Posts Tagged With: Shakers

A Dark Day in Maine

Natural phenomena are always occurring around us, but we only pay attention when that phenomenon is great enough in size or magnitude that it disrupts our daily routine. Frequently, when we see a darkening of the day it is caused by either super intense cloud cover, or a solar eclipse. Rarely does it get dark enough to cause widespread confusion. It has happened though, and on May 19 of 1780, Maine saw one of its darkest days in our history.

Religious zealots of the day claimed the Apocalypse had arrived, most scientific minded people thought otherwise, and presumed that something had caused the sun to eclipse. But as the day wore on after having what was termed at the time as dusk occurring as early as nine AM, hints and clues were dropped to speak of an otherwise, and more dangerous tragedy at hand. The following excerpt from the book Ancient city of Gorgeana and modern town of York, by George Alexander Emery contains a brief description of that day, at least as it was to some townsfolk in York.

One of the most memorable dark days of the last century took place May 19, 1780. In this town, it commenced to darken at about nine o’clock in the morning, and was past twilight before half past ten o’clock. Throughout the New England States and some adjacent tracts of New York and Canada, such was the obscuration that in many places people could not see to read a line at mid-day without artificial light. For hours, it continued to impart to surrounding objects a tinge of yellow, and awakened in many a beast apprehensions of some impending calamity. All was wrapped in gloom; the birds became silent, domestic fowls retired to their perches, and cocks crowed as at break of day. The darkness of the following night was so intense that many who were benighted and but a little way from home, on well-known roads, could not, without extreme difficulty, retrace their way to their own dwellings. The author, in his boyhood, has often conversed with many of the oldest inhabitants,— among them were Messrs. John Carlisle, William Staccy, William Tetherly, — all of whom were Revolutionary pensioners, and they well remembered the occurrence, and exemplified the dense blackness of that night by saying “that an object held up near the face could no more be seen than a piece of the blackest velvet put in close contact with the eyes.” No astronomical or meteorological cause has ever been assigned for this singular phenomenon.

Of course, today we can provide the probable explanation to this odd stretch of darkness, but we need to remember that at the time of its happening, the constitution of this nation was still years away from being written, and we had just freshly ended our revolutionary war, for the most part. Scientists, in examining history through the annular rings of trees have found that the probable cause of Maine’s darkest day was probably from a massive forest fire that swept through what we now call the Algonquin National Park in Ontario, Canada.

Reports suggest that for at least a few days prior to the event a thick pall had filled the atmosphere, creating a yellowish haze in the air, indicative of a fire burning. A probable combination of that fire, and its growing intensity, with a cold from moving offshore from the northeast, bring dense fog and cloud cover attributed to the intensity of the darkness. Anecdotal reports suggest that soot was collected in some areas, with some reports claiming soot as deep as six inches in western New England. The sun had a reddish tint to it, and the moon, per some statements, seemed to be glowing red through the haze and smoke created by the fire.

There were no apparent injuries from the fallout of that fire, however, due to the ash and soot settling there were some ponds, and wells that were covered by a layer of that soot and ash. Of course, ash is good for the gardens, but it is not so good for the drinking water.

However, every action has a reaction, and like a stone leaving ever widening ripples across the pond as it skips across the surface, this event also created circumstances beyond the simple awe and wonder most people had over the event. One of these reactions was the unexpected advance of the Shaker religion. The fear of the darkness and its comparisons to Biblical prophecy brought many people to their meetings in New York and Massachusetts, and we eventually saw the establishment of the Shaker community in Poland. Other people flocked to religious services and meetings of other denominations and faiths as well.

It is interesting as we gaze over the past to see events take place, and then read about the domino like after effects of any event. If the fire in Ontario had not reached such epic proportions, there would not have been such an outpouring of religious fervor, and without that fervor, the Shakers we know of today would not be as we know them. Perhaps many of the communities they established would never have been established.

I read a lot of commentary and works from many authors from a myriad of sources, and many of those writers have a tendency to politicize and monetize our past, changing its meaning to suit their agenda, instead of simply sharing the details and facts of the past, and putting those stories in light of the results of those events.

Always look beyond the event to find the true story of our past. You might be surprised at what you find.

Categories: history, Maine, Maine oddities, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Fort Williams to be Unearthed?

Dining with Antiques – Christmas Rosettes
In the 1840s and 1850s, Scandinavian settlers brought to the United States the tradition of making an assortment of delicious Christmas cookies using open fireplaces and cast iron implements. Over time, cultures blended into America’s melting pot and traditions became diluted, but these fascinating cookie-making tools can still be found, hidden among the Dutch ovens, skillets and other cast iron miscellany on tables at outdoor flea markets. The items, resembling small branding irons (with screw-on “brands”), are used to make rosettes, a favorite Nordic Christmas treat. Check out Worthologist Liz Holderman’s primer on these vintage kitchen implements, as well as a traditional recipe for those interested in trying to make them. Read “Dining with Antiques – Christmas Rosettes”

History buried at Fort Williams Park

The park’s charitable foundation plans to explore the possibility of uncovering a buried gun battery.

CAPE ELIZABETH – Large interpretive signs help explain Battery Blair to visitors at the town’s Fort Williams ParkJoe Edgar says much more interesting things are under those visitors’ feet. Edgar is a director of the Fort Williams Charitable Foundation, which has raised more than $36,000 for an engineering study to determine whether a buried section of the gun battery — which includes the ammunition magazines, plotting rooms, and space for tool storage, generators and latrines — can stand the stress of being uncovered.

