Our Acadian Heritage

CSS3 Buttons by Css3Menu.com

Historians Place Original "Arcadia" In Different Places

The name Acadia, first spelled Arcadia, appeared in 1524, when the Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazano, sailing for France, visited the Atlantic coast of North America.

In April of that year, he stopped at a place where he found the vegetation so lush and beautiful that he called it Arcadie, which was a region in ancient Greece that the poet Virgil immortalized because of its beauty and because of the simplicity of its people.

According to Verrazano's report of his travels, his Arcadia "appeared to be much more beautiful (than the other Newfoundland banks) and full of very tall trees. We named it Archadia (sic) owing to the beauty of the trees."

Various studies have placed Verrazano's scenic site in different places. Historian Samuel Eliot Morison flew along the Atlantic Coast from Cape Fear River to Barnegat, New Jersey, "in search of a hilly section with big trees." He wrote, "I have no hesitation in locating Verrazano's Arcadia at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina....Later mapmakers continually moved it eastward until it became Acadia, the French name for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and part of Maine."

Jean Daigle, editor of "The Acadians of the Maritimes," places Arcadie, as he reports Verrazano's original spelling, "in the region of present day Washington."

According to Daigle, "The peninsula that Verrazano named Arcadie is today called Delmarva because it covers parts of American states (Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia). Not until the 17th century do we find the word Arcadie applied to the areas further north now known as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The letter "r" was soon dropped and the name became Acadia."

Naomi Griffiths, and some other historians say that the name has nothing to do with Verrazano, that it comes from the Micmac Indians who lived there. She says, "It was the French who first sent an expedition to settle that part of America which would produce the Acadians. They used the Indian name of the lands, and spelt it on their maps in many different ways, such as "la cadie" and LaCadye."