The Sugar Bush
Acadians and Canadians, who settled in the Madawaska region at the end of the 19th century, brought with them traditions and customs inherited from their ancestors and adapted them, as best as they could, to their new environment. Thus, the maple forests found in northwest New Brunswick were easily developed into small businesses known in Quebec as “sucreries” or sugar shacks.
Who set up the first sugar bush in our area? Nobody knows. However, we know that Jean-Baptiste Cyr (nicknamed Croc), an ancestor of the Cyr’s of the Madawaska settlement, operated a maple grove or sugar bush in the Pays-Bas region (near Fredericton) before the arrival of the Loyalists in 1783. Rev. D.J. Leblanc, pastor of Central Kingsclear, wrote the following to P.-L. Mercure on October 30, 1900.
“Tradition tells us something interesting about the origin of the “Croc” name. Old Jean-Baptiste had cut down most of the area’s maple trees to ship to France (...). Nonetheless, the Acadians were amused, thinking of the French, “Won’t they have something to bite into (croquer)!” They were far from thinking that this name would stay on today.” (Archives P.-L. Mercure)
In the Madawaska region, the “Crocs” along with other Acadians and Canadians, kept the custom of tapping the maple trees each spring, making maple syrup, and spreading maple taffy on the snow. In their Report of 1831, two Americans, J.G. Dean and E. Kavanagh, stated that the inhabitants of the Madawaska settlement “manufacture large quantities of maple sugar from rock maple” and that the way they mark the boundaries of their properties even applies to their sugar bush or maple groves.
Up until very recently, our Madawaska maple sugar bushes were family-owned businesses and operated in an old-fashioned way; they were, however, part of the Madawaska scenery and held happy gatherings upon the arrival of spring. Today the maple industry has become very modern and has been commercialized on the world market. Those ultra- modern “sucreries” or sugar shacks have the advantage of accessibility and facilitate gatherings of the young and not so young, as well as of the fit or handicapped. Countless people can enjoy the delights of the “sucreries” as in the old days.