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Champlain
Chapter II Acadia - Ste, Croix Island - Port Royal


SOON after the period mentioned at the close of the previous chapter, Pierre du Gua, Sieur de Monts, Governor of Pont, a native of the ancient province of Saintonge, who had served under Henry IV, obtained a commission as "Lieutenant general au pays de Cadie, du 40° au 46°," on the condition that his energies should be especially directed to the propagation of the Catholic faith.

De Monts was a Huguenot; nevertheless he agreed to take with him to America a number of Catholic priests, and to see that they were respected and obeyed. Champlain was not satisfied with the choice of a Protestant to colonize a country which he had intended to make solely Catholic, and he states, "that those enterprises made hastily never succeed."

De Monts was not a stranger to America. He had first visited the country with Chauvin in 1600, but when he left Tadousac he was so discouraged that he determined, in the event of his becoming master of the situation, to attempt colonization only in Acadia, or on the eastern borders of the Atlantic running towards Florida.

It was well known in France that Acadia was the richest and most fertile part of the New World. Excellent harbours and good soil were found there. Fish abounded near its coasts; its forests were numerous and dense. An opinion existed that there were numerous mines, rich in copper, coal and gypsum. This country was also the favourite of the Normans, Britons and Basques, who for a hundred years had pursued their callings as fishermen or traders without interruption.

De Monts, however, was unable to bear the expense of this undertaking alone, and he consequently formed a company, composed of merchants of Rouen, La Rochelle and other towns. To further the enterprise Henry IV diminished the duty on merchandises exported from Acadia and Canada, and granted to the company the exclusive privilege of fur trading for a period of ten years, "from Cape de Raze to the 40°, comprising all the Acadian coast, Cape Breton, Baie des Chaleurs, Percd Island, Gasp£, Chisedec, Miramichi, Tadousac and Canada River, from either side, and all the bays and rivers which flow within these shores."

Acadia of that day was not confined to the peninsula of our own time, called Nova Scotia. It included that part of the continent which extends from the river St. John to the Penobscot. These boundaries were the cause of long quarrels and fierce and bloody wars between England and France until they were finally settled by the Treaty of Utrecht. In the early part of April, 1604, the king's proclamation confining the fur trade to de Monts and his associates was published in every harbour of France. Four ships were lying at anchor at Havre de Grace, ready to sail, and one hundred and twenty passages had been secured in two of the ships. Pont-Grave commanded one of the vessels of one hundred and twenty tons burthen, and another vessel of one hundred and fifty tons was under the charge of de Monts, who had taken on board Jean de Biencourt, Sieur de Poutrincourt, a gentleman of Picardy, Samuel Champlain, some Catholic priests and some Protestant ministers. Poutrincourt was going to America with the intention of residing there with his family. He was a good Catholic and a loyal subject. Champlain was attached to de Monts' expedition as geographer and historian.

The rendezvous had been fixed at Canseau, but de Monts proceeded directly to Port au Mouton on the Acadian coast, where he decided to await the arrival of Pont-Grave. In the meantime Champlain explored the country from Port au Mouton to Port Sainte Marguerite, now called St. Mary's Bay. This occupied a whole month. He also named Cape Ndgre, Cape Fourchu and Long Island. Champlain reported to de Monts that St. Mary's Bay was a suitable place to establish a settlement, and, following this advice, the lieutenant-general proceeded with Champlain to this bay, and further explored the Bay of Fundy, or French Bay. They soon perceived the entrance to another splendid port, which is now known as Annapolis Bay, or Port Royal.

Notwithstanding the authority of Lescarbot, Champlain was the first to give this place the name of Port Royal, for he says himself, "I have named this harbour Port Royal." When de Monts named the place La Baie Fracaise, Champlain did not hesitate to give to his chief the merit which he deserved.

Three rivers flow into this splendid harbour: the Riviere de l'Equille, so called from a little fish of the size of our eperlan or lanpon, which is found there in large quantities; the river named St. An-toine by Champlain, and a stream called de la Roche by Champlain, and de l'Orignac by Lescarbot.

