June 19, 2013

Freeport phasing out inaccurate 'birthplace' motto

Recent research has shown that the long-standing claim simply wasn't true.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FREEPORT — It's the end of an era, or at least an error.

click image to enlarge

The Freeport Police Department shoulder patch displaying the debunked motto will be phased out, according to Town Manager Peter Joseph.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

Related headlines

FREEPORT: OPEN HEARTS, VACATION CENTRAL, LESS FLAMMABLE

When Freeport’s town motto was debunked by historians earlier this year, a teacher at Freeport High School challenged 22 honors-level American History students to come up with a new one. The three finalists selected by audience members at a National Honor Society induction ceremony May 21 presented their mottoes to the Freeport Town Council at Tuesday's meeting.

“Open Harbor, open hearts”  – Katie McClellan

“Freeport: The heart of vacationland”  – Shelby Sawyer

“Freeport: Less flammable than we once were”  – Dalton Chapman, a reference  to major fires in the town over the years.

Freeport's unofficial motto proclaiming the town the "birthplace of the state of Maine" will be removed from town documents and websites, the town manager said.

As expected, town councilors voted Tuesday to begin phasing out the saying.

Historical groups debunked a claim that the Jameson Tavern in town was the site of a meeting of founders of Maine during their decision to separate from Massachusetts, said Town Manager Peter Joseph.

Recent research has shown that, contrary to the plaque's inscription, 19th-century decision-makers in Freeport opposed separating Maine from Massachusetts.

No records exist of the meeting supposedly held at the tavern to sign documents that advocated statehood, according to the Freeport Historical Society. "We no longer endorse it in any way," Joseph said, although, curiously, no records could be found to indicate that the town enacted the motto in the first place.

As Freeport's town uniforms, vehicles and other materials are replaced, the saying will be removed, he said.

Helping to perpetuate the falsehood is a plaque outside the tavern, installed by the Daughters of the American Revolution more than a century ago. The historical group now says the claim would never hold up under modern scrutiny.

This summer, the town will consider initiating a public process to replace the saying with something new, Joseph said.

The Portland Press Herald first reported on the misleading claim in February, when the Jameson Tavern closed. Students at Freeport High School have since come up with a slate of alternative mottoes, and three presented them to the council on Tuesday.

The claim had stood as accepted fact for decades, until the Freeport Historical Society and other organizations began questioning its veracity.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

mbyrne@pressherald.com

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