Location: Placentia and St. Mary's District, Newfoundland
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Located on the south of the Avalon Peninsula, on Placentia Bay.
There is considerable evidence that Placentia Bay was intermittently occupied by Little Passage people. Their descendants, the Beothuk, continued to settle there until the 17th century. Remnants of Beothuk occupation from the surrounding area has been carbon dated back to as far as 1500 CE.
It is unclear when Placentia terrain was first settled by Europeans, but Basque fishermen were fishing in the area as early as the beginning of the 16th century, using Placentia as a seasonal centre of operations. The last will of a Basque seaman has been discovered in an archive in Spain in which Domingo de Luca asks in 1563, “that my body be buried in this port of Plazençia in the place where those who die here are usually buried.” It is believed to be the oldest original civil document written in Canada. By the late 17th century, the English and French settlers and fishermen had claimed the bays of Placentia.
In 1655, the French, who controlled more than half of the island of Newfoundland, and most of Atlantic Canada, made Placentia (French: Plaisance) their capital. They built Fort Plaisance in 1662, which was followed by Fort Royal in 1687, and Fort Saint Louis in 1691. The establishment of a fort with a garrison allowed fishermen to pursue their activities with greater safety in neighbouring harbours. The French garrisons at Plaisance were small, but despite that fact, the soldiers and French privateers managed to hold their own in the face of numerous English attacks during the two major conflicts of the Nine Years' War and the War of the Spanish Succession, which marked the colony's history. Recollect (Franciscan) friars from New France built a friary here in 1689, which lasted until the expulsion of the French in 1714. In 1692, Louis-Armand de Lom d'Arce de Lahontan, Baron de Lahontan defended the French port.
In 1711, the British almost annihilated the French at Placentia when a Royal Navy fleet under Admiral Hovenden Walker, containing over 15 ships, 4000 Redcoats and over 900 cannons, sailed into Placentia Bay, and then withdrew without reaching the settlement. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht forced the French to abandon their Placentia Bay settlements and migrate to Louisbourg, and Placentia became a British possession. Many of the French fishermen who had to abandon the fisheries in Placentia ended up at the fisheries in Isle Royale, otherwise known as Cape Breton Island.