Fort Chambly National Historic Site
Short History Lesson About Fort Chambly
Samuel de Champlain: The French Arrive at Chambly
Champlain's Departure for the West
© National Archives of Canada / Anonymous / C-6881
In 1603, Samuel de Champlain made his first trip to New France. Accompanied
by St. Malo merchant Gravé du Pont, he visited the Tadoussac fur-trading
post that had been set up in 1600. Once they had concluded their trade, the
two Frenchmen headed up the St. Lawrence River to the rapids at Lachine and
explored down the Iroquois River, later to become the Richelieu River.
This expedition convinced Champlain that France had to have a permanent
base in the St. Lawrence Valley, since the river led to the heart of the
country and would open the way to new lands to supply the fur trade. In 1608,
Champlain founded Quebec, marking the beginning of a new era of trade and
To run the fur trade, the French first of all needed traders and
also intermediaries from the Montagnais, Algonquin and Huron Indian nations.
They had to gain the confidence of the Indians and weave ties of trade with
them. In 1609, Champlain consolidated his alliances when he participated
in a raid against the Iroquois. He paddled up the Iroquois River and left
a very interesting description of the rapids at Chambly:
"The approach to the rapids is a sort of lake into which the water flows
down, and it is about three leagues in circumference. Near by are meadows were
no Indians live, by reason of the wars. At the rapids there is very little
water, but it flows with great swiftness, and there are many rocks and boulders,
so that the Indians cannot go up by water; but on the way back they run them
very nicely. All this region is very level and full of forests, vines and butternut
trees. No Christian has ever visited this land and we had all the misery of
the world trying to paddle the river upstream."
"Defeat of the Iroquois at Lake Champlain"
© National Archives of Canada / Anonymous / C-6881,
On July 14, Champlain arrived at a huge lake to which he gave his
name: Lake Champlain. His first encounter with the Iroquois was to the south
of the lake. It was the superiority of the Europeans' arms that enabled the
French and their allies to come out victorious from this, the first battle
in what was to become a long series of conflicts with the Iroquois.
Champlain had just opened the way for the man who would later establish
the first military post at the foot of the rapids at Chambly: Jacques de
Chambly, captain of a detachment of the Carignan-Salières Regiment.