It is believed that “Madawaska” was derived from a Maliseet word, which literally means “River Junction.” French Acadians settled here in 1785 after being forced to flee Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island because they would not pledge allegiance to the British Crown. A 14-foot white marble cross on the banks of the St. John River marks the landing site of the first Acadian settlers in Madawaska.
The adjacent Tante Blanche Museum, named for a Madawaska woman whose legendary acts of kindness helped the community survive a 1797 famine, preserves the history and heritage of the settlers. Today, the town possesses a thriving potato industry, and local children are excused from school during harvest time to help with the work. The lights of Edmundston, New Brunswick can be seen across the river. The majority of Madawaska’s residents are of Acadian descent, and French is still spoken here—with a little Quebecois and English thrown into the mix. This unique blend of languages is termed “Valley French.”