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Background to the 1604 Expedition

The 1604 Expedition

Historical Events After 1604

Passamaquoddy Tribal History in the St.Croix Estuary

Map of St.Croix Area



Originally called "Muttoneguis" by the Native North Americans, the island is located along the United States and Canada border between Maine and New Brunswick.


Saint Croix Island became the site of the first French settlement in North America in the year 1604.



Background to the 1604 Expedition


Under the leadership of King Henri IV, France had recently emerged from a prolonged period of religious warfare and civil strife between Catholic and Huguenot (Protestant) forces.

In 1594, Henri, King of Navarre and titular King of France converted to Catholicism to consolidate his claim to the throne and prevent anarchy.

In 1598 he issued the Edict of Nantes, guaranteeing religious tolerance for the Huguenots.

One prominent Huguenot, and champion of the King was Pierre Dugua the Sieur de Mons.

Dugua was granted the title of Lieutenant-Governor for the territory between the 40th and 46th parallel (modern Philadelphia and Labrador) by the King.

Dugua was also granted a trading monopoly for the fur trade, and was expected to colonize the territory and to convert First Nation peoples to Christianity.



The 1604 Expedition

In March of 1604, five ships carrying 120 men set sail from Havre de Grace (now Le Havre),

France to establish a settlement in the New World.

The French expedition was led by nobleman Pierre Dugua the Sieur de Mons.

Among those aboard the departing ships were

noblemen, artisans, soldiers, a surgeon,

Roman Catholic priest and a Huguenot minister

so that the material and spiritual needs

of the colonists could be met.

Along with Pierre Dugua the Sieur de Mons, other prominent members of the expedition

included the cartographer Samuel Champlain, Jean de Biencourt the Sieur de Poutrincourt and

Francois Grave the Sieur de Pont (dit Pontgrave).

The expedition landed first at Sable Island on May 1, 1604.

From there, three ships carrying 41 of the original 120 men headed to the St. Lawrence River to trade, Pontgrave sailed for Canso and Dugua, Champlain and Poutrincourt explored the south coast of Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy.

While Pierre Dugua searched for an appropriate spot to establish the settlement, Champlain carefully mapped the inlets and harbors of the rugged coastline.

Many places along the coasts of Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia still bear the names given to them by Champlain.

By late June, after exploring the mouth of the Saint John River, Dugua's group of 79 men sailed into Passamaquoddy Bay and up a river.

Here they found an island situated inland near the confluence of what appeared to be three rivers resembling the arms of a cross.

Dugua named the island "Isle de Sainte Croix".


Immediately work began on clearing the island and neighboring mainland to construct their dwellings, a kitchen, a storehouse, a blacksmith shop and a chapel.

With construction going well, Champlain was sent off by Dugua to explore further south.

On his voyage, Champlain went as far as Mount Desert Island and named it "Isle des Monts Deserts". Champlain returned to St. Croix Island in late September to find the dwellings completed.


On October 6, the first signs of winter were upon the settlers, it snowed.

Before long, the river filled and jammed with ice flows and the men on the island were cut off from the mainland.

They began to suffer from a shortage of drinking water and firewood.

Their cider froze and had to be doled out by the pound. The settlers were forced to drink Spanish wine and melted snow.

Out of seventy nine men, thirty five died and another twenty were very near to death.


In March 1605, Native people brought the men fresh game and traded for bread and other goods.

The health of the men began to return.


When Pontgrave's ship arrived on June 15, 1605, Dugua had already made the decision to move the settlement to a more suitable site.

Dugua and Champlain continued to explore the southern coastline, traveling as far as Cape Cod before returning to St. Croix Island without having found a more suitable site, Pierre Dugua then decided to relocate across the Baie Francaise (Bay of Fundy).

By early August 1605, the settlement at St. Croix Island was being dismantled to move to the Annapolis Basin in Nova Scotia.

Port Royale, as named by Champlain, was the crew's new home.

St. Croix Island would be revisited by members of the Port Royale settlement in the following years, but never re-occupied as a permanent settlement by them.


Historical Events After 1604




Samuel Champlain and Sieur de Poutricourt visit the island and note the gardens are still producing.

Dugua's monopoly is revoked.



Captain Argall Virgina (settled 1607) carries out orders to drive the French from the coast.

He destroys the remaining buildings at Saint Croix Island and sails to Port Royal burning that settlement.



The St. Croix River is set as the boundary between the British Provinces of Massachussetts Bay and Nova Scotia.



Treaty of Paris ended the American War of Independence and the St. Croix River was established as the international boundary.



Disagreement between the neighbouring Governments as to the location of the St.Croix River and Island are settled when Robert Pagan, using Champlain's maps and documents, finds ruins,French brick,and pottery, on what was then called Docea's Island.



The island is settled, quarried for sand and a light station is erected.






On June 25, the 300th anniversary of the settlement on St. Croix Island was celebrated with ceremonies on the island.

Three warships, from the United States, Great Britain, and France anchored north of the island. A commemorative plaque was unveiled on the island.

Ceremonies were also carried out in Saint John, N.B., Port Royal, N.S. and in Calais, Maine.




On June 8, the United States Congress authorized St. Croix Island as a national monument.



On June 30, St. Croix Island was formally dedicated as a national monument. At the same time, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada recommended Parks Canada cooperate with the U.S. Parks Service in the preservation of the island.



A memorandum of understanding was signed by Canada and the United States for the protection and commemoration of St. Croix Island with interpretation sites to be established by each country.



On September 25, the national monument was re-designated by the US Congress as Saint Croix Island International Historic Site.



On July 18 a workshop was hosted by the St. Croix International Waterway Commission, resulting in the generation of numerous ideas on how to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the settlement.



An amendment to the 1982 international memorandum was signed by Canada and the United States pledging support for the 400th anniversary commemorations in 2004.



On November 7, the Ste-Croix 2004 Coordinating Committee, an international organization comprised of Canadians and Americans was established at a public meeting held in Calais, Maine.



The Ste-Croix 2004 Committee hires its first staff person, becomes incorporated as a not for profit corporation on both sides of the border and applies for charitable status in Canada and the United States.

Official requests for special commemorative 2004 coins and stamps is made in both countries.



The Ste-Croix 2004 Committee launches its official website and marks the 397th anniversary of the landing at St. Croix Island with a cruise to the island.

The Town of St. Stephen passes a municipal resolution in support of 2004 efforts.

The City of Calais, the Town of St. Andrews and St. Stephen commit to annual funding support.



June 25- July 4th International Celebrations commemorating the 400th Anniversary of the First French settlement in North America.

The International Historic Site at Bayside, New Brunswick, Canada is officially opened.



View links to other related web sites from the local area.


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