December 16, 1925

The Real Story of "Evangeline"

She Found Her Lover, Not Dying in a Hospital, but Pledged to Another

(Farmers’ Sun, Toronto)

When nearly 200 years ago the Acadians were deported from the country of Evangeline many of those torn from beneath the overhanging forest primeval of Nova Scotia found a new home in Florida. And near the Bayou of St. Martinville the descendants of these Acadians still live and there the tradition of Evangeline is preserved.

"Evangeline," it is said, was a real character, and her fate was, in a way, even more tragic than that recorded by Longfellow in poem that will be treasured long after an unwise Canadian judge, who has described the poem as "twaddle", is forgotten. The real name of the heroine, according to a story told in the New York Times, was Emmeline. The pride of St. Gabriel in old Acadie, a lovely maiden with gentle hazel eyes and dark brown hair that fell in a cluster of curls on her shoulders. She had just completed her sixteenth year, and was on the eve of marrying a most deserving, laborious and well-to-do young man of St. Gabriel, Louis Areeneaux. Their banns had been published in the village church, the nuptial day was fixed and their long love-dream was about to be realized when the barbarous scattering of the colony took place. The quiet villagers, enraged to madness by the order of deportation, set fire to their homes and fled into the wilderness, where they were stopped by soldiers, driven to the sea-shore, and loaded pell-mell into two vessels anchored there.

Louis Areeneaux was carried, wounded, aboard one of the ships. Emmeline and her foster-mother were placed in the other. This last boat dumped its human cargo on the shore of Maryland, where the refugees found sanctuary with wealthy planters. For three years they lived there and prospered. But uncertainty as to the loved ones from whom they were separated urged them on to that other settlement of the French in the far South and Emmeline’s search for her lost love began.

"Thus she lived in our midst," the Voerhies momoirs state, "always sweet-tempered, but with a sadness depicted on her countenance and with smiles so sorrowful that we had come to look upon her as not of this earth but rather as our guardian angel; and this is why we called her no longer Emmeline, but Evangeline, or God’s little angel."

The wanderings of Longfellow’s heroine correspond to the dreary, tedious journey of Emmeline and her foster-mother to that "Eden of Louisiana," where "the grass grows more in a single night than in a whole Canadian summer."

The settlers from the whole surrounding territory had congregated on the shore of the bayou to greet them. Many Acadian families were reunited that day. So Emmeline, the Evangeline of the refugees, looking eagerly through the crowd, suddenly grasped her foster-mother by the arm, and pointing to a tall man lying beneath the oak tree at the landing, cried out:

"Mother, mother; It is he! It is Louis!"

But when she rushed to his side, with her, "Louis, I am your Emmeline! Have you forgotten me?" The man turned ashen and hung down his head without uttering a word. When he did answer he could only tell the girl who had searched so long and so faithfully that he was pledged to another.

St. Martinville has not forgotten Evangeline, although times have greatly changed since she first journeyed up the old bayou to the Poste des Attakapas. Longfellow’s Evangeline has become "the guardian angel" of the entire Teche country.

Ere another Autumn plumes the "cotton trees" with snowy crests, Evangeline, molded in bronze, will stand in a park bordering the highway where "the towering and tenebrous boughs of the cypress meet in a dusky arch and trailing mosses in midair wave like banners that hang on the walls of ancient cathedrals."


December 16, 1925

The Old-Time Christmas

Old-timers caught in the holiday rush and gazing at the wonderfully alluring panorama of the shop windows often fall into a reminiscent mood and re-live the Christmases of the long ago. Who does not fondly recall the magic of Christmas in his childhood?

Most of the presents were home-made. Perhaps grandma furnished mittens, knitted by oil lamp after you had been tucked in bed – thick warm mittens with a long cord that extended up through coat sleeves and around the neck to prevent loss. Aunt Saphronia gave you a basket of Christmas cookies, shaped like animals and stars and covered with delicious colored sugar.

Uncle Tom gave you a watch, and his generosity appalled you even if it was the old turnip that he had discarded. You can imagine the reaction you would get if you tried giving a 1925 boy a second-hand timepiece.

Most of the presents were useful, in the old days, including a reefer overcoat and a new pair of shoes. As for "boughten" presents, they were limited to "The Erie Train Boy," by Alger, Henty’s "With Clive in India," a New Testament, a sled, a pair of skates and that most wonderful of all old-time toys, a tin monkey that climbed a string.

At that, Christmas of long ago represented proportionately as big an outlay as now, comparing earnings in the two periods.

But the gift itself was secondary to the spirit of the giver. Somehow every grown-up can’t help believing the Christmas dinners of those days were superior. The Christmas eve entertainment at the church was an enjoyable as the modern movie. And the ride in a cutter over the deep snow beat the auto-trip of 1925.

Christmas is always changing and (to adults) never for the better.


A Great Comfort

A rich but very eccentric man died. The clergyman, who was young and new to the parish, thought it a fitting opportunity to call and comfort the widow. "You must not grieve," he told her. "The body that lies here is not your husband. It is merely a husk, an empty shell – the nut has gone to heaven."

Back