Our December 10th seminar was the very first showing of Nancy B. Z. Clark’s District of
Maine holding and a spectacular showing it was with thirteen frames of material covering
over 100 of the known postoffices as well as a slide show and various maps and documents
dealing with the subject. As she noted the tale of how Maine became a state is one of political
expediency, greed, religious rivalry and righteous hopes and plans.
Both the French and English claimed Maine and the French claims to a large tract persisted until the close of the
French & Indian War with the loss of Canada. There was also the rivalry between the
Puritans of New England and the Anglicism of Maine’s early founder and settlers; this created
a conflict from 1652 until 1677 with both Gorges and Massachusetts Bay claiming the land at
which point the Bay colony quietly bought out the Gorges claim.
During the Revolution the British burned Portland (Falmouth) in 1775 and occupied Castine
from 1779 to 1783. Benedict Arnold successfully marched an American army across the
Maine wilderness in winter to besiege Quebec, and was nearly successful in adding Canada
to the U.S. domain. He later won the Battle of Saratoga causing the first surrender of a
British army in the field, making it possible for Washington to continue the war and win.
During the War of 1812, New England was disaffected from ‘Mr. Madison’s war’ and traded
freely with the British until May 1814 (Napoleon abdicated April 14th), at which point the
British fleet became more aggressive beginning in May attacking the Maine coast and
occupying Eastport, Castine, Hampden, Bangor and Machias and establishing a base at
Provincetown on Cape Cod.
Led by Timothy Pickering (Washington’s Secretary of the Army) and John Lowell the New England States met in secret conclave at Hartford December 15, 1814 for the purpose of seceding from the Union (justifying Southern arguments for
secession in the Civil War) but cooler heads prevailed on January 5, 1815 and secession was
ruled out as inexpedient and unnecessary. Maine’s boundaries were not finalized at the
Revolution, or at the end of the War of 1812 and the continuing dispute led to the
‘Aroonstook War’ of 1838-9 and the boundaries were not decided until the
Webster-Ashburton treaty compromise of 1842! The final financial reconciliation’s of this
‘North-East Boundary Dispute’ were not completed until 1910!
The District of Maine
© 2002 Nancy B. Z. Clark
Most talks on collections created on a postal history basis, especially to such experienced philatelic citizens, such as your selves, are based on rate periods. I have decided to take a slightly different tact. I have elected to give you a social and political history of the area which became the State of Maine on March 15, 1820, as well as the postal history of the area. It is a political tale of greed as well as righteous hopes and plans.
In most histories the phrase ‘permanent settlement’ means Europeans settled there for more than ten years with no interruptions in resident status. It is commonly held that the first permanent settlement of the area was in the Pemaquid area, the Popham colony, in 1607. This ignores the fishermen homes and temporary residences in St. George, Saco and several other coastal settlements. It also ignores the Viking forays and the Native Americans.
The victory gets to write the history, so we will continue with the French and British viewpoint.
In 1605, the French, under leadership of Champlain (and two boats with over 80 settlers) established a settlement on the island of St. Croix, three miles offshore from Red Beach, (and still part of Maine); they also established a missionary station on Mount Desert island in 1609. The few who survived the winter moved to Nova Scotia, to an area now called Port Royal.
Two years later, in 1606, based upon the same premise that ‘you live there, you own it,’ the British attempted a settlement at Popham, at the mouth of the Kennebec, under the aegis of the Plymouth Company. The colonists returned to England in the spring of 1608.
Ferdinando Gorges and George Mason got a grant from the New England Council (successor to the Plymouth Company) for the area between the Merrimac and the Kennebec, which was name the Province of Maine. In 1639 a royal charter for the Province and County of Maine was granted Ferdinando’s kinsman William Gorges. However, the French had not relinquished their claim until the end of the French and Indian War.
As you can see, the area which was to become Maine underwent the same ownership squabbles as much of the colonies, namely England and France duking it out over governance of the land.
