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Archive for December, 2009

Fort Edgecomb Blockhouse, Edgecomb Maine

Fort Edgecomb Blockhouse, Edgecomb Maine

Fort Edgecomb State Historic Site in Edgecomb, Maine has become a part of the local community’s history and pride. While it has never really been tested in battle, the site has become a place of entertainment as well as family or community gatherings. It may never be remembered for fierce battles, it will always be favorite of the local community.

Fort Edgecomb was built in 1808 and is a two-story octagonal wooden blockhouse located on David Island, in the town of Edgecomb. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 and in 1991 its boundaries were expanded outward to establish a “historic district”.

Initially Fort Edgecomb was built to protect Wiscasset, which was the most important shipping center north of Boston. It was built with eight sides to provide a panoramic view of the surrounding area and enable soldiers to protect the area from both water and land attacks. It was primarily used in the War of 1812, but saw no action until 1814 when the English broke Napoleon’s power and pushed their forces towards America. However, the only time cannons were fired from Fort Edgecomb was to celebrate James Madison taking office as President of the United States.

View from Fort Edgecomb Blockhouse

View from Fort Edgecomb Blockhouse

Although the fort has no real “military” history, local residents have been impassioned to preserve the blockhouse and surrounding areas for centuries. In 1875, local residents ran their first fund-raiser to keep the fort from being destroyed. This led to Governor Percival Baxter purchasing the fort and surrounding land from the Federal Government in 1923 for a measly $501.

It is still used on a daily basis as a park which is known for its theater and musicals. It is also often rented for weddings and family reunions. With such a great view, this shouldn’t be a surprise.

The Fort Edgecomb State Historic Site hosts a breathtaking view of the waterfront where visitors spend time watching playful harbor seals, watching lobster boats cruise by, and even catch a glimpse of nesting osprey. Sitting on the waterfront gives visitors a historic look at “Classic Maine”. It has many grassy surfaces that lend well to picnics or just a day in the sun. The fort is still kept in pristine condition which makes the location truly remarkable.

The community came together for centuries to preserve this amazing Maine landmark and for good reason. Visitors and locals alike quickly realize that the Fort Edgecomb State Historic Site is a great place to get a perspective on Maine history and culture in a relaxing yet playful and educational environment.

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Taking a trip to Maine? A visit to these Maine history museums and historic sites will allow you to soak up some local history and culture while you are there. Visit a Maine historical site and gain insight into the history of your Maine ancestors and the way they lived.

Here is a list of my favorite Maine State Historic Sites:

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Shoreline of Eagle Island

Shoreline of Eagle Island

The Eagle Island Maine Historic Site is only a few miles off of the coast of Maine, and is largely devoted to the memory of Admiral Robert Edwin Peary, the first man to reach the North Pole. To date, he is arguably still the only man to have done so without any mechanical devices. Every summer, the Eagle Island Maine State Historic Site welcomes approximately 6,000 new visitors.

Admiral Peary's Summer House on Eagle ISland

Admiral Peary's Summer House on Eagle ISland

Eagle Island was originally purchased by Admiral Peary for only $200 and was to be used as the location for his summer home. It is easy to see why. The island overlooks Casco Bay and hosts a great view of surrounding islands, and ocean scenery in every direction. The island is full of seagulls and beautiful and fragrant flowers that are native to the island. The Eagle Island State Historic Site gives visitors a true sense of what it was like to live an average day in the life of Admiral Peary in the 1900’s. Once visitors step foot on the island, the first thing that many will notice is that there are no mechanical devices anywhere on the island. While he spent much of his time in the library, his wife Josephine tended to her many gardens, many of which feature the foxglove. Many of her gardens are still tended to today by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

Eagle Island - Admiral Peary House

Eagle Island - Admiral Peary House

Today, visiting this island is a great treat regardless of how interested someone is in the history of the Eagle Island Maine State Historic Site. There are many activities that can keep an entire family involved for a day. Many visitors take to beach combing, hiking, fishing, sea kayaking, or just sit on the beach or on a trail and watch the native wildlife. Eagle Island is only open from June 15 to Labor Day, which means that visitors must plan accordingly. Many visitors use their own boat to get to the island, but there are also many tour boats that travel to the island frequently.

The boat ride to the Eagle Island State Historic Site is entertaining enough to merit the trip. Visitors will pass many fantastic lighthouses, bays, forts, and other historic markers. Each of these places has a rich history, and with the right captain or tour guide, you can hear the history of all of them. There is almost always great views of ocean wildlife including seals, seabirds, and maybe even a few harbor porpoises. Make a conscious effort to try to make the trip on a clear day, because heavy fog is not uncommon in the area and the many fantastic views can be lost from both the boat ride and the island itself.

