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LaHave, Nova Scotia
Operated by Lunenburg County Historical Society

The French

The two main purposes of the French colonisation of Acadia were fishing and fur trading. The ocean off Nova Scotia, like the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, was rich in cod and there was an enormous market in Catholic Europe for this commodity. The coast of Acadia had been known since long before Champlain’s arrival as a source of fish and also of havens for the fishermen. The entrepreneurs who crossed the Atlantic for fish also found that the natives had furs for trading. Both these sources of wealth were theoretically under the control of the Crown, which granted monopolies to individuals or companies, but illegal fishing and trading was hard to control. Ships crossed the ocean and returned to France and other countries laden with both fish and furs. The purpose of a permanent settlement was to control this traffic and to establish French claims to Acadia.

The arrival of Champlain and DeMonts in Green Bay in1604 resulted in the name LaHave being given to the cape on one of the outer islands, where it has remained and spread to the whole river and to communities on each side of it. When Razilly came in 1632 he sailed up the river and made use of the strategic location of the narrowing entrance to construct Fort Ste Marie-de-Grâce. The river provided both a harbour and a highway, before roads were constructed in the area.

Nicolas Denys, one of Razilly’s colleagues at LaHave, realised that as well as fur and fish, timber was abundantly available from the red oaks which grew in the forests beside the river. An enthusiastic businessman, he established not only a fishing base at Port Rossignol (Liverpool) but also a lumber camp on land on the far side of the LaHave towards Merligueche (Lunenburg). He sent lumber back across the ocean on returning supply ships.

As Razilly’s settlement became established, new colonists were recruited from France. The passengers on the Saint-Jean, which sailed for Acadia in the spring of 1636, included both the bride-to-be of Charles Menou d’Aulnay, and several married Frenchmen with their wives and children. Their port of destination was clearly LaHave, the administrative centre of Acadia, where a farming settlement was already springing up. Some of the names from the shipping list are still common Acadian family names.

Some time after Razilly’s death in July, 1636, the settlers were transferred to Port Royal, and LaHave was abandoned, and destroyed by fire in 1653 as a result of rivalry among French traders. Sporadic attempts were made by both the French and the English to reestablish a post, and towards the end of the 17th century a small but persistent group of French and Mi’kmaq residents settled there, remaining until the Expulsion in the mid 18th century.

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