July 25, 2013

In Freeport, one old house, many stories

A film documentarian unravels the shifting narrative around Freeport's Pote House, a family ancestor's home that has lodged itself into local legend.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Film producer Frank Pote, who is undertaking a documentary about the Captain Greenfield Pote House, the oldest house in Freeport, talks about the project near the house Monday, July 15, 2013.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

A gravestone of Captain Greenfield Pote is set on the ground of a cemetery near the Captain Greenfield Pote House, the oldest house in Freeport. Photographed on Monday, July 15, 2013.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

The narrow strip of land where it sits, now preserved as the nonprofit Wolfe's Neck Farm, also stands virtually unchanged from the time when Pote landed there, said Kathy Smith, whose husband's family originally purchased the farm in 1947. The landscapes likely looked much the same during Revolutionary times when Freeport, which would not be incorporated until 1789, was still a frontier compared to the Portland area.

"The value of objects like this ... they add a layer of our understanding of the past. Somehow when you're standing on that hill with the house you get what it feels like" to have lived in the 1700s, Smith said.

"I think it would be great if Frank Pote could burrow into this and create a real narrative," said Smith, who features the home and its oral history during a hayride tour of the farm.

Always a saltwater farm, the Pote house has over the decades hosted farmhands, Civil War veterans and more recently, friends or associates of Wolfe's Neck Farm.

Frank Pote, who plans to film the 90-minute, nonprofit documentary this year and donate the resulting film to the Freeport and the Maine historical societies, has yet to embark on his research of the historical records.

With only $10,000 raised, the project is in its infancy, he said. He hopes to raise as much as $86,000 from private and corporate sponsors, including some clients of his company, New England Productions. How much he raises will largely dictate the scope of the project, which will likely include interviews, historical re-enactments and computer-generated and real-life segments to help re-create the arduous disassembly and movement of the home, as well as the time period in which his ancestors lived.

And like many other tales forged over dozens of decades and countless retellings -- including the now-debunked myth that Freeport was the birthplace of Maine -- the nub of truth is not always easy to find.

It is undisputable that Pote was fined roughly 30 shillings for setting sail from Falmouth harbor on Sept. 2, 1764 -- a Sunday -- in violation of laws against working on the holy day and setting an "evil example to others," according to transcriptions of original court documents.

Before the court, Greenfield Pote was defiant, if not polite: "The said Greenfield comes and says he will not contend with our said sovereign Lord the King but submits himself to his Grace," according to a transcript of the April 1765 proceeding.

The costs and fees -- at 20 shillings 8 pence -- attached to Pote's conviction were more than double the 10 shillings that the court ordered he pay for breaking the law.

But what is less clear is why Pote moved, and whether the fine was connected to his new choice of setting.

"You can understand why all these ship captains came here, after all these taxes and fines and levies," Frank Pote said. "It's politics. They had had it. They were in a country they felt they built."

Freeport in those years was a much wilder place, with untouched forests, mud flats, coastline and pasture. It was also further from the creeping influence of the British monarchy, a nearby frontier that allowed the ship's captain easy access to landings in Portland, Falmouth and beyond.

Even if it is not entirely true that Greenfield's fine by the crown provided the motivation to saw apart his domicile and sail it north 20 miles on flat-bottom barges, the history of the house clearly reflects the persistence of stubborn, Yankee frugality.

"I think the stories are important, too, even if they're not true," said Allen, the collections manager at Freeport Historical Society.

"It says something about the image of ourselves."

 

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

mbyrne@pressherald.com

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Film producer Frank Pote, who is undertaking a documentary about the Captain Greenfield Pote House, the oldest house in Freeport, talks about the project near the house on Monday July 15, 2013.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Film producer Frank Pote, who is undertaking a documentary about the Captain Greenfield Pote House, the oldest house in Freeport, examines a gravestone near the home Monday July 15, 2013.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

 


Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)