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History of Frenchville

Certainly long before the arrival of the white man, the Maliseets (a tribe of about 5000 total in the northeast; also called the "Etchemins") had hunted and fished the woods and streams of the St. John Valley for centuries, largely as nomadic groups or even as individuals. The very first permanent white settlers in the area, Pierre Lizotte and Pierre Duperre (SP?), who established a trading post near the mouth of the Madawaska River in 1783, found about 250 Indian families in the settlement there; by the time of the Deane and Kavanagh survey in 1831, only 5 or 6 Indian families were reported, with very little remaining of the original Indian village. Whether this decline was due to decimation by white man's diseases or by the Indians being inadvertently driven out by the influx of whites is uncertain, though reports from that time suggest early relations between the white immigrants and the Indians were peaceful and friendly, and in fact, the Indians frequently provided assistance enabling the settlers to survive the first few difficult winters.

The first group of Acadian settlers arrived in June of 1785 from the lower St. John Valley (near Fredericton) partly from the invitation and information from Lizotte and Duperre; the first families settled in the St. Basile/St. David area. More families arrived the following year from the St. Lawrence Valley, settling in the vicinity of the mouth of the Madawaska River. At that time the region west of the Madawaska River was not considered to be under the jurisdiction of New Brunswick authorities, so was not included in the first land concessions granted by New Brunswick in 1790.

As families grew and additional settlers arrived, settlement expanded in both directions along the St. John River, and by 1804 land was being cleared and settled in the area known as Chautauqua (now Frenchville).

At last, in 1869, the Maine Legislature - spurred by a committee that included Maj. William Dickey - encouraged the separate plantations of the former Madawaska Territory to incorporate, which they did -- Dickeyville, as well as Fort Kent, incorporated on February 23, 1869, and Madawaska on Feb. 24 (Grand Isle followed on March 2). But why Dickeyville and not Dionne Plantation or Chautauqua or some other name? - probably due at least partly to the jealousies and rivalries between those "d'en haut" versus "d'en bas". At any rate, a compromise was reached by honoring Major William Dickey, the colorful state legislator from Fort Kent.

For whatever reason Major Dickey had been honored at the initial incorporation in 1869, the town reincorporated on January 26, 1871, as Frenchville, to honor the nationality of its citizens, choosing a name that few would see as controversial, considering the language and origins of the early settlers and the vast majority of the concurrent inhabitants. Interestingly, Dickey's arch rival, Republican Peter Keegan of Van Buren, pushed through the legislation that dropped Dickey's name and gave us Frenchville.