By the 17th century, Norman, Breton and Basque fishermen and traders had been frequenting the coastline of the Americas for several generations. Royalty, governments, explorers, entrepreneurs and the Churches of Europe had heard rumors of opportunity, wealth and duty in the New World. Ship captains, traders, merchants and others brought word back to Europe of this new land, of untold riches, fur and fish.
While in the New World to establish France’s interest, the cartographer-historian Samuel-de-Champlain entered the mouth of a large river in what was known as French Bay on St John the Baptist Day 1604. Naming the river the St. John in consideration of the day of its discovery, he traveled past a green mound near the river’s mouth, and proceeded upriver making note of the dangerous and narrow falls. What Champlain may not have been privy to was the overland portage, along what is now Bentley Street, leading away from harbour to a calm stretch of river above the Reversing Falls. The spine of outcrop rock crossed by the portage provides a fine unobstructed view of the harbour and the green mound. Archaeological evidence recovered along the portage indicates it had been used for many generations before Champlain’s arrival.
Perhaps it was fate that overlapped the territories, jurisdictions and profits of La Tour with that of the neighboring Governor, Charles De Menou d’Aulnay. At any rate, the result was civil war between the two outposts. The interwoven stories of La Tour and his second wife Francoise-Marie Jacquelin, and their rival Charles De Menou d’ Aulnay is one of intrigue and treachery. Of two men, history has portrayed one, d’Aulnay as coming from French society. The other, La Tour, was a rough man, capable of living off the land. Both were tenacious in their rivalry against one and other for fur and rights to do business. The maneuvering of d’Aulnay and La Tour with the merchants of Boston is a central theme to early historical relationships between Acadia and Boston, and rich in diplomacy and politics. The circumstances of the fall of the fort during La Tour’s absence, and of Madame Francoise-Marie Jacquelin La Tour’s heroic defense against d’Aulnay, the overrunning of the fort and hanging of the garrison; Lady La Tour’s treatment and eventual death is as heroic, violent and grisly as history gets. She is remembered as Canada’s first heroine. The battle between d’Aulney and La Tour marks the only site of a French civil war outside of France. The years of Charles La Tour’s exile and return to marry d’Aulnay’s widow, all combine to make this one of the most spell binding series of events the historical record can offer.
While the La Tour component of the site dates from 1631-1645, and is perhaps the most captivating, there are other historical components of the site that are also of significance, some of which are sensitive. The understanding and appropriate approach to these components and issues are crucial to this, or any, proposed undertaking at the site. Approximately 4000 years prior to La Tour’s use of the raised green mound to construct his fort, Maritime Archaic Tradition (Red Paint Culture) used the same spot to bury their dead. Peoples of this tradition were largely coastal and probably very religious especially in their relationship to the sea and the successful use of its resources.