Our Bissett ancestors first saw North America on July 24, 1752, when the ship Betty arrived in the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia, after a relatively uneventful voyage of nine weeks and five days from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. On board was Jacques Bissett, his wife, his fourteen year old son, and two daughters whose ages were seven and ten years old. After being held on the ship in quarantine, the Bissetts and the rest of the Betty's passengers were put ashore to begin their new lives in Nova Scotia on August 2, 1752.
The Bissetts had emigrated from their home in the Montbeliard region, located in what is currently the Department of Doubs in France — close to where the present German, Swiss, and French borders meet just east of the Swiss city of Basel. Although Montbeliard was then an isolated part of the German Duchy of Wrttemberg, its inhabitants ( including the Bissetts) were primarily French speaking.
More importantly, the Bissetts were Lutherans and, as such, had been recruited as settlers by the British government as part of a policy of bringing German Protestants into Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia had originally been settled by the French in the 1500s, but it had changed hands between the French and the British several times in the 17th century as a result of the Colonial Wars fought throughout North America over that period. By the Treaty of Utrecht at the end of Queen Anne's War in 1713, Britain had gained control of the peninsular part of present day Nova Scotia; Cape Breton Island remained in the hands of the French. Compared to the relatively thriving British colonies of that period, peninsular Nova Scotia was thinly populated in 1713. It consisted of a few French villages and hamlets scattered among Indian villages with only one small town of any note, the fortified former French capital at Port Royal on the western shore.
In 1744, fighting between France and England resumed in the Nova Scotia area when they were drawn into the European War of the Austrian Succession on opposite sides. Although the British succeeded in capturing the French fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton, the peace treaty of 1748 reflected the more favorable French performance in the European area. All of Cape Breton was restored to the French and the western boundary of British Nova Scotia redefined. The French almost immediately took advantage of ambiguities in the boundary definition to station military forces in the western areas of the Nova Scotia peninsula claimed by the British.
The British position in Nova Scotia in 1749 was somewhat precarious. Even after more than thirty-five years, British dominion over peninsular Nova Scotia still had more the character of an occupation of a foreign country than that of an established British colony. There were several reasons why only a small number of British inhabitants had settled in Nova Scotia. Its harsh climate and hostile circumstances offered little attraction when compared to the more benign conditions in the colonies to the south, putting Nova Scotia at a disadvantage in attracting voluntary immigration. In addition, in the period from 1713 to 1749 the British navy had resisted proposals for various large scale royal land grants in Nova Scotia on the grounds that they first needed to be assured that sufficient areas would be reserved as timber stands for their ships.
The arrangements for governing Nova Scotia reflected this lack of substantial British settlements in the colony. The royal governor and his council ruled without any local legislature and all financial matters were directly administered by the King's Board of Trade and Plantations in London.
Most of the French and Indian inhabitants "tolerated" British rule but, by and large, continued to resist giving formal allegiance to the British Crown. Aside from the few fortified strongholds that the British had erected along the coasts, effective control over most of the colony was contested by bands of Indian and French guerrillas. In general, armed patrols were needed to travel any distance from the few British strongholds that had been built along the coasts. In fact, Halifax itself was a British town that had only been established in 1749 as a stronghold on the eastern coast to counterbalance the French fort at Louisbourg.
By late 1749, the unresolved tensions between France and Britain pointed toward the likelihood of war resuming between them once again in the near future. The British Board of Trade and Plantations then decided on a policy of aggressively recruiting "suitable" immigrants for Nova Scotia. They resolved to rely on additional financial inducements, if necessary, to overcome the disadvantages of Nova Scotia in the competition with other colonies for immigrants. With relatively prosperous conditions in the British Isles at that time, all of the British North American colonies were having trouble attracting British immigrants and several had undertaken programs of offering subsidies and other inducements to foreigners .
