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St. Peter's in Richmond County, Nova Scotia — The Canadian Atlantic
 

The French Settlement of Saint-Pierre

L’établissement français de Saint-Pierre

 
 
The French Settlement of Saint-Pierre Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, June 19, 2014
1. The French Settlement of Saint-Pierre Marker
Captions (English / French): (top left) This painting by Lewis Parker shows a likeness of Nicolas Denys amid a montage of the construction of the fortified trading post and Mi’kmaqs and their canoes. / Cette peinture de Lewis Parker montre un portrait de Nicolas Denys en avant-plan d’un montage illustrant la construction du post de traite fortifié ainsi que des Mi’kmaq avec leurs canots.; (bottom, left to right) This bowl of a tobacco pipe dates to c. 1640-1660. / Fourneau de pipe datant d’environs 1640-1660.; This burnt floor is evidence of the fort’s destruction by fire. / Ce plancher brûlé est la preuve de la destruction du fore par le feu.; Portion of a drug jar decorated with a Jesuit symbol. Jesuit priests were present at Fort Saint-Pierre. Photo on right is an example of an intact drug jar from the period. / Fragment d’un pot à médicament décoré d;un symbole jésuite. On sait qu’il y avait des Jésuites au fort Saint-Pierre. La photo à droite montre un pot à médicament intact de cette période.; Fragments of a smoothing, or ‘slick: stone of blue glass, left. Figure above shoes intact examples. These were used to press items of fine clothing such as linen collars and cuffs. / À gauche, fragments d’une pierre en verre bleu. L’illustration ci-haut montre des exemples intact. Elles servaient à presser des articles d’habillement en tissu fin, comme des collets et des manchettes de chemises en fin.
Inscription. English
Nicolas Denys, a merchant from Tours, France, arrived here in 1650 to restore an abandoned Portuguese fort called San Pedro. He renamed it Saint-Pierre, and set out to pursue fishing and trading - primarily in furs. Fort Saint-Pierre, his 17th century fortified trading post was located here, adjacent the late 19th century Lockmaster’s House which is now standing on the site.

This was a busy place at the time, having served for thousands of years as a portage and a meeting place for the native Mi’kmaq and their ancestors. With Denys’ arrival on the scene, Saint-Pierre became a point of economic and cultural contact between two peoples with differing cultures.

In addition to several structures accommodating a few dozen French inhabitants, workshops, storage, a chapel and a cemetery, Denys constructed a haulover road of wooden skids on the route of the portage. This enabled him to haul vessels, mainly chaloupes, with oxen between the Bras d’Or Lake and the Atlantic Ocean, giving him a similar advantage to the Mi’kmaq who used the route to carry their lightweight canoes. The haulover road was still visible at the beginning of the 20th Century, before enlargement of the adjacent canal which has been operating since 1869.

Denys found, among other things, that the Mi’kmaq knew how to weave porcupine
The French Settlement of Saint-Pierre Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, June 19, 2014
2. The French Settlement of Saint-Pierre Marker
quills ‘just as one makes tapestry’. He traded with and collaborated with the Mi’kmaq in a mutually beneficial way that typified much of the French and Acadians' historical relationships with the native people.

For 18 years Denys engaged in fisheries, manufacturing of lumber and cultivation of land at Saint-Pierre and reigned supreme at the centre of Cape Breton Island’s trading activities. But his occupation was not trouble-free and he had his enemies. In the winter of 1669 his home and business were completely destroyed by fire. Heartbroken and in financial ruin he moved with his family to establish a trading post at Nipisiquit, now known as Bathurst, New Brunswick.

Evidence from the archaeologist
The ruins of Fort Saint-Pierre lay relatively undisturbed until the construction of the canal. Fill from the canal bed was dumped into the sea, creating a new strip of land in front of the site. When the lockmaster’s house was built in 1876 the outlines of the fort were obscured. In 1985 Parks Canada conducted test excavations to assess the nature and condition of the archaeological remains. Although limited in scope, the excavations yielded a great deal of material from the Denys period.

