Annapolis River - First Colony
The beginning of European settlement in Canada
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'
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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