A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia.TOC
Part 1, "Early Settlement & Baronial Battles: 1605-90."TOC
Chapter 5 - "Poutrincourt's Second Settlement (1610-13)"

It was the 26th day of February, 1610, when in Dieppe, France, men on a small wooden sailing vessel climbed the rigging to set sail, to shape them so to catch the breezes to Acadia. Poutrincourt was aboard and with him were a number of converts: a second attempt was to be made to occupy Port Royal.

Having secured the backing of a French merchant by the name of Robin, Poutrincourt was back at Port Royal by June.1 Among this small group were two boys: Charles LaTour, age 14 years; and Biencourt, age 19; they traveled with their fathers, Claude LaTour and Poutrincourt.2

The local natives were delighted that their French friends had returned, as their conversions demonstrated. Among the new arrivals was a French priest by the name of Flesche. Father Flesche was to baptize a number of Micmac Indians, including, on June 24th, 1610, at Port Royal, Chief Membertou.3

The ship that brought these returning Frenchmen was immediately despatched back to France, with young Biencourt aboard. An effort was made to get a second lot of supplies over within the season. Biencourt made record time in getting back to France, arriving on August the 21st, 1610. He arrived, however, at a bad time. France was in political turmoil arising in the wake of the assassination of Henry IV by a fanatic named Ravaillac, a tool, it was said, of the Jesuits.4 Henry's son, nine year old Louis XIII, took the throne and the power was held by the Queen Mother, Mary de Medicis, who was wholly controlled by Italian favourites. The queen received Biencourt but forced upon him a number of conditions before she would allow him to set out once again. The principal condition was that he take with him two Jesuit missionaries. This condition was completely unacceptable to Poutrincourt's backers, certain channel merchants who were Huguenot Protestants. Ultimately, after considerable maneuvering, friends of the queen bought out Poutrincourt's backers and his son, Biencourt, finally set sail from Dieppe on the 26th of January, 1611.

Though it was expected that Poutrincourt's son, Biencourt, would get back before winter set in, we see that he did not. By developing their hunting and fishing skills (no doubt with the help of their Micmac friends), Poutrincourt and his 23 charges survived the winter (1610/11); proving that Acadians could get by in the new land through the worst of its seasons without help from the home country. At any rate, Poutrincourt and his small band got through the winter without loss of life.5

During the month of May, 1611, Beincourt and 36 others, having set out more than three months earlier, in a small vessel, Grace de Dieu, arrived midst much fanfare at Port Royal. They had had a long and arduous voyage from France. They touched land at Canso on the 5th, then Port Royal on the 22nd. Beincourt had brought with him, in addition to much needed supplies, the two Jesuits: Biard and Masse.6 Beincourt barely tolerated these courtly priests and there was to be "a series of disputes between the Jesuits and the young governor."

By July, the French supply ship, Grace de Dieu, was set for its return trip to France.7 Poutrincourt himself was returning with furs to trade in France for more supplies and trading goods. Left behind at Port Royal was 19 year old Biencourt and 22 others. Among this group were the two Jesuit missionaries. Conflict soon broke out.

Some six months later, in the middle of the Acadian winter, on January 23rd, 1612, Poutrincourt arrived with supplies from France. With him is yet another Jesuit, Gilbert Du Thet, bringing the number during this time to three Jesuit missionaries: Enemond Masse8, Pierre Biard (c.1567-1622), and Gilbert Du Thet9. These missionaries did not reside with the French inhabitants. Rather, it would appear that they lived among the Indians. Father Masse moved across the bay to take up residence with those living at the mouth of the St John River and Father Biard ministered to the natives in and around Port Royal. These priests were working the Indians in order to accomplish a mission of the French royal crown and those that guided it: save souls for the Christian God. The natives were, it was thought by these religious people of the time, rich fishing grounds for souls: it was but necessary to get them baptized and see that they die in a state of grace.

