Foreigners at Pejepscot



Androscoggin from Topsham side

Pejepscot River from Topsham looking toward Brunswick. Barbara A. Desmarais, July 24, 2016.


Four hundred years ago, the locals called the Androscoggin, from Merrymeeting Bay to the falls at Lewiston, the Pejepscot River. The tidal river between Topsham and Brunswick was named after a long-ago native people.

Even by the 1600s, foreigners had been exploring and fishing along those shores for many years. One sailor, whose team rowed a whaling boat up the Pejepscot, described the “scenery [as] wild and romantick.”* Huge oaks leaned over the water, creating sheltering coves. A bald eagle screamed a warning as the craft glided on the incoming tide, later diving silently to the river’s surface, then rising with a fish in its talons. Silver sturgeon longer than a man is tall leaped up and out of the water, as they had been doing since prehistoric times. Salmon teamed just beneath the surface. Ponds, large and small, formed behind beaver damns along the shore. Dusk brought a red wolf to a meadow’s edge, a white-tailed deer in its sights.



Red wolf stalking deer. B. Crawford, USFWS, 2004.


Between 1628 and 1675, Englishman Thomas Purchase and his family profited greatly from the area’s natural abundance. He traded with the locals for furs and beaver pelts, as well as lumber. His crew fished for salmon and sturgeon. These were processed for storage, perhaps on Fish House Hill, near the site of today’s Daniel Stone Inn on Brunswick’s Water Street. The men burned the plentiful wood to dry their catch – once packing thirty-seven barrels of salmon and ninety kegs of sturgeon in three weeks. They would have dried more, but they ran out of salt to cure the fish.


Size: H60 x W39.5 cm

Fish Hill between Water, Stone, and Woodlawn Streets, 1871.


Two hundred years later, in 1856, workers grading Woodlawn Street below the Stone property unearthed two European skeletons. These may have been two of Purchase’s fishermen, making Fish Hill one of the first European burying grounds in Brunswick.

Over the next forty years, English settlements grew on both sides of the Pejepscot as locals sold and resold land rights. In 1669, Thomas Gyles and his brother James sailed from the port of Boston to buy land at Pleasant Point on the Topsham shore. It wouldn’t be long, though, before Gyles, Purchase, and others abandoned their water-view homes.


Pleasant Point 11-0386a

Pleasant Point on Merrymeeting Bay, 1970. National Archives.


On June 24, 1675, King Philip’s War commenced at the Plymouth Colony. By September that year, the battle reached Pejepscot. Though the Natives had initially bartered pelts, fish, and timber with the settlers, years of being cheated by Purchase and otherwise misused by the English had eroded friendly relations between the two groups.

A party of twenty Native Americans, finding Purchase and his son away from their home, robbed the dwelling, taking weapons, powder for the guns, and liquor; and ripping up the feather beds. They also “killed a calf and several sheep.”* The war party, however, did not harm Mrs. Purchase or the others at the home.

Just a few days later, twenty-five settlers sailed down river to New Meadows to help Purchase harvest corn. There they found several Native Americans plundering houses, as well as three lookouts in the woods. The lookouts fled toward the river, but the English shot and killed one man, and wounded a second who escaped by canoe. When the settlers completed their harvest, the Natives attacked, wounding several Englishmen. The Natives loaded their canoes with freshly harvested corn and went back home.

The following year, after the Natives burned down Purchase’s home, he and most of the other English settlers left Pejepscot.

Once the war ended in 1678, the land abandoned by the settlers was bought by investors like Mr. Richard Wharton, who received a deed for the use of much of the land and waterways of Pejepscot in July of 1684. Wharton met with six local leaders at the Fort at Pejepscot, on an island on the Topsham shore.

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 1.57.14 PM

Image from Wheelers’ “History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell,” 1878.*


The six local grantors, Warumbee, Darumkine, Wihikermet, Wedon Domhegon, Nehonongasset, and Numbenewet, were Native American “Sagamores.” It was their ancestors who had granted land to Purchase, the Gyles brothers, and other English foreigners years earlier.

Peace between the Natives and the foreigners lasted a decade. In mid-winter, at the beginning of King William’s War in 1688, New England’s Governor Andros and one thousand soldiers sailed to Pejepscot. Andros found ‘the weather…exceedingly cold, the snow deep, and the travelling exceedingly tedious.’* He ordered his men to build a large stone fort on a high point overlooking the Brunswick side of Pejepscot falls.

Despite the safety promised by the shelter of Fort Andros, the settlers once again left for safer locales. Only the garrisoned soldiers remained.

Periodically, the locals united with French foreigners to battle the English foreigners. There would be other skirmishes and another war before the Pejepscot Proprietors were able to entice families to come back to Pejepscot.

Next Blog: They’re Baaack! 


  • Desmarais, Barbara A. Pejepscot River from Topsham looking toward Brunswick. July 24, 2016. Digital Image. Androscoggin from Topsham side.jpg.
  • Red wolf watching deer at Cades Cove – Great Smoky Mountain. 2004. Color image,  B. Crawford, USFWS,, accessed July 30, 2016.
  • National Archives. Environmental Protection Agency: RG:412. Pleasant Point on Merrymeeting Bay in the Brunswick Area Near the Confluence of the Androscoggin sand Kennebec Rivers. 12.2/1970. DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern. National Archives Identifier: 550750. Local Identifier: 412-DA-8265. Pleasant Point 11-0386a.gif., accessed July 26, 2016.
  • Osher Map Library. Brunswick Village Town of Brunswick from Cumberland County Atlas. Brunswick, Maine. Anonymous/No Author, 1871. Accession No: OML-1871-10., accessed July 30, 2016. .
  • *Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878., accessed July 30, 2016.



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A Sacred Place

When John Orr Skolfield and Bethiah Sprague Merryman wed, it was a marriage of two of Brunswick and Harpswell’s most prominent seafaring families. Born just after the American Revolution and married about the time of the War of 1812, the couple understood that life could be unkind.

Their four daughters, Caroline, Susan, and twins Bethiah 2nd and Mary were used to John’s long absences from home as he traveled the Atlantic coast working aboard ship. One such trip ended in June of 1828: he returned home to Mere Point after a year and a half as master of the Skolfield-built schooner “Maria.” Perhaps the captain brought home trinkets for the girls and cotton fabric for their mother Bethiah.

Maquoit Bay.jpg

Overlooking Maquoit Bay at Mere Point, Photo by Barbara A. Desmarais, 2016.

Living on the shore of Maquoit Bay, it’s not hard to imagine John’s delight watching the sisters push one another on a swing hung from a sturdy tree overlooking the ocean, or jumping into the water at high tide on a hot summer’s day. After all, they had salt water in their veins!

That autumn would bring colder weather, the wind whipping off the sea. Perhaps it also brought illness, for in October, 15-year-old Susan died.

When a loved one dies, all those left behind can do is honor the beloved with burial in a special place. The family chose such a place overlooking the bay. Someone, perhaps Susan’s uncle Jacob Skolfield, builder of beautiful wooden schooners and sloops, shaped a massive piece of exotic wood, which was engraved and placed on a sacred spot high above the water on the western Mere Point shore.

Susan L Skolfield at Mere Point

Susan L. Skolfield wooden grave marker, Photo by Barbara A. Desmarais, 2016.


That tombstone, hewn in wood nearly 200 years ago, still exists today, a loving family’s lasting remembrance of Susan L. Skolfield:


Susan L.

daughter of John Orr

and Bethiah Skolfield

born 1813 died 1828

aged 15 yrs 4  mos.


  • John Skolfield Obituary,, Scott Albright, May 26, 2012. Accessed July 5, 2016.
  • Walter Merryman of Harpswell, Maine: And His Descendants, Sinnett, Charles Nelson, Rumford Printing Company, Harpswell, 1905.
  • Bethiah Sprague Merryman Skolfield,, probably Stuart Strout Woodside Skolfield, Dec. 9, 2009. Accessed April 14, 2016.
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878

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Till Death Do We Part

Bernier St John's map

Map courtesy All Saints Parish, 2011. Annotated by Barbara A. Desmarais, 2016.

Why would a Catholic couple buried in the same cemetery be in different plots far from one another? Was one plot filled to capacity? Was one partner widowed, remarried, then buried with the second spouse? Not in the case of Edward (1892-1971) and Alfreda (Martin) Bernier (1903-1981).

After promising lifelong love and obedience to her husband at their 1921 June wedding, the bride moved a mere two blocks from her mother’s home to the Berniers’ apartment building on Mason Street.

Though there was a decade difference in their ages, the couple had much in common. Both were first generation Americans, born and raised in Brunswick by French Canadian parents. Like most of their mutual friends and neighbors, neither studied beyond fourth or fifth grade at St. Jean le Baptiste’s parochial school. Having lived in the same neighborhood, they shared friends and acquaintances.

Pepere_Clarinet 2

Edward Bernier playing clarinet at 13 Mason St., Brunswick, date unknown. Courtesy Suzanne (Bernier) Theberge.

On the surface, life remained much the same as before the wedding. Teenaged Alfreda continued to work at Cabot mill. Edward was a carpenter at the time, but he soon switched to painting houses with his younger brother, Adelard. Both Alfreda and Edward’s family and friends were still nearby for company and moral support. Each continued their familiar “leisure-time” activities: she sewed and crocheted; he played clarinet in the St. John’s Band.

Mermere Mepere Aunt P c1924

Edward, Alfreda, and Priscilla Bernier, C 1924. Courtesy Suzanne (Bernier) Theberge.

What did change was their income needs. Nine months after the wedding their first child, Marie Gertrude Priscilla, was born. Suddenly they were a family of three with another mouth to feed, another body to clothe.

Mermere Pepere 9 kids c1934

Front row: Andrew, Robert, Alfreda, Edward, Priscilla, Remy. Back row: Evariste, Henry, Constance, Edward, Anthony. Courtesy Suzanne (Bernier) Theberge.

Then every year or so for the next eighteen years, Alfreda was forced to “loaf” from her mill job for two or three days give birth. The couple’s eleventh and final child, Rhea, was born in 1939.

Alfreda, like her mother Anastasie, loved her babies. (See Anastasie, épouse de feu Eustache Martin. ) And like her father Eustache she was clever and industrious. (See Le Cultiveur.) She sewed and crocheted clothes for the family and textiles for their home, and worked equally hard at the mill. A proud woman, she was sometimes stung by criticism. (See Bright and Shiny.) Fiercely independent, she balked at being ordered by the “bosses” at the mill, but was forced to swallow her pride to keep her job.

And she needed her job. With eleven children to feed and a husband who was often out of work, Alfreda’s income was critical to the family’s financial health. By 1940 Edward, unable to find painting work, hired out as a manual laborer on a road project, working only thirty hours a week. Clearly, Alfreda was the family breadwinner.

Mermere 1 c1942

Alfreda (Martin) Bernier, possibly on Coffin St., C 1941. Courtesy Suzanne (Bernier) Theberge.

It may have been about this time that Alfreda found herself desperate to provide for her family. Girded in her customary corset, freshly pressed dress, and Sunday hat, she walked to the local Red Cross office on Pleasant Street to ask for aid. The director told her that there would be no help for Alfreda if she kept having children.

She returned home hurt and angry.

But not defeated.

Though she resented her treatment by the local Red Cross representative, Alfreda knew she couldn’t afford another child, either financially or physically. Financially, her husband drained more income than he contributed – when he wasn’t working, he drank and that cost money. Physically, Alfreda had operated spinning and weaving machinery for two decades, which took a toll on her knees. Her pregnancies had also stressed her body. As a Catholic woman without access to dependable birth control or the right to refuse her husband’s overtures, there was only one way she could protect herself and her family. And that was contrary to Catholic doctrine.

15 Coffin St 11.27.41 5A

Brunswick Record, Nov. 27, 1941.

So, in December 1941, Alfreda bought a brand new cape at 15 Coffin Street just past Bowdoin College.

A year later, Alfreda successfully sued her husband for divorce and full custody of their eleven minor children on the grounds of cruel and abusive treatment. The divorce decree doesn’t cite witness testimony as to the actual cruelty and abuse, but family conversations hinted that Edward’s drinking was a cause.

Pepere 5 kids c1943

Front row: Constance, Rhea, Henry. Back row: Remy, Evariste, Edward. C 1943 at 15 Coffin Street. Courtesy of Suzanne (Bernier) Theberge.

After the divorce both Alfreda and Edward remained in Brunswick and neither remarried. The ex-spouses kept tabs on each other through their children and grandchildren, always wishing the other well.

Edward's grave

Courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, 2016.

When Edward died in 1971 he was buried in St. John the Baptist Cemetery alongside his father and mother, Zepherin and Aglée (Guimond) Bernier.

Alfreda's grave

Courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais, 2016.

Ten years later, though the Bernier plot wasn’t full, and Alfreda had no second husband to be near, her family her buried in the same cemetery, well out of sight of Edward’s grave. Though the Catholic Church didn’t recognize her divorce, Alfreda’s family did.


  • Advertisement for 15 Coffin StreetBrunswick Record, November 27, 1941, Photos from the Brunswick newspapers from 1902 to 1960, rephotographed by Richard Snow,, accessed May 24, 2016.
  • Various including City Directories, Family Trees, United States Federal and State Censuses, Vital Records (Birth, Death, and Marriages).
  • Bernier family photos courtesy Susanne (Bernier) Theberge.
  • Alfreda (Martin) Bernier. Undated conversations/oral interviews with Barbara A. (Bernier) Desmarais.
  • Alfreda (Martin) Bernier divorce decree, Office of Data, Research, and Vital Statistics, 220 Capitol St., Augusta, Maine.
  • Cumberland County Registry of Deeds, 25 Pearl St., Portland, Maine and <;
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Bright and Shiny

Alfreda (Martin) Bernier (1903-1981) liked things to be just so. She favored rooms that sported figured wallpaper, painted woodwork, and starched curtains. When she went out, she wore dresses she had tailored to her ample figure. Her children went to Mass scrubbed pink and shiny, in clean freshly-pressed outfits and shined shoes. Even at home, Alfreda wore well-fitted bib aprons that coordinated with her equally well-fitted flowered house-dresses.

Her attention to detail was innate, but it may have served a greater purpose than pleasing her own preferences.

Mason St 1936 annot

She and her husband Edward lived just off Maine Street at 13 Mason, in a multifamily home they shared with Edward’s sister Blanche and her husband Lucien Labreque. The Berniers also lived next door to Alfreda’s younger brother Ovila Martin, his wife Irene, and Irene’s parents Joseph and Marie Helie; and just two doors up from Edward’s brother, Adelard Bernier and his wife Cecile. And all around them lived the people with whom Alfreda worked every day at the Cabot cotton mill a block to the north.

Since gossip and opinions were never in short supply in her close-knit community, she strove to give family, friends, and co-workers as little to criticize as possible.

The June 17, 1937, issue of the Brunswick Record had plenty for the neighborhood to discuss. The front page reported that nineteen-year-old Robert St. Pierre attacked two women on and near the Bowdoin College campus with a knife and a stone; described the wedding of Joseph Theberge and Rosalie Desjardins, and announced the impending Cabot Mill summer shutdown in July. Further into the paper were editorials, social doings, and national news. There was also the photographer’s feature, “People We Know.”


Henry and Evariste 6.17.37 9A

“People We Know” Brunswick Record, June 17, 1937, Courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais.


We can only imagine Alfreda’s reaction when she turned to page nine and realized the “People We Know” were her two youngest sons, Henry (age 3) and Evariste (age 5). We don’t know for certain that her family and friends teased her about Henry’s mud bath or Evariste’s Mona Lisa smile. We do know that she hatched an idea that would have made any PR expert proud.


Edouard &amp; Alfreda (Martin) Bernier &amp; 10 children cr

Bernier family portrait, courtesy Barbara A. Desmarais.


Inspired by her husband’s St. John’s Band uniform, Alfreda enlisted the aid of another first-rate seamstress, her daughter Priscilla. That summer the two of them sewed ten sailor suits, one for each Bernier sibling. Then, scrubbed all bright and shiny, dressed in handmade matching outfits, the dozen of them trooped to Webber’s photography studio at 98 Maine Street for family portraits.

Photo and negatives in hand, Alfreda crossed Maine Street to the Brunswick Publishing Co.’s office. The September 2nd issue of the Brunswick Record featured a photo of the ten Bernier children arranged in stair step fashion.


Sailor suits9 cont

Stair Step Siblings, Brunswick Record, September 2, 1937.

Caption: You might expect this group to break out in a Sailor’s Hornpipe any minute. Eight boys and two girls–the family of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Bernier of 13 Mason street–all attired in jaunty navy suits. Left to right they are: Henry, 2 1/2; Connie, 4; Everest [sic], 5; Edward, Jr., 6; Robert, 8; Antoine, 7; Armand, 10; Remy, 11; Andrew, 12; and Priscilla, 15. Their father is a painter. All the children, and the parents too, are natives of Brunswick.

Alfreda’s hard work continued to pay off.

