Tag Archives: York

The Earth Moved…Again

A force of nature

The recent earthquake, epicentered two miles west of Hollis Center, measured 4.0 on the Richter Magnitude Scale and lasted a few seconds. Mainers described the earthquake sensation as “a thunderous noise followed by rolling vibrations,” and “like a huge truck was driving through my basement,” and “as if my washing machine was way out of balance.” The tremor of Oct. 16, 2012 rattled nerves and tea cups as far away as Connecticut but it pales in comparison to the earthquakes felt in Maine during the 17th and 18th centuries. Nevertheless, within the context of the time, descriptions of the earthquake experience remain fairly consistent.

The first major quake in New England, after the English settlers arrived, was on June 2, 1638. Estimated to have been a magnitude 6.5, it was long referred to as “The Great Earthquake.” William Williamson wrote of it in his History of the State of Maine: “It commenced with a noise like continued thunder, or the rattling of stage coaches upon pavements … The sound and motion continued about four minutes, and the earth was unquiet at times, for 20 days afterwards.” Imagine the terror in times of magical thinking.

An earthquake that occurred on Oct. 29, 1727 has been approximated at 5.6 magnitude. Its epicenter was off the coast of New Hampshire and Massachusetts but it shook the east coast from Maine to Delaware. Paul Dudley, attorney-general of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, described it in a contemporary letter to the Royal Society of London: “The noise or sound that accompanied or preceded our earthquake was very terrible and amazing. Some of our people took this noise to be thunder; others compared it to the rattling of coaches and carts upon pavements, or frozen ground.”

Kennebunkport historian Charles Bradbury reports that many chimneys and stone walls were shaken down in Arundel in 1727. He credits the earthquake for inspiring temporary reformation among citizens of Arundel with a large number of them finding religion during the months followed.

An unusual phenomenon called “Earthquake Lights” has only, in the last 50 years, been photographed and documented by the scientific community. Flashes of blue, orange or white light, sometimes having the appearance of flames or explosions, appear in the sky around the time of a moderate to strong earthquake. The cause is unknown but the phenomenon has been reported since ancient times. There were several reports of bright flashes of light seen before and after the 1727 earthquake.

One such account was printed in the New England Weekly Journal. A gentleman from Newington, N.H. saw what he thought was an explosion over the mountains, a great distance to the northwest of his house, shortly after the quake. His vision was affirmed by Indians who had recently traveled from the mountains by canoe down the Saco River. “Several Indians who lately came into Black-Point (Scarborough) told them that a mountain near where they were at the time of the earthquake was partly blown up with fire, and burnt at so prodigious a rate that it was amazing to behold it; Upon this they all removed their quarters as soon as they could; but yet have since, and very lately too, seen the flames arise in a very awful and amazing manner. They also say, they thought the great god was angry with them for being so active in the wars, and resolved never more to engage in any war against the English.”

Some Englishmen also believed that earthquakes were a sign of God’s displeasure. The same lighting phenomenon accompanied the 6.0 earthquake of 1755 centered near Cape Ann, Mass. Rev. Thomas Prince, in his essay, “EARTHQUAKES the Works of GOD, and Tokens of His just Displeasure,” seemed to blame the quake on Benjamin Franklin’s new-fangled lighting rods, which had become popular in the city of Boston that year.

Since most of the damage from the earthquake occurred in the brick buildings of Boston and not in the movable timber frames in the country, lightning rods were blamed for trapping excess electricity in the earth. It accumulated there until the earth could hold no more and released the electricity by exploding in an earthquake.

Prince’s point seemed to be that God’s wrath could not be diverted for long through trickery. The consequences of avoiding the occasional lightning strike would end up being far worse in the end as demonstrated by the lightning rod induced earthquake of 1755.

Earthquakes were taken as a sign from God by ministers in southern Maine, as well. The church at Arundel called for a fast by the congregation to atone for their sins. Sermons were delivered on the subject of earthquakes in Maine meetinghouses. Rev. Gideon Richardson of Wells experienced such a shock to his nervous system from the earthquake of 1755 that his death in 1758 was generally believed to be a result of the quake.

Major and minor earthquakes have been fairly common in New England in the whole scheme of things. Many seem to have followed a northwest to southeast tract. Some of the major ones were accompanied by Earthquake Lights. A large percentage of them  have been explained away by some form of magical thinking.

