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A Shooting in Searsport

Researched by Leo Shea, Ph.D.

Lincoln Ross Colcord

Lincoln Ross Colcord

Want insight into Lincoln Colcord? Into the man and his times? Into his able, vast nautical, literary, social and political experiences and opinions? The Penobscot Marine Museum has an extensive “Colcord Collection”, in which you can find a considerable amount of his correspondence, manuscripts, photographs – they even have his typewriter! The bulk of this article is based upon file PMM 29-460, acquisition LB2005.29, in the Penobscot Marine Museum archives.

Lincoln Ross Colcord (1883-1947) is perhaps best known for his prolific writing. He authored innumerable articles, short stories, poems, as well as some novels. He also was a literary critic and provided newspapers, magazines and publishers with a seemingly uncountable number of book reviews. He was instrumental in establishing and operating the Penobscot Marine Museum.

Lincoln Colcord was a very social person. He had an extensive network of friends and acquaintances. Writers, mariners, academics, actors, artists and politicians easily befriended him. He even knew a pre-revolution Russian Prince! Of course, he was close to many, many Mainers, both mariners and landlubbers alike.

Before launching into telling you about a particularly humanitarian marshalling of his social network, let me provide some 1944-1945 Searsport, Maine context.

World War II was beginning to wind down in Europe. The local weekly newspaper, The Republican Journal, was filled with articles about locals in the military service and advertisements for purchasing war bonds. On Wednesday, November 29, 1944, two Nazi spies were put ashore in Frenchman Bay, off of the German submarine U-1230. They landed at Hancock Point, about two miles from Ellsworth. The following Sunday, December 3, 1944, off Mount Desert Island, U-1230 sunk a Canadian ship bound for St. John, New Brunswick, killing 42 crew members. This sinking was later believed to be a diversion to assist the spies in avoiding the FBI, Army and Navy personnel swarming over the entire mid-Coast area. The spies made their way to New York City; their primary mission was to determine whether the US would use the a-bomb on Germany.

Searsport was especially important to the military. Mack Point served as a Port of Embarkation for ammunition and high explosives going to Europe during WWII. In fact, Searsport shipped 435,573 tons of ammunition and high explosives between December, 1941 and August, 1945 (http://usmm.org – see “Troops and Cargo Transported During World War II Under US Army Control”). Lincoln Colcord’s correspondence at the time occasionally noted the Liberty ships in Penobscot Bay, heavily laden with bombs, as well as the patrolling Navy destroyers, particularly when writing fellow mariners or his son.

Lewis H. Rich (1905-1988) was born in Searsport and lived there throughout his life. He was a very hardy, healthy man who was usually employed as an electrician and who supplemented his income by lobstering. At the time at hand, Mr. Rich was employed as a foreman on the dock at the Port of Embarkation. He also served as President of Local 1519 of the International Longshoreman’s Association. This union local consisted of roughly 600 Port of Embarkation workers.

Exactly a week after the two Nazi spies landed on Hancock Point, on Wednesday, December 6, 1944, Lewis Rich was approached by two Army officers seeking his assistance. You see, there were suspicions about strangers seen in and about a small house or shack that was located near the shore by Mr. Rich’s house. Not surprisingly, given the wartime circumstances, rumors about the strangers developed.

Army Captain H.B. Morris and a Lt. Collins travelled from Boston to investigate the suspicions. They asked Mr. Rich to assist them in locating the building. He immediately complied.

The Army officers located the place in question but found that its door was padlocked. Nevertheless, Capt. Morris believed that it was essential to gain entrance. They would have to break in. So, Capt. Morris took his Thompson submachine gun and slammed the butt of it onto the padlock to smash it open. That is when his “Tommy gun” discharged, about a foot from Lewis Rich’s arm. The .45 bullet shattered a bone in his arm and tore away about an inch of the main nerve running down the arm, which controls hand movement. Of course, Mr. Rich could have been killed.

The local physicians could only work on Mr. Rich’s wound, not the severed nerve. As a result of the nerve damage, his hand was immobile. He could not move his fingers. There was no feeling in the hand. And, he needed to wait until the wound healed before they could work on the nerve. Finally, on February 16, 1945, Dr. Henry Marble sewed the nerve together during a 2 ½ hour operation at the Massachusetts General Hospital. After the operation Mr. Rich’s wife, Rose (nee: Keegan – 1906-1981), a practical nurse, stayed in Boston with him, providing the constant attention he needed for his seven week recovery period.

