Canadian Heritage

Historical Vignettes

The Forest Industry in Madawaska - a Wind of Change for the Valley

Aboriginal people were already settled in Madawaska when the first French settlers arrive during the 18th century.1 The Saint John River Valley then offers multiple advantages. It skirts an important waterway and numerous possibilities for agriculture as well as forestry. However, it is isolated from the rest of the world. "Like the forest itself, the isolation of the St. John basin dominated the history of the region (...) each community developed an inclusiveness and self reliance unique to frontier societies (...)."2

The colonization of Madawaska begins around 1785 and the Maliseets guide the newcomers through fields, lakes, and forests. Native people then become witnesses to the settling of French folks on the region's fertile lands. These French settlers first turn to agriculture to support their basic needs. However, the call of the forest is soon heard and a first contact is established.

From 1820 to 1830, the progress of agriculture certainly contributes to removing Madawaska from its commodity-based economy. On the other hand, without the forest industry, the development of the region would not have been as impressive. In fact, these years will be remembered as the time when the resource potential of the Madawaska forest began to interest businesspersons.3