The first white settlers in the land of the Maliseets are Acadians accompanied by a few Canadian friends, who are not new to colonization, as most have experienced deportation and exile. After the turmoil of 1755 to 1763, they settled in the “Pays-Bas” of the Saint John River and along the Kennebecasis. But the arrival of Loyalists in 1783 creates anxiety and insecurity, especially for those who do not hold title to their land. Driven out again or worried about their future and that of their children, several heads of families decide to go establish a new settlement, away from these strangers speaking a different language and practising another religion. Why this new exodus? The desire to become owners is certainly the major reason. However, a study of petitions addressed to officials in Quebec and Halifax to obtain land in Madawaska reveals other reasons:
Saving their French and Catholic Identity
On November 27, 1783 Governor Haldimand in Quebec wrote to Governor Parr of Nova Scotia that “Mercure, the Acadian” informed him that several of his compatriots wanted to emigrate to Canada “for the sake of enjoying their religion with more liberty and less difficulty in procuring priests.” That same religious concern also encouraged a group of Acadians from the Kennebecasis to seek land in Madawaska in 1789, and, in their application, to include “and in the superintendence of their children's education.”
Need for safety and peace
In 1784, the Acadians from the Saint John River said in their petition that in addition to having no guarantee of becoming owners of the lands they inhabit, they have lost “the hope of living peacefully in Acadia”. On June 21, 1785, having obtained permission to settle in Madawaska, a dozen families leave Sainte-Anne-des-Pays-Bas (in the Fredericton area) a few days later. Upon arrival in their new home, the first Madawaska settlers show they are sincere. Their first step is to erect a cross in the soil of their new home near the present-day village of St. David, Maine. They also are quick to ask the pastor of Isle Verte to become their pastor. Newcomers in the territory of the Maliseets, the pioneers recognize and respect the rights of the original inhabitants and hasten to establish friendly relations. Solidly founded, the Madawaska colony would be able to accommodate other groups of Acadians who, from the first years, would be joined by Canadians from the Lower Saint Lawrence.