Influenced by the Pennsylvania Colony's recent success in recruiting immigrants, the Board of Trade and Plantations settled on "German Protestants" as being the most fruitful target for this recruiting effort. They reasoned that conditions in Germany at that time were unsettled and depressed by the nearly continuous fighting of the past century. Thus, it might be possible to attract industrious peasants and artisans with offers of free land and other subsidies. Furthermore, the British at that time considered the Germans to be cultural cousins; Britain itself was ruled by King George II, who was also the German Elector of Hanover. German Protestants were thus seen as innately likely to attach their loyalty to that King. If war should resume between Britain and France, they would serve as a loyal counterweight to the existing, predominantly French Catholic, population in Nova Scotia.
On December 31, 1749, the British Board of Trade and Plantations in London negotiated an initial contract for this recruiting effort with their agent for continental Europe, John Dick. He almost immediately began to sign up immigrants and was sufficiently successful in his early efforts to be able to charter one ship, the Ann, to sail from Rotterdam with his first recruits during the 1750 summer sailing season. The Ann arrived in Halifax with 321 immigrants on September 13, 1750, after a crossing of over twelve weeks and with the loss of seventeen passengers.
Although the length of the crossing and the mortality rate were not considered to be significantly unusual for that period, the Board of Trade and Plantations was concerned that it might serve as a discouragement for future recruiting. Consequently, they renegotiated the contract with Mr. Dick so as to provide for improved sailing conditions: higher standards of ventilation, less crowding, and more ample food and water rations. In the 1751 summer sailing season, Mr. Dick was able to send out four ships with 1,004 immigrants, but the mortality rate was still relatively high — 87 fewer passengers were landed than embarked.
As part of the 1752 recruiting efforts, Mr. Dick's representatives visited Montbeliard, where Jacques Bissett and his family were living. As with most of the region, Montbeliard had a chaotic history. In the 12th century, Montbeliard had been a province within the Holy Roman Empire with a mixed French and German heritage. The German House of Wrttemberg incorporated it as an integral part of its Duchy in 1397 and had ruled it, albeit with significant interruptions, from that day. During the persecutions of the Protestants in France in the later part of the 17th century, the area had been overrun by French Huguenot refugees, many of whom settled in Lutheran Montbeliard.
As a result of the many wars over the ensuing years, by 1752 Montbeliard had become geographically separated from the rest of the Duchy of Wrttemberg by an expanding France. Although the German House of Wrttemberg still ruled over Montbeliard, it had found it necessary to concede that its rule, outside of the main town, was only as an agent of the King of France. Although the Wrttemberg rulers did not enforce the King of France's edicts for the restoration of Catholicism in Montbeliard, neither did they aggressively put down the French inspired mobs who sought its enforcement in the countryside.
This atmosphere of uncertainty over the direction of the region proved to be an ideal supplement to the other inducements offered by Mr. Dick to move to the friendly Protestant British colony of Nova Scotia. The terms offered to the 1752 immigrants must have appeared to be very attractive. The fare for transport across the Atlantic was fixed at $2750 (estimated in 1995 U.S. dollars) for each adult over sixteen years old. This was considered to be somewhat cheaper than the going rate at the time. Minor children, between four years old and sixteen years old, would be charged half-fare and children under four would be free. The British Government would make them an interest free loan covering their fares and any incidental costs incurred while awaiting boarding in Rotterdam; usually, a fifteen percent surcharge on the principal was added to cover interest. The loan could be paid off at the rate of $20 a day by work that the immigrant would be liable to provide the Nova Scotia government on various public works, such as building forts, laying roads, etc. If the "settler" died before the loan was fully paid off, then — contrary to custom — the balance would be waived and his family not held responsible. Enough land for a large farm, along with the basic farming implements and materials to build a house, would be provided to each settler and his family without charge. For their first year in Nova Scotia, they were to be housed and fed by the government. Although the immigrants were themselves financially responsible for getting to Rotterdam, Mr. Dick's representatives would assist them in obtaining transportation.
Yet, in spite of the attractiveness of the offer, the decision to emigrate could not have been easy. The trip itself was highly dangerous. Almost 10% of the individuals who embarked at Rotterdam for Nova Scotia in the years 1750 through 1752 died while crossing the Atlantic. The climate in Nova Scotia was harsh and would contribute to making the clearing and farming of virgin land difficult. The Indian and French inhabitants were overtly hostile and often conducted guerilla raids against small British settlements. If the people listening to the inducements of Mr. Dick's representatives did not know all of this on their own, they most likely were soon told by others. Mr. Dick's letters to the British Board of Trade and Plantations are filled with complaints that recruiters for other American colonies were discouraging potential immigrants from signing up for Nova Scotia; and even causing them to renege after they had signed.
