Maine’s rural towns around the Allagash River in Aroostook County attract nature-loving visitors who speak lovingly about their experiences. 

Now, stories about the Allagash people are being heard in an anthology of memories edited by Maine writer Cathie Pelletier.

Allagash is a town, a river, a place and a Maine state of mind. Tiny towns in the Allagash are named St. Francis, St. John, Medford and, of course, Allagash.

Alan Casavant, a Franco-American, a Biddeford teacher and state legislator, visited the Allagash area for the first time last summer.  He was immediately struck by the quiet and tranquility of the Allagash during his trip along the river.  “I heard the lapping of the water at night; saw the Milky Way in the heavens. We had no cell phones. We saw a moose and some deer! It was an oasis of the wild! I loved it!” he says

Nature in the Allagash is evident, but the people who put their hearts and souls into keeping the area a special Maine place are seldom heard from.  Pelletier now provides us with some insight about the people who settled and lived out their lives.

They lived modestly, barely making ends meet, in between the times when visitors came and left with souvenir post card photographs.   

Pelletier is a daughter of the Allagash and a St. John Valley native.  Her oral histories transcribed from Allagash residents are published in a beautifully edited hard backed book, “Christmas in the Allagash: The Early Years.” Some stories she recorded from her own family.

Pelletier’s anthology of Christmas narratives describe the universal holiday traditions experienced by early 20th-century Allagash residents. 

Franco-Americans will identify with each narrative because they speak to the importance of traditions and families. Although the story tellers lived through rough economic times, the spirit of Christmas lifted their memories beyond the economic and family challenges they faced every day.  Ester Mae Jandreau of St. Francis remembers how she sang Christmas Carols during school plays.  Her mother knitted mittens for Christmas gifts.  “Our parents made Christmas as special to us as possible,” she says.  Each story is a page in a photo album layout.  Residents like Beulah Hughes Roix, Walter Henderson, Annie Jackson Martin and Dewey Jackson speak from their hearts.    “Christmas wasn’t very rich,” says Jackson in his story about growing up in the town known as Cross Rock.  “Some years, Tom and Rosie Mullins would visit the Salvation Army.  They would bring us candy and a toy or two,” he says.  Their hand made gifts were always knitted, he recalled.

Pelletier’s narratives cut through the material gildings of Christmas.  In refreshingly effortless prose, the stories go right to the beauty of the holiday season by the telling of heartfelt stories about the importance of giving and receiving simple gifts. 

“Christmas in the Allagash” carries readers through holiday feelings and experiences laced together by personal stories. Every personal memory transports readers back in time, when the simple joys of the holiday season brought a sense of wonderment, leaving a lifelong impact on the story tellers.

Pelletier opens the anthology with a Memoriam for the Allagash military men who served in America’s wars, including the Civil War.  One who was killed in action was her uncle, Melford Joseph Pelletier, who died on March 19, 1945, while serving in the U.S. Navy on the aircraft carrier USS Wasp, when it was hit by a Japanese bomb while at sea off the coast of Japan.  Her uncle was buried at sea.

“Christmas in the Allagash: The Early Years” is dedicated to Edith Leola McBreairty Kelly (1923-2008), an Allagash native who founded the Allagash Historical Society.