Steamer Tom Thumb’s history-making career

Tom Thumb driven ashore at Boon Island 1836

The first wood-fired steamboat known to have visited Maine waters was the diminutive side-wheeler, Tom Thumb. Some 18 years later the little steamer also concluded her career on our coast.

The Tom Thumb was only about 30 feet long but upon her arrival in Bath, Maine in 1818 she made a huge impression. After arriving in tow from New York via Boston, she shocked the gathered spectators by steaming up the Kennebec River against the tide. Her newfangled machinery was all open to the elements and in plain view as she chugged along between Bath and Augusta.

She continued that route for several years, providing passenger excursions on the Kennebec River but in 1824 Tom Thumb was towed Down East and began operating between Calais, Eastport, and St. Andrews. Her comings and goings were chronicled in the Eastport Sentinel until Captain Seward Porter of Portland, ME purchased her with the intention of running trips between Boston, MA and Portsmouth, NH. His plans were foiled when the little steamer didn’t perform at sea as he had hoped. She was relegated to harbor and river work in Dover, Portsmouth, Newmarket, Hampton, Newburyport, Gloucester, Chelsea and Boston.

According to Daniel Remich in his History of Kennebunk, the Tom Thumb was also the first steamer to travel up and down the Kennebunk River. September 30, 1827 Captain Porter invited  Kennebunk and Kennebunkport citizens aboard and “made an excursion to the islands of Cape Porpoise, where the party partook of an excellent chowder and other refreshments.”

Charles W. Childs paid $4,000 for the Tom Thumb and spent another $1,000 rebuilding her and replacing her boiler during the spring of 1836. He established the tiny steamer as a regular packet on the Piscataqua River for the conveyance of passengers, transportation of freight and towing of vessels between Portsmouth and Dover, NH. Childs sank his last dime into the enterprise. He chose not to purchase insurance as he could not justify the extra investment considering the relative safety of river work.

For all his calculated risk, the young Childs was disappointed in business that summer. He had hoped to keep very busy with freight conveyance up and down the river but merchants were leery of change. Steamers were still regarded as unproven, novel technology. When the Portsmouth Iron Foundry Company offered to hire his steamboat to take a new 2 ton iron tank to Boon Island a deal was quickly struck even though the Tom Thumb had never been a reliable sea vessel.

Childs had planned to get an early start on the morning of October 28, 1836 but there was some delay at the foundry and he didn’t arrive at Boon Island until 4 p.m. The island is surrounded by rocks and should only be approached at high water. By the time the Tom Thumb reached the island the tide was about half ebb. The tank was landed with great difficulty as darkness fell upon the scene.

The events that followed were described by Charles W. Childs in a petition for financial relief to the United States Government. “Captain W. Neal, who had assisted as pilot, went on shore to assist in landing the tank and when he was thus on shore a sudden gust of wind prevented his return to the boat, the cable parted and the crew, nine in number, endeavored to reach Portsmouth Harbor.”

It was reported in the Portsmouth Gazette that the gale increased and blew with great violence. “She continued on her course to Portsmouth about five hours against the wind making in that time only 9 or 10 miles when finding that she made water fast, by which her fuel had become wet, rendering it impossible to keep up the steam, she again bore away before the wind to Boon Island and at about 2 o’clock a.m. went pell mell on the rocks.”

Maine’s first documented steamer, the Tom Thumb was a total loss at Boon Island. Young Charles W. Childs, who must have deeply regretted his decision to forgo insurance, was rendered penniless. Though the iron tank had been commissioned by the Customs District the contract for its conveyance was between the Portsmouth Foundry and Mr. Childs. The petitioner was not entitled to relief from the United States Government.

White slavery in colonial New England

Eleven-year-old Philip Welch was kidnapped from his own bed in 1654, by order of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England. He and another Irish lad, William Downing, were loaded onto the ship Goodfellow, which by then was already bursting at the seams with Irish women and children destined for slavery in New England.

Captain George Dell of Salem, Massachusetts set sail for Boston with his human cargo in such haste that some provisions for the voyage were left behind in Ireland. When the Goodfellow arrived in Boston, Philip and William were sold to Samuel Symonds of Ipswich in exchange for quantities of corn and live cattle. The Bill of Sale, dated May 10, 1654, stipulated that the boys would serve their new master until they reached the age of majority.

