Fort Louis/New Fort Archaeological Site
Archaeologists have diligently sought to unearth the objects of Fort Louis in order to tell the stories that time has quietly hidden (see Provincial Archaeology Office Newsletters for 2003, 2006 - 2010). The site of archaeological excavations since 2003, Fort Louis/New Fort is located in Jerseyside, on the north side of the Gut, (the narrow entrance that connects the waters of Placentia Bay and Placentia Harbour).
Thus, archaeologists are seeking to shed additional light on the history of this portion of Placentia area history. In the 17th century, beginning in 1691, Fort Louis was the second fort constructed by the French. Withstanding attacks by the English in 1692, it had to be re-built. And owing to the violent and tempestuous history that gripped Placentia at the time, the fortification of Fort Royal (Castle Hill National Historic Site of Canada) began in 1693, a further attempt by the French to maintain control over the area.
Despite these attempts by France, Plaisance or Placentia, as it came to be known, was surrendered to the English with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. At this point, Fort Louis was used by the English. However, by the 1720s, Fort Frederick was constructed and hence Fort Louis or New Fort, as it was referred to by the English, was largely abandoned. But in the 1740s, the English revisited the fortification, building upon the earlier Fort Louis. The English used the buildings and features of the pre-existing fort until the latter part of the 18th century when the New Fort also fell into disrepair.
However, gradually, archaeologists are piecing together the history and life that existed at Fort Louis/New Fort. For instance, buildings such as the British Governor’s House, the foundations of the Gate House have been located. As an unmistakable indication of the lives led at the time that Fort Louis/New Fort was functioning, the archaeologists also located an old burial ground. As noted in the Archaeological Review of 2007, local resident had always believed there was an “old French Graveyard” in the area. In 1972, archaeological investigations had indeed revealed a burial. Archaeologists Steve Mills and David Fry go on to note that “Interviews conducted during the current investigations with additional local and former residents of Placentia determined that head stones were still visible on the site as recently as the 1950s.” In fact, local resident Mr. Ken O’Keefe had two photographs taken near the turn of the twentieth century in which the upright stone grave markers appeared to be visible (seeProvincial Archaeological Review for 2007, page 85).
Clearly, Fort Louis/New Fort was a part of life in Placentia. And over the centuries, although it was no longer used as a fortification, Fort Louis never strayed far from the hearts and minds of people. Periodically, it featured in the stories of authors who placed their characters against the colourful and vibrant history of Placentia. In this way, fortifications such as Fort Louis could impart a hint of the discord that has sometimes characterised the presence of these structures on the landscape. So, in 1889, The Twillingate Sunpublished “Adele” featuring the story of Ernest and Adele Arnoud whose lives were entwined with the malicious machinations of Captain Devoux. This drama was set amidst the battles of 1692 that witnessed the attempt of the English to capture Plaisance. Later, S.B. Harrison wrote “Near the Walls of Fort Louis” (Newfoundland Quaterly, December 1908, page 23-4) a story that speaks of the tragic love of Captain Pierre Chavaillac and Phemie Felchard during the latter 17th century. Offering a human side of the Treaty of Utrecht, the story ends in 1713 when Phemie departs Plaisance for Île Royale, what became Cape Breton.
In the late twentieth century, life continued and the area occupied by Fort Louis/New Fort was the site of housing developments as well as that of a softball diamond. Although this has made the task of archaeologists more challenging, their work continues to reveal the items and objects that play a central role in the rich history that embellishes Placentia.
Credit: Lee Everts (www.placentiapastpresent.ca)
Hours Open: Dig site is active summer months from July to September, Monday to Friday
Time Period Represented: 17th century to 18th century
Seasons Open: Summer months
Visitor Fees: No charge