Port-Royal National Historic Site of Canada
Hébert’s apothecary at Port-Royal © Parks Canada/A. Rierden
In 1606, Louis Hebért, a second-generation French apothecary, may have been the first European with such skills in North America. His father, Nicolas Hébert, served as the royal apothecary to the court of Catherine de Medicis. Louis Hébert, in turn, trained in medical arts and science, becoming a specialist in pharmacology. His profession instilled a life long love of plants and gardening. Connected by marriage to Jean de Poutrincourt and by friendship to the Sieur de Mons and Champlain, Louis Hébert was a true believer in the idea of New France.
He was part of Poutrincourt’s expedition to Port-Royal that also included Marc Lescarbot. On a map of the region, Lescarbot indicates a river and an island named for Hébert running across the Dauphin River (Annapolis River) from Port-Royal. Today we know them as Bear River and Bear Island.
Site interpreter inside Hébert’s apothecary © Parks Canada/A. Rierden
At Port-Royal, Hébert looked after the health of the pioneers and native people, treating both equally. He cultivated native drug plants, and supervised the gardens. He examined specimens of drug plants offered by the Mi'kmaq. Lescarbot writes with awe of Hébert’s pleasure in cultivating the soil and his adept healing skills. Hébert cared for chief Membertou during his last illness.
In 1613, when Samuel Argall raided and destroyed the settlement, Hébert and most of the colonists were forced to return to France. The lure of Canada was strong, however, and in 1617, he and the family returned with Champlain to Quebec, where Hébert gained lasting recognition as one of the first successful European farmers in Canada.
For more information on Louis Hébert please go to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.