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The founder of Quebec City and one of the most charismatic figures in Canadian history, Samuel de Champlain opened up the St Lawrence river and extended French influence throughout the Great Lakes basin.

Samuel de Champlain was born in 1580 and by the time he passed way in 1635, he was known as the father of new France. He was a protestant which was unusual for a Frenchman of that age and grew up on the west coast of France in the seaport of Brouage. He became a sailor and learned the skills of navigation and cartography.

Champlain became involved with group who were interested in the fur trade and in 1603 was dispatched, aboard the Bonne - Renommee, for North America. He used his cartographers skills and produced a map of the St Lawrence river and upon his return to France published the map and his account of the trip in his work "Des Sauvages: ou voyage de Samuel Champlain, de Brouages, faite en la France nouvelle l'an 1603".

Henry IV of France commissioned Champlain to explore and report further on the new lands in the Americas and in 1604 he helped found the Saint Croix Island settlement on the Bay of Fundy but after a particularly harsh winter the settlers were relocated along the coast of Nova Scotia to an new site named Port Royal. Champlain was able to use his base here to further explore the Atlantic coast for the next few years. During his 1605 - 06 explorations he found no friendly areas where he felt another settlement could be established. He returned to France in 1607 to organize another effort for colonizing the new lands in America.

In 1608 Champlain sailed from Honfleur France in command of the Don-de-Dieu along with two other ships. The ships arrived at Tadoussac on the St Lawrence in June of 1608 and continued by small boat on to the site of Stadacona which was the Iroquois village that Jacques Cartier had made contact with. The village was abandoned, possibly due to inter-aboriginal warfare between the Iroquois and the Algonquin's or the devastating effects of European diseases such as smallpox for which the Indians had no natural immunity.

On July 3rd, 1608 Champlain landed with his settlers and established a new settlement named Quebec City. They began work immediately and built several multistory buildings.  During the first year, once the deep snows of Quebec had fallen, the dreaded disease of scurvy and smallpox also set in. 20 of the twenty eight settlers who stayed for the winter died.

In 1609 Champlain made contact and formed friendly relations with the Huron, the Algonquin, the Montagnais and the Etchemin. The mighty Iroquois were their enemy and they appealed to Champlain to help them with their fight against them. Champlain and 9 of his soldiers setout with 300 Algonquin's to explore the Iroquois lands to the south and travelled south along the Richelieu River to Lake Champlain.

Champlain and his party had not run into any Iroquois so 7 of the 9 soldiers and most of the Algonquin were allowed to return to Quebec City. Subsequently they ran into a Iroquois war party of over 200 warriors. On July 30tha the 200 Iroquois attacked Champlain, his 2 soldiers and his 30 Algonquin warriors near present day Crown Point, NY. Champlain fired his arquebus at them and killed 2 of the Iroquois leaders with one shot. This was the first encounter that the Iroquois had experienced with gunpowder and they immediately scattered and fled.  The battle lines between the French with the Algonquin's and the English with the Iroquois was now set for the next 150 years.

Champlain sailed for France that fall and upon his return in 1611 he traveled upriver from Quebec City to the former village of Hochelega where he established Montreal. He strengthened his relations with the Algonquin and returned to France that fall more intent then ever on gaining additional support for the French colonizing efforts in what was now becoming known as New France. Champlain was named lieutenant and given the power to act as virtual governor in New France. He was empowered to expand the lands of the colony, make treaties with the native people, administer the colonies and explore to the west for the route to China and the Indies. He also married Helene Boullie a 12 year old, on December 30 1610 and received a dowry which he was to use to support his efforts in New France.

Champlain returned once again to New France in March of 1613 for the next few years explored through to the Great Lakes and the Georgian Bay area in Ontario. He travelled up the Ottawa River and to Lake Nipissing. The lake and river network in Ontario and Quebec made the birch bark canoe, the natives choice, the easiest way to travel throughout the land.

In September of 1615 Champlain departed from Lake Simcoe, in Ontario, with the Huron's and travelled up the Oneida River where the attacked the Iroquois. This attack failed and Champlain was hit in his knee and his leg with two arrows. The Huron's and Champlain retreated back to Huronia where Champlain spent the wither recovering and learning more about  the Huron. He returned to Quebec City the following spring.


Champlain oversaw the coming of the Jesuit Order in New France and their efforts at converting the natives to Christianity.

He administered and continued to explore eastern Canada for the next 20 years and on December 25, 1635 he died after suffering a stroke a month previously.




Credit for establishing the first permanent settlement in
Canada belongs to Samuel de Champlain, "The Father of
New France." Born in France in 1567, Champlain made
his first voyage to the St. Lawrence region in 1603, and
in 1604 he took part with De Monts in an abortive at­
tempt to establish a French colony in Acadia. It was on
his third voyage, in 1608, that he succeeded in founding
a settlement at Quebec. From his base at Quebec he made
further explorations, discovering Lake Champlain and
exploring the Ottawa Valley. In 1615 he reached Geor­
gian Bay by way of the Ottawa River and Lake Nipissing.
The documents given here describe Champlain's arrival at
Quebec, the construction of the first buildings in the set­
tlement, and the difficulties of the first winter

. . . From the island of Orleans to Quebec is one
league, and I arrived there on July the third [ 1608 ]. On
arrival I looked for a place suitable for our settlement, but
I could not find any more suitable or better situated than
the point of Quebec, so called by the natives, which was
covered with nut-trees. I at once employed a part of our
workmen in cutting them down to make a site for our
settlement, another part in sawing planks, another in dig­

  H. P. Biggar, ed., The Works of Samuel de Champlain
( Toronto, The Champlain Society, 1925), II, 24-25, 35-
37, 44-45, 52-53, 59, 63.