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Topic – The Order of Good Cheer

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The Order of Good Cheer

Samuel de Champlain was a French explorer who founded Quebec City in 1608. But before that, he started a settlement in Port-Royal, in what is now Nova Scotia. 

Samuel de Champlain

The early years were tough, so, to help the settlers survive the severe winters, Champlain started the Order of Good Cheer.

Cold Canadian Winters

Champlain’s original settlement in the Maritimes had been at Saint Croix Island in 1604. Many of the French settlers died in the winter, mostly from a disease now known as scurvy. Today we know that scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C, but people did not know that in Champlain’s day. 

To save the settlement, Champlain moved it to nearby Port-Royal, which was better protected than the site on Saint Croix Island. But settlers continued to die. What could Champlain do?

“Land Sickness”

A feast for the settlers

In Champlain’s time, scurvy was known as “land sickness.” People thought it was caused by not having enough to do. So Champlain decided to keep the settlers busy by having them cook feasts and put on shows for each other.

Soon the settlers were out hunting and fishing and competing to create wonderful meals for each other. They learned from the Indigenous peoples in the area which fruits and vegetables they could eat and how to cook them. 

Neptune Theatre

King Neptune statute

The first meeting of the Order of Good Cheer took place on November 14, 1606. It featured a play called “Le Théâtre de Neptune en la Nouvelle-France,” or “The Neptune Theatre in New France.” Neptune is the name of the god of the sea in Roman myths. 

A Play on the River!

The play told the tale of sailors travelling to Canada, where they met up with Neptune. The show was staged on boats in the nearby river, likely because the settlement was too small to include a theatre. This was the first theatre performance in North America. 

Neptune Theatre, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Today, the Order of Good Cheer’s first play is remembered in the name of Halifax’s most famous theatre company, Neptune Theatre.

Success!

Champlain’s plan to save the settlement worked. The settlers enjoyed the Order of Good Cheer and worked hard trying to create better and better meals and shows. Not only did the work keep them busy, but they ate better, too, so they were healthier than they had been in previous winters. 

Thanks to Champlain’s good idea, few settlers died after the Order of Good Cheer was started. The settlement survived and Champlain became known as one of Canada’s most famous explorers.


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