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Samuel de Champlain's Voyages
Volume II, Part XIII

The Journals of the intrepid French explorer who was the first European to discover Lake Champlain

This is the thirteenth in a continuing series of entries from the Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, first published in 1613. To view Part I, click here. For Champlain's account of the discovery of the lake that bears his name, click here...

Original translation from the French by Charles Pomeroy Otis, Ph.D. Republished by the Prince Society, Boston: 1878.

Volume II



On the 5th of September, we set out again from Port Royal.

On the 7th, we reached the mouth of the river St. Croix, where we found a large number of savages, among others Secondon and Messamouët. We came near being lost there on a rocky islet, on account of Champdoré's usual obstinacy.

The next day we proceeded in a shallop to the Island of St. Croix, where Sieur de Monts had wintered, to see if we could find any spikes of wheat and other seeds which we had planted there. We found some wheat which had fallen on the ground, and come up as finely as one could wish; also a large number of garden vegetables, which also had come up fair and large. It gave us great satisfaction to see that the soil there was good and fertile.

After visiting the island, we returned to our barque, which was one of eighteen tons, on the way catching a large number of mackerel, which are abundant there at this season. It was decided to continue the voyage along the coast, which was not a very well-considered conclusion, since we lost much time in passing over again the discoveries made by Sieur de Monts as far as the harbor of Mallebarre. It would have been much better, in my opinion, to cross from where we were directly to Mallebarre, the route being already known, and then use our time in exploring as far as the fortieth degree, or still farther south, revisiting, upon our homeward voyage, the entire coast at pleasure.

After this decision, we took with us Secondon and Messamouët, who went as far as Choüacoet in a shallop, where they wished to make an alliance with the people of the country, by offering them some presents.

On the 12th of September, we set out from the river St. Croix.

On the 21st, we arrived at Choüacoet, where we saw Onemechin, chief of the river, and Marchin, who had harvested their corn. We saw at the Island of Bacchus [198] some grapes which were ripe and very good, and some others not yet ripe, as fine as those in France; and I am sure that, if they were cultivated, they would produce good wine.

In this place. Sieur de Poutrincourt secured a prisoner that Onemechin had, to whom Messamouët [199] made presents of kettles, hatchets, knives, and other things. Onemechin reciprocated the same with Indian corn, squashes, and Brazilian beans; which was not very satisfactory to Messamouët, who went away very ill-disposed towards them for not properly recognizing his presents, and with the intention of making war upon them in a short time. For these nations give only in exchange for something in return, except to those who have done them a special service, as by assisting them in their wars.

Continuing our course, we proceeded to the Island Cape, [200] where we encountered rather bad weather and fogs, and saw little prospect of being able to spend the night under shelter, since the locality was not favorable for this. While we were thus in perplexity, it occurred to me that, while coasting along with Sieur de Monts, I had noted on my map, at a distance of a league from here, a place which seemed suitable for vessels, but which we did not enter, because, when we passed it, the wind was favorable for continuing on our course. This place we had already passed, which led me to suggest to Sieur de Poutrincourt that we should stand in for a point in sight, where the place in question was, which seemed to me favorable for passing the night. We proceeded to anchor at the mouth, and went in the next day. [201]

Sieur de Poutrincourt landed with eight or ten of our company. We saw some very fine grapes just ripe, Brazilian peas, [202] pumpkins, squashes, and very good roots, which the savages cultivate, having a taste similar to that of chards. [203] They made us presents of some of these, in exchange for little trifles which we gave them. They had already finished their harvest. We saw two hundred savages in this very pleasant place; and there are here a large number [204] of very fine walnut-trees, [205] cypresses, sassafras, oaks, ashes, and beeches. The chief of this place is named Quiouhamenec, who came to see us with a neighbor of his, named Cohoüepech, whom we entertained sumptuously. Onemechin, chief of Choüacoet, came also to see us, to whom we gave a coat, which he, however, did not keep a long time, but made a present of it to another, since he was uneasy in it, and could not adapt himself to it. We saw also a savage here, who had so wounded himself in the foot, and lost so much blood, that he fell down in a swoon. Many others surrounded him, and sang some time before touching him. Afterwards, they made some motions with their feet and hands, shook his head and breathed upon him, when he came to himself. Our surgeon dressed his wounds, when he went off in good spirits.

* * * * *


LE BEAU PORT. [Note: _Le Beau Port_ is Gloucester.]

_The figures indicate fathoms of water_.

_A_. Place where our barque was.
_B_. Meadows.
_C_. Small island. [Note: Ten-Pound Island. It is forty rods long and thirty feet high. On it is a U. S. Light, fifty feet above the sea-level.]
_D_. Rocky cape.