Samuel Symonds was a man great influence in 17th century New England. He was one of the commissioners appointed to collect signatures of submission to Massachusetts in the colonial villages of Maine and would eventually become Deputy Governor of the commonwealth. Samuel, his sons William and Harlakenden, and his son in-law Daniel Epps, owned huge parcels of land in what is today Lyman, Wells and Kennebunk. Several of Samuel’s children resided in Wells for many years.

The Symonds family treated Philip Welch and William Downing relatively well — for slaves, that is. They attended church with the family and occasionally dined with them, though their portions were always considerably smaller than those served to the Symonds children. Mrs. Symonds was even known to show protective affection for the slave boys, but they had to work very hard for their keep. In 1661, they alone were expected to look after the cattle, maintain the fencing and tend 10 acres of Indian corn on the Symonds family farm. That was the year that Philip and William began to rebel.

The following details were preserved in the Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts.

One Sabbath day evening in March, with plowing and planting foremost in his mind, Philip came into the parlor and asked Mrs. Symonds just who would be expected to do all the springtime work. Displeased with her answer he announced that after seven years of service to the family, he and William would work for them no more unless new terms were struck.

William Downing concurred that they had worked for free long enough and both boys reiterated their demands to Samuel Symonds. They knew of other stolen Irish children sent to Barbados who had been released from slavery after just four years. “If you will free us,” said Philip, “and pay us as other men we will plant your corn and mend your fences but we will not work with you upon the same terms as before.”

When one of the servant girls chastised the lads for troubling their master, Mrs. Symonds was heard to say, “let them alone; now they are speaking let them speak their own minds.” Samuel Symonds was not as tolerant of their protests as his wife. “You must work for me still, unless you run away,” he said, leaving no room for further discussion.

The following morning a constable arrived to arrest the boys. Philip Welch softened slightly at the prospect of incarceration and agreed to serve out his time if his master would promise to give him as good a portion of food as any of his children. Even the constable encouraged Symonds to reconsider his strict stance, but the master wouldn’t budge an inch. He filed charges against both slaves and held his ground.

Indentured servitude was common in colonial New England. People would agree to work for a certain amount of time in exchange for passage to America. Even children, not yet old enough to enter into such an agreement were often indentured by a parent or guardian for money or land. This had not been the case with Philip Welch, William Downing, or hundreds of thousands of Irish Catholics and Scots kidnapped and sold in the West Indies, Virginia and Boston. They were referred to by the court as slaves because the servitude had never been by agreement.

There had been some question as to the legality of Samuel Symonds’ Bill of Sale for the boys, even in 1654. Extra assurances were requested from Captain Dell before the document was signed, but since then, ownership had not been questioned.

Samuel Symonds claimed that his time spent at court and the loss of his only male slaves would leave his cattle, fence and family destitute; that the bargain made between George Dell, the shipmaster, and himself was still in force. He also argued that since Philip was so young he felt compelled to keep him longer, that he might further prepare him to go out in the world and manage a family of his own.

The jury decided that if the Bill of Sale from Captain Dell was deemed illegal, the boys would be set free, but if it was found to be legal they would be required to serve the Symonds family until May 10, 1663. Not surprisingly, the document belonging to Samuel Symonds, former Court Assistant of the Colony and future Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth, was found valid. The slaves served out their time.

Philip Welch married Hannah Haggett of Ipswich and the couple had at least eight children. Philip Welch Jr. settled in York, Maine in a small remote colony near Mount Agamenticus.

Native American Shell Middens along the York River

Henry Chapman Mercer, recipient of numerous accolades for his work studying Native American pre-history, identified evidence that cannibalism was practiced by Indians on the banks of the York River.

Perhaps best known for his influence on the Art & Crafts Movement as the founder of Monrovian Tile Works, Mercer was a man of wide-ranging interests. He graduated from Harvard in 1879 and then went on to study law, but never practiced. The well-to-do Pennsylvanian was driven by a fascination with the antiquity of Native Americans, indeed the antiquity of man. He became a member of the newly formed Archaeological Association of the University of Pennsylvania in 1890 and was appointed curator of American and Pre-historic Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia, in 1891.

American archaeology was still in its adolescence when Mercer examined stone artifacts in the Delaware Valley, explored the hill caves on the Yucatan Peninsula, and scientifically excavated, interpreted and cataloged the contents of shell middens near the mouth of the York River.

