Mysterious Origins and Forgotten Wars

Attack on Newfoundland Coast

Attack on Newfoundland Coast, 1696


In late 1696, French forces under Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Governor Jacques-François de Monbeton de Brouillan, along with their Acadian (Cajun) and Abenaki allies, destroyed 23 English settlements along the coast of the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland – all in the space of three months.  With at least 100 English dead, and many scores more taken prisoner, most of the other survivors simply deserted their settlements and fled.

This military action was part of King William’s War, which was in turn part of the European Nine Years War.  Both were an early prelude to the later French and Indian War (or Seven Years War).

All of these conflicts were part of the ongoing empire wars between France and Britain, and were fought in Europe, on the seas, and in colonies controlled by these powers.

When we consider the identity of the “English” colonists and settlers fleeing Newfoundland, it is worth remembering that Newfoundland had been a designated “dumping ground” for the “undesirables” of Britain since 1603, on foot of royal decree.

Many of these “undesirables” were British Romani, or Gypsies.

There is no need to write a long essay on ethnic history here.

Put simply, throughout the 1500s and 1600s, Labrador and Newfoundland (the latter an island off the eastern coast of present-day Canada) were occupied by First Nations peoples, as well as by early Portuguese, Spanish, Basque and (slightly later) English fishermen and underclass colonists.  And no, these peoples did not self-segregate.  As in all such places at the time, traders intermarried among the peoples with whom they were trading, creating Métis communities.

Labrador, and the dogs which take their name from the province, are both named for João Fernandes Lavrador, the Portuguese explorer who was the first European to describe this region way back in 1498.

So where did these intermarried First Nations, Basque, British Romani, English, and Portuguese people flee?

That is an intriguing historical mystery.

Logic would dictate that they would have probably fled by boat to the nearest safe ground, i.e., English-held territory.  Which of course at the time meant New York, New England or the colonies in Virginia and the Carolinas.

Why do pre-1675 population lists for Newfoundland include the surnames Bowling, Cullen/Collin, Joyner/Joynes, Robbins, Sargent, Taylor, Tucker, Vaughan, Webber – all names which also appear in early longhunter and Indian trader contexts in Southern Appalachia?  Fluke?

Almost none of these families can trace their ancestry in a direct, clean line back to Europe.

And most of these families of the Piedmont and Appalachian frontier in America were also seen as mixed-ethnic, including the people called Melungeons.

Could this be because some of these mixed-ethnic families have actually been in North America since BEFORE the time of Plymouth and Jamestown?

At the very least, this deserves further investigation…


#beforewewerewhite #beothuk #acadia #newfoundland

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *