Welcome to Lewiston sign

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Our Lewiston Ancestors Have A Long History & Unique Heritage

By 1870, the population of Lewiston had nearly doubled over the previous 10 years to 13,600.  Of this number, only a few hundred were French Canadians.  In 1871, there were two-thousand and by 1875, three-thousand.  By 1908, a census of the French population showed nearly 100,000 French speaking citizens were in Maine.  14,821 of them were in Androscoggin County and the greater majority of them, in Lewiston (11,000) and Auburn (3,000).  The total population of Lewiston in 1908 was 26,000 with more than 50 percent of them, French-Canadian.  So many of our ancestors had immigrated that by 1914, the new mayor was a French speaking resident, Charles Lemaire.

With the heritage of our (fairly recent) ancestors shaped by centuries within North America, the impact and the role our, very northern, kinfolk played would become enormous.

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The Franco-Americans of Lewiston and Auburn, the Twin Cities on the Androscoggin River in western-central Maine, were able to maintain that distinctive heritage over serveral generations, thanks to their proximity to Canada, there dense concentration in the region and their sheer tenacity. 

Franco-Americans remain the largest ethnic group in Maine (at least 20 percent of the total population). People of Franco-American ancestry compose about 60 percent of the population in Lewiston and over 30 percent of that of Auburn.

The history of the Franco-Americans of Lewiston-Auburn represents in many ways the essence of the Franco-American experience.  It is the fascinating story of a resilient people with a rich cultural identity.
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Quoted from:  "The Franco-Americans of Lewiston-Auburn" by Mary Rice-DeFosse & James Myall
(read more)
Made up Newspaper story
NOTE: Fake News - but alas, still the truth!
(click to open)
The Franco-Americans of Lewiston-Auburn
By Mary Rice-DeFosse & James Myall
From Arcadia Publishing - "Franco-Americans grappled with their own questions of patriotism, identity and culture, assimilating as Americans while preserving both their French and French Canadian backgrounds.

Authors Mary Rice-DeFosse and James Myall explore the challenges, accomplishments and enduring bonds of the Franco-Americans in Lewiston-Auburn."
There are not too many links on this site that I actually endorse BUT ... THIS LINK for THIS BOOK is one that I highly recommend if you are at all interested in the French Canadian heritage of Lewiston and Auburn.  It is well written and very informative with not only historical events and places with the twin cities but stories about some of our Lachance relatives as well.  A page is devoted to François Lachance, also known as "Frank The Pipe" and another to Maurice Lachance, also known as "Lefty Lachance", one of Lewiston's famous boxing champs.
The book is available from Amazon.com OR directly from the publisher, "Arcadia Publishing and The History Press".  Click on the book to go to Amazon or the link to Arcadia Publishing for more information.
Our Journey Begins with The Grand Trunk Railroad
The railroad was important to our ancestors ... and, in its early beginnings as the Canadian National Railway and the Grand Trunk Railroad, a line from Montréal to Portland was built. Many of our ancestors used this route to find their way to Lewiston. 