The Dec 30, 1937, issue of the Brunswick Record had plenty for the Mason Street neighborhood to discuss. The front page reported that 81-year-old farmer Walter Higgins drowned off Indian Rest after wandering away from home, described the school board’s anger over delays in opening the new Spring Street high school, and announced the Cabot workers’ holiday dance that Saturday evening at Town Hall.

Included in the issue was the Annual Brunswick Record Pictorial Supplement of the year’s highlights. It’s not hard to imagine Alfreda’s reaction when she turned to the insert’s second page and saw the reprinted photo featuring the ten Bernier children in their sailor suits. No doubt she made sure family and friends alike read the caption “picture of the year.”

Alfreda Martin Bernier 1937

Alfreda (Martin) Bernier had scrubbed away the mud to created a new image–a bright and shiny picture of the year.


Next Blog: Until Death Do Us Part


  • Henry and Evariste Bernier, photograph, Brunswick Record, June 17, 1937. (Collection of Barbara A. Desmarais.)
  • Bernier Family Portrait, photocopy of original photograph. (Collection of Barbara A. Desmarais.)
  • Brunswick Directory, 1936-’37, Crowley & Lunt, Portland, Maine,, accessed May 13, 2016.
  • Stair Step Siblings, photograph, Brunswick Record, September 2, 1937, Photos from the Brunswick newspapers from 1902 to 1960, rephotographed by Richard Snow,, accessed May 24, 2016.
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Anastasie, épouse de feu Eustache Martin

Anastasie St Johns School

Anastasie Martin before 1934, Courtesy Agnes (Martin) Maynard.

When Brunswick farmer Eustache Eusebe Martin Sr died suddenly in early 1915, his widow Anastasie, who had never held a job outside the home and spoke little English, had to figure out how to care for her brood. She and her seven children left the Bunganuck Road farm and returned to the more crowded, urban Little Canada along the Androscoggin River by Cabot mill. 

Tondreau Bakery 1922.23d

Image from 1922-’23 Brunswick Directory, Crowley & Lunt.

Elder son, nineteen-year-old Eustache, became the family breadwinner –- and bread maker –- working at nearby Tondreau’s Bakery.

Just as before, Anastasie’s life revolved around her children, seeing to their health, safety, and Catholic upbringing. The Martins renewed old friendships and re-accustomed themselves to living cheek by jowl with other Franco American families. The close quarters created a decided lack of privacy in the neighborhood. It also meant that illness spread quickly.

Among the Martins’ friends was the Levesque family who lived on nearby Cushing Street. That August, Anna Levesque, wife of Napoleon, gave birth to Rosario. Anastasie’s daughters, in particular 14-year-old Eva and 11-year-old Alfreda, found joy in caring for infants and young children. It’s not hard to imagine the two girls walking to the Levesque home to help Anna, who was exhausted from childbirth. Anna was also weak from the tuberculosis that seemed to constantly circulate throughout the mid-coast’s urban areas. (See It Happened in 1916.) Unable to regain her strength, the new mother died two months after her son’s birth.

American Flag 1917 39709r

Many People, One Nation, 1917, Ray Greenleaf artist, Library of Congress.

(The American)

A Great War raged in Europe, though it had little impact on the day-to-day lives of those in Brunswick’s Little Canada. That changed on June 13, 1917, when the first American troops landed in France. First-generation American citizen Eustache registered for the draft two days later, but applied for an exemption as the sole support of his mother, brother Ovila, and sister Noella. He didn’t list his other siblings as dependents because the teenagers, ranging from thirteen to seventeen, were old enough to have jobs.

In the autumn, twenty-one-year-old Eustache did the same as many soon-to-be World War I soldiers: he married his sweetheart. Twenty-six-year-old Antoinette Favreau, a mill worker had left Canada only eleven years before. It’s interesting to note that Jr followed the same path as his late father by marrying a woman a few years his senior.

What did Anastasie think of this turn of events? Did Eustache and bride Antoinette live with the Martins? If so, Antoinette’s paycheck would have been a welcome addition to familial resources. If the couple were to have a child, would Antoinette leave her job while simultaneously adding another mouth to feed? Only time would tell.


Artillery 1.25

First Maine Heavy Artillery, Camp Greene, Charlotte, N. C., Brunswick Record scan courtesy Richard Snow.

By the following June, Eustache, along with thousands of other young Americans, became a soldier in the army. Now Anastasie had to face the very real possibility that her son, her first child, upon whom the family depended for their subsistence, was in danger of being injured or even killed in this war.

Eustache was luckier than thousands of other American soldiers. He served overseas in the Quartermaster Corp beginning in October 1918, just a month before the Germans and Allies signed the November 11th Armistice that ended the war. Millions of troops were demobilized and returned home, including Eustache who arrived in the States in March 1919 and was honorably discharged in April.

Anastasie’s first-born American child resumed married life. That fall, he and Antoinette moved to their newly purchased home south of Bowdoin College, on Harpswell Street near Hambleton Avenue.

 Eva and Rosario: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
(Eva and Rosario: the more things change, the more they stay the same)

That still left Anastasie and six children in one household. The 1920 census reveals that three Martin sisters worked to help sustain the family. Two had joined the throngs manufacturing cotton goods at Cabot mill: Rose (age 20) was a carder and Alfreda (age 16) was a spinner. Marie Anne (age 15) bucked family tradition: she was a sales lady at a grocer’s. Three siblings were “at home”: Eva (age 18), Ovila (age 12), and Noella (age 12).

Eva Martin grave

Photo by Barbara A. Desmarais, March 8, 2016.

Why wasn’t Eva working? About the time Anna Levesque gave birth to son Rosario and then died, Eva contracted tuberculosis. Five years later she hadn’t the strength to hold down a job. Ultimately, the move from open-aired Bunganuck back to the densely populated mill area proved fatal to Eva: she died in February 1920. Younger sister and best friend, Alfreda, mourned “the sweetest girl” for the rest of her life.