After having explored the harbour, Champlain traversed La Baie Francaise to see whether he could discover the copper mine mentioned by Prdvert of St. Malo, and he soon arrived at a place which he named the Cape of Two Bays, or Chignecto, and perceived the High Islands, where a copper mine was found.

On May 20th an expedition started from the Port of Mines, in search of a place suitable for a permanent settlement. Proceeding towards the south-west they stopped at the entrance of a large river, which was named St. John, as it was on St. John's day that they arrived there. The savages called the river Ouigoudi. "This river is dangerous," writes Champlain, "if one does not observe carefully certain points and rocks on the two sides. It is so narrow at its entrance and then becomes broader/ A certain point being passed it becomes narrower again, and forms a kind of fall between two large cliffs, where the water runs so rapidly that a piece of wood thrown in is drawn under and not seen again. But by waiting till high tide you can pass this fall very easily. Then it expands again to the extent of about a league in some places where there are three islands."

Champlain did not explore the river further, but he ascertained a few days later that the Indians used the river in their journeys to Tadousac, making but a short portage on the way.

As preparations had shortly to be made for winter quarters, de Monte decided to proceed southwards, and the party at length came to a number of islands at the entrance of the river Ste. Croix, or Des Etche-mins. One of these islands was chosen for their establishment, and named Ste. Croix, "because," says Lescarbot, "they perceived two leagues above this island two streams flowing into the channel of the river, presenting the appearance of a cross." De Monts at once commenced to fortify the place by forming a barricade on a little inlet, which served as a station on which he set up a cannon; it was situated halfway between the mainland and the island of Ste. Croix. Some days afterwards all the French who were waiting in St. Mary's Bay disembarked on the island. They were all eager and willing to work, and commenced to render the place habitable. They erected a storehouse and a residence for de Monts, and built an "oven and a hand-mill for grinding wheat. Some gardens were also laid out, and various kinds of seeds were sown, which flourished well on the mainland, though not on the island, which was too sandy.

De Monts was anxious to ascertain the location of a mine of pure copper which had been spoken of, and accordingly he despatched Champlain, with a 'savage named Messamouet, who asserted that he could find the place. At about eight leagues from the island, near the river St. John, they found a mine of copper, which, however, was not pure, though fairly good. According to the report of the miner, it would yield about eighteen per cent. Les-carbot says that amidst the rocks, diamonds and some blue and clear stones could be found as precious as turquoises. Champdore, one of the carpenters, took one of these stones to France, and had it divided into many fragments and mounted by an artist. De Monts and Poutrincourt, to whom they were presented, considered these gems so valuable that they offered them to the king. A goldsmith offered Poutrincourt fifteen crown pieces for one of them.

Agriculture did not flourish on the island of Ste. Croix, which is about half a league in circumference. The rays of the sun parched the sand so that the gardens were entirely unproductive, and there was a complete dearth of water. At the commencement there was a fair quantity of wood, but when the buildings were finished there was scarcely any left; the inhabitants, consequently, nearly perished from cold in the winter. All the liquor, wine and beer became frozen, and as there was no water the people were compelled to drink melted snow. A malignant epidemic of scurvy broke out,- and of seventy-nine persons thirty-five died from the disease and more than twenty were at the point of death.

This disease proved one of the obstacles to rapid colonization in New France. It was epidemic, contagious and often fatal. It is a somewhat remarkable fact that the epidemic was prevalent amongst the French only when they were established on the soil, being rarely discovered on ship-board. Jacques Cartier had experienced the horrors of this disease in the winter of 1535-6, when out of his one hundred and ten men twenty-five died, and only three or four remained altogether free from attack. During the year 1542-3, Roberval saw fifty persons dying of the disease at Charlesbourg Royal. At Ste. Croix the proportion of deaths was still greater, thirty-five out of seventy-nine. There was a physician attached to de Monts' party, but he did not understand the disease, and therefore could not satisfactorily prescribe for it. De Monts also consulted many physicians in Paris, but he did not receive answers that were of much service to him.

