July 29, 2005
The 163rd anniversary celebration of the signing of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty at the site of the Fort Kent Blockhouse and at the University of Maine at Fort Kent August 6, will bring together officials from two countries and three regional historic and cultural preservation organizations.
Representatives from Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec will gather for the commemorative event coordinated in partnership by the Maine Acadian Heritage Council, UMFK, and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, caretakers of the Fort Kent historic site.
Officials attending the celebration include Patrick McGowan, commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation, Maine lawmakers John Martin, Troy Jackson and Ross Paradis, as well as, Gerard Alain, mayor of Edmundston, New Brunswick, Ludger Lang, mayor of Clair, New Brunswick, and St. John Valley town managers Don Guimond of Fort Kent and Fred Ventresco of Madawaska. They will join the nearly 80 confirmed guests set to participate in the event.
Festivities will begin with a social gathering featuring traditional music and guided blockhouse tours at 4:00 p.m. that will be open to the public. A gala Acadian dinner at 5:30 p.m. will be served at the University of Maine at Fort Kent for invited guests and individuals purchasing tickets in advance.
In recent years, similar commemorative celebrations have been held in alternating years at Fort P'tit-Sault in Edmundston, New Brunswick and at Fort Ingall in Cabano, Quebec. Both installations, along with Fort Kent, were constructed to defend their respective regions during the "Bloodless Aroostook War".
The Fort Kent Blockhouse was constructed in the final months of 1839. After the war, it was abandoned until a family bought it in 1858 to use as a private home. After they moved out, it was bought by the state in 1891, making it the first state-owned historic fort.
Fort P'tit-Sault was originally built in Edmundston in 1841 at the height of the border conflict. After the war, the blockhouse remained unoccupied until it was struck by lightning and destroyed on July 12, 1855.
One hundred and forty five years later, in July 2000, the Historical Society of Madawaska, New Brunswick began the project to rebuild an exact replica of the blockhouse on its original site at the confluence of the St. John and Madawaska Rivers.
Fort Ingall in Cabano, Quebec, was reconstructed following extensive archaeological excavations of the site of the British fortress constructed in 1839. Enclosed within an impressive wooden palisade, the fort is comprised of seven buildings which house various exhibits presenting the geopolitical situation of the time period, as describing the day-to-day life of soldiers in the fortress.
The three forts and the three regions, The St. John Valley in Northern Maine, Northwestern New Brunswick, and the Temiscouata region of Quebec are geographically linked by the St. John River.
Sponsors of the 163rd anniversary celebration include the Maine Acadian Heritage Council, Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, University of Maine at Fort Kent, Daigle and Houghton, Irving Woodlands, and ACA Insurance.