Maine Acadian Heritage Coucil
acadien du Maine
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Preserving Acadian Culture, Language, and History in the St. John Valley
Pour préserver la culture, la langue, et l'histoire des Acadiennes et Acadiens de la vallée du
Where does the name “Acadie” come from?
The history of Acadia starts in 1524, at a time when France, Portugal, and Spain were hoping to discover a western route to Asia. The Italian navigator Giovanni Verrazano (1485-1528) embarked on this quest in 1524 for the king of France. Verrazano traveled along the Atlantic coast, from Florida to Cape Breton, thereby proving the continuity of the littoral and the inclusion of Newfoundland to the North American continent. When he arrived in Washington in April, he found the area so lush that he named it “Arcadie”, after the ancient Greek paradise. Later in the XVIIth Century, the name was written without the “r” and describes the lands situated in the continental Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. (Landry, Nicolas et Nicole Lang, Histoire de l’Acadie Septentrion 2001)
1604: Saint Croix Island: First Permanent Settlement in North America
By the middle 1500s, French fishermen, fishing for cod along the Atlantic coast of the New World, began trading with the Indians for furs. The furs, especially beaver pelts, found a ready market in France, and official interest in the New World picked up in direct relation to the value of the fur and fish trade. In 1588, realizing an opportunity for profit, the French monarchy began to grant fur-trading monopolies to groups of merchants.
In the Fall of 1603, King Henry IV gave Pierre du Gua, Sieur de Monts, a Protestant merchant, a 10-year monopoly on trade "on sea and land in La Cadie, Canada and other parts of New France between 40° and 46°." His domain ran roughly from Philadelphia to Newfoundland. His grant required that he establish a settlement of at least 60 men in North America.
On April 7, 1604, De Monts set off from France with Samuel Champlain and Jean de Biencourt, Sieur de Poutrincourt, a Catholic. One ship was commanded by Francois Gravé du Pont, the other by de Monts himself. After much traveling and researching, Champlain settled on the site of the first permanent colony: Saint Croix Island, in Passamaquoddy Bay, that today divides New Brunswick from Maine. De Monts left Champlain and 80 other men on the island, then sailed back to France. He promised to return in the spring with new supplies.
The first snow fell on October 6. By December 3, ice floes began to cut off the Frenchmen from the mainland garden, woodlots, and water. A bitter wind blew constantly from the northeast, making it impossible to keep warm. Food froze hard, then rotted. Scurvy began to take its toll. Thirty five of the 80 men who originally settled on the island were dead by the time De Monts finally returned the following July. He decided to move the colony across the Bay of Fundy to a place he named Port Royal.