Portuguese North America - The Unlikely Colony

A while back I started doing some research on a little known, but short-lived Portuguese settlement in North America. In 1520, João Álvares Fagundes, with the backing of Miguel Corte-Real (who's uncles had visited Newfoundland in 1502), set sail on a voyage to the New World, where he visited sailed along the southern coast of Newfoundland and possibly sailed into the Saint Lawrence River. Two of his ships ran aground on Sable Island, (which he called Santa Cruz), leaving behind cattle and pigs. Upon returning to Portugal, Fagundes obtained a charter from King Manuel I in 1521 to settle the land with colonists and to "expand our kingdoms and domains".

It appears that this undertaking had the financial backing of Miguel Corte Real, who was a nobleman from the island of Terceira in the Azores. As a result, some 45-50 families from Viana, Aveiro, and the Azores were recruited as settlers and were thought to have established themselves in Northern Cape Breton Island (called Ilha do Britão in archaic Portuguese). Around May of 1521 they arrived, with Ingonish being considered the most likely site of settlement. Ingonish with its two bays, each protected with a harbour, and each containing a beach, ideal for the drying of cod. What happened to the small settlement is unknown, as much of the documentation was lost when the archives of the Casa das Indias was destroyed by the Lisbon earthquake in 1755.

What is known is that the reasoning for the settlement was the increasing bounty of cod brought back to Portugal from the Grand Banks. It was reasoned that Fagundes could establish a personal fiefdom, controlling the cod fisheries with the backing of the Corte Real family. They would be able to collect a 10% tax on the catch in the region, with a portion of the revenue going to the crown, and a single ship could often bring back 200,000 cod. Though perhaps a bit ambitious, it does appear that the settlement was financed, and well provisioned. What happened to it is unknown, but it is guessed that it only lasted until around 1525 at the latest. My timeline will be discussing what would happen if this small settlement had survived, and its impact on American and world history.

While I have not updated the Portuguese Southern Africa Redux thread in a while, this is mostly due to my busy schedule, and also trying to be meticulous with the details of the entire world history. If I proceed with this thread, I do not plan to have such massive butterflies at least in the beginning of the timeline. The reason being, I when there are massive butter flies early on, I keep on having to research how the entire world history would have been altered and feel the need to make updates on each specific country/region.
João Álvares Fagundes was born in the northern Portuguese port town of Viana c1460. The illegitimate son of a priest, he became one of the homens bons of the region and accumulated a great deal of wealth derived from his extensive land holdings and later shipping, eventually earning becoming a squire in the king's court. Though many of the details of his life in Portugal remain a mystery, it is known that as early as 1504, he was involved with shipping of goods to the Azores. In 1520, he organised a fishing expedition to the Grand Banks off the coast of Terra Nova (Newfoundland), where he would name several of the places he discovered.

As a result of his voyage to the New World, on 13 March, 1521 King Manuel I of Portugal granted João Álvares Fagundes the captaincy to Terra Nova (Newfoundland) on the assumption that the land belonged to the Portuguese by the Treaty of Tordesillas. It has been presumed that the Portuguese knew that the lands in Terra Nova (Newfoundland) were in reality west of the line and in the Spanish zone, but Portuguese cartographers printed maps showing the territory much further east, and labeling the lands as belonging to the "King of Portugal". Eager to assert Portugal's claim to the area, and knowing that Fagundes had already established the financing for the expedition, the king granted him the Captaincy to the lands of the Terra Nova and all of new islands to be discovered.

From the port of Viana in Northern Portugal, Fagundes set about recruiting families willing to travel to the New World, appealing to their greed by promising them untold fortunes. Much of his extended family traveled with him, as they were to be granted extensive land holdings along with the rights an privileges that accompanied them. The intent was to accompany a fishing fleet from Aveiro to the New World, making a stop in Terceira in the Azores before heading out for the new world. Fagundes had already acquired the ships, capital and provisions for the journey and it sailed only a week after receiving the grant from the King. A great deal of money was expended with 120 bushels of wheat having been bought in the Azores to provision his fleed. In addition, arms, tools, food, and livestock was loaded on the half dozen ships.

