The Aroostook Roads

  1. Location and Background
  2. Under the French and British Regimes
  3. The First Acadian and Canadian Immigrants
  4. The Development of Madawaska
  5. Borderland Tensions
  6. Military and Commercial Roads
  7. War Avoided
  8. New Immigrant Waves
  9. A Bi-Directional Route
  10. Sources

  1. Under the French and British Regimes
Today the St. John River straddles much of the Canadian-American boundary between Maine and New Brunswick, but in the seventeenth century much of Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia were part of New France, specifically Acadia as the French called the eastern portion of their North American territories. The St. Lawrence River was the principal route of communication between Acadia and the western colony of Canada in the St. Lawrence Valley, today's Québec. As a means of communication the great river had one significant drawback. From late December until April it freezes and does not allow for the passage of ships. Thus nature necessitated that the French explore an overland route between Canada and Acadia. The result was the opening in the late 1600s of a rudimentary route of sections that could be canoed, areas where portages from one water system to another were necessary, and footpaths that finally connected the Bay of Fundy overland to the St. John River, then turning north along the Madawaska River to Lake Temiscouata and finally reaching the Canadian settlements in the St. Lawrence Valley. After the British conquest of New France in 1760, this route was improved during and in the decades following the American Revolution for use as the sole overland winter route for mail, military troop movements and other communication between the major British seaport of Halifax, Nova Scotia and Quebec City. Under the British Regime the route became known as the Temiscouata Portage Road - so called after the large lake of the same name that the road passed by in Québec. The route had a reputation for being difficult to travel, but through constant investment in the road by the British government and the local settlers in the area, one astonished traveler was able to write in 1832 that "the present improvements have enabled nine wheel carriages to pass the whole length; and although a hilly road, a box of window glass in one of the carts was found without a single pane broken."

This map from 1793 by J. Frederick Holland clearly outlines the "Grand Portage" (Temiscouata Portage) Road, and indicates the "French Settlement" already well established at the confluence of the Madawaska and St. John Rivers. Note that at this time, the region was considered by many to be part of British North America.

A latter map drawn in 1844, two years after the signing of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, clearly shows the internationalisation of the region, with the borderline passing through the now flourishing "Acadian Settlements" of Maine and New Brunswick.

Source : E21 Ministère des terres et forêts / Arpentage / Frontières nos 24, 32 / Archives nationales du Québec à Québec.

Long's Farm at the southern extremity of Lake Temiscouata, c. 1830. Long's farm was located 36 miles inland from the Kings Highway that connected Quebec City with the Temiscouata Portage Road. Weary travelers could stop at the Long farm to eat, rest, or pay for passage on the lake in one of the canoes belonging to the family.

Source : Joseph Bouchette, Description topographique de la province du Bas Canada, 1815.