The first wave of emigrants who came to Lowell in the mid 1800s included blacksmiths, lumberyard workers and carpenters. After the Civil War came the mill workers and others who served in the professions and established businesses.
Apart from the religious and institutional development, the Franco-Americans of Lowell have also made their mark in the professional and business world. Dr. Deodat Mignault, the first Franco-American doctor in Lowell, arrived here in 1859 and inaugurated a long succession of physicians, many of whom distinguished themselves by their accomplishments. For example, in 1896, Dr. Georges O. Lavallee was the first Franco-American doctor from Lowell to graduate from the Harvard Medical School and was also a member of the Lowell Planning Board.
Dr. Joseph Lamoureux, elected a member of the School Committee from 1906 to 1910, was a member of the Lowell Charter Commission in 1911 and secretary of the commission to build Lowell High School
Attorney J. H. Guillet, admitted to the bar in 1888, as Lowell’s first Franco-American lawyer, set an example of high principles and ideals that many followed after him. Knight Commander of the papal order of St. Sylvester, one of the founders of the Jeanne d’Arc Credit Union and the Franco-American Orphanage, organizer of Lowell’s French night schools, founder of L’Abeille of Lowell, the first Franco-American daily newspaper in the United States, his life was spent in service to the community. Atty. Albert Blazon served as Lowell’s first Franco-American treasurer in 1936, after serving as city assessor for many years. Atty. Arthur L. Eno, born in Lowell in 1892 and admitted to the bar at 21, after years spent working to obtain his education, rose successively to become secretary of the Lowell Auditorium Commission, judge of the Lowell district court and then the court of appeals.
In the business world, the frugal immigrants’ industriousness was valuable both to themselves and to the city in general. In 1896, there were 367 in business for themselves. The most notable among them was Joseph Chalifoux, the millionaire department store owner who arrived in Lowell in 1868 and pioneered the department store idea here. He was so successful that he built the Chalifoux building at Central and Merrimack Streets and opened branches in Manchester, N.B. and Birmingham, Ala.
Joseph Marin, father-in-law of Homer Bourgeois, president of the Jeanne d’Arc Credit Union and the Union National Bank, arrived in Lowell in 1885, and after establishing a prosperous hay and furniture business, he became the first Franco-American real estate dealer and a noted philanthropist.
In the 1910’s, the jeweler Frank Ricard is also an example of successful business combined with civic responsibilities. The owner of a prosperous jewelry business, he proposed to the Lowell Board of Trade on November 14, 1912 that a state highway be constructed along the Merrimack river. Although the project was presented to the legislature, it took many years for the plan to be finally realized as the present VFW highway. Today, the Franco-Americans are active in every branch of business and industry in Lowell and as such contribute a vital part to the economy of the city.