French Canadians In Ne

French Canadians In Ne French Canadians & The Blackstone Valley John J. Barron Ethnicity in Massachusetts Wed. 12:30 The French have a lengthy history on this continent. The French became interested in the New World in 1524 when King Francois I sought wealth for his European domain (Brown 19). Expeditions were underwritten by the crown.

It was eager to compete with other European powers in search for riches. Included in the early voyages were trips by Frenchman Jacques Cartier. Cartier discovered the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1534 (Brown 21). He made further excursions toward the heartland of the continent, resulting in vast land claims. Another early visitor to America, Samuel de Champlain, organized colonies on the mouth of the St.

Croix River in 1604 and at the present site of Quebec City in 1608 (Brown 78). France quickly spread its influence from Quebec to New Orleans. Though sparsely populated, the land that France claimed was astounding in size. While the English colonies were developing along a strip of the east coast no wider than 210 miles, the French laid claim to much of the territory between the colonies and the Mississippi. Trappers, traders, and explorers during the 17th and 18th centuries, the French were present in the new land. The intent of French exploration was the search for riches; gold and silver.

However, failing to produce such wealth, France settled for revenues from the fur trade. Although the search for riches was the initial goal of the French in the new world, the main intent became to spread the Catholic faith. In 1642, French missionaries contributed to the founding of Montreal (Brown 72). In the following years the missionaries would spread like wildfire. The devout Catholicism is evident in American French communities even today. King Louis XIV made Canada a royal province in 1663 (Brow French Canadians & The Blackstone Valley John J.

Barron Ethnicity in Massachusetts Wed. 12:30 The French have a lengthy history on this continent. The French became interested in the New World in 1524 when King Francois I sought wealth for his European domain (Brown 19). Expeditions were underwritten by the crown. It was eager to compete with other European powers in search for riches. Included in the early voyages were trips by Frenchman Jacques Cartier.

Cartier discovered the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1534 (Brown 21). He made further excursions toward the heartland of the continent, resulting in vast land claims. Another early visitor to America, Samuel de Champlain, organized colonies on the mouth of the St. Croix River in 1604 and at the present site of Quebec City in 1608 (Brown 78).

France quickly spread its influence from Quebec to New Orleans. Though sparsely populated, the land that France claimed was astounding in size. While the English colonies were developing along a strip of the east coast no wider than 210 miles, the French laid claim to much of the territory between the colonies and the Mississippi. Trappers, traders, and explorers during the 17th and 18th centuries, the French were present in the new land. The intent of French exploration was the search for riches; gold and silver.

However, failing to produce such wealth, France settled for revenues from the fur trade. Although the search for riches was the initial goal of the French in the new world, the main intent became to spread the Catholic faith. In 1642, French missionaries contributed to the founding of Montreal (Brown 72). In the following years the missionaries would spread like wildfire. The devout Catholicism is evident in American French communities even today. King Louis XIV made Canada a royal province in 1663 (Brown 116).

It was an unsettled region. Only the St. Lawrence River Valley with Quebec and Montreal possessed an urban dimension. Its loose string of settlements south to New Orleans was frail. Efforts were made to populate New France. The rural sectors of France provided most of the immigrants.

These peasants were promised land in exchange for their immigration. Though the French continued to populate their colony through the early 18th century, they didn’t reach the numbers that the English colonists did (Brown 127). The French and the English had been battling in Europe since the beginning so it was of no surprise that they would also battle in the New World. Unrest intensified in the early 16th century. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht that ended the War of Spanish Succession between Great Britain and France dealt France a humiliating blow (Brown 147).

In the peace agreement, France transferred to England its claims to the Hudson Bay territories, to New Foundland and to Acadia. Two events in the following years were characteristic of the increasing hostility between the two. In 1745, an army of New Englanders captured the French fort at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island (Brown 147). Ten years later, English troops forcibly ejected thousands of neutral French Acadians from their homes in Nova Scotia. A full-scale armed conflict was not far behind.