A midden is a pile of domestic refuse consisting mostly of shells left by Indian populations along the shore. They offer unique glimpses of daily life because the alkalinity of the shells helps to deter decomposition.

Some 38 clam shell heaps were identified by Mercer at York during the summer of 1891. Most notable was heap No. 6, upstream at the future site of the York Country Club. There he found, besides the usual shells and charcoal, fabric-marked pieces of aboriginal pottery, some bone implements and deer bones that had been cracked in such a way that bone marrow might easily be extracted.

In the same vicinity were found a number of isolated human arm, leg and foot bones. They too were broken and split with a tool in such a way that the marrow could be extracted. No animal tooth markings were found on any of the bones. Mercer collected the specimens and delivered them to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia for analysis.

Professor Edward D. Cope judged the bones to be from a small or perhaps female Native American. He could tell the ankle bones were Indian by the distinctive hollows he found, commonly referred to as Thompson’s Facets. These facets were the result of habitual squatting and were not characteristic of European anatomy.

Artifacts found by landowners in the vicinity of the York shell heaps around the time of excavation were also cataloged in Henry Mercer’s 1897 report of his findings titled, “An Exploration of Aboriginal Shell Heaps revealing Traces of Cannibalism on York, River Maine.”

Mercer wrote, “On Mrs. Bullard’s property, workmen in grading (1890?) found a stone celt, or ‘plummet,’ so called. (Information received from Mrs. Bullard, September, 1891.) At L (J. E. Davis’ property), laborers in digging (spring of 1891) found a so-called tomahawk of iron. (Information received from Mr. Davis, September, 1891.) Mr. F. Woodward, of Chase’s Pond, reported the discovery of a broken stone pestle and three grooved stone axes, found in the course of many years in the neighborhood of the eastern end of the pond. A grooved stone axe was found on the Norwood farm by the father of the present (1896) Mr. Norwood. A broken celt was found by Mr. Walker on one of the shell heaps at G.”

Shocking as it still is, the concept of Indian cannibalism was not new to Mercer or to other students of Native American history. Henry W. Haynes presented evidence to the same effect found in shell heaps at Mt. Desert Island. Mr. Manly Hardy had found human bones in a shell heap on the south end of Great Deer Island, Penobscot Bay. Henry Mercer himself also found more evidence of cannibalism in the hill caves of the Yucatan Peninsula in 1895. The disturbing truth is that all peoples of the world probably engaged in at least ritual cannibalism at some point in their tribal history. American Indians were no different.

According to a report presented on the subject by Harvard’s Peabody Museum, eye-witness accounts of North American Indian cannibal feasts in the 17th century are plentiful. Early travelers to the coast and Jesuit priests who lived among the Indians attribute the practice to many tribes in the Americas.

There were no layers of accumulation in the York heaps to indicate a succession of aboriginal visitors. The size of the piles and their apparent continuous use led Mercer to estimate that they could have taken several centuries to create. Indian feasting near the mouth of the York River had to have ended by 1652, by which time settlers had built a coast road and established a ferry across the river.

Based on the middens’ contents and continuity of use, Mercer drew the conclusion that they were formed within a few hundred years of European contact.

Evidence of the York middens has likely been graded away for cottage lots or fairways by now, but thanks to the copious notes and photographs of Henry Chapman Mercer, some of the history they contained lives on.

Mercer retired from archaeology soon after the York dig to document more recent history by collecting workmen’s hand tools for his Pennsylvania museum. He believed that implements used every day by the common man were far more historically illustrative than opulent trapping of wealthy households.

Wells Landmark named after infamous prophet

The troublesome Mr. Baker

Baker’s Spring, that bubbles out of the earth near the boundary between Wells and what used to be York, was, according to Wells historians Hubbard and Greenleaf, named for a person who had participated in bringing King Charles I to the block for beheading. When King Charles II ascended the throne in 1660, Baker supposedly concealed himself under a rock near the spring for two years.

Like most historical legends, this one is probably based on a distortion of actual facts. E.E. Bourne wrote in his “History of Wells and Kennebunk,” that there were indeed three men who signed the death warrant of King Charles I and fled to New England when Charles II succeeded his father to the throne, but each has been accounted for and none were named Baker.

