VOL. 1. NO. 1.
\^ SOMETHING OF ITS PAST, PRESENT AND
B. REDFORD MELCHER.
SACO, MAINE :
PRESS OF THE BIDDEFORD JOURNAL.
Vol. I. No. I.
SOMETHING OF ITS PAST, PRESENT AND
B. REDFORD MELCHER
Other similar societies are requested to exchange
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VOL. 1. NO. 1.
SOMETHING OF ITS PAST, PRESENT AND
B. REDFORD MELCHER.
PRESS OF THE BIDDEFORD JOURNAL.
SOMETHlf OF ITS PAST, Pl[ESENT Af(D FUTUI[E.
Address delivered March 4, 1884, before the Society.
Ladies and Gentlemen : —
It is fortunate that the name "York Institute" was
given to this society. Had it been any less general,
"York County Historical Society" or "York County Nat-
ural History Society," the association would have suffered
by being regarded by some as too narrow in its designs.
Under the former of these titles a few lovers of nature
and science would have been repelled, thinking civil and
political history to be dry, and to them nearly profitless ;
under the latter, others would have been kept away whose
fondness was for men, places and events, rather than for
God's humbler creatures and lower creations. As it is, the
name is non-committal ; in only one respect pointing to
the particular, where it seems to confine us somewhat
closely to whatever concerns York County. In this re-
spect, however, it is only a seeming.
No one regards this Institute as an assemblage of indi-
viduals bent on dealing with special subjects and pet the-
ories far above the reach of most persons. On the con-
trary, by the wisdom of its founders, room enough was
made for all subjects to get a treatment — for all persons
to have a hearing should any desire to be heard, or
should any subject seem to require discussion. York
Institute, notice, is almost the only public place in these
two cities where a free discourse on anything may be de-
livered, or where a free debate of any question may be
had. It affords a grand privilege to all, and it is simply
surprising that more do not avail themselves of the ad-
Under the general name, then, of "York Institute" are
banded together a number of gentlemen, who, while pri-
marily organizing a scientific society for the collection,
orderly arrangement, and preservation of samples of ev-
erything of scientific value belonging to this county, and
for the regular giving of addresses on any and all scien-
tific subjects ; also did not forget that man is the chief of
all created things, and that his history possesses higher
and greater attractions in proportion as he is higher and
greater than any of the creatures below him. These gen-
tlemen, therefore, very wisely enlarged the scope of what
otherwise might have been only a Museum of Natural
History, and included as a part of its original design a
department given to the civil and political history of the
county, and State ; so that the Institute was prevented
from becoming special, and, at once, was made general.
It reaches out in every direction for additions to its many
collections, and its lectures and conversational discussions
take a wider range each succeeding year of its existence.
You have heard that all knowledge is of two kinds,
classified and unclassified. Not only has York Institute
desired to have presented classified knowledge, or true
science ; but also some unclassified knowledge has been
allowed to creep in among the sayings of this room. For
example : the remark that "a banyan tree big enough to
cover the whole of the City of Saco" had b-en seen by
t»ne -mcTiiljeT, must he put among the many funny things
of our Institute C!ille(] uiiclassilied. — My own numerous
■addresses might properlv he consigned to the same list of
things protniscuons. There, too, the wit and the humoi*
•of our gatherings belong.
But when we come to classified knowledge, then we
reach the field occupied by the Institute. Would that
this field of science universal might be not only occupied,
l)ut thoroughly possessed.
