The French Regime - The first fishing stations

Forillon National Park

On July 14, 1534, Jacques Cartier sailed along the shoreline of Forillon and cast anchor in Gaspé Bay ahead of an advancing storm. Two days later, strong winds prompted the French explorer to push on into the bay, toward the mouth of York River, across from Penouille peninsula.

On July 24, he solemnly took possession of this land in the name of the King of France, erecting a cross on one of the points of Gaspé harbour. At which exact point this event occurred continues to be a total mystery!

Contrary to popular belief, Jacques Cartier was not the first European to have “discovered” the region. Beginning in the 16th century, European fishermen visited the Gaspé Peninsula, attracted by its natural harbours, fish-bearing waters and accommodating beaches . Basque, French, Portuguese and Spanish fleets sailed here to fish for cod. These fishermen were not settlers, however. They arrived in spring, fished all summer long and sailed back across the Atlantic in fall. Thus, for example, during the French Regime, the peak of Forillon’s population barely rose to more than 300.

That being said, archaeologists have found an abundance of traces bearing witness to the human occupation of Penouille under the French Regime, including Norman stoneware fragments dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries, fragments of French bricks and glass bottles, wrought iron nails, etc. When added to the vestiges of fishing shacks (e.g., remains of flooring, clay and straw infill of chimneys, etc .), all these artifacts testify to the presence of seasonal fishermen from Normandy.

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