All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Ancient Pavings of Pemaquid

In his 1899 book Ancient Pavings of Pemaquid, J. Henry Cartland described a stretch of cobblestone pavement discovered decades past in the town of Bristol. Cartland had excavated a portion of the site and gathered evidence from area residents, including Capt. Lorenzo D. McLain:
"When I was a small boy, about 1855 I think it was, I helped your uncle Jim plough this field. He had got a new No. 8 plough and was going to plough his land deeper than he had been doing. He had Capt. Alfred Bradley (still living) and Willard Jones with two yoke of oxen, and my job was to hold down the plough beam and keep it clear.

"Every time we came 'round on this side of the field the plough would come up some ways in spite of all we could do and it appeared to slide along on something like a ledge, but we could not think a ledge would be so even.

"At last he got out of patience and turning to me said 'Jemes rice,' that was his swear expression; 'boy, go up to the barn and get a hoe and the crowbar and we will see what there is here.' Then we found this paving and where we first cleared it off it seemed to be laid in cement and we had to dig a long time with the crowbar before we could get out the first stone."
This discovery gave rise to the claim that Pemaquid had the first paved roads in America. But W. Mead Stapler, in the Summer 1998 NEARA Journal, offered an alternative interpretation:
The village had about 30 houses, a tavern, blacksmith, customs house, as well as the fort and many outbuildings. There were also two impressive cobble stone streets which bisected the village. These labor-intensive constructions have been a puzzle to many historians but the answer is in the New York Colonial Archives. Gov. Andros decreed, "fish might be cured upon the islands but not upon the maine (land), except at Pemaquid, near the fort". Thus, as some suspected, the cobble stone streets were really drying beds for sun curing the salted fish.

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