Nicolas Denys and his brother, Simon, came to LaHave with Commander Isaac de Razilly (1587-1635) in 1632. According to Denys himself, the brothers selected Port Rossignol as the location for their first sedentary fishing station in the following year. The station operated for about two years, until a war between France and Spain caused them to lose a year's catch, as well as the ship that was carrying it. After such a large financial losses, the brothers confined themselves to the settlement at LaHave until the death of de Razilly in 1635. Read about Denys later adventures at:
In 2000, the Mersey Heritage Society researched the suspected location of the Denys fishing post site and conducting site reconnaissance to look for signs of past habitation. The only primary source of information about the Denys connection to Liverpool is Denys own book. Published in 1672, the book briefly describes a fishery based at Port Rossignol, but gives no clue as to its actual location.
Circumstantial evidence relating to a possible location for the site was discovered in the mid-1800s when timbers fastened with copper were found embedded in the beach at Brooklyn. It is difficult to know if these were associated with a wharf constructed by the Denys brothers: would valuable copper have been used in what likely was a temporary structure?
In the absence of other documentation or maps, physical evidence will have to be discovered through archaeological investigations in order to confirm the location of the fishing post. In 1999, a similar story about an Acadian trading post in Musquodoboit Harbour was confirmed through research and test pitting. Conducted by archaeologist and Mersey Heritage Society board member Mike Sanders, the project has taken the history of Musquodoboit Harbour back another 100 years.
The site reconnaissance conducted at Brooklyn by Mersey Heritage Society members in September 2000 failed to reveal any physical features (i.e., foundations, mounds) or surface artifacts (ceramic shards, glass) that would suggest a precise location for the fishing post. A pebble beach located between the Brooklyn Wharf and the breakwater is the type of feature that may have been used for drying fish, and a natural breakwater exists at the location of the modern man-made breakwater. These features may suggest a general location for the site, but leave a significant area in which the site may have been located.
Relying on volunteers, the society's resources allow only allow 2 or 3 test pits to be constructed each year. Our in-house archaeologist, Mike Sanders, suggested that the likelihood of locating artifacts by this means is low, given that:
the site is only suspected to have been located at Brooklyn;
it was a brief settlement (2 years);
almost 300 years have passed since the site was used;
there are 500 metres of shoreline where the site may have been located;
development has taken place over much of the shoreline (which may have destroyed or covered over the site); and
three test pits would only cover an area of 3 square metres.
But we haven' given up! We are hoping that interested people from the Brooklyn area, especially people who own property along the shore of Herring Cove, will keep an eye and ear open for any excavation work (septic tanks, new houses, swimming pools -anything!). With the property owner's permission, the society will get an archaeologist or other knowledgeable person to take a look at the excavation for clues about the Denys site. At the very least, it would help us to narrow down possible locations, and someday pick a more likely site to do some testing of our own.
Until that time, the society has decided to look for a more suitable site to conduct a test pit program in 2001. To that end we are moving west about 15 kilometers west, ahead about 150 years in time, and from Acadians to Loyalists, by planning a dig at the Guysboro Township in Port Mouton, Queens County. The only thing the to sites have in common is the County in which they are located, and the fact that they were only occupied for about 2 years.