A year after the shooting, Lewis Rich was still unable to use his hand and could barely bend his fingers. He could not work at the Port of Embarkation, nor at his electrical or lobstering businesses. He had paid all of the medical bills. He and his wife were in serious financial difficulty.

Lincoln Colcord was outraged about the shooting and Mr. Rich’s plight. He wanted to help. Beginning May 10, 1945, he contacted Congresswoman Margaret Chase Smith. He wanted her to intervene on Mr. Rich’s behalf. At the time, Congresswoman Smith represented Maine’s Second Congressional District, which included Searsport. Lincoln had other business with her as well, in her capacity as a member of the then House Naval Affairs Committee. It seemed highly unlikely that Lewis Rich would get anywhere on his own.

Lincoln Colcord became a marvelous and eloquent advocate for Mr. Rich. He saw Lewis as a war casualty who was not interested in pursuing a pension. He noted that the Army did not deny the incident. However, in August, 1945, the Army paid but $485 of Mr. Rich’s $615 medical expenses, and, denied any additional payment for the loss of his work wages, for his wife’s time in caring for him and her loss of work wages, as well as for any additional medical expenses subsequent to August, 1945. Interestingly, adjusted for inflation, a 1945 dollar is worth $13.19 in 2015 (http://dollartimes.com).

Lincoln continued to advocate for Mr. Rich. He pointed out that Lewis’s injury could be a lifelong disability. He provided Congresswoman Smith with a rationale for Mr. Rich receiving a one-time payment of $15,000 to fully settle matters and all of the medical documentation. He suggested that Capt. Morris should be court martialed. Congresswoman Smith agreed with Lincoln and began the frustrating, arduous process of trying to make the financial matters better for Mr. Rich. She told Lincoln in her letter of May 15, 1945, that “The Rich case is one of the most amazing that I have heard about…”. She began an inquiry with the Army about Capt. Morris. On July 18, 1945, she notified Lincoln about what disciplinary action was taken against Capt. Morris – he was reprimanded. Lincoln later discovered that Capt. Morris had been transferred from Boston to Chicago.

By February, 1946, Lewis’s physicians believed he needed another operation. Lewis could not afford it. Lincoln notified Congresswoman Smith, who introduced a bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 434, 80th Congress, 1st Session), seeking to provide Mr. Rich with a settlement sum of $15,000. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. On July 2, 1947, it was amended to the sum of $4000. H.R. 434 as amended was approved on July 30, 1947 (http://library.clerk.house.gov – see: “Calendars of the US House of Representatives and History of Legislation”). This was about four months before Lincoln Colcord died.

I wonder:
Did Lewis Rich ever regain the use of his hand?
How did Lewis Rich fare the rest of his life?
Why didn’t the Army officers take the time to get a tool, such as a crowbar?
Did anyone ever find the suspicious strangers?
Was the drastic reduction of the settlement sum a typical reflection of why President Harry S. Truman called the 80th Congress “the do nothing Congress”?
Just how would Lincoln Colcord have written this story for a magazine or newspaper?

Maine Women Authors of the 1950’s Panel Discussion

Cathleen Miller, Curator of the Maine Women Writers Collection at UNE, Melissa Hays, Ruth Moore Days organizers, Muriel Davisson and devotee Jane O’Rouke discuss how the novels of Mary Ellen Chase, Elisabeth Ogilive, Ruth Moore, Miriam Colwell and Louise Dickinson Rich provide different portraits of the people and the state of Maine.

Video by George Kerper

The Oyster Industry

Jeff “Smokey” McKeen founded Pemaquid Oyster Company on the Damariscotta River in 1986 and now raises over a million oysters a year. He has been written up in the New York Times and Yankee Magazine, and is featured in Mario Batali’s American Farm to Table: Simple, Delicious Recipes Celebrating Local Farmers.

Video by George Kerper

Tugboats!

Captain John Worth of Maine Maritime Academy has worked and taught students aboard tugboats on Penobscot Bay over the course of his exciting career. He will share experiences and discuss the history of assisting cargo ships in the navigation of the Penobscot Bay and River.