French
Nicolas Denys, marchand de Tours, en France, arriva ici en 1650 pour restaurer un fort portugais abandonné appelé San Pedro. Il le renomma
St. Peter's Canal Walk image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, June 19, 2014
3. St. Peter's Canal Walk
Click on this image to enlarge it.
Saint-Pierre et entreprit de se livrer à la pêche et au commerce, surtout le commerce des fourrures. C’est ici qu’était situé fort Saint-Pierre, son poste de traite fortifié de XVIIᵉ siècle, adjacent à la maison de maître-éclusier, maison datant de la fin du XIXᵉ siècle et qui se trouve maintenant sur la terrain.

L’endroit fut très occupé à cette époque, les Mi’kmaq et leurs ancêtres s’en servant depuis des milliers d’années comme lieu du portage et de rencontre. Avec l’arrivée de Denys, Saint-Pierre devint un point de contact économique et culturel entre deux peuples aux cultures différentes.

Outre plusieurs structures qui servirent à quelques dizaines d’habitants français, ainsi des ateliers, un entrepôt, un chapelle et un cimetière, Denys construisit un chemin de traînage un moyen de rondins disposés de travers sur le chemin de portage. Cela lui permit de tirer des navires sur terre, surtout des chaloupes, au moyen de boeufs entre le lac Bras d’Or et l’océan Atlantique, et lui donna un avantage semblable à celui des Mi’kmaq qui utilisèrent la chemin pour transporter leurs canots légers. Le chemin de traînage était toujours visible au début de XXᵉ siècle avant l’élargissement du canal adjacent qui est en service depuis 1869.

Denys découvrit, entre autres, que les Mi’kmaq savaient comment tresser des pics de porc-épic ‘comme on
St. Peter's Coast Trail image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, June 19, 2014
4. St. Peter's Coast Trail
Click on this image to enlarge it.
fait une tapisserie’. Il commerça et collabora avec les Mi’kmaq d’une manière mutuellement bénéfique qui illustra l’essence même des rapports historiques que les Français et les Acadiens ont entretenus avec ce Autochtones.

Pendant 18 ans, Denys se livra à la pêche, à la coupe du bois et à la culture de la terre à Saint-Pierre et il fut le maître absolu des activités commerciales de l’ile du Cap-Breton. Son occupation ne fut pas san problème et on lui connaissait des ennemis. À l’hiver 1669, sa maison et son magasin furent complètement détruits par le feu. Décourage et ruiné, il déménagea avec sa famille pour aller fonder un poste de traite à Nipisiguit, maintenant connu sous le nom de Bathurst, au Nouveau-Brunswick.

Ce que nous disent les archéologues
Les ruines de fort Saint-Pierre restèrent relativement intactes jusqu’a la construction du canal, Le remblai provenant du lit du canal fut décharge en mer, créant une nouvelle langue de terre devant le lieu. La construction de la maison de maître-éclusier en 1876 obscurcit les formes du fort. En 1985, Pacs Canada effectua des fouilles d’exploration pour évaluer la nature et la condition des vestiges archéologiques. Bien que leur portée ait été limitée, les fouilles fournirent beaucoup de renseignements sur la période de Denys.
 
Erected by St. Peter’s, Village on the Canal.
 
Location. 45° 39.109′ N, 60° 52.223′ W. Marker is in St. Peter's, Nova Scotia, in Richmond County. Marker is on Toulouse Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 160 Toulouse Street, St. Peter's, Nova Scotia B0E, Canada.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 3 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. St. Peter’s Canal / Le Canal Saint-Pierre (within shouting distance of this marker); One Place, Four Names (approx. 0.3 kilometers away); St, Peter’s and Its Canal (approx. 0.3 kilometers away).
 
Categories. Settlements & Settlers
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on November 8, 2014, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 322 times since then and 26 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on November 8, 2014, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.
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