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90. A FATHER ASSAILS HIS SON IN COMBAT

Yarmouth Vanguard, September 18, 1990


Early in the 17th century lived in France a noted British family comprising five brothers by the name of Kirke. They were Calvinists, known in France as Huguenots. Cardinal Richelieu, the right-hand man of King Louis XIII, put under siege in 1628 the city of La Rochelle, the stronghold of the Huguenots and the most important port of France. This is when the Kirkes moved to England with the intention to take vengeance against France by attacking her possessions in the New World. The King of England provided them with all that they needed: vessels, munition, food, soldiers. La Rochelle was still under siege when they left in the spring of 1628 for Acadia and Québec.


In the mean time, Claude de La Tour was also on his way to Acadia to bring provisions to his son, Charles de La Tour, at Port La Tour; it was in answer to the demand that Charles de La Tour had made to the King and to Richelieu. The Kirkes caught up with his vessel, which was seized, and Claude de La Tour was made prisoner. The Kirkes devasted all the holdings that France had in Acadia, except her most important stronghold, that of Cape Sable, where was Charles de La Tour. It could be that the Kirkes compelled Claude de La Tour to reveal where were those strongholds, that which he did, but concealed the one where his son had at Port La Tour. After having razed to the ground all the French properties in Acadia, they did the same in Québec.


Claude de La Tour was taken to England as prisoner of war. Most probably he gave his allegiance to Great Britain, and then was granted a tract of land, running from Yarmouth along the coast to Lunenburg, by Sir William Alexander, to whom King James I had conveyed in 1621 the whole territory to which he gave there and then the name of Nova Scotia. He finally married one of the maids of honor to the Queen Henrietta Maria. This was his third marriage.


As all the strongholds and establishments in Canada had fallen into the hands of the British, except Cape Sable, Claude de La Tour felt that there was no hope for France of regaining the territory; in other words, it was foolish for his son to hold on to a few acres on which he was established in Port La Tour. Accordingly, in early Spring of 1630, he set sail from England under the guidance of William Alexander, Jr., having no doubts that he would be able to convince his son that there was only one thing for him to do, that is, to turn over to Great Britain his establishment.


We can easily imagine the frustration, the emotion, the surprise which overwhelmed the son when his own father urged him to cede his territory, the territory that he had erected with much labor. The father must have been just as much surprised when he was faced with complete refusal on the part of his son. Neither his advances, nor his exhortations, nor his offers, nor his threats had any effect on his son; he was simply running his head against a cement wall.


The father, not being able to budge his son by words, decided to have recourse to arms. The battle lasted one whole day and one whole night, according to one version. We are not told if Charles de La Tour lost any men, but another version says that the attackers “after an assault that lasted two days, having lost some of their men,” set sail for Port Royal.


The battle had taken place at the fort that Charles de La Tour had at what is now Port La Tour. That was taking place in the Spring of 1630. A few weeks later, during the summer of 1630 we are told, arrived in Cape Sable two vessels filled with material and laborers for the purpose of building a fort in the premises. It was in answer to the plea that Charles de La Tour had addressed three years before to the King of France and to Richelieu. He decided to build this new fort in a more favorable spot than that of Port La Tour. He chose Sand Hills, at Villagedale, three miles south of Barrington, close to Sabine Beach. It was an ideal place for a fort. It is a huge stone promonotory called sometimes “Solid Rock,” rising fifty feet over the water level. In front of it extends the beautiful panorama of Barrington Bay. From it, one has a splendid view of both entrances of the bay, each side of Cape Sable Island. An author writes that the choice that Charles de La Tour made the Sand Hills for this fort shows that he had “a good eye.” The construction was enough advanced at the end of the year to receive the name of Fort Saint Louis.


During all the time, Claude de La Tour was leading a gruesome life in Port Royal among the Scottish colonists. Champlain tells us that the English “were displeased with him, as he had assured them that he would win over his son to render them many kinds of services.” Nicolas Denys, on his part, writes that “he did not dare return to England for fear lest he should be made to suffer … His wife was also a great embarrassment to him;” he told her that she could go back to England, if she thought it would be better for her; that himself, he would ask his son if he could go and live in Cape Sable. But she said that she would not abandon him, if his son would permit them to remain with him. Thus, he wrote to his son and “begged him to permit his wife and himself to remain in the country, since after what had passed, he did not care return to England because he would there lose his head.”


Charles de La Tour sent for him and his wife. He erected a small dwelling outside the fort for them, telling his father that they were not to enter the fort. They came with their luggage, along with two men as servants, and two maids for his wife. They were to be supported by the son.


Nicolas Denys, going by in 1635, dined with him and his wife, she expressing the pleasure that she had seeing him. He adds: “They were very amply provided.”


Claude de La Tour was still living in 1639, when he gave his consent to his son’s second marriage. He had arrived in Acadia in 1610 with his son, when he erected at Pentagoët, now Penobscott, Maine, close to Castine, a fortification to carry on a fur trade business. His remains are most probably laying under the sand of Sand Hills.


The story of the encounter between father and the son has been recounted in many ways. In 1842, a young French Canadian poet, Antoine Guérin-Lajoie, composed a tragedy in three acts in poetry of the drama, which has been played many times, expecially in the province of Québec. Also there is a beautiful artistic drawing of the encounter by an unknown author, which we find reproduced in different places.

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