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Fort William Henry - Colonial Pemaquid

Fort William Henry - Colonial Pemaquid

The Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site preserves one of northern New England’s original and earliest colonies. It is widely known for its archaeological history and should always be visited when traveling through the Mid coastal Maine area. There are now interpretive tours that teach visitors about the native people who were forced to camp there and how the remote peninsula evolved into a frontier settlement in the 1620’s. All of the tours and information are provided exclusively by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands staff.

Every year the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site get thousands of visitors from all over the country and beyond. The site has been nearly completely excavated, restored, and stabilized in order to create an on-site museum for guests. It has been a major focal point of study since the early 1900’s.

Colonial Pemaquid is known to be one the countries earliest and most influential 17th century settlements. It is believed to have been formed in 1605, however it did not become a year-round place of residence until the mid 1690’s. This site features Fort William Henry which is believed to be the first stone fort ever built on American soil. It was then decommissioned when it no longer served a strategic defensive purpose.

Fort William Henry - Colonial Pemaquid

Fort William Henry - Colonial Pemaquid

It is known that Fort William Henry was built over the same site that once held Fort Charles. Unfortunately, Fort Charles was captured and destroyed by the French. Fort William Henry was also destroyed at some point, however in 1908 a replica of the fort was built. In 1692, Fort William Henry was an extraordinary feat because it was built entirely from stone and had walls that topped 22 feet in some places and towers that soared almost 30 feet into the air. It housed 60 soldiers and 20 cannons. While it looked intimidating, it fell quickly because it was made from very low quality mortar, which led to the walls easily toppling during battle. The main water supply was also outside the fort, which meant that troops could not cope with a siege over a long period of time.

Fort William Henry - Colonial Pemaquid

Fort William Henry - Colonial Pemaquid

Many other settlements of the time that were abandoned were eventually re-settled or built over, however Fort William Henry never was. It has been widely recognized as a historic site since 1795, however this initially led to many myths being told about the area. To this day, it is still incredibly difficult to separate myth from fact, especially when some of the myths date back over 200 years ago.

Regardless of the surrounding facts and myths, it is still one the best ways to gain insight into early American settlers from an archaeological perspective. Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site is located near current-day Bristol, Maine.

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Colburn House - Pittson Maine

The Major Reuben Colburn House - Pittson Maine

The Colburn House State Historic Site is centered around the house built by the Colburn family in 1765. Several historic men have stayed their over the course of history including Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr. Its design is modeled after the standard colonial Federal-style design. The house still stands in Pittston as a testimony to early settlements in the Kennebec River area of Maine.

Nearby, Colburn also built a gristmill, boat yard, brickyard, and sawmill. All of this was done in order to be able to provide new settlers with all of the materials that they needed. Without this, settling this region of Maine, would have proven much more difficult and would have potentially taken decades longer.

Dining room at the Major Reuben Colburn House

Dining room at the Major Reuben Colburn House

10 years later, Colburn met with George Washington and was a key figure in planning the Continental Armies trek through the Maine wilderness in order to capture Quebec. At the time, Quebec was a heavily fortified city, controlled by the British Army. A myth still circulates that Washington spent more than a small amount of time living in Colburn’s home, however it has been proven untrue.

Once the force was assembled, Colonel Benedict Arnold and a troupe of over 1000 soldiers started on “Arnold’s March”. This historic march started directly in the midst of the Colburn property. Along with Arnold, other famous faces including Aaron Burr, Henry Dearborn, and Daniel Morgan all were a part of the march. The army included men from Maine, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Colonial American military uniforms on exhibit at the Colburn House

Colonial American military uniforms on display at the Colburn House

During this time, Colburn created a team of craftsmen that built a fleet of 10 ships within two weeks. To complicate matters, Colburn and his team were not able to get access to either nails or seasoned lumber. Colburn also gave Arnold and his army food and other supplies including maps and reports from local guides that Colburn had sent up the river to scout ahead. Colburn even paid a group of men to go with the army and make any repairs that may be needed during their journey, along with financing the construction of the boats themselves.

Colburn and the Colburn House has received credit for being instrumental in helping the colonies win their freedom from British rule. Unfortunately, aside from 20 pounds that Washington paid Colburn in advance, he never received any reimbursement for his investments and expenses. In the end, because he sunk his fortune into helping finance the Arnold Expedition, Colburn was sent into financial ruin.

However, before the end of his life, Colburn had rebuilt his families wealth through hard work and wise investments. From this hard work, his family stayed in the house for over 100 years

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