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Société St-Jean-Baptiste de Bienfaisance de Biddeford, Me.

Biddeford’s oldest Franco-American benevolence society, and the sponsor of many of the Franco clubs, societies and fraternal organizations of Biddeford. The members of the Société helped establish la paroisse St. Joseph, Biddeford’s first French parish, in 1870. A sponsor of the annual celebration of St. John’s Day on June 24. Affiliated groups included: Fusiliers Laurier (Laurier Rifles).

Organized in 1867, admitted to l’Union on 14 October 1869, and incorporated 9 April 1873 under the name “Société St-Jean-Baptiste de Bienfaisance de Biddeford, Me.”.

Homes of the Société

First home of the Société-St-Jean-Baptiste (1875).

The Société bought the brick block on corner of Main and Elm in 1896. The hall on the top floor was also known as National Hall. It held concerts, dances and even roller skating and movies.

Second home of Société-St-Jean-Baptiste (circa 1896).
Third St. Jean’s building, circa 1970.

The building above, referred to in the newspapers just as “St. Jeans Hall”, was the former gracious home of Pepperell Mills agents, notably Robert McArthur. The large hall space in the back of the building was built 1926-1927.

Société given McArthur residence by Pepperell, 1926.

1892: 25th Anniversary

In 1892 the Société celebrated its 25th anniversary. The event was thoroughly covered by the “Weekly Standard”, one of several weeklies published in Biddeford at the turn of the 19th century.

1917: 50th Anniversary

In the midst of the Great War, the Société came together on numerous occasions to celebrate 50 years.

Coverage of the Société 50th anniversary from “La Justice de Biddeford” newspaper.
Coverage of the 50th anniversary in Biddeford’s “Weekly Record” newspaper, July 20, 1917.
More coverage of the Société 50th anniversary in Biddeford’s “Weekly Record” newspaper, Nov. 2, 1917.

1942: 75th Anniversary

During the WWII years the Société celebrated thr 75th anniversary. “La Justice de Biddeford” was still publishing and covered the event.

1967: 100th Anniversary

There wasn’t a large celebratory article, as seen for previous anniversaries, but there was continuing coverage of the events that happened throughout the year, including a concert, fireworks display, and ball.

Painchaud’s Band Biddeford-Saco Journal, July 17, 1967
A rogue firework struck a car on West Street! Biddeford-Saco Journal, July 17, 1967
Most Rev. Peter Leo Gerety, DD presided over banquet. Biddeford-Saco Journal, Sept. 23, 1967
Centennial Ball. Biddeford-Saco Journal, Sept. 23, 1967
Celebratory march around downtown. Biddeford-Saco Journal, Sept. 21, 1967

The collections of the Société are held by the Biddeford Cultural and Heritage Center, you can learn more about them here and contact them here:

For more information about national and international societies of Saint-Jean-Baptiste:

Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste d’Amérique

Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste (Canada) [francais]

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society (Canada) [english]