Canadian Heritage

Historical Vignettes

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

Because work in the fields is only seasonal, certain rural inhabitants living on smaller parcels of land or infertile soils will turn to the forest to support their needs. The routine of small Madawaskayan farmers focused on two types of work - in the fields and in the woods. For them, the year unfolds such as this: summertime is devoted to land clearing and other activities in the field; autumn is harvest time; wintertime is spent working in lumber camps and spring is ideal for the timber drive. The farmers who occupy the most fertile lands will go to the logging areas not to work, but rather to sell their surplus produce.

The 19th century will see the forest industry develop rapidly in Madawaska. Despite its highs and lows, it will have a long-lasting effect on the Saint John River Valley. In fact, this region will experience a considerable demographic, geographic, and economic development.4 The forest industry developed at the same rate in the Upper Saint John River Valley, as well as on the Canadian side than on the American one, which allowed the inhabitants of Madawaska to gaze upon new horizons.

The geography of Madawaska played a paradoxical role in the development of this industry. Logging, happening equally on both sides of the Saint John River, as well as the wood drive down rivers during springtime, linked the economies of Maine and New Brunswick. In fact, "rivers dictated the localization of mills, the price of standing timber, and the ultimate destination of wood products transported from the region."5