And yet how many things have been well unfolded in
prepared lectures within these walls. You have here
*heard mathematical demonstrations by no means easy, and
Slave seen Ihem explained on the black-board. You have
listened with clo^e attention to lectures on geographical
subjects, and have followed the speaker as he led yon
iiloiig by the help of maps and charts. You have had
fine astronomical lectures; and, at times, visible illustra^
tions of excellent character have accompanied them. The
«tereopticon has beesi of service more than once. Yoa
have been entertained in a high degree by some lecturers
on physics; they taking such a subject as '^Electricity,'"'
and giving experiments ; or "Heat," or "Sound," and giv-
ing discussions. Even astrology was once introduced ;;
and a brisk talk held, years ago, on the question of
whether the unusual nearness of tour great planets to the
sun portended commotions, plagues, wars, troublesome
distresses or — the end of the world ! — and though many of
these direful things transpired, you did not become as-
^'The Metric System" appeared with its advocate and its
charts. Who can forget the graphic and exciting descrip-
tion of "Smugglmg on the Maine Border," told by one of
our number, a Government officer who had been detailed
to suppress the evil? Chemistry and geology have not
heen omitted as subjects to be dealt with. Botany and
physiology have been expatiated upon ; as lectures on the
"Circulation of Sap," and the "Duality of the Brain," will
vindicate. Upon zo-ology, of course, we have had many,
many papers ; while each fresh contribution of bird or
other animal, has called forth sundry and varied comments,
queries!, and answers from ourselves, and then from the
audiences, as they felt emboldened to join in the conver-
sation. "The Geographical Distribution of Animals" has
been lectured upon ; and dry as the subject would ap-
pear to be, the expressions of interest taken in it were
earnest, and a continuation of the topic was asked. What
eminently entertaining subjects one well-known Univer-
sity ex-president has chosen to bring us, and what beau-
ty of language his pen throws around them !
By referring to these few of the many papers presented
to the Institute in this way, its members may see what a
variety of sciences has come in for a share of attention, —
the science of life, of matter, of force, of space, and of
time. What of the science of mind? and the science of
society? No lectures on psychology, the real science of
the mind, on logic, or on philology, to my knowledge
have been delivered. And yet T do remember one on
"Truth" by Professor Kinsman ; therefore you are asked
to mentally supply where this hurriedly made list is defi-
cient. A most delightfully attractive course of talks in
the first of these sciences might be laid out, however, by
starting the questions : W^hat is reason ? What is in-
stinct? next, by comparing the workings of instinct in
animals and man with reason working in man ; and, fi-
nally, by considering whether reason could be predicated
of animals, and in what degree.
The science of society has received notice. Again and
again have lectures been offered on the early history of
the neighboring towns, as Wells and Kenuebunk ; on York
County, and on the State of Maine. These papers have
had regard to the ancient residences and their inhabitants ;
to ancient manners and cnstoms ; to the early history of
discoveries, of minor events, of laws, of wars, &c. They
have been a source of pleasure to not a few interested in
preserving every remenil)rjince of those who lived
where we now dwell. The science of political econ-
omy has not been touched upon ; but has such a practical
side to it, that it ought to be brought up forthwith.
Educational addresses have been in abundance. The
listeners have been carried by a reverend gentleman to
"Rome;" have sat at the feet of "Lucretius" with a New
York judge ; have caught glimpses of "German Student
Life" from a Connecticut pastor ; have been brought
home to America by a teacher to hear the "Classics De-
fended," the "System of Public Schools Condemned," or
"Industrial Education" upheld by a clergyman of this city.
"Evolution," "Reconciliation between Science and Reli-
gion," "Telegraphy," "Rome's Struggle against German
Unity," occur as titles, which, with the others be-
fore mentioned, will represent the varied nature and
character that York Institute has allowed to the docu-
ments and utterances which have proceeded from its mem-
bers and invited friends. It is my candid belief, that a
more interesting and instructive list of subjects for a gen-
eral society like ours to consider, than the one which the
records show this society to have made for itself during
the last half dozen years, would be very hard to suggest.
Read the records, to catch an idea of the way in which
the broad, original scheme has been carried out. "On
Drawing" and "On the Elements of the Perspective," On
Comets," "On Magellanic Clouds," "On Leather," "On
the Compass," "On Dualism in Nature," — but this part of
my paper must be dismissed. Please complete it from
your memories, and make the list a perfect one.
While such an extended ransre has been noticeable in the
subjects presented, the intriTsioo of sectarfanistir in re-
ligion, and partisanship in politics, has been avoided.
