Champlain : One of the Great Explorers
Samuel de Champlain discovered and rediscovered many locations in the
New World. He was trained in seamanship, navigation and map making. Champlain wrote a book
on how the Indians lived. The book had the best information about the Indians at that
time. He made many voyages to the New World.
Champlain was born in Brouage, France in 1567. Samuel went to war in
Brittany when he was a young man. After the war he received a reward of money. He was
given command of a small ship going to the West Indies. This voyage was the beginning of
his adventures to the New World. After a long time of exploring he was nicknamed the
"Father of New France".
Champlain was helped by his uncle, a general of a fleet of the King of
Spain, to get the command of the ship going to the West Indies. He first saw the New World
under the Spanish flag. Champlain cruised the West Indies and along the coast of the main
land from Panama to Mexico. He saw the ancient ruins of Mexico City. Champlain was the
first to suggest digging a canal to connect the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean.
He was asked by Aymar de Clermont, Governor of Dieppe to explore the St.
Lawrence. The leader of the expedition was a merchant named Pontgrave. Aymar de Clermont
equipped two ships that were slightly larger then a fishing boat. The ships entered the
Strait of Belle Isle. As they traveled Champlain saw the ruins of Cartier's old fort at
Tadoussac. He also saw Mt. Royal which Cartier named sixty years before. The Indian
village of Hochelaga had disappeared, and there were only a few Algonquin Indians.
A little south of the St. Lawrence River was a settlement they called
St. Croix. In the winter after the ships left there were ninety- nine people. They were
being paid by de Monts company. When scurvy came it took half of the settlers. This time
there wasn't a magic tree that had saved Cartier's men.
When they saw that the colony wasn't doing so great they decided to
establish a new settlement at a different location. They anchored at Port Royal which is
now Annapolis. At this spot they were unsuccessful at growing crops. Back in England the
King canceled de Monts monopoly or in other words canceled sending supplies. When the men
heard the news they packed up and abandoned Port Royal.
Shortly after that happened De Mont received a new fur-trade agreement
for one year. De Mont was also eager to start colonies and fitted out two ships for this
expedition. He gave command of one ship to Pontgrave to establish fur-trading with the
Indians. The other ship to Champlain, so he could find a western passage to Asia.
Champlain left eight days after Pontgrave. When Champlain arrived he saw Pontgrave's ship
and a Basque vessel. The Basque ship was there for fur-trading but the trading rights
belonged to de Mont.
When the Spanish were told to stop they opened fire. Pontgrave and two
others were wounded and one man was killed. When that happened Pontgrave ceased the
cannons and guns and he would return them when the Spanish left. When Champlain's ship
came into sight the Spanish were scared and offered to make peace. After Champlain helped
Pontgrave he continued to sail up river to Quebec and founded a colony that would last.
At Quebec they started to build a fort. First they built a strong wall
and moat. On top of the wall were one hundred poles for muskets. The wall was surrounding
a small house, an armory and forge. There were small cannons that over looked the river.
When the building was all done Champlain made a sketch of it. Champlain oversaw every
aspect of the construction of the fort.
Champlain heard of a plot by Spaniards to murder him and take over the
fort by a man named Duval. He made a plan right away when he heard this. The plan was to
send bottles of wine over to the vessel with a captain he could trust. He told the captain
to invite the plotters aboard to celebrate. When the plotters were rowing to the ship they
were grabbed and manacled, then dragged ashore. After a quick trial Duval was beheaded.
His head was stuck on a long pole above the rooftop as a warning to other traitors. The
other three plotters were sent back to France. There they were sentenced to be galley
In the winter the men suffered less from cold and hunger then earlier
explorers. Scurvy took it's stand and out of the twenty eight only eight survived. Those
eight had to spend their time trapping, fishing and getting fire wood. All navigation
along the river was stopped November through May because of the ice.
On June fifth Pontgrave's ship arrived full of supplies for the colony.
Thanks to Portgrave, Champlain could now go west to find an all water route to Asia. He
could also make alliances with Indians to build up the fur-trade. For success on this
expedition he would have to depend on the Indians around the Great Lakes. Because of that
reason he had to learn as much as he could about them.
Champlain was asked by the Indians to help them fight the Iroquois.
Guided by the Indians they safely passed through channels around the islands. When they
reached the mouth of the river Champlain named it Richelieu. The river became to shallow
for the shallop boat. So Champlain told most of his man to go back to Quebec with it. Only
two were elected to stay with him. While this was happening, quarrels rose among the
Indians and three fourths of them deserted and paddled homeward.
The expedition was now left with twenty-four canoes, sixty warriors and
only three white men. The river broadened into a great fresh water lake. The white men
named it Lake Champlain. The lake was dotted with islands and the edge was stretching as
far south as the eye could see. By then they grew more cautious because they were in enemy
One of the cautions that were taken was to travel by night and hide in
thickets by day. They intended to paddle to the end of Lake Champlain to Lake George, then
from there to the Hudson River and go down to the Iroquois village. There was a big
advantage of the Indian canoe with the birch bark and light frame which made it easier for
portage between any stream or lake.
During there journey they spied dark silhouettes and a flotilla of
Iroquois canoes. Neither side wanted to fight a sea battle at night. The Iroquois beached
the canoes and began to cut down trees for a palisade. The Algonquins yelled insults to
the Iroquois. At dawn the French got ready for the fight against the Iroguois.
Just before the attack the French lit there flints. Each Frenchmen
concealed themselves in a canoe. When they shot at the Iroquois they killed two men and
wounded another. The shots scared the Iroquois and they ran into the forest. There the
Hurons were pursuing them and captured and killed some of the Iroquois.
When Champlain raided another Iroquois village he was wounded twice. He
spent the winter at the Huron Indian village. When Champlain was able to travel again he
returned to Quebec.
Quebec began to slowly grow. The Jesuits came and built a church, a
convent for nuns, schools and a hospital. In 1628 war broke out between England and
France. Champlain surrendered Quebec to the English and returned to France. In 1630 peace
was signed and Quebec was returned to France once again. Champlain returned to Quebec and
resumed his duties as governor in 1633.
Champlain was a strong, good-natured man who kept his word. He had many
ideas including a joint agriculture and fur-trading company between the French and
Indians. Along with other accomplishments Samuel de Champlain was the first white explorer
to gaze upon on of the Great Lakes, Lake Huron. In 1635 Champlain died on Christmas Day in
Quebec, the city he founded.