LCHA and the Maine Bicentennial

By Louise T. Miller, Education Director of Lincoln County Historical Association

Maine turns 200 in 2020. Bicentennial commemoration events have already kicked off across the state, with countless more planned throughout the year. LCHA will be actively involved in these commemorations in several ways. We will have a float in the statehood parade in Lewiston/Auburn in May.

Topographical Map of Lincoln Co.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Ryan LaRochelle, LCHA’s Vice President and Bicentennial Chair, is editing a monthly Bicentennial column in the Lincoln County News, with a new insight about local history running the first Thursday of each month. In addition, LCHA is collaborating with several town historical societies and groups throughout the county to plan a wide range of events that explore the past two hundred years of local history.

The Lincoln County Pilgrimage

This summer we will present a week-long series of events titled, The Lincoln County Pilgrimage: Making a Living in Lincoln County, 1820 and Beyond. Programming will show what has changed – and what has stayed the same – over the past two hundred years. Visitors will see what daily life was like at different periods of time in various parts of Lincoln County.

The Pilgrimage will run from August 10-16.

  • Commemoration kicks off with a county-wide History Fair and Potluck at Boothbay Railway Village on Monday, August 10 where historical organizations from across the county will describe their plans for the week, discuss the importance of their sites and museums, and share information with potential visitors.
  • Visitors interested in browsing the week’s events will pick up a special “Lincoln County Passport” that will provide some historical background about each participating site and lay out the week’s events. Individuals who make it to every site will be entered into a special raffle.
  • More than eleven different organizations and twenty historical sites, landmarks, and buildings will be showcased during the Pilgrimage. The week will include open houses of historical sites; special tours of historic buildings and landmarks; reenactments of historical events; special displays, speakers; a guided driving tour; and an open archaeological dig. Each of LCHA’s three properties—the 1754 Chapman-Hall House, the 1761 Pownalborough Courthouse, and the 1811 Museum and Old Jail, will be participating in the Pilgrimage, hosting reenactments, displays, and other events.

Lincoln County is a particularly exciting place to study the history of statehood, as the county played an interesting role in the debate over separation from Massachusetts. Several coastal towns opposed early separation efforts, as they benefited from being linked with Massachusetts because of a 1789 coastal trade law. Under the 1789 law, trading vessels had to enter and clear customs in every state they passed between their port of departure and their final destination, except in states contiguous to the state where they were registered. Thus, vessels registered in the District of Maine were able to bypass customs in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York, and of course Massachusetts, since these states all shared a border with Massachusetts. Coastal residents would thus lose a strategic advantage if they separated from the Bay State.

At the urging of William King, one of the separationist movement’s leaders and Maine’s first governor, the national legislature amended this coastal trade law in 1819, lumping the entire eastern seaboard into a single customs district. Much of coastal Maine’s opposition to separation faded, and the inland frontier towns generally favored separation already, and so the path to statehood was eased. Of course, the full history of separation from Massachusetts is more nuanced and complex, with national debates over the future of slavery looming large.

These issues and others will be discussed and explored throughout the year and across the county. We encourage you to stay involved in LCHA’s and Lincoln County’s Bicentennial plans. Visit our special Bicentennial-themed website, for the latest news, events, and updates.