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Samuel de Champlain

[sham plAn'] explorer; founder of Quebec

Samuel de Champlain

Samuel de Champlain was born in Brouage, Saintonge, France, circa 1570. His father, a sea captain, taught him navigation. He entered the French Army at the age of about 20 and served until 1598. In 1599 he sailed to the Spanish colonies in America on a French trading ship. From 1599 to 1601, he commanded the St. Julien on several voyages to the West Indies, Mexico, and Panama. Upon his return to France, Champlain wrote a book about his voyages in which he described the splendor of Mexico City and proposed the construction of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. The book made an impression on King Henry IV, who granted Champlain a pension and the right to explore French possessions in North America.

First Voyages

In 1603, Champlain sailed to what is now Canada and anchored at Tadoussac, where the Saguenay joins the St. Lawrence. He then sailed up the Saguenay as far as the rapids just above present-day Montreal. Returning to Tadoussac, he then explored both sides of the St. Lawrence River down to about present-day Quebec. During this voyage he became one of the first Europeans to see Niagara Falls. Returning to Canada in 1604, Champlain explored the New England coast. In 1605 he helped found a settlement at Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia). Later in 1605 Champlain again explored the New England coast, this time making it to the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The following year he continued on around Cape Cod, but went no further south.

map of Champlain's voyages

Founding of Quebec

Champlain returned to Canada in 1608 to establish a fur-trading post. He chose a site along the St. Lawrence River and named it Quebec, thus establishing the first permanent settlement in what was then called New France. The first winter was extremely cold, and only 8 of the 24 settlers survived.

Quebec, as pictured in Champlain's 1613 book Voyages. The fort had a fur storehouse, platforms for cannon (N), a pigeon loft (B), and sundial (E). Entry was via a drawbridge leading to the main door (I). Champlain died in his official residence (H) in 1635.

Hoping to prevent Indian attacks, Champlain became friendly with the Algonquin and Huron who lived nearby. In 1609 he and two French companions joined the Algonquin and Huron in a raid on the Iroquis, who lived in what is now New York. The French's muskets easily defeated the Iroquis, and Champlain won the lasting friendship of the Algonquin and Huron. On this raid, Champlain became the first European to reach Lake Champlain, which he named for himself.

Later Life

From 1610 to 1624 Champlain made several trips to France to obtain aid for Quebec. He also explored Lake Ontario and the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron.

War broke out between France and England in 1626 and the English began to seize French settlements in Canada. In 1628 an English fleet cut off supplies to Quebec and ordered Champlain to surrender the fort. The settlers held out for a year but finally surrendered after they ran out of food. The English took Champlain to England, but allowed him to return to France in 1629. In 1632 the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye returned Quebec to France. Champlain sailed back to Quebec in 1633 and rebuilt the fort. He lived there until his death, on December 25, 1635.

Print Source

World Book Encyclopedia Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International, Inc., 1979

Site of Interest

Museum of History: Hall of Explorers

See Also

Niagara Falls

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This page was last updated on 12/25/2018.