Democracy in a small Maine town

HERE IS A VINTAGE CIRCA 1941 PHOTO OF A LOCAL TOWN HALL.

 

greenwood town hall

 

No account of Maine’s development and spirit would be complete without mention of its great sea-faring activities. Even before statehood in 1820, Maine produced ships for the military and for private merchant fleets. Maine had the lumber to produce ships, it had the ocean front–2500 miles of it–from which to commence. The CHRONICLE editor points out that sea-faring gave what would have been a fairly provincial existence the worldly experience necessary to broaden thought. Country boys were given a chance to learn the skill, gain in authority, and see places only dreamed of by many.

 

One such boy was Theodore Wells, who wrote of his experiences as a man. His first command involved sailing from Maine to the West Indies under instructions to trade his cargo of lumber for a certain amount of molasses. On this disastrous voyage he sailed from port to port but was unable to trade at the desired price owing to an overstock of Maine lumber in the area. After a month he finally traded for coffee and sailed for Maine, but on the way was shipwrecked upon a reef. Island wreckers obtained 60% of the cargo’s value from auctioning both wreck and freight, and Wells was left to return with his crew holding only $900 for all. In spite of this, the firm that had hired him gave him another command at which he was able to prove himself. This sea-faring incident shows that faith had found its desired foothold in Maine, in the persons of Wells and his backers.

Rufus Matthew Jones tells of the workings of Democracy in a small Maine town, and how he became acquainted with it through Town Meetings. During these “a boy could discover the glory of citizenship and have the thrill of ‘belonging’.” Issues having to do with the welfare of the Town were here discussed and decided upon locally by community members. The Town cared for the poor, funded the schools, cleared snow and repaired roads. The latter jobs were carried out by the sweat of town men and horses. Rufus Jones, as a boy, walked with a crew, hoeing out loose stones that could cause a horse to stumble. In the spring, washed out roads had to be refurbished with picks, hoes, and scrapers, and boys took part in these jobs with the men.

the school became the town office

 

A boy was an inherent and essential part of this town. He helped to make these highways safe and passable, and, in doing it with his community, made his contribution to the district, state or commonwealth, and nation. In this role he knew that be was helping to make the country to which he belonged.

Here another eternal concept is embodied. Each must act out his belief in the worth of his spiritual country by continually taking thought for it and laboring in its upkeep. To meet this responsibility is to uphold one’s beliefs.

town hall today, new road configuration

 

For more on the process, see update at the bottom of this post:

neighbor Ann asked me to post her letter:

See also:

The Early History of Greenwood, Maine

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MAINE: A LITERARY CHRONICLE (1968) is referenced above. It’s full of selections pertaining to historical Maine. Editor/ compiler is W. Storrs Lee.

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