A five mile spur connected the Lincoln Street Station to the main line. It began operations in 1874 and the last train arrived in 1956.
The Grand Trunk Railway of Canada was proposed in 1851 as the main trunk line through the United Province of Canada. It was formally incorporated in 1852 to build a railway from Toronto to Montreal.  The railway wanted access to Portland, Maine, which was a seaport that could be used all year long. ( the port of Montreal closed each winter) It was officially opened between Sarnia, Ontario, and Portland, Maine, on November 21, 1859.
This route connected Montreal to Portland through towns like Richmond, (Canada); Island Pond, (Vermont); Berlin, (New Hampshire); and South Paris, (Maine). The Grand Trunk was built when large-scale industry began to be developed in southern Maine. Demand for shoes and clothes during the Civil War, at a time when Maine's population was lowered by war enlistements and out-migration, led to a demand for more workers. Many of those workers came from Canada.  It was this Railway that brought our ancestors along a spur line to Lewiston, where they quickly found work in the mills and developed into one of the largest centers of French-Canadian culture in Maine.
Grand Trunk Railway Logo
Photo - Old Grand Trunk Station from the left
Photo - Old Grand Trunk Station - Lincoln Street Side
Photo - Old Grand Trunk Station from the right
I snapped these photos of the Grand Trunk, Lewiston (Lincoln Street) Station in 2001.  The building, most recently, became a restaurant known as "Rails".   I ate at the restaurant on one of my visits and was not overwhelmed nor was I displeased.  It was announced on August 10, 2018, that it would permanently close.  I hope someone can revive and make a success out of this restaurant! Taken from the Sun Journal Newspaper - Lewiston, ME
Owner: Lewiston's Rails restaurant to close
By Mark LaFlamme, Staff Writer - August 10, 2018
"LEWISTON - Six months after reopening to the delight of its fans, Rails restaurant is closing, effective Friday night."
Grand Trunk #2172 - in Portland in June 1912
To compete with the Canadian Pacific Railway in western Canada, the GTR formed a subsidiary company in 1914, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway . This railway had heavy financial losses and was largely responsible for the bankruptcy of the GTR in 1919. The Federal Government took over the railway that year, placing it under the management of the Canadian National Railways in 1923.
This is a photo of GTR # 2172 and this is the engine most likely used during the time THIS Lachance family made the trip through Island Pond, Vermont.
Grand Trunk Engine 2172 in 1912
Photo from Google Sites - Central Vermont Rwy Locomotives
July 15, 1853
The Grand Trunk Railway is formed by the consolidation of the following companies:
Grand Trunk Railway of Canada
Grand Junction Railway
Grand Trunk Railway of Canada East
St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway
Toronto and Guelph Railway
The Grand Trunk acquired a line between Montreal and the Canada-United States border, then leased the line from the border to Portland from the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad.
Heritage Franco American - Monument
This monument, erected to our Franco-American ancestors, was originally installed (and I took the picture) at what was then Heritage Park, located on the corner of Main and Lincoln Streets. 
Today it is the Veterans Memorial Park with much credit for the parks success given to Bert Dutil  (a veteran of the Korean Conflict) of Lewiston.
LEFT PANEL - click to enlarge
Left Panel - Franco Heritage Monument - French
Entre les années 1860 des 1930 milliers de Canadians Français sont venus des fermes et villages du Québec pour la pluspart par chemin de fer, s'installer dans la region de Lewiston ils y ont apporte ler langue, leur foi catholique, leurs traditions culturelle, et leur ardeur au travail. A leur héritage despérance et d'optimisme leurs descendants dédient ce monument.
Franco Heritage Monument
The monument, originally erected in conjunction with the Festival de Joie, was moved in 2006 (the last year of the festival AND that I had the good fortune to attend) from the park which was renamed Veteran’s Memorial Park.  After 3-years of storage at Collette Memorials in Lewiston, the monument was moved to the entry of the Gendron Franco Center.  Once again, I believe we need to give credit to Bert Dutil for suggesting this in the first place.  And oh YES, Bert is a cousin, specifically, my 7th cousin.
Je me souviens
RIGHT PANEL - click to enlarge
Right Panel - Franco Heritage Monument - English
Between 1860 and 1930 thousands of French Canadians came to the Lewiston Area most by railroad from farms and villages of Quebec. They brought with them their language, catholic religion, cultural traditions and a strong work ethic and transplanted those values here. This monument is dedicated by their descendants to the spirit of faith and optimism which they left to us.
Lewiston - A Never Ending Story
This page COULD go on for what seems like FOREVER!  There are so many things that I can say or write about Lewiston.  And, I'm sure there are a lot of things others can say about this area too!  I am also certain that there exists both good and bad here, just like anyplace else but...  Lewiston was the home of my father and, through immigration, by his father before him.  The city represents a flood  of childhood memories and a stream more as an adult (during my infrequent visits).  The City continues to change, just as everything changes, but Lewiston is a part of the very fabric of my life and so it goes.  This is the reason for so much about Lewiston, Maine. 
Andy and Jeanne Lachance of Lewiston, ME
Photo by Larry Lachance
May 2004 - Lewiston, ME
click to open
With that said, the ONLY family in Lewiston I haven't mentioned or written about are the Lachances.  We all know there are a good number of Lachances in the Lewiston / Auburn / Brunswick / (oh hell, let's just call it Maine) area.  While many are distant 5th or 6th cousins, there is one family that IS close (by relationship).  At some point in the future, I will get pages up on THIS Lachance family (meaning the descendants of my 2X great-grandparents).  In the meantime, I find myself bewildered by the fact that my great-grandfather had a brother with a family in the same town at the same time and yet the two families, it seems, led separate lives and I have to assume they didn't even talk each other.  My own grandfather never mentioned cousins in town!  And my dad, he never said anything either!  What's up with that!?  Then again, this seems to be par for the course.
ANDY and JEANNE LACHANCE
In 2004, almost 100 years after my great-grandparents set foot in Lewiston, I finally had a chance to meet the relatives I didn't even know I had.  Here is Andy Lachance with his wife Jeanne (Laroche) Lachance at the front of their home in Lewiston.  I was, to say the least, ecstatic to meet them.  Now, some almost 15 years later, I can tell you that they make for one really great couple.  When we first met, I think we knew we were closely related immediately... just from talking.

Andy introduced me to another cousin, Muriel who married Gaston Vachon.  Yet again, I'm so happy to know I have such good people in my family!

I don't get to Maine very often but at least I know parts of my family and we do, at least, stay in touch albeit not nearly enough.
THE RELATIONSHIP EXPLAINED
Andy and Larry share  close common ancestors;  Joseph Lachance and his wife Marie-Zoé Beaudoin. This couple had 15 children. As you already know, two brothers, Joseph and Théophile, headed off to Lewiston and decided to stay.  Ludger, a third brother also went to Lewiston but for reasons unknown, returned to Québec, settling in the Stanstead area.  Both Joseph and Théophile made their lives and raised their families in Lewiston.

Joseph, the husband of Marie-Zoé  Beaudoin is the 2X-great-grandfather of Larry Lachance and the great-grandfather of Andy Lachance.  And so, wherever you go, there you are!
Follow the rest of the Lachance and Lewiston pages using the menu at the top or by clicking on the links HERE
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