March 20, 1838: Franklin County is formed from parts of Cumberland, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Maine’s 11th county is its second-least-populous and one of its most mountainous. It is the location of the Sugarloaf skiing area and the site of the now-defunct Saddleback ski resort.

March 20, 1852: J.P. Jewett, a Boston publisher, begins its initial press run of a two-volume hard-bound edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly.”

A photo of Harriet Beecher Stowe, probably taken around 1840. On the reverse are the words “Mrs. Stowe, a scarce pose.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Stowe wrote most of the book at home in Brunswick, where her husband, Calvin, was a religion professor at Bowdoin College.

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which already began to appear in print in serialized form the previous June in The National Era, a Washington, D.C.-based newspaper advocating the abolition of slavery, sells 300,000 copies in its first year and becomes what is widely regarded as the most popular novel of the 19th century. The story is reprinted in dozens of languages and becomes the inspiration for many stage renditions.

Stowe’s tale uses the story of one old slave to describe the cruelty of slave overseers, the terror experienced by escapees fleeing from slave hunters, and slave families ripped apart by being sold to different owners. Stowe had heard such stories from escaped slaves who had taken refuge in her parents’ home in Ohio.

Stowe labored at the novel while her husband was away on business in Ohio, during a winter when her house was so drafty and cold that pails of water sometimes froze indoors, and while she was taking care of their seven children alone. She eventually ran out of regular paper and began writing parts of it on scraps of brown wrapping paper.

In November 1862, Stowe travels in Washington, D.C., in the midst of the Civil War and meets President Abraham Lincoln, only about six weeks before his Emancipation Proclamation takes effect, declaring all slaves in the Confederate states to be free.

In 1865, after the Confederacy is vanquished, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishes slavery everywhere in the United States.

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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