No good reaso-n, therefore, could be brougbt forward by
any elerg:yman or any iwlitician for not joining the soci-
ety. There bave been offered as excuses for not l>elong-
ing the sayings —I do not call then> reasons — that "alfi
science was irreligious," that "York Institute was irreli-
gious ;" but how can any but the most ignorant, foolish,
or prejirdiced persons believe such nonsense. Is nofe
theology itself a science? Even the parties raaknig sucb
declarations must have suspected them to be false, and
must have offered them on the ground that "a poor ex-
cuse is better than none.''
These remarks upon the name of the soeiety, and this,
brief glimi^se of its past work hastily sketched in part on-
ly, pave the way to a consideration of its present and its
The collections of variegated minerals and beautiful
shells ; of rare coins and curious woods ; of ancient and
modern news^^apers ; of books and pamphlets received
from the Government, public officers and private citi-
zens — notably, from the latter, the famous, but too little
appreciated, Judge Thatcher Documents, the value of
which is inestimable to a society like this ; — the striking
mementoes of the different wars in which our nation has
engaged, the other thousand and one things gathered from
everywhere, and preserved by the society — ^these are here
to-night completely surrounding you, to speak for them-
selves, and to testify as plainly as inanimate things can,
that York Institute has no intention of being anything
but a permanent institution. It has come to stay. It is
a fixed fact, absolute, sure. Its present is safe enough.
Established in so old a part of the State there are
special reasons why it should never be permitted to Ian-
giiish. Change its $18,000 or $14,000 cash into five or
ten times the sum, and see what good it will accomplish.
There are urging, pressing matters to be settled now^
that must not be left for even the near future to decide.
Pride should stimulate us, as one person, to gather now
every trustwoilhy bit of information regarding the past
history of the people of this county, everything relatino-
to their social life ; .as their manners, dress, customs, suf-
ferings, amusements, &c. These facts should not be left
to die with those who possess them. They should be
stored in the archives of this society, to furnish material
for the future historian ; so that he may make an accurate
and faithful picture of what the life in this part of the na-
tion once was. Without doubt New England soon will
begin to seem to the young, growing West, about .-is an-
cient as Old England does to us. There are o-entlemen
present who should help in this work of gatherino- histor-
ical facts and I will venture, with some diffidence, to suo -
gest how help can be given.
We are in the center of a population of twenty thou-
sand souls. Our county will embrace perhaps sixty-five
thousand. Let these figures cause us to realize the im-
portance of doing well the work contemplated ; since the
work is harder when done to please so many. The suo-.
gestion in this : Let these gentlemen whose memories o-q
back the farthest jot down in note-books or diaries thinos
worthy of remembrance, and donate to this society their
personal records of men, places and events, with whom
and with which they have been familiar. There should be
passed a law, if nothing else will secure the end desired,
that no man shall die tvith an uncomniunicated historical
fact in his possession !
Having one such foct in keeping, I am eager to divultre
it, in order that my freedom to "depart in peace" may
not be interfered with.
Haifa dozen years since, I received in answer to some
questions of mine, a letter from a fine, old gentleman, a
gentleman of more than ninety years, and filled with the
spirit of the days gone by. Among the several things nf
which he wrote, was this, which you will be likely to
think worth knowing, and worth saving.
I had asked him if he remembered when Washington
died . He wrote :
"Yes, sir, I remember very well when he died ; and the
day he was buried they had an imitation funeral in Saco.
They formed a procession and carried a coffin by four men
as underbearers, with pall-bearers marching by their side.
It was the style in those days. They m;irched to the old
meeting-house that stood on the Common (where a school-
house now stands) of which" (referring to the church) "I
think Gov. Fairfield's grandfather was then the pastor ;
and they had a funeral sermon and other services. I and
other boys wore black crape on the arm that day."
Reflect a little, and it will not cause wonder that the
boy's memory retained such an event, A funeral with a
sermon is common enough now. The unusual circum-
stance would be its omission. But "formerly no religious
services whatever were held at funerals. The first prayer
at a funeral in Boston was in 1766, and the first funeral
sermon was as late as 1783." So says the Hon. Robert
Now, ladies and gentlemen, please produce the divers
scraps of history, quaint, odd and charming, that you
happen to have, and free your minds for the benefit of
Some time back was mentioned "the future historian ;"
but the fact is, the society needs an historian now. The
future never comes. The historian should be even now
busy treasuring up and arranging his items for the full
history of the county. Moreover, he should be a man
heartily in sympathy with the people of the region, not a
stranger eager for pelf. He shonld be wealthy enough to
be practically above want. If he would accept the posi-
tion, it would not be difficult to designate him.