Nevertheless, almost 450 Montbeliardians (in 135 "family" groups) were signed up for immigration to Nova Scotia in 1752. They were considered to be highly desirable immigrants by Mr. Dick: "mostly from the forest near Montbeliard and, as their chief employment has been amongst the woods, [they] can't fail of being really useful setters."
Sometime in April 1752, Jacques Bissett and his family joined the other Montbeliardians in setting off for Rotterdam, carrying the few personal possessions they were permitted to bring aboard ship. This Montbeliard contingent almost entirely filled the passenger lists of the first two of Mr. Dick's five ships that were to make the journey to Nova Scotia that sailing season. The passenger list for the Betty, which left port on May 16, 1752, contains one entry for Jacques Bissett (age 43), one adult female (his wife, nee Anne Catherine Metthey), and two minor children (his two daughters). His fourteen year old son, Jean George Bissett, claiming to be seventeen so as to be considered an adult and entitled on his own to the "family" status of a settler, is shown separately on the next line. The entries for the Bissetts are phonetically spelled out as "Bejet" by the Dutch clerks. A sister ship, the Speedwell, also left on the same day with Montbeliard emigrees.
Both the Betty and Speedwell caught favorable spring winds and made the crossing relatively rapidly — in about 68 days. Mortality on both ships was also fairly low, 6% on the Speedwell and less than 5% on the Betty. The three other ships that left later in the sailing season were not so fortunate. They required voyages of from 90 to 120 days and had an average mortality rate in excess of 14%.
At the end of the sailing season of 1752, the British Board of Trade and Plantations discontinued its "German Protestant" recruiting program. Under this program, they had brought over 2,200 immigrants into Nova Scotia.
When Jacques Bissett, his family, and the other passengers of the Betty and Speedwell were put ashore at Halifax in early August, 1752, they joined the other German Protestant families that had arrived in 1750 and 1751. They found that the British had accomplished little in arranging for permanent settlement for them.
Even the decision as to where they were to be settled was yet to be made. Several alternatives had been considered, but each had enough serious drawbacks so that none had been adopted. As the hostility of the French and Indian settlers continued unabated, dispersing them as individual settlers among the small existing French communities seemed to be a sure invitation to disaster. Even concentrating them in several small communities of their own on the western side of the Nova Scotia peninsula, near these French communities, appeared increasingly dangerous in view of the guerrilla activities and the proximity of the French military. Under the present circumstances, in fact, it was not apparent that any area of Nova Scotia was particularly well suited to the establishment of a large community that both was defensible and could rapidly be made to be self-sustaining.
As they had done with the earlier arrivals, the British built crude temporary barracks for the Montbeliardians who had come on the Betty and Speedwell. These new barracks were on George's Island, separated from the older barracks. If the separation was motivated by a desire to limit the spread of dissatisfaction to the newcomers, it failed. These French speaking newcomers were soon as disillusioned as their German speaking predecessors had become with the conditions in Halifax.
In October, 1752, the French speaking Montbeliardians and Swiss sent their own petition to the Board of Trade and Plantations in London to accompany the one that had been prepared by the German speaking community of immigrants. In their petition, the Montbeliardians and Swiss protested that their quarters were intolerable, that the barracks provided little protection from the elements, that the scarcity of beds forced many to sleep on the bare floor, and that the food was both skimpy and monotonous. The new arrivals had an additional complaint of their own. They had discovered that the contracts signed by the earlier arrivals credited them with $30 toward their debts for each day's labor, whereas the contracts of the 1752 arrivals called for only $20 per day. In addition, they complained that no French speaking pastor had made available to minister to their religious needs.
