January 1787. Louis Mercure and 16 other settlers receive from the Government of New Brunswick a license of occupation for land in an isolated and almost pristine area in the upper St. John River valley. In the hope of finding a permanent refuge, these Acadians settled there in the summer of 1785, after the massive arrival of English Loyalists in their village of Sainte-Anne-des-Pays-Bas (Fredericton). In 1794, there were 74 families with property deeds forming the core of the Acadian presence in Madawaska.
A colony established before any official permission
Summer 1787. George Sproule, Surveyor General of New Brunswick, draws a map of the territory located along the St. John River between Grand Falls and the St. Lawrence River. Sproule’s objectives are not clearly known, but the matter of the border between Canada (Quebec) and New Brunswick were part of Fredericton’s concerns. His mapping of Madawaska and Témiscouata provides interesting details on Native place names, portages, and the location of the "Indian" village and of the Acadian settlements on both sides of the St. John River.
While waiting for duly signed property deeds…
Written on January 9, 1787, and registered at the office of the Surveyor General of New Brunswick on January 12, 1787, the License of Occupation granted to Louis Mercure and a group of 16 Acadians constitutes the first official document concerning the assignment of land in Madawaska. It gives the group permission to “occupy and improve” lots situated on both sides of the St. John River until a survey plan was prepared and a land grant made official, which was done in 1790.
The first citizens of Madawaska ask for the establishment of a county
Louis Mercure, Pierre Duperré, and Thomas Castin were part of the first group of Acadians to settle in Madawaska. In a request dated July 16, 1789, detailing the rapid development of the new community, they asked that a judge and a militia captain be appointed as soon as possible. Emphasizing the remoteness of the colony, they explained the need for a General Assembly (county council) in the Madawaska region, which will not happen until 1873.
Land grants that avoid encroaching on Quebec, but not on Maine
The large land grant of 1790 to Joseph Mazerolle and 48 other settlers distributed lots on both sides of the St. John River. It is interesting to note the comment on the map indicating that “New Brunswick has no jurisdiction here”, i.e., over the land north of that of Simon Ebere (Hébert), where the City of Edmundston is located today. The 1794 land grant to Joseph Souci Jr. and 23 other settlers was also located on both sides of the St. John River.