The Archives of the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph (RHSJ) in Saint-Basile are private archives. The documents preserved are of historical, medical, educational, social and cultural interest. The archives contain funds on Hôtel-Dieu St. Joseph, first hospital in Madawaska region, on Hôtel-Dieu Academy and its two boarding schools, and on the contribution of the community of the Religious Hospitallers in Saint-Basile since 1873.
The private archives preserved at Hôtel-Dieu in Saint-Basile contain construction plans, official documents, correspondence, registers of the patients and operating room, registers of the students and orphans, accounting books, the Chronicles started in 1873, documents on the foundations of Hôtel-Dieu in Van Buren, Maine, Hôtel-Dieu in Edmundston and Sanatorium in Saint-Basile, lists of offices (or tasks) of the sisters since the beginning, registers of admission and profession in the community of the RHSJ, notes on other RHSJ houses, a collection of old photos, a few funds recently bequeathed to the Archives and other books and documents on Saint-Basile's Convent.
The main objective of the RHSJ Archives Web site is to have digitalized documents available to searchers and people interested in the history of Hôtel-Dieu of Saint-Basile, its works in health care and education, the life in the religious community as well as other aspects of life in former times.
Hôtel-Dieu St. Joseph in Saint-Basile of Madawaska has been recognized as Provincial Historic Site by the province of New Brunswick in the year 2000. Well kept and maintained, this building serves partly as residence for retired people. The Religious Hospitallers of the community are still active in their Hôtel-Dieu.
The community of the Religious Hospitallers of Saint Joseph settled in Madawaska in 1873, but its roots are in France. In fact the Congregation was founded in1636 by Jérôme le Royer de la Dauversière and Marie de la Ferre to take care of poor sick people at Hôtel-Dieu in La Flèche. Other Hôtels-Dieu were founded afterwards in France, first at Laval, then at Moulins and Baugé. In 1659, three religious hospitallers came to Hôtel-Dieu in Montréal. Some two hundred years later, small groups of sisters left Montreal to found an Hôtel-Dieu in Kingston (1845), Ontario, and then in New Brunswick at Tracadie (1868), Chatham (1869) and Saint-Basile of Madawaska (1873).
The history of Saint-Basile's Convent is that of an hospital and a school that were founded in answer to Bishop James Rogers' request. Thanks to the help given by Mother Pagé, then superior of Montreal's community, and the contribution of Mother Davignon, first superior, and six young Hospitallers, Académie de Madawaska continued its mission in education and a small hospital was set up.
Immediately after their arrival in Saint-Basile, the religious hospitallers began to teach, to take care of the sick and admit older people. In 1877, a wooden hospital having a capacity of twenty beds was built. In 1885, the first brick building served as a school, a boarding school for boys and girls, and a convent for the sisters. As time passed, Hôtel-Dieu with its works and outbuildings had the autonomy of a «small republic». A virtual gallery of 425 photos on this Web site illustrates part of Hôtel-Dieu's history and progress between 1873 and 1935.
In the beginnings, Hôtel-Dieu Academy (former Académie de Madawaska) became a public school and had classes for boarders and day pupils. There was, in fact, the Sainte-Catherine boarding school for girls from six to eighteen years of age, and St-Louis boarding school for boys between six and thirteen. There also were orphans since the beginning. In 1947, the boys' boarding school closed and the following year, Maillet College was founded for girls interested in studying for the baccalaureate in arts (B.A.). In 1972, Maillet College and St-Louis College in Edmundston joined together and became St-Louis-Maillet, first a college and then a constituent of Université de Moncton, now known as Campus d'Edmundston de l'Université de Moncton. When students from grades ten to twelve were grouped into regional schools, the secondary level of Académie Maillet (new name of Académie de l'Hôtel-Dieu) and the girls' boarding school were closed. Later, in the 1980s, the Maillet elementary school was moved to the Maillet College building that was then empty. There are no more classes in the Hôtel-Dieu.
The health care given at Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Joseph, first hospital in Madawaska, started slowly in 1873. The sick were admitted without distinction, and aging people, renters or boarders had rooms in Hôtel-Dieu or in houses close by the convent and belonging to the Sisters. In 1916, the patients and the hospital personnel left the first wooden hospital to move into the brick building called the Convent. It had been renovated and had a capacity of sixty beds, in wards and private rooms. In 1946, the Religious Hospitallers opened an Hôtel-Dieu in Edmundston, and Saint-Basile hospital became a nursing home. In the 1970s, Foyer St-Joseph, the nursing home, moved into the Sanatorium of Saint-Basile, founded by the Hospitallers in 1946 but closed down in 1972. Rooms and apartments were then organized in the old Hôtel-Dieu to accommodate autonomous aging people who are boarders.
In the beginnings, the Religious Hospitallers had their rooms and dormitories under the roof of the wooden hospital and, after 1889, on the third floor of the brick convent. The number of sisters increased and, in 1904, it became urgent to build a regular monastery. The sisters were cloistered, but there was no great inconvenience, since the hospital and the schools were in Hôtel-Dieu. A larger chapel was also built between 1910 and 1912 to meet spiritual and religious needs.
Men and women were hired for the essential services at Hôtel-Dieu, mainly the kitchens, the laundry room, the farm, the fields, the maintenance and others. The Sisters had a model farm, and its dairy lasted until the 1960s. In the beginnings and for a long time, the employees of Hôtel-Dieu were lodged either at the convent or in houses close by belonging to the Sisters.
Hôtel-Dieu in Saint-Basile now serves as a residence for aging persons who are autonomous. Single rooms and apartments have been renovated to accommodate seventy-five residents. There are almost fifty Sisters living at Hôtel-Dieu or working there. Priests from Saint-Basile parish come over for daily mass. A personnel of about sixty employees work in diverse services: administration, accounting, kitchen and cafeteria, health surveillance, cleaning and maintenance. In Hôtel-Dieu, there are a chapel, a class for pre-school children, music rooms, a small theatre, many sitting rooms, hairdressing salon, foot care service, a visual arts studio, a library, the Historic Museum of Hôtel-Dieu and the Archives of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph.
To ensure the future and continuity of Hôtel-Dieu, a Foundation for the works at Hôtel-Dieu in Saint-Basile was set up in 1994.
The Department of Canadian Heritage Funds has contributed in part to the creation of this Web site and the digitization of photos for the virtual exhibitions « Histoire de l'Hôtel-Dieu de Saint-Basile (1873-1935) » and « Sense of belonging and taking roots into Greater Madawaska (1860-1960) ». These grants were given to the Archives of the Religious Hospitallers in Saint-Basile, New Brunswick, by the Canadian Council of Archives, through Canadian Archival Information Network, in the Cost Shared Cooperative Assistance Programme.
The Web site of the Archives of the Religious Hospitallers in Saint-Basile, New Brunswick, are hosted free of charge on the server of the Université de Moncton Campus d'Edmundston, in Edmundston, New Brunswick.
© Bertille Beaulieu, 2003