Video by George Kerper

Maine on Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography Book Release

Left: Maine on Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography, Right: Kevin Johnson

Left: Maine on Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography, Right: Kevin Johnson

Maine on Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography is the joint effort of Kevin Johnson, Penobscot Marine Museum’s Photo Archivist; W.H. Bunting, Maine’s foremost interpreter of historic images; Earl G. Shettleworth Jr., Maine State Historian. This book uses images from the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company to focus on early twentieth century Maine life, from people at work to people at play.

The Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company was a Belfast, Maine based “real photo postcard” company operated by R. Herman Cassens from 1909 to 1947. He dreamed of “Photographing the Transcontinental Trail–Maine to California,” focusing on small rural towns and villages. Although his dream was never fully realized, the company did manage to produce more than 40,000 glass plate negatives.

The EIP collection is now housed at Penobscot Marine Museum, where PMM Photo Archivist, Kevin Johnson oversees the preservation and digitization of that collection, along with several other photographic collections.

Johnson, puts his experience and knowledge of the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company collection into this book, along with 200 photographs from PMM’s extensive collection of negatives from EIP.

Book talks and signings will be held all over the state, including one with all three authors at PMM on Thursday, September 22 at 7:00 p.m.

For more information or to order a copy of the book, click here or please call 207-548-0334.

Maine On Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography

maine_on_glass_cover-429X532

Maine On Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography ​(Signed by author, Kevin Johnson)​
by W H. Bunting, Kevin Johnson, Earle G. Shettleworth Jr​.​
​Paperback
$37.00 (includes tax and shipping)

Description: ​Nineteenth-century Maine―famed for its lumbering, shipbuilding, and seafaring―has attracted copious attention from historians, but early twentieth-century Maine has not. Maine on Glass redresses this imbalance with 190 postcard photos and three of Maine’s foremost historians.

The images in this book were selected from 22,000 glass plate negatives created by the Eastern company between 1909 and World War II. As an archive of early twentieth-century Maine architectural photography, the Eastern collection (now housed at the Penobscot Marine Museum) has no equal, and it gives us many unexpected glimpses of Maine life.





Searsport Sea Captains React to the Fall of the American Merchant Marine

By Cipperly Good, PMM Collections Manager

During the American Civil War, as the Confederates immobilized 40% of Union ships, shipowners chose to reregister under foreign flags gaining protection from a law prohibiting the sinking of foreign neutral vessels. After reconciliation, Congress debated whether to repeal a 1797 law, which stated that once reflagged, a vessel could not repatriate to the United States. The Jones Act of 1817 prohibited US domestic port-to-port trade by foreign-flagged vessels. Shipbuilders from Maine and elsewhere, seeing a profit to be made by rebuilding the American Merchant Marine from scratch, successfully lobbied their legislators to keep the 1797 law intact. The American Merchant Marine never fully recovered.

The letters and newspaper editorials of Searsport’s sea captains began noting the decline. They blamed the government, competency of the crew and economics. David Nickels wrote in 1872:

But a few years since we had the largest Merchant Marine in the world…Now Alas how fallen- But I must confess I feel very little interest in its enlargement. We can never compete with England whilst our duties and taxes are so high on all that enters into the construction and fitting of ships. I cannot expect to see much change for the better in my days of service…

Perhaps when we have female suffrage we may manage to have a better-regulated tariff. But I presume the majority will vote the republican ticket, And as the party goes for the protection of large Corporations, and monopolies, individual enterprise will not much benefit by any reforms which the female Suffagians may inaugurate…

In all my going to sea, I have never had so inefficient a ship’s company. I cannot get anything done, without being on hand all the time. I am ready to swear to the best of my knowledge and belief, that the material which enters into the construction of the young men of the present day, must be sadly diluted.

Ship WILLIAM H. CONNER

Ship WILLIAM H. CONNER

Despite the hope of Maine shipbuilders for an increase of business, in 1877 Searsport built the last of its ships, the WILLIAM H. CONNER. Henry Hall reported on Searsport’s shipbuilding as part of the 1880 census:

All the vessels built were owned there, and it is said that there never was a vessel built on contract in Searsport for outside owners. A few years ago, when coasters became unprofitable, builders and investors turned their attention to other forms of business, and the industry has nearly died out in consequence…Excellent shipyards exist, but their value is not rated above one-third what it used to be.