At the commencement of the seventeenth century scientific men distinguished scurvy on land from scurvy on sea. They laboured under the false impression that the one differed from the other. Champlain called the disease mal de terre. It is certain, however, that the symptoms did not vary in either case, as we may ascertain from the descriptions furnished by Jacques Cartier and Champlain.

The position of the settlement was soon proved to be untenable, and de Monts was certainly to blame for this unhappy state of affairs. Why did he abandon Port Royal, where he had found abundant water ? Champlain, however, defends the action of his chief.

"It would be very difficult," he says, "to ascertain the character of this region without spending a winter in it, for, on arriving here in summer, everything is very agreeable in consequence of the woods, fine country, and the many varieties of good fish which are found." We must not forget, however, that the climate of this island differed very little from that of Tadousac, which had greatly disappointed de Monts, and that his sole object in settling in a more southern latitude was to avoid the disagreeable consequences of the climate.

Champlain made a plan of the island of Ste. Croix, indicating the buildings constructed for the habitation of the settlers. We observe many isolated tenements forming a large square. On one side was the residence of Champlain, of Champdord and d'Orville, with a large garden opposite. Near d'Orville's residence was a small building set apart for the missionaries. On the other side may be seen the storehouse, de Monts' dwelling, a public hall where the people spent their leisure, and a building for Boulay and the workmen. In an angle of the large square were the residences of Genestou, Sourin, de Beaumont, La Motte, Bourioli and Fougeray. A small fort is shown at one end of the island, approached by a pathway. The chapel of the priest Aubry was located near the cannon of the fort. Such was the plan of the first Acadian settlement. Much expense had been incurred for a very poor result.

De Monts was the directing spirit of the colony, and in spite of his noble attempts, he realized that his efforts were fruitless and that he would have to try another place for a permanent settlement. By the direction of his chief, Champlain accordingly undertook to explore the seacoast of Norembega.

De Monts has found a defender in Moreau, who held that Ste. Croix was only intended for winter quarters. If this had been his intention, we can scarcely believe that he would have incurred so great an expense in building a number of houses. Lescar-bot, whose testimony is most valuable, says: "When we go into a country to take possession of land we don't stop on islands to imprison ourselves. If that island had been supplied with rivers or streams, if the soil had been favourable to agriculture, it. would have been half wrong." But this island lacked the very first element essential to life, fresh water.

Towards the middle of May, 1605, every one's attention was directed towards France, as the ships which had been expected for over a month had not yet arrived. De Monts then determined to send his party to Gaspd in two large boats to join Pont-Grave. At this juncture, however, Pont-Grav£ arrived at Ste. Croix with his crew, comprising forty men.

De Monts and Pont-Grave held a consultation and decided to seek a more suitable place for a settlement, rather than to return to France. De Monts was still under the impression that the best plan was to attempt to settle in the vicinity of Florida, although the result of Champlain's exploration along the coast of the Norembega1 was considered unsatisfactory.

Let us now examine what Champlain had accomplished during the month of September, 1604.

He left Ste. Croix on September 5th, in a patache, with twelve sailors and two savages as guides. On the first day he covered twenty-five leagues and discovered many islands, reefs and rocks. To another island, four or five leagues in length, he gave the name of He des Monts Deserts1, which name has been preserved. On the following day Champlain met some hunting Indians of the Etchemin tribe, proceeding from the Pentagouet River to the Mount Desert Islands. "I think this river," says Champlain, "is that which several pilots and historians call Noremb&gue, and which most have described as large and extensive, with very many islands, its mouth being in latitude 43°, 43', 30". . . It is related also that there is a large, thickly-settled town of savages, who are adroit and skilful, and who have cotton yards. I am confident that most of those who mention it have not seen it, and speak of it because they have heard persons say so, who know no more about it than they themselves. . . But that any one has ever entered it there is no evidence, for then they would have described it in another manner, in order to relieve the minds of many of this doubt."