After a 39 day voyage from the island of Terceira, at the end of May of 1521 the ships arrived in the New World. Fagundes spent the next two weeks searching for a suitable place to establish a settlement. There they chose a site on a promontory surrounded by bluffs near a freshwater lake, with beaches nearby where cod could be salted and dried. The fishing fleet from Aveiro which had accompanied the settlers sailed towards Santa Catarina (Scaterie Island), a primary camp for the Portuguese fisherman, leaving around 300 people behind. Fagundes accompanied them, leaving his first mate, Pêro de Barcelos to govern the settlement. Though the intention was to establish a fishing colony, the settlers would spend their first summer constructing their settlement, paying only secondary attention to the cod fisheries. The first buildings were erected within an enclosed barricade, with gardens planted outside of them. A storehouse, along with separate quarters for Fagundes' family was built. Houses consisting of single rooms for men to remain over the winter and dormitories sleeping five or six were also built. A small chapel, along with kitchens and a forge were among the most important buildings constructed by August. The early buildings were principally of timber, with thatch roofs, but taipa, or rammed earth construction was the preferred method for the chapel and other buildings, which were subsequently covered in plaster and whitewashed. Most of the early houses consisted of a chimney for cooking and heat, the latter causing a half a dozen to have burned during the first winter. Much of the already sawn timber had been brought from Portugal and was used to make the door frames along with the roofs and few window frames. However, the men also spent much of the summer felling trees for timber to not only clear land, but for charcoal and firewood. The buildings were arranged around a square, called a Praça with the settlement surrounded by a wooden palisade, reinforced with stone for defence. Armed with a few cannons, by the end of August the winter quarters had been built along with a barn and a mill. A

The early settlers were mostly men, with only fewer than one-fourth of the total arrivals being women. The men thought that the women were too weak to survive the voyage and therefore most were maids, or of lower class, though a few upper class women accompanied them as well. It was assumed that the men would send for their wives once a settlement had been built. The women who did accompany the men tended to livestock, cooked and made butter, and most importantly tended to the few children. They also tended to the gardens, and they discovered that fertile soil yielded grain, melons, cucumbers, peas, beans and berries. During the winter of 1521, in December the very first child would be born in the colony, a young girl. Though the men fished for cod that first summer, drying it on the beach, they soon discovered that their fishing lines and boats had been destroyed by the French fishermen, whom did not welcome the competition in the area. Therefore, the Portuguese turned to hunting local game such as geese, partridge, moose and caribou, curing and salting the meat to save it for the winter.

When winter did come, the Portuguese settlers were unaware of just how long and cold it would be. Their assumption that the climate was only slightly to the north of the Viana, that they climate would be similar was completely unfounded. The first winter was much longer and colder than they expected, with settlers being forced to live in the better insulated, but crowded buildings made out of taipa. It was also at this time that interactions with the indigenous people, the Mi'kmaq increased. Mostly hunter gatherers, the Mi'kmaq possessed no knowledge of ownership over land, in addition they readily assisted the newcomers, by offering them food along with furs to keep warm. Pêro de Barcelos wrote of his surprise in seeing the Indian men draped in robes of fur only available to princes or kings in Europe. He was so impressed that the following year he brought several back with him to Lisbon, including pelts worth over one-hundred gold cruzados each. Despite this assistance, and perhaps because of the crowding, there were numerous deaths, particularly among the women of the colony. By the spring of 1522, perhaps 200 people remained, with just over two-dozen of whom were women. Disillusioned, many now sought to make their way back to Portugal, accompanying Pêro de Barcelos back to the Azores.
After the establishment of the settlement in May of 1521, Fagundes set off a month or two later with two ships to explore the coastline, sailing southward into and mapping what he called the Baía Funda (Bay of Fundy). He noted that the protected bay seemed to be an ideal place for settlement. From there he sailed possibly as far south as Cape Cod, before returning to Portugal in October. Perhaps overly optimistic, he brought back several plants along with some a few natives, whom he presented at court to King Manuel.