Again, York Institute should be the depository of other
historical facts. So long as questions in early Maine his-
tory are unsettled, this society will be needed, to help
discover the truth, and to stand by it boldly. Why so?
Because, if for no other reason, this is the oldest part of
the State permanently settled ; because, if here where her
history almost begins, we have no concern or pride in the
matter, no one else can be blamed for indifference towards
the glorious State whose motto is the proudest: "Dirigo,"
"I direct." You see these things will forge to the front.
The early history of our State must be written, and writ-
ten aright, and of all other counties in the land the
county that held within its limits the Jii^st duly incorpor-
ated city 071 thiis continent, ought to have something to
say about the manner in which this history should be
written ; ought to feel an enthusiasm, a spirit about it,
that would assert just claims and maintain them until
York Institute, as this county's historic society, has
certainly a ver}^ important duty and an excellent oppor-
tunity without searching further. These it must not
"Talk up Maine, if you Please" is an article in one of
our local papers of recent date, and it will bear repetition.
"In the first place, Maine stands fourth among the thirty-
eight states in the number of water-wheels and the amount
of water-power she has in use. In her quarrying indus-
tries she ranks first in grranite and third in slate, beius:
exceeded in the latter only by Pennsylvania and Vermont.
In shipbuilding she is third in the list, outranking all the
States with the exception of New York and Pennsylvania,
Her fisheries are fourth in importance, being only ex-
ceeded by Massachusetts, New York and Maryland. Her
production of manufactured lural)er is only exceeded by
six states — New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana,
Michigan and Wisconsin. In paper manufacture she is
sixth in importance, being exceeded by Massachusetts,
Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In the
production of tanned leather she is fourth, being out-
ranked by Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.
In the manufacture of boots and shoes she is fifth in im-
portance, being exceeded by New Hampshire, Massachu-
setts, Rhode Island and Connecticut ; and in the manu-
facture of woolen goods and mixed textiles she ranks
seventh, being exceeded by the last mentioned states to-
gether with New York and Penusylvania."
Let there be added to this short piece the following:
In the total amount of water-power she is first of all. She
has so many lakes as to have been termed the "Lake State."
She is the mother of the "Maine Liquor Law." She is in
intelligence the whitest State in the Union ! Talk up
Mahie, if you please. Yes, Maine needs good words
spoken of her. Her sons should speak for her nobly.
Hitherto, as a rule, they have been too modest by half.
In a world where nothing is lost by boldness and cunning,
modest worth is apt to be slighted. What has been re-
corded may be "a survival of the fittest," it is quite as like-
ly to be "a survival of the brassiest," or the smartest.
Let me refer to some of these historical matters too little
talked of, and too much kept in the back-ground. Enter
one of the Grammer schools of — : — city. Take the
United States History. Here is one. Opening at page
18th we find the words "Puritans, 1620," and "Plymouth
Colony" filling the entire space called by the U. S. Gov-
ernment the "Gulf of Maine." The last name is not down.
Besides, all the settlements made ou the coast of Maine
are completely ignored. But examine the map more
-closely. At first glance, you try to satisfy yourself that
the omissions are because it is a map of permanent settle-
•Dients merely ; but no. You will tind in conspicuous
type the names of even ordinary discoverers of lands and
islands, head-lands and straits. Then, if it was injustice
not to mention any of the early settlements in Maine, one
as early as 1607, and others before 1620, is it not a double
injustice that in a map including early discoveries also,
not the slightest attention is paid to the repeated and no-
table discoveries on the Maine coast? In history one ex-
pects fair play. It is not always obtained, however, with-
On page 38th, in a foot-note of three lines, is a mere
mention of the "Popham Colony." It got in by squeezing.