_E_. Place where we had our shallop calked. [Note: This peninsula is now called Rocky Neck. Its southern part and the causeway which connects it with the main land are now thickly settled.]
_F_. Little rocky islet, very high on the coast. [Note: This is Salt Island.]
_G_. Cabins of the savages and where they till the soil.
_H_. Little river where there are meadows. [Note: This is the small stream that flows into Fresh-Water Cove.]
_I_. Brook.
_L_. Tongue of land covered with trees, including a large number of sassafras, walnut-trees, and vines. [Note: This is now called Eastern Point, is three quarters of a mile long, and about half a mile in its greatest width. At its southern extremity is a U. S. Light, sixty feet above the sea-level. The scattering rocks figured by Champlain on its western shore are now known as Black Bess.]
_M_. Arm of the sea on the other side of the Island Cape. [Note: Squam River, flowing into Annisquam Harbor.]
_N_. Little River.
_O_. Little brook coming from the meadows.
_P_. Another little brook where we did our washing.
_Q_. Troop of savages coming to surprise us. [Note: They were creeping along the eastern bank of Smith's Cove.]
_R_. Sandy strand. [Note: The beach of South-East Harbor.]
_S_. Sea-coast.
_T_. Sieur de Poutrincourt in ambuscade with some seven or eight arquebusiers.
_V_. Sieur de Champlain discovering the savages.

NOTES: A comparison of his map with the Coast Survey Charts will exhibit its surprising accuracy, especially when we make allowance for the fact that it is merely a sketch executed without measurements, and with a very brief visit to the locality. The projection or cape west of Ten-Pound Island, including Stage Head, may be easily identified, as likewise Fort Point directly north of the same island, as seen on our maps, but north-west on that of Champlain, showing that his map is oriented with an inclination to the west. The most obvious defect is the foreshortening of the Inner Harbor, which requires much greater elongation.

* * * * *

The next day, as we were calking our shallop, Sieur de Poutrincourt in the woods noticed a number of savages who were going, with the intention of doing us some mischief, to a little stream, where a neck connects with the main land, at which our party were doing their washing. As I was walking along this neck, these savages noticed me; and, in order to put a good face upon it, since they saw that I had discovered them thus seasonably, they began to shout and dance, and then came towards me with their bows, arrows, quivers, and other arms. And, inasmuch as there was a meadow between them and myself, I made a sign to them to dance again. This they did in a circle, putting all their arms in the middle. But they had hardly commenced, when they observed Sieur de Poutrincourt in the wood with eight musketeers, which frightened them. Yet they did not stop until they had finished their dance, when they withdrew in all directions, fearing lest some unpleasant turn might be served them. We said nothing to them, however, and showed them only demonstrations of gladness. Then we returned to launch our shallop, and take our departure. They entreated us to wait a day, saying that more than two thousand of them would come to see us. But, unable to lose any time, we were unwilling to stay here longer. I am of opinion that their object was to surprise us. Some of the land was already cleared up, and they were constantly making clearings. Their mode of doing it is as follows: after cutting down the trees at the distance of three feet from the ground, they burn the branches upon the trunk, and then plant their corn between these stumps, in course of time tearing up also the roots. There are likewise fine meadows here, capable of supporting a large number of cattle. This harbor is very fine, containing water enough for vessels, and affording a shelter from the weather behind the islands. It is in latitude 43°, and we gave it the name of Le Beauport. [206]

The last day of September we set out from Beauport, and, passing Cap St. Louis, stood on our course all night for Cap Blanc. [207] In the morning, an hour before daylight we found ourselves to the leeward of Cap Blanc, in Baye Blanche, with eight feet of water, and at a distance of a league from the shore. Here we anchored, in order not to approach too near before daylight, and to see how the tide was. Meanwhile, we sent our shallop to make soundings. Only eight feet of water were found, so that it was necessary to determine before daylight what we would do. The water sank as low as five feet, and our barque sometimes touched on the sand, yet without any injury, for the water was calm, and we had not less than three feet of water under us. Then the tide began to rise, which gave us encouragement.

When it was day, we saw a very low, sandy shore, off which we were, and more to the leeward. A shallop was sent to make soundings in the direction of land somewhat high, where we thought there would be deep water; and, in fact, we found seven fathoms. Here we anchored, and at once got ready the shallop, with nine or ten men to land and examine a place where we thought there was a good harbor to shelter ourselves in, if the wind should increase. An examination having been made, we entered in two, three, and four fathoms of water. When we were inside, we found five and six. There were many very good oysters here, which we had not seen before, and we named the place Port aux Huistres. [208] It is in latitude 42°. Three canoes of savages came out to us. On this day, the wind coming round in our favor, we weighed anchor to go to Cap Blanc, distant from here five leagues north a quarter north-east, and we doubled the cape.

