Circa 1923. Moulin Joseph Thériault in Baker-Brook, NB where the Theriault family home was also located on the right, beyond the view of the photo. The smoke stack on the mill indicates that the mill is powered by a steam engine drawing its water from a small brook that flowed through the property at that time. Joseph built the mill in 1905-1907 and operated it until he became ill in 1913. Joseph died in 1915. His son, Joachim inherited the mill in 1913 and operated it until 1945. In the years prior to 1945, Thaddée and later Dénis operated the mill before Joachim sold it that year. In this picture around 1923, we see Joachim holding his youngest son, George with his other sons and daughters at the mill, talking with his clients. The house and barns on top of the hill is the Damase Daigle farm. Their other neighbors at the time included Firmin Levesque, Félix Daigle, Oscar Daigle, Vital Marquis, all on the northern side of the road from east to west. Joachim sold the mill to Raoul Couturier in 1945. (Courtesy Saint Coeur de Marie Parish Album ).
The importance of mills and milling to the Theriault family has been well-known in the St-John Valley. As a young boy, I was fortunate to have been able to spend some time in my grandfather Joachim’s mill (N47.302037° W68.485479°) in Baker Brook, New Brunswick in the years before he sold it in 1945. It is interesting to note that historians and history refers to the Theriault Mill as the Joachim Theriault mill. The fact of the matter is that Joachim inherited his mill from his father, Joseph who built the mill in 1907 to serve the local farmers and families. No doubt it was Joachim’s work of improving the mill and his role in the community as the miller of Baker Brook and St Hilaire, that the mill carries his name in history.
In my work on my last book “Destination: Madawaska”, I learned that mills and milling were important to my great-grandfather, Joseph as well. All references to the mill refer to the mill as the ‘Joachim Theriault Mill’. In fact, mills and milling in my family lineage started with Joseph. It was he who built the mill. His father, Dolphis was a farmer who owned large grants of farm and time land in St Jacques. His grandfather Charles, the first Acadian settler in present-day St Jacques, was also a farmer and owned a grant of land in the village of present-day St Jacques that included all of the land from the Rivière à la Truite north to the Cemetery going 1.5 miles southwest from the river (170 acres).
In early June 1926, 9 of the 14 eventual children of Joachim and Annie Thériault from Léanne to Georgette. In their front yard in front of the family mill. The flour mill was in the right part of the mill while the saw mill was on the left. Thérèse was born a day or so earlier and was being baptized on this day of the photo session. (Left to right, back row: Annette(8), Léanne(16), Dénis(14), Thaddée(12), Théodule(11). Front: Georgette(1), Rita(5), Félix(7) and George(4). (Rémi and Georgette Cyr Family Album.) CLICK TO ENLARGE PHOTO.
So, it has been my objective for some time to write my great-grandfather Joseph’s story; a story that will shed some light on how he came to be involved in the mill business.
I actually started working the project of researching mills as part of the World Acadian Congress CMA 2014 when I was invited to speak at the Theriault Family Reunion Conference on the migration of the Theriault family to the Madawaska territory from the south in Acadia and from the north in New France (Québec). I was thrilled to hear that the Conference would be held in Baker Brook at the Holy Heart of Mary Church, the church that was built with the lumber that was milled by Joachim Thériault himself. Joachim had milled most of the construction lumber at his mill but the large foundation pieces were milled on site using a transportable mill that later made history in the Valley newspapers.
Grand Isle Historical Society Museum, Grand Isle, Maine. (Courtesy Google photo)
During the CMA activities, I discussed the scope of my book “Moulins du Madawaska” with Jacques Albert, editor of the Société historique du Madawaska. My thinking basically was to document the biography of Joseph Theriault and his son, Joachim, beginning with Joseph’s childhood living in Moulin Morneault with his foster parents, David Rousseau and Caroline Plourde and another foster child, Philias Morneault. After some discussion, Jacques suggested that we include a survey of the mills of the St John Valley. He noted that while a few individual communities have written about the mills of their specific community, no one has taken the time to research and publish a survey of all of the mills in the Valley and their role in the development of the Valley.
Back in 2013, I spent a week in Grand Isle enjoying the hospitality of Gordon Soucy, Curator of the Grand Isle Historical Society museum looking into the mills on the American side of the St John Valley. He had pulled much of the materials on the mills of the St John Valley from his museum library. I spent the week reviewing the stacks of materials, taking notes and scanning the materials and photos that I thought I might use. I appreciate very much the Historical Society’s generosity and support for this project.