Presenting his narrative of a bountfiul Terra de Corte Real, Fagundes managed to round up around 600 people, including 100 soldiers, many of them skilled men including carpenters, fisherman, artisans, locksmiths, stone-cutters, tailors and even a female spinster (spinner of thread) to head to his colony in the New World. Most of these individuals were gathered from Viana, but there were also some from the Azores, and others from Lisbon and Aveiro. Among the group were an estimated one-hundred women, many of whom had husbands who had sailed the year before, though included were also around two dozen teenage girls. The king sponsored the establishment of a Catholic mission in the New world and three Dominicans accompanied the group to pursue that goal. The ships were laden with provisions including livestock with cattle, pigs, chickens, and sheep. Seeds such of peas, beans, rice, prunes, oil and raisins along with various seeds were brought. Fagundes would pour most of his fortune into the project, only to die in March of 1522, just before the new fleet set sail for Terceira.

Upon the arrival of the newcomers in May, the new group learned of the reality of life in the New World, including the harsh winters. As a result, many decided to return to Portugal with Pêro de Barcelos. The women overwhelmingly chose to remain rather than face another ardous sea voyage. However, fewer than 100 settlers decided to remain at Cabo do Britão (Cape Breton), packing up what they could to get away from the harassment of the Breton fisherman. A small group went to Ilha de São João (Prince Edward Island), speculating that the soils would be more fertile there, and dividing the entire island into plots for two dozen families.

The majority, some 500 or so people, ventured southward on ships, away from the Breton fisherman to the Baía Funda (Bay of Fundy). Convinced that the protected bay would keep them safe and encouraged by the fertile looking soils, they established a new settlement called Porto Real (Annapolis Royal). There they found the local inhabitants, the Mi'kmaq to be very agreeable and hospitable. With more skilled craftsmen, they managed to build their settlement in a far more organised fashion. There they planted wheat, rye, barley, and oats along with legumes, creating a largely self-sustaining economy.

Despite their resilience, the settlements were not profitable for the Captains. João Álvares Fagundes had spent most of his fortune, hoping that the success of Captaincies in the Azores could be replicated in the New World. The captaincy was never able to secure a fishing monopoly as now Breton, Norman, Basque and English fisherman were all now fishing on the Grand Banks. The only profit derived was from shipments of furs and leathers including marten and fox, both of which were sold at the Portuguese court. In addition, the settlers evaded paying feudal dues on grain with some of the men preferring to settle amongst the Indians and form families with them. The situation could be summed up by a Spanish Map labeling the Land of Corte Real with the following "until now, nothing useful has been found in it, except codfish".
After the death of João Álvares Fagundes in 1522, his daughter had inherited the Captaincy of Lavrador and Terra Dos Corte Reais, however she sold her rights over the to Pêro de Barcelos, who had returned to his native Terceira in 1522. Though he never returned to North America, he remained Captain of Terra Nova until his death in 1530, when this was inherited by his two sons Afonso and Manuel. They were both granted equal rights to the captaincy, and Diogo was the only son willing to make an investment in the colony. Diogo was interested in the prospect of mineral wealth in the interior, particularly gold and silver or perhaps even the fabled Seven Cities. In the meantime however, he sought about reorganising the administration of the territory.

In 1531, Diogo de Barcelos had a Carta de Foral or charter written establishing a formal administration at Porto Real. This established the first formal tributary system with 20% of all minerals and 10% of all grain being collected as a tributes. In addition, land could only be allocated by the Captain. The production of grain and flour from around Porto Real was encouraging, and therefore sought more colonists for the region. There was one problem however, the Terra Nova had acquired a reputation as an inhospitable land of cold winters, and few settlers were willing to venture to Terra Nova, at least voluntarily. Therefore, Barcelos was forced to rely on degredados or convicts. In 1533-1534 some 400 to 600 degredados were transported the Bacia de Minas (Minas Basin) where the presence of copper was already known, and it was suspected that gold would be present as well.