Champlain's description is written from personal knowledge, because he had seen the Pentagouet River.1 The country which it passes through is agreeable, but there was no town or village, and no appearance of either, with the exception of a few deserted cabins of the Souriquois or Micmacs.

Here Champlain met two Souriquois chiefs, Bes-sab£ and Cabahis, and succeeded in making them understand that he had been sent by de Monts to visit their country, and to assure them of the friendship of the French for the Souriquois. Champlain continued his journey southwards, and two days later he again met Cabahis, of whom he asked particulars as to the course of the river Noremb&gue. The chief replied "that they had already passed the fall, which is situated at about twenty leagues from the mouth of the river Penobscot. Here it widens into a lake, by way of which the Indians pass to the river Ste. Croix, by going some distance overland and then entering the river Etchemin. Another river also enters the lake, along which they proceed for some days until they gain another lake and pass through it. Reaching the end of it they again make a land journey of some distance until they reach another small river, the mouth of which is within a league of Quebec." This little river is the Chaudi-&re, which the Indians follow to reach Quebec. On September 20th Champlain observed the mountains of Bedabedec, and after having proceeded for ten or twelve leagues further he decided to return to Ste. Croix and wait until the following year to continue his explorations. His opinion was that the region he had explored was quite as unfavourable for a settlement as Ste. Croix.

On June 18th, 1605, de Monts, at the head of an expedition consisting of Champlain, some gentlemen, twelve sailors and an Indian guide named Panonias and his wife, set out from the island of Ste. Croix to explore the country of the Armouchi-quois, and reached the Pentagouet River in twelve days. On July 20th they made about twenty leagues between Bedabedec Point and the Kennebec River, at the mouth of which is an island which they named La Tortue.

Continuing their journey towards the south they observed some large mountains, the abode of an Indian chief named Aneda. "I was satisfied from the name," says Champlain, "that he was one of his tribe that had discovered the plant called aneda, which Jacques Cartier said was so powerful against the malady called scurvy, which harassed his company as well as our own when they wintered in Canada. The savages have no knowledge at all of this plant, and are not aware of its existence, although the above mentioned savage has the same name." This supposition was unfounded, because if this Indian had been of the same origin as the aborigines who acquainted Jacques Cartier with the virtue of the aneda plant in cases of scurvy, he would have understood the meaning of the word. Aneda is the Iroquois word for the spruce tree, but there is no evidence to prove that Champlain was ever aware that it was a specific. Had he known of its efficacy he would have certainly employed it.

At Chouacouet de Monts and Champlain received visits from many Indians, differing entirely from either the Etchemins or the Armouchiquois. They found the soil tilled and cultivated, and the corn in the gardens was about two feet in height. Beans, pumpkins and squash were also in flower. The place was very pleasant and agreeable at the time, but Champlain believed the weather was very severe in the winter.

The party proceeded still further south, in sight of the Cap aux lies (Cape Porpoise), and on July 17th, 1605, they came to anchor at Cape St Louis,1 where an Indian chief named Honabetha paid them a visit. To a small river which they found in the vicinity they gave the name of Gua, in honour of de Monts. The expedition passed the night of the 18th in a small bay called Cape St. Louis. On the 19th they observed the cape of a large bay, which they distinguished by the title of Ste. Suzanne du Cap Blanc, and on July 20th they entered a spacious harbour, which proved to be very dangerous on account of shoals and banks ; they therefore named it Mallebarre.

Five weeks had now elapsed since the expedition had left Ste. Croix, and no incident of importance had occurred. They had met many tribes of Indians, and on each occasion their intercourse was harmonious. It is true that they had not traversed more than three degrees of latitude, but, although their progress was slow, their time was well spent. De Monts was satisfied that it would be easier to colonize Acadia than this American coast, and Champlain was still convinced that Port Royal was the most favourable spot, unless de Monts preferred Quebec.

