WESTBROOK — Ellie Conant Saunders was an appropriate choice to greet those who stopped by to look at the old photographs and Westbrook High School yearbooks on display at the Westbrook Historical Society’s table at the Bicentennial Tent at Westbrook’s Together Days festival Saturday.

Saunders, who is 94, can trace her family roots back to the city’s first permanent settler, Joseph Conant, who built the first sawmill in Westbrook in 1725.

She lives in the family home, built on the original homestead in 1768. She has a collection of 159 scrapbooks and 153 notebooks chronicling some of Westbrook’s history.

“I still own river rights” to the Presumpscot River, Saunders said.

Saunders and other members of the Westbrook Historical Society were kicking off Westbrook’s bicentennial celebration Saturday at the 35th Together Days festival. The tent included a “then and now” slide show of Westbrook landmarks, informational exhibits by several veterans groups and a slew of history books. A special bicentennial history, penned by Mike Sanphy, president of the Westbrook Historical Society, with help from Suzan Roberts Norton and Eugene Berg, went on sale for the first time. Sales of the $20 book were brisk, Sanphy said.

Westbrook, officially founded on Feb. 14, 1814, was originally part of Falmouth. It was named after Col. Thomas Westbrook, a king’s mast agent who came to Falmouth in 1727.

Saunders said the story of Col. Westbrook is her favorite piece of local history.

Westbrook died heavily in debt in 1743 or 1744 and his body was secretly buried on the Knight Farm in Westbrook to keep his debtors from seizing the body. The burial site was guarded until its location was revealed by a Knight family member during the city’s 150th celebration, Saunders said.

On Saturday, visitors at the bicentennial tent could view a shoe-box sized tin time capsule buried at Riverbank Park during the 1914 centennial celebration. The capsule, unearthed from Riverbank Park in April, sustained some water damage after 100 years in a small underground stone vault.

“I am surprised to see it had deteriorated as much as it had,” said Fritz Hansen, a Westbrook resident who said he was interested in history.

But the contents of the time capsule were in good shape, according to the Westbrook bicentennial Facebook page.

The bicentennial celebration will continue at 6 p.m. June 9 at the Performing Arts Center, with the unveiling of the contents of the time capsule.

Sanphy said a committee has been set up to come up with a list of items to place in a new time capsule to be buried for another 100 years in Riverbank Park later this year.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]