Author Archives: Marcelle Comeau

Memorial Plaque and Scroll – World War I

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJoseph Benoit Melanson (1898-1918)

Joseph ‘Benoit’ Melanson was killed in action on August 9, 1918 and is buried at the Crouy British Cemetery, Crouy-Sur-Somme, France (Plot: V. D. 8). Benoit was one of 66,665 Canadian military personnel who died in World War I – The War That Will End War (H.G. Wells). Benoit was only 20 years old.

Joseph ‘Benoit’ Melanson was born March 21, 1898, the son of  John C. and Aimée Bourneuf Melanson, of Grosses Coques, Digby Co., Nova Scotia; Benoit, like so many other recruits, was just a lad of seventeen when he enlisted in the Canadian Infantry (Nova Scotia Regiment) – 25th Battalion on December 21, 1915 at the recruiting station in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

Until last year, I had never heard of the Memorial Plaque (or Memorial Medallion) which was issued after World War I to the next-of-kin of all British and British Commonwealth service personnel who were killed in action or died as a result of wounds suffered during the war. The Memorial Plaque  continued to be  issued into the 1930s to commemorate people who died as a consequence of the war.

The Memorial Plaque is about 5 inches (120 mm) in diameter and was cast in bronze. It has an image of Britannia holding a trident and standing with a lion; the designer’s initials, E.CR.P., appear above the front paw. In her outstretched left hand, Britannia is holding an oak wreath just above the deceased’s name cast in raised letters. Two dolphins swim around Britannia, symbolizing Britain’s sea power, and at the bottom a second lion is tearing apart the German eagle. The back of the Plaque is blank.

Pictured below is the Memorial Plaque given to the family of Joseph ‘Benoit’ Melanson (with a quarter alongside to give the reader an idea of the size of the plaque). Benoit’s family donated the Plaque to the Clare Branch of the Canadian Legion where it is prominently displayed in their showcase. I am very grateful that the Legion allowed me to handle and photograph it.


Along the outer edge, the legend reads “He died for freedom and honour”, or, for the six hundred plaques issued to commemorate women, “She died for freedom and honour”. The plaques were issued  with a commemorative scroll from King George V. I was not able to locate the scroll for Benoit Melanson but I was able to find one as an example; the one received by Benoit’s family would have been identical but with Benoit’s name inscribed at the bottom.


The Memorial Plaque has also been called the “Dead Man’s Penny”, the “Death Penny”, the “Widow’s Penny” or the “Next of Kin Memorial Plaque”. They were intended to be given to the grieving family “as a solace for bereavement and as a memento”.

Also pictured here is Private Benoit Melanson’s gravemarker in Somme, France and his name in the First World War Book of Remembrance (Page 469).


Benoit Melanson.71369_1                               Benoit Melanson.ww1469

Over time, I would like to commemorate the many individuals of Clare who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the freedom of millions.



I am very grateful to Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD, forensic genealogist and author, for making me aware of the WWI Memorial Plaque thus sending me on my quest to research families in Clare (Baie-Sainte-Marie) who may have received a Memorial Plaque to commemorate their loved one.

Léo à Pierre à Charles Melanson (1868-1947)

Jean-Léo Melanson was born September 7, 1868 at Little Brook (Petit-Ruisseau, Baie-Sainte-Marie) to Pierre-Sixte Melanson and Genevève Thibodeau. Léo à Pierre à Charles (as he was known his entire life) was the youngest of eight children (two sisters: Fébrinie and Marie-Anne; and five brothers: Philip, Charles, Ambroise, Léander and Augustin).

Very little is known of Léo’s childhood, except that the family was very poor and it was unlikely that Léo could read or write. In 1894, Léo-Jean married Marguerite (dite Magitte) LeBlanc, the daughter of Volusien (à Cyriaque) LeBlanc and Élisabeth Belliveau, also of Little Brook (Petit-Ruisseau). Léo and Magitte had seven children: Estelle, Joseph-Élisée, Joseph-Camille, Marie-Cécile, Marie, Adolphe and Joseph-Gustave.

As the youngest son of the family, Léo was aware there was little chance of inheriting the family farm so he had to find other means of making his way in the world.  It is believed his first employment was at the Boudreau mill in Comeauville, from 1882 to 1916. In this time frame, Léo worked at the Boudreau mill in Comeauville but also took leave from that work to take on private contracts. It seems to have been a good arrangement as the lumber for those projects was probably purchased at the Boudreau mill and any additional work required at the construction site may have been sent to the Comeauville mill.