Most of the new settlers were not criminals, but rather New Christians, who had converted to Catholicism, or in most cases whose ancestors had converted to Christianity. There were also many women in the group, as many whom left were entire families. Most were from mainland Portugal, and were granted large plots along the area known as Minas. Importantly, among the group were settlers from Aveiro or Setubal, whom were thought to have built the first dikes to extract salt for the local fishing industry. The diking of the land eventually would reclaim thousands of acres of salt marsh land. Dikes were built along the tidal front, and a valve system was created so that the sea water would drain out, but not into the farmland.

The reform in administration did allow an increased amount of revenue to be extracted from the colony, however Diogo had assumed exclusive rights to the Captaincy. Though the search for minerals came to naught and Diogo died in 1548, and like his predecessors having failed to extract any real profit from his colony, which now numbered around 1,800 inhabitants. Of these, the majority lived around the Baía Funda, with perhaps 200 to 300 scattered among the fishing villages of the Cabo do Britão.
Just curious, noting that many of ttl''s place names are just portuguesizations of otl's English names, is it true that a lot of these names even otl have portugurse roots?? Or is this just convergence? Because I thought that many of the otl place names were from the time of jacques cartier I'm the 1540s....
s this just convergence? Because I thought that many of the otl place names were from the time of jacques cartier I'm the 1540s....

Most of the names I used appeared on old Portuguese maps or in writings from the period. George Paterson wrote a book called "The Portuguese on the North-east Cost of America, and the first European attempt at Colonization there. A lost chapter in American History." in 1890.
Throughout the 16th century, foreigners became increasingly active in fishing on the Grand Banks, and were seen by the Portuguese as a threat to their dominance of the region. Basque whalers were now trading with the Indians of the Saint Lawrence River, and Breton and Norman fisherman from France sent more ships to the Grand Banks than the Portuguese. However, it was only when the French attempted to establish a colony in the Saint Lawrence River, that the Portuguese Crown became worried. As a result, in 1549, King João III sent a governor to the colony to which the captaincies would be subordinate, and giving more royal aid to the Terra Nova.

Consolidating royal control over the region was the culmination of decades of an ill defined policy for the colony. In need of additional capital to develop the region, Terra Nova had been divided with Manuel Corte Real, captain of the islands of Terceira and São Jorge in the Azores in 1538. With him assuming responsibility for the North Shore of the Baía Funda, along with the hinterland (Maine, New Brunswick, Quebec). In 1542 he sent and exploratory mission, led by a mestiço (mixed race Indian and Portuguese) trader to the interior where he made contact with various Indian tribes, however, neither gold or silver was found. As a result, he sought to gain wealth from expanding the cultivated areas of the territory.

As captain of the Terceira, it had become apparent that the Azores had little available land and plagues, earthquakes and storms had a devastating effect of the population. He soon sought to make the New World a safety-valve the poverty of the archipelago, and in 1548 he sent a group of 300 colonists from Terceira to settle on the North Shore of the Baía Funda. The relatively short voyage of just over a month soon made Terra Nova a preferred destination for the poor and landless from the Azores. In 1550, settlers from São Jorge arrived, establishing a dairy industry, producing various types of cheese. Within the next decade, an estimated 3,000 settlers were taken into the Corte-Real captaincy, compared with only around half that number in the de Barcelos' captaincy.

