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GUEGUEN (Goguen), JOSEPH, servant, secretary, interpreter, translator, merchant, and jp; b. 2 May 1741 in Morlaix, France, son of Jacques Gueguen and Anne Hamonez; d. 28 Feb. 1825 in Cocagne, N.B.

Late in April 1753 Joseph Gueguen sailed for Acadia with Abbé Jean-Louis Le Loutre*. He became servant and secretary to his own maternal half-brother Jean Manach*, a missionary priest who also came from Morlaix. Accompanying Manach on his pastoral visits, Gueguen learned the Micmac language. He also had the opportunity to meet many Indian chiefs, colonial administrators, merchants, fur traders, and Acadian farmers.

At the time of the deportation in 1755 [see Charles Lawrence*], Gueguen went to Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) to escape the British. After a brief stay he boarded a schooner for Quebec. He reportedly entered the Petit Séminaire and studied there until 1758. In the summer of that year he returned to Acadia, joining Manach, the family of François Arsenault (his future father-in-law), and other Acadian friends at Baie des Ouines (Bay du Vin, N.B.). In July, after the fall of Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), and Île Saint-Jean, the manhunt in Acadia began again with renewed vigour. Gueguen was among the 3,500 Acadian refugees who gathered in the Miramichi region and who endured famine and harsh living conditions.

In June 1759 vicar general Pierre Maillard* visited Manach at Miramichi and suggested to him and to the Acadians and Micmacs that they submit to the British. Consequently, at the end of January 1760 Gueguen and a good many Acadians went to Fort Cumberland (near Sackville, N.B.) and signed articles of submission. They were promptly imprisoned. As he was well thought of by the authorities and could speak English, French, and Micmac, Gueguen was made translator and interpreter; he was also put in charge of distributing rations to the prisoners in the fort. At the same time, in the absence of missionaries he carried out various priestly functions. In September he married Anne (Nanon) Arsenault; they were to have six children.

In 1765 Gueguen, who was still being held prisoner, refused to take the oath of allegiance to the crown. In the autumn, like many Acadians, he went to settle on the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. But in the summer of 1767 the French government expelled the Acadians from its territory [see François-Gabriel d’Angeac*]. Gueguen bought a schooner with his father-in-law and sailed for Halifax, where he landed in October. He received official permission to settle at Cocagne, which he reached the following month.

Gueguen then opened a fur-trading establishment, and until the end of the 1770s he was the only Acadian to carry on this activity on such a large scale. He owned a store, warehouse, barn, and several other buildings, as well as a schooner with which he carried on trade and fished for cod. He also had a small wharf and 472 acres granted him in 1772. In the period from 1770 to 1790 Gueguen was, it seems, the most prosperous trader in Acadia. In 1818 he stated that the Micmacs still owed him £5,709 for goods he had supplied in the period before 1800.

Gueguen, whose wife had died in 1768, leaving him with four young children to look after, married a widow, Marie Quessy, and they had three children. After much bickering, however, she left Gueguen and her children and never came back. In a statement made before a justice of the peace she bluntly declared that she had often thought of murdering her husband. Gueguen tried to obtain a divorce, vainly approaching Bishop Jean-François Hubert* of Quebec in 1795 and 1796.

When the American revolution broke out Gueguen made a show of benevolent neutrality towards the rebels. It was probably on his farm that in September 1776 the rebel leader John Allan* met with the chiefs of the Nova Scotia Micmacs, and he himself acted as interpreter on that occasion. He advised the chiefs to remain neutral, however, and not take up arms against the British government. They heeded his advice. Gueguen’s adoption of a definite position was not to the liking of the American rebels, and in the summer of 1778 they stole goods, money, and a schooner from him in reprisal.

Like Otho Robichaux and Alexis Landry*, Gueguen was one of a council of elders that constituted a sort of parallel government in the years from 1784 to 1810. This council tried more or less successfully to resist oppression and sought to defend the interests of the Acadian farmers. Being an educated man, Gueguen was often consulted and was led to share in its work. In 1794 he became a justice of the peace, and he also acted as a surveyor, notary, and replacement for the priest. Some of the missionaries accused him of possessing dangerous books and hence giving insidious advice to people. Gueguen did have an impressive library, which he had in large part inherited from Manach. He also owned some linguistic works by Maillard of which he made use in preparing manuscripts in French and Micmac.

A year after Marie Quessy’s death in 1807, Gueguen married a widow, Nanette Surette, at Cocagne, and they had four children. On 28 Feb. 1825 the “Sieur Joseph Gueguen, Esq.,” “scholar” and “Doctor,” passed away. By that time he was the last of the group that had founded Cocagne.

Régis Brun

AAQ, 210A, II: 277–80, 304–7; III: 142–44, 154–55, 166–69; 311 CN, V: 3, 5–6, 8a, 9, 11, 15, 29, 33; 312 CN, V: 2, 51. Centre d’études acadiennes, univ. de Moncton (Moncton, N.-B.), Fonds Macdonald–Stewart; Fonds Placide Gaudet, 1.55–3, 1.56–11. PAC, MG 11, [CO 42] Q, 71; MG 23, D1, ser.1, 13: 585–87, 611–15. PANB, RG 2, RS8, appointments and commissions; RG 10, RS108; RG 18, RS153. PANS, RG 1, 364, no.96; RG 20. UNBL, MG H2; MG H54. J. C. Pilling, Bibliography of the Algonquian languages (Washington, 1891). Régis Brun, Pionnier de la nouvelle Acadie, Joseph Gueguen, 1741–1825 (Moncton, 1984). D.-F. Léger, Lhistoire de la paroisse StPierre de Cocagne, diocèse de StJean, N.-B. (Moncton, 1920). Paul Surette, Memramkouke, Petcoudiac et la reconstruction de lAcadie, 1763–1806 . . . (Moncton, 1981). J. C. Webster, The forts of Chignecto: a study of the eighteenth century conflict between France and Great Britain in Acadia ([Shediac, N.B.], 1930). Albert David, “L’apôtre des Micmacs,” Rev. de luniv. dOttawa, 5 (1935): 49–82, 425–52; 6 (1936): 22–40.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Régis Brun, “GUEGUEN, JOSEPH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 20, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gueguen_joseph_6E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gueguen_joseph_6E.html
Author of Article: Régis Brun
Title of Article: GUEGUEN, JOSEPH
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1987
Year of revision: 1987
Access Date: September 20, 2014