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Annapolis River - First Colony

The beginning of European settlement in Canada

More on the Annapolis River:
Annapolis River:
Land of Evangeline

Apple Core:
Orchard blossoms in the valley

Fourteenth Colony:
An extension of New England

First Colony:
The beginning of European settlement in Canada

Grand Dérangement:
Deportation of the Acadians

For peat’s sake:
The ecology of peat bogs

Slippery business:
Eels and other catches of the Annapolis

Steal away:
Destination on the underground railway

Waste water is cleansed by the sun

The first colony attempted by the French in Canada in 1604, on an island at the mouth of the St-Croix river, was a complete disaster. There was no fresh water or firewood on the island. The colonists were completely unprepared for the harsh Canadian winter. About half of them died of scurvy before the spring.

The next year, the French rebuilt at Port-Royal on what became known as the Annapolis River. The colonists fared considerably better at this location. The land was well-suited for agriculture, and fish, furs, timber, and game were plentiful. In addition, the colonists were befriended by Chief Membertou of the Mi'kmaq, whose advice about local conditions was essential to the colonists' survival.

The colonists found the long winter nights dreary, so they formed a society called the ‘Order of Good Cheer,’ in which members would take turns being responsible for cooking feasts and providing entertainment. The first theatrical production in Canada took place here during the winter of 1606.

Port-Royal was abandoned for Quebec City in 1608 because Quebec was more strategically situated for the fur trade. By the 1630s, however, interest in Port-Royal revived, and France sent a number of colonists to the area. Rather than clear the forested uplands, the colonists built dikes to reclaim the fertile marshland that was flooded each day by the tides in the Bay of Fundy. After clearing the salt from the land, they had flat, stone-free fields on which to carry out agriculture.

The French Acadians traded mostly with New England, rather than with Canada or France. In the following years, they developed prosperous farms and a distinctive culture that was firmly centered on their families and the church.

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