ST. AGATHA, Maine — There is an undeniable connectivity between the people of the St. John Valley and the land.
Over the weekend, hundreds of residents, former residents and descendents of residents gathered to celebrate that connection and share memories of living on their families’ land.
The reunion of the so-called “concession” families — those who lived on farms along roads in the area’s back settlements — focused on those groups from the Flat Mountain portion of St. Agatha.
The reunion also was part of the town’s weekend Long Lake Summerfest, but according to organizers, it took on a life of its own early on.
“We’d have meetings of the [reunion] subcommittee and everyone was so excited and talking about the plans it was hard to even have the meeting,” event chair Percy Thibeault said with a laugh. “But that was great, it meant people were really enthused.”
Working over the past year with his 15-member committee, Thibeault said the whereabouts of those families who once populated the area just to the east of Long Lake were contacted and invited to a family picnic and related events.
“In the early 1960s there were 65 to 75 families living around here,” Thibeault said. “There were enough kids to fill two school buses every day.”
The largest of those families — the Chasses, the Guerettes, the Thibeaults and the Morneaults — took on the leadership roles in organizing the reunion, Thibeault said.
“We got together and brainstormed and came up with the idea for the picnic with a bonfire, music and even a tractor pull,” he said. “We set up for 500 people.”
That was about how many showed up Friday evening on land covering property owned by Gil and Sally Thibeault and Charlene Coloumbe in St. Agatha.
“A lot of the people who came might come back to visit this area at different times of the year,” Percy Thibeault said. “But this time we got them all back at the same time.”
For some, he said, it was the first time childhood friends had seen each other in more than four decades.
“I grew up behind the old Morneault farm and I remember a path we kids had worn between our two places,” Percy Thibeault said. “I hadn’t seen some of those people in years and years.”
To help those people reconnect with each other and with the land, Sally Thibeault worked with Roger Morneault, Terry Ouellette and Gerard Castonguay to develop a map of the old homesteads.
Sally Thibeault spent hours photographing the structures still standing and transforming them first into line drawings and then into computer graphics for the map.
The map guides people to the more than 100 homesteads along the Flat Mountain road and includes historical anecdotes about each one.
This version of the map, Sally Thibeault said, grew out of a similar one the group developed in 1999 for the town’s centennial celebration.
“People are really sentimental about these old homes,” she said. “There’s a real connection there.”
In researching the information, she said the group relied a great deal on old residents’ memories and experiences.
“There are a lot of people who know the history of these old farms,” Sally Thibeault said. “They want to pass it on and share it with others.”
In addition to the map, signs dotted the Flat Mountain landscape marking the locations of existing and former homesteads and farms.
On Saturday the reunion families participated in the Summerfest parade. The Long Lake event continued through Sunday with historical demonstrations, a family fun day, musical and a boat parade on Long Lake.
For information, visit www.stagatha.com.