The Settlement Of Mount Desert – Historic Landmarks

POUTRINCOURT, wishing to revive his plantation at Port Royal, procured the King’s confirmation of the grant, upon condition of his endeavours to convert the natives to the Catholic faith. In view of both purposes, this adventurer, his son Biencourt and two Jesuits, Biard and Massé, with several families intending to become settlers, embarked for America. While on the passage, a severe controversy arose between him and the ecclesiastics; in which he boldly told them, ” it was his part to rule them on earth, and theirs only to guide him to heaven.”

He tarried a short time at Port Royal, and returning to France, left his son in command. Disdaining to be under the control of these priests, who were merely invited by his father to reside in the plantation, Biencourt threatened them with corporal punishment in return for their spiritual anathemas. In such a state of society, the three could hardly continue together until the spring. At an early day, there-fore, the Jesuits bade him farewell and proceeded westward to Mount Desert.

This was the highest, largest, and consequently the most noted Island upon the coast. It was ” so named by the French,” perhaps by Champlain, ” on account of the thirteen high mountains” it exhibited; which were the first lands seen from the sea. It is supposed that the place of residence selected by the missionaries was on the western side of the Pool—a part of the sound which stretches from the southeasterly side of the heart of the Island. Here they constructed and fortified an habitation, planted a garden, and dwelt five years; entering with great zeal and untiring perseverance upon the work of converting the natives to Christianity.

Meanwhile, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, a man never over-come by discouragements, was equally bold and ardent in his pursuits, though of a different character. ” As to the coldness of the climate,” says he, ” I have had too much experience in the world to be frightened with such a blast. Many great kingdoms, and large territories, more northerly seated, and by many degrees colder, are plentifully inhabited—divers of them being stored with not better commodities than these parts afford—if like industry, art, and labour be used.” He was confident; yet so strangely had the passion for adventures abated that he could find nobody willing to engage with him either in making settlements or discovery. He, however, purchased a ship with his own money and procured a master and crew to make a voyage hither, possibly to keep possession of the country against the French, though avowedly for the purposes of fishing and traffic—the only objects supposed to be sufficient at this time to induce them to cross the Atlantic. On board the ship he sent Richard Vines, and some others of his servants in whom he had the most confidence, and this was the course he pursued several years.

Among the visitants to these Northern coasts at this period was one Samuel Argal, subsequently governor of South Virginia. Driven by a violent storm, he bore away for Sagadahock; and coming in sight of a small, rocky island out of Penobscot Bay, in lattitude 430 44′, he approached it as the wind abated, and on the 28th of July landed upon it. Here he found a great store ” of seals, and therefore called it Seal Rock,” a name it still retains. Another visitor was Sir George Somers, who landed at Sagadahock in September, on his way to Bermuda. A third was Capt. Edward Harlow.

Since the Charter was obtained, Gorges had been viewing the American coast between Piscataqua and Passamaquoddy with peculiar intensity and predilection, and continually drawing from voyagers, from the natives, and in particular from Richard Vines, a great variety of facts about its situation, its inhabitants, and its resources. So, without doubt, other Englishmen, as well as he, had before this noticed with jealousy and displeasure the progressive French settlement at Port Royal, and the residence of the Jesuits at Mount Desert. Meanwhile, an opportune transaction gave fresh vigour to the enterprises of the French in this region. Madame de Guercheville, a Catholic lady of France, zealous for the conversion of the American natives, after procuring of de Monts a surrender of his patent, had it all confirmed to her by a Charter from the King, excepting Port Royal, previously granted to Poutrincourt. She appointed one Suassaye her agent, who set up at Port le Hive, in Acadia, where he arrived May 16th, the arms of his mistress in token of possession taken; and at Port Royal he made a visit, where he found only five persons, of whom two were Jesuit missionaries. Suassaye, producing his pious credentials, took both monks into the service of the mission, and sailed for Mount Desert. Here twenty-five colonists were landed on the south side of the river; a small fort was built; the ship’s crew of thirty-five men helped fit up the habitations; and here they set up a cross, celebrated mass, and called the place St. Saviour. Whether this was on the eastern end of the island, as one account states, or in the southerly part, as others report, where Biard and Massé were residing, we have no means at this time to determine.

But scarcely had these emigrants provided themselves with some few accommodations, when they had to encounter new and unexpected troubles from the English. Capt. Argal of Virginia, in a fishing trip to these waters, being cast ashore at Pentagoet, or Penobscot Bay, was there fully in-formed by the natives what the French were doing at St. Saviour, sometimes called Mount Mansel.

This intelligence he immediately communicated to the Virginia magistrates, and they at once determined to expel these Catholic Frenchmen as obtruders within the limits of the first Charter granted to the patentees of North and South Virginia. Eleven fishing vessels were speedily equipped, carrying sixty soldiers and fourteen pieces of cannon, and of this little armament Argal was appointed the commodore. His first approach completely surprised the French; yet having a ship and a barque in the harbour, and ” a small entrenchment ” on shore, they made a show of resistance. This was all they were able to do, for the cannon were not in a situation to be used, and the men were mostly absent from the fort, engaged in their respective employments.

Argal, in his attack upon the vessels found the capture of them to be no difficult task, even with musketry. Gilbert du Thet, one of the Jesuits, was killed by a musket-ball while in the act of levelling a ship’s gun against the assail-ants; others were wounded, and those on board, except four or five, were taken prisoners. Argal then landed and summoned the fort. The commander requested time for a consultation, but through fear of his being reinforced, his request was not granted. The garrison then abandoning the fort through a private passage, ‘escaped to the woods. After breaking in pieces the cross which the Jesuits had erected, Argal reared another inscribed with the name of his king, and in this way took formal possession of the place.

The people came in the next day and surrendered them-selves, their patent, and their stores. Argal treated them with kindness, and gave them their choice, either to return home in such French vessels as might perchance resort to the coast, or to go with him to Virginia.

To complete the reduction of Acadia, the fleet sailed farther eastward, piloted, as some say, by the Jesuit Father Biard, who was glad of an opportunity to avenge himself of Biencourt, or, as others affirm, by an Indian whom Argal had pressed into his service. At St. Croix Island, he ” took one vessel,” destroyed what remained of de Monts’s settlements, and crossing the Bay of Fundy, came to anchor before Port Royal.

The French at the time were mostly absent from the fort; Biencourt being employed in exploring the country, and others differently engaged. Argal, therefore, lost no time, and in two hours after he had landed his men he reduced the entire settlement to ashes.

The two commanders afterwards had a meeting in a neighbouring meadow and discussed the subjects of their rights and claims, when Biencourt made proposals to negotiate; but Argal in return said his only orders were to dispossess the French, and if they should be found there again, they would be treated as enemies. In this mood they parted; and Argal carried the French ship, pinnace, cattle, and provisions to Jamestown.