The Madawaska area is well known for its friendly people and warm hospitality. Serving as the center of Acadian culture in Maine, we have a lot to offer our guests. The St. John Valley Chamber Region includes the communities of Madawaska, Grand Isle, Frenchville, St. Agatha and Sinclair. Each town is unique, yet all share the common cultural ties, which unite the people and make the St. John Valley the special place that it is. No matter what time of the year you visit us, you will find everything you need to enjoy a relaxing and memorable stay. If you enjoy outdoor recreational activities, festivals, or colorful eye-catching sceneries and no matter what your hobbies, interests or leisure pursuits are you will find something here. The St. John Valley Chamber of Commerce invites you to experience the unique quality of life and the many opportunities available in our very special corner of America. Don’t forget to include us in your year round vacation plans when vacationing in the Madawaska area.
Please visit us at the new Chamber Visitors Information Office and Souvenir shop. We are located at 356 Main street across from the American Legion. We will be pleased to provide all the assistance you need to make your stay more enjoyable. Should you have any additional questions, please call the executive director, at (207) 728-7000, e-mail us at: info@StJohnValleyChamber.org
St. John Valley Chamber of Commerce
Le Grand Derangement
The Debacle, or “le grand derangement,” took place in 1755. Acadia came under the rule of England in 1710, and the Dominion of Canada in 1760. The Acadians refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the King of England unconditionally, were treated as a stubborn people, a sort of riffraff to be gotten rid of as soon as possible. They were willing to pledge allegiance to England, but they were unwilling to take up arms against the Frenchmen in Cape Breton Island, New Brunswick, and other French settlements in case of a war between England and France.
In 1785, there was another wave of unrest. The English were pursuing the Acadians again. This time the Acadians came to the St. John River Valley and settled in what is now Madawaska, Maine, and Edmundston, New Brunswick. Other settlements were made in Van Buren and St. Leonard, Fort Kent and Clair.
The first winter was hard and brought famine and sickness and terribly decimated the population. The Acadians of the Valley suffered the same bitter trials as did the Pilgrims and Puritans who settled in Massachusetts.
The entire territory about the Valley was called Madawaska, an Indian name which means the land of the porcupine. The inhabitants of the Valley did not belong to the United States nor to Canada. They were simply Madawaskans.
Madawaska was rich in hard pines, which the United States and Canada coveted. It was difficult to settle on a boundary line to satisfy Maine and New Brunswick. Several surveys had been made by both parties concerned, but nothing was final. The United States argued that Madawaska belonged to Maine; whereas Canada maintained that it belonged to New Brunswick. The governors of Maine became interested in the people and territory in northern Maine, as well as Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. Beginning in 1830 there were debates, exchanges of letters and threats, when finally armies were mobilized, the old military road was built, the Aroostook Road going from Fort Kent through Wallagrass and Eagle Lake being part of that road. Great Britain claimed the whole St. John River, including both banks, and a great part of the territory as far south as Houlton, Maine. In 1839, the New Brunswick governor issued a proclamation which amounted to a declaration of war. However, not a shot was fired, and a settlement was finally agreed by arbitration. The Aroostook bloodless war was at an end in 1842. The Blockhouse in Fort Kent is a relic of that war.
Daniel Webster and Lord Ashburton were the arbitrators. They made the St. John River the dividing line between Maine and New Brunswick, from Van Buren to St. Francis, and the St. Francis River the dividing line between the two at St. Francis. The treaty of 1842 is known as the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.
The people of the Valley are accused of speaking a dialect. It is Yankee French more than anything else. However, the educated class who have studied French in school long enough to be well-versed in reading, literature, and grammar, speak very good French. Others speak a mixture of French and English (Frenglish or Franglais), use bad grammar, as others do in their own language, and use old forms of the 17th century, the century of the French settlement in Canada. The Acadians have inherited two great cultures from two great civilizations, England and France. They are proud of this dual nationality in culture. Though the people of the Valley dislike to be called Frenchmen, they prefer that they be called Franco-Americans, a term foreign to them. The Franco-Americans are in Lewiston, Biddeford, Brunswick, Lawrence, Lowell, Fall River, Providence, and in other French-speaking communities in the New England States. These are not Acadians; they are French Canadians from the Province of Quebec.
The people of the Valley Anglicize the pronunciation of their names as much as they can. They are proud to be Americans, and as such they claim no other nationality. They are not French-Americans, they are not French-Canadians, they are Americans.
The Madawaska Territory, included all the present towns on both sides of the St. John River as far west as Lake Temiscouata in the Province of Quebec, and practically all the present counties of Madawaska, York, and Victoria in New Brunswick, Canada and extended as far south as the Aroostook River in northern Maine. This territory was well-known for its hard pine trees, therefore New Brunswick and Maine competed for the complete possession of the whole territory until 1842, the year the permanent boundary was predetermined.
The inhabitants of the St. John Valley are descendants of the Acadians from the land of Evangeline, present day Nova Scotia which was part of Acadia. Acadia included all of the surrounding lands and was much larger than Nova Scotia.
Meaning of Acadia
It is thought that the word “Acadia” might be a contraction of Arcadia, an ancient Greece mountain district which was famous for its simple, quiet, and contended life. Which was fitting for the Acadians of Acadia?
The people of the St. John Valley are Britons and Normans at the same time due to intermarriage and interrelationships. It is hard to say who Britons are and who Normans are these days. However, it is certain that the Valley residents have inherited the qualities and faults of both groups, and as an end result have developed a distinct nationality of people known as Acadians.
Although the majority of the first settlers of Acadia were Britons, there were also many Normans from Normandy in the north of France. They were the old Northmen, or Norsemen, descendants of the Vikings from the Scandinavian Peninsula. There is a relationship between the Normans of France and the Norsemen of Scandinavia, as well as between the Britons of England and the people of northern France.