The new Governor of Nova Scotia, Colonel Peregrine Thomas Hopson, who had relieved Colonel Edward Cornwallis the day after the Betty's passengers had landed, attempted to correct at least some of the problems. New "boarded barracks" were built on the mainland for the Montbeliardians and they were transferred there from George's Island. Partly because of the onset of winter and partly because of a desire to avoid a confrontation on the wage issue, work demands on the Montbeliardians practically ceased. Dr. Moreau, a former French Catholic priest who had turned Anglican and then married, was appointed as pastor to the French speaking immigrants. Dr. Moreau had been sent to Halifax a year earlier from London as a missionary to the French populace of the area by the "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Lands", the missionary arm of the Church of England. He had little success in these missionary efforts and was pleased to find useful employment with the French speaking immigrants.
The winter of 1752/1753 was a difficult one for the immigrants — especially so for the Montbeliardians. An epidemic swept through the immigrant communities, hitting the Montbeliardians particularly hard. Approximately one out of every six Montbeliardians died over that first winter. On January 3, 1753, Dr. Moreau recorded that he officiated at the burial of Leonore Bissett, one of the two daughters that accompanied Jacques Bissett to Halifax. On March 13, 1753, Dr. Moreau recorded the burial of the second daughter, Claudine Bissett.
By the early spring of 1753, the British authorities had come to a decision as to where to settle their German Protestant immigrants. The site of an abandoned French hamlet, Merligash, about fifty miles down the about coast west-south-west of Halifax was chosen. It had more than 300 acres of land that had been previously cleared by the French inhabitants which could be quickly put to use for small vegetable gardens. It was close enough to Halifax to be readily supported by a fleet stationed there in time of war. The proximity to Halifax also made likely that the new settlement would find there a ready market for its surplus farm and forest products in the future. To honor the King, the British authorities changed the name of the settlement to "Lunenburg", which was one of the German ducal titles of King George.
In the last half of April 1753, surveyors were sent to Lunenburg, accompanied by a protecting force of Rangers, to provide a rough survey of the land there so that the major elements of the settlement could be sited. The plan was to give to each family a small plot, 40' by 60', in what was intended to become the town center — along with sufficient building materials for a small, one-room, shelter ("hutt"). Each family was also to be assigned the use of a small "garden plot" nearby, suitable for the growing of vegetables to supplement their government rations. By the following spring, 30 acre plots of uncleared land were to be given to each settler family, where they could build more substantial farm houses. At 7 A.M. on Monday, May 21, a mass meeting of the German Protestants were assembled on the Halifax parade grounds, adjoining Saint Paul's Anglican Church. The plans for the settlement were announced and lots drawn for the town plots. In addition, the able bodied men (about 500 in number) were formed into a militia and officers appointed from their ranks to serve under the British senior officers. Although it is almost certain that both Jacques and Jean George Bissett were enrolled in the militia, their names are not among those who were named as officers.
On the morning of Tuesday, May 29, about half of the settlers began loading on the ships that were to take them to Lunenburg. The Nova Scotia government had chartered most of the available ships down as far as New England to ferry the settlers and their supplies. To minimize the number of ships required, the settlers were to be moved in two separate expeditions, about a week apart. The expeditions were to accompanied by a small flotilla of British warships and a detachment of Rangers to provide assistance should the settlers encounter Indian or guerilla resistance.
While waiting for the first settlers and their supplies to complete loading and for the warships to be assembled, the wind shifted and the small fleet was pinned in Halifax Harbour for more than an entire week. On June 7, the ships finally escaped the confines of the harbor and, after a short sail, reassembled at Lunenberg. Colonel Lawrence, the commander of the expedition, ordered that the settlers be held on board until the troops and contract working parties had landed, reconnoitered the area for the presence of guerillas, assembled the building materials at the town sites, and erected a temporary blockhouse and palisades for defense.
After being aboard their ships for over a week, the settlers were in no mood to be further delayed. Many disembarked on their own, found their town plots, and began collecting whatever building materials they could as these were being landed — without regard for the precise counts of nails, bricks, and lumber that had been allotted to each family. Colonel Lawrence was only partially successful in having his troops force these settlers back to their ships. In spite of these difficulties, by June 17 both expeditions had landed their settlers, the building materials had been distributed, and the initial work on defenses completed by the troops and their contractors brought from Halifax.
