David Treadwell

David Treadwell

Part I

W hat small town in

America served as home to three of the 19th century’s most celebrated writers, including one whose novel outsold all books in that century but the Bible? Answer: Brunswick. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”)

Okay, name a small town that has served as home at some point to four winners of the Pulitzer Prize. Same answer: Brunswick: Robert Peter Tristram Coffin, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1936; James Michener won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “Tales of the South Pacific” in 1948; Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for “Olive Kitteridge” in 2008; and Anthony Doerr won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “All the Light We Cannot See” in 2014. Let’s toss in, for good measure, Lawrence Hall whose novel “Stowaway” received the William Faulkner Award in 1962 for best debut novel.

Brunswick’s distinguished literary legacy represents just one good reason to marvel at our storied past. The 300-yearold First Parish Church, at the top of Maine Street, stands as another. The list of notable visitors to this historic landmark includes Ulysses S. Grant, Jane Addams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here’s another: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who gained fame for his gallantry at the historic Battle of Gettysburg, and went on to serve as Governor of Maine and President of Bowdoin College. It could be argued, incidentally, that Harriet Beecher Stowe helped start the Civil War — as Abraham Lincoln is alleged to have said to her — and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain helped end it.

And yet another: Fort Andross, built in the late 1600s and standing at the lower end of Maine Street, once served as a trading post for fur trappers, a fort against invasion in pre-revolutionary war days and a textile mill. Today, the Fort Andross Mill Business Center serves as a dynamic home to scores of businesses, craftspeople and restaurants.

While Bath, Brunswick’s neighbor to the north, has long been known as the “City of Ships,” Brunswick’s own history features some notable shipbuilders. The Skolfield family built 77 seagoing vessels between 1800 and 1885. The other principal shipyard was that of the Pennell family at what is now known as Pennellville in Middle Bay.

Yes, this area is blessed with an extraordinary history. And the prime mover in preserving and celebrating that history is the Pejepscot Historical Society, which serves the towns of Brunswick, Topsham and Harpswell, and is one of the oldest historical societies in Maine. Many readers of this column are familiar with the Society’s two main historical buildings: the Skolfield-Whittier House, which serves as a time capsule of Maine life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; and the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum, where Chamberlain resided.

In next week’s column, I will present some thoughts of Larissa Vigue Picard, the Pejepscot Historical Society’s visionary Director, and Alison Coffin, the granddaughter of Robert Peter Tristram Coffin. A special thanks to Alison, who urged me to write a column about the history of our extraordinary area. In the meantime, do check out the Pejepscot Historical Society’s website (www.pejepscothistorical.org) for an overview of the Society’s mission and examples of special events, happy hours, noontime talks, etc. It’s our history; let’s keep it alive.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary or suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]


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