• Saint Croix Island in middle of river

    Saint Croix Island

    International Historic Site Maine

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the historic significance of the international historic site?
Permanent French settlement in North America may be traced back to Saint Croix Island. Members of a French expedition led by Pierre Dugua intending to colonize North America settled the island in 1604. Seventy-nine members of the expedition, including Samuel Champlain, passed the severe winter of 1604-1605 on the island. Thirty-five settlers died, apparently of scurvy, and were buried in a small cemetery on Saint Croix Island. In spring 1605 the survivors left the island and founded the settlement of Port Royal, Nova Scotia.

Why did the French come to the Saint Croix area?
French explorers came to the area to look for areas to claim for France, to find a trade route to China, and to profit from trade. King Henry IV of France granted a monopoly for the conduct of fur trade and the title of lieutenant-governor to Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, leader of the expedition, and expected him in return to colonize the country and convert the First Peoples to Christianity.

Why was the Saint Croix Island chosen as the first settlement area?
The settlement was located at the confluence of two rivers for ease of trade with the First People. There was an abundance of natural resources, and the island was easily defended against possible attacks by competing European powers. Pierre Dugua thought it would be an ideal location; however, this was not the case. The exposed site intensified the impact of already severe winter weather and challenged even the heartiest of the settlers.

What kinds of people were part of the original expedition?
Pierre Dugua recruited 120 noblemen, artisans, and soldiers. They traveled across the Atlantic in five ships, and their areas of expertise included exploration, farming, medicine, religion, and mining.

Where did the name Saint Croix originate?
The settlement was located just downstream of the confluence of two rivers and a bay. The shape of these water bodies suggested the shape of a cross, so Pierre Dugua called it “Isle Ste-Croix” (croix is French for cross).

What were relations like between the French settlers and the First Peoples?
Relations were good between the early settlers and the First Peoples (Wapaponiyik - People of the Early Dawn or Wabanaki). Even though their cultures were very different, friendly relations between them were important to the ultimate survival of the colonies.

Are there any original buildings left on the island?
No. There are no visible traces of the early settlement. When the decision was made to move the expedition to Port Royal, most of the buildings were dismantled, put onto the ships, and moved and erected at the new site.

Who were the Acadians?
The Acadians were descendants of French farmers who settled in the areas of present-day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island in the 1630s. Primarily French speaking and Roman Catholic in their faith, their relations with their English conquerors were troubled. They were deported between 1755 and 1763.

Why is a white flag flown by the NPS on Saint Croix Island?
The flag on the island represents a 17th-century flag of France and is flown as part of the commemoration of the 1604 landing at Saint Croix. Following consultation with vexillological (the study of flags) authorities in both the United States and France, it was concluded that the drapeau blanc (white flag) of the Bourbon Monarchy was the appropriate flag to fly on the island. Historians point out, however, that the use of flags during the period was rare, except on public buildings and at military outposts. Far more common was the display of the Royal Arms or the personal coat of arms of the leader of the colony.

Can I go to the island?
The National Park Service is charged with protecting the fragile resources of Saint Croix Island. The determination was made in the 1998 Saint Croix Island International Historic Site General Management Plan that visitation to the island should not exceed 1,000 people in a year. Visits to the island are not encouraged and both Parks Canada and the U.S. National Park Service have invested in high-quality exhibits and trails on the mainland adjacent to the island so that all visitors can experience the stories of Saint Croix, 1604.

Did You Know?

Native Americans inhabited Saint Croix.

Saint Croix Island was originally called “Muttoneguis” by the Native Americans who had used it for many years before the French arrived. The island is protected today as part of Saint Croix Island International Historic Site.