Chapter 1: In the Beginning

In the Beginning

Many of the place names found in the USA and Canada can be traced back to where the early settlers came from. For example, the people who came to the USA from Londonderry, Ireland and settled in New Hampshire gave the name Londonderry to their new settlement. Then when some of these settlers decided to relocate to Nova Scotia they settled in a place they called Londonderry. However, there appears to be only one place called Advocate in the whole world. Where did the name come from?

If you look in the book Place Names of Atlantic Canada, by William Hamilton you, will find stated under Advocate: “One of the oldest place names on Minas Basin. It was called by the French, Havre à L’Avocat, on the Franquelin DeMeulles map of 1685.”

In the book Place – Names and Places of Nova Scotia, one will find the following under Advocate:

“This community is located on Advocate Harbour near Cap d’Or. According to tradition, when the Loyalists landed here, some persons suggested settling at Apple River whereupon one of their numbers is supposed to have said, “I advocate the selection of the Harbour.” and the majority replied, “that is a good word and it is a good place. We will settle at the Harbour and we will call it Advocate.”

The name Advocate existed in 1763 (more about that later) so it was not Loyalists who thought up the name, as the loyalists were those who arrived here between 1775 and 1783.

It has been suggested that Champlain named Advocate after his friend Marc Lescarbot who was a lawyer. This latter suggestion sounds reasonable but is it true? Did Champlain ever come to Advocate?

“One of the oldest place names on Minas Basin. It was called by the French, Havre à L’Avocat, on the Franquelin DeMeulles map of 1685.”

Champlain’s Map of Port des Mines
From The Publications of the Champlain Society, The Works of Samuel de Champlain, V1-V5. See this pdf for an extended section of the publication, comparing this map to a map of Advocate.

Champlain did map the area and gave names to:

  • Isle au Haute
  • Cape des Deux Bays (Cape Chignecto)
  • Port des Mines (Port of Mines, later called Advocate Harbour)
  • Cape des Mines (Cape d’Or)

The only place name that Champlain gave in the Advocate area that still remains today is Isle Haute.

Port of Mines (1604) is the first name for Advocate Harbour but there has been others, namely:

  • Havre à L’ Avocat (1685)
  • Bay Advocat (1711)
  • Advocate Harbour (by 1763)

During the 16th century a number of explorers set out across the Atlantic from Europe in search of a shorter and safer route to the far East. A Portuguese sailor, sailing for Spain, discovered a passage connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1520. The passage is called the Strait of Magellan, named after the Portuguese sailor Ferdinand Magellan. Although it was thought to be a great discovery, there were some people who thought that a northern passage connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific would be much shorter than using the Strait of Magellan.

Champlain’s First Trip

Explorers continued in search of a northern route and one such explorer was Samuel de Champlain. The King of France was interested in the discovery of a northern route to the Far East and also in establishing a settlement in New France. Such a route would be more economical and safer than the present routes and having a settlement in New France would be a great benefit to those travelling the route. The settlement would provide a place to get supplies and make necessary repairs to their ships etc. Champlain set out in 1603 from France to explore the lower Saguenay, hoping it might provide a passage to the Pacific.

While on this trip Champlain met a fur trader named Jean Sarcel, Sieur de Prévert. He told Champlain that a Maliseet chief, named Secoudon, was going to take him and some of his men to a place where copper could be found. On their return Prévert showed Champlain samples of copper obtained at the base of a “shining” or “glittering” mountain jutting into the bay. He gave directions to Champlain as to where the copper could be found.

Champlain returned to France and learned that his financial backer had died. Champlain had hoped that this man would finance him to make another trip to New France in 1604 so he would have an opportunity to locate the “glittering” or “shining” mountain. If there was sufficient copper to establish a mine then a settlement could be established there. Champlain was approached by Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts (sometimes spelled de Mons) and asked to accompany him and others on a trip to New France in 1604. De Monts had been granted a monopoly of the fur trade in New France by the King of France. Money received by this monopoly would be used to finance the trip and would be of no cost to the King. Champlain was not only a navigator and explorer but also a cartographer. He planned to map much of the area he explored on this trip, as well as trying to find the shining/glittering mountain.

His Second Trip

This second trip to New France lasted from 1604-07. Champlain and de Monts did explore the upper regions of the French Bay (Bay of Fundy) in 1604 but failed to locate the shining mountain described by Prévert. Champlain learned later the reason why he could not locate the mountain was that the directions given by Prévert were very poor. It turned out Prévert did not make the trip with Chief Secoudon but sent several of his men instead. Later Champlain met Chief Secoudon on the St. John River and asked Secoudon to take him to where the copper samples were obtained in 1603. He did find copper on the beach of an island he named “Isle au Haute”, but not of sufficient quantity to mine. The copper at Cape des Mines (Cape d’Or) was located in the ledges off Black Point and was only visible at low tide. Because of the fact the copper was covered by the tide twice a day, it was concluded that a mine could not be established there.

While on this trip Champlain did map the area and gave names to Isle au Haute, Cape des Deux Bays (Cape Chignecto), Port des Mines (Port of Mines, later called Advocate Harbour) and Cape des Mines (Cape d’Or). Champlain’s last map was in 1632 and he still referred to Advocate Harbour as Port of Mines. The only place name that Champlain gave in the Advocate area that still remains today is Isle Haute.

Port of Mines (1604) is the first name for Advocate Harbour but there has been others, namely Havre à L’ Avocat (1685), Bay Advocat (1711) and by 1763 Advocate Harbour. It would appear that the name got changed from Port of Mines sometime after Champlain’s death in 1635.

Lescarbot was only in New France for about a year, which was in 1607. Champlain states that Lescarbot and others left Port Royal on a trip to St. John and St. Croix to trade furs. Champlain said, “This is the farthest Lescarbot went, which is only fourteen to fifteen leagues beyond the said Port Royal.”(Note 1) This statement aroused resentment in Lescarbot, who in the 1617 edition of his Histoire de la Nouvelle-France added this passage: “I do not know why Champlain, in the account of his voyage printed in 1613, goes out of his way to say I did not go further than St. Croix, seeing that I do not say the contrary.” In this edition Lescarbot also removed or modified certain complimentary references to Champlain and altered other passages in a way to lessen Champlain’s prominence.” (Note 2)

So we have evidence to show that Champlain was at Advocate Harbour and he named it Port of Mines. The above statements by and about Lescarbot would indicate that Champlain would not have considered changing the name in honour of Lescarbot.

The name Cape of Mines was revised after Champlain died. It became Cape Doré or Cape Dorée and later Cape d’Or. The French word doré can mean golden, luster or gilded. Whoever changed the name from Cape of Mines to Cape Doré was probably trying to reflect Prévert’s description of it being a shining or glittering mountain.


1. Champlain Society, The works of Samuel de Champlain, vol.1, p.452.
2. Ibid

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Chapter 1: In the Beginning
Chapter 2: Land Grants
Chapter 3: Early Settlers
Chapter 4: School Records
Chapter 5: Occupations
Chapter 6: Ships
Chapter 7: Lighthouses and their Keepers
Chapter 8: Churches of Advocate
Chapter 9: Burial Sites
Recollection I: Around the World in Sail
Recollection II: Sketch from Miles Collins
Full report (PDF)