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Before 1524 : Prelude to New France.

1524: Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano sets sail for the west on a mission of discovery for king François the 1st. He explores the American east coast between Florida and Newfoundland. He names these new lands «Francesca», in honour of king François the First. In 1529, his brother Girolamo writes on his map of these new lands «Nova Gallia» (New Gaul). The name of Nouvelle-France (New France) will finally become the norm to identify the French possessions of Northeastern America.

1534 : Jacques Cartier leaves Saint-Malo for his first voyage towards the west. He finds himself in the Gulf of the Saint-Laurent. In Gaspé, he takes possession of these lands in the name of France, by planting a big wooden cross bearing three fleur de lys, the arms of France. In 1541, Cartier founds Charlesbourg-Royal, the first French settlement in the New World.

1537 : Pope Paul III proclaims the Sublimis Deus accroding to which the Savages «being truly men, are apt to receive Christian faith.»

Jacques Cartier in Gaspé
1555 : Villegagnon establishes in Brazil a protestant French colony named «la France antarctique» that the Portugese later destroy in 1560 after numerous conflicts between French protestants and catholics.

1562 : France attempts to found colonies in Florida, with no success.

1598 : King Henri the Fourth names marquis Mesgouez de La Roche lieutenant général of the countries of Canada, Terre-Neuve, Labrador and Norembègue and gives him monopoly of the fur trade. La Roche leaves with 10 soldiers and 40 «peasants and beggars» for the île de Sable, off the coast of the actual Nova Scotia. After a revolt, the 11 surviving colonists are brought back to France.

1600: Pierre Chauvin builds an «habitation» at Tadoussac and leaves 16 men of which only 5 survive the following winter. Tadoussac nonetheless survives and remains for 30 years the only seaport of the Saint-Laurent.

1605 : Samuel de Champlain founds the settlement of Port-Royal (today renamed Annapolis, Nova Scotia), which marks the birth of l'Acadie. Sadly, the small establishment will be destroyed by the British in 1607.

1608 : Champlain founds the city of Québec, in the part of New France called "Canada" (the Saint-Laurent river valley). Click here to see images and pictures of our capital city.

1609: To prove his good intentions to his Hurons, Algonquin and Montagnais allies, Champlain joins a military expedition against the Iroquois. He follows the Iroquois river (the Richelieu) to a lake that will keep his name.It is there that Champlain fights the Iroquois for the first time. Champlain and his allies are victorious, but Iroquois become mortal enemies of New France.

1610: Étienne Brûlé leaves the French settlement to live among the Hurons. He becomes the first European to see lakes Ontario, Huron and Superior.

1611: Publication until 1680 of the «Relations des Jésuites», very precious witnesses' reports of what happened every year in Nouvelle-France.

1615: Arrival of the first Récollets missionaries from Rouen, France. Their mission is to teach christianity to the Indians.

1617: An apothecary by the name of Louis Hébert decides to bring his family and claim a piece of land in the vicinity of Québec city for farming purposes. He thus becomes the first "Habitant" of Canada.

1618 : Jean Nichollet arrives in Québec and quickly becomes one of New France's foremost ambassadors to the Indian nations. Gaining the trust of the Algonquiens first, he will afterwards be sent in the North-West to meet with the Nipissings and will end up staying nine years with them. After his return, he will be sent to meet with the Hurons and the Ouinipigous of Lake Superior. His diplomatic missions were very successful and his search for a passage to China heralded new discoveries and new lands for France. The Natives even nicknamed him «Achirra» which means «Superman».

1625: Arrival of the Jésuites (among them fathers Charles Lalemant and Jean de Brébeuf).

1627: A group of French merchants found the Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France. Their goal is the exploitation of the fur trade and their mandate is to help colonize the country. The seigneurial regime is instaured.

