By Deborah Nowers, Library Research Volunteer
The Stephen Phillips Memorial Library is a hidden gem on Church Street. The library is a research non-circulating collection that includes information not easily found other places. The library is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 am to 1 pm with volunteer researchers who like to dig into the collections. It is best to call ahead, 207-548-2529 x212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, to be sure we will be there and give us an idea of what you are seeking.
As you would expect, we have books! In addition to books on a variety of maritime subjects, the collection includes vital record books, genealogies and town histories from all over New England and Eastern Canada.
There are also extensive genealogical collections that include the research files of a number of prominent local researchers—the largest from Priscilla Alden Jones. The finding aid for the genealogical collections, include over 1200 family names in six collections. In addition thirty-eight family boxes have folders with surprises including family photographs, bible records, wedding invitations….whatever a family might have saved. There are finding aides for these boxes, but browsing is much more fun.
If you are interested in Searsport history, the collection includes census records, gravestone transcriptions, town records including town reports and tax records. Want to track how old your house is or who lived in it? We have answers!
We also have real bound copies of the Belfast Republican Journal beginning with its first issue in 1820. These are very fragile, so we provide microfilm copies of the paper. We feel it is our mission to preserve, and provide access, this historical perspective of life in Waldo County. One of our researchers is transcribing the shipping news from this paper, and we all benefit from his thorough combing of the paper’s contents.
Finally, we are a marine museum and the marine collections are a treasure trove for research. The largest collection is the Colcord Papers, 76 boxes full of letters, documents, logs and first person accounts from 1825 to 1903 related to the Colcords, a Searsport seafaring family. The sixteen boxes of the Witherle Collection include the accounts and papers of the Castine general store Hook & Witherle and its succeeding configurations from 1808 to 1875. The store supplied Castine residents and fishermen, acted as a chandlery and expanded to vessel management, international trade and shipbuilding. Records from these endeavors are included.
Want to research the career and fate of a sea captain or coastal or deep sea vessel, or the cargo and crew who shipped aboard a specific ship, our collection of vessel papers, logbooks and account books. Two notable researchers have made some inroads into the collection: Col. Frederick Frasier Black published the photographs and brief biographical sketches of Searsport Sea Captains and Robert Applebee researched vessels built in and sailed from Maine by town and region.
There is no charge to use the library and we welcome visitors, local and far flung, to do research in our pleasant reading room.