There was a John Baker who might well have been hiding in the woods from the law, but he was living in New England in 1649 during the trial of King Charles I. He was, however, later accused and convicted for conspiring to kill King Charles II.

John Baker had a colonial rap sheet as long as your arm. Most of his offenses were violent arguments that followed alcoholic over-indulgence or “haranguing and prophesying” in his own form of fanatical religion. John Winthrop described John Baker in his journal as an unprincipled drunk whose professed faith was of the opportunistic variety.

Winthrop wrote, “One John Baker, a member of the church of Boston, removing from thence to Newbury for enlargement of his outward accommodation, being grown wealthy from nothing, grew there very disordered, fell into drunkenness and such violent contention with another brother, maintaining the same by lying, and other evil courses, that the magistrates sent to have him apprehended. But he rescued himself out of the officer’s hands and removed to Agamenticus (York).”

In 1653, Baker was living in Cape Porpoise when, according to historian Charles Bradbury, he was again admonished for “abusive and approbrious speeches uttered by him against the minister and ministry and for upholding private meetings and prophecying to the hindrance and disturbance of publick assemblings.”

John wandered from town to town in New England attempting to stay two steps ahead of the law from 1639 – 1653. After a third attempt to establish himself in Boston, Baker was finally banished from the colonies as a “blasphemer, atheist and a liar.”

Meanwhile in England, Parliamentary Representative Oliver Cromwell had long been an outspoken critic of royal policies. With little military experience he convinced Parliament to establish an army to protect their interests against the King. While John Baker was hiding from colonial law in New England, Cromwell was effectively leading Parliament’s military forces.

King Charles I was defeated by Cromwell’s army in two civil wars and was subsequently dethroned,  tried and beheaded in 1649 for his efforts to negate Parliamentary power. Oliver Cromwell, who sought to make England a republic and abolish the religious intolerance promoted by Charles I, signed his death warrant.

Parliament’s enemies were defeated and the war ended, but in 1653, just as the banished John Baker was arriving from the colonies, Cromwell dissolved the Parliament with military force and appointed himself Lord Protector, the equivalent of a military dictator.

Baker became a guardsman for Oliver Cromwell. He grew accustomed to his new financial comfort and religious freedom. After Cromwell died in 1658, his circumstances changed once again. He was reduced to grinding knives for a meager living and according to later trial testimony, he often expressed a certain bitterness about his poverty.

The republic could not be sustained without Oliver Cromwell. The monarchy was restored and the beheaded King’s son was invited to take the throne. Several former New Englanders actively opposed King Charles II. Thomas Venner, another religious radical who had been an early resident of York, led an uprising against the monarchy in January 1661. Chaos reigned in the streets of London for several days. Although Venner was captured and immediately executed, King Charles II became acutely aware of the number of radical Protestants that opposed the monarchy.

In October of the same year, John Baker was approached by fellow Cromwell soldier, John Bradley, who inquired how he had been reduced to such lowly employment. Baker scoffed and told him he had to be willing to do whatever he could to make a living. Bradley offered to pay Baker to recruit Cromwell’s former soldiers and “Fifth Monarchy Men, Anabaptists, Fighting Quakers, Levellers” and other religious radicals to participate in a plot to kill King Charles II. He showed Baker huge ammunition stores at his disposal and convinced him that victory was theirs for the taking.

Baker was a most enthusiastic henchman. He spent many an evening drinking and boasting in London pubs and eventually recruited a crowd of eager malcontents. Before anything but barroom conspiring had been accomplished they were all arrested and tried for participating in a grandiose plot to kill King Charles II.

The would-be assassins had been duped. Bradley was working for the King. There never had been a viable plot to overthrow the government but unknowingly they had rounded up most of the King’s enemies.

Baker was quick to turn against his partners in crime but that wasn’t enough to save his life. He was hanged for being willing to “wash his hands in the blood of the King.”

York Maine Tea Party of 1774

Tea tax de jour - Avoidance de facto
Tea tax de jour – Avoidance de facto

American Sons of Liberty and the Committees of Correspondence were secret societies whose function was to muster public resistance to British taxation on the American Colonies. They burned houses and ships, caused bodily injury to those with whom they disagreed and generally incited mob rule in the name of their cause. The theatrical Boston Tea Party, at which members masqueraded as Mohawk Indians to destroy half a million pounds of tea, earned them popular support. The Tea Party in York Maine was orchestrated in the face of mounting pressure, to publically demonstrate the town’s patriotism.

