Upon their arrival in Madawaska in 1785, all heads of family received tracts of land, allocated by one of their own, Louis Mercure, who had been named Settlement Agent. Each family marked the boundaries of its land in the ancestral manner by “notching some trees and felling others”. The dwelling permit was granted in February 1787 and in the summer, the official survey was conducted by G. Sproule who paid tribute to the settlers for the advanced state of land clearing. After a long wait, the New Brunswick government gave ownership of the land to the Madawaska settlers in the Act of October 1, 1790, creating the Mazerolle Concession on both shores of the Saint John River, between the Iroquois and Green Rivers. The stipulations in the Act for the forty-nine new owners gave an overview of the life of the first farmers in the region:
- During the first three years, clear and sow three acres of land or clear and irrigate three acres of swamp land for every fifty acres;
- Keep three horned animals for every fifty uncultivated acres;
- Build a good house at least twenty feet long and fifteen feet wide.
The Act also specified that the settlers were exempt from paying a rent during the first ten years of occupation, after which everyone must “pay the provincial treasury, on the feast of St. Michael (September 29), an annual rent of two shillings for each 100 acres granted.”
Work was certainly not lacking on the family farm and everyone had to work hard in every season. Since no written documentation remains, it is impossible to describe, with certainty, rural life at the start of the colony. According to the correspondence of missionaries and the earliest resident pastors, the first generation of Madawaska settlers experienced poverty, even destitution. It is possible that it was then that the renowned "ploye" and the tasty fiddlehead became local fare.
After years of food shortages came years of plenty, it appears. Indeed in the 1820s, an era of prosperity began.
The first historian of New Brunswick, Peter Fisher, wrote in 1825 that the inhabitants of Madawaska are all farmers who usually harvest more than they can consume, and who sell their surplus grain to local merchants or in Fredericton. In one of his letters to his girlfriend in Quebec, the young Doctor Pinquet, then living at Fort Ingall (Cabano), wrote in October 1839, “It is said that Madawaska is a place where money circulates in abundance and which has very rich inhabitants.” In fact, in the middle of the nineteenth century, the region's economy was prosperous; the organization of an Agricultural Society in 1857 and Regional Fairs from 1859 can attest to it.