In 1570, Captain Francisco de Souza, governor of the island of Madeira, reported that Joao Alvares Fagundes was determined to create a settlement in the new land of the Cod Fish, and under license by King Manuel, had set sail some 45 to 50 years ago with several couples and families, mostly from the Azores. All contact with these intrepid settlers was lost. It wasn't until decades later that Basque fishermen brought back word that these settlers had created a colony in what is assumed to be Cape Breton, that existed at least until late into the 16th Century.
Are we sure that it was present day Cape Breton in which this colony was founded?
Governor Souza stated that in "Cape Britão, at the entrance of the north coast, in a beautiful bay, which had a settlement, with very precious things, and a lot of walnut, chestnut, grapes, and other fruits, where it seems to be the good land and so on this company were some couples from the Azores that they have taken as is notorious". What were the boundaries for this area known as Cape Britão? It is certainly one of the earliest names applied to this region of the North American coastline. In 1607, Samuel de Champlain identified the remains of a large, rotten, moss covered, wooden cross on the shores of the Minas Basin, in the Bay of Fundy (another place name given by the Portuguese). Another discovery in the Minas Basin area, directly North of Oak Island, and yet to be authenticated, is what seems to be an early Portuguese gravestone, known as the Ardoise Stone.
Local historian L.S. Loomer had the following to say:
"At the south extremity of Windsor township lies the high ground ofArdoise Hill. There about 1900 was discovered apparent evidence of other visitors to the area. It is a piece of slate, 12 inches long, six inches high, and a quarter inch thick. It bears a shield with a chevron and sword, an arrow, a skull and cross-bones, and the Latin inscription: 'C. Manulis, Hic Jacet, A.M.DLVIII.' Translated it appears to be 'Here lies C. Manulis 1558.' The rest is a mystery. He may have been one of a hunting party of Portuguese fishermen who died and was buried on Ardoise Hill. The stone, in private hands,would be the oldest known inscribed gravestone in Hants County." -"Windsor, Nova Scotia - A Journey In History," WHHS,1996, p. 25.
These two artifacts, the rotten wooden cross and the purported gravestone, were found not too far north of the "beautiful bay" known as Mahone Bay.
Hopefully, someday, more information will come to light about this early Portuguese Colony and their activities in the region.
For now though, this story emphasizes that the Portuguese should not be overlooked when considering early habitation along the shores of Atlantic Canada, and as potential visitors to Oak Island.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
From The Blockhouse
is published by Blockhouse Investigations and oakislandcompendium.ca
in Nova Scotia, Canada
Editors and Chief Correspondents
Kelly W. Hancock, CD
John Wonnacott, P. Eng.
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