Jan. 24, 1692: In an event that comes to be known as the Candlemas Massacre, Chief Madockawando and the Rev. Louis-Pierre Thury lead a French and Wabanaki war party in an attack on the English settlement at York during King William’s War, killing about 100 inhabitants, taking about 80 as hostages and setting many buildings on fire.

The hostages are carried to New France (now Canada), where they are held until a Boston military commander pays ransom. The violent incident is cited as evidence of God’s displeasure and has a strong influence on the Salem Witch Trials, which begin later that year.

Portrait of Gov. John Fairfield by John B. Kahill, State House Portrait Collection (72.19.5) Courtesy of the Maine State Museum MeBi

Jan. 24, 1839: The Maine Legislature authorizes newly elected Gov. John Fairfield to send a posse of volunteer militia members led by Rufus McIntire, the state land agent and Penobscot County sheriff, north to arrest New Brunswick lumberman and confiscate their equipment for lumbering in disputed territory.

After they begin carrying out that mission, a New Brunswick posse arrests McIntire and other Americans and interrogates them at a jail in Woodstock, New Brunswick. The boundary dispute, now known as the Aroostook War, is later settled by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.

Portland City Hall after the fire, Jan. 24, 1908 Collections of Maine Historical Society, courtesy of VintageMaineImage.com, item #6876”

Jan. 24, 1908: The worst Portland fire since the city’s great fire of 1866 burns City Hall and neighboring police buildings, endangering about 1,000 people gathered there for a Knights of Pythias celebration. There are no fatalities, but county offices, located in City Hall, are destroyed. The fire also consumes one of the most valuable libraries in the state, the Greenleaf Law Library collection.

Shortly after the fire is reported at 2:23 a.m., City Clerk A.L.T. Cummings runs from his home to the scene and, with the help of others, manages to save all the records in his office and the mayor’s, as well as most county records.


Mutual aid is requested from communities as far away as Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Augusta. Cinders from the fire ignite other buildings in the area. Several firefighters are injured while struggling to douse the blaze. When the fire is extinguished, only the City Hall walls are left standing.

Portland’s previous City Hall also fell victim to a fire – the one in 1866.

Jan. 24, 1963: A vertical stabilizer falls off a U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress-C conducting a low-level navigation exercise, causing the plane to crash into Elephant Mountain, about five miles southeast of Moosehead Lake.

Secretary of Defense William Cohen Associated Press file

The crash kills six people aboard the plane, and the co-pilot, Maj. Robert J. Morrison, dies when he hits a tree while parachuting to the ground. The pilot, Lt. Col. Dante E. Bulli, and the navigator, Capt. Gerald J. Adler, also eject from the plane. They manage to survive despite severe injuries, 5 feet of snow on the ground and a temperature of 14 below zero at the time of the crash. It reaches nearly 30 below before the two are rescued.

The crash site today remains strewn with wreckage from the plane and is accessible to hikers. A memorial made of slate from Monson commemorates the victims.

Jan. 24, 1997: William S. Cohen, a Bangor native and longtime Republican U.S. senator from Maine, becomes secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

Cohen serves four years during a period of NATO expansion and tumult about whether gays should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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