Most Newfoundlanders have roots in England, Ireland or the Channel Islands. Many place names, however, remind us that early fishermen also came from France, Portugal and Spain. The late 1600s and early 1700s were a time of turmoil as these countries battled it out for dominance in North America.
The French attacked St. John’s several times by sea, but had no chance against forts protected by a narrow entrance to the harbour.
Pierre Le Moyne D’Iberville In 1696, however, a French-Canadian soldier, explorer and privateer named Pierre Le Moyne D’Iberville led a sensational overland attack that resulted in the destruction of 36 English settlements and the deaths of 200 people.
D’Iberville and his men travelled overland from the French capital of Plaisance (Placentia) to Ferryland and north to St. John’s. They set fire to St. John’s, destroyed nearby settlements and raided communities in Conception and Trinity bays. They travelled by sea from Heart’s Content to Boulle Havre (Sunnyside) where they could cross over to Placentia Bay.
Frenchman's Island - an Early Prison Camp
They captured about 700 prisoners in all and had 200 with them when they reached the bottom of Trinity Bay (Sunnyside). The prisoners were brought to an island described as: 90 feet from land, half a league in circumference and eight paces wide at low tide. Clearly, this was the only island in our harbour - Frenchman's Island. They were kept on the island for about two months. It was still winter and there was little chance the prisoners would escape. In any case, guards were posted on shore to make sure that didn’t happen.
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