But, Massachusetts Bay Colony also wanted a piece of the pie. They wanted to assume control of Maine. They wanted the natural resources (Maine was the source for the timbers that build the English navy and the ‘Mast Fleet’ sailed back with timber once or twice a year); they wanted to convert the settlers to Puritanism; and they wanted to win land from the French.
In 1680, 118 residents of York, Kittery and Wells petitioned Charles II, asking to be delivered from the domination of Massachusetts Bay. The separatists’ movement begins! During the Revolution, the town of Falmouth (now Portland) ardently resisted the British claims and was bombarded and burned in the same year (1775) that Benedict Arnold led an expedition to capture Quebec for the Americans across the Maine wilds and nearly succeeded. British forces occupied Castine, Me from 1779 to 1783.
Maine was still treated as an integral part of Massachusetts throughout the Confederation period and it wasn’t until May 1, 1790 that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was established with a designated District of Maine, under its governance. There were 12 postoffices in what is now Maine that existed between 1775 and 1793 (see “The Post Office During Confederation Part I” Collectors Club Philatelist January 1981 page 36 with the expansion into Maine discussed in Part VI pages 427-431 of the November issue).
In his 1994 book Postmasters & Postoffices of the United States 1782-1811 Robert J. Stets gives additional correspondence and offices on pages 126-133. This listed 165 postoffices during the District of Maine period of which private post riders who were paid by the patrons initially handled two (Georgetown and Thomaston). There was a post road from Passamaquoddy to Portsmouth by 1795.
Passamaquoddy to Penobscot. The post rider was John Fullerton, contract for $290 per year; he was succeeded by John Grindle.
Penobscot to Warren. Post rider was Samuel Russell for $300 per year.
Warren to Wiscasset may have been carried by private post riders as no contracts this early.
Wiscasset to Portland route mail was carried by Caleb Graffam for $64 per year.
Portland to Portsmouth mail was carried twice a week by Josiah Paine for $450 per year. Samuel Gragg who carried the mail for $272 per year succeeded him.
* Letter postmarked Boston Sep. 25, 18ll, F.F. for PM Augusta by Nathan Weston, newly appointed Judge for 2nd Circuit, serving Lincoln, Kennebeck and Somerset counties. He writes to Ebenezer T. Warren, Hallowell, presumably in reference to the upcoming election for Governor:
“Dear Sir, The nominations for our part of the country are this day made. Every thing will succeed according to the wishes of our friends. I beg that this intelligence may be communicated only to our most confidential friends and that with an injunction of perfect secrecy for the present. I shall leave town on my return tomorrow morning.
With haste yours, Nathan Weston, Jr.”
Governor Caleb Strong, a Federalist, was reelected to his 8th term.
In 1813, the War Department, to embarrass Governor Strong for his opposition to what he called ‘Mr. Madison’s War,’ ordered all the troops guarding U.S. garrisons in Maine to the Great Lakers. The contents of a survivor’s letter of the move are telling,
*Letter written to MC Timothy Carter, by Levi Shaw of East Bethel. Sent free to a Member of Congress:
“Honored Sir: I have taken the Liberty to Rite a few lines to you concerning the discharge of My Brother Charles from the army. I Rote to you before But did not Rite his given name. My Brother’s Name is Charles Shaw, his age 19. He inlisted (sic) in June or July 1812 for Five years in W. Hampden In Capt. Buttler’s (sic), Comppany (sic) of Light dragoons (sic) & Marched to Concord Newhampshire & from thence to Birlington (sic) & platsburg (sic) 7 Swanton.
The next Letter he Rites from Choezoey (Casanovia?) August the 20th 1814. That is the Last I Receved (sic) from him till I reced one dated Fort Mifflin November the 6 1816. He Rites that he had been Marched into the Western States to stop the Depredations of the Indians & now is at Fort Mifflin Where he is to Receive his discharged, the 6 day of July next. He inlisted for five years & was to have one hundred & sixty acres of Land in the Michigan Territory as a Bounty Capt. Rouch Commands the Company (‘Corp of Artillery.’ written in another hand in red ink) that he is in how…
In red ink, processing verbiage: Land Warrant No. 10,141 issued 28 July 1817-to Chars. Shaw-a private of Capt. Roach’s Comp of the Corps of Art’y ‘Notification’ sent to Himself care of Capt. Roach Phila. He was discharged at Fort Mifflin 16 Jany 1817.