Perhaps, the most significant action taken was the establishment of a trading post and mission on the Saint Lawrence River. In 1552, to deter the French, Lisbon had ordered the establishment of a fort on the abandoned site of the French settlement of Charlesbourg-Royal. This was undertaken by a motley group of mestiço traders and trappers, Indian allies and soldiers from Portugal. With them were 3 Dominican Friars, whose task it was to establish a Catholic mission in the interior. There they began trading with the Indians of the region, among the goods acquired were fur pelts, which were sent to Lisbon, and from there to Antwerp. Though this was still a nascent trade, it was a harbinger of a change to come. To secure their position, the Portuguese built a fort, using the remains of the previous French fort, and establishing the first farms in the region.

From the point of view of Lisbon, the Terra Nova had become an extension of the Azores, and in a generation had transformed itself into a part of rural Portugal, a land of country gentry, farmers, and fisherman. In many ways these were the outermost islands of the archipelago, and was a useful place for the poor and as a place of punishment for New Christians and petty criminals. The territory produced some grain and flour for export, along with fish and some fur, but like the Azores it was considered more a colony of strategic importance, and as a result the Captains and settlers were somewhat ignored by the Crown. However, it cost little to administer, though despite this, the population grew at a rapid pace, with abundant land to spread out, the families of the region were large and unlike in Portugal did not suffer from the epidemics of the Azores or Lisbon. By the close of the 16th century, it had even gained a reputation as a place of bounty due to reports from relatives of the harvests and plentiful land and as a result would attract some 5,000 additional settlers by the close of the century. As impressive as this may seem, these numbers were tiny in comparison to the number of Portuguese heading to Brazil and the Indies, still the Portuguese population was estimated to be 12,000 by 1570.

A contemporary map from 1576 showing Portuguese North America. Depicted are the inhabitants shown as farmers.
What is known is that the reasoning for the settlement was the increasing bounty of cod brought back to Portugal... My timeline will be discussing what would happen if this small settlement had survived, and its impact on American and world history.

This an interesting seed to work with... It's not widely known, but OTL the fishing industry of New England had a lot of ethnic Portuguese in it. The community still exists.


Very intriguing!
I wonder if this will affect colonization efforts in Brazil.

With the alliance ensuing peace with England and Tordesillas mostly keeping the portuguese and the Spanish off each others' backs, I guess we will soon see the portuguese fighting other europeans.

The French and the Dutch were in OTL Portugal's colonial rivals, each attempting to colonize Brasil twice. I guess we will see the French soon here - no France Antartique in Brazil?

I guess that Portuguese North America and Brazil will be quite different? I have a feeling that because this is pretty much a settler colony in a european-like enviroment, it will be far closer to a Portugal 2.0 than Brazil.

With temperate climate and no gold or sugar, probably won't see as many black slaves. Population will probably be white or white-amerindian mestiços with a small black minority (10% pop max?).

If the portuguese pull their riverfort tactic they used on Grão-Pará, they can easily control anywhere that can be acessed with rivers. Could the portuguese, say, control the Great Lakes?

Oh yeah, I hope this buttlerflies away the Iberian Union.
In 1572, King Sebastian of Portugal decreed that the Indians of the New World should not be used as slaves, despite this the Indian population had of Terra Nova had fallen from some 45,000 in 1500 to an estimated 2,500 a century later, not so much from enslavement, but mostly as a result of European diseases to which they possessed no immunity. The diseases brought by the Portuguese, soon made their way inland, spreading far into the interior in areas with which there had been no direct contact with Europeans.

Economically, the colony remained one largely of subsistence, with small fishing and farming villages along the coast and the rivers producing grains and a variety of crops, though with the average landholdings far larger than those found in the Azores or in mainland Portugal. With reports of the abundance of great pine forests in Terra Nova, King Sebastian became interested in the export of timber from the colony to supply the Portuguese navy. Despite, this interest, only small quantities arrived in Lisbon, as Baltic pine remained less expensive.

