Sept. 20, 1883: John Appleton (1804-1891) of Bangor, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, retires after serving 20 years and 11 months in that role, longer than any other chief justice in Maine history.

A New Hampshire native, the Bowdoin College graduate was admitted to the bar in that state, then moved back to Maine to practice law in Dixmont, Sebec and Bangor. He was appointed as a Maine Supreme Judicial Court associate justice in 1852, then became chief justice in 1862.

Appleton influenced the development of Maine law greatly. His treatise “The Rules of Evidence, Stated and Discussed,” published in 1860, set a template on that subject that became a national model. He was also noted for his embrace of free-market capitalism and opposition to government loans or tax breaks for businesses.

In December 2019, Chief Justice Leigh Saufley completes her 18th year as chief justice, a time in that office second only to that of Appleton. She announces in April 2020 that she will step down later in the year to become dean of the University of Maine School of Law. As a result, Appleton’s longevity record remains intact.

Sept. 20, 1993: Victoria “Vicky” Van Meter (1982-2008) of Meadville, Pennsylvania, who began flying airplanes at age 10, becomes at age 11 the youngest girl ever to fly across the United States from east to west when she flies a Cessna 172 from Augusta to San Diego, California, taking five days to make the trip. Her record is later broken.

The following year, at age 12, Van Meter becomes the youngest female pilot to make a trans-Atlantic flight when she files a Cessna 210 from Augusta to Glasgow, Scotland.

Van Meter later graduates from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, then becomes a Peace Corps worker in Moldova, a former part of the Soviet Union. In 2008, having battled depression and resisted taking medication, she dies from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

A statue of her in the Augusta State Airport’s terminal building commemorates her 1993 transcontinental achievement.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at:

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