Keywords: St. Jean Baptiste
St-Jean-Baptiste Day -- June 24th -- in Lewiston-Auburn was a very public display of ethnic pride for nearly a century. Since about 1830, French Canadians had used St. John the Baptist's birthdate as a demonstration of French-Canadian nationalism.
Lewiston, Maine's second largest city, was long looked upon by many as a mill town with grimy smoke stacks, crowded tenements, low-paying jobs, sleazy clubs and little by way of refinement, except for Bates College. Yet, a noted Québec historian, Robert Rumilly, described it as "the French Athens of New England."
As early as 1633, entrepreneurs along the Piscataqua River in southern Maine utilized the force of the river to power a sawmill, recognizing the potential of the area's natural power sources, but it was not until the 1890s that technology made widespread electricity a reality -- and even then, consumers had to be urged to use it.