INDEPTH: CHAMPLAIN ANNIVERSARY|
Alison Hancock, CBC News Online | March 5, 2004
On March 7th 1604, Samuel de Champlain sailed from Havre de Grace
on the flagship of the newly appointed Lieutenant-General of La Cadie,
Pierre du Gua de Monts. A second ship left on March 10th with Pont-Gravé,
whom Champlain had accompanied to Tadoussac.
Also aboard were roughly 100 artisans and "criminals" recruited from the prisons. Unlike earlier colonization efforts, there were no women.
The French reached Nova Scotia in early May, and Champlain and
de Monts set off to look for a prospective site for a settlement
in the Bay of Fundy, which they named la Baie Française.
Champlain entered the Annapolis Basin, considered it a suitable
location and named it Port Royal.
But de Monts was not satisfied and sailed south to Passamaquoddy Bay.
Upriver, he selected an island which he named Ste-Croix as the site for their colony. The French built their fort, storehouse, dwellings and planted gardens.
In September, Champlain explored the coast of Maine as far as
the Kennebec River. Champlain established friendly relations
with the native peoples he met, and while exploring the Penobscot
River spoke to a large gathering of Etchemin, telling them the
French intended to settle.
This was the first of three trips to the Gulf of Maine, during which Champlain charted the New England coast as far as Cape Cod.
The winter of 1604-05 proved exceptionally severe at Ste-Croix. It was so cold the cider froze. The French were short of food, firewood and water.
They had little to eat but salt-meat, and were forced to drink melted snow. But their greatest affliction was scurvy: almost half of the 79 French died.
Champlain's design of the Ste-Croix settlement
They enjoyed good relations with the Etchemin of Ste-Croix, who camped at the southern end of the island. The French traded their bread for moose and game.
After the disastrous winter, de Monts was determined to search for a better location and set off with Champlain down the coast of Maine. Champlain notes that as they travelled south, the native populations became larger, lived in fixed settlements, and practiced agriculture.
They rounded Cape Cod and stopped at Nauset Harbour, which Champlain called Mallebarre, or bad bar. Here some local Armouchiquois stole a copper kettle from French sailors who were getting fresh water, and killed a St-Malo carpenter as he tried to retrieve it.
After five weeks, the French headed back to Ste-Croix without having found a better place to settle.
De Monts decided to relocate the colony to Port Royal, on the north side of the Annapolis Basin. Here the French planted gardens, an occupation which gave Champlain much satisfaction.
The winter of 1605-06 was less severe than the previous one but even so 12 died of scurvy. The French shared banquets, or tabagie, with the local Sagamore (chief) Membertou, who became great friends of the French. Champlain called Membertou "un bon sauvage".
Plan of Port Royal settlement
The summer of 1605 was a good time for the French at Port Royal. They had plenty of game and fish, and enough wine for each to be served three half-pints a day.
In September, Champlain sailed once more to the Gulf of Maine and reached Gloucester Harbour, which he named Beau Port. It met most of the requirements for a settlement, and was the only place the French considered suitable south of Ste-Croix.
Further south at Chatham, the French suspected the hundreds of natives they encountered there of plotting against them.
On 15th October, five of the French group were sleeping on shore. The natives shot arrows at them, killing four. The French left the next day, and returned to Port Royal after naming this place Port Fortuné.
Champlain's drawing of Stage Harbour, Chatham
Courtesy: University of Southern Maine
Champlain found the southern natives less amiable than those further north, which is likely why the French remained at Port Royal. The French had better relations with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia and the Etchemins of Ste-Croix than with the Armouchiquois of what is now Massachusetts.
1606-07 ORDER OF GOOD CHEER
Historian Marc Lescarbot, newly arrived from France on the Jonas,
entertained the party returning from the coast of Maine with
the first theatre performed by Europeans in Canada. Le Theatre de Neptune en la Nouvelle France was enacted
on the shores and in the water at Port Royal.
The winter of 1606-07 was again very mild, and only four died of scurvy.
Champlain introduced his "Order of Good Cheer". Members of the company took turns as Chief Steward responsible for that day's menu. They hunted for game and served the meal with great ceremony. Membertou's tribe were frequent visitors and shared the table and banquets.
Ordre de Bon Temps
On May 24th 1607, news arrived from France that de Monts' company had been dissolved, and his monopoly revoked. There was no longer support for the Port Royal settlement, and by late September the Jonas was back at St-Malo.
Year-round settlement at Port Royal was abandoned until 1610 when de Poutrincourt returned with his family. This second Port Royal settlement was attacked and destroyed by the English based in Virginia, in 1613.
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The Works of Champlain and The History of New France by Marc Lescarbot are available at: The Champlain Society
Champlain by Joe C. W. Armstrong (MacMillan of Canada, 1987)
The Beginnings of New France 1524-1663 by Marcel Trudel (McLelland and Stewart, 1973)
Samuel de Champlain: Father of New France by Samuel Eliot Morison (Little Brown and Company, 1972)