence of the dates from the contemporaneous newspapers always fall on the evening of the first quarter of the moon. Raddall indicates the feast is seven days after the new moon. See Akins, Thomas History of Halifax, footnote 94
  17. ^ For other references see Halifax Gazette, May 25, 1773, June 1, 1773 and May 10, 1774 (as cited by Raddall, p. 2)
  18. ^ Akins, Thomas B. “History of Halifax City”
  19. ^ Franklin is also said to have died in Chief Paul’s arms (See Memoir of Michael Francklin Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, p. 38)
  20. ^ Raddall, Thomas H. “Halifax, Warden of the North”: pg. 94-95
  21. ^ Akins. History of Halifax, footnote 94, p. 225
  22. ^ Awalt bases his account on stories from 17 separate Mi'kmaq accounts from 11 different locations in Nova Scotia (See Don Awalt.The Mi’kmaq and Point Pleasant Park. 2004). This oral tradition was also recorded by Harry Piers from elders who heard the story in the 19th century (See Ruth Whitehead. The Old Man Told Us. Nimbus Press. 1991. p. 140).
  23. ^ See Beamish Murdoch, Vol. 2, p. 385
  24. ^ Massachusetts Historical Society
  25. ^ None of the oral accounts give the exact date of the battle. Awalt is left to speculate about the date of the battle, which he asserts might be in May 1758 just before siege of Louisbourg. The evidence contradicts this assertion and suggests that the date was more likely March 1760. The two main players of the conflict - Paul Laurent and Jean-Baptiste Cope - both could not have been in Halifax in 1758 as indicated. Laurent was not seeking peace in 1758. Throughout the war Laurent fought the British and did not surrender until 29 February 1760 at Fort Cumberland. The only evidence of Chief Paul being in Halifax after 1755 is when he travels there over the following weeks to sign a peace treaty on March 10, 1760 (See Beamish Murdoch, Vol. 2, p. 385; also see March 10, 1750. Chief Paul and Governor Lawrence. Andrew Browns Manuscripts. British Museum. Nova Scotia Archives as cited by Daniel Paul. We were not the Savages). Further, Cope could not have died before the Siege of Louisbourg because French Officer Chevalier de Johnstone indicated that he saw Cope at Miramichi after the Siege of Louisbourg when Johnstone was en route to Quebec (See Johnstone, p. 46).
  26. ^ See Beamish Murdoch, Vol. 2, p. 385
  27. ^ Daniel N. Paul erroneously asserts that "the record shows Cope was still alive in the 1760s, which indicates he may have lived to a ripe old age" (See Daniel Paul). The last record of Cope is by Johnstone (1758). The Chief of the Shebenacadie was replaced in 1760, indicating that Cope was dead.
  28. ^ Paul Laurent's biographer Michael Johnston notes that another chief from La Heve signed another treaty with the English on 9 Nov. 1761.
  29. ^ Chief Joseph Labrador of Lunenburg supported Chief Cope. He survived the battle and continued his raids on British settlers (See History of Lunenburg County, p. 343)
  30. ^ French botanist Diereville arrived in 1699 to obtain plants for the royal gardens. At his arrival at Chebucto on the ship La Royale Paix, three Mi'kmaq chiefs greeted him in canoes, declared themselves Christians and showed him Father Thury's grave at the St. Aspinquid's chapel burial ground.
  31. ^ Paul Laurent's party included Halifax Chief Saylen Paul's two sons. While one of the Chief Paul's sons killed Cope, another of Chief Paul's sons was killed. Chief Paul and Chief Cope were brothers-in-law. Chief Paul indicated he was not part of his sons' battle against Chief Cope and to prove his innocence chose to be buried beside Cope.
  32. ^ Diereville, sieur de. Relation of the Voyage to Port Royal in Acadia of New France (1708). Translated by Mrs. Clarence Webster, edited by John Clarence Webster. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1933, p.77-78