CORMIER, PIERRE, settler; b. 3 Aug. 1734 in Rivière-des-Héberts (near River Hebert), N.S., son of Pierre Cormier and Cécile Thibodeau (Thibaudeau); d. 24 March 1818 in Memramcook, N.B.
Pierre Cormier’s family moved about 1750 to the French-controlled side of the Chignecto Isthmus, perhaps in response to the blandishments of Jean-Louis Le Loutre*, and in 1752 they were living at Aulac (N.B.). Early in 1755 Pierre married Anne Gaudet, daughter of Augustin Gaudet and Agnès Chiasson of nearby Tintemarre (Tantramar). Anne was often called Nannette; hence Pierre came to be nicknamed Pierrot à Nannette. They were to have five sons and two daughters.
Cormier’s repute derives from the colourful tradition of his escape from the British on the eve of the Acadian deportation of 1755 [see Charles Lawrence*]. There is more than one version of this tradition, but the greatest credibility may be given that recorded in 1877 by the genealogist Placide Gaudet*, who had the advantage of consulting many of Cormier’s grandchildren. According to Gaudet’s account, Pierrot, taken prisoner with his brothers at Jolicœur (Jolicure, N.B.), was put aboard a Carolina-bound deportation vessel but slipped overboard the night before its departure. By creeping through the tall hay on shore he attained an aboiteau guarded by British soldiers and, when their backs were turned, clambered onto the butt of a timber over the water. Swinging from one butt end to another, he succeeded in crossing the aboiteau unobserved. On the other bank he again crept through the fields until he was able to break for the woods. After narrowly evading a band of soldiers tracking him with a dog, he arrived at an extent of water separating him from an Acadian encampment. Once recognized he was soon crossed over. Learning from these families that his own had fled the night before toward Quebec, Pierrot immediately left in search of them. The Cormiers were reunited at Sainte-Anne (near Fredericton, N.B.), where they remained until Robert Monckton*’s raids persuaded them to move to Kamouraska (Que.), likely in 1758.
According to another tradition, Pierrot, Jacques, and François Cormier were serving in the militia at the fall of Quebec in 1759. Subsequently they joined a French frigate at Pointe-Lévy (Lauzon and Lévis), lured with other young Acadians by promises of passage to France. After engagement with two British war vessels near the fîlets Jacques-Cartier, the frigate ran aground. Only about 60 of 160 crew members managed to swim ashore through the icy April waters, but these included the three Cormier brothers. This tradition likely refers to the encounter off Cap-Rouge between Jean Vauquelin* and Robert Swanton* in May 1760.
Pierre Cormier and Anne Gaudet resided at L’Islet (Que.) between 1761 and 1764, but about 1765 they returned to Sainte-Anne with his mother and four brothers. By July 1783 Pierrot had cleared 20 acres of a tract he had continuously occupied for 13 years. The Acadians of Sainte-Anne had not secured title to their farms, however, and grants to disbanded soldiers and loyalists were soon encroaching on what they considered to be their land. They deemed the small acreage reserved to them insufficient to support their families. Learning of vacant land on the west side of the Memramcook River, about 20 families removed there between autumn 1786 and summer 1787, including those of Pierre Cormier and four of his married children. Pierrot had meantime lost his Nannette, and his aged mother died during the trip.
The vacant land at Memramcook had been granted to Joseph Goreham* and then sold to Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres*. On 5 June 1792 the Cormiers and others presented a memorial to the New Brunswick government complaining of the “extravagant” demands of DesBarres’s assign, Mary Cannon*, and arguing that his land should be escheated and granted to them in consideration of the substantial improvements made during their occupation. Their efforts were thwarted by DesBarres and his agents, but it was not until after 1809 that they were turned out to find other places to live in the Memramcook valley.
AD, Charente-Maritime (La Rochelle), État civil, Beaubassin, 1712–48 (mfm. at CÉA). AN, Section Outre-mer, G1, 466, no.30. Arch. paroissiales, Saint-Thomas (Memramcook, N.-B.), Reg. des baptémes, mariages et sépultures (mfm. at CÉA). CÉA, Fonds Placide Gaudet, 1.28-6,1.33-7, 1.64-24; “Notes généalogiques sur les familles acadiennes, c.1600–1900,” dossier Cormier-3. PANB, RG 10, RS108, Petition of William Anderson, 1785; Petition of Charles Bickle, 1785; Petition of French inhabitants of Dorchester, 1809; Petition of John Jouett, 1785; Petition of John Ruso, 1785; Petition of Joseph Sayre, 1786. PANS, RG 1, 409. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, 3: 129. Clément Cormier, “La famille Cormier en Amérique,” L’Évangéline (Moncton, N.-B.), 8 août 1951: 4–5; 10 août 1951: 5. Placide Gaudet, “La famille Cormier,” Le Moniteur acadien (Shédiac, N.-B.), 22, 29 janv. 1885.