In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Biddeford History & Heritage Project

Sharing the history of a proud city rising where the water falls

VI. The deluge of industrial expansion & immigration (1865-1900)

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By 1880 almost 50% of Biddeford's residents were foreign-born, with different cultures and religions than the old Yankee stock. The largest portions were from Canada (25%) and Ireland (12%), two heavily Catholic countries. Prior to this there had been only one Catholic Church in town, Church of the Immaculate Conception (later Church of the Assumption, then St. Mary's), founded in 1855. Due to the influx of French-Canadians and the animosity between the French and Irish Catholics, a separate church--St. Joseph's--was established in 1870. The last Catholic church would be St. Andre's, established by a separate faction of French-Canadians in 1900.

As with the Congregationalists before them, because of a large population with seemingly irreconcilable differences there would in the end be three separate churches for the same denomination in Biddeford.

While most immigrants were drawn to the area to work in the huge textile mills, many became entrepreneurs in their own right and opened small businesses up and down Main Street. Their businesses included restaurants, groceries, and clothing, paper, and fancy goods shops. Some would even work in the mill in addition to their other business ventures, in order to provide better lives and opportunities for their families.