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 Newsletter of The Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit
Preserving Treasures of the Past as an Investment for the Future 
 

The Historical Society is located at 938 Post Road in Wells.  Parking is available in our circular driveway.
Hours: Tuesdays and Fridays 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
January, February, and March: By appointment only

Letter from the Chair

Happy Holidays from all of our Board of Directors and Staff at the Historical Society. We celebrated our 65th anniversary all through the year and we look forward to the year 2020 when we’ll mark the 200th year of Maine Statehood with special programs and events. Upcoming in January is a program in partnership with Great Works Regional Land Trust, and in February we’ll co-host with Wells Public Library a reading by Wells historian and former HSWO Board member Joe Hardy on his recently published book. While our Meetinghouse Museum, Library and Archives will be open by appointment only in January through March, I urge our members to take advantage of these special programs. 

We are grateful to our loyal members for contributing to our Annual Fund. We raised $1175 dollars this year. We take pride in being the history and culture organization in our town, and have always been grateful for the support of our community.  

And, at year’s end, I’ll share the top 5 accomplishments of 2019! 

1. Our attendance reached 1,538, an increase of over two hundred from last year and double the attendance in 2017. 

2. With the help of volunteer Lorraine Morse, revisions were made to the Museum’s collection. This makes for a more professional and concise accessions process for donations and gifts.

3. The new Meetinghouse Museum, unveiled at the Annual Meeting, came as the result of much historical research, as well as input from several local historians, including Hope Shelley, Wells Town Historian. It includes a new Native Stories gallery, and new displays for families to interact with one another.  

4. Community outreach brought big success, with local business sponsorships of the Woodies in the Cove fundraiser, as well as our program for Maine Association for the Education of the Young Child (MAEYC), and the onsite learning sessions provided for Wells-Ogunquit Adult Continuing Education. 

5. School programs continued to grow. Students of Emily Knight’s Video Class at Wells High School participated in a field trip to the Historical Society, where they were introduced to the “Maine 200: Action! History!” project. Lynn Mercier, librarian at Wells Junior Senior High School brought her “Local History” class and the school principal to the HSWO for a special program. 

Have a wonderful holiday season! Please contact me if you are interested in joining our board or volunteering here at the Historical Society. As always, I welcome your comments on our newsletter!

Irene Crocker  ijc1954@gmail.com

Board of Directors & Staff
Hello from the Administrator
A Request to Our Business Members -
Become a Program Sponsor!

Please consider sponsoring History Walk & Talk or Conversations with History programs. For $300 your business will receive recognition on the program poster, in our press release, and on the Historical Society's website and Facebook page. Please call 207-646-4775 or email info@wohistory.org for more information. 

Holiday Market at the Meetinghouse

A festive time was had by all at our 2nd annual Holiday Market, part of the tradition of Ogunquit’s Christmas by the Sea weekend. Through the sale of vendor spaces and donations, we raised just over $460. The Meetinghouse was decorated with greenery, and kids made old-fashioned toys and watched the Wells Holiday Parade with us! Big thanks go out to Congdon’s Doughnuts, Flagship Cinema, and Crickets Toy and Kite for their generous donations. We had David Sullivan Photography, Peggy Lee’s Silver Teardrop Jewelry, Dana Redmond’s Maine Jewelry, Mae Robinson and her handspun and hand-knitted hats and scarves, Amy Norton with her Sensi business, Judie Clayton’s magical origami lights, Phillip Wright’s hand-turned wooden bowls, Kathy Erley and her homemade caramel popcorn, and Jorinda Margolis’ handcrafted True Blue Seaglass. Two new artisans premiered their work:  Ashley Weadick’s new business Adorned and Chelsea Clark’s Stay at Home Stitch. 



Meetinghouse Museum

The calendar heralds winter will begin
Old Man Winter! Has committed a sin!
On Friday the 21st he's supposed to arrive
He has been here for weeks! Very much alive!

My timbers have shivered day after day
That scoundrel! Practicing foul play!
Setting a trap for him is my scheme
I'll march him directly! To the guillotine!

Our furnace running steadily let out a yelp
The gauge on our oil barrel! Begging for help!
I have a design for some fur-lined Long Johns
Just to keep my ancient bones! Toasty warm!

Old Man Winter and Mother Nature in tow
Plenty of rain! High winds! And a lot of snow!
A motto for the State of Maine has a clause in it 
If you don't like the weather! Just wait 5 minutes!

By Richard “W” Perkins
( The “W” is for “Winter” is upon us! )

 Over many years, members of the Historical Society have enjoyed, and continue to look forward to, Richard Perkins’ contributions to their quarterly newsletter. Voted “Ogunquit Most Outstanding Citizen” in 2016, he has written over 600 “odes” on a variety of subjects, as well as a culinary column in regional publications, and short stories in books in books and magazines.  A documentary of his life,” How Rude,” premiered in 2011 and was on view at The Leavitt Theater this past year--to the delight of all.

To celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Historical Society we present several wonderful excerpts written by Hope Shelley. These were gathered from the archives of Waves & Furrows as wells as a selection of articles from those published in the Journal Tribune as part of a regular series from 1988 to 1995. All in all, they make a lovely holiday vignette. 

 

Living with History: A Sense of Place

This series has introduced us to people who live in and love historic homes, preserve culturally significant spots, explore history in the research of old  maps and cemeteries, and are inspired by history to create fine art and design. In past editions, Amy and Jared Wilbur described their home in Wells, known as “The County Mouse,” with affection. Marcia Beal Brazer talked about her role in restoring the Woodbury Studio as a way to preserve an important part of the history of Ogunquit, as an artists’ colony started by Marcia Oakes and Charles H. Woodbury. We spoke with Bob Rasche, whose art studio is filled with illustrations of our maritime history.  June (Hilton) Messier has spent much of her life living on Buffum’s Hill, and has spoken about history as “that feeling one should give back to their community.” Liz and Bill Bromage, who live in a cottage on Drake’s Island, told us how they discovered history inside the walls, and designer Jodi Locke wrote about using history as a “muse” in her photography of Wells and Ogunquit landmarks. Wells resident Bennet Sawyer shared his explorations into maps and the story of Bourne Fields. Paul Whitley, on the volunteer staff at the Historical Society, researches the history of Wells through the town’s old cemeteries. For this current edition, Brenna Crothers will share her unique perspective of the history of the landscape.  

Brenna Crothers, the Outreach Coordinator at Great Works Regional Land Trust in Ogunquit, works in an office with a view onto Beach Plum Farm in Ogunquit. She frequently walks the site and enjoys its working landscape and views of the ocean. She especially is drawn to the history of the landscape, and how one can explore layers of changes by examining the visual evidence in maps and photographs. Coming from a long line of women who have worked to conserve land in the state of Maine, Brenna has a passion for sharing her love of the outdoors with her community. She will speak about the conservation values of Great Works Regional Land Trust recreation and how these values are documented. Brenna will focus her talk on two different conservation regions in the towns of Wells & and Ogunquit: the Tatnic region of Wells and Beach Plum Farm in Ogunquit.

The Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit is thrilled to be working with Brenna to bring a public program of discussion, hands-on activities, and a tour of the Meetinghouse Museum. Julia Einstein, administrator for the Historical Society, will co-present with Brenna on shared topics. A focus will be on the visual aspect of history as the maps in the collections of both organizations will be on display. The audience will be guided to look into how layers of history are documented in the changing landscape. Issues of preservation vs conservation, as well as the responsibility involved with being a steward of a historical location, will be discussed.  

Please join us for this program at the Meetinghouse at the Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit, 938 Post Road (Route 1) in Wells.  A Sense of Place: Looking at History will take place on Saturday, January 11 at 10 a.m. The cost is $5 and is free for Historical Society and Great Works Regional Land Trust members. For more information, please email info@wohistory.org

Member News

Welcome New Members

Hal and Karen Muller

In Memorium
Longtime member and friend to the Historical Society, Dr. Ruth Endicott,
passed this season at the age of 103.  Our sincere condolences go our to her family.


Mills on the Mousam
By Joseph Hardy

We are pleased to share an excerpt from Wells historian Joseph Hardy’s most recent book:  "Mills on the Mousam: A History of the Mousam River in Alfred, Sanford, Shapleigh, Springvale, & Wells/Kennebunk"

Every history needs a starting point, and for this history of the Mousam River it is the first decade of the 17th century, only a few years removed from England’s defeat of a Spanish armada in 1588. Building upon the confidence stemming from that victory, merchants and nobility joined forces through the creation of stock companies to finance explorations of North America. Some were designed to search for the Northwest Passage to China, others to explore the possibilities for gold and riches, and still others to seek out sites for new colonies.

Most of the explorers and sea captains dispatched by these companies sailed a long way to get to the New England coast. They voyaged along the French and Spanish coasts before heading across the Atlantic to the West Indies. This roundabout route allowed them to take advantage of the prevailing winds, much in the fashion of Columbus a century earlier. The great majority of them set sail in the early spring, arriving here in the summer, when the vegetation was fresh and green. As a consequence, their written reports proved to be misleading for later settlers, who would underestimate the harshness of our winters. 

