Charles Fort National Historic Site of Canada
Locating Charles Fort
Charles Fort was built on the escarpment above the junction of the Annapolis and Allain rivers. The site is a high point on the Annapolis River whose shores are bordered by low salt marshes that, at the time of the Scots, were flooded by the spring tides of the Bay of Fundy but, since about 1640, have been protected by dykes. The site has a commanding view of the Annapolis River and Goat Island. Because of its elevated location and rather flat terrain, the site was used as a campsite by the Mi'kmaq and other Aboriginal peoples travelling by canoe through interior rivers from the Bay of Fundy to the south shore of Nova Scotia via what is now Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada and was where the French, during the period of the Port-Royal Habitation (1605-1613), grew wheat and possibly other crops.
For many years, however, Charles Fort was thought to have been situated on the north side of the Annapolis River, on a rise behind the Port-Royal Habitation, a fur trade post and the centre of French colonizing efforts from 1605 to 1613. A French 1708 map and a British 1725 map identified this as the location, and oral tradition perpetuated the idea. (The 1725 map referred to it as the “Scotch Fort.”) However, this location did not agree with details given in a first-hand account, published in 1940, which stated that Claude de Saint-Étienne de La Tour, who had lived at the Habitation and was aboard ship with Alexander, pointed out the Habitation site and the site of a La Tour fort. Alexander, “disliking both,” sailed further up the river to a place beside a small river. A more detailed version of the document published in 1992 stated that there were ruins of a French mill on the small river, thus establishing it as the Allain River, where the French had built a grist mill for grinding the grain grown in nearby wheat fields in 1607.