Many French settlers suffered great losses as a result of the closing of the Port Royal Habitation in Annapolis Royal. In spite of this some of the settlers remained in the area for many years to come. One of those settlers, Charles de Saint-Etienne de La Tour started a trading base at Cape Sable.
The next colonists to settle in the region were the Scots. James I, King of England granted a charter to Sir William Alexander, a Scottish nobleman in 1621, to set up a Scottish colony in North America. This Charter covered what are now known as the Canadian Maritime Provinces and Gasp Peninsula. The proposed colony was named Nova Scotia under the Charter. Nova Scotia is the Latin name for New Scotland.
In 1629 after 8 years of trying to create interest and financial backing for the proposed settlement colonists arrived to set up a colony. Around 70 Scottish colonists, arrived at the site where the Fort Anne National Historic Site now stands, led by Alexander’s son, Sir William Alexander the Younger. The site was just a few kilometres upriver from the previous Port Royal Habitation.
One settler related in his diary that the site was fortified by the sea and land, rising above one of the main rivers, having on a small river to the east, a ruined water mill built by the French, and protected on both sides of the river by hills. The area was abundant with seafood and game. The Fort was christened Fort Charles in honour of King Charles I. The settlement was named after Port Royal.
The conflict between France and England for control of the region continued. After only 3 years King Charles ordered Sir William Alexander in 1632 to remove his settlers from the settlement. The colony returned to France in the same year under the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
Even though they only lasted 3 years the Scottish settlers left an enduring legacy with the name of the Province, Nova Scotia, the flag and the coat of arms all derived from this settlement.
After the Treaty French colonists replaced the Scots. Their leader, Charles de Menou d’Aulnay and his wife, Jeanne Motin committed to building a thriving colony. The settlers spread out along the shores of the Rivire Dauphin (now the Annapolis River). They built dykes and engineering sluices, or aboiteaux, along the tidal flats, to prevent the marshes from being flooded by sea water. This form of agriculture is still in use today. After 2 or 3 years the rain washed away the salt from the marsh dyked areas turning these areas into productive farmland. This group of French settlers became known as the Acadians.
In the 1630′s Port Royal was the name given to the village encompassing the area from the basin to several kilometres upriver past the present day Annapolis Royal. Approximately 600 Acadians were living in the village by the early 1700s. Other Acadians from Port Royal set up other settlements on the upper Bay of Fundy.
D’Aulnay, expanded the Fort. He built the first of 4 French forts, maybe incorporating parts of the Scots’ fort. 2 temporary Forts followed. In 1702, Pierre-Paul de Labat, a French officer, designed and supervised the construction of a Fort at the junction of the Annapolis and Allain rivers. He created a star-shaped Fort of 4 bastions connected by curtain walls, with a ravelin and seaward battery facing the Annapolis River. Today the ruins of this Vauban-styled Fort are known as Fort Anne National Historic Site of Canada.
The colony of Acadia was governed from this location until 1710 and was home to the French Governor, his officials and garrison. Carpenters, tradesman and several other families also lived at the fort.
In the fall of 1710 Port Royal now the French capital of Acadia fell to the British after a week long siege. Francis Nicholson, a British officer led a fleet of 35 ships and 2000 British and New England troops and outnumbered the French forces. On October 16, the Governor Daniel D’Auger de Subercase handed over the Fort and a 5 kilometres area around the village. The village was renamed Annapolis Royal, and Acadia once again became Nova Scotia.
British sovereignty over Acadia was confirmed under The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, and Annapolis Royal became the capital of Nova Scotia. The war was not over, and the boundaries of Acadia were never defined. Under the Treaty France retained its colonies of Canada (an area along the St. Lawrence River), Ile Royale (Cape Breton Island) and Ile Saint Jean (Prince Edward Island). The French remained determined to regain control of Annapolis Royal and to re-establish Acadia.
Although there was much uncertainty the Acadian population grew and expanded up the Bay of Fundy over the next 30 years. The region changed between the French and British numerous times from 1713, leading the Acadians to believe the French might gain control again. The Acadians remained neutral, not committing to either the French or British. The Acadian communities elected deputies, who acted on behalf of their villages to communicate with British officials. The British pressured the deputies to commit to the British, but the Acadians continued to resist.
In 1729-30 Governor Richard Philipps and the Acadians agreed to a modified oath that was accompanied by a verbal promise stating that the Acadians would not be obligated to bear arms against the French or the Mi’kmaq. British officials in London and later in Halifax would not accept this oath. The loyalty issue became a worry to both sides.
The Mi’kmaq, who had previously occupied the entire region, were unhappy with the increased British presence. They were generally friendly with the French, especially as some of them shared a common religion and family ties. In the 1720′s violence broke out between the Mi’kmaq and the British. The Mi’kmaq captured trading and fishing vessels and there was a battle near Annapolis. In 1726 a peace treaty made in Boston was ratified in Annapolis with the Mi’kmaq and other First Nations chiefs from the north east.
The role of the Fort at Annapolis Royal diminished with Halifax as the new capital and military stronghold. It served as an outpost defending Annapolis during the American Revolution and the 1812 War. The last combat at the Fort was in 1781 when it was attacked by American privateers. In the 1790′s the British built Field Officers’ Quarters and in the early 1800s, the Fort became known as Fort Anne. In 1854, the British withdrew from Annapolis Royal and the Fort and its grounds gradually deteriorated.
The village of Annapolis Royal prospered from the growth of the shipping and ship-building industry in the 1800′s. Victorians in the late 19th century revered the Fort for its long and heroic past. When the blockhouse was demolished without notice, a group of citizens petitioned the Government of Canada to have the site preserved and maintained for future generations. In 1917 work took place to improve the site and Fort Anne became Canada’s first administered national historic site.
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