1632: The Couillard-Hébert family receives the first slave of the colony. He is a Black boy from the West Indies. Slaves are rather common here until the end of the XVIIIth century. The historian Marcel Trudel has counted 4092 slaves throughout Canadian history, of which 2692 were Indians (the favourites of French-speakers) and 1400 Blacks (the favourites of English-speakers) owned by approximately 1400 masters. The region of Montréal dominates with 2077 slaves compared to 1059 for Québec and 114 for Trois-Rivières. Several marriages took place between French colonists and slaves (31 unions between with Indian slaves and 8 with Black slaves) which means that a number of Québécois today have slaves somewhere in their family trees.

1632: Gabriel Sagard publishes «Le Grand Voyage au pays des Hurons» (The Great Travel in the lands of the Hurons), and a dictionnary of the Huron language.

1634: Under the orders of Champlain, the Sieur de La Violette travels to the mouth of the Saint-Maurice river to found a fur trading post and a fort. It will come to be known as Trois-Rivières. For a long time, this site will be one of the most advantageous for the activities of fur traders.

1636 : A Jésuite missionnary observes the Hurons while they play one of their favourite games. The curved stick they use reminds him of a bishop's so he names it «la crosse».

1639 : Marie de l'Incarnation and the Ursulines (first order of nuns to establish itself in New France) found in Québec a school for girls. They welcome Native as well as French girls.

1641 : Beginning of the first French-Iroquois war.

1642 : Le sieur Chomedey de Maisonneuve founds Ville-Marie (Montréal), despite Montmagny's warning about the war against the Iroquois. Maisonneuve declares that he will go to Montréal «even if all the trees of the island should change into so many Iroquois!» Jeanne Mance accompanies him and founds the Saint-Joseph hospital, that will later take the name of Hôtel-Dieu.

1642 : The Jésuite priests Isaac Jogues and René Goupil, are taken prisoner by the Iroquois. Young adventurer Guillaume Cousture, a "coureur des bois", was also taken prisoner. The brave captives are brutally tortured and will be known to future generations as the «Saints Martyrs Canadiens».

1643: In Ville-Marie, Maisonneuve erects a big cross on the Mont Royal to thank God for saving the young french settlement from a threatening flood. The first Montréaliste child is born in 1648; Barbe Meusnier.

1649: Begining of the genocide of the Huron nation by the Iroquois confederacy.

1652: The Cid, from Corneille, is performed in Québec.

1653 : Marguerite Bourgeoys arrives in Montréal. She founds a school for girls where she wishes to instruct and educate Natives. She has another one built for the colonists' children. The King later puts in her care the "Filles du Roy", these orphaned young women who have come to the New world to find happiness and husband.

1659: Pierre-Esprit Radissonand his brother-in-law, Médard Chouart Des Groseillers, leave Trois-Rivières to go trade furs in the west. They reach the territory of Wisconsin and are the first white men to make contact with the Sioux nation. They later convince British merchants to found the Hudson's Bay Company.

1660 : Dollard des Ormeaux and his friends save Montréal from an Iroquois attack, at the price of their lives.

1661: Birth in Ville-Marie of the most illustrious of New France's sons; Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville.

1663: A terrible earthquake strikes Québec city and its area. Mère Marie de l'Incarnation describes this disaster in one of the letters she sends to her son in Paris.

1663: Louis XIV cancels the contract of the Compagnie des Cent Associés since it had failed to transport thousands of settlers to New France. The king thus takes direct control of the colony and establishes a Royal Government, composed of a gouverneur, an intendant and the Conseil Souverain. Louis XIV's most important minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, is to see to the well-being of the colony through the Ministère de la Marine.

1663: Arrival of the «filles du roi» (the King's daughters, approximately 775 women). The majority of them will establish themselves in the city of Québec and about half of them will marry there.

1665: Jean Talon becomes the intendant of New France and the colony knows a great period of growth and prosperity. On that same year, Louis XIV send the Carignan-Salières regiment to counter the Iroquois threat. Of the 1300 soldiers who set foot in the colony, about 400 will choose to stay and found families.

L'intendant Talon
Jean Talon
1666 : Ville-Marie (Montréal) now hast 582 inhabitants !

1669: Jesuit brother Claude Allouez is the first European to officially reach lake Michigan.