The expedition returned to Ste. Croix in nine days, arriving there on August 3rd. Here they found a vessel from France, under the command of Captain des Antons, laden with provisions, and many things suitable for winter use. There was now a chance of saving the settlers, although their position was not enviable.

De Monts was determined to try the climate of Port Royal, and to endeavour to establish a settlement there. Two barques were fitted out and laden with the frame work of the buildings at Ste. Croix. Champlain and Pont-Grave had set out before to select a favourable site around the bay, well sheltered from the north-west wind. They chose a place opposite an island at the mouth of the river de l'Equille, as being the most suitable. Every one was soon busily engaged in clearing the ground and in erecting houses. The plan of the settlement, says Champlain, was ten fathoms long and eight fathoms wide, making the distance around thirty-six fathoms. On the eastern side was a storehouse occupying the width of it, with a very fine cellar, from five to six feet deep. On the northern side were the quarters of Sieur de Monts, comfortably finished. In the backyard were the dwellings of the workmen. At the corner of the western side was a platform, upon which four cannon were placed, and at the eastern corner a palisade was constructed in the shape of a platform. There was nothing pretentious or elegant about these buildings, but they were solid and useful.

The installation of the new settlement being now complete, de Monts returned to France, leaving Pont-Grave in command. During the absence of de Monts, Champlain determined to pursue his discoveries along the American coast, and in this design he was favoured by de Monts, as the latter had not altogether abandoned his idea of settling in Florida. The season, however, was too far advanced, and' Champlain therefore stopped at the river St. John to meet Schoudon, with whom he agreed to set out in search of the famous copper mine. They were accompanied by a miner named Jacques, and a Slavonian very skilful in discovering minerals. He found some pieces of copper and what appeared to be a mine, but it was too difficult to work. Champlain accordingly returned to Port Royal, where several of the men were suffering from scurvy. Out of forty-dve, twelve died during the winter. The surgeon from Honfleur, named Deschamps, performed an autopsy on some of the bodies, and found them affected in the same manner as those who had died at Ste. Croix. Snow did not fall until December 20th, and the winter was not so severe as the previous one.

On March 16th, 1606, Champlain resumed his explorations, and travelled eighteen leagues on that day. He anchored at an island to the south of Manan. During the night his barque ran ashore and sustained injuries which it required four days to repair. Champlain then proceeded to Port aux Coquilles, seven or eight leagues distant, where he remained until the twenty-ninth. Pont-Grave, however, desired him to return to Port Royal, being anxious to obtain news of his companions whom he had left sick. Owing to indisposition, Champlain was obliged to delay his departure until April 8th.

Champlain and Pont-Gravd intended to return to France during the summer of 1606. Seeing that the vessels promised by de Monts had not arrived, they set out from Port Royal to Cape Breton or Gaspd, in search of a vessel to cross the Atlantic, but when they were approaching Canseau, they met Ralleau, the secretary of de Monts, who informed them that a vessel had been despatched under the command of Poutrincourt, with fifty settlers for the country. They, therefore, returned to Port Royal, where they found Poutrincourt, who as lieutenant-general of de Monts intended to remain at Port Royal during the year.

On September 5th, Champlain left Port Royal on a voyage of discovery. Poutrincourt joined the expedition, and they took with them a physician, the carpenter Champdord, and Robert Grav£, the son of Francis. This last voyage, undertaken to pleiise de Monts, did not result in anything remarkable. They first paid a visit to Ste. Croix, where everything remained unchanged, although the gardens were flourishing. From Ste. Croix the expedition drifted southwards, and Champlain pointed out the same bays, harbours, capes and mountains that he had observed before. Schoudon, chief of the Etchemins, and Messamouet, captain of the Micmacs, joined the party, and proceeded with them as far as Chouacouet, where they intended to form an alliance with Olmechin and Marchim, two Indian chiefs of this country.

