The Arrival of the Railways
Until the mid-nineteenth century, the development of the Madawaska region is hampered by its means of communication. However, the interference of forest profiteers from Maine in our area, the border dispute and the proclamation by John Baker of a U.S. Republic on New Brunswick soil in the 1820’s to 1840 allow businessmen from the Maritime Provinces of Canada to discover the riches of the Upper St. John River Valley forests. They agree on the urgency of joining the provinces with a better transportation network. A canal project is first launched, but this bold undertaking is soon replaced by a more modern one, that of a railway.
The New Brunswick Land and Railway Company, which will later be sold to Canadian Pacific, opened on October 17, 1878 the first railway line to cross Madawaska between “Grand and Little Falls”. In 1889, the Témiscouata line connected Edmundston to Rivière-du-Loup and two years later, it served Upper Madawaska up to Connors.
A new era begins in the region in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Many newcomers discover the area when they come to work as railway employees or specialized labourers; the forest industry is booming and creating jobs; agriculture finds new opportunities, not only in Canada but also in the United States. Le Moniteur Acadien, a provincial paper, on November 18, 1887 writes that “a livestock railcar carrying the animals listed below left a few days before from Edmundston for Brighton, USA: 30 cattle, 200 geese, 200 chickens, 100 turkeys and 50 ducks.”
The saga of the railway extends to the beginning of the twentieth century and continues to transform the landscape and life in the Saint John River Valley. In 1907, the Transcontinental Company expropriates the brickyard at Hotel-Dieu Convent in Saint-Basile, to make room for its track. The episode has remained well known in Madawaska, as a small but promising regional venture had to cease its operations, jeopardizing the expansion works of the convent. Nevertheless, at their hospital between 1907 and 1910, the Religious Hospitaller nuns treat over 80 railway workers of different nationalities. The railway line Edmundston-Moncton is finally ready and Le Moniteur Acadien on November 13, 1912 announces that the train will make “three return trips a week”, from November 20 on.