What became of Rosario Levesque and his siblings? By 1920, their father Napoleon, a beater at Pejepscot Paper on the Topsham side of the Androscoggin River, had moved into his brother’s home on Bridge Street in Topsham, without the children. The brothers and sisters were separated from one another, going to live with family and friends.

It seems that, rather than worrying about how little she had, Anastasie was of the opinion that a little was better than nothing, and could always be stretched further. Having neither the financial means nor the knowledge to proceed through the legal system, she “adopted” Rosario simply by bringing him into her home and family. Called “Pete” by his new brothers and sisters, he would tell his future Martin nieces and nephews that Anastasie “saved” him when she took him in.

Qui se resemble, s’assemble
(Birds of a feather flock together)

 The end of World War I marked the end of 19th century living and world isolation in the United States. Rural soldiers brought back first-hand knowledge of European city life and culture. Radio empires and movie palaces brought universal entertainment to American towns and cities alike. They also brought a more immediate knowledge of worldwide events. The country’s newfound prosperity and urbanism was matched by scientific and cultural advancement.

These rapid changes scared those who felt Americans had lost their “national innocence.” Some who mourned the “good old days” found comfort in religious fundamentalism and nativism in the form of the Ku Klux Klan.***

KKK Cross Burning 1925

Cross burning, Ku Klux Klan, 1925, Harris & Ewing photographer, Library of Congress.

Though we in Maine currently think of the KKK as a southern organization focused on returning African Americans to their demoralized and abused antebellum status, the white Protestant Klan did exist in New England states and Canada in the 1920s. In this overwhelmingly white region, Klan members focused their discrimination against Catholics, Jews, and the foreign-born.

Known in Canada as les negre blanc francophones (french-speaking white Negroes), French Canadian Catholics were both the wrong religion and foreign-born. What was American-born, Great War veteran Eustache to think when the Maine Klansmen and women sang:

     It’s your land, and my land, to own, to rule, to love.
     It’s bled for, and died for, and blessed by God above.
     It’s your land, and my land, and while the world shall be,
     We’ll fight to keep it our land, America the free.*

Garrison Cove 7.5.23 17B-2

Garrison Cove, Brunswick Record scan courtesy Richard Snow.

In a 1923 social column entry in the Brunswick Record listing a change in night of the Klan’s weekly lodge meetings in Harpswell and Orrs Island, the writer estimated that 65% of the islands’ residents were members of the group. Another entry in the Brunswick Record that year described a Klan “Americanism” event at the Brunswick Town Hall that drew an audience of 800 men and women.**

The Klan’s anti-Catholic, anti-French Canadian sentiments served to reinforce and prolong the Franco community’s tendency to send their children to parochial school, to speak French whenever possible, trade with other francophones, and to marry within their own group.

Indeed, Anastasie’s children continued that tradition in the first half of the 1920s as three daughters married men from the area’s close-knit Franco community: Alfreda to Edouard Bernier (house painter) in 1921, Rose to Louis Laffely (laborer) in 1922, and Marie Anne to Emile Lachance (railroad sect hand) in 1925 .

Remaining with Anastasie were sons Ovila (bakery truck driver) and Pete, as well as youngest daughter Noella (spinner at cotton mill). How different it must have felt to Anastasie, used to a boisterous group of six or seven, to have only half that number around her.

Sainte Anne

Prayer Card from

By 1930 Anastasie’s three married daughters had given her a baker’s dozen grandchildren. It was appropriate, then, that she found companionship and sisterhood within St. John’s church in the women’s group, Ladies of St. Anne. Anne, as any Catholic knows, was the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus, as well as the patron saint of grandmothers.

Throughout the years, Anastasie also kept in touch with her remaining siblings in Quebec.

Helie Bakery 1929 d

Image from 1928-’29 Brunswick Directory, Crowley & Lunt.

The stock market crash of 1929 precipitated the Great Depression, which resulted in unemployment and breadlines in some urban areas. Many Brunswick businesses, however, continued to thrive. Entrepreneur Joseph Helie even expanded his Mill Street bakery.

Helie’s optimism was contagious. By 1932, Ovila Martin, Anastasie’s second son, was a weaver at the cotton mill and apparently felt financially secure enough to wed Joseph Helie’s daughter, Irene.

When Ovila moved into the Helie home at 11 Mason Street, only two children remained with Anastasie.

La pomme ne tombe jamais loin de l’arbre
(The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree)

Anastasie had shown her children by her deeds that life is to live and love is to share. Following her example of opening her home to one in need, when Anastasie’s health failed in late 1933, her daughter Rose Laffely brought Anastasie to the Laffely home on Thomspon Street. Eustache followed suit, inviting his siblings Noella and Pete to move into his current home at 26 Cushing, just around the corner from his trucking business and wood dealership at 10-12 Swett Street. Still living close to the mill, Noella and Pete were able to continue walking to their jobs at the cotton factory.

Eustache and Anastasie  3 photos

Funeral Card, courtesy Agnes (Martin) Maynard

After a brief illness, Anastasie (Paradis) Martin died January 3d, 1934, at age 67. Her obituary was published in the Brunswick Record the very next day:

Mrs. Eustache Martin
     Mrs. Eustache Martin, formerly Anastasie Paradis, died last night at the home of her daughter    Mrs. Emile Lachance on Thompson street at the age of 67, after a short illness.
     She was born in Chicoutimi, Canada, on September 2, 1866, and had resided here for over 40 years. She was a member of the Ladies of St. Anne. She is survived by two sons, Eustache Martin, Jr., and Ovila Martin and one adopted son Rosario Levesque, four daughters, Mrs. Rose Laffely, Mrs. Alfreda Bernier, Mrs. Emile Lachance, and Noella Martin, two sisters, Mrs. Lida Levesque of Iberville, Canada, and Mrs. Juliette Tremblay of Lac St. Jean, Canada, also two brothers, Adelard Paradis and Xavier Paradis both of Chicoutimi, Canada.
      Her funeral will be held Saturday morning at 8 o’clock from the Church of St. John the Baptist.

