History Timeline 1600s

Picture above: Pocahontas, Source: World Noted Women, D. Appleton and Company, 1883, Wikipedia Commons. Right: Pocahontas Saving the Life of Captain John Smith, New England Chromo. Lithograph Company, 1870. Courtesy Library of Congress.


Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1600s


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  • 1608 Detail

    July 3, 1608 - Samuel de Champlain estabishes first permanent colony of New France at Quebec City, near the former abandoned Iroquois settlement of Stadacona.


    Yes, Quebec City is north of the border and not part of American, United States, history per the strictist sense of the word. However, there might have been no more important settlement that portended the history of the northern border of the United States than the New France settlement at Quebec. It would lead to the conflicts with settlers, natives, and allow for exploration of the Great Lakes. It would lead to wars with its colonial neighbor to the south, the English, culminating with the French and Indian War, among others, that would lead to the American Revolution. The province would form an integral part of the War of 1812. So Quebec, and Samuel de Champlain's founding of it, is actually an essential part of American history, even though we pass by its date and founding more often than we should.

    Champlain had been an important part of the attempt to found a permanent settlement at St. Croix Island in 1604 with Pierre Dugua, even moving to the next location at Port Royal for several years and exploring the New England coast as far south as Cape Cod before heading back to France. Once there, he met again with Pierre Dugua. Dugua, who would never return to North America again after the St. Croix Island experience, was still interested in colonizing New France. He backed Champlain on an expedition to found a colony and fur trading center along the St. Lawrence River. Champlain left the port of Honfluer, France, with a group of three ships; the Don-de-Dieu (Gift of God), Lévrier (Hunt Dog), commanded by friend and uncle Francois Gravé Du Pont, and third vessel, St. Jean. During the first winter, somewhere between twenty-eight people, plus Champlain, to slightly more than thirty were at the Quebec fort.

    Account of Samuel de Champlain, Journey

    After having recounted to the late King all that I had seen and discovered, I set sail to go to settle the great River St. Lawrence at Quebec, as the lieutenant, at that time, of Sieur de Monts. I left Honfleur April 13, 1608, and the third of June arrived at Tadoussac, 80 or 90 leagues from Gaspe', and anchored in the roadstead of Tadoussac, which is one league from the harbor. This is like a cove at the mouth of the River Saguenay, where there is a tide that is very strange on account of its swiftness. Here sometimes violent winds rise and bring on great cold. It is said that it is 45 or 50 leagues from the harbor of Tadoussac to the first fall of this river, which comes from the north north-west. This harbor is small, and it could not hold more than twenty ships. There is enough water, and it lies in the shelter of the River Sageuenay and of a little rocky island which is almost intersected by the sea.

    On July 3, 1608, Champlain landed at the point of Quebec near the abandoned Iroquois settlement of Stadacona, and began to erect three buildings two stories in height surrounded by a moat twelve feet wide, plus stockade to barricade them. He named the fort the Habitation. Over the next two decades, Champlain would use the city as his base for exploration and trade. His Traders Company, named the Compagnie des Marchands, used the Habitation as its store. Homes were built outside the fort, as well as other stockades, i.e. Fort St. Louis (1620-1626), which was located south of today's Chateau Frontenac hotel. The city walls of Quebec still remain, the only such fortified remnant north of Mexico.

    Within the year, Champlain attempted to develop good relations with the local tribes; Wendat (Huron), Algonquin, the Montagnais and the Etchemin. Trouble did not elude them, however, as the Iroquois, who had been in constant battle against the friendly tribes, were thought imperative to contain. This would lead to the Battle of Ticonderoga. After his victory, and the subsequent battle against the Mohawk at Sorel in 1610, the colony of Quebec had a predominantly peaceful period of twelve years with its native neighbors and trade partners.

    Quebec City did not grow quickly. The first winter was so harsh that twenty of the twenty-eight original settlers died. By 1627, only one hundred people lived in the colony, a scant twelve were women. There were thirty homes in the town, still a remote outpost, in 1650. By 1665, the settlement still had only seventy houses and five hundred and fifty people.

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    Account of Samuel de Champlain, Founding of Quebec

    From the Island of Orleans to Quebec it is one league. When I arrived there on July 3 I looked for a suitable place for our buildings, but I could not find any more convenient or better situated than the point of Quebec, so called by the savages, which is filled with nut trees and vines. I immediately employed some of our workmen in cutting them down, in order to put our buildings there. Some I set to sawing boards, some to digging a cellar and making ditches, and others I sent to Tadoussac with the boat to get our supplies. The first thing that we made was the storehouse in which to put our provisions under cover, which was promptly finished through the diligence of each one and the care that I had of it. Near this place is a pleasant river, where formerly Jacques Cartier passed the winter.

    While the ship-carpenters, the wood-sawers and other workmen, worked on our lodging I set all others at clearing the land about the building, in order to make the garden-plots in which to sow grain and seeds, to see how they would all turn out, for the soil appeared very good.

    Meanwhile a great many savages were in cabins near us, fishing for eels, which begin to come about September 15 and go away on October 15. At this time all the savages live on this manna and dry enough of it to last through the winter to the month of February, when the snow is about two and a half feet deep, or three at the most. And when the eels and other things that they collect have been prepared they go to hunt the beaver, which they do until the beginning of January. They were not very successful with the beaver hunt, for the water was too high and the rivers had overflowed, as they told us. When their eels give out they have recourse to hunting the elk and other wild beasts, which they can find, while waiting for the spring. At that time I was able to supply them with several things. I made a special study of their customs.

    Image above: Old Town Quebec, site of Champlain's landing and first fort, 1908. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Statue of Samuel de Champlain in Quebec, 1901, Detroit Photographic Co. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: Acounts above per "The Voyages and Explorations of Samuel de Champlain," 1604-1616, 1632, Samuel de Champlain; Voyage of Samuel de Champlain, American Journeys, Wisconsin Historical Society; "Champlain. The Life of Fortitude," 1948, Morris Bishop; "Champlain Amongst the Mohawk," 2009, David Hackett Fischer, American Heritage; Library of Congress; Canadian Encyclopedia; Wikipedia.

    The amount of colonists who accompanied Champlain from France is debated. More than the twenty-eight who wintered in Quebec may have sailed from France, with some sources stating from thirty-two to two hundred.

    Statue of Samuel de Champlain

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