After the CMA2014, I took a break from my work on family history and diverted my attention to local historic preservation work in my home town. My work on Joseph’s biography was put on the ‘back-burner’ for three years until last Fall when I made my plans to spend a week in the St John Valley this spring and pick up where I left off.
After reviewing and organizing the results of my week with the Grand Isle Historical Society, I had about 100 possible mills that needed some investigation. So, my key objective for my week this Spring was to confirm the data that I had on my list of 100 mills. In addition, I also needed to make sure that my list was complete. So, I contacted Lise Pelletier, Director of the University of Maine’s Acadian Archive to let her know of my project. I put a plan together to start with the American side; two days for the Frenchville to St Francis, and the Madawaska to Van Buren stretches and the remaining three days on the Canadian side: St Basile to Grand Falls, St Jacques-Moulin Morneault, and the last day, Saturday, doing Clair to Connors. I also scheduled my visit at the Acadian Archives on our first day since we would be passing through the area. So, that was my plan.
Our trek to the Back Settlements of Upper Frenchville, Maine. After slogging up the 800′ incline to the crest (white dot) on an old, abandoned, washed out trail, we continued on up the ‘Cote Vitrée/Glass Hill’ to Daigle, or New Canada where our first mill site was located. (Google Photo.) CLICK TO ENLARGE.
In addition, I had asked my daughter, Nicola to join me for the week. I thought this would be a good time for her to see where we lived in Upper Frenchville, possibly climb to the top of the mountain and in general, meet some members of her extended Theriault and Dubé/Trudelle families and some other good people in the Valley.
View of the St John Valley from the top of my father’s mountain in “Sainte Luce”, or Upper Frenchville as they call it today. The rich soil of the valley is evident in this field which has been recently prepared for potato planting. (J.R. Theriault photo.) CLICK TO ENLARGE.
So, the first day, we drove up the mountain with my trusty Toyota truck taking the short cut to the Back Settlements from US 1 just east of the former Eli Morin house going to the ‘Deuxième Rang’ Back Settlement. There we would see some of my father’s land and the top of the mountain where we would see that wonderful view of the St John Valley that I enjoyed while hiking around in my childhood. The road quickly deteriorated to a very narrow trail but we pushed through and emerged on top about 800 feet above the St John River. It was as beautiful remembered it.
DENIS DAIGLE MILL. Cemetery Hill Road, New Canada, ME; 47°11’20.85″N 68°27’46.38″W (Courtesy Penobscot Marine Museum.) CLICK TO ENLARGE.
From there, we continued through the 2nd row of the Back Settlements towards Daigle, our first mill site. Arriving in the village, we saw an old gent mowing the Cemetery. I stopped and he turned off his lawn mower. I introduced myself and explained my project. His name was Lincoln Nadeau, a native of Daigle. He knew the Coulombe’s who I knew well. Long story short, he knew exactly where the Denis Daigle Mill was and he added that I should talk to Paul Lozier in Soldier Pond. Lincoln said that there are several other old mill sites in the area and that Paul would know about them.
Heading out to Soldier Pond, we found Paul Lozier at his garage and also was very enthusiastic to talk about the old mills. He immediately pointed to one mill on Soldier Pond within sight and gave some of the details about the Soldier Pond Mill. He very generously offered to let me photograph an old photograph of the old mill that hangs in his General Store in Soldier Pond, shown on the right.
SOLDIER POND MILL. ca 1900 – late 1950’s. N 47 09.224 W068 34.57. (Courtesy Paul Lozier, Soldier Pond General Store.) CLICK TO ENLARGE.
Before letting us go, he recommended that I talk to Mr. Allen Stadig by the Christmas tree farm not far from his garage in Soldier Pond. He would tell us about other mills. (The name was of high interest to me given my finding of the Stadig shingle mill in Connors.) He also told me about another mill I didn’t have on my list: the LeBoeuf Mill. Other people to contact included Chad Pelletier (Fort kent Historical Society), Louis Pelletier, Jr. of Allagash, and Carol Pelletier who he said was in charge of the St. Francis Historical Society, and someone who knows alot about mills in the area.
While I was excited about the new information, I realized more and more that my list of mills was growing and that I might have to adjust my plan.