On the next day, the 2d of October, we arrived off Mallebarre, [209] where we stayed some time on account of the bad weather. During this time, Sieur de Poutrincourt, with the shallop, accompanied by twelve or fifteen men, visited the harbor, where some hundred and fifty savages, singing and dancing according to their custom, appeared before him. After seeing this place, we returned to our vessel, and, the wind coming favorable, sailed along the coast towards the south.


198. Richmond Island.--_Vide antea_, note 123. The ripe grapes which he saw were the Fox Grape. _Vitis labrusca_, which ripens in September. The fruit is of a dark purple color, tough and musky. The Isabella, common in our markets, is derived from it. It is not quite clear whether those seen in an unripe state were another species or not. If they were, they were the Frost Grape, _Vitis cardifolia_, which are found in the northern parts of New England. The berry is small, black or blue, having a bloom, highly acid, and ripens after frosts. This island, so prolific in grapes, became afterward a centre of commercial importance. On Josselyn's voyage of 1638, he says: "The Six and twentieth day, Capt. _Thomas Cammock_ went aboard of a Barke of 300 Tuns, laden with Island Wine, and but 7 men in her, and never a Gun, bound for Richmond's Island, Set out by Mr. _Trelaney, of Plimouth_"-- _Voyages_, 1675, Boston, Veazie's ed., 1865, p. 12.

199. Messamouët was a chief from the Port de la Hève, and was accompanied by Secondon, also a chief from the river St. John. They had come to Saco to dispose of a quantity of goods which they had obtained from the French fur-traders. Messamouët made an address on the occasion, in which he stated that he had been in France, and had been entertained at the house of Mons. de Grandmont, governor of Bavonne.--_Vide His. Nou. France_, par Lescarbot, Paris, 1612, p. 559, _et seq._

200. Cape Anne.

201. Gloucester Bay, formerly called Cape Anne Harbor, which, as we shall see farther on, they named _Beauport_, the beautiful harbor.

202. Brazilian peas. This should undoubtedly read Brazilian beans. _Pois du Brésil_ is here used apparently by mistake for _febues de Brésil_.-- Vide antea, note 127.

203. Chards, a vegetable dill, composed of the footstocks and midrib of artichokes, cardoons, or white beets. The "very good roots," _des racines qui font bonnes_, were Jerusalem Artichokes, _Helianthus tuberofus_, indigenous to the northern part of this continent. The Italians had obtained it before Champlain's time, and named it _Girasole_, their word for sunflower, of which the artichoke is a species. This word, _girasole_, has been singularly corrupted in England into _Jerusalem_; hence Jerusalem artichoke, now the common name of this plant. We presume that there is no instance on record of its earlier cultivation in New England than at Nauset in 1605, _vide antea_, p. 82, and here at Gloucester in 1606.

204. Under the word _noyers_, walnut-trees, Champlain may have comprehended the hickories, _Carya alba_ and _porcina_, and perhaps the butternut, _Juglans cinerea_, all of which might have been seen at Gloucester. It is clear from his description that he saw at Saco the hickory, _Carya porcina_, commonly known as the pig-nut or broom hickory. He probably saw likewise the shag bark, _Carya alba_, as both are found growing wild there even at the present day.--_Vide antea_, p. 67. Both the butternut and the hickories are exclusively of American origin; and there was no French name by which they could be more accurately designated. _Noyer_ is applied in France to the tree which produces the nut known in our markets as the English walnut. Josselyn figures the hickory under the name of walnut.--_Vide New Eng. Rarities_, Tuckerman's ed., p. 97. See also _Wood's New Eng. Prospect, 1634, Prince Soc. ed., p. 18.

205. The trees here mentioned are such probably as appeared to Champlain especially valuable for timber or other practical uses.

The cypress, _cyprès_, has been already referred to in note 168. It is distinguished for its durability, its power of resisting the usual agencies of decay, and is widely used for posts, and sleepers on the track of railways, and to a limited extent for cabinet work, but less now than in earlier times. William Wood says of it: "This wood is more desired for ornament than substance, being of color red and white, like Eugh, smelling as sweet as Iuniper; it is commonly used for seeling of houses, and making of Chests, boxes and staves."--_Wood's New Eng. Prospect_, 1634, Prince Soc. ed., p. 19.

