French Canadians In America

Immigration, the process of coming to a new country for permanent residence, has been a part of the United Statesı existence since the beginning of time. With every new immigrant, a part of his or her culture becomes a piece of America as they settle into their new way of life . Because of this simple transition, America has been known as the melting pot of cultures. Among many immigrants to come to the United States, the total number of French Canadians to ever migrate to America over a couple years is about 1.5 million people.

Canada, as the largest country in the world, has an area encompassing over six million square miles. As Americaıs northern neighbor, Canada is surrounded by the Pacific, the Arctic and the Atlantic oceans. Canadaıs main provinces are Toronto, with 3.8 million residents , Montreal with 3.2 million , and Vancouver with 1.6 million. Although there are French Canadians in all of these provinces, by far the majority live in Quebec. The province of Quebec makes up sixteen percent of Canadaıs total area and over one fourth of itıs population; therefore, Quebec was the leading point of departure for French Canadian immigration to the United States.

Throughout the decades, the peak years for Canadian immigration to the United States was the 1920ıs when almost 920,000 new arrivals crossed the boarder. Waves of migrations have occurred since the early eighteen hundreds, yet the most significant period for French Canadian immigration was in the late eighteen hundreds, early nineteen hundreds when the majority of the people sought out a better lifestyle. Work in American textile mills and logging industries was what drew the immigrants from the bone breaking farm lands in Canada, whose economic times were tough. In 1869 alone, six new mills opened in the Lewiston area of Maine.

When they finally did settle, French Canadians tended to construct a sense of community centered around family values in addition to a parish and a school in efforts to make it like home. By sticking together, each immigrant could lean on others for help in the struggle to make ends meet. In addition, a large part of immigrants were young families and therefore would benefit from such a community. Clustering together to remain linked to their own culture, the French Canadians settled all around the New England area. By 1850, about 20,000 immigrants had settled in New England. Generally, most Canadians did not gravitate towards large cities such a Boston, Providence or Hartford, yet migrated towards smaller towns like Manchester, New Hampshire, Woonsocket, Rhode Island, Fall River and Lowell, Massachusetts, and Lewiston, Maine. Ironically, these towns form a circular pattern around Boston and since 1870 Massachusetts claims the majority of the French Canadian population. Towns like Lowell, Worcester, Holyoke and Fall River all encompassed the Canadian population. Yet, later on, the migraters tended to remain close to the Canadian boarder. States like Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and even California held a lot of French Canadians. Despite this trend, by 1990, Massachusetts, with 310,636 people, was still the state with the highest number of French Canadian Americans. Followed by Michigan with 174,138 residents was California with 156,625, New York with 155,531, New Hampshire with 118,857 and finally Connecticut with 110,426. Even though California ranks third , the Northeast predominates as home to French Canadian Americans.

The influence of French Canadians on Connecticut was minor yet definitely recognizable. French Canadians began arriving to Connecticut at the turn of the century and located themselves in whatıs called Frog Hollow, the section between Park and Broad street in Hartford, CT. Among other cultures, such as Italians, Germans and Poles, the Canadians preserved their heritage and their old culture by raising their communities with the same ideals as "back home ". Restaurants, churches, markets and stores changed from various ethnic groups as you traveled from the east side of Hartford to the west. Influences from every country seemed visible in Hartford. "The United States census of 1870 listed 10,644 of Hartfordıs population of 37,743 as "foreign born"." Of these, 396 were Canadian.

Although French Canadian influence on Connecticut was minimal, an effect on the rest of the country was definitely made. French Canadian radio stations such as WCUW-FM (91.3) or WFEA-AM were being broad casted publicly; a third famous Franco-American in baseball was Leo Durocher (1905-1982); newspapers like Le Patriote Canadien, first published in Burlington, Vermont on August 7,1839, were established around the areas; French cuisine was reaching the highly regarded restaurants as "classy food" and "Bonjour", a thirty minute television program was produced in Manchester, New Hampshire on the Cable Network. In addition, museums and organizations were growing widespread in efforts to keep French Canadians feeling at home. The influence was definitely evident.

From the beginning of the eighteenth century, French Canadians started migrating regularly to the United States. Sticking together, this population of newcomers spanned across the Northeast coast, making their mark wherever they could. As a result, there still today remains strong influence from those that immigrated from Canada. Although many cultures come together in efforts to be a part of the American lifestyle, each culture retains a part of their own heritage. As a result, America has become known for itıs diversity.


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