Forty years after Anastasie left her Canadian homeland, not twenty years after her husband’s death was unremarked by the local newspaper, the Franco community had become American enough to fight for their country, had spread from the mill’s Little Canada to all parts of Brunswick and Topsham’s villages and countryside, owned thriving businesses, and finally warranted a mention in the local English language newspaper.

Nous sommes arrivés.

Next Blog: Bright and Shiny


  • Translation of Anastasie Paradis Martin funeral card:
    In sweet memory of
    Anastasie Paradis Martin
    Widow of Eustache Martin
    Born in Canada and died in Brunswick,
    Maine, January 3rd, 1934.
    At age 67 years and 4 moos.
    R.I.P. (Rest in Peace)
  • Translation of Nous sommes arrivés: We have arrived.
  • For more on Franco American history in Brunswick and beyond, please read David Vermette’s blog
  • For more on the Ku Klux Klan in New England, please read Not a Catholic Nation: The Ku Klux Klan Confronts New England in the 1920s by Mark Paul Richard.


  • Various including City Directories, Family Trees, United States Federal and State Censuses, Vital Records (Birth, Death, and Marriages).
  • Mrs. Eustache Martin obituary, Brunswick Record, January 3, 1934,. p4
  • Tondreau’s Bakery image, Brunswick Directory Including Topsham 1922, Crowley & Lunt, Portland, Maine,, accessed May 12, 2016.
  • Helie’s Bakery image, Brunswick Directory, 1928-’29, Crowley & Lunt, Portland, Maine,, accessed May 13, 2016.
  • Sainte Anne prayer card image, Carmelite Heritage, Victoria Forrester,, accessed May 12, 2016.
  • Many People, One Nation poster, Ray Greenleaf, Library of Congress, accessed May 14, 2016
  • Cross burning, Ku Klux Klan, 1925, Harris & Ewing photographer, Library of Congress, accessed May 13, 2016.
  • Photo of Anastasie (Paradis) Martin before 1934. Courtesy of Agnes (Martin) Maynard, May 2016.
  • Anastasie Paradis Martin funeral card, ibid.
  • *Not a Catholic Nation: The Ku Klux Klan Confronts New England in the 1920s, Mark Paul Richard, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst & Boston, 2015, P 23.
  • First Maine Heavy Artillery, Camp Greene, Charlotte, N. C., Brunswick Record, January 25, 1918, Photos from the Brunswick newspapers from 1902 to 1960, rephotographed by Richard Snow,, accessed May 13, 2016.
  • The Cove, With Orr’s Island in the Distance, Brunswick Record, July 5, 1923, ibid.
  • **French North America: Clan in the North: Klan Activity in Brunswick, Maine, David Vermette, August 1, 2012, accessed April 22, 2016.
  • ***The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History: History by EraThe Roaring Twenties, Joshua Zeitz,, accessed April 23, 2016.
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The Farmer

Anastasie and Eustache, Part 2

French Canadian immigrants, Anastasie Paradis and Eustache Martin came to Brunswick, Maine, from the Chicoutimi region of Quebec to work at the cotton mill. (See Le Cultivateur) In 1895 they married and started a family. By 1910, they were a family of nine: Anastasie; Eustache; sons Eustache Jr and Ovila; and daughters Rose, Eva, Alfreda, Marie Anne, and Noella.

Libby to Martin 4016_4_24_1913 cd

Both Eustache Sr and Jr worked at the Cabot Company’s cotton mill. Like many French Canadian immigrants who had left the family farm, Eustache Sr likely saw himself as a farmer working a supplementary job. He was a weaver at the mill, a stonemason, and operated his own wood-sawing machine business. He may have held onto the dream of returning to Chicoutimi, for, unlike a large number of his fellow immigrants, Eustache Sr never sought to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. As his American-born children grew, perhaps he gave up the idea of going back to a place he hadn’t called home for twenty years. Instead, in April 1913, Eustache Martin Sr bought a farm on Bunganuck Road near Maquoit Bay.

Eustache Farm 1910 Brunswick Map cd

Because Bunganuck was at the other end of town from the Cabot Company and commuting was still by foot or hoof, it seems unlikely that either Eustache Sr or Jr continued at the mill. Instead, the entire family would have developed a daily rhythm of rising early to feed the horse, pigs, and chickens; feed and milk the cows; collect the eggs; pasture the animals; clean the barn; tend the crops; build or repair fences; and, finally, bring the livestock in for the night. In between all that they did household chores: cooking, cleaning, sewing, mending, chopping wood, building a fire, and doing laundry — all without the electric appliances we take for granted in 2016.

The next day, they’d do it over again.

Eustache_Anastasie c1915

Anastasie and Eustache Martin Sr at Jalbert Farm at Gurnet before 1915, courtesy of Agnes (Martin) Maynard

As all consuming as the work was, it paid dividends mill work never could: brisk ocean breezes, bird song, swimming in the brook, the scent of freshly mown hay, independence, and a return to a life tempo that seemed natural for the Martins.

Then, suddenly, everything changed.

Without warning, on Thursday, January 21, 1915, Eustache Sr died of a stroke.

The Brunswick Record didn’t publish a death notice or obituary for Eustache Martin Sr. Perhaps Jr, the only family member who spoke English, didn’t know he could bring a notice to the newspaper. Or perhaps the death of one more French Canadian wasn’t of interest to the readers of an English language publication.

