Celebrations Begin
for Ile Ste Croix Settlement

By Juliana L’Heureux

Back to Juliana's Writings

Summer is a beautiful time to explore the history of Maine’s French heritage. That’s one reason why a delegation of four people from York County made the four and a half-hour drive to Calais, Maine and St. Stephens, in New Brunswick Canada on June 26th last week to celebrate 398 years of French history in North America. Driving through the Milltown boarder point crossing into St. Stephens, in New Brunswick, Canada, we joined the Ile Ste Croix 2004 Coordinating Committee’s sunset wine and cheese reception held on the lovely Canadian park overlooking Ile Ste Croix (St. Croix Island). A new French wine was unveiled during the reception ceremonies, which was free and open to the public. Sales of the red and white imported wines bearing the Ile Ste Croix logo will help fund projects commemorating the founding of Ile Ste Croix and the French culture in North America.

June 26, 1604, is the date when French explorer Sieur de Monts and his sailing crew of about 70 men landed on St. Croix Island, located in the St. Croix River between Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. Among those adventuresome men were a Catholic priest and a Huguenot (Protestant) minister. Together, they built the first planned settlement in New France. “We are seeing the island today, just as the first settlers viewed it,” said Jerome Collins, a retired psychiatrist from Kennebunkport who attended the reception with his wife Monique. “Still, this is a seductive scene,”said Collins, referring to the black flies swarming around the well-dressed reception guests. Eventually, the Acadian musicians hired to play live background music were forced to seek out Monique, who thoughtfully brought a can of bug repellent spray to the reception with her, in anticipation of the insect onslaught.

In 1604, the French adventurers found the St. Croix location beautiful. The area was close of hunting and fishing, plus they thought the secluded island was secure from English attacks. Although the settlement failed when more than half the settlers died during the harsh winter of 1604-05, their perseverance laid the foundation for later settlements in Port Royal in Nova Scotia (1605) and in Quebec (1608).

French explorer Samuel Champlain, who helped de Monts to settle Ile Ste Croix, explained the settlement’s difficulties in his journal. "During this winter, all our liquors froze, except the Spanish wine …We were obliged to use very bad water, and drink melted snow, as there were no springs nor brooks; for it was not possible to go to the mainland in consequence of the great pieces of ice."

Because of Ile Ste Croix, the French proudly claim 17 years precedence over
Pilgrims who arrived in 1620 at Plymouth Rock, Mass. “This island is like our Canadian Plymouth Rock,” said Canadian House of Commons representative Greg Thompson, representing New Brunswick in Parliament.

In fact, Thompson is introducing legislation in Ottawa to create an Ile Ste Croix postage stamp and a day of National recognition for Samuel de Champlain.

In 2004, an international anniversary celebration will be hosted in the Calais-St. Stephens region, intended to attract cultural tourism to the area for the 400th anniversary of the French settlement. The 2004 party will celebrate the “Premiere Nations” who founded Canada, New France and Maine. Those nations are France, Canada, Great Britain, the United States and the original Native American Passamaquoddy tribes.

For more information about Ile Ste Croix, check out the Internet website www.stecroix2004.org.

Back to Top

Copyright 2003, Juliana L'Heureux