Jan. 4, 1832: The Maine Legislature convenes in the newly completed Maine State House for the first time. The building, located on Weston’s Hill in Augusta, took three years to erect and is built of Hallowell granite. Despite its completion, Portland officials try for decades to convince the Legislature to move the state capital to their city. The State House is later expanded several times, and in 1973 is added to the National Register of Historic Places.

State House in 1836 (The Original Bulfinch Design) from a painting by Charles Codman (1800-1842) at the Maine State Museum. Courtesy of the Maine State Museum (catalogue number 72.19.56)

Jan. 4, 1786: Three months after an initial controversial meeting on a proposal to separate Maine from Massachusetts, 33 delegates from 20 Maine towns convene for a second meeting at the First Parish Meeting House in Falmouth (now Portland). Reaction to the first meeting, also in Falmouth, suggests the movement to prevent separation is gaining favor.

Jan. 4, 1998: A massive regional ice storm begins, eventually causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage throughout central Maine and leaving nearly half the state’s population without power, in some cases for weeks. The storm inflicts much greater damage in Quebec and Ontario and also affects New York, Vermont, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia severely.

By daybreak on Jan. 9, Central Maine Power reports that about 275,000 customers – representing about 600,000 people – have lost electricity; tens of thousands of Bangor Hydro Electric Co. customers also are in the dark. It is the worst storm to hit the area in a generation, and the costliest in CMP’s history.

Augusta Public Works Director John Charest notes that aside from freezing rain, “it was raining tree limbs, too, and they were pulling down all kinds of cables.” Some rural residents say the cracking and falling of ice-laden branches in the woods during the night sounds like gunfire.

The Augusta Civic Center, Colby College’s Field House in Waterville and many other public buildings are opened as emergency shelters. Most city dwellers get their power back within a few days, but some residents of rural areas wait weeks.

The following spring, towers of broken limbs stand beside streets and highways throughout the region, awaiting collection and disposal.

On this date was researched and written by Joseph Owen of Augusta, a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal newspapers. Owen is a longtime member, former president and current board member of the Augusta-based Kennebec Historical Society.

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