The oldest English settlement in Canada is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year. Cupids, Newfoundland is the oldest official British colony in Canada, the second oldest on continental North America, and was the site of the first child born of European parents on the continent.
John Guy, a Bristol merchant, lead a group of thirty-nine men to Cuper’s Cove – later known as Cupids – where they established a settlement in August, 1610. By 1612 the population was sixty-two and Guy also made contact with the Aboriginal people of Newfoundland (the Beothuk) by trading for furs and sharing a meal. The first English child was born in Cupids in March of 1613. Cupids remained a small colony but established the base of permanent English settlement in what would become Canada. By 1675, there were 30 English settlements along the Newfoundland coast.
Archaeological exploration of Cupids began in 1995 by archaeologist Bill Gilbert. To date the dig has uncovered the remains of six seventeenth-century buildings and more than 147,000 artifacts. Two of the structures are the remains of a dwelling and storage house which were completed by John Guy and the colonists by December 1, 1610 making them two of the oldest European buildings in North America. In 2006, the excavation site at Cupids was named one of the top ten active archaeological sites in Canada, by The Beaver: Canada’s History Magazine.
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Cupids, Canada Post has created a commemorative stamp. The stamp was unveiled by Canada Post and community representatives on August 17, 2010 at the Cupids Legacy Centre, which kicked off official anniversary celebrations that ran from August 17 to 22 in Newfoundland and Labrador. The community was visited by many people from around the world to celebrate the Cupids 400th anniversary, including Canadian Governor General Michaelle Jean.
The cultural events included a Buskers Festival, Folk Festival, and several historical re-enactments by professional performers. The six days of celebrations featured a variety of children’s favourites such as amusement rides, face painting, and craft displays. The celebrations also included community breakfasts, harbour tours by Ocean Quest Adventures, evening soirees and fireworks!
Cupids now has a population of 790 and is located on north side of Conception Bay on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula.