When we traveled down the western coast of the U.S. we
went down the very beautiful Highway 101 which followed the
western coastline. On the east coast there is a similar road and
it is U.S. One. On this particular day we decided that we would
go to the beginning of U.S. 1, which was Ft. Kent, Maine. Doing
so, we started southward intending to turn off once we got across
from our Rv park in Medway, Maine. Our ultimate goal was to reach
the end of U.S. 1 in Florida (with a few diversions, of course).
After we left Ft. Kent, Maine, we drove through a small town
called Van Buren, Maine, and saw a sign indicating the presence
of an Acadian Village. Since we knew something about the Acadians
due to a prior visit to Louisiana we decided to stop and see what
they had to offer.
Since it was a Sunday, the lady who was in charge was not there. However, when we explained that we were there intending to do a story on the village for our internet page, one of the ladies in the gift shop called Anne Roy at home and she graciously offered to come in. Anne Roy was a real delight. A lot of the buildings in the village were places that had been used or occupied by relatives of her or her husband. It is always nice to visit places where the people actually have a feeling for the past. This was certainly evident when talking with Mrs. Roy. She told us that the Acadian Village was built by the Heritage Vivant, the Living Heritage Society of Van Buren. The buildings that were there were moved one by one onto the land which had been donated by Mrs. & Mrs. Charles Ayotte of Van Buren-Keegan. The first building was moved onto the site in February of 1975 and the Village opened July 1, 1976. They have since moved 12 additional buildings in, giving them a total of 14 buildings including the gift shop/admission building. Since being registered in the National Register of Historic Places in Washington D.C. the Acadian Village has the distinction of being one of the largest historical sites in Maine.
Just a little background on the Acadians: the Acadians were people from France who settled in Acadia, now known as Nova Scotia, in the 16th-17th century. In 1755 they were deported by the English Government to many points throughout North America and Canada. The Acadians who settled in the St. John Valley were chased off by the Loyalists one more, and they then made their way up the St. John River and came to settle in St. David in 1785. This is a little town just north of Van Buren. If you would like to read more about the tragedies that the Acadians suffered read the poem "Evangeline" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Mrs. Roy walked through most of the village with us and pointed out things that were donated by people that she knew and explaining the use of some of the things that were in the buildings.
Some of the buildings we visited were: The Roy House; this was a simple log cabin that illustrated the living conditions of a simple farmer in the 1790's. In looking at places like these they often remind me of how prosperous our own times really are. It was hard to imagine a wife/mother taking care of a family in a house with a dirt floor. The really great part of the museum was it "touchability factor". In that I mean the fact that you could touch things. I think this is especially important for children who are so curious about everything and want to "braille" the world.
Another building that especially impressed me was Our Lady of Assumption Chapel. This Chapel, we learned, was named after the Acadian Patron Saint. It was built by the Van Buren Chapter of The Knights of Columbus. The inside of the chapel was very well preserved and included many of the vestments used by the parish priests throughout the years. I think the fact that most of these articles were handmade by the ladies of the parish made them even more special.
Of course another favorite was the Barber Shop & General Store. They had the usual items found in a barber shop as well as some items found in a beauty parlor. The telephone collection was particularly of interest to me, since I spent a great deal of my adult life as a 911 phone operator. I found a couple of lovely hats in the general store. Just a bit out of date, eh?
Then we went into the shoe shop. We sometimes take for granted the ability to walk into a store today and get a pair of "ready-made" shoes. It was difficult to imagine what it must have been like to go into a shop, be fitted and have to wait for days or weeks to get the finished product.
I could go into more detail about the buildings and their contents, but I think I'll take a clue from the Maine website that describes the Acadian Village and leave the rest for you to explore personally. Want to find out more? Drop in on the Maine website at: http://www.connectmaine.com/acadianvillage/index.html. The website is excellent and will not only give you information on the Acadian Village but anything you could want to know about Maine and "were afraid to ask".
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