Colonel Lawrence continued to be dismayed by the rebelliousness of the settlers and their unwillingness to assist in the erection of the defense works — in spite of their work contracts. The settlers, on their side, were disturbed by the crude conditions at Lunenburg. They had understood that they were to receive full homesteads immediately, in the form of a large plot of cleared land and a fully built and furnished farmhouse. Although some of the discrepancy was due to ambiguous terms used in the translations from the English of the settlers' original contracts, the British authorities were aware that there were some legitimate grounds for the settlers' dissatisfaction in this regard.
In addition, the settlers had been able to supplement their government rations while at Halifax by purchases from the marketplace, paid for by odd-jobs performed for local households and merchants. Of course, there were neither a marketplace nor local households and merchants at Lunenberg. Furthermore, any time spent on fulfilling their work contracts competed with the time needed for the building of their shelters and the putting in of a vegetable garden.
Several of the French speaking settlers attempted to leave for the French held areas of Nova Scotia and a few succeeded. To avert a wholesale rebellion, Colonel Lawrence (overcoming the resistance of the Governor and his Council) immediately increased the food ration by "two pounds of bread a week with molasses" per adult (in lieu of an equivalent value in rum), temporarily suspended the enforcement of the settlers' work contracts, and agreed to pay full wages in cash for any work voluntarily performed. He hoped (correctly, as it turned out) that the cash wages paid would attract merchants from Halifax who might be able to provide additional foodstuffs — as well as other personal goods, such as clothing, additional building materials, etc.
By the time cooler weather arrived in the autumn of 1773, the setters had erected their first homes and put in root crops for the winter. ( In spite of the fact that almost all of the settlers had indebted themselves to the Board of Trade and Plantations for the cost of their passage, many of them had retained sufficient savings to purchase the additional materials and contract labor to built large, framed houses.) Colonel Lawrence's efforts and the progress that had been made contributed to taking much of the edge off of the settlers' ire. Deep dissatisfaction with the perceived failure of the British Government to meet fully the terms of their contracts, however, persisted among them. Petitions for the redress of these grievances were prepared and sent to the Governor in Halifax and the Board of Trade and Plantations in London.
In September 1753, Colonel Lawrence returned to Halifax, leaving a small garrison of British troops and the armed militia of settlers under Colonel Sutherland to defend Lunenburg. By the end of November, morale among the settlers had begun to seriously deteriorate. A rumor had arisen among the Montbeliardians that one of their number, John Petrequin, was hiding a letter from a relative in London that concerned the petitions that had been sent to the Board of Trade and Plantations. By the time the rumor had spread among the German speaking settlers, it had taken a ominous turn. The alleged letter was now believed to have confirmed their suspicions that the efforts of the Board to make concessions to the settlers had been thwarted by the Governor and his Council in Halifax. Angered by the denial by Petrequin that any such letter existed, the settlers seized him and imprisoned him in the town's blockhouse.
When Colonel Sutherland attempted to intervene, the settlers' militia was called out and shots were exchanged with the British troops, wounding two settlers. An armed standoff ensued, neither side willing to yield. Upon hearing of the situation, the Governor promptly dispatched Lieutenant Colonel Moncton with a force of two hundred regulars with orders to restore the government's authority, disarm the militia, and arrest the ringleaders for trial in Halifax. Moncton landed at Lunenburg on December 22, 1753. Faced with this formidable force, the militia soon capitulated. By December 24, Moncton could report that he had completely accomplished his mission. An officer of the settlers' militia, John William Hoffman, was arrested and charged with tricking the illiterate Petrequin into believing that some pieces of paper were a letter from Petrequin's cousin in London and then using the subsequent uproar to mount a treasonous rebellion. The government lacked substantive evidence, other than the contradictory and self-serving testimony of Petrequin himself, and Hoffman was ultimately convicted of only lesser misdemeanors. He left Nova Scotia after serving some time in prison at Halifax.
After the rebellion of 1753 had been put down, things became calmer at Lunenberg. By March 1754, the thirty acre plots had been assigned by lot. After the lots had been drawn, trading of plots occurred among the settlers prior to their occupation. Many of the Montbeliardians, who had been scattered randomly among the more numerous German speaking settlers, traded their plots (often disadvantageously) so as to be concentrated into one area along the distant North West Range section of Lunenburg, from three to six miles from the town's center.