Upon the death of King Henry of Portugal in 1580, Portugal was united with Spain, an event which would have far reaching consequences for the new world colony. After the capture of Narva by the Swedes in 1581, the quantity of Russian furs exported to England and the Netherlands had decreased dramatically, and as a result the export of pelts from Terra Nova increased. Young men, ventured into the interior to trade with the Indians for beaver and marten pelts, exporting them to Lisbon from where they would be reexported to the Netherlands and Bristol. This fledgling trade suffered after the Spanish embargo against the Dutch in 1585 closed off a major market for furs. Despite this, the volume of beaver pelts exported from Terra Nova continued to increase due to the fall in European supplies.

Fishing remained an important mainstay of the economy, as cod was exported in large quantities to Europe. By the 1570s some 400 ships from Portugal, Spain, England and France were fishing in the Grand Banks each Spring for cod. Basque fisherman from Spain were now the largest in number, trading goods with the Portuguese fishing villages of Cabo dos Bretões (Cape Breton). As a result, some Basques and a smaller number of Frenchmen married Portuguese women. The Iberian Union in 1580 brought increasing number of Basques to the region, where they dominated the fishing of cod, and particularly whaling in the Baía Grande (Grandbaya), with whaling stations along the coast of Terra do Lavrador, exporting whale oil to northern Europe.

Located on the periphery of the empire, Terra Nova received scant attention from King Philip II of Spain. Upon his accession to the Portuguese throne in 1580, Terra Nova, like the Island of Terceira, maintained its allegiance to Dom António, Prior of Crato as rightful heir to the Portuguese throne. Only in 1583, after Terceira had been secured by a Spanish Army were ships and a contingent of men sent to Terra Nova. Little resistance was met by the Spanish troops, and the entire colony was now under Philip II of Spain.

The Iberian Union would have great consequences for Terra Nova however, as Portugal was now drawn into Spain's foreign wars. This now put Terra Nova under the threat of the French, English and Dutch. As a result of the union, the crown increased control and levied a new tax to build fortifications to protect the colony. Among the most significant, was the construction of the Fort of Santa Maria, on the harbour of the same name (Halifax), as it was the largest natural habour in the New World and ice free for most of the year. Additionally, a string of smaller forts was built along the Saint Lawrence River. Despite the addition of a few hundred Basques, however, immigration to Terra Nova was low and by the close of the 16th century, most of the colony's Europeans were born in the colony with a European population of perhaps 50,000.
Nice, with most europeans in the colony being born there are you gonna make them culturally withdrawn from their European counterparts like otl Spanish peninsulares and criollos.
Nice, with most europeans in the colony being born there are you gonna make them culturally withdrawn from their European counterparts like otl Spanish peninsulares and criollos.

It's hard to say, the OTL Portuguese settler colonies in the Atlantic Islands, Brazil and later in Africa were governed largely as extensions of Portugal itself. Various historians of the period argue that largely because of the Portuguese Empire's highly centralised nature, that Portugal was somewhat more inclusive than Spain, meaning that there was no distinction between colonials and settlers. Stuart B. Schwartz in his study of colonial settler societies argued that there was no separate Brazilian literature with themes. The same could be said for art and architecture, where buildings in colonial Brazil or Angola were also completely indistinguishable from those found in Metropolitan Portugal. Early on, the Brazilian upper class moved within the highest ranks of the civil service, and military, and were often given positions of importance in the other colonies and in Portugal itself. The extremely low levels of literacy in Portugal and Brazil probably also contributed to this, whereas in Spanish America there were universities and architecture there tended to incorporate indigenous elements.
Ehh, they would have lost everything to the British during the Iberian Union anyway

The "British" did not exist as a polity during the Iberian Union, while the Kingdom of England as did the Kingdom of Scotland, coming under a union in 1603. However, the English colonial empire was still nascent with no Portuguese or Spanish colony being captured by the English during 1580-1640. The Dutch were far more of a threat, and I do plan to address that. However, this colony is already home to 50,000 settlers by 1600, making it much harder to capture than say New Netherland. Being largely economically worthless, I imagine that for the time being the other powers will focus on areas of North America lying further south along with the much more valuable West Indies.