1669: Louis XIV orders that all the valid men of New France between 16 and 60 years of age must do their mandatory military service. Every parish will have its militia.

1670 : A British royal charter establishes the Hudson's Bay Company.

1673 : The intendant Talon sends Louis Jolliet and father Jacques Marquette to explore the Mississippi, the Missouri and the Ohio rivers and claim them for France.

1682 : Cavelier de La Salle reaches the end of the Mississippi and names the territory «Louisiane» in honor of King Louis.

1685: La Nouvelle-France now has a population of 10 275 habitants (compared to about 160 000 in New England).

1689 : 1500 Iroquois warriors, by order of the English, secretly land in Lachine, on the island of Montréal. During the cowardly night attack, the Iroquois slaughter 24 inhabitants and take about 90 prisoners. Of those, 42 will return to the colony, the rest are brutally tortured and burned alive in Iroquoisie. This sad event is known as the Lachine Massacre.

1690 : A British fleet, under the commandment of Admiral Phipps attacks Québec. Phipps sends a messenger to Gouverneur Frontenac, commander of the French troops, and demands that he surrender in the next hour. Frontenac answers: "I have no reply to make to your general other than from the mouths of my cannons and muskets!" The English are beaten and Québec is saved.

1696 : Madeleine de Verchères, a 14 year old girl, courageously defends an old fort with two old soldiers against an Iroquois attack that lasts more than a week.

1701: The Great Peace of Montréal is finally signed between the French and the Iroquois. This treaty allows the development of new parishes and villages on the island of Montréal. Lamothe-Cadillac founds Détroit, a western military outpost.

1711: The British mount an invasion of Québec and Hovender Walker is named Commander-in-chief. As the impressive fleet penetrates the Saint-Laurent river, eight ships hit reefs and sink, causing the death of 900 people. The war council decides to turn back.

1713: Acadie is now definitely British. It becomes quickly apparent that the new British masters have no intention to respect the liberties of the Acadien population. They are forbidden to leave the colony, thus ensuring that they will not reinforce the militias of New France. They are also needed to provide food to the British troops. In 1730, lieutenant Lawrence Armstrong begins to distribute lands to Boston colonists but refuses to do the same for the Acadiens whose population is growing quickly.

1713: With the signature of the Utrecht treaty, France must abandon Newfoundland and the Hudson Bay to the British. New France is now strategically surrounded by British territories.

1718 : Foundation of Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans).

1734: A terrible fire in Montréal destroys 46 houses an an old historical church. A young black slave called Marie-Joseph-Angélique is found guilty of lighting the blaze and is hanged. After this disaster, the intendant Bégon orders that all houses will from now on be built of stones.

French soldier
1735: Inauguration of the Chemin du Roy on the north shore of the Saint-Laurent, a great road of 250 kilometres which unites Montréal and Québec. The road's construction took 4 years and required the building of 13 bridges. From now on, people can travel from one city to the other in 4 days!

1737: Marguerite d'Youville (born Marie Marguerite Dufrost de Lajammerais) founds the Congrégation des Soeurs de la Charité de Montréal, better known as the «Soeurs Grises», devoted to helping the poor. In 1747, she becomes director of the Hôpital Général of Montréal. In 1753, Louis XV officially recognizes and approves of the Soeurs Grises. Marguerite d'Youville is canonized by pope Jean-Paul II in 1990.

1738: A young woman disguised as a boy is arrested by the authorities for having lied about her true name, sex and religion. Esther Brandeau, a 20-year old Jewish woman, has travelled to Nouvelle-France under the name of Jacques La Fargue. Jews and Protestant Huguenots having been denied access to the colony by the king, she is sent back to France. It is the only attested Jewish presence in Nouvelle-France history.

1743: Two sons of explorer La Vérendrye survive their father and reach the Rockies. New France is then an enormous empire that goes from Hudson Bay to the Mexican Gulf (through all the american midwest), and from Acadie to the Rockies. But it is a fragile giant.