During that spring and summer, the settlers began to occupy the thirty acre plots as they were properly surveyed and staked out. For the most part, the plots were wooded and required clearing before a house could be built and the land farmed. Jacques Bissett and his son Jean George each, individually, qualified as a settler and, presumably, each received his own thirty acres.
In order to encourage the settlers to occupy and begin farming the plots as soon as possible, the British authorities extended the free rations an additional year beyond the one year originally agreed to and offered to distribute free seed and livestock throughout the year, as it became available to them. The amount of seed and livestock to be distributed to each settler would depend, at least partially, on their participation in the uprising, on the use previously made of the small garden plots and town lots, and on the progress made at clearing their new thirty acre plots. Married men were also to be favored over single men in the distribution of the seed and livestock. By June 28, 1754, the Council in Halifax had let contracts valued at $400,000 for the purchase of livestock and seed from New England. Shipments began arriving in September. By December, 1754, it was reported to Halifax that over one hundred families were already settled on their thirty acre plots.
Given the amount of labor that was required to prepare the plots, unmarried men (such as Jean George Bissett) were at a double disadvantage. Not only would their progress be slower in clearing the new land, they were to be discriminated against in the distribution of seed and livestock. Perhaps not so coincidently, Jean George Bissett, now age 16, married Anne Judhit Metin on April 2, 1754 — soon after the 30 acre plots were assigned and before any free seed or livestock had been distributed. The Metins were a French speaking Montbeliard family who had come over on the Speedwell in 1752. They are shown (phonetically spelled "Mardin" by the Dutch clerks) on the passenger list immediately following the entries for the Massons. The marriage was performed by Dr. Moreau, who had moved with his French speaking congregation to Lunenberg and was now the pastor of Saint John's Anglican Church there.
Unfortunately, the fall of 1754 was unusually dry and the winter of 1754-1755 was unusually severe. Most of the livestock died, due partially to the lack of shelter and partially to the lack of sufficient stored fodder. Early in 1755, the Board of Trade and Plantations authorized another £1,000 to be spent, if absolutely necessary, on free livestock for the settlers. This money was never expended, however, because a more economical source of livestock for the Lunenburg settlers soon appeared.
Although war was not to be officially declared until 1756, the armed skirmishes between the French and the English had increased over all of North America by early 1755. The French had driven the American colonists from disputed land in western Pennsylvania in July 1754 and the British had brought troops from England to retake the area. In mid-July, 1755, this force under General Braddock was routed from the area of Pittsburgh. Just a few weeks prior to that, however, a British force had eliminated the French bases from the disputed areas of the western mainland part of the Nova Scotia province.
At the end of July 1755, believing that full scale war was immanent, the Council at Halifax made its infamous decision to deport all the "disloyal" French inhabitants from the British controlled areas of Nova Scotia. The deportations began almost immediately and, by September 1755, had progressed sufficiently to permit contingents of settlers from Lunenburg to be authorized to proceed to Minas to seize the livestock and other possessions that had been left behind by those French inhabitants who had already been deported. A similar expedition was authorized in June of the following year.
Progress on the clearing of the heavily wooded land in Lunenburg was slow and the farms that had been established by mid-1755 still did not produce nearly enough food for the inhabitants of Lunenburg. Accordingly, the Governor — again prevailing against the strong opposition of the Board of Trade and Plantations — authorized the extension of free rations for the settlers for an additional year until the summer of 1756, albeit at a somewhat reduced rate and excluding those few settlers who were well established.
The first Indian raid on Lunenburg occurred on May 8, 1756 — just before the formal declaration of war between England and France. The raid was made by the Micmac Indian allies of the French and resulted in the deaths of four settlers, some destruction of property, and the taking into captivity of one adult woman and four of her children. Similar raids occurred every few months over the next three years. Although never more than a small number of settlers were killed or carried off in any of the individual raids, the constant threat of lurking Indians and the consequent need to be continuously on guard drove some of the settlers from their distant thirty acre plots into their better defended town lots and seriously restricted the activities of those who chose to remain on their plots. In addition, French privateers operating out of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island frequently commandeered the ships from Lunenburg that were carrying lumber to be sold at the Halifax market.
