All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Maine's Apple Detective

Here's a wonderful article from Mother Jones about John "Bunk" Bunker's quest to rediscover America's heirloom apples.
Thurlow led Bunk to the abandoned intersection that had once been the heart of Fletcher Town [in Lincolnville], pointed to an ancient, gnarled tree, and said, "That's the tree I used to eat apples from when I was a child." The tree was almost entirely dead. It had lost all its bark except for a two-inch-wide strip of living tissue that rose up the trunk and led to a single living branch about 18 feet off the ground. There was no fruit, but Bunk was interested. A few months later he returned, took a handful of shoots, and grafted them to rootstock at his farm. A year later, both Thurlow and the tree died, but the grafts thrived, and a few years later, they bore the first juicy, green Fletcher Sweet apples the world had seen in years.
Bunker founded Fedco Seeds 30 years ago.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mount McKinley Earlier Named for Maine Native

North America's highest mountain was earlier named for gold prospector Frank Dinsmore, a native of Auburn.
A prospector, Frank Densmore, spoke so enthusiastically after seeing the mountain from Lake Minchumina in 1889, that it was known for years among prospectors as "Densmores Peak." [Link]
Dinsmore returned to Auburn in 1897 to visit his ailing father. The Lewiston Evening Journal published an interview:
Mr. Dinsmore is a son of Mr. Charles Dinsmore, brother of Mr. Hiram Dinsmore of Dinsmore & Greenleaf, and he has lived in the West twenty-three years, this being his first home-coming. He was in Iowa a short time, but for seventeen years he has been engaged in mining operations along the great Yukon river in Alaska. He struck the Klondike country last December and is said to have become the owner of a number of very important claims at reasonable figures. [Link]
Dinsmore died a year later, his body returned to Auburn for burial.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Pownalborough Court House

Cumberland and Lincoln Counties celebrate their 250th anniversaries this month. Both were carved off from Maine's original county, York, on June 19, 1760. Cumberland lost land with the formation of Kennebec (1799), Oxford (1805) and Androscoggin (1854) Counties, but it was Lincoln that had most to lose. It originally embraced 60% of the land of Maine—from Casco Bay to that part of Nova Scotia now known as New Brunswick, and north to the limits of the province. Residents of all this area were obliged to take much of their county business to Pownalborough.

It was voted in 1761 to build a court house in Pownalborough, on the parade ground of Fort Shirley in that part of town now known as Dresden.

In 1765, a young attorney named John Adams made the trip from Boston to try a case in Pownalborough.
Perhaps a desire to see his classmates there, with two of whom, at least, he had corresponded since their college days, was an additional inducement for the journey. At that period intercourse was maintained almost wholly by boats, as no roads existed. It was not until the present century that rivers and other watercourses ceased to constitute the most feasible means of communication between Maine settlements. Mr. Adams, however, traveled on horseback, finding his way through the woods from Brunswick to Fort Richmond by the aid of blazed trees. His biographer relates that "Pownalborough was then at almost the remotest verge of civilization, and it was with the utmost difficulty that he was enabled to reach it." After encountering the obstructions of nearly impassable roads, through an inhospitable region, he succeeded in arriving at the place, and gained his case, which was of magnitude, much to the satisfaction of the client who employed him. The verdict promoted his interest and reputation. It induced the Plymouth company, Doctor Gardiner, and other land proprietors, to retain him in their actions, which were numerous, causing his annual attendance at the appellate court in Falmouth, during the next nine years. [Link]
The courts were moved to another part of town, now called Wiscasset, in 1794. A 1767 petition suggests one possible reason for the move:
The inhabitants of Muscongus and Medumcook Plantations, represent that the Courts are held in Frankfort [Dresden], now in the western part of the County, and that a great part of the people who attend there have to lodge on the floor, or in barns, or set up all night by the fire; and they ask that the Courts may be removed to near the centre of the County. [Link]
The courts moved, but Pownalborough Court House remained, and still stands on Route 128 in Dresden. A celebration of Lincoln County's anniversary will be held there on Saturday.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Street Scene in Caribou, 1940

From the Library of Congress, a photograph taken by Jack Delano on a Caribou street in October 1940.

Macon B. Allen, America's First Black Lawyer

Macon Bolling Allen of Portland was the first African American admitted to the bar in the United States. This item appeared in the Portland American of Sept. 4, 1844:
A Coloured Lawyer.—Macon B. Allen, of Portland, and formerly of Boston, Massachusetts, a coloured gentleman, whose application for admission to the bar in April last, under the new act, was, as we stated in our paper at the time, refused on the ground that the applicant was not a citizen of Maine, in the contemplation of said act, subsequently applied under the old law to be admitted by examination. He was thereupon called before the examiners, a committee of the Cumberland bar, and sustained a satisfactory examination—the committee recommending him to the Court as a fit candidate—and accordingly he was admitted in the District Court, to practice as an attorney and counsellor at law in the courts of this state.
Allen soon discovered, though, that "Maine was not a good place for a black man to practice law as an attorney," and removed to Boston, where he was admitted to the bar in May 1845. He died in Washington, D. C., Oct. 10, 1894, after fifty years of service as an attorney and judge.

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.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Fat Men's Convention of 1870

The Lewiston Evening Journal of Jan. 21, 1870, reported on the proceedings at the Fat Men's Convention held at Auburn Hall.
The Committee announced that they would proceed to weigh the fattest men and conduct the contest for the prize. It was agreed that the prize lay between Mr. Brackett of North Hermon, and Mr. Haven of Chelsea. Those gentlemen were escorted from the rostrum which trembled under their tread, amid uproars of applause, and the Committee proceeded to their duty. The scales were Fairbanks', noted for their accuracy, courteously furnished for the occasion by Messrs. Owen & Little of this city.

The Committee, through Mr. Ham, Chairman, reported as follows: That the heaviest man in the convention is Mr. A. G. Haven of Chelsea, 19 years old a few days since, weighing 354 lbs. without overcoat or hat. "He is a gentleman—whatever his occupation."

The next heaviest man is Mr. George Brackett of North Hermon, 57 years old, 5 feet 9½ inches high, and weighing 347¼ lbs. without hat or overcoat. Both men were received with roars of applause. The committee then introduced a contrast—a Lilliput—Mr. Aaron Nutting of Lisbon, jeweler, weighing 92 pounds, and 3 feet 2 inches high. He was born in Lisbon; his father was small before him, and he has a brother nearly as small as he is. [Link]
The contestants, with their weights, are listed here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maine’s Civil War Sesquicentennial

Maine History News reports on a new website devoted to the state's upcoming commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. The list of Civil War monuments in Maine towns and cities is excellent.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Historical Maine Maps Added to Rumsey Collection

The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection has added five more maps of Maine, dating from 1844 to 1862. This brings the total number of Maine maps in the collection to 222.