1743: Until 1758, father Potier, first lexicographer of Nouvelle-France French, writes his glossary entitled «Façons de parler proverbiales, triviales, figurées, etc., des Canadiens au XVIIIe siècle» (Ways to speak of the Canadiens in the XVIIIth century). His work opens a fascinating window on our ancestors' language.

1744: François-Xavier de Charlevoix publishes his «Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle-France» (History and general description of Nouvelle-France).

1749 : Building of fort Rouillé (Toronto).

1749: Acadie, now renamed "Nova Scotia" is receiving 2500 new colonists (English, Irish and German). Halifax is founded and becomes the new center of government. Many Acadiens flee towards New France, mainly Saint-Jean Island (today's P.E.I.).

1754 : The Governor of Virginia sends a 22 years old lieutenant-colonel George Washington and 120 militia men to Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburg) to tell the French to leave the Ohio valley. The French send a young officer, De Jumonville, with an escort of 34 men, to kindly remind the Virginians that they are on French territory. With no warning, Washington orders his men to open fire while De Jumonville is reading a diplomatic declaration. Ten Canadiens and officer De Jumonville are killed and the others are taken prisoner. Washington leaves the bodies of his victims to the wolves. Outraged, the French attack Washington who capitulates, admitting his guilt in the assassination of officer De Jumonville.

1755 : The Acadiens refuse to swear allegiance to the British crown (as it would mean betraying their faith). To make sure these valiant settlers do not leave to reinforce the defenses of Canada, governor Charles Lawrence orders their deportation. The unarmed populace is arrested and loaded onto boats that disperse them in the American colonies. Families are ripped apart, children are taken from their parents and wives from their husbands. It is the horrible déportation of the Acadiens, one of the most shameful war crimes of New France history. There are about 12 000 people that are deported this way. Lawrence also orders that: "no efforts be spared to reduce to hunger those who will attempt to hide in the woods."

1756 : Beginning of the Seven Year war between England and France. The new lieutenant-general, the marquis de Montcalm, arrives with all honors in the colony. He quickly takes a dislike to the Canadien's way to make war and even writes that he would prefer "to lose a battle than to win it with the help of the Canadiens".

1757: On the orders of gouverneur Vaudreuil, Montcalm attacks fort William Henry (Lake George, N.Y.). He is leading 6200 soldiers and militia men and 1800 Indian warriors. After three days of fighting, the 2500 English give up. Montcalm then disobeys orders and decides not to attack fort Edward, the door to Albany and only a day's walk away from William Henry. Vaudreuil is outraged.

1758: The British army attacks Fort Carillon. Major general Abercromby is at the head of the largest army ever assembled until then in America; 16 000 men. Montcalm defends the fort with 3600 men, many of them Canadiens and Indians. Thankfully, Abercromby makes a European attack and sends his troops in an orderly fashion against the fort. The Canadiens open fire on the army from their safe vantage point without mercy. The British army finally turns and runs away, leaving behind 1944 wounded or killed. The victorious French count only 377 dead. This miraculous victory is celebrated and quickly enters legend. The French flag used during the battle will become the inspiration of Québec's current flag.

1759 : The English attack Québec city once more, under the orders of general James Wolfe. The marquis de Montcalm defends Québec. After a long conflict that leaves the city in ruins and the entire region devastated, the city falls to the English.

1760: France sends no reinforcements to the colony, and the betrayed Canadiens inhabitants refuse to take up arms. Montréal surrenders to the enemy. The English refuse the honors of war to the French troops. Chevalier de Lévis chooses to break his sword and burn his flags rather than surrender them to the invader. These events mark the end of New France, as les Canadiens become subjects of the British crown.

Les Plaines d'Abraham
1763: Thousands of Natives, still loyal to France, swear vengeance and declare war on the English. The red coats are forced back from the Great Lakes region by chief Pontiac and his allies.

The same year, France signs the Traité de Paris, and prefers to abandon Canada in order to keep the sugar of Guadeloupe. Abandonned by the Mother country, the Canadiens will now have to learn to coexist with the invaders.

Maps of New France

Lower Canada: from 1763 to 1867

History of Québécois French

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