Written and performed by
Sterling-Golden returns to the traditional narrative folk ballad in this original song, inspired by a true story. “Canada Road” begins with a traditional a cappella opening call recognizing that Maine was once the territory of the great Wabanaki Nation, and is a spirited account of two 19th century immigrants who risked everything, and lost much, for a chance at a new life in a new land.
A letter sits in the Maine State Archives dated 1838 from an early settler of the Upper Kennebec region. It details the difficulties encountered by people making the trek south from Quebec, a harrowing 130-mile trail across The Beauce region of Canada, down through the Chaudiere River Valley and into the headwaters of the Kennebec River in western Maine. This rough journey continued over mountains, through bogs, and nearly impassible deep woods, and most people came down on the “Old Road” on foot. Individuals and families of immigrants, mostly Irish and French, arrived exhausted, hungry, or ill, and local settlers were their only support.
At the end of the letter, almost as an afterthought, appears the following line, “One woman last summer brought a dead child on her back for 12 miles to my house before she could get anyone to bury it or let her (in) their houses.” Given its rough-hewn nature, it seems unlikely that a woman with a child young enough to carry over twelve difficult miles of mountainous trail would have started out alone. She would have come with a man – but who was he and what happened to him?
Maine sent more men per capita to fight the Civil War than any other state, and this created opportunity. “Canada Road” uses a touch of French to turn historical facts into the tale of a French-Canadian woodsman who leaves Quebec after crop failures in the 1860s left many without work, to find a new stake in Maine.
There is not much written about the history of women or French-Canadian immigration through Maine’s Western Mountains - these are the Founders seldom recognized by the history books. Martha Sterling-Golden gives testimony on their behalf.
“Canada Road” was written specifically to honor those who made that difficult journey with a determination that survives today in the western mountains of Maine drawing upon the strength and ingenuity of its past.
All post-distribution proceeds from downloads benefit the Old Canada Road Historical Society in Bingham, Maine.
Canada Road music & lyrics © 2012 Martha Sterling-Golden
Produced by Martha Sterling-Golden
Engineered and Mastered by Jud Caswell at Frog Hollow Studio in Brunswick, Maine
All images courtesy of the Old Canada Road Historical Society, used by permission, all rights reserved.
Thanks to Jud “guru” Caswell for skill and patience, Joline Lachance for translations, Marilyn Sterling-Gondek and Amelia Golden for support. It takes a village.