East India Company, being close to bankruptcy and possessing a tremendous tea inventory, approached the British Parliament for help. In the Tea Act of 1773, the East India Company was granted an exemption from the tea tax that colonial American merchants were required to pay. They were also granted the right to bypass those colonial merchants and sell exclusively through Company sanctioned agents, thereby securing a monopoly on colonial tea trade. Some of the wealthiest American merchants, who also happened to be members of secret societies opposing taxation without representation, made a pact to boycott English tea. The general public, meanwhile, was enjoying the lowest tea prices they had seen in a long time.

A few months after the 1773 Boston Tea Party, Sons of Liberty member John Adams expressed concern in a letter to his wife about lukewarm support for the movement in York Maine. “There is, in this town and county,” he wrote, “a laodiceanism that I have not found in any other place. I find more persons here who call the destruction of the tea mischief and wickedness than anywhere else.”

He blamed Judge Jonathan Sayward, a wealthy York merchant and coastwise trader, who, at a dinner party in York Harbor in June of 1774, had good-naturedly warned Adams not to pursue a reactionary course without understanding the consequences. The two men were seated together at the table and Adams could see the subtle, effectual sway the eloquent Sayward had over his fellow diners from York.

As the months of 1774 passed, so too did the congenial acceptance of open Loyalist rhetoric. The media had taken sides. Masterful coverage ultimately convinced even the people of York that the plight of the wealthy American merchant was also their own. As Benjamin Franklin so astutely pointed out at the time, “the press not only can strike while the iron is hot, but it can heat it by continually striking.” No longer was it socially acceptable to sit amongst your peers and disagree with the “patriotic” point of view.

The first Continental Congress assembled from September 5, 1774 – October 26, 1774 in an attempt to restore harmony between the colonies and the mother country. Sons of Liberty, John Adams and his cousin Samuel Adams, who had been a key player in the Boston Tea Party, were in attendance. The result was an official compact to boycott all British goods effective Dec 1, 1774. But a de facto embargo was already being enforced by the less and less secret societies.

On September 15, 1774 one of Jonathan Sayward’s many vessels, the Cynthia, sailed from Newfoundland into York Harbor with the Judges nephew, James Donnell at the helm. The sloop was anchored off Keating’s Wharf for several days before it was discovered that her cargo included 150 pounds of English tea. As an approved agent of the East India Company, Sayward had not broken any laws or even any official embargos but the local Sons of Liberty regarded his bold defiance as a challenge to their de facto decree.

At an impromptu Town Meeting conducted on September 23, 1774, a committee was organized to seize Sayward’s tea. Sloop Cynthia was boarded and despite the protests of Captain Donnell, the offending commodity was forcibly confiscated. Judge Sayward’s commercial competitor in York, Captain Edward Grow, offered the use of his storehouse on the riverfront below Sewall’s bridge, for safe keeping of the tea “until further discovery could be made.”

The New-Hampshire Gazette covered events unfolding in York. “A Number of Pickwacket Indians came into the town and broke open the store and carried it [the tea] off; which has not been heard of since.”

The identity of the “Pickwacket” braves who carried away Sayward’s tea was never revealed. Press coverage of the event ended there. For all the public knew the tea was never seen again. But Jonathan Sayward recorded a different ending to the story in his diary. Once the dramatic event had delivered its desired message about York’s patriotism, the tea was quietly returned. It seems the frugal Mainers, though wishing to publicly declare their support of the embargo, were not about to destroy perfectly drinkable tea. Heroes and villains are fashioned after the fact, depending on who wins the war.

Lindy’s quest for privacy on the Maine coast

The not so secret honeymoon
The not so secret honeymoon

Charles A. Lindbergh completed the first solo transatlantic flight on May 21, 1927. The handsome 25 year-old air mail pilot and his single engine monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis, became world-famous, overnight. Along with fame came public adoration and the omnipresent paparazzi… even in remote Maine waters.

“Lindy” – as the press had nicknamed him- was already overwhelmed by all the attention when he flew to Maine two months after his record-breaking flight. A man had been killed by an unruly crowd during his public appearance on the Boston Common, July 22, 1927. The tragedy was fresh in his mind as thousands gathered to see him land his famous monoplane at Scarborough Airport. Pea-soup fog obscured the runway for two days and the pilot was finally forced to land at the less secure Old Orchard Beach airstrip. After dutifully fulfilling several promotional obligations to massive crowds in Maine, the pilot made his way back to his plane at Old Orchard Beach. There he found another mob pressing up against the Spirit of St. Louis as he tried to take off.