Bartholomew Gosnold, a young mariner from Suffolk, stood in stark contrast to the others by sailing directly west from England, in 1602, at a latitude of 43 degrees, braving the North Atlantic waves and weather in his small ship. During this brief expedition he explored much of the New England coast. Encountering the natives of Southern Maine, with their partially naked and painted bodies, he referred to them as savages. More important to him, it seems, was his return cargo of sassafras and furs, encouraging signs that English colonization could one day be profitable. 

Martin Pring visited the following year, arriving on June 7 near Penobscot, then sailing as far south as the Piscataqua River. Along the way, he maneuvered his ship a short distance up the Kennebunk River and though he encountered no native people, he did find evidence of their fires. Samuel Champlain, a French mariner, was here in 1604, and was responsible for an accompanying map that depicts the maize fields of the local inhabitants. He also remarked how much shore land was cleared of underbrush. George Weymouth arrived on our coast from England in 1605 and was either the best or the worst of the lot, depending on one’s point of view. He captured five natives and carried them back to England, for “study and information.” At least he evidenced some curiosity about the local inhabitants. Given ample time for observation, Weymouth described them as  “very comely, with good features….slender, limbs cleanly, straight….plump as a partridge, of a modest deportment….black eyes and very white teeth….sweet, pleasant faces….few or none cross eyed, blind, lame, or hunchbacked, most were well formed and without blemish….no male was bearded beyond a few hairs….dark olive in complexion…bronze or tawny…an average height of five feet ten inches….with an erect carriage and an ability to bear great burdens without stooping….”  

In retrospect, we know that the Native Americans inhabiting the Mousam River Watershed in 1600 were the end of an ancestral line that stretched back roughly 15,000 years to the last ice age, when newly transplanted Asians began their slow, inexorable migrations eastward and southward from this side of the Bering Strait land bridge. These earliest arrivals have been called Paleo-Indians, from the Greek word for “old,” and during the course of the next few thousand years they evolved into subgroups, on two continents, defined by specific cultures and lifestyles. Some made their way slowly southward and their descendants eventually inhabited Central and South America. Those who moved eastward found abundant game and other amenities in the river valleys of the Missouri, the Mississippi, and the Ohio. By the time of Columbus, there were great concentrations of people in those areas and lesser populations further east and in the less hospitable regions of the sub-Arctic. They were the original or true settlers of North and South America, and have a right to be called “Native Americans.”

It has been estimated that, as of 1600, between 70,000 and 150,000 Native Americans were present in what is now New England; the region we identify as Maine may have hosted five to ten thousand inhabitants, though estimates vary greatly. The majority spoke a language that was derived from the same source and is considered to have been “Algonquin.”  Large groups of peoplenations had distinct histories and areas of congregation, and we have come know them by such names as Abenaki, Pequot, Narragansett, and Micmac. As Neil Rolde has emphasized in his book about Maine Indians, however, we don’t really know what these people called themselves. Nevertheless, whatever their true names, the larger nations had smaller subdivisions. The Abenakis, or “Dawnlanders,” for example, have been divided into western and eastern groups, with the latter occupying much of eastern and central Maine, and the former much of New Hampshire and Vermont. The Western Abenaki people of the Mousam Watershed may have included the Pennacooks from Southern New Hampshire, the Sacos who inhabited the Saco River valley just to the northeast of the Mousam, and the Piqwackets from the Ossipee region of Southern Maine.

If historians are hesitant to attribute tribal affiliations to these earliest Americans, they do have a better grasp of where they lived, based partly on archaeological evidence, and partly on the writings of ship captains and other visitors who chronicled what they observed. In general terms, the Indians clustered around the estuaries at the river mouths, and at specific locations up the river valleys; these were locations which provided access to an abundance of food and plant resources. In Wells (which until 1820 included Kennebunk), they could be found on the uplands above the Webhannet and Little River Estuaries where there was later evidence of abandoned corn fields and clearings. Similarly, they were at the mouth of the Saco River below the falls. Bartholomew Gosnold recorded that what is today’s Kennebunk Beach was the summer home of the Webhannet tribe of the Abenakis. Edward Bourne and Daniel Remich, in their respective histories of Wells and Kennebunk, tell us that the local sagamore (chief) and others of his village lived on Great Hill at the mouth of the Mousam.  

The Historical Society will collaborate with Wells Public Library on a very special author reading and book signing event in the Library’s Community Room, to be held at noon on Friday, February 21. Andrea Kazilionis, Adult Services Librarian, has shared with us how Joe’s books are among the library’s top-circulating local history materials. She said, “Wells Library is pleased to have the opportunity to host local historian and author Joseph Hardy to showcase his newest work of local history.” For more information, email info@wohistory.org or call 207-646-8181 ext. 205







Newsletter designed for, and on behalf of, The Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit by Jodi Locke.
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