On today’s date in 1605, Samuel de Champlain, Pierre Dugua de Mons and other French colonists began searching for a new site for their colony before settling on Saint Croix Island near the mouth of Maine’s Saint Croix River.
The French settled on Saint Croix Island because of its “good location, safe anchorage, and apparently defensible site,” reads an article published by the University of Maine entitled “Champlain and the Settlement of Acadia 1604-1607.”
“During the summer, houses, stores, and a chapel were hastily erected, while gardens were planted on the island and on a neighboring river bank. However, a bitter winter led to the abandonment of the settlement. The freezing of the Saint Croix River left the site vulnerable to attack, while a shortage of fresh food led to an outbreak of scurvy and the death of thirty-five men, nearly half of De Monts’ company.”
In his journal, Champlain remarked: “It was difficult to know this country without having wintered there; for on arriving in summer everything is very pleasant on account of the woods, the beautiful landscapes, and the fine fishing for the many kinds of fish we found there. there are six months of winter in that country.”
SETTLING PORT ROYAL
Travelling across the Bay of Fundy, the group eventually settled in Port Royal, N.S., after sailing 650 kilometres south to Cape Cod and drawing the first maps of New England coastline.
Champlain used Port Royal as his base until 1607, before which time he explored and mapped the Atlantic coast.
Born into a family of French mariners in 1574, Champlain began exploring North America in 1603 and eventually climbed to the top of society on this side of the pond. He went to New France in 1620 and spent the rest of his life improving the territory rather than exploring it. On March 1, 1632, he was appointed as New France’s first governor.
He eventually died on Christmas Day 1635 in Québec city.
2014 CHAMPLAIN COIN
In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint featured Champlain on the third coin of its Great Explorers series.
The $200 pure gold Proof coin features Champlain alongside an Indigenous guide as they disembark from canoes on the Ontario shoreline. The coin was designed by Glen Green and has a limited mintage of 2,000 pieces.