After the soldiers left, only those too infirm to have been moved guarded the coasts. Up in Aroostook County, there was some activity.
*Datelined Stewartstown, (probably near Stewart’s Hill and Steward’s Brook in Aroostook County) Febr. 25th 1813.
“Honored Parents: With pleasure do I set down to inform you of my good health and spirits and I hope this will find you the same. What a pleasure it is to enjoy the art of using the pen to inform each other of our health and affairs in life though ever so far distant apart. As I have said before we enjoy our selves very well indeed. The company is in very good health. Lieut. White and Ensign Neal with 15 men when on a scouting party after a load of goods. After traveling a few lines they separated (sic). Ensign took 8 men Lieut. 7, they pushed on into Canada some distance into the province. Lieut. White heard the goods (guards), wen (sic) a few miles ahead he hired a horse and pushed on as fast as possible. He told his men to come on after him as fast as they could. He expected to overtake them in the woods it being 12 miles through but he did not even take the guards till they got through. Being animated with hope that he would take them he came up with them at this side. Ensign Popes, a british (sic) officer, he stoped (sic) the goods two and half hours alone waiting for his men to come up. When about 30 men gathered round with pitch forks swords and clubs 4 British officers came. Then they still kept gathering. He found his guard did not come. He surrendered himself a prisoner of war. They consulted together. What they Should do with him. Some were for Sending him to Quebec. Finaly (sic) they thought it would be bad policy to keep him. They keep him 2 or 3 hours and then let him go. The men he had with him were very tired and go along very slow. He wrote the Ensign Neal to return. They gathered so fast he thought imprudent for him or his men to come an he mentioned the next morning the goods he promised were stoped (sic) in Easton 8 or 10 miles ahead and they sent out word that if the goods were pass over him they would do the thing that was wright (sic) about them. We were satisfied they were men over the line. We believe it is through fear that they conduct in this way. We think Lieut. White shew (sic) his courage in pursuing 20 miles in the bowels of Canada and you may think it impolicy but if you understood every circumstance you would think otherwise…”
Somewhat south, down the coast in Wiscasset, things remained calm.
* Military orders Wiscasset, Sept. 14, 1814 (orders from Wiscasset to troops under Brigadier General Gould with approval of past performance and orders).
But the report from Kennebunk, still further down toward Boston, was frightening:
* From Kennebunk, docketed Sunday noon 25 Sept. 1814 to E. T. Warren, Hallowell with a 10 cent rate:
“Dear Sir- Just arrived here in fine spirits for us after a dull forenoon’s ride-our health improves-weather looks dubious, but we shall ride when it rains-shall go but way of Portsmouth as Genl Chandler is there, having left Portland on Thursday last for the purpose of taking command at the former place-Some alarm in those aboard towns particularly Boston, Portsmouth and Portland as they enemy, in great strength is seen lying off & on in the bay, alternately menacing the two former places–& has avowed his intention to destroy them.”
(And the Separatists took out public notice of the situation and steps to take to resolve it.)
“Have as yet met with no difficulty about eastern bills-Saw the Editor of the Portland Gazette last night-en engaged to insert the notice I handed him-it will come out tomorrow-he said he would speak to the Editor of the Argus on the subject-Tilton tells me that the Cumberland Bank refuse their old bills, & the Portland evade all, by saying their funds are removed into the country-their Bills, however pass-My Bridle, which I want Jewell to new mount hangs up in my Barn, I forgot to send it to the office-wish you would not forget it. Yours etc., A Mann ½ past one”, it breaks away.
Napoleon’s abdication on April 11, 1814 freed the British fleet to pursue a more aggressive North American policy beginning in May blockading from L. I. to Penobscot with two frigates headquartered at occupied Provincetown, Ms. The Maine coast east of Penobscot was occupied. Eastport, Castine (in August), Hampden, Bangor (several days in September) and Machias fell to the British. Governor Strong called an extra session of the General Court in October 1814 to authorize his borrowing of funds to support the militia efforts along the coast. He failed to raise the issue of the eviction of the British from eastern Maine at this session. This did not win him support in the District.
