By David Ruberti
I have just finished another one of our small photo collections to add to our on-line database. Not only does this chronicle the photographer’s family but his home, the town of Searsport, where I work and many of you live, and its sea-going families. This is a collection of 400 images by amateur photographer Frederick Ross Sweetser who was born in Searsport, Maine on May 15, 1853, the son of Capt. Jeremiah and Susan (French) Sweetser. In his youth he accompanied his father on long sea voyages. His first music lessons were in Holland and very early in his life he showed a very decided talent for music and it became his life’s work. For 44 years he taught at Boxwood Manor, a school for young ladies in Old Lyme, Conn.
He accompanied innumerable church and concert singers. He numbered among his friends many of the high-ups in musical, literary and theatrical circles. He enjoyed a lifelong friendship with the famous opera star Anna Louise Cary.
He was exceedingly fond of his native town and when vacation time came, he never failed to come back to Searsport, where he spent many happy summers at the old homestead, a dignified old Colonial brick house set picturesquely on a hill back from Main Street.
When at home in the summer he took an active part in the musical life of the town and often put on operas and other musical entertainments for the benefit of various organizations. In 1918 he retired to spend the remainder of his life in Searsport. He organized a large piano class in Belfast, where he had a studio, usually returning to Searsport on the weekends.
His sister, Jane “Jennie” Sweetser married the noted merchant ship captain Lincoln Alden Colcord, who sailed from Searsport on numerous ships over his lifetime of going to sea. Capt. Colcord and his wife Jane embarked on a three-year voyage aboard the sailing vessel Charlotte A. Littlefield on their wedding night, June 4, 1881.
They were the parents of noted writer and journalist Lincoln Ross Colcord, and pioneering social worker and writer Joanna Carver Colcord, both of which were born at sea aboard the Charlotte Littlefield.
It is assumed that “Frank” Sweetser’s niece, Joanna acquired her love of photography from her uncle. The Joanna Colcord collection at the museum consists of 700 glass plate negatives, an annotated scrapbook of her own photos, and postcards of the places she visited in her travels.
Sweetser died on April 15, 1924 and his funeral was held at the First Congregational Church here in Searsport.
Frederick Ross Sweetser Collection