In his shipboard newspaper, The Ocean Chronicle, Edward Payson Nichols blames government policies. In his October 9, 1883 editorial, Nichols writes:

What is to be the future of the American ships, and what is become of the few that are now remaining? Government will swallow them up…

the moment [an American ship] strikes the water all the birds gather around for a taste of the carcass: the broker, ship-chandler, carpenter, sail-maker, butcher, blacksmith, and down swoops the American eagle to fill her rapacious maw, and fastens her talons on the choiced bits. What does Government do for ships?…

Nothing for, lots against.

With American shipbuilding holding tenaciously to wooden construction with the rest of the developed nations building in iron, Nichols addresses the free ship, or foreign-flagged vessel controversy, in his December 4, 1885 editorial:

We have been listening for the last twenty years to arguments in favor of, and against “free ships.” Our sympathy has mostly been against, but, when it is all looked over, what is our gain by excluding foreign built ships from carrying our flag? All the legislation in the world will never make wood compete with iron. Iron ships are now being built for less than 10 pounds a ton, which is as cheap as a wooden one can be made, and then the iron ship goes into the market and takes five shillings a ton more freight than the wooden one, which is often 15 percent, so the wooden vessel which just pays her bills, has to compete with the iron one which divides 15 percent of her freight…

The cry is, “We must protect our Merchant Marine,”- “Admitting ‘free ships’ would ruin our Coasting trade.”…There is not half of our coasters that pay more than bills, and depreciation; so the ones who really gain are those who have the bills, while the capital is not increased.

In his January 28, 1891 editorial, Nichols was still writing about the free ship debate:

Our Maine Senators, and Congressmen…prevent the building up of the U.S. Merchant Marine. It is a wonder they have been able to fight off the “free ship fallacy” and keep off intruders as long as they have…

what seems strange, is that there was not sound judgment enough to see that if there was nothing done to stimulate the building of ships, the ship might as well come in “free” as to employ the foreign ship and have none of our own…

Without aidfrom the government, the free ship will never do us more harm than it is now doing as belonging to another country, and as long as there is nothing done by the country, it will matter but little whether the ships hoist the Stars and Stripes, or some foreign flag, for the foreigner will get the money “all sa-mee.” There are a few fine ships belonging to the United States, but when the Stars and Stripes are hoisted at the peak, the ship is an honor to the flag, but the flag, no honor to the ship.

By 1902, Searsport fathers were discouraging their sons from entering the Merchant Marine. Lincoln Alden Colcord wrote to his son Lincoln Ross Colcord:

I think…that you would make a most perfect sailor, and perhaps your health would be better on the sea; but we all know that the day has gone by when sea-faring was a profession of a young boy to take up…

It is my hope now, that you will have a chance to get out the best there is in you.

Lincoln Ross Colcord’s response was to chronicle the American Merchant Marine through fictional sea stories based on his childhood in the China Trade, writing articles for the American Neptune and cofounding Penobscot Marine Museum.

Please visit the archives to read more primary sources about Searsport’s contributions to the American Merchant Marine. Select quotes were taken from original copies of the Ocean Chronicle, letters in the Nichols, Nickels, and Dow family papers, and the Colcord Collection. Photos of the captains mentioned in this article are also available through the online collections database: http://penobscotmarinemuseum.pastperfectonline.com.

Penobscot Marine Museum Celebrates Searsport Maritime Heritage Days

Fowler-True-Ross House on PMM’s Campus

Fowler-True-Ross House on PMM’s Campus

Saturday, August 6th, Penobscot Marine Museum will join in with the town of Searsport to celebrate Maritime Heritage Days with a temporary campus-wide exhibit and a house tour featuring Searsport sea captains’ homes.

Saturday, August 6th from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., PMM will host a campus-wide exhibit on the past, present and future of the port of Searsport. In addition to our traditional indoor exhibits celebrating Searsport built ships and captains, outdoor exhibits will highlight the ports of calls of outbound Searsport ships and inbound foreign cargo vessels from the 1790s to the present and the role of Mack Point during World War II. On special loan from the Maine State Museum, artifacts from the 1779 Penobscot Expedition will be on display. The Museum will host our sister historical organizations on campus, with some old sea captains and families who went to sea, rising from their graves to tell their tales. Regular admission prices apply.

