Site of Port-LaJoye
Current site of Port-LaJoye and the contours of the fort in the middle of the wide deforestation area, across from Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Island (Courtesy of Le Corridor du Canada)

In the summer of 1720, Pointe à la Framboise and Pointe à la Flamme masterfully guard the entrance channel to the port which will take the name of LaJoye because the site provoked among the first islanders of Isle St. Jean a feeling of great happiness. After four months of exhausting navigation more than 250 French colonists, recruited mainly in the surroundings of La Rochelle but also in Brittany and Normandy, reach the shore under a radiant sun and in a grandiose landscape. Most of them, preferring fishing over farming, settle in St. Peter’s Habour by ascending the river of the Northeast (Hillsborough River today, 45 km long) to then take a Mi’kmaq portage trail to the fish-rich waters of the vast Gulf of St. Lawrence. Before starting to build Port-LaJoye’s first dwellings, a large wooden cross was erected to the song of the Te Deum Laudamus at Pointe de la Croix near Canceaux Cove (formerly l’anse aux Sauvages), where the West River flows (formerly la rivière de l’Ouest).

Robert-David Gotteville de Belile, ship lieutenant, captain of a garrison of thirty soldiers from the navy, and commander of the Compagnie de l’Isle Saint-Jean (see the historical introduction to Prince Edward Island) approves the location. From a strategic viewpoint, the site offers a deep and well sheltered harbour. The heights of the bluff provide an excellent oversight of the entrance channel, the harbour and the confluence of the three main rivers leading into the interior of the island, including the North River. As the resumption of the conflict with the British is feared, a fort made up of a palisade and four bastions is erected at the top of the hill without earthworks. It is nevertheless supported by a waterside battery of eight guns pointing to the opposite shore. Until its destruction by flames in 1745, during a surprise attack by New England’s armed forces, the fort of Port-LaJoye serves as an outpost for the fortress of Louisbourg on Isle Royale, the fortifications of which were undertaken in 1719.

An outpost of the fortress of Louisbourg

Port-LaJoye at the time of New France
Port-LaJoye and its surroundings at the time of New France (Courtesy of The Buzz, Prince Edward Island’s Guide)

Inside the palisades of the fort, the founding group build a chapel, the commander’s house and that of the chaplain and also those of some officers (most likely), barracks for the soldiers, as well as a bakery and a warehouse. On the outskirts, between the fort and Pointe de la Croix, twenty families (16 French and four Acadian) set up their homes. Michel Haché-Gallant and his wife Anne Cormier (married in 1690 in Beaubassin, Acadia, and their 12 children) are the first Acadian family to settle permanently in Port-LaJoye. Other Acadians will follow, especially in the years preceding the Great Upheaval of 1755. According to the island’s 1735 census, eight families out of 15 in the administrative capital of Isle St. Jean are Acadians. The others are French (5) and Canadian (2). All the heads of families except two are farmers. In addition, seven of the 15 farms are owned by members of the Haché-Gallant family, namely Michel (son), Joseph, Jean-Baptiste, Charles, Pierre, François, and Jacques. There are indications that Michel (father) who tragically died on April 10, 1737, left Beaubassin with his family, preferring to immigrate to Isle St. Jean rather than take the oath required to become a British subject.

Monument dedicated to Michel Haché-Gallant and his wife
Monument dedicated to Michel Haché-Gallant and his wife near the fort of Port-LaJoye at Rocky Point across from Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Island (image Vidéotron)
The Mi’kmaq star
The Mi’kmaq star (image Pinterest)

The harvests of 1720 were meager. In addition, the subsequent winter was harsh and cold for the people of Port-LaJoye. Fortunately, the Mi’kmaqs provide them with game, including geese, ducks, teals, and many partridges as well as hares and caribou. This help turns out to be a lifeline for the colony. In recognition of this helping hand, which becomes an unforgettable fraternity, each year during the French regime, a large gathering of Mi’kmaqs and settlers is held in Port-LaJoye, accompanied by a traditional presentation of gifts. Senior officials from Louisbourg are present. Unfortunately, the Great Upheaval of 1758 puts an end to the journey of this shooting star among all stars.

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