It then became apparent that the majority of the funds were to be used in the defense of Boston, with District protection a secondary concern. Appropriating funds without caring for the District was another no-go for the residents.
Smuggling food and support to British forces was a lucrative activity. When local Militia troops became too effective in preventing smuggling, the British caused a tactical retreat from Robbinston to Machias. Then came the foray up the St. George River (referred to above.)
* October 25, 1814 letter from PMG Meigs to William D. Williamson, PM Bangor
“Gen’rl Post office October 255 1814:
Sir: Under the circumstances in which you have been placed by the enemy-you must make out yr. office accounts in the best Way you cann & transmit them-accompanied by affidavit-I am yr. obdt. svt. P. Meigs”
A large British fleet arrived at Castine September 1st. The Militia, seeing how futile their cause, blew up their own fort and fled up the bay. Soon a flag was sent across the bay to Belfast to ask for their surrender. From there, a fleet went up the Penobscot, headed for Bangor. The following letter to the PM there is of interest:
* Williamson reports ‘upwards of $50 post-office money were exacted and taken’ among other outrages.”
By November, those of Maj. General King and part of General Seward’s Division joined Gould’s troops at Wiscasset. They remained there until the British fleet was seen to sail past Castine, and they dispersed.
The Treaty of Ghent signed Dec 24, 1814, received in this country Feb. 11, 1815. Castine finally got rid of the British troops April 25, 1815.
Ah, but how to pay for this righteous repelling invaders!
* Georgetown military mail May 1, 1812 from the U.S. garrison. Written by Jackson Durand Georgetown, United States garrison Georgetown, to Dr. John McCrilles and sent free as military mail.
“My Boat has this evening returned from Wiscasset-and Capt. Berring has sent me a verbal request to settle your demand against the Government-and for this purpose he has forwarded to me $45.80, being the amount of your demand. Should you be disposed to discontinue the process against me, and receive the money (as no doubt you will) you will please to call as soon as it will suit your convenience and receive it. -Tomorrow and the next day shall be at home-but on Monday I shall probably make a visit to Bath-I am Sir, Respectfully, your humble serv’nt Jackson Durand”
Enter the War Rates, Enacted on Dec. 23, 1814, implemented February 1, 1815.
Restored Rate lasted only one month, voted Feb. 1, 1816, enacted March 31, 1816, ended May 1, 1816.
So, the War is over, and coffers are replenished, and the majority of people who voted want to be separated from Massachusetts. But, they need to get a 5/9th majority to succeed. Matters are heating up.
But there are two postmasters who do their best to protest the separatist movement: Syms Gardner of Bowdoinham and Stephen Thatcher of Kennebunk. The former used a Bowdoinham, D. M. handstamp in 1820 while the latter used a Kennebunk, MS in 1819. Syms Gardner used the postmark both pre- and post statehood.
Kennebunk, part of Wells, wanted to be annexed to New Hampshire rather than be part of a separate state. Of the Kennebunk protest postmarks, only four are known to exist. One man has two copies, and two others have a single copy apiece. Known February 26 to March 24, 1819, I do not own a copy, but my mentor in Maine collecting has (or has tried to) arranged to bring his copy so you can see one.
The politicians are almost ready to consummate the separation. The man who would be King (no, his name is King) will soon be our first Governor, rallies the final charge in this letter.
* William D. Williamson, to be first Governor, to J. Williamson, Esq., Secretary of the Convention to meet at Bucksport. Letter from Bath, Sept. 22, 1818.