“Spend Christmas in Jail!”

The Ellsworth Historical Society will again be having their annual open house and “Old Fashioned Christmas” with free admission to the museum on December 3, 11:00-3:00 at the home of the Society” The Old Hancock County Jail”, 40 State Street Ellsworth next to the Ellsworth Library.

The 1886 home of the Sherriff will decorated for the holidays with hot mulled cider and cookies. Guests will be welcome to tour the 1886 home of the Hancock County Sherriff’s of the past and see how they spent their day-to-day lives and tending the prisoners in the jail. Guests will also be allowed to tour the Sherriff’s office and the cellblock of so many of our notorious Ellsworth prisoners!

A special exhibit will also be on display “A Soldiers Christmas” that will display military items from the archives of the society as well as items on loan. One very special exhibit we will have this year is a recent donation to the society of a 12 lb British Canon Ball that was shot at a Ellsworth Barn on the Union River believed from the Revolutionary War period. So many Ellsworth boys were not home for the holidays so we felt it was important to show our support and remember the soldiers of Ellsworth at this special time of year.

The society continues its goal of preserving the artifacts of Ellsworth History and as always needs your support. Donations are welcome and may be sent to The Ellsworth Historical Society PO Box 355 Ellsworth, Me 04605. If you have items to donate or any questions, please contact Terri Weed Cormier at 667-8235 or Linda Grindle at 667-5716. The society is currently looking for glass locking display cabinets to display items securely, if you have one to donate please contact us. Thank you and we look forward to seeing you all at the Open House for some cider and cookies and lots of reminiscing about Ellsworth’s past.

Museums of Old York

Upcoming Programs
For a complete and up-to-date calendar please see our website.


3rd Join us this Saturday for A Christmas Tea at Jefferds Tavern.

As a part of the annual Festival of Lights celebration in York Village, Museums of Old York hosts a favorite holiday tradition at historic Jefferds Tavern from noon until 4 p.m. on Sat., Dec. 3. This yuletide fest, managed by volunteer Michele LaBranche, offers traditional Victorian-style holiday cheer to the whole family. Candlelight, a cozy fire, shining silver, delicate teacups and holiday greens set the stage in the Tavern. But the desserts are really the highlight of the afternoon!

Created by local bakers and talented volunteers, this year’s menue of tasty treats includeds: Apple Crisp, Harvest Pumpkin Pie, Cheesecake, Chocolate Cake, Raspberry Almond Pie, Lemon Pie, Fluffy Peanut Butter Pie, and Indian Pudding. Enjoy the ambiance, company of friends and delicious desserts as you warm yourself by the fire. The last sitting will be at 3:30 p.m. Admission is $6 and includes a choice of two desserts and tea. No charge for children under age 5 and no reservation required.

14th Candle Dipping and Holiday Decor. Without electricity how did people light their homes at night? With candles of course! Dip your own candles for when the power goes out this winter or as a centerpiece for a holiday dinner. Create colorful curled candles, string cranberries and make a decoration for your window or Christmas tree. 3-5 p.m. at The Parsons Center. Registration required, ages 8 and up, $10 ($8 members).

Stories from Maine Memory Network

Bringing in the Swedes

30th Anniversary Celebration, New Sweden, 1900

The settlement of the Swedish colony in Aroostook County in the 1870s is a remarkable story. Political leaders, spurred by the Homestead Act and led by W.W. Thomas, actively recruited Swedish immigrants to northern Maine, both to encourage economic development and to secure the northern border with Canada. By the 1890s, nearly 1,500 Swedish immigrants had settled in Aroostook County and established a vibrant community that remains strong to this day.

View the exhibit from Maine History Online for an overview. To explore the story further, visit the website a local team from New Sweden developed through the Maine Community Heritage Project.

TRAVELIN’ MAINE(RS): Head to New Gloucester and have yourself a Merry Shaker
Kennebec Journal
Shaker Village includes a store with many interesting products, a fascinating museum, a craft store with locally made crafts from lamps to baskets to cheese balls, a farm with sheep and goats and several historical buildings

Farmington Historical Society to sell wreaths
Lewiston Sun Journal
Along with a parade and other activities, the Titcomb House Museum is open from 9:30 am to 3 pm All proceeds support the Farmington Historical Society’s mission of preserving Farmington’s history and maintenance of the Titcomb House and North Church

Schooner Bowdoin’s Untold Story Subject of Upcoming Castine Exhibit
The Maritime Executive (press release)
The untold story of Maine Maritime Academy’s (MMA) historic schooner Bowdoin will be illuminated in an upcoming exhibit at the Castine Historical Society scheduled for the summer of 2012. The exhibit, entitled “Schooner Bowdoin on the Greenland Patrol”

Leeds Historical Society views Harry Cochrane Murals
Lewiston Sun Journal
LEEDS — Members of the Leeds Historical Society met recently at the old Methodist Church on Quaker Ridge with artisan Tony Castro from New Gloucester. Castro has worked for more than 25 years in the field of decorative painting, and some of Maine’s…

Maine fish passage restoration effort get $92K grant
The Republic
Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe says the $92505 grant is going to the Nobleboro Historical Society. Through the years, the towns have undertaken several

Categories: antiques, articles, breaking news, collectibles, events, Geneology, headlines, historic buildings, historic preservation, historical societies, history, Maine, Maine Historical Society, Museums of Old York, stories, Uncategorized, WWII | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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