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 Cape Forchu



The Yarmouth shoreline is thought to have been discovered in 1007 by Leif Ericson, son of Eric the Red. Eric the Red was responsible for the first European settlement in the new world in Iceland. The Yarmouth County Museum has a four-pound stone discovered at Cape Forchu which is believed to translate to " Leif to Eric Raises ". The authenticity of this "Runic Stone", discovered in 1812 by Dr. Richard Fletcher, cannot be completely confirmed because in the 1930 's Rev. Gordon T. Lewis had the markings re-chiselled to make them more prominent; in doing so he made it impossible to make an accurate dating. Substance is added to the claim that the "Runic Stone" is an original because foundations of Norse houses were found ten kilometers outside of Yarmouth in Tusket. 

Samuel de Champlain landed on this most southern tip of Nova Scotia in late May of 1604 and named the site "Cap Forchu" -- Cap meaning 'cape' and Forchu relating to 'fork', meaning well separated or cloven. The present name first appears in a grant made September 1759 in which it is provided that the tract of land hitherto known as Cape Forchu "shall be a township to be called hereafter & known by the name of the township of Yarmouth". However, the area where the lighthouse is located today continues to bear the name Cape Forchu. The Lighthouse on Cape Forchu was originally built in 1840 and replaced with a more modern structure in the early 1960s. A plaque describes the story of the lighthouse and its development. Past the parking area, a path winds its way to the Leif Ericson Picnic Park overlooking huge, sea washed rocks ( a Viking landing spot). 

After Champlain had secured the land to France, he left a man named de Lemeron at the cape to establish a fort, thus furthering Champlain's goals to establish the fur trade, convert the natives to Christianity and gain lands for the French Empire. This officer, de Lemeron, named the establishment after himself, Port Lemeron. 

Thanks to the Mi'kmaq Indians, the early expeditions made it through the harsh winters. The friendly indians showed them how to make shelters and how to hunt so they never froze or starved to death. The Mi'kmaq referred to the Cape as "Kespoogwit', meaning "the end of the earth".
Yarmouthians today refer to it simply as "the Cape". The Mi'kmaq were expert canoeists and ocean navigators. Their economy was based on the water and was supplemented with hunting and gathering. They lived in conical wigwams covered with birch bark and also made birch bark canoes. The Mi'kmaq peoples' closest political and social relations were the Abenaki, but their Algonquin language is most closely related to the Cree. The Mi'kmaq were the first North American natives to be encountered by the Europeans and they served as the first native American suppliers in the European fur trade.  They became friends and allies of the French and, as a result, became the first North American natives to be converted to Christianity. A man of French and Mi'kmaq mix, Andere Lasnier, was believed to be the first one of French blood born at Cape Forchu in 1620. He was later to become First Mate of one of the French ships protecting the area. In the long war between the French and English, David Kirk and his English fleet attacked the villages and fort located on the Cape. It was unclear to what extent the establishment was destroyed in an effort to reduce the French stations on the coast of Nova Scotia.


In the late sixteen hundreds most settlers around Cape Forchu were Acadian. The closest and the most noticeably Acadian community to the Cape was Pubnico. The French community was growing quickly because of its unique agricultural economy based on tidal dykes which drained excess water off the marsh lands. Their sense of community was so great in 1713 that, when the Treaty of Utrecht made Acadian land British, they all agreed to stay. They had to sign an oath to remain neutral, clearly demonstrating that their ties to France were waning compared to the ties to their new land. Life surrounding Cape Forchu and Yarmouth went along as usual with fishing and agriculture till war broke out between Britain and France, changing the face of Cape Forchu and the surrounding area to this day. Acadian land was claimed by both sides, and so the Acadians who settled outside of the British strongholds were once again asked to sign an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. Wanting to remain neutral in the conflict, the Acadians decided not to sign, believing (because of Utrecht) their neutrality was assured. The British command feared that the Acadians who spoke French were going to join in the French attacks so they pressured them to sign the oath a second time. Outnumbered and threatened, and believing the war had little to do with their thriving community, the Acadians again refused to sign. When the oath was not signed, the British Governor Lawrence ordered the Acadians expelled. 


During the 1600's and 1700's fishing, water transportation, privateering and trade were essential to everyday life. Yarmouth Harbour became one of the largest ports of registry of sailing ships in the world. In the late 1800's, it was the second largest port of registry in Canada. Shipwrec ks were common and it was recommended by Colonel Robert Morse in 1874 that a chain of lighthouses be built along the shores of Nova Scotia from Cape Canso to Cape Sable. 

Fifty-five years later it was finally decided that Yarmouth would build a lighthouse. It was started in 1839 and finished the first of January, 1840. The first day of operation was January 15, 1840. The lighthouse marked the entrance to Yarmouth Harbour and also protected ships that approached and entered the harbour. Cape Forchu's light could be seen approximately twenty miles out to sea. In 1964, the wooden building was replaced by a new concrete structure. This new light is equipped with a foghorn and its light can be seen about thirty miles out to sea. 

The rocks upon which the present day lighthouse sits have been worn smooth by the crashing waves. Any off-trail rock climbs that take place around the lighthouse can be quite treacherous. From the top of the rocks you can see jagged outcrops and the water churns furiously as it enters the inlets. One such inlet throws the waves so high in the air that it is marked on maps as "The Churn" and it attracts photographers and artists to the spot to capture nature's power. A gift shop is located to the immediate right of the lighthouse and has shirts and souvenirs for the passing tourists. Coming from the direction of town you would notice that Cape Forchu begins with sparse woods and the forests grow thicker as you approach the lighthouse. Around the Cape Forchu area is a little community called Overton where once stood "The Markland Hotel " or " Bayview Lodge". 

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