Edmundston is a major hub for regional business and services. It is the most densely populated city in the area. When the land was first being settled, Edmundston was called Petit-Sault. At one time, the P’tit-Sault blockhouse, located at the junction of the Saint John and Madawaska rivers, protected the territory from its enemies.
The area was at the centre of the Aroostook War, a skirmish over boundary lines between the U.S.A. and what was then British North America. Originally confined to a disagreement between the State of Maine and the Colony of New Brunswick, the dispute eventually spread to involve the Government of the United States in Washington, D.C. and the British Colonial Administration in Quebec City, seat of the Governor General of Canada, who had supreme authority over all of British North America, including New Brunswick.
In the wake of this international conflict, a small fortification (Fortin du Petit-Sault) was built in anticipation of a possible attack by the Americans, to complement the much larger fortification located at Fort Ingall (now Cabano) in nearby Canada (now Quebec).
One of the central figures at the origin of the conflict was American-born industrialist “Colonel” John Baker, who had established sawmills and other lumber-related industries on the eastern shores of the Saint John river, an area claimed by the British that Baker wanted to be declared part of Maine as he was a fiercely nationalist American.
When the terms of the treaty that was signed following the conflict left Baker’s properties firmly planted on British soil, and with the lack of support from the US Government to oppose the decision, Baker was facing the dilemma of either moving his facilities across the river on the American side, or to accept British sovereignty. Unwilling to do either, he declared the area an independent state called the “Republic of Madawaska,” declaring himself head of state with the overwhelming support of the local, mostly French-speaking but independent-minded population. The “Republic” was never recognized and never had legal existence, but nevertheless the concept has remained so popular with the francophone Brayon residents on both the Canadian and American sides of the border that they refer to the region as the Republic of Madawaska to this day, and each mayor of Edmundston still receives the title of “President of the Republic of Madawaska.”