It is believed the first contract undertaken by Léo was the building of a dam at Sissiboo Falls on the Sissiboo River in 1890. In spite of his young age (21) and lack of a formal education, Léo was hired as foreman for the project.  The dam was still intact in 1958 when, after building further up river, the dam built by Léo and his crew needed to come down. The structure was still so strong that dynamite did not succeed it destroying it and it had to be taken apart piece by piece.

Léo Melanson was not directly involved in the construction of the first Collège-Sainte-Anne in 1890 but after the Collège was destroyed by fire in 1899, Léo was appointed Master Carpenter by Père R.P. Dagnaud (a Eudist priest) for the rebuilding of the new Collège and the Chapel.

In 1901, the residents of the inland community of Concession approached their parish priest, the same Père Dagnaud, for approval to start construction on a new church. Again, Léo Melanson was put in charge of this construction project. The church was completed in spring of 1902 and blessed on October 28, 1902. A distinguishing feature of this church in Concession, Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel, is its perfectly round belfry. It is said that before Léo appeared on the scene, no one was able to do the complex calculations required to achieve this perfectly round structure and so it was done by trial and error: one piece of wood at a time was taken up to the belfry, measured and marked then taken back down for cutting. As the story goes:

“…Tout à coup, Léo, chef the chantier de construction, arrive sur les lieux. Il prend son équarre et fait les calculs nécéssaires. On coupe les bois sur les bancs à terre puis on les monte au clocher. Les morçeaux sont placés côte à côte et le clocher est parfaitement rond. Ça c’était Léo…”   Source Dugas, pg 102


“…Suddenly, Léo, the Master Carpenter, arrives on the scene. He takes his square and makes the necessary calculations. The wood is cut on benches on the ground and then taken up into the belfry. The pieces are placed side by side and the tower is perfectly round. That was Léo…”

Before the construction of the church in Concession was even completed, Père Dagnaud had plans for Léo Melanson: the building of a new magnificent church at la-Pointe-de-l’Église (Church Point).

Mr. Arthur Regnault, an architect from Rennes, France, had drawn up plans for this magnificent new church but had envisioned building it in stone: never had a building of this size been built out of wood. But wood it had to be because of the scarcity of suitable stones in the area. The plans were modified to be able to build a wooden structure and Père Dagnaud and Léo Melanson embarked on this new construction project in 1903.

A project of this magnitude required donations from all the parishioners and the expertise of many carpenters and master carpenters.  Mr. Jean Fournier of Little Brook (Petit-Ruisseau), along with Léo Melanson, is credited with the success of this project. Jean Fournier had worked in the United States and had experience in building very large wooden structures. The new church was blessed August 30-31, 1905.

A partial list of construction projects undertaken by Léo Melanson after Église Sainte-Marie in Church Point was completed included some of the most beautiful homes in Clare:

* 1907 the home of Senator Willie Comeau in Comeauville (still family-owned by descendants of Senator Comeau)

* 1910-1911 the home of John McLaughlin in Church Point (now used as the home of the president of Université Sainte-Anne)

* the home of Captain Bernie Melanson in Gilbert’s Cove

* the Léon Babin home in Corberrie

* Léo was consulted on the building of the home of Dr. Philippe LeBlanc in Little Brook (Petit-Ruisseau) now a Bed and Breakfast “Le Château de la Baie”.

* the Leonard C. Comeau store in Comeauville (still a very active business)

* 1910 a college chapel in Caraquet, New Brunswick

* 1915-1917 construction of Sacred Heart Church in Doucetteville

Léo’s father-in-law, Volusien LeBlanc, owned a sawmill and in 1916, Léo bought it from Volusien and took over the management of the mill. At this point, Léo began building ships – particularly lobster fishing boats. He also took government contracts to build wharves in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. At the time of the Halifax Explosion in 1917, Léo was in the process of building a wharf on the North West arm for MacMillan who later became Premier of Nova Scotia.

Léo died Nov 13, 1947 at the age of 79 years and his wife Magitte died in 1964 at the age of 90 years.


Melanson, Michael. Melanson~Melançon The Genealogy of an Acadian and Cajun Family. Dracut, Massachusetts. Lanesville Publishing, 2004. pp 338-338 and 594-595.

