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For untold ages, the Maliseet nation had gathered in spring on the broad intervale along the St John River near the mouth of the Eel River. Before it was flooded out by the construction of the Mactaquac Hydro Dam, the area was called Meductic Flat. When Europeans appeared in the early 1600s, they reported finding there a roughly rectangular stockade, constructed of logs bound together with spruce roots and supported by earth and rocks, the whole being surrounded by a defensive trench. Within the stockade was a long house, where councils were held, and facilities for storing provisions. A short distance from the stockade was the village proper. Archaeological excavations of the site occurred in the 1960s. A Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque is located nearby along the Trans-Canada Highway.
Fort Presqu' Ile
(1790 - 1823)
To secure the vital St John River from the growing threat and claims from the United States, the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, Thomas Carleton, directed that two British military posts be established in the valley. The largest one was built at the mouth of Presqu' Ile River in 1790. It occupied five acres, with a blockhouse, barracks for 96 soldiers, officers quarters for 12, a guardhouse, stables and stores. Fort Presqu'Ile was abandoned in 1823. During the Maine/New Brunswick Border Dispute the post was repaired and used as an observation post, depot and rallying point for the local militia. The only evidence remaining is the cemetery. There is a provincial historic marker on the side of the road at the foot of the height of land upon which stood the military post.
Site of a Blockhouse
from the Aroostook War
During the Maine/New Brunswick Border Dispute, commonly referred as the Aroostook War or Pork & Bean War, a British military post was established at Woodstock. During the crisis, a blockhouse was constructed over-looking the Houlton Road. The exact location is not known. In 1837, the garrison consisted of a company from the 43rd Regiment (Monmouthshire Light Infantry), until it was despatched to Lower Canada to help suppress the Papineau Rebellion. They were replaced by the line companies of the 36th Regiment under command of Lieutenant Colonel Maxwell, with two 12 pounder and a 6 pounder cannons in support. In 1839, three hundred 300 militiamen were called out to reinforce the British regulars.
Major John Douglas Winslow, Military Cross, Armoury
A plaque outside the main door to the Woodstock Armoury reads, “This armoury is dedicated to the memory of Major John Douglas Winslow M.C. Distinguished soldier and citizen of the Town of Woodstock. 6 June 1993". As a Lieutenant, Winslow earned a Military Cross as a member of the 68th Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery, in the Canadian contingent, which served in Northern Russia between 1918 - 1919. His citation reads, “For conspicuous gallantry and determination during operations at Ust Padenga in January 1919. When the enemy attacked heavily, this officer, with a few men, took charge of an abandoned gun, and, in face of heavy fire, manned and fired the gun over open sights until the order was given for retirement. He fought the gun throughout the withdrawal to Shenkursk (North Russia).”
Village of Debec
This village is named for one of its first settlers, New Brunswick born George DeBeck, a son of Loyalist Lieutenant John Ludwig DeBeck of the New York Volunteers. After the death of his father, George left the family homestead at Keswick and sailed to France where he joined Napoleon's army as a soldier of fortune. He served with distinction and was decorated by Napoleon with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour. He was severely wounded at the Battle of Wagram in 1809 and resigned shortly after with the rank of colonel. He returned to Keswick, married Mary Green in 1810, and took up residence in what became known as the Village of Debec. He is buried in the Presbyterian churchyard, two miles from Debec Junction.
At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, the Carleton and York Regiment used the Woodstock Armoury to mobilize. As mobilization progressed, the Exhibition Building was used as billets and Island Park became a training camp. On 8 December, the Regiment left by train for Halifax and overseas. The armoury is currently home to 3 Field Artillery.
Houlton Army Airfield
In 1939, an airfield was built outside Houlton, Maine as a Work Relief Project, within a kilometre of the international border. From 1939 through 1941, America could not legally sell military equipment directly to belligerent countries without violating its neutrality. However, military aircraft flew into the Houlton airfield and few ever flew out. A keen observer would have noted aircraft being towed by tractor from the airfield across the international border into New Brunswick to Parks Hill. There the Woodstock highway would be closed, while aircraft used its roadway as a runway. The first occasion this nefarious method was used was in June 1940 when 33 light Stinson Model 105 airplanes purchased by the French gvernment crossed the border. Plans had been made to build a companion airfield on the Canadian side of the border, but this became unnecessary when the United States entered the war in December 1941.
Once the United States had entered the war, the Houlton airfield was operated by the United States Army Air Corps with the primary functions of servicing aircraft and facilitating their transfer to Canada. On 5 December 1942, a twin engine light bomber, a Lockheed Ventura, from the RCAF Ferry Command, en route from Dorval, Quebec, to Gander, Newfoundland, experienced difficulties, circled the Houlton airfield twice, then crashed, killing all four crew members. The bodies of Co-Pilot Sergeant Leroy Beckwell, age 20, from Battville, Saskatchewan, and Navigator Sergeant Arthur Gordon Gibson, age 23, from St Catherines, Ontario, were returned to Canada for burial. Pilot Officer George Newall Harrison, age 22, of the Royal New Zealand Air Force was buried in the Veterans’ Plot in the Houlton Cemetery. This is the only New Zealand casualty from the Second World War to be buried in the United States. For reasons unknown, Radio Operator Sergeant Henry Bordewick, age 19, from Vancouver, was not returned to Canada but was buried beside his pilot. Both these Commonwealth War Graves are carefully maintained by the Houlton Branch of the American Legion.
In July 1944, the Houlton airfield was closed and the Army Air Corps personnel transferred to the Presque Isle Army Air Base. The vacated facilities at Houlton airfield were then converted into a prisoner of war prison camp. At its peak, there were 3,700 German POWs at the Houlton camp.
The machine shop employed 30 to 40 men and women making parts for the war economy during the Second World War. Hudson Drier of Bristol was employed there.Top of page