During the middle 1800’s, Catholic settlers along the Fish River chain of lakes had to travel by canoe to Edmunston, N.B. to fulfill their Easter duties. They were forced to carry supplies for several days as traveling with and against the rivers’ currents was both difficult and unpredictable.
The situation improved, though slightly, with the construction of the “Aroostook Road”, also called “Le Chemin d’Aroostook,” in 1839. It was built initially from Houlton to Fort Kent in preparation for a boundary dispute with Canada. The road was barely passable by horse and buggy.
Acadians and Canadians were at this time beginning to settle in this remote area of the country. From 1840 to 1900 there were no forms of industry. Settlers came either to establish farms or to cut lumber for ship building. Missionary priests began to visit homes in the various settlements.
The arrival of the railroad in 1901 and the Fish River Lumber Company owned by Burligh and Cushing of Augusta in 1903, more people settled in Eagle Lake.
On December 31 of 1902, we find the first Eagle Lake Mission recording of 132 families. Records from 1904 find Eagle Lake still a part of the Wallagrass parish and records 226 families. In Father Marcoux’s Journal we find that Eagle Lake has one land of 80 acres of which 10 are cleared. The schools have one woodland of 84 acres, which “will last forever.”
In the spring of 1905 Rev. Joseph Marcoux, pastor of Wallagrass but also in charge of Eagle Lake and other districts, began the construction of a hospital. He felt this was necessary to care for lumber and mill accidents. With the permission of Bishop Louis Walsh, he began to erect a 40 by 50 foot building on land donated by George Michaud. Members of the Michaud family have told me that in exchange they were to get medical treatment free of charge. The building was 50 feet high and was to contain three stories plus a basement. Father Marcoux depended entirely on the help and charity of his devoted parishioners and friends. The building was partially finished by December of the same year.
At this time, Father Marcoux called for nurses from the Little Franciscans of Mary at Baie St. Paul. Four sisters, under the direction of Sister Marie Agnes d’Assise, left to take charge of the little general hospital.
Upon their arrive the sisters found the building half completed and with no furniture or equipment. Father Marcoux gain appealed to his parishioners who came in large numbers to prepare the building. After soliciting enough money from the town’s people to buy essentials, they were able to take on a few patients. Thus the hospital began operation and was to continue until May 20, 1966, when the Franciscan sisters left. The Northern Main General Hospital, Inc. ceased to provide hospital care. A subdivision of the corporation became known as the Northern Maine Security Home. Nurses operated the facility until the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy from Portland, Maine on January 20, 1968.
Father Marcoux was given the assignment of beginning a church in Eagle Lake in 1906. The land was deeded to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland by Joseph Gagnon and his wife Zebe, with a warranty for $100.00. The deed was dated April 28, 1903. This same parcel of land had been conveyed to the Gagnons through G.H. Eaton on June 29, 1893. The land had been surveyed by J.M Brown in 1887.
July 28, 1907 marked the first confirmation, though the inside of the church was not completed. The confirmation was performed by Bishop Louis Walsh.
In September of 1907, Eagle Lake became a parish by itself with Father Marcoux as pastor. There were 278 families living in this parish.
By 1908, a church has been built. The lumber was, for the most part, a gift of the mills. Though some skilled labor was employed, much of the labor was done by farmers and other towns people. $653.00 was used for furniture. 410 families were living in this parish.
The altar, confessionals, and vestments were purchased in 1909, costing $1,290.00. According to Father Marcoux’s Journal, the foundation of a rectory was dug out and “building materials are on the spot.”
On July 25, 1909, the church bell was blessed by Bishop Louis Walsh in the name of Marie Joseph Louis. It seems highly likely that the name chosen was to honor the parish name, that of Father Marcoux, and that of Bishop Louis Walsh.
On August 31, 1910, Bishop Louis Walsh blessed St. Mary’s Church. He was accompanied by the Fathers Harrington and Camul.
In 1912 a section of land 100 feet by 100 feet was donated by Joseph A. Michaud for a school lot. By 1916 “L’Ecole du Village” was under the direction of the Little Franciscans of Mary. 1918 found St. Mary’s School built. It was three stories tall and had eight classrooms.
Father Marcoux was considered to be practically a saint by those who knew him or heard of his many deeds. He is reputed to have performed many miracles. His visits throughout the lumber camps have become almost a legend. It is frequently told that he refused to sleep in the bunks, which at this time were lice infested. He chose to sleep on the kitchen table instead, as he felt that was a safer place.
Father Marcoux is recalled as never having money in his pockets and being poorly dressed. He trusted in God to fulfill his needs. He was a born leader, fearful of nothing. He was very set in his ways, and was devoted to the welfare and needs of his parishioners. People loved the priest and respected him despite his quick temper. He was most relaxed with the lumberman and spent many hours with them at their work. It was his custom to hear confessions and say Mass in the lumber camps.
Money was raised to help in the various building projects and bazaars and dances. Much of the building was done through frolics with men, women, and children participating. Father Marcoux also used “des warrant” which were pledges in which the people would promise set amounts for donations.
An epidemic of Spanish Influenza hit this community in 1918. From early October to late November, over forty deaths are recorded. “Some died in the woods and some on the roads.” Since the hospital was not large enough to accommodate all the sick people, beds were installed in St. Mary’s School.
October 30, 1918 was a sad day for the people throughout this area. Father Marcoux, at the age of sixty-eight, died of Spanish Influenza in the Eagle Lake Hospital. He was buried October 31, 1918. Father Marcoux is credited with building a church, rectory, school, and a convent in Wallagrass. In Eagle Lake, he is credited with the building of a church, rectory, school and hospital. He is also recognized for having build a church at Frenchville and another at Portage Lake.
On September 15, 1971 the cornerstone was blessed and laid by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Edward C. O'Leary, Auxiliary Bishop of Portland. On April 24, 1972, the keys to the new church were presented to the parishioners of St. Mary's. On Friday, May 19, 972, the old St. Mary's Church in Eagle Lake was brought down to make room for a parking lot for the new edifice to be blessed on June 5.
Our serving pastors:
- Reverend Louis M. Nonorgues: September 17, 1918 to October 25, 1921
- Reverend Vital Nonorgues: October 1921 to October 15, 1923
- Reverend Vincent Bardin: October 1923 to April 15, 1933
- Reverend Antoine Thibeault: April 1933 to September 1953
- Reverend Charles E. Rivard: September 1953 to September of 1954
- Reverend Antonio Blaise: September 3, 1954 to September 1957
- Reverend Alphee Marquis: September 5, 1957 to March 1959
- Reverend Eugene Bettez: March 6, 1959 to September 1963
- Reverend Laurent O. Patenaude: September 14, 1963 to September 1967
- Reverend Paul U. Pare: September 8, 1967 to February 1971
- Reverend Royal J. Parent: February 14, 1971 to ?
Taken from "Looking to the Future"