On October 2nd, 1606, the expedition reached Mallebarre, and for a few days they anchored in a bay near Cape Batturier, which they named Port Fortune (Chatham). Five or six hundred savages were found at this place. "It would be an excellent place," says Champlain, "to erect buildings, and lay the foundation of a state, if the harbour was somewhat deeper and the entrance safer." Poutrincourt stopped here for some days, and in the meantime visited all the surrounding country, from which he returned much pleased.

According to a custom peculiar to the French since the days of Jacques Cartier, de Monts had planted a large cross at the entrance of the Kennebec River, and also at Mallebarre. Poutrincourt did the same at Port Fortund. The Indians seemed annoyed at this ceremony, which they evidently considered as an encroachment upon their rights as proprietors. They exhibited symptoms of discontent, and during the night they killed four Frenchmen who had imprudently stayed ashore. They were buried near the cross. This the Indians immediately threw down, but Poutrincourt ordered it to be restored to its former position.

On three different occasions the party attempted to pursue their discoveries southwards, but they were prevented each time by a contrary wind. They therefore resolved to return to Port Royal, which was rendered imperative both by the approach of winter and the scarcity of provisions. The result of the voyage was not altogether satisfactory. Champlain had perhaps held a degree further south than on the former occasion, but he had not discovered anything of importance.

On their return to Port Royal, the voyagers were received with great ceremony. Lescarbot, a Parisian lawyer, who had arrived some time before, and some other Frenchmen, went to meet them and conducted them to the fort, which had been decorated with evergreens and inscriptions. On the principal door they had placed the arms of France, surrounded with laurel crowns, and the king's motto: JDno protegit unus. Beneath the arms of de Monts was placed this inscription: Dabit Deus his quoque finem. The arms of Poutrincourt were wreathed with crowns of leaves, with his motto: In via virtuti nulla est via. Lescarbot had composed a short drama for the occasion, entitled, Le Theatre de Neptune.

The winter of 1606-07 was not very severe. The settlers lived happily in spite of the scurvy, from which some of them died. Hunting afforded, them the means of providing a great variety of dishes, such as geese, ducks, bears, beavers, partridges, reindeer, bustards, etc. They also organized a society devoted to good cheer called, Ordre du Bon Temps, the by-laws of which were definite, and were fixed by Champlain himself. The Indians of the vicinity who were friendly towards the French colony were in need of food, so that each day loaves of bread were distributed amongst them. Their sagamo, named Membertou, was admitted as a guest to the table of Poutrincourt. This famous Souriquois, who was very old at that time—probably a hundred years, though he had not a single white hair—pretended to have known Jacques Cartier at the time of his first voyage, and claimed that in 1534 he was married, and the father of a young family.

Lescarbot, who was an able man and a good historian, records the particulars above related, besides many other interesting facts concerning Port Royal which appear to have escaped Champlain's observation. Lescarbot was an active spirit in the life of the first French colony in Acadia. He encouraged his companions to cultivate their land, and he worked himself in the gardens, sowing wheat, oats, beans, pease, and herbs, which he tended with care. He was also liked by the Indians, and he would have rejoiced to see them converted to Christianity. Lescarbot was a poet and a preacher, and had also a good knowledge of the arts and of medicine. Charlevoix says: "He daily invented something new for the public good. And there was never a stronger proof of what a new settlement might derive from a mind cultivated by study, and induced by patriotism to use its knowledge and reflections. We are indebted to this advocate for the best memoirs of what passed before his eyes, and for a history of French Florida. We then behold an exact and judicious writer, a man with views of his own, and who would have been as capable of founding a colony as of writing its history."

With the departure of Lescarbot and Champlain the best page of the history of Port Royal is closed. The two men left on September 2nd, 1607, on board the Jonas, commanded by Nicholas Martin. They stopped at Roscoff in Basse-Bretagne, and the vessel arrived at Havre de Grace in the early days of October.

Poutrincourt, his son Biencourt, and Lescarbot made a pilgrimage to Mont St. Michel, and Champlain went to Brouage, his native country, having sojourned in America for three years and five months.


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