The Missaguash Ghost

The Tantramar region is noted for more than its three centuries of recorded history. A rich vein of folklore may also be found. As so often happens, history and folklore go hand in hand, and especially is this true of the tales surrounding the Missaguash Ghost. The story begins in the formative years of Acadia and with Michel LaNeuf de la Vallière, who was it’s governor/administrator from 1678 until 1684. The LaVallière family emigrated from Caen, France to Trois-Rivières in present day Québec, where Michel was born about 1640. Later he was sent to France for an education, and soon after his return began extensive travels throughout New France and Acadia. By 1672 he had visited this region; recognized its economic and strategic potential and established a trading post on the Chignecto Isthmus. On 24 October, 1676 Governor Frontenac granted him a piece of land ten square leagues in area constituting the seignory of Beaubassin.

To picture its extent, the seignory was roughly bounded by a line drawn from the mouth of the Petitcodiac River, overland to Shemogue; down the coast almost to River Philip and from there northwesterly to Chignecto Bay. It embraced fertile marshland, a base for the fishery on two coasts along with forests abundant with timber and game. Equally important, LaVallière had found the geographic centre of Acadia and, while he was governor, Beaubassin was the capital. The next time you travel toward Amherst, after crossing Fort Beausejour Ridge, glance to the right and you’ll see a small knoll or island now surrounded by marshland. Known today as Tonge’s Island, this was the site of LaVallière’s headquarters.

Described as a swashbuckling blue blood, LaVallière courted and married Marie Denys, only daughter of the famous explorer, entrepreneur/author Nicolas Denys. They had eight children, one of whom, Marguerite, was the apple of her father’s eye. Unquestionably the beauty of the family, Marguerite was described as having exquisite coloring and graceful carriage. LaVallière had great plans for his favorite daughter. He renamed the Missaguash River Marguerite in her honor, and so it appears on early French maps. Then he made the mistake of promising her hand in marriage to someone she had never seen, a soldier of noble blood then stationed in far away Québec.

Marguerite was a determined young woman, and unknown to her father had already fallen in love with a seignory farmer, Louis le Gannes. To head off the pre-arranged ceremony, the couple eloped and were secretly married. Upon learning the news, LaVallière flew into a rage and vowed never to speak to his daughter again. He also issued a decree that the name of the river was to revert to the original Missaguash, the Mi’kmaq for muskrat; and so it remains to this day.

But the story is not quite over. Down the centuries, many of those who have lived, or still live in this area, maintain that on nights when the moon is full, a ghostly female figure appears on the banks of the Missaguash. Unlike so many others, this is a happy ghost and one not to be feared. It is, of course, the winsome and unrepentant Marguerite Leneuf de la Vallière le Gannes; still smiling in defiance of her father.