Canada Road

  1. Location and Background
  2. History
  3. Migrations and Towns
  4. Traveler: Tom Plant
  5. Kids on the Canada Road
  6. Old Canada Road International Corridor
  7. Chaud-Bec Project

  1. History
As settlements in the Kennebec Valley moved northwards into Somerset County, above the town of Norridgewock, the Yankee pioneers found themselves closer to the urban markets of Quebec City than to those of Boston. In the early 19th century this capital of Lower Canada was a growing lumber and ship-building port, as well as a military and administrative centre. The city needed provisions. So, Yankee drovers took livestock north, through the woods, on a trail they built between the roads that lay alongside the Kennebec and Chaudière rivers. It became obvious that it was to almost everyone's advantage to "close the gap" between these two road systems. The Massachusetts government commissioned a survey of the drover's trail, in order to facilitate trade, but the War of 1812 interrupted construction of the route that the commissioners recommended.

As soon as the Treaty of Ghent allowed peace to resume in North America, the Lower Canadians sought to resume trade, although they were wary of United States' military motives. In 1815, the Chemin de la Chaudière along the north-east shore of the Chaudière River was extended to the fork of the DuLoup River and continued up the north-east shore of the DuLoup to the haute terre, just below the frontier. This 28 mile (45 kilometres) roadway was to be almost 18 feet (5.5 metres) wide, with stumps removed, and followed the earlier drover's trail.

In 1817, just as the District of Maine was in the process of separating from Massachusetts to form a new state, the legislature authorised construction of a "travelled path" to be made suitable for the passage of loaded carts, sleds, and other such conveyances. It was to largely follow the old cattle drover's trail, trees were to be removed by the roots to a width of almost 15 feet (4.6 metres) and felled to a width of 33 feet (10 metres), holes were to be filled, and brush cut out. Almost 25 miles (40 kilometres) in length, it ran from the north shore of Parlin Pond to the Canadian line. The next year Somerset County had the final 43 miles (70 kilometres) of road built between Concord and Parlin Pond along the west side of the Kennebec River.

The line House, a tavern on the Canada Road, on the border of Québec and Maine, in 1913.

(Zilla Holden Collection, Courtesy of Ruth Reed, Jackman, Maine)

By 1819, a traveller could pass between Maine and Lower Canada on something resembling a road. For the next decade it would be used primarily by Yankee drovers taking horses and cattle to market in Quebec City and by French-Canadian entrepreneurs taking fish to Lower Canada. Settlers were sparse. Moose meat provided a staple diet. Nonetheless, the few residents aspired for a carriage road at a time when wolves would surround their houses during hungry times and howl until dawn. By 1830, the dream of commercial profit finally drove government officials to up-grade the Canada Road into a carriageway that would accommodate drovers, entrepreneurs, government and military officials, labourers, courriers, gentlemen hikers, sailors, farmers, and their families. Infrastructures began to develop in response to the increase of traffic as post offices, inns, stage lines, and customs houses were established.

Canada Road Archeological Survey. George Pratt. At the Dutton Place Archeological Site, Concord, Maine. (Photo by Barry Rodrigue, Spring 1996). Ruth Reed and Elaine Moore, Jackman, Maine. Canada Road Historical Survey, 1997. (Photo from the University of Maine's Department of Public Affairs).

Sister Therese Pelletier, SCIM, Archivist, Diocese of Portland, Portland, Maine. Canada Road Historical Survey. (Photo by Barry Rodrigue, Autumn, 1998). Virginia Merrill, Solon, Maine. Canada Road Historical Survey. (Photo by Barry Rodrigue, Autumn, 1996).

Irene Foster, Moscow, Maine. Canada Road Historical Survey. (photo from the Moscow Town Report, Spring 1996).

Bob Hunnewell, c. 1992, Bingham, Maine. Canada Road Archeological Survey. (From the Town of Bingham, Annual Report, 1992, p. 1).
Harry Melcher and Barry Rodrigue, West Forks, Maine. Canada Road Oral History Survey. (Photo by the Department of Public Affairs, University of Maine, 1998).
Gary Cobb (left) and hunters, November 1997, Carrying Place, Maine. Canada Road Archeological Survey. (Photo by Barry Rodrigue).