Since it was the dead of winter and the ground was frozen, Sr’s body was stored until the spring thaw. When the earth was soft enough to be parted by a handheld shovel, Eustache Eusebe Martin Sr was buried at St. John’s Cemetery on Pine Street.

380 Bunganuc Rd

“Bunganuc” Road in area of Martin Farm

An age-old story repeated itself: lacking the wherewithal to pay the mortgage, the family lost the Bunganuck Road property. Anastasie and the children moved back to Little Canada, to 9 Union Street Extension between Cabot and Mill Streets, just to the west of the cotton mill by the river. Eustache Jr, and then each sibling as they became old enough, went to work to support the family.

Still, Eustache the farmer left an internal legacy to his family and their descendents. Even though they had lived at Bunganuck only two years, his farming identity had taken root and grown to maturity in the hearts of his children. Daughter Alfreda, for instance, was born in the shadow of Cabot mill; lived there for all but those two years until she was thirty-eight; and worked for decades at Cabot’s successor, the Verney Mill. Yet, years later she would tell her grandchildren that her parents were farmers from Chicoutimi and she herself was raised on a farm. Millwork, after all, was simply supplementary income. Farming was the Martin’s lifework.

Next Blog: Anastasie, épouse de feu Eustache Martin


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Le Cultivateur

St. Lawrence River 1901 LOC

St. Lawrence River at Riviere du Loup (Library of Congress)


As early as 1536, French pioneers harvested the natural bounty of Quebec’s dense forests. They transported their furs and timber via the rivers of New France to ports along the Atlantic Ocean and thence to France itself. Since even trappers and lumberjacks needed their daily bread, cultivateurs (farmers) soon followed, clearing the rocky land on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in southern Quebec, to raise wheat in a growing season even shorter than Maine’s. Still, the farmers were successful enough that, by the mid- to late-1800s, their families had outgrown the ancestral farms. Desiring homesteads of their own, some families moved to ever more remote villages, such as Hébertville in Chicoutimi.

Unfortunately, the land in the further reaches of Quebec was infertile, had poor access to large markets, and had a shorter growing season. This meant farming in these newer settlements, as in much of Maine, was often subsistence, never yielding a surplus to sell at market. Just as in parts of Maine, farmers worked in other trades such as timber for the better part of the year. The timber industry in Quebec, in fact, was its biggest employer. Many of these businesses took full advantage of their positions, often paying workers with company scrip that could only be spent in company stores. Lumber merchants became richer; les cultivateurs became increasingly indebted, and, thus, poorer.

Asher and Adams' Maine and New Brunswick:with portions of Quebec

From Hébertville (Laq St. Jean), Quebec, to Brunswick, Maine, via Le Chaudiere and the Old Canada Road

Seeing opportunity in both the poverty and great numbers of Québécois, agents from New England mills traveled to Quebec to recruit single men and women, and entire families, to head south for work. Conditions must have been dire for so many to choose to make the arduous journey on foot or in horse-drawn wagons, and later by rail, from French Canada to English-speaking New England. The Québécois left behind close-knit families and traditional rural communities to travel to foreign industrialized cities, all in hopes of landing an unguaranteed and unfamiliar job operating dangerous machinery in a noisy, crowded mill.

Some of those who emigrated from Quebec intended to stay in the United States just long enough to earn the cash denied them at home. Others never looked back.

Les Émigrants

The families of Anastasie Paradis (1868-1934) and Eustache Martin (1870-1915) both relocated from the east bank of the St. Lawrence River to the west bank, both to the farming village of Hébertville in Chicoutimi. The Paradis family left St. André sometime after 1851; the Martins would leave St. Anne thirty years later. The fathers, Olivier Paradis and Eváriste Martin, were just two of the 469 cultivateurs in Hébertville in Canada’s1891 census. More than one quarter of the men in the village of just 1850 people were farmers, including boys as young as fourteen. The handful of other occupations listed included modiste (dressmaker), journalier (day laborer), and cordonnier (shoe maker).

Anastasie Paradis 1891 crpd

Olivier Paradis family in 1891 Canadian census (


Eustache Martin census 1891 crpd.jpg

Eváriste Martin family in 1891 Canadian census (

The census recorded that both twenty-seven-year-old [sic] Anastasie and twenty-one-year-old Eustache (cultivateur) were of French origin, Roman Catholic, single, and living with their parents and siblings on their families’ farms. Anastasie’s father farmed with the aid of his only son still at home, plus a hired hand. Eustache, two of his brothers, and their father, worked the Martin farm. In the Paradis home, only Anastasie’s mother could read and write. Eustache’s family was the better educated: he, his parents, and three of his siblings were literate.

Twenty-three-year-old Anastasie might well have felt some pressure to find a way to relieve the financial pressures faced by her family of eight. Her choices all involved leaving the farm: marriage in Chicoutimi or finding work – perhaps as a servant or mill hand in a larger Quebec town. She chose emigration and a job: by the following year Anastasie was 375 miles away from Hébertville, working for the Cabot cotton mill at the head of Brunswick’s Maine Street, along with Eustache and other French Canadian expatriates.

Future U.S. Federal censuses would show that Eustache had already come to the United States between 1888 and 1890. It’s possible he hadn’t returned to his parents’ farm but was reported as being there by a parent or sibling who hoped his absence was temporary. If Eustache had returned to Chicoutimi in 1891 it might have been to visit his family, bring home funds earned in the States, or perhaps to encourage others to seek new lives away from Quebec.

Another possibility is that Eustache came home to ask Anastasie to leave Chicoutimi for Brunswick, Maine, and a job at the mill – and, perhaps, a future life with him.

Eustache_Anastasie wedding day

Wedding photo of Eustache and Anastasie (Paradis) Martin. Courtesy of Agnes (Martin) Maynard.

