A short and basic history of the Madawaska Territory
The history of Madawaska must always start with the original inhabitants of the area. The Wəlastəkwewiyik (Maliseet) have been here since time immemorial. Maliseet Territory consists of the Wələstəq (St. John River) watershed, extending from the St. Lawrence River to the Bay of Fundy. The colonial history of the Wəlastəkwewiyik can be found in the online Canadian Encyclopedia.
The history of the Acadians up to le Grand Derangement is well known and documented, as is the history of New France. The War of Conquest (Seven Years War) had been an utter horror for the Acadians. The American Colonists wanted to be rid of them. Acadians had been attacked and chased and scattered throughout the Atlantic seaboards. Thousands died. But they had also struggled and fought against their oppressors and soon were involved in efforts to reconstitute themselves. Within a few years of the war's end they had shown that as a people they would not allow themselves to be destroyed.
This map by Guy Dubay depicts the life trail of the Madawaska pioneer settler Joseph Simon Daigle, who escaped deportation , from the colonial period in Acadia to the settlement of the Madawaska region. For each date mentioned there exists (except for 1758) some kind of official record of his presence. These movements summarize similar experiences of other Acadians who also remained in Acadie.
1738- an infant in Acadie
1750- a boy on Isle St. Jean
1758- flight from deportation into the forest
1762- becoming a refugee in Quebec, where he would marry
1779- return to Acadie as the father of a young family
1785- Migration of that family to Madawaska
1814- Burial as a grandfather of a St. John Valley Acadian family.
Guy Dubay "Light on the Past: Documentation on our Acadian Heritage" pg. 16
For the most part, the story of the Acadians who would eventually end up in Madawaska is different than the more widely known image of Acadians being rounded up and exiled from their homeland. The families of those who would become the Madawaska Acadians fled and avoided capture as best they could. Many quickly moved up the St. John River into Quebec. Others found refuge for a short while on Isle St. Jean. Some moved continuously, trying to stay one step ahead of les Anglais and les Bostonnais. Almost all eventually were shuttled into the area of Quebec by their defender and leader of their militias, Charles DesChamps des Boishebert. There some of them would create hybrid families with the Quebecois, a precursor to what would become the main demographic characteristic of the Upper St. John Valley
Almost as soon as the war was over in 1763, some refugees who found themselves with Quebec Frenchmen on the St. Lawrence decided to return towards what was Acadia, as far as they could go. During their stay in Quebec, as we have mentioned, they had made friendships and often joined with Canadian families. They brought some of the Canadians with them when they moved south down the river. They eventually established themselves in three hamlets along the St. John in the area of Fredricton. Another group settled along the Kennebecassis River near St. John.
All these settlements were flourishing when the War for American Independence broke out. The Acadians and Canadians, despite the pleadings of the rebel Americans, remained faithful to the English Crown. The Acadians, in particular, placed themselves at the disposition of the governors at Halifax and Quebec. They were essential in helping keep open the communication routes between the two capitals.
Map by William Ganong showing the area around what is now Fredricton ca. 1765. Acadian Refugees returning south down the St. John River from Quebec established themselves here. They lived at Crock's Point, in the "Lower French Village" of St. Anne, and on the north/eastern shore across from Sugar Island. The listing for "Carmier" may also have been a Cormier family. Aukpaque (Ekpahak) was the Maliseet Village in the area. With the arrival of the Loyalists around 1785, many of the Acadians and Maliseets here would relocate to the Madawaska area.
But at the end of the American Revolution, the British found themselves with a need to re-settle many of the Loyalist American Colonists who were being displaced from the States which had won independence. The place they chose for the re-settlement was their remaining colonies in the North. Surveyors soon arrived and since the Acadians had no official titles to the land they had been living on, they were considered to be squatters. When the land was passed on to them, the Loyalists- some of whom had received very large tracts of land- often attempted to forcibly evict the Acadians. Governor Carleton for his part, knew the Acadians had been living on the St. John and making improvements to the land there, and he tried to ensure that the new title holders were pay the Acadians for those improvements. He also started to working to make sure the Acadians would also receive land elsewhere. Numerous Acadians did receive money before they left the area, and other requests to the Governing Council were actually refused or conditioned by the government's consideration "for the rights of the French inhabitants". In 1784 a Grant to some Acadians had been made for land at the mouth of the Keswick River.
We can now relate Charlotte Melvin's summary of the situation just before our Ancestors left for Madawaska:
"Thus we see that many of the Acadians were induced to move, nd that they were sometimes given the opportunity to sell their improvements. On the other hand, many Acadians were allowed to remain as they were, and today their descendants are living on farms that the government granted to their forebears.
there were, then, other reasons than that of actual physical persecution which contributed to the second emigration of the Acadian people from their homes and villages. Those reasons included the desire to be free in the enjoyment of their religion and to be secure from all threats and possibilities of persecution. Finally, the government approved of the idea of Acadian Settlements for reasons of its own. "
(Melvin, C. "Madawaska: A Chapter in Maine-New Brunswick Relations", University of Rochester, 1956)