History of Northern Maine

In 1604, Pierre Du Gua, Sieur de Monts, and Samuel de Champlain along with 77 other men settled on St Croix Island, Maine, marking the beginning of French presence in Acadia. The following spring, the surviving members of the expedition moved to Port Royal, in present-day Nova Scotia. Today Acadia comprises the eastern Maine and the Maritime Provinces of Canada.

In 1750, while the French colony of approximately 18,000 prospered in Acadia, the British colonies to the south, although growing rapidly, were not faring well at all. And so, Governor Charles Lawrence of Nova Scotia and Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts devised a plan to remove the French Catholics from Nova Scotia and replace them with British subjects, New England farmers. From 1755 to 1763, during “Le Grand Dérangement” (The Expulsion), 14,000 French Catholics were taken from their homes in Acadie and deported to British colonies to the south (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Georgia), to France and England. During the eight years of this massive deportation, half of the Acadian population died, families were separated, members sent off on different ships to different ports, children taken from their parents. British soldiers, in an attempt to destroy any hope Acadians had of coming back to their homeland, destroyed crops and livestock, and set fire to homes, barns and churches.

After the Treaty of Paris in 1763, once France had ceded all her Canadian possessions to Great Britain, Acadians petitioned for, and received, the right to return to Acadie. Thousands exiled in the Virgin Islands headed for Louisiana, ancestors of today’s Cajuns. Many returned to Nova Scotia only to find their lands occupied by New England Planters. So they headed north, to Fredericton, New Brunswick, where they were quickly joined by Acadian refugees and mixed Acadian and Québécois families. After having built what they thought was a permanent settlement at Ste-Anne-des-Pays-Bas, Acadians were once again displaced in 1785 by some 40,000 Loyalist soldiers and their families, resettling in Canada after the war of Independence. The French Catholics this time went even further north, to the territory of Madawaska, lands north and west of Grand Falls, New Brunswick. The Madawaska Settlement was populated solely by French inhabitants until the 1830’s when Scots, Irish, and American people came to work the timber industry. In spite of the 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty that divided the one homogeneous people into two nations, Canada and the United States, the border remained quite fluid, and intermarriages flourished. French remains the native tongue of approximately 85 percent of the St. John Valley residents.

When 21 families from Stockholm, Sweden were recruited to come to Aroostook County, Maine in 1870, then-Governor Joshua Chamberlain thought the hard-working Swedish temperament was just what was needed to settle the vast virgin forests of the county.

As these Scandinavians built new lives for themselves and for the county itself, they also honored the traditions of their homeland. During the winter they skied for transportation, for hunting – and also for recreation. Soon after their arrival, winter carnivals began to develop with sprinting races, jumping competitions and eventually, marathon races that covered 180 miles in four days.

Over the years skiing spread throughout Aroostook County and now includes some of the top Nordic skiing venues in the world, and some of the best community alpine ski areas in the region.

(Acadian history provided by Prof Lise Pelletier)

(Photo Courtesy of Musee Acadian)

For a more recent history of Northern Maine click here.