The sassafras, _Sassafras officinate_, is indigenous to this continent, and has a spicy, aromatic flavor, especially the bark and root. It was in great repute as a medicine for a long time after the discovery of this country. Cargoes of it were often taken home by the early voyagers for the European markets; and it is said to have sold as high as fifty livres per pound. Dr. Jacob Bigelow says a work entitled "Sassafrasologia" was written to celebrate its virtues; but its properties are only those of warm aromatics. Josselyn describes it, and adds that it does not "grow beyond Black Point eastward," which is a few miles north-east of Old Orchard Beach, near Saco, in Maine. It is met with now infrequently in New England; several specimens, however, may be seen in the Granary Burial Ground in Boston.

Oaks, _chesnes_, of which several of the larger species may have been seen: as, the white oak, _Quercus alba_; black oak, _Quercus tinfloria_; Scarlet oak, _Quercus coccinea_; and red oak, _Quercus rubra_.

Ash-trees, _fresnes_, probably the white ash, _Fraxinus Americana_, and not unlikely the black ash, _Fraxinus sambucifolia_, both valuable as timber.

Beech-trees, _hestres_, of which there is but a single Species, _Fagus ferruginca_, the American beech, a handsome tree, of symmetrical growth, and clean, smooth, ash-gray bark: the nut, of triangular shape, is sweet and palatable. The wood is brittle, and used only for a few purposes.

206. Le Beauport. The latitude of Ten-Pound Island, near where the French barque was anchored in the Harbor of Gloucester, is 42° 36' 5".

207. The reader may be reminded that Cap St. Louis is Brant Point; Cap Blanc is Cape Cod; and Baye Blanche is Cape Cod Bay.

208. _Le Port aux Huistres_, Oyster Harbor. The reader will observe, by looking back a few sentences in the narrative, that the French coasters, after leaving Cap St. Louis, that is, Brant Point, had aimed to double Cape Cod, and had directed their course, as they supposed, to accomplish this purpose. Owing, however, to the strength of the wind, or the darkness of the night, or the inattention of their pilot, or all these together, they had passed to the leeward of the point aimed at, and before morning found themselves near a harbor, which they subsequently entered, in Cape Cod Bay. It is plain that this port, which they named Oyster Harbor, was either that of Wellfleet or Barnstable. The former, it will be remembered, Champlain, with De Monts, entered the preceding year, 1605, and named it, or the river that flows into it, St. Suzanne du Cap Blanc.--_Vide antea_, note 166. It is obvious that Champlain could not have entered this harbor the second time without recognizing it: and, if he had done so, he would not have given to it a name entirely different from that which he had given it the year before. He was too careful an observer to fall into such an extraordinary mistake. We may conclude, therefore, that the port in question was not Wellfleet, but Barnstable. This conclusion is sustained by the conditions mentioned in the text. They entered, on a flood-tide, in twelve, eighteen, and twenty-four feet of water, and found thirty or thirty-six when they had passed into the harbor. It could hardly be expected that any harbor among the shifting sands of Cape Cod would remain precisely the same, as to depth of water, after the lapse of two hundred and fifty years. Nevertheless, the discrepancy is so slight in this case, that it would seem to be accidental, rather than to arise from the solidity or fixedness of the harbor-bed. The channel of Barnstable Harbor, according to the Coast Survey Charts, varies in depth at low tide, for two miles outside of Sandy Neck Point, from seven to ten feet for the first mile, and for the next mile from ten feet to thirty-two on reaching Beach Point, which may be considered the entrance of the bay. On passing the Point, we have thirty-six and a half feet, and for a mile inward the depth varies from twelve to twenty feet. Add a few feet for the rise of the tide on which they entered, and the depth of the water in 1606 could not have been very different from that of to-day. The "low sandy coast" which they saw is well represented by Spring Hill Beach and Sandy Neck; the "land somewhat high," by the range of hills in the rear of Barnstable Harbor. The distance from the mouth of the harbor to Wood End light, the nearest point on Cape Cod, does not vary more than a league, and its direction is about that mentioned by Champlain. The difference in latitude is not greater than usual. It is never sufficiently exact for the identification of any locality. The substantial agreement, in so many particulars with the narrative of the author, renders it quite clear that the _Port aux Huistres_ was Barnstable Harbor. They entered it on the morning of the 1st of October, and appear to have left on the same day. Sandy Neck light, at the entrance of the harbor, is in latitude 41° 43' 19".

209. Nauset Harbor.

This is the conclusion of Chapter 13 of Voyages
Click here for Chapter 14

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Samuel de Champlain. 1567-1635. "Voyages of Samuel de Champlain" Edited by Edmund F. Slafter, (Boston: Prince Society 1878)

Samuel de Champlain image: Warwick Stevens Carpenter. The Summer Paradise in History. Albany: General Passenger Department, The Delaware and Hudson Company. 1914. Courtesy of John and Barbara Gallagher.

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