When Lindy asked Ann Morrow to marry him in 1929 the whole world speculated about the details of their nuptial plans. Rumor had it that the Lindbergh wedding would take place in late June at the Morrow summer cottage in North Haven, Maine. One Monday afternoon in late May, a small group of family and friends were invited to attend a charity event hosted by the bride’s mother at her Englewood, NJ home. After lunch, they were surprised to discover that they were all guests at a wedding. The understated affair was over in a flash. Ann wore a simple dress and carried a handful of larkspur that the groom had picked from his in-law’s backyard.

By the time the press got wind of the secret marriage the couple had slipped away on a 38-foot honeymoon yacht Lindy had purchased a week earlier. The owner of Elco Boatworks in Bayonne, NJ, resisted the free publicity as long as his professional ambitions would allow but finally gave reporters a very detailed description of the aviator’s new yacht, the “Mouette”.

The honeymooners were tracked from New London, Ct to Provincetown, MA by land, sea and air. In an effort to thwart positive identification the Lindberghs broke marine law by covering the name of the vessel with a piece of canvas. Newspapers all over the world carried a daily account of the little boat’s movements.

They were spotted off Isle of Shoals on June 6th by two New York press planes. The next day the Mouette tied up for gas and provisions at Hartley Philbrick’s fish wharf in York, Maine. Try as he might, Hartley could not engage Mr. Lindbergh in meaningful conversation. While they were loading supplies in relative silence, a 13 year old girl recognized Lindy and ran off to spread the word at the town’s high school graduation celebration. Within minutes, more than 100 people crowded onto Philbrick’s wharf to get a snapshot of the elusive aviator. Anne Lindbergh remained inside the cabin until the Mouette was safely offshore.

The boat put into Cape Porpoise Harbor and anchored very near Goat Island Light for the night. Melville Freeman wrote in his 1953 “History of Cape Porpoise” that residents of Cape Porpoise were unimpressed by Lindy’s visit and were completely discreet out of respect for his privacy. An article that first appeared in the Portsmouth Herald June 8, 1929, told a different story.

Captain Jim Anderson, keeper of the lighthouse, was offended that the little launch failed to answer his customary salute of three bells. He grabbed his powerful binoculars and was able to identify Lindy and Anne moving about the boat. Anderson called to his wife and children so that they might get a glimpse of the celebrities. The following morning, the lighthouse keeper revealed to a Portsmouth reporter that the honeymooners turned out their cabin light at 8:25 p.m.

Jack Seavey and John Martin rowed out to the Mouette under a cloak of darkness. They quietly made their way to the stern of the yacht and lifted the canvas that covered her name just as Lindbergh appeared on deck. Thinking quickly, the Kennebunkport boys claimed they were there to see if he needed assistance. After thanking them wryly for their kind offer, Lindy said if they wanted to help they could leave him alone. The boys left as requested but not before studying the woman silhouetted in the cabin door.

The Lindberghs left Cape Porpoise Harbor first thing the next morning and made their way up the coast to Cape Elizabeth, Pemaquid Point, Rockland, and Swan’s Island. Everywhere they went they were greeted with prying eyes.

On June 13th, the honeymoon cruiser was spotted offshore near Old Orchard Beach. The Linberghs witnessed the lift off of aviators, Jean Assolant, Rene LeFevre and Ameno Lotti on the first French transatlantic flight. The tail of the plane “Yellow Bird” dipped perceptibly as she became airborne. Lindbergh and the rest of the world would later discover that Arthur Schreiber, 22 year old son of a Portland fur salesman, had stowed away on the French plane and was not discovered until some time after takeoff.

Later that afternoon, the Mouette tied up at Cape Porpoise Pier for two hours to get provisions and fuel for the trip back to New York.

When the Lindbergh’s first born son was kidnapped and tragically murdered in 1932, the press mercilessly dissected the family’s every moment of grief, driving them to move to England. Lindy lost public favor for his vocal opposition to American involvement in WWII but he changed his views after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and flew many celebrated combat missions in the Pacific Theater.