Le Mariage

On Monday, May 6, 1895, Anastasie, in full corset, donned her very modern gown: bell skirt (no bustle!), fitted bodice, and leg-o’-mutton sleeves. Eustache wore the latest waistcoat (vest), low cut to allow more freedom of movement, and a jaunty boutonniere in his coat lapel. It was spring: shade trees were in full leaf and lilacs were just beginning to bud. Far from home, yet surrounded by Quebecois friends, Anastasie and Eustache married. Although a recent flood had left the roads muddy, the newlyweds and their wedding party likely took a celebratory ride in carts “…driven abreast, as rapidly as livery horses can travel…the occupants being all in high glee.”* Perhaps they drove to the local photographer’s studio to have their wedding portrait taken.

After, the couple might have strolled across the new pedestrian bridge between Brunswick and Topsham to watch the sunset. Perhaps, finally, they went to their room or apartment in one of Cabot Mill’s tenement houses on the banks of the Androscoggin River. Imagine the sigh of relief as Anastasie loosened her whalebone corset and Eustache removed his spit-shined leather shoes.

The Martins would not have been lonely – by the early 1890s, French Canadians and their American-born children were a third of Brunswick’s population.

Cabot Mil MS_0419_Folder_W_Z_031

The Cabot Company

Unfortunately, unlike companions, money was scarce. Just like the timber companies in Quebec, the Cabot Mill initially ran a grocery store where their employees were expected to shop. The Martins would see this change, partly at the urging of Brunswick merchants who were anxious to profit from 2500 potential new customers in a town of just over 6000. Recognizing the necessity of having French-speaking clerks, some merchants hired mill hands’ children and grandchildren. This would soon pave the way for French Canadians and their children to start their own businesses.

Money was tight, but when Anastasie and Eustache first arrived in Brunswick, the living conditions were worse. The Cabot Company spent as little as possible on employee accommodations. The apartments were small, the families large. The company saw no need to invest in sewers: the tenements discharged waste directly into the river that was also the source of the workers’ drinking water. Both the close quarters and unsanitary conditions contributed to typhoid and diphtheria epidemics in the French community. When the epidemics touched the families of Brunswick “natives,” the town began a three-year sewer project, laying down nine miles of pipe between 1894 and ’97.

Little girl and Pig LOC crpd

“Take a ‘poon piggie.” Library of Congress

Though at the beginning of their marriage both worked six days a week at the mill, Anastasie and Eustache were only a handful of years away from the farm and still cultivateurs at heart. On the farm, their families had likely raised pigs, using every part of the animals to feed their large families through the long, cold winters. Requiring little more than a sturdy pen, water from the nearby river, and scraps for food, the couple could have raised a spring piglet to a butcher-ready hog by early autumn. The animal would yield thick slabs of bacon, chops, and roasts. Wasting no part of the animal, Anastasie would have rendered lard to spread on homemade bread and for pastries such as tourtière (meat pie). Finally, she would have used the rest of the animal to make headcheese (lunch meat) and cretons (pork pâté).

Eustache Martin census 1910 crpd

Eustache and Anastasie Martin family in 1910 census.

 La Famille; Le Travail

Employed, housed, and fed, the Martins started their family in earnest. First came Eustache Jr (1896-1964), then twins Marie and Marion (1897-by1900). The unhealthful living conditions took a toll on the family. By 1910, Anastasie had given birth to thirteen children. Only seven were still alive: sons Eustache Jr and Ovila, and daughters Rose, Eva, Alfreda, Marie Anne, and Noella.

Maintaining a family of nine was as labor-intensive in a modern mill town as it was at the farm. The boys no doubt chopped wood or carried coal to fuel the cook stove, fired on all but the hottest days for cooking and heating water. The girls sewed and mended clothing, cooked, and cleaned the house. Each week there was the muscle-building work of doing laundry. Someone, probably Anastasie, lifted heavy kettles of water to heat on the stove. Then she would have boiled and bleached the whites to remove stains made by coal and wood smoke, sweat, and work grime. Starching came next to protect the color, allay wrinkles (no permanent press), and repel dirt. Then the girls might have hung the clothes to dry outdoors in the sun or inside on lines strung overhead during inclement weather. Finally, for the better part of the following day, one of the Martin women heated a heavy flat iron on the stove to use in smoothing the wrinkled clothing, stopping to reheat the iron each time it cooled.

Back Boy Mule Room03119r

Back boy – Mule room – 14 years. Berkshire Mill. by Lewis W. Hine, 1916. Library of Congress.

Mill hands Eustache Sr and Jr both put in long days of their own, working ten to twelve hours, six days a week. As a weaver Eustache Sr watched the looms, waiting for a thread to break, then repairing it by weaving in a new one. Though fourteen-year-old Eustache Jr seems a child to us, back in Quebec he would have been a full-fledged cultivateur, working along side his father. Now he worked at the mill instead, as a back boy in the spinning room, tending the bobbins. Cotton dust floated freely in the factory, dampening the light from the tall windows, thickening the air they breathed. Perhaps at noontime one of the younger Martin girls brought their father and brother a lunch of homemade bread layered with cretons or headcheese.


Image from

At the mill, Sr and Jr were required to speak English, partly for ease in communication with English-speaking workers and bosses, partly to assuage the bosses’ pride as they sought to prevent unintelligible personal insults or, worse yet, seeds of strike. At home and throughout Little Canada, though, both Eustaches spoke their native tongue, the only language Anastasie and her girls understood.

Eustache Sr, unafraid of hard work, may have struggled with the rhythm of a workday designed around the starts and stops of machines, rather than the more natural and familiar cycle determined by seasons, crops, and livestock. Still hoping to save enough money for his own farm, he supplemented his income with stone masonry and by 1910 operated his own business, a wood-sawing machine.

Three years later, Eustache’s hard work would change the family’s circumstances, both for the better and the worse.

Next Blog: The Farmer


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