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HomeNewburyport's French Canadian Community

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To promote living well and independently through community engagement and neighborly support.
Newburyport's French Canadian Community
Jean Doyle’s documentaries highlight and personalize parts of our local history that are often overlooked. In this film we learn how Newburyport's French Canadian Community took root in the 1890s, when farmers from Quebec arrived to work in Newburyport’s mills and factories during the winter months. Although some workers stayed only seasonally, many decided to stay.  Newburyport’s shoe factories were thriving, and provided jobs for many newly arrived immigrants to Newburyport, including French Canadians. 

The documentary shows how the rise and fall of the shoe industry featured prominently in the lives of those who came to work in its factories. The industry boomed in the last decade of the 19th century, with upwards of 20 boot and shoe makers listed in city directories for 1894-1895. But by the 1930s, changing styles and workers’ strikes signaled the industry’s demise. The film features rarely seen photographs of shoe factory workers, owners, the factories themselves, and the shoes they produced.

Newburyport’s French Canadians missed the familiarity and camaraderie of the churches they had left behind in Canada. In 1904, St. Aloysius de Gonzaga was erected on Federal Street, the church and its accompanying school serving as the focal point of the French Canadian community’s social and spiritual life for decades.  In addition to church activities, families enjoyed many popular pastimes of the era, including bicycle rides, trips to the beach at Plum Island, and seeing movies at local theaters.

The church on Federal Street closed its doors in 1999, and the shoe factories long before then, but French Canadian families left their mark on Newburyport’s history, and many of their descendants continue to call the city home today.


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