Home to around 1,770 residents, with 84% being French-speaking, the Village of Saint-Antoine is situated 34 km north of Moncton. Located in the Mi’kmaq Historical Territory, specifically the Sigenigteoag District, it encompasses the present east coast of New Brunswick up to the Bay of Fundy. The village is named in honor of Anthony the Great.
In 1825, Saint-Antoine was partially impacted by the Miramichi Great Fires, which destroyed between 10,000 and 20,000 km2 in central and northeastern parts of the province, claiming the lives of over 280 people.
Saint-Antoine was founded in 1832 by Acadians and was initially called Higho or Higho de Cocagne. The Higho of Cocagne Institutional Centre’s historical site is designated as a local heritage site due to its value and connection to the first establishments in the Higho of Cocagne, including the first two churches, the first school, and Robichaud Road as the main road. The first masses took place in Joseph Goguen‘s house.
In the spring of 1832, three sisters—Marguerite, Barbe, and Geneviève—took possession of the first three plots of land in Saint-Antoine. The area, known as the Higho of Cocagne due to its elevation and proximity to Cocagne, became the site for the first establishments in the Village of St-Antoine.
The first chapel, built in 1838, stood where the second church was later erected along Robichaud Road, which is now a New Brunswick Trail. The second church served as a place of worship between 1859 and 1923, while the first school operated from 1876 to 1918 before moving closer to the new village center.
In 1873, the parish was named Saint-Antoine-l’Ermite, and the municipality was incorporated as the Village of Saint-Antoine in 1966.
In 2010, the municipality erected the Pioneer’s Monument at the site of the first cemetery to preserve the memory of Saint-Antoine’s first inhabitants. Since no gravestones remained, the monument was inscribed with the names of all those buried at the site. The Pioneer’s Monument is located on de l’Église Street.
Built in 2011, the Veteran’s Monument on Jeanne d’Arc St, behind the Church, serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by men and women who fought in numerous conflicts to secure the freedom we often take for granted.
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, Louis J. Robichaud became a senator, a role he held until 2000. He studied at Sacred Heart University in Bathurst and was admitted to the New Brunswick branch of the Canadian Bar Association in 1958 before pursuing a career in politics.
As Premier, Robichaud left a lasting impact on provincial politics with the “Equal Opportunity Program” and the “Official Languages Act.”
The Church of Saint-Antoine-the-Hermit is designated as a local heritage site due to its significance in establishing a permanent religious presence in the village through the construction of a large stone church in 1923. Since then, the church has remained the tallest and most dominant structure in the village.
In 1919, it was decided that a new church would be built to accommodate the growing congregation. Architect R. Fréchette and Father Philippe Hébert of Notre-Dame designed the largest stone church at that time. Under Father Allain’s direction, stones were transported from the quarry in Notre-Dame in 1920. The church required 1,500 loads of stones and was completed in 1923, measuring 158 feet in length, 60 feet in width, and featuring a steeple standing 140 feet high.
The Léger Bros Mills site is designated as a local heritage site for its value as the village’s first industrial center and the birthplace of Rev. Mother Jeanne de Valois. The various mills that once stood on this site (sawmill, grain mill, shingle mill, wool mill) represent the village’s first industrial center. The mill industry significantly contributed to the region’s industrial and economic development, as evidenced by the nearby towns of Renaud’s Mill and McKee’s Mill. The Léger Bros Mills in Saint-Antoine continued a family tradition.
After a mill in Renaud’s Mill, owned by brothers Michel and Magloire Léger and Auguste Renaud—the first francophone deputy for New Brunswick to sit in the House of Commons after the 1867 federal elections—burned down in 1870 for alleged political reasons, it was rebuilt and later abandoned. Brothers Laurent and Jean-Baptiste, sons of Michel the miller, built a mill in 1892, which also fell victim to fire in 1896. The brothers then settled in Saint-Antoine that same year to restart their business. However, fires in 1906, 1930, and 1960 completely destroyed the mills, while other fires in 1927, 1942, and 1944 caused partial damage.
The first boards cut at the mill were used to build the home of Laurent Léger and his family, where Bella Léger, known as Mother Jeanne de Valois, lived. She was the instigator of the Notre-Dame d’Acadie College, a graduate of the Sorbonne, and Superior General. According to her, she was born in the closet of the first grain mill in the area on May 15, 1899, before the Léger family moved into the newly-built house across the street in 1900.
The Camille-Vautour Presbytery is recognized as a local heritage site for its significance as the home of Reverend Camille Vautour, the first resident priest in Saint-Antoine, who served from 1940 to 1980 and was a notable figure in the village. To provide a residence for the first resident priest, parishioners constructed the presbytery in 1941, adjacent to the stone church.
Born in Shediac in 1905, Father Camille Vautour was Saint-Antoine’s first resident priest, serving from 1940 to 1980. Upon his retirement, he celebrated both 50 years of priesthood and his 75th birthday. Reverend Vautour was known for his vast biblical knowledge, exceptional event organizing skills, and unwavering dedication. He left a lasting impact on the village and surrounding areas. In the introduction to a historical piece about the parish, it is said of him that, “In short, for the parishioners, then and now, Father Vautour is Saint-Antoine, and Saint-Antoine is Father Vautour.”
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