“Sir, I observe a meeting has been notified of your congregational, and a part of our Senatorial District, to meet at Bucksport, the last calendar day of this month, the purpose to select a candidate to represent your district in the next congress. Nothing more is wanting I assume than for the Republicans to be united in your district and the (?toire) of your candidate must be certain (this result is rendered almost certain as we are informed here) as it is stated that the Mr. L. Jarvis is very generally spoken of, the uniform support which the Republican measures of our country have received from all the Jarvis family, in addition to this Mr. Jarvis, possessing all the necessary qualifications will place him in congress on the first instance under circumstances more favourable (sic) than any other person perhaps in the district of Maine, I sincerely hope this result so interesting to our District will be effected.–
The Mr. Jarvis not having been a member of our State Legislature, would not be able to do so much for us here or gentlemen who have been there and have formed their acquaintances, I name this as it has been observed, that some of Mr. Williamses (sic) friends are desirous it is understood that he should be the candidate, seeing that this might be the case is my principle inducement for writing you at this time. -Measures of the utmost in fortune to this District as well as the State will be conducted the next year, and Mr. Williamson must not leave the Senate were (sic) he has acquired very greate (sic) influence, until (sic), these measures are effected, even should he himself prefer a seate (sic) in congress at this time, the interest of his Constituents being more promoted by his remaining in our Senate, I think he will not hesitate a (?) in deciding.
The other object of your meeting (?) some remarks which have been made by Gentlemen in the Country I am inclined to think you had better agree on one Senator at this time and omit the other for a little advisement with the Resident September A. Lincoln, the new organization which has been entered into here with great zeal will render this as a seceedure of frustration necessary – I have no doubt however in the result of every thing being perfectly satisfactory – but as some of our people here say they are entitled to (?) more than half, the Senator, as indeed gave as to their aiding you in the nomination will do no harm.-
I beg of your sir in the court of your communicating any of this opinions (sic) to the mention of your (?) to say that my only object is to aid the republican cause which I genuinely believe to be that of our country.
I am Sir Respectfully Your Humble Svt. W. King”
The vote was held and statehood was near. On October 11, 1819 the state constitutional convention was called to order.
March 15, 1820 Maine became a state. As the 23rd state to enter the Union, they were admitted along with Missouri; Maine as a free state, Missouri as a slave state. This was called the Missouri Compromise. It kept the balance within the U.s. Senate unchanged.
Governors of Maine through 1831
Elected Name Left Office
1820 William King resigned May 1821
1821, May William D. Williamson December 1821 (was Pres. of Senate, Acting Gov.)
1822 Albion K Parris 1827
1827 Enoch Lincoln Died Aug. 1829
1829 Nathan Cutler Jan 1830 (was Pres. of Senate, Acting Gov.)
1830 Jonathan G. Hunton 1831
1831 Samuel E. Smith
History of the State of Maine, William D. William D. Williamson, published by Glaziers, Masters & Co., Hallowell 1832, 1839. Reissued the Cumberland Press 2 vol. + supplement 66-22134
Maine Dirigo ‘I Lead,’ Denn B. Bennett, published by Down East Books, Camden 1980 ISBN 0-89272-103-0
The Dictionary of Maine Place Names, Phillip R. Rutherford, published by The Bond Wheelwright Co., Freeport, 1970, ISBN 87027-121-0
The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, published by DeLorme, Freeport 1981. ISBN 080933-035-3
Maine Postal History and Postmarks, Sterling T. Dow. Quarterman publication reprint, Lawrence MA 1976. Other versions pub. by Severn-Wylie-Jewett Co., W. R. McCoy, Collectors Club, Inc., U.S. Philatelic Classics Society. ISBN 0-88000-065-1
The Post Offices of Maine, A Rarity Guide, Maine Postal history Society, Cumberland 1995
Postal Operations in the United States 1794, Robert J. Stets, privately published Walterboro, SC. 1991
Postmasters & Postoffices of the United States 1782-1811 prepared by Robert J. Stets Published by La Posta Publications Lake Oswego, Oregon 1994
Maine Becomes a State, Ronald F. Banks, Maine Historical Society, New Hampshire Publishing Co., Somersworth, NY, 1973
A List of the Post Offices of Maine, Dr. George D. chase and Paul E. Hanneman, private papers, Sterling Dow, 1946
Heads of Families of the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790/ Maine. Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of the Census, Washington Government Printing Office, 1908.