The last Indian raid on Lunenburg occurred on April 20, 1759. The threat from bands of Indians operating in the Lunenberg area did not cease, however, until early in 1760 when the various tribes surrendered at Halifax. Due to the unusual circumstances of the war, the Governor had been repeatedly able to convince the British Board of Trade and Plantations to extend, albeit grudgingly, the provision of rations to the settlers until the summer of 1760, when they were finally terminated.
With the end of French and Indian resistance in North America in 1760, Lunenberg began to flourish — and agitation among the settlers about the failure of the Board of Trade and Plantations to honor their original contracts resumed. Finally, in the autumn of 1763, the authorities began offering three hundred acre plots, primarily woodland, to those original settlers who had kept possession of their thirty acre plots and had improved them. A relatively modest "survey fee" would have to be paid in advance and commitments made regarding improvement of the land before one could participate in the drawing of lots for a three hundred acre plot. A majority of the eligible families took advantage of the offer in the several distributions that were made up through April, 1766.
Throughout this period, the Bissetts flourished. A document, currently in the possession of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, illustrates this fact best. In 1787, apparently at the request of the Bissett family, a record in French of the Lunenberg marriage of Jean George to Anne and of the baptisms of their children was prepared by a clerk at Saint John's Anglican Church in 1787. It shows that:
Somewhat surprisingly, there are no records of any Bissett deaths while at Lunenberg.
The Bissetts cease appearing in the Lunenberg records in 1772. The last entry mentioning Bissetts is the record of the baptism of a Jean Bushan on April 20, 1772, where it is noted that Catherine Bissett was a sponsor. (Although Catherine was not yet six years old, the use of young children as baptismal sponsors was apparently common in those days.) For the next ten years or so, there is no direct record of the Bissetts' whereabouts; no births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, deeds, land grants, etc. Indirect evidence, however, indicates that they probably moved to Tatamagouche from Lunenberg, with about a dozen other Montbeliard families.
In 1765, the King had granted 20,000 acres at Tatamagouche to Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres. The DesBarres family then currently resided in Switzerland, but had Montbeliard roots. In 1771, DesBarres contacted several Montbeliard families in Lunenberg and convinced them to join him on his Tatamagouche estates. Tatamagouche is on the northern shore of the Nova Scotia Peninsula, facing Prince Edward Island, and is over one hundred miles distant from Lunenburg.
DesBarres was establishing a "Manor" at Tatamagouche that would be familiar to the Bissetts and the other Montbeliardins from their experience in Europe. He would furnish them land, farm implements, live stock, seed, etc. in return for a portion of their output. Some of the families left for Tatamagouche in the fall of 1771 and others in the spring of 1772, which is consistent with the last record of the Bissetts in Lunenburg.
Without primary records for this period, it is difficult to know with any precision what was going on among the Bissetts. In this ten to twelve year span, it appears likely that both Jacques and his wife, Anne Catherine, died. Also, several of Jean George's children would have reached marriagable age in that period. It is likely that some of them did marry, have children, and (perhaps) remained at Tatamagouche for some time after the rest of the Bissetts had again moved on. Although later records indicate that several Bissett children were born at Tatamagouche, it is often uncertain which Bissett was their parent and even what generation they belong to.
In the mid-1780s, evidence of the presence of the Bissett family in the Halifax area begins to show up in various records. A land grant of 400 acres at Cole Harbour, near Halifax, was made to a "George Bissett" in 1786. It is likely that a similar grant of 200 acres at nearby Preston had been made to the same George Bissett in 1784. The Bissett family experts believe that this "George" was the original "Jean George" who had arrived in 1752, but who had now dropped the use of his first name. Most, if not all, of the Bissetts seem to be living in Cole Harbour by the 1790s. The Halifax Marriage Bond Registry and the records at Saint Paul's Anglican Church record the marriage of two Bissetts during this decade: a George Bissett in 1795 and Joseph Bissett in 1799.