The day of Destiny for N. America was September 13, 1759. The English won the battle of Quebec, and therein lay the outcome of the war. It was on the cliffs of Quebec that the English general, James Wolfe, and his forces defeated the army of General Marquis de Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham. France was a major landholder at the onset of the 18th century. However, in 100 years France gave up everything.

Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Hudson Bay Region in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 and Canada in 1763 were lost to England. The French had not given up their spirit, however, and in years to come gathered together for cultural survival in the Anglo world. In the years immediately following the Conquest, the English and French fashioned a coexistence out of need. Quebec was in ruins; rural regions in the St. Lawrence River Valley lay in an unproductive state because of the chaos that the war had brought. Survival came first. But as early post war years led to a rebuilding, friction between the two groups resurfaced. The English were assertive in taking over government land and commerce, which left the French with the unrewarding jobs as farmers and small merchants, By British law, no Roman Catholic could vote, nor be elected or appointed to public office.

Though the Quebec act of 1774 allowed the French the right to religious and political activities, it was with apprehension that the French faced the future (Brown 195). Political considerations were not the only struggles for the French in Canada following the Conquest. The difficulty in making a living was significant. It was to be a key factor in families’ decisions to leave Canada for New England. Rural Canada was poor. The years following the Conquest were barren and unproductive for most French families.

The French had been trappers and traders. Now they were thrust into roles as small farmers, roles they were untrained for. The English industrialized in Quebec and Montreal, but the French were not to be a part of this new wave of economic activity and prosperity. Discrimination and exclusion kept the French on farms of marginal land. The climate was dry and the growing season was short.

The crops that they cultivated were of subsistence quality. Adults and children alike labored on these farms for up to 16 hours per day. This preoccupation with the crops was a major reason for their lack of formal education. The situation became pressing after 1820. Farmers could barely support their families. Compounding their difficulties came a crop-devastating insect, the wheat midge.

It threatened thousands of inhabitants who could hardly afford further deterioration of their crops. The opportunity to seek something better finally presented itself. Word reached the Quebec countryside that quaint New England villages were turning into booming mill towns. Mill agents were seeking workers for cash. Though some French families decided to head for the Canadian west, or America’s Midwest most opted to head south to New England.

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants came south in the 19th and 20th century. Filling positions in the New England Textile industry, the French were arriving as the industry was expanding. The arrival of the immigrants came just after developments in the technology of textiles, which made for an abundant number of jobs. The 18th century had witnessed the golden age of invention in textiles; The spinning mule and Eli Whitney’s cotton gin revolutionized the processing of cotton. All the mills needed after this development was workers.

As mill owners built larger buildings and filled them with more machines, the first call for labor was put out. Those answering were Yankee farm girls from the surrounding countryside. Though the work in the mills was demanding the girls were happy to be making money for themselves and their families. The American mill was not to become a retreat for farmers’ daughters, however. Increased technology and greater markets created the need for more workers. Mills came first, the development of the town second. Industrialists pushed ahead with rapid expansion.

The French were to hear the cries advertising work. However, it is important to mention that the first ethnic group that made an impact in New England Mills was the Irish. Although there were already several Irish in New England, The potato famine of the 1840s caused the Irish to cross the ocean in large numbers (Aguire 202). Desperate for provisions, the Irish immigrants would take jobs at low wages and work long hours. As more of these Irish immigrants arrived, the working conditions of the mills deteriorated. The presence of the Irish and French enabled manufacturers to become lax.

These workers weren’t Americans, the practice implied, so why worry about the human factor? As the textile industry approached the mid 19th century, the working conditions were atrocious. One characteristic of early French Canadian migration was the tendency for those of a family, town or parish to stick together. If one family left for the New England states, it was likely that the next family to leave would also depart for that community. Brothers followed Brothers, and cousins would often move in the wake of cousins. But parish members would also tend to move to communities in which friends had settled.

