English Text for Interpretive Trail

Below are translations of the interpretive trail exhibit panels in English.

Click here for translations in Passamaquoddy and French.

Panel One-Side One
Panel One-Side Two
Panel Two
Panel Three
Panel Four
Panel Five
Panel Six
Panel Seven
Panel Eight
Panel Nine

Wayside image
Panel one on the interpretive trail.


Welcome to Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

[Main text]
Share the dramatic story of Saint Croix Island. In 1604, over a hundred artisans, soldiers and gentlemen sailed here from France in a bold attempt to establish a European colony north of Florida. They build a settlement on an island offshore and came here, where you now stand, to hunt and garden.

On this trail, walk in the footsteps of these adventurers and discover one of the earliest European settlements in North America.

[Bottom left]
Saint Croix Island International Historic Site includes both mainland and island areas. This mainland trail offers excellent views of Saint Croix Island, but no island access.

[Right side of map]
Although European settlement was just beginning in 1604, native peoples had lived here for thousands of years. The Saint Croix Island area was home to the ancestors of the Passamaquoddy people who still live in Maine today. They wish you "Tan Kahk" (Welcome).

Back of wayside
Panel one- side two.


An enduring legacy

[Main text]
The 1604-05 colony on Saint Croix Island is important to both the United States and Canada as one of the earliest European settlements in North America north of Florida.

From Saint Croix Island—and the hard lessons learned here—grew Acadia, New France and an enduring French presence on this continent.

Saint Croix Island…the beginning of lasting French presence in North America.

[Bottom left]
Saint Croix Island is an International Historic Site, recognized by both the United States and Canada for its significance to the European settlement of the continent.

[Lower right]
Did you know? Today the United States is home to about 12 million people of French and French Canadian ancestry. In Canada, about 7 million people speak French.

Wayside Image  - Copyright Francis Back
Second panel.

Copyright Francis Back

Strangers offshore

[Main text]
In 1604, this was the land of the Passamaquoddy. In June, several families would have been camped here harvesting fish and shellfish. Nobody knows what the residents thought, when a large ship landed at a nearby island. We do know they helped the newcomers and left them in peace.

[Text embedded in image]
The Passamaquoddy had probably had previous contacts with European fishers and fur traders. However, all contacts had been seasonal. No Europeans had wintered here before.

[Lower right]
How would you feel if a huge vessel full of strangers arrived on your street? Would you welcome them, or just watch them?

Wayside Image - Copyright Francis Back
Third panel.

Copyright Francis Back.

Settling on Saint Croix Island

[Main text]
"…His Majesty commanded the Sieur de Mons to prepare a fresh expedition…." Samuel Champlain Journal, 1604 (translation)

The newcomers who landed on the island off-shore came from France. Their leader was Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, who—in return for control of the region's fur trade—pledged to found a permanent colony. Knowing other settlement attempts failed, this expedition was well equipped with supplies and workers.

[Text embedded in image]
Why did Pierre Dugua choose to settle on an island? The main reason was defense. Concerned for safety, the French immediately built a palisade and installed cannons.

[Lower right]
Some boys as young as 10 or 12 came here from France along with soldiers, priests, artisans and gentlemen. What would make them leave their home for an unknown land?

Wayside Image - Copyright Francis Back
Panel four.

Copyright Francis Back

Building a community

[Main text]
"…all set to clear the island, to fetch wood, to cut timber, to carry earth &other things necessary for the construction of the buildings…" Samuel Champlain Journal, 1604 (translation)

Pierre Dugua's settlement plans were ambitious. On the island, the colonists built a French-style community with a central square surrounded by houses and service buildings. Here on the mainland, they planted gardens and erected a water-powered mill. As best they could, they prepared for life in the "New World."

[Text embedded in image]
The French brought many building materials with them. Archeological excavations on the island have uncovered yellow bricks from Normandy.

[Bottom right]
At the end of August, the ships returned to France. How do you think the settlers felt, knowing that if the ships sunk, nobody would know where they were?

Bronze statue and wayside exhibit
Panel five.


