As one of the largest immigrant populations through much of Maine’s history, French Canadians came south to live and work by the thousands. In places like Lewiston, dense Franco-Canadian communities became known as “Little Canadas” as they reconstructed cultural spaces in their new home.
As Maine shares borders with more provinces of Canada than other American state, it should come as no surprise that Canadian immigration played a significant role in the development of the region.
French and Anglo Canadians came to live in the upper St. John Valley in the late 1700s, though the territory was claimed by both Maine and Britain until settled by treaty in 1842.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Maine cities towns like Biddeford, Saco, Waterville, Old Town and Lewiston, constructed new textile mills, providing attractive job opportunities for many French Canadians.
Coming to operate new textile machinery rather than continue farming in the rocky soil of the Northeast, French Canadians brought large families and their native language to the state. While the French language was harshly repressed in schools by the state of Maine for decades, thousands of Mainers are working to reclaim and revitalize their French heritage today.
(Vintage Photo Credit: Collections of Maine Historical Society, courtesy of VintageMaineImages.com, item No. 5298, 19010, 19009)