For an example of town column news content, here’s something on “Johnny’s Bridge,” mentioned elsewhere among pages I’ve written on Maine. This is a change not in the name itself but of the history of Johnny’s Bridge. Thankfully the name remains! Newcomers have sometimes changed place names in some of our communities, made now historic transitions from, for example, Mud Pond to Starlight Pond. And some newcomers would rather have their family name, say on a road, or have some other quirky designation in place of an old settler’s name. While Bean’s Corner is still locally known as such, those “from away” may not realize this and may use the Atlas name: East Be. East Be is in fact a hamlet, so no harm done.
Johnny’s Bridge, on the other hand, has itself been replaced, rebuilt a few times, most recently last year. And still, the name remains.
“How did it get that name?” I asked the nearby Town historian when we moved here 35 years ago. Since then its history has changed. Not the actual happenings: those remain. But the documented story is not quite so certain. History is a tricky thing. All this name-swapping, this misplacement and displacement of names is itself history: history is documents, town columns, journals, records, oral exchange. And it’s all in flux.
I went to a holiday gathering at the historian’s cabin. I recalled hearing that his initial explanation to us might not be right… even though the mistake in naming event took place. Evidently long ago Johnny Bryant really did drive his team over the edge into the pond. (R. is suspicious.) The historian gave me a short monologue punctuated by my couple questions. Apparently the origin of the name only — Johnny’s Bridge — is still uncertain. He gave me three possible origins, two of which are personal claims by the living to the name, which, evidently, he rejects. But the historian has a surmise, based on investigation.
I’ve decided to go with that. The bridge is named after John Estes, an early farmer in the area of these ponds And it’s based on the entitlement John Estes had to the property when he settled it.
And this too is a worthy item for a town column.