As a benefit to PMM, nine historic Searsport Sea Captain’s properties will be open for tours on Saturday, August 6th, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Participants will get a sense of Searsport’s rich seafaring history as they tour five private residences, two inns and two museum buildings throughout Searsport. The cost is $10.00 per person; tickets can be purchased at PMM’s Visitors Center at 2 Church Street in Searsport. To reserve tickets prior to August 6, please call 207-548-0334.

The Fowler-True-Ross House

By Deborah Nowers

fowler-houseThe Fowler-True-Ross House sits prominently on Main Street and is a major building of the Penobscot Marine Museum. The docents who work in the house asked the library researchers for information related to the ownership of the house and whether there were objects in the collection that belonged to the residents. The collection includes a folder on the house that lists the ownership from a title search at the Registry of Deeds, but little on who they were.

Being a genealogist, I sought to identify the family groups who had lived in the house. I began with a time line begun by another volunteer listing the deed transfers and the individuals involved. Slowly I filled in the families. Using the resources in the library and internet sources, the families came into focus.

The land on which the house is situated was part of a large tract of land owned by Gen. Henry Knox. He had acquired much of the Waldo Patent, originally the property of Brigadier General Samuel Waldo, by marrying Waldo’s granddaughter, Lucy Flucker. A map in the Maine Historical Society includes a notation that the tract contained “576,000 acres equal to 30 miles square.”

General Knox then divided the land and sold parcels. In 1799, Robert Lord Sargent of Islesboro purchased the land where the Fowler-True-Ross house stands which was then in Prospect. He is enumerated in the 1800 U.S. Census in Prospect and in 1801 sold the parcel to Ephraim Colson, Sr.

Ephraim Colson’s family is outlined in a folder in the collection of Priscilla A. Jones, a well-known local genealogist whose papers are housed in the PMM library. It is unclear if Ephraim and his wife Phebe lived on the property. It seems likely as his five oldest children are recorded as born in Prospect between 1797 and 1804.

Fowler PlotThe house’s first namesake, Miles Fowler, purchased the property in 1815 and it remained in his family for 152 years, through four generations. Miles Fowler, a sea captain, had married Jane True in 1813. Their four children—Rufus Warren, Martha Jane, Cyrus True and Emily—grew up there. The PMM publication, Searsport Sea Captains reports he was captain on seven vessels from 1817 to 1840. He served in the War of 1812 as a private from September 2 to 21, 1814. In 1837, he was appointed Postmaster for West Prospect—now Searsport.

It appears from the deeds that the property was mortgaged in 1839 and redeemed in 1840, and sometime in the early 1840s Miles and Jane separated. In 1843, the property was purchased in trust for Jane Fowler and she subsequently purchased it for $1. She continued to live there and is enumerated in the 1850 Census in what had become Searsport with her son, Cyrus True; he was no longer using the Fowler last name. Miles was living in Bangor with a new wife and daughter.

At Jane’s death in 1857, the house passed to her three surviving children, Rufus Warren, Cyrus and Martha Jane. Rufus Warren Fowler’s wife Nancy then purchased it from the siblings. After her death in 1862, Rufus Warren became the owner. Like his father, he was a sea captain, also included in Searsport Sea Captains.

Only two of his children survived Rufus Warren, and at his death in 1873, Rufus Warren, Jr. and his brother Frederick inherited the house. Rufus Warren, Jr. purchased it and presumably lived there with his wife Abbie and children. The house was purchased in 1896, by his uncle Cyrus True. It then passed to Lucy (Merrithew) Ross, the wife of Cyrus’ nephew Andrew M. Ross, the son of Martha Jane (Fowler) and Andrew J. Ross. Father and son were sea captains.

Their daughter Rebecca M. Ross, a teacher, inherited the house in 1937 and sold it to the Museum in 1967.

The Museum collections contain a number of objects connected to the Fowler, True and Ross families. Miles’s eyeglasses, Martha Jane (Fowler) Ross’s portrait shows her wearing a broach that is also part of the collection. Her brother Cyrus True is represented with a half model, a trunk and a compass. There are photographs of Rufus Warren Fowler, Jr. and Andrew M. Ross as well as a collection of navigation instruments owned by Andrew M. Ross.

Fowler Descendants