I have always heard that Richard Baldwin, sr. found the site of the present day Coaticook, quite by accident. He was living near Lake Lester and went looking for a good place to do some fishing. An article, publisher August 29, 1911, in the Sherbrooke Daily Record, makes one think that Richard, sr. might have had good reason to look for sources of food due to the catastrophic events during the years of 1815 and 1816. In this article I will refer to the history of John Belknap (1771-1843) who, in 1817, came to visit his friend Levi Locke (1780-1837) in Barnston West. Travelling along the Indian Stream and the Coaticook River, John Belknap noticed several spots along the river where the water current seemed sufficient enough for the construction of mills. Passing through Barford and Barnston, he noticed that a number of clearings had been abandoned by their owners, discouraged by the cold semons in 1815 and 1816. Another source (title unknown), entitled "1816: One Summer to Forget", tells when in June 1816, there were 10 inches of snow and that the weather was worse in July and August of that year. Perhaps Richard, sr. heard about John Belknap mentioning the vacated clearing in Barford and that could be what persuaded him to explore the area. All the same, in 1818 he built a log cabin in the location where we find today in Coaticook, the Caisse Populaire des Verts Sommets. He then began to build a dam with Vester Cleaveland, near the cement bridge on St.Paul Street.
I think it was in 1820 that Richard, sr. settled his family on Route 17 in Barford (131, St.Jacques South). Baldwin's Mills, on Bouchette's map of 1816, does not exist. Instead we see the place narre of Morrough's Mills (the name of the associate and nephew of Robert Lester, the person in 1801 who was granted the largest part in the Township of Barnston). While all this was taking place, what was happening with Levi Baldwin, the father of Richard, sr.? Experience Goff, Levi's first wife died in 1815 at the age of 56 years. This was the saure year that the Bartlett family (the first colonists of the township) left the area for Melbourne: perhaps due to the climate! Levi was 62 years of age in 1815. Was he living with his son Richard, sr. or in his home on R6L15 (Adrien Charest, 1540, ch. Baldwin-Barnston)? It is possible that Levi never lived with Richard, sr. and always lived at R6L15 in spite of what Hubbard wrote in his book, "Forrest and Clearings". There was not one Baldwin living in Morrough's Mills according to the census of 1825. The fact remains that Levi, sr. married for the second time to Abigail Mills in November of 1819. He was 66 years of age and married a woman young enough to give him three more children. Perhaps living alone he felt the need for a companion? The couple lived at R6L15 and that is where they are located in the 1825 census. Levi's neighbours included his son lotes R6L 15, Vester Cleaveland R5L15, Josiah Wheeler R5L16 and Walter Buckland Route-19.
I think that it was Richard Baldwin, sr. along with his 2 brothers-in-law, Joseph Drew and John Lamb, jr., all three from Morrough's Mills that persuaded several people from this place and the surrounding area (New Boston - R1OL6-7) to go and settle in the future area of Coaticook. At this place they would have better living conditions and where the famine of 1816 would not be repeated. Coaticook was founded by the people of Baldwin's Mills because they were hungry.
Yves Robillard translated by Susan Beaton
(1) Extracts from a 60 page article coming soon on the web site of the Coaticook Historical Society entitled Barnston Township, its pioneers, and the census 1825.