The history of Maillardville dates back to September 28, 1909, when a group of 110 French Canadians from Rockland, Ontario, and Hull and Sherbrooke, Quebec travelled via railroad to Coquitlam to work for Fraser Mills. The mill workers were enticed to come by Fraser Mills’ owners with the promise of “access to land for their families to settle, wood for building a house and the freedom to preserve their language.” More mill workers would arrive the following year and Maillardville quickly became a blossoming community. The name Festival du Bois (festival of wood) pays tribute to the legacy of the early French Canadians who settled in Maillardville and we are pleased to present these videos that touch on our rich history.
Founded in 1909 to meet labor needs in the lumber industry, Maillardville quickly became the largest French-speaking community west of Saint-Boniface. It was because the colonists were invited to take their families and their culture there. Historian Maurice Guibord explains to Jacques Beauchamp why Francophones were an advantageous labor force for forestry at the start of the 20th century.
“We acknowledge that Festival du Bois is taking place on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) First Nation. We thank the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm who continue to live on these lands and care for them, along with the waters and all that is above and below.”
Crankie History of Maillardville
These charming crankie videos tell the story of the early French-speaking pioneers who arrived in 1909 to work in the mills and in the process created Maillardville, a legacy that lives on today. Created by Sue Truman with music and French voice-over by Gabriel Dubreuil and English voice-over by Raquel Schmutter.
Joseph Allard 1929
This crankie video pay tribute to Joseph Allard. The son of a violoneux, he began fiddling at nine. He began recording for Victor's Bluebird label in 1928 and over the next 18 years made 75 78s. Allard's repertoire comprised many hundred folk melodies and about 60 of his own pieces. Allard's music has been played and recorded by many French-Canadian folk instrumentalists, and his style has been learned by fiddlers elsewhere in Canada, among them Graham Townsend. Allard was the most important violoneux of the early 20th century and has attained legendary status. Yet the popularity of his recordings and the extent of his influence during his later years notwithstanding, he lived in relative obscurity, working for most of his life as a fisherman.
Pioneers of Maillardville
This short video by Gabriel Dubreuil pays tributes to the pioneers of Maillardville.
Barn Quilt Trails
This is a crankie by Sue Truman (crankiefactory.com) about barn quilt trails, a tradition of painting quilt squares on the sides of barns and following a trail to tour them. The crankie box is a replica of the barn at Millersylvania State Park in Washington. We shot this during a rare Seattle snowstorm at dawn. The music is "1st of November," a waltz written and performed by Doug Plummer, who also did the videography, and is Sue's next door neighbour.
Festival du Bois Retrospective 2009 – 2019
Enjoy this video retrospective of Festival du Bois from 2009 to 2019.
HISTORY OF MAILLARDVILLE
WHERE EVERYTHING STARTED
The first French Canadians who settled in what was to become Maillardville crossed Canada all the way from Rockland, Ontario, as well as Hull and Sherbrooke in Quebec. It was the know-how of the French Canadians in the forest industry along with their powerful work ethic that incited Fraser Mills – which was to become the largest saw mill operation in the British Empire – to recruit manpower all the way from Eastern Canada for their logging operations in B.C.
For a Quebecer in those days, the offer was very attractive: a steady job, daily wages of $2.50 for a 10-hour workday, 6 days a week. In addition, they were promised access to land for their families to settle, wood for building a house and the freedom to preserve their language. They were even told they could leave their umbrellas behind in Quebec; the weather was so fine in their new homeland!
The first contingent of approximately 100 adventurers arrived at the Fraser Mills Station on September 26th, 1909, on a train called the “Honeymoon Special” because so many couples got married the night before they left. The group of pioneers was quick to learn what a hard lifestyle awaited them, where everything needed to be built from scratch, but they must have seen the good side too, since very few of them returned East. On the contrary, the newcomers encouraged their distant families to come out to join them.
A FAITH TO GUIDE THEM
Religion held a very important place in the hearts of the pioneers. The management at Fraser Mills understood this and they offered the settlers the site and the materials needed to build a Catholic Church. By 1910, thanks to everyone’s efforts, the parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes were able to celebrate Christmas mass in the church they had erected on Laval Square.
The first priest, R.P. Edmond Maillard o.m.i., a young priest from France who stayed with the pioneers for two years, left an indelible trace: the community was baptised in his honour in 1912.
MAILLARDVILLE: A BLOSSOMING COMMUNITY
Community services were organized quickly with whatever means the pioneers had at their disposal on their arrival. No time was lost in setting up a Catholic francophone school. The first Chief of Police, Mr. Emery Paré, established his office at home with two prison cells built behind the house. A fire fighters brigade was also formed, and the church bells served to sound the alarm in case of fire.
Stores started opening on Pitt River Road (later renamed Brunette Avenue), including the Proulx general store (which housed the Maillardville post office), the Thrift butcher shop, Grevelyn the shoemaker, the billiard hall, as well as the Tremblay community hall.
And of course, an active social life also evolved very quickly in Maillardville. Community organizations were a great source of support for people dealing with difficult challenges and a helpful way for them to preserve their language and cultural traditions. A band was started, bingo nights were organized, and various hockey and baseball teams played in friendly competitions. Each year, the Booth farm hosted the Maillardville annual family picnic and sports day, an event that everyone in the community looked forward to.
Later, the community established several associations: in 1957, the Maillardville francophone Scouts association was started in the Maillard Foyer, in 1969 a centre for the elderly and in 1973, a choir group called «les Échos du Pacifique».
Throughout its evolution, Maillardville weathered many storms. Fortunately, the solidarity that holds the community together helps them rise above difficulties. More than once, the inhabitants have spoken in one voice to defend their rights, mostly with the strikes at Fraser Mills and the Catholic schools.
Working conditions at the mill were attractive enough to incite the pioneers to cross Canada in 1909, but the situation deteriorated to the point where, in 1931, exasperation with conditions pushed the workers to band together to become what was to be the precursor of the labour union movement in British Columbia.
The community organized to resist the pressures and to survive the economic difficulties that resulted from this strike. For example, the women and children set up a community kitchen. Fortunately, the conflict was resolved within a few months but a number of workers who were involved in the strike were let go and banished from the company
Twenty years later, Maillardville’s Catholic schools felt that they were the victims of injustices that caused them to go on strike on April 2nd, 1951. The Catholic School Board organized a demonstration with the 840 students, and the outcome was that they ultimately transferred the students over to the non-denominational public-school board. This polemical action caused a shock wave across Canada and all the way to London, where the BBC did a special report on the events in Maillardville.
The strike continued for over a year. The children remained in public school, except on days of religious education. Unfortunately, the action did not achieve any results in the short term. However, with sustained resistance on the issue of payment of property taxes, the battle carried out in Maillardville led to an exemption from future taxes for the Catholic schools not only in Maillardville but throughout the province.
OVER THE YEARS
In the course of its history, the community has changed. The streets still bear the proud names of pioneering families and important personalities and the buildings are still a reminder of the rich history of the community. The original pioneer settlement on unbroken land gradually gave way to a modern multicultural community that still works actively to ensure that the French language will continue to flourish. Fraser Mills has closed its doors and many of the original businesses and shops on Brunette Road have been replaced by new ones. Happily, one thing has not changed at all: Maillardville is still a tight-knit francophone community!
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