A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #1: Acadia.TOC
Part 1, "Early Settlement & Baronial Battles: 1605-90."TOC
Chapter 6 - "The First Scots in Acadia"

While France may have been in "languid possession" of Acadia, the English, as we shall see, were taking steps to assert their rights. It was during September of 1621 that James the First of England granted1 a sizable part of the north-eastern coast of North America to a Scottish nobleman, Sir William Alexander of Menstrie, Earl of Stirling.2 The royal charters, like all important state documents of the time, were in Latin. Thus it was that the words "Nova Scotia" were first used to identify it as a British province.

The crown only gave rights; for funds, it was necessary for Sir William to look to others. In his efforts to raise general interest in New Scotland, Sir William, in 1624, published a pamphlet entitled "An Encouragement to Colonies." In this pamphlet he set forth, in eloquent terms, the advantages offered to settlers in New Scotland. "It contained a map of the country, in which Scottish river and place names supplanted those given by the French, as the Tweed for the Ste. Croix, the Clyde for the St. John, and so on over the whole region."3

A few years passed before, in 1629, Sir William's son (another Sir William), "having been knighted and made Knight Admiral, started with a fleet of four vessels containing seventy men and two women," reached Port Royal.4

De Monts and his men, in 1605, given the dreadful experience during their first winter in Acadia, were more concerned about the weather then they were of attacks by other men and tucked in under the sheltering North Mountain range.5 The Scots, on the other hand, were looking for a defensible position; they were wary of the Indians, the French, and ship borne pirates that made their rounds. Just such a position was found not far from the first French habitation. It had a full array of natural defences. There was a bluff of land stuck at the point of a peninsula located between the juncture of two rivers; such a place would leave the defenders but a small front exposed to hostile land forces. Thus, in 1629, New Scotland established its community at a place we now known as Annapolis Royal. A small wooden fort, Fort Charles (after Charles of England) was built; a commanding position in a pretty place.

Little is known about this early Scottish settlement.6 During the first winter, according to one account, so ill prepared were these Scottish settlers that thirty out of seventy perished due to "scurvy and other diseases"; and those that survived were then forced that spring to face the Indians and their scalping knives.7

Apparently having gone home the previous autumn, Sir William Alexander, Jr. came over in company with the Kirke brothers and likely went as far as the Gaspe, where they arrived on June 15th. Apparently, Alexander had explored the area the year before and had left an overwintering band of Scots at Gaspe. While the Kirkes went on to Quebec, Alexander, together with those he picked up at Gaspe returned back to the eastern coast of Cape Breton, and, during July, established a settlement (known as Lord Ochiltree's settlement) at Port aux Baleines, not far and just north of present day Louisburg (see map). On this 1629 trip, Sir William had Claude La Tour with him. La Tour had been captured by the Kirke brothers the year before,8 and had since shifted his allegiance to the English. Sir William, after having seen to the Baleines settlement, seemingly under the senior La Tour's direction, sailed directly for Port Royal.9

In the meantime, on June 26, 1629, Captain Charles Daniel left France in command of two vessels with the object of provisioning Champlain at Quebec. Separated from his companion ship and being driven to shore by a storm, Daniel sought refuge at St. Ann's Bay, Cape Breton (the French called it by its Indian name, Cibou). Daniel soon learned from his Indian friends that the Scots had made a settlement on the eastern side of northern Cape Breton.

Though England and France had entered into The Treaty of Susa on April 23rd, 1629, Daniel attacked Lord Ochiltree's Cape Breton settlement on September 8th, capturing the fort and taking the colonists prisoners.10

In the fall of the year, Claude de La Tour, who had come over with Sir William Alexander (leaving Sir William to spend the winter at Port Royal), sailed back to England with a view to coming back out the following spring with provisions. Aboard the returning English ship, in addition to La Tour, were the Indian Chief Segipt, his wife and son. Contained in one of the reports that La Tour bore for the English authorities, was a recommendation that both La Tour and his son Charles should be granted baronies covering the southeastern shore of Nova Scotia from present day Yarmouth to the mouth of the Laheve.11

In 1630, Claude La Tour, having been appointed an English baron by royal decree, arrived in Acadia (Port La Tour) with a bride, an impressive woman, a royal maid of honour. An altercation broke out between father and son. The senior La Tour was obliged to back down and he took refuge with the English at their Scottish fort at Port Royal.