It was Madame de Guercherville, a favourite of the queen mother, who was of the view that in the new world, souls might be saved by the wholesale lot. Having bought the rights which de Monts had to Acadia, de Guercherville sent a vessel out to Port Royal under the command of M. de La Saussaye. La Saussaye set sail on the 13th of March, 1613, with "48 persons, including her crew, together with horses and goats and a year's allowance ..."10 He arrived at Port Royal towards the end of May having first come ashore at Cape La Have, there to ceremoniously take possession of the country for his mistress. At Port Royal he found but five Frenchmen, the others being absent on account of their exploring activities. La Saussaye's, intention, it would seem, was to extract Madame de Guercherville's Jesuits and to move on to a new site. This new site was to be at Mount Desert Island in the current day State of Maine.11

Meanwhile, at Virginia, plans were being laid to snuff out the lights of the budding French colonies both at Mount Desert and Port Royal. On the 28th of June, 1613, Captain Samuel Argall (1572-?)12 sailed from Virginia in the Treasurer ("equipped with fourteen guns"). Argall first went to Mount Desert. Returning to Virginia with French prisoners, the governor, Sir Thomas Gates, ordered him back to do a more thorough job. Within a few weeks Argall was back at Mount Desert destroying the "buildings and fortifications,"13 from there he went to do the same at both St. Croix and Port Royal.

"The first shots in 150 years' war in America between France and England, were fired from Virginia to Acadia in 1613, seven years before the Pilgrim Fathers, which is evidence there was plenty of elbow room and that the initial clash was not a border affair. Practically 500 miles of wilderness intervened between Jamestown, Virginia and Port Royal, Acadia and in between there was a small subsidiary French settlement recently located at Saint Sauveur, Mount Desert, Maine.
"Captain Samuel Argall, soldier of fortune, captor of beautiful Pocahontas by a trick afterward Deputy Governor of the 'old Dominion' and later knighted for service in Algiers, was in northern waters with an armed schooner to protect a fleet of Virginia vessels engaged in the fisheries. Piracy was rampant at the time and Indians were hostile.
"Without warning, Argall bombarded French settlements at Saint Sauveur and Port Royal, killed several including a priest, took others prisoners, burned buildings, carried off portable belongings, pulled down crosses and even erased stone carvings containing French emblems. The attacks were made in a prolonged peace between the two countries and were ostensibly based on a charge of trespass and prior British title, dating from Cabot's Discovery of North America 116 years earlier."
James Hannay describes the sacking of Port Royal, 1613:
"At Port Royal he [Argall] found no person in the fort, all the inhabitants being at work in the fields five miles away. The first intimation they had of the presence of strangers was the smoke of their burning dwellings, which, together with the fort, in which a great quantity of goods was stored, he completely destroyed."15
Having set sail in France on 31st December, 1613, Poutrincourt arrived at Port Royal on March 27th, 1614 "to find the fort in ruins and the inhabitants starving ..."16 Poutrincourt had no choice but to return to France with most all of the colonists; his son, Biencourt, however, chose to stay behind in Acadia.17 "For several years after the destruction of Port Royal by Argal, there is a blank in the history of Acadia, and one which it is now impossible to fill. Biencourt still remained in the country, and occasionally resided at Port Royal, and it does not appear that any considerable number returned to France. A languid possession of Acadia was still maintained ..."18 Hannay adds as a footnote: "Louis Hebert, who had been the apothecary at Port Royal, appears to have returned to France, for he took his family to Quebec in 1617."

And thus it was, that in 1613, the second French attempt to colonize Port Royal ended with the return of the adventurers to France. However, two young men, Biencourt and Charles La Tour, appear to have continued on in Acadia, living off the land just as their friends the Micmacs did.

In time, the La Tour family "erected a fort and trading house at the mouth of the Penobscot River" (located in the current day state of Maine). In 1626, La Tour was dispossessed of his establishment at Penobscot by the English who again came up from the Plymouth colony.19 Presumably, then, after his family was expelled from Penobscot, La Tour came to Port Royal and allied himself with Biencourt until Biencourt's death.

During the years, 1613-29, there is but a "languid possession of Acadia,"20 a time when La Tour and Biencourt ran the woods with their Indian friends. France was in political turmoil and could not see to her internal needs, let alone the needs of a few Frenchmen in America.

Next: Chapter 6, The First Scots in Acadia.

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