It has also squeezed into the revised edition of Bancroft's
History of the United States. It has been a fact fighting
for its life for recognition. It has won. It is now an
acknowledged fact. You may soon expect to see
■"Temaquid" in the histories. On page 41st no notice is
taken of Gosnold's visit to Maine ; but his trip to Cape
Cod our Massachusetts friends will find inserted. How
rejoicing to those favoring "the truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth !"
On page 42d you will detect an error: "Puritans set-
tled at Plymouth" should be "Pilgrims settled at Plym-
outh ;" and then a glaring mistake — "first English settle-
ment in New England, Dec. 21st, 1620" — the fact being
that the colony on the Kennebec antedated this by thir-
teen vears ! Permanent settlements are elsewhere spoken
Again, see page 53d, and read that Capt. John Smith
"examined the coast from Penobscot to Cape Cod, drew a
map of it (the famous 1614 map on which he put down
"Plimouth" six years before the Pilgrims landed there,)
Jtnd called the cotnitry New England." Did he? A half^
Iriith is the worst sort of a falsehood. From the wordss^
would you j>ot infer that Smith named the country New
England? Who did? It was first named New England
by Sir Francis Drake, who was the fir&t, of whom we have
any account, to set his foot upon its shore, in the year
1586. Smith himself says : "New Engi^tnd is that part of
America in the Ocean Sea opposite to Nova Albion, in
the South Sea, discovered by the most memorable Sir
Francis Drake, in his voyage about the world in regard
whereof this is still stiled New Englmid" Says one :
"The noble and generous-minded Smith, unlike Americus,
would not permit or suffer his res^^ected friend and con-
temporary to be deprived of any honor due to him in Ms-
day ; and to this we may attribute the revival of the name
New England in 1G14."
Again, on page 55th of the school history, are you told
that Samoset, the Indian who one day shouted to the
Pilgrims, "Welcome, Englishmen!" was in truth Lord
of Pemaquid? Pemaquid was in Maine. There was space
enough on the page for a big picture of the scene and the
words, "Plymouth, 1621 ;" but none for the discovery
made by a distinguished member of the Maine Historical
Society, and of this Institute, who was also at the time of
his death a member of the Massachusetts Historical So-
ciety, that San)08et was the veritable Lord of a tribe of
Maine Indians He was a somebody, instead of a nobody.
How came Samoset to speak his broken English ? or did
you neglect to think about it? English has to be learned,
even broken English, even single words. They come not
by inspiration. Did not this Indian learn his English
in Maine of Maine settlers? The date is 1621. They had
been there. They, perhaps, were still there. Why not
say it? This Indian's visit was a noteworthy one. It
subsequently led to a visit of Massasoit, and later on to a
^eaty of fifty years. Fifty y«ars of peaoe do mu(;h to es-
tablish a colony.
On page 59th we read^ "The Bost(Mi colony hnilt a
«hip the first year after its settle n:ient." That would he
in 1H31. VVhy print tbe fact ; unless to give the im-
pression that h-ere is the record of the first ship built on
this continent by the English? One surely gets that im-
pression especially when after diligently turning over the
leaves, he finds nothing said of the building (Vf any other
vessel The first English built ship was the "Virginia,"
and Fort Popham in Maine was the place. Give the
Kennebec the glory, and Maine her due^ If either ves-
sel sh(Hild be specified, why not the one of the two con-
structed twenty-four years before the other? "It is the
first step that costs." Shall we mention the ordinary,
and shut out the extraordinar}^ ? Maine men are pleased
that tlie Kennebec, celebrated for its fine vessels, was the
pioneer in the art of American ship-building.
On the same page, Sir William Phips is styled "royal
governor of Massachusetts, Maine and Nova Scotia."
Who, from the book, would know him to be Maine-born
and bred? Was he the first and only native Ameri-
can ever knighted ill England? Or were there two oth-
ers — Maine Men? Isn't so strange an occurrence worth
recording? Was he a Kenuebecker? Were they?
Four lines on page 29th will explain to you in italics :
'"Saint Augustine is the oldest town in the United States.'''
Lower down you read that Santa Fd "is the second oldest
town in the United States." The dates — I do not vouch
for them — differ by seventeen years — 1565, and 1582.
Now where are we to turn for a line or two about the first