French Chapman

French Chapman

Guest Blogger: Patricia Beaulieu Sutherland

You can read this and other stories of growing up on Chapman’s east side in “Chapman: A Glimpse Through the Years”, which celebrates the town’s 100 years of community.  

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I had never heard this expression until I started working on a brief history of the settlement on the east side of Chapman.  One of the West Chapman residents helping with her knowledge of the community told me her grandmother used to refer to the east side as “French Chapman.”  I had never heard that before… but a majority of the families who settled the east side indeed were not only of Quebecois or Acadian heritage, they also spoke both French and English.  Some moved out to Chapman from Presque Isle; others moved from Canada or other Aroostook communities.  Many had already moved to central Aroostook from the St. John Valley prior to moving into this new settlement in Chapman.

As a child growing up with my two brothers in Chapman, we spoke French at home, spoke English at school, and spoke either French or English to our cousins, depending on who they were.  Older cousins usually spoke both French and English, but the younger cousins, more our age, most often spoke only English as their older brothers and sisters spoke English readily and either their mom or dad did not speak French.  Thus, unfortunately, within one or two generations, the bilingualism disappeared.  I regret to this day that I did not speak to my children in both languages so they would have been bi-lingual.

In the 30s and 40s, French-speaking homes included the families of Frank Baker, Richard/Leonard Hartt, John Carrier, Patrick Powers, Peter Powers, Nelson Powers, Joseph Beaulieu Sr., Ramon Beaulieu, Edmund Beaulieu, Joseph Beaulieu Jr., Alex Beaulieu, Dennis Caron, ? Pomeroy, Adolph Trombley, Peter Carrier, Patrick Thibodeau, Tom Page, Archie Bishop, and Lewellyn Cyr. It should be noted, however, that with a few exceptions, these residents all spoke English as well, although for most of them it was not their first language.

During that same time period, non-French speaking families included the homesteads of Lewis Drake, Ferris Sullivan, Billie Green, Philip Walton, G L Hodgdon, Clarence Knight, Linwood Knight, Harvey James, Fernald Garland, and Milford Conley.

Looking at the list, it’s easy to see where that epithet came from… about 2:1 French-speaking families.  Today, not so much!  As the older generations passed away, or new spouses didn’t speak French, and the children attended schools in SAD 1, the custom of speaking French at home died away and today there may be only half a dozen residents in East Chapman who spoke French as children and still can speak French today. Once the older relatives were gone, it was hard to remember the vocabulary that once came as easily as English today.