The Village of Saint-Antoine numbers some 1770 inhabitants, of which 84% are French-speaking. The municipality is situated 34 km north of Moncton. It is located in the Mi’kmaq Historical Territory, specifically in the Sigenigteoag District, which includes the present east coast of New Brunswick, to the Bay of Fundy. The village is named in honour of Anthony the Great.
In 1825, Saint-Antoine was partially affected by the Miramichi Great Fires, which devastated between 10,000 km2 and 20,000 km2 in the central and northeastern parts of the province and killed more than 280 people.
Saint-Antoine was founded in 1832 by Acadians and at the time was named Higho or Higho de Cocagne. The historical site of the Higho of Cocagne Institutional Centre is designated as a local heritage site for its value and link with regards to the centre of the first establishments in the Higho of Cocagne, being the two first churches, the first school as well as Robichaud Road which was the main road. The first masses were celebrated in the house of Joseph Goguen.
In the spring of 1832, the three sisters, Marguerite, Barbe and Geneviève, took possession of the first three pieces of land in Saint-Antoine. Because of the land’s elevation and its proximity to Cocagne, the new place was baptized the Higho of Cocagne. It is on the site of this newly cleared land that the first establishments of the Village of St-Antoine were erected.
Built in 1838, the first chapel stood on the site of the second church, along Robichaud Road, and which today is a New Brunswick Trail. The second church was a place of worship between 1859 and 1923, and the first school welcomed students between 1876 and 1918, before being moved near the new village centre.
In 1873, the parish was given the name Saint-Antoine-l’Ermite. The municipality was incorporated as the Village of Saint-Antoine in 1966.
In 2010, the municipality decided to ensure that the memory of the first inhabitants of Saint-Antoine remains strongly alive. The Pioneer’s monument was erected on the former location of the Village’s first cemetery. As there were no gravestones present, the monument was inscribed with the names of all those buried at this site. the Pioneer’s Monument is located at de l’Église Street.
Constructed in 2011, the Veteran’s monument is a reminder of our debt to the men and women who fought in numerous conflicts to provide the freedom we often take for granted. The monument is located on Jeanne d’Arc St, behind the Church.
Saint-Antoine was the birthplace of Louis J. Robichaud who became the 24th Premier of New Brunswick.
Louis J. Robichaud was the first Acadian to become Premier, and was in office from 1960 to 1970.
In 1972, he became senator, a position he held until 2000. He studied at the Sacred Heart University in Bathurst and was admitted to the New Brunswick branch of the Canadian Bar Association in 1958, before launching a career in politics.
The Church of Saint-Antoine-the-Hermit is designated as a local heritage site for its value with regards to the determination for a permanent religious aspect in the village, by building a large stone church in 1923. Since then, the Church of Saint-Antoine-the-Hermit remains the tallest and most dominant structure in the village.
In 1919, it was decided that a new church would be built to accommodate an increasing congregation. R. Fréchette, Architect, and Father Philippe Hébert of Notre-Dame, drew the plans for the largest stone church of that time. Under the direction of Father Allain, stones began being transported from the quarry in Notre-Dame, in 1920. No less than 1,500 loads of stones were needed to erect the Church in 1923. The structure measures 158 feet in length by 60 feet in width and it’s steeple stands 140 feet high.
The site of the Léger Bros Mills is designated as a local heritage site for its value with regards to the village’s first industrial centre, and as the place of birth of Rev. Mother Jeanne de Valois. Because of the various types of mills that stood on this particular site (sawmill, grain mill, shingle mill, wool mill), the Léger Bros Mills site recalls the site of the village’s first industrial centre. As seen by the topography of the nearby towns (Renaud’s Mill, McKee’s Mill), the mill industry contributed strongly to the region’s industrial and economical development. The Léger Bros Mills, in Saint-Antoine were the continuation of a real family tradition. A mill in Renaud’s Mill, owned by the brothers Michel and Magloire Léger and Auguste Renaud, the first francophone deputy for New Brunswick to sit in the House of Commons, following the 1867 federal elections, burnt down in 1870 for reasons that were said to be political. It was rebuilt, and then, later on, abandoned. Then, the brothers Laurent and Jean-Baptiste, sons of Michel the miller, built a mill in 1892, which was also the prey of flames in 1896. The brothers then settled in Saint-Antoine, during the same year, to restart their business. But once again, fires in 1906, 1930 and 1960 completely destroyed the mills, while other fires, in 1927, 1942 and 1944 destroyed them partially. The first boards that were cut at the mill were used to build the home of Laurent Léger and his family (which they still inhabit), among whom lived Bella Léger, known as Mother Jeanne de Valois, instigator of the Notre-Dame d’Acadie College, graduate from the Sorbonne and Superior General. As told by her, she was born in the closet of the first grain mill in the area, on May 15th, 1899, before the Léger family finally moved in the newly-built house, on the other side of the street, in 1900.
The Camille-Vautour Presbytery is designated as a local heritage site for its value as the residence of Reverend Camille Vautour, the first resident priest in Saint-Antoine, from 1940 to 1980, and a prominent figure in the village. In order to accommodate the first resident priest, the parishioners had a presbytery built, in 1941, next to the stone church.
Born in Shediac, in 1905, Father Camille Vautour was the first resident priest in Saint-Antoine, from 1940 to 1980. At the time of his retirement, he was celebrating 50 years of priesthood and his 75th birthday. Rich in biblical knowledge, a great event organizer, Rev. Vautour was always a devoted man. He left obvious traces in the village and in the surrounding areas. During an introduction to an historical piece on the parish, it is said of him that: “In brief, for the parishioners, then and now, Father Vautour is Saint-Antoine, and Saint-Antoine is Father Vautour”.
Village of Saint-Antoine
Dictionary of Canadian Biography
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