Exploring the coast

[Main text]
"I set out from Ste. Croix on September 2…with twelve sailors and two Indians to serve us as guides to the places with which they were acquainted." Samuel Champlain Journal, 1604 (translation)

In late summer Pierre Dugua sent a crew, led by Samuel Champlain, to explore the coast. Champlain traveled along the coast of Maine, meeting native peoples, producing detailed maps and naming places such as Mount Desert Island. Within a month, bad weather and a lack of food forced the crew to turn back.

[Text embedded in image]
Samuel Champlain (later honored as de Champlain) was 34 years old in 1604. It is thanks to his journals that we know the story of Saint Croix Island.

[Bottom right]
Did you know? The French always travelled with native people who acted as guides and translators.

Wayside exhibit and bronze statue
Panel six.


Trapped for the winter

[Main text]
"During the winter a certain malady attacked many of our people…. We could find no remedy…." Samuel Champlain Journal, 1604 (translation)

When winter came, treacherous ice made crossing to the mainland impossible. The French were trapped on the island without fresh water or game. They survived on preserved food, wine and melted snow. But then sickness struck. By spring, thirty-five men—nearly half their number—were dead.

[Text embedded in image]
In his journals, Champlain suggests that the settlers were killed by scurvy. Unfortunately, it would be another 150 years before Europeans learned that fresh fruit prevents scurvy.

[Bottom right]
The French were not only unprepared for the North American climate, but they were also unlucky. In 1604-05, winter temperatures were colder than they usually are today.

Wayside exhibit and bronze statue
Panel Seven.


Lessons learned

[Main text]
"The Sieur de Mons decided to remove elsewhere...to escape the cold and dreadful winter...." Samuel Champlain Journal, 1605 (translation)

After the terrible winter, Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, ordered his men to take down the buildings and relocate. The French had learned valuable lessons about North America. This time, they chose a mainland site with a fresh water supply. This time, they built for winter weather. This time, the colony, Port Royal, succeeded.

[Top left]
Did you know? Some who came to Saint Croix Island became leading figures in Acadia and New France. Jean Biencourt de Poutrincourt headed the colony of Port Royal, the nucleus of Acadia. Samuel Champlain founded Quebec City and acted as Governor of New France.

[Lower right]
One reason the colony succeeded at Port Royal is that the French learned many survival lessons from the Mi'kmaw people there.

Settlement diagram.
Settlement diagram.


Imagining the settlement

[Main text]
This model shows the Saint Croix Island Colony as depicted by Samuel Champlain. His depiction was idealized. Archeological research has revealed discrepancies in building size and location.

[Image caption]
Plan for 1604 Saint Croix Island settlement by Samuel Champlain.

A. Sieur de Mons house
B. Public building
C. Storehouse
D. Swiss Soldiers' house
E. Blacksmith shop
F. Carpenters' house
G. Well
H. Bakery oven
I. Kitchen
L. Gardens
M. Other gardens
N. Public Square
O. Palisade
P. Sieur's D'Orville, Champlain, and Chandoré's houses
Q. Sieur Boulay and other artisans' houses
R. Sieur de Genestou, Sourin and other artisan houses
T. Sieurs de Beaumont, la Motte Bourioli and Fougeray's houses
V. Curate's house
X. Other gardens
Y. River

Extensive archeological research was carried out on Saint Croix Island in 1789, 1949 and 1969. Fragments from about thirty ceramic containers from Normandy were found on the island.

(To be installed)

Seasons on Saint Croix Island

Summer: Season of Hope
Over 100 French men arrived in June. In 3 months, they built a settlement. At the end of August, their ships return to France, leaving 79 to winter on the island.

Autumn: Season of Exploration
A Crew led by Samuel Champlain and two native guides explores the coast of Maine.

1604 / 1605
Winter: Season of Despair
Trapped by winter weather on the island, the French succumb to disease. 35 men die, 20 more are ill.

Spring: Season of Waiting
Passamaquoddy people revive the French with Fresh game. The French hope a supply ship will arrive in April. It does not come till June.

Summer: Season of Renewal
The French search for another place to settle. Over the summer, they dismantle most of the Saint Croix buildings and move to Port Royal—in what is now Nova Scotia.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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