It wasn’t unusual, therefore, to have a homogenous community of friends and relatives already established in some mill towns. And often was the case when a New England town would have a distinctive Canadian flavor. If six dozen habitants from Farnum settled in the same community, for instance, it was bound to take on a certain quality reflective of that back home. Little Compton, RI named for Compton, Quebec gives evidence to this custom. I found that this was apparent when tracing my family tree. While doing research for this project, I found that several French Canadian communities recur: Thompson, CT., Woonsocket, RI, Worcester, MA, and Biddeford, ME. These same predominantly French Canadian communities recur in the birth records of my Ancestors.

Within these communities they quickly established lifestyles very similar to those in Quebec. They established parochial schools, societies, clubs and, foremost, Catholic churches. The French Canadians had incredibly strong relationships with their parish. The parish priest was, perhaps, the most powerful man in the little Canadas of New England. This is evident in the incredible churches that the French Canadians have erected throughout New England. Unlike other churches made of wood and white clapboard, the French Canadian churches were erected of stone and brick with marvelous arches and stained glass. Some beautiful churches that are worth an excursion to include: Notre Dame des Canadiens in Worcester, Ma.

Erected in 1870 Notre Dame de l’assomption in Millbury, Ma. Erected in 1885 Sainte Famille in Woonsocket, RI. Erected 1903 Sainte Anne’s Church in Fall River, MA. The power of religion was potent for the French. The French were considered docile by the mill owners when it came to long hours, low wages, and unsafe working conditions.

However, when the French were not being represented in the Providence, diocese, as it was mostly Irish, they protested loudly. In addition to the Catholic Church, an institution that helped the French Canadians acclimate to New England was the societies. Though the ethnically oriented fraternal groups are still prominent today, they were of paramount significance in the early years. The first such organization in New England was societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste. The society was founded in 1850.

These societies were formed to sustain unity and promote the welfare of the French. This included raising money to build churches, and obtain French speaking priests. They even became predecessors to labor unions. The United Textile Union (ITU) of Woonsocket was formed by leaders of the Societe Sainte-Jean-Baptiste. In addition to church and society, a key aspect of early French life in New England was French newspapers.

Virtually every major industrial center and several modest communities had their own French newspapers. Woonsocket RI. Had three French newspapers. I will write of them more in depth in the sections on specific cities. The fact that so many French newspapers were able to flourish indicates that the early Franco-Americans were good readers. The image that seems to have been passed down by the Anglo press and historians is that the French were illiterate.

Such vibrant publications could not have existed without readership. Perhaps many immigrants were slow to learn English. They evidently did not lack the ability to read and write in their own language. Woonsocket The story of the industrial revolution in the Blackstone valley begins in Woonsocket RI. It was the Blackstone River that initially invited the earliest settlers.

The water was convenient for watering their livestock and crops. The soil of the Blackstone River valley was fertile. However Woonsocket is not known for its agriculture but for its mills and manufacturing. Richard Arnold and Samuel Comstock were the first to harness the power of the Blackstone river when they Built a saw mill on what is presently Woonsocket in 1666 (Wessel 212). The growth of Woonsocket continued slowly.

It was not until 1712 that the power of the Blackstone was again harnessed and put to work by a corn and fulling mill (Wessel 212). At this point the development began. The erection of a Quaker meeting house, a tavern, an iron mill and the first bridge over the Blackstone within the next decade were testimony to the growth of Woonsocket. Woonsocket’s growth was inevitable due to the power of the Blackstone river, but also because of its location on the turnpike from Providence to Worcester, and the road from Boston to Connecticut (Wessel 213). Shortly after 1820 the Quakers erected a free school called the Smithfield Academy (Wessel 213).

The next signs of progress were the erection of a public library in 1800, and Woonsocket’s first bank in 1805 (Wessel 214). The transition of Wo …