> Maine Historical introduction

Portland harbor 1853

Painting from 1853 of view from South Portland, towards the east, Casco Bay, Maine

Maine bordering Acadia

Maine, located in the far northeast of the USA, joined the United States in 1820. Covered by vast forests and dotted with numerous lakes and streams, it is nicknamed Pine Tree State, Lumber State and Border State. It is indeed bordered to the southwest by New Hampshire, to the northwest by Quebec, to the north and east by New Brunswick and to the south by the Atlantic Ocean. This relates to how Maine’s Acadian history merges with that of its neighbouring New Brunswick. The following two illustrations are from two very different eras…

Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, near Bar Harbor, Maine (image in the public domain)

At the limits of old French Acadia

Until 1820, Maine was the northernmost part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In the 17th century, its Atlantic coast was fiercely contested between the Anglo-American colonies of New England and the French colony of Acadia, whose territories were located on both shores of present-day Bay of Fundy up to the coasts of Maine. As early as 1613, the Acadian border was located in Penobscot Bay west of Mount Desert Island (now Castine, Maine), but at the cost of an incredible combination of circumstances. Castine (Maine) – Difficult gestation from the Acadian border is the subject of the first of two articles.

In 1713, after a century of conflicts between France and Great Britain, the Treaty of Utrecht definitively ceded peninsular Acadia to the British. But the treaty of Utrecht remained imprecise and therefore controversial as to “the old limits” of Acadia before the territorial cession. The French claimed that the ceded territory was confined to the peninsula of Nova Scotia. The British, however, included the old French possessions in southern New Brunswick and present-day Maine. In 1755, on the eve of the deportation of the Acadians to the Anglo-American colonies, the French were of the view that their territory extended to the actual boundary between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War and finalized the end of New France and therefore of Acadia. The Acadian refugees, many of whom returning from deportation, were authorized to settle in Nova Scotia or, as was more often the case, in southern New Brunswick. Some did settle at Pointe Sainte-Anne (now Fredericton), along the Saint John River…

In Madawaska the French language has no borders

Grand Falls, now operated by a generating station of hydroelectric power (photo credit: Dr Wilson, license CC BY-SA 3.0)

After the War of Independence (1775-1783), thousands of American Loyalists settled along the Saint John River. Some of them founded a new village at Pointe Saint-Anne, named Fredericstown which later was renamed Fredericton. In 1785, Fredericton became the capital of the province of New Brunswick, created a year earlier by the Loyalists. That year Acadian and French-Canadian settlers, worried about their future, left Pointe Saint-Anne to establish a French-speaking colony on the Upper Saint John territory, upstream from Grand Falls. This was how the colony of Madawaska was founded, on both banks of the Saint John River, where the cities of Edmundston (New Brunswick) and Madawaska (Maine) are presently located.

The Treaty of Paris of 1783 officially recognized the independence of the United States. It also defined, albeit roughly, its border with British North America. In reality, this borderline was based on the Mitchell map of 1755, which proved to be inaccurate in many places, thus generating many border disputes. This was the case on the northeast corner of the United States, where the two countries coveted the territory of Madawaska and its vast pine forest, and where the settlers, mostly French-speaking, had decided to reside. The border conflict was resolved in 1842 by the choice of the Saint John River as a natural border line between the two countries. As a result, the Madawaska colony was cut in half. Despite the split, the region kept a remarkable neighbourhood coherence until now. In Madawaska, the French language has no borders and is the subject of the second article.

List of the Acadian communities

étoile acadie star

The other geographic areas

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