In the same year, 1630, when the senior La Tour brought his bride to Acadia, two French vessels, having set sail from Bordeaux, arrived late in the season with supplies, arms, and ammunition for the new fort at Grand Cibou (Cape Breton) and for Fort Louis at Port La Tour. They had been sent out by a merchant by the name of Jean Tuffet (Company of New France) and the expedition was under the command of Captain Marot. The ships were freighted with "food, building supplies, munitions and tradesmen to construct a new fort; also, three Recollet missionaries disembarked to provide services which had been missing in Acadia for the previous four years.12 (It was shortly after this that an invitation was extended by the son to the father for the elder La Tour to leave the Scottish fort at Port Royal and to come to Cape Sable to live. The senior La Tour was only to happy to make up and come live with his son; he did so and lived out the rest of his life in a rather aristocratic style in a house built nearby the fort where Claude La Tour and his lady lived with their two maids and their two menservants they had brought to Acadia.)

The son was not around to entertain or be entertained by his illustrious father; he had business which needed attending, the peltry business. Charles La Tour had determined that while a continuing presence in the Cape Sable area was good; the best furs, in volume, were to be had at the mouth of the St. John River. So it was that Charles La Tour "concluded to erect a strong fort at the mouth of the St. John River, where there was a powerful tribe of Indians, which would serve the double purpose of repelling the intrusions of the English in that direction, and would give the French at the same time command of the whole peltry trade of that vast wilderness, which extended to the River St. Lawrence."13

Meanwhile, the Scots carried on at Port Royal. In the autumn of 1630, Sir William (the younger) returned to England leaving Sir George Home in charge of the Scottish settlement.14

During April, 1631, a "well stocked" vessel was sent from France to supply both Fort St. Louis and the fort at Cape Breton. The vessel also brought news that Charles La Tour was the recipient of a royal commission as the "King's lieutenant-general in Acadia."15

By the Treaty of Susa (April, 1629) the English had agreed to the return of conquered territory in America. The English had argued that the Alexander settlements in Nova Scotia were not conquered territories. The English, however, on the promise by the French that Queen Henrietta's dowry (due from the French crown to the English crown) would be paid to give up the Alexander settlements. Thus, on July 11th, 1631, the English king informed Sir William that the arrangement in respect to his ownership of Nova Scotia would have to come to an end, as the English king had returned Acadia to the French king.16 A message was sent out by Sir William Alexander to Sir George Home17 at Port Royal, to remove "all the people, goods, ordnance, ammunition, cattle and other things belonging to the colony, and to leave the bounds thereof altogether waste and unpeopled as it was when his son first landed there."18 Savary reports that the "majority of the Scottish settlers probably returned to Scotland, but some joined the Puritan colony in Boston, and some joined the French at the site of the present town [Port Royal] and at LaHave." This short lived Scottish colony left its mark on the Acadian culture as at least one Scotsman, a Melanson, eventually took a French wife.19

Fort Charles remained operational under its commander, Andrew Forrester, until in 1632, when, with the arrival of de Razilly, it was surrendered up. M. A. MacDonald reported20 that 46 colonists were taken aboard Razilly's St. Jehan and were carried back to the shores of England and put off considerably south of their desired destination. The wily Scots had arrived back in England with money in their pockets, for de Razilly had - being the aristocratic gentleman that he was - paid the Scottish for the food and munitions that had been left behind at Fort Charles.

Thus, the short lived Scottish colony in Acadia came to an end after a tenuous four years of existence; more than a hundred and fifty years were to pass, when, in the late 18th century, on account of the clearances, Scottish emigration was to start in earnest. By 1831, this influx significantly contributed to the Nova Scotian base from which the present day population grew, particularly in the north end of peninsular Nova Scotia, and, of course, on Cape Breton Island; but, that is another story the telling of which for me is a long way off.


Next: Chapter 7, The De Razilly Settlement at LeHeve

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