Dugas, Albert. Léo Jean Melanson. (Léo à Charles à Pierre) Une biographie anecdotique. Pointe-de-l’Église, Nouvelle-Écosse, 2001.


Father Clarence d’Entremont Short Stories

Father Clarence d’Entremont (1909-1998) was an Acadian genealogist and historian, originally from Yarmouth County (Pubnico), an Acadian area of southwestern Nova Scotia.

Among his impressive publications history is this collection of 100 Short Stories published in the Yarmouth Vanguard between 1989 and 1990. I have provided a link to the Musée Acadien website which has the entire collection of Father d’Entremont’s Short Stories. The Musée Acadien is located in West Pubnico and is the home of la Société Historique Acadienne de Pubnico-Ouest, founded in 1973.

Link to Index of all 100 short stories:

Not all stories are specific to Yarmouth County and the Pubnico area – a few stories are based on people and events in Clare (Baie-Sainte-Marie) and Digby County. Links to those are listed here; further down on this post is also a section of links to Short Stories that will appeal to Acadians everywhere.

Links to Short Stories with a Clare (Baie-Sainte-Marie) and Digby County connection

No. 3 “His Father Was His Uncle”

No. 10 “Baptiste, the Rascal”

No.11 “Baptiste Was Said To Have a Wife in Every Port”

No 12 “She Presided Over Councils of War Against Her Kindred”

No. 13 “Napoleon Bucksaw”

No. 19 “Witchcraft, Sorcerers and Spells”

No. 38 “French People Who Settled in Digby County During the French Revolution and Napoleon War”

No. 46 “The Rise and Fall of Louis A. Surette”

No.49 “Capt. Pierre Doucet (1750-1792)”

No.50 “Amable Doucet. Esq. (1737-1806)”

No.53 “The Vow of the Mariners”

No.54 “The Escape of François L. Bourneuf”

No.68 “The Conflagration of 1820 in Clare”

No.75 “Variations in French Family Names in Southwestern Nova Scotia”

No.88 “My First Entrance to College”


Links to Short Stories with general Acadian topics

A number of Father Clarence d’Entremont’s Short Stories will be of general interest to all Acadians.

No. 41 “The 25th Anniversary of the Canadian Flag”

No. 44 “The 465th Anniversary of the Name ‘Acadie'”

No. 47 “The ‘French Cross’ at Morden, Nova Scotia”

No.56 “The Seizure of the Pembroke by the Acadians”

A series of stories about the Acadian Bells:
No.58 “Story of The Acadian Bells: (1) Those of Port Royal”

No.59 “Story of The Acadian Bells: (2) Those of Fortress Louisbourg”

No.60 “Story of The Acadian Bells: (3) The Others of Cape Breton”

No.61 “Story of The Acadian Bells: (4) Those of Minas and the Isthmus of Chignecto”

No.62 “Story of The Acadian Bells: (5) Those of Prince Edward Island”

No.63 “Story of The Acadian Bells: (6) Those on the Saint John River, N.B”

No.64 “Story of The Acadian Bells: (7) Those of Maine, St.-Pierre-et-Miquelon, and California”

No.65 “Story of The Acadian Bells: (8) in Pubnico”

And dispelling another “Acadian Myth”

No.57 “Marie Babin of Surette’s Island Was Not The Last of the Deported”

Suzanne-Henriette Comeau

Suzanne married (at Holy Cross Parish in 1857) Martin Walsh, Senior (Irish, of unknown origin); they lived in Plympton for a few years before moving to the town of Digby. Marin Walsh Sr. and Suzanne Comeau were the parents of Captain Marty Walsh (Welch) who eventually moved to Gloucester and became a hero, both in Digby County and Gloucester, Massachusetts for winning the first ever International Fisherman’s Schooner race (Gloucester to Halifax).

The grandson of Captain Marty Welch has developed a website devoted to the history of Captain Marty Welch’s carreer and his genealogy.

Link to website about Captain Marty Welch’s life:

Building of Saint-Bernard Church

This was the first church built at Saint-Bernard, blessed in 1853 by Monseigneur Walsh, Archbishop of Halifax. This church served the OPC.No.3715.First church at St. Bernardparish until the blessing of the new church in 1942, at which point it was torn down. A commemorative monument and the cemetery remains.

Photo Source: Old Photos of Clare

                                                                                                                                                                                          The second and current church at Saint-Bernard took OPC.No.3629. Construction St Bernard.1910-1925thirty years to build (1912 to 1942).

Photo Source: