FARMINGTON — The Farmington Historical Society will show the local documentary “Down by The River’s Edge” at 6:45 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at the Farmington Historical Society’s North Church. Donations accepted.

The film narrates the closing of the Otis Mill, historic accounts of the development of the paper industry and early immigration of French-Canadian to Farmington and the mills. The movie weaves together stories of retired papermakers as they recount stories of the challenges their families encountered, upon leaving their native countries and immigrating from Quebec and the Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, while others made the long ocean voyage from Italy, Czechoslovakia and Ireland.

Stories also include the early immigration of French-Canadian men in the early 1850s as they left their homes in Lower Quebec, during the spring and walking the old Canada Road to Farmington. They worked as seasonal farm laborers, year after year, returning to Quebec after the harvest, until they had earned enough money to bring their families to live permanently in Farmington. In the 1890s, many French-Canadian families migrated south to Chisholm to labor in the Otis Mill and developing paper industry.

The film details stories of their cultural and language barriers as they adapted to their new lives in the foothills of Maine. Their new lives were embraced by the trinity of the community: the Otis Mill, the Androscoggin River and the St. Rose of Lima Church where these new immigrants practiced their Roman Catholic faith.

Susan Gagnon, a fourth-generation Franco-American woman and Maine native, is a resident of Farmington and former resident of Chisholm and Livermore Falls. Gagnon filmed the documentary and wrote the screenplay.

She began filming the Otis Mill in Chisholm while paper was still being produced in May 2009. The historic mill closed in June 2009.

As a local historian, Gagnon has been researching Franco-American history of Jay and Livermore Falls for more than 15 years and has been employed as a community health advocate, a medical receptionist and a contributing writer for Harris Publications. Maine Camera equipment was provided by Mt. Blue Access TV in Farmington, and the film was edited with JP Fortier, MBTV station manager.


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