Annals of Camden, part IV
Nathan Fletcher had much of interest about Camden to say and I am not done with him yet! But I shall soon get back to Who's Who at Mountain View, as the people there want you to know about them and their contributions to Camden.
Fletcher, in one of his columns in The Rockland Opinion, tells a few stories, which maybe you have not heard before. He did not make them up, as I have read them elsewhere in history. Fletcher said: ”May 19, 1780, the “Dark Day” occurred which inspired so much terror everywhere. A few years since, while conversing with an aged citizen (now dead) on the interesting scenes of his early days, he gave me a lucid description of that day and the varied effects it had upon the minds of the people in Camden. He informed me that his father was at work in the field near his house, and darkness came gradually upon them, until it was so dark he had to unyoke his oxen and put them in the barn. They retired to the house, and found his mother sitting at the table, with a lighted candle before her, with folded arms and timidly awaiting the issue of so strange a phenomenon. The fowls went to roost, supposing it was sunset, and the cattle laid down as at night and quietly commenced chewing their cuds. There were but a few who could say they were not frightened. Many thought the “Day of Judgment” had come, but others were of the opinion that the day of judgment would not come in the night, but that some miraculous upheaving of nature was about to take place, and a new heaven and a new earth were to be created for the American patriots, while the hated English, with the Hessians and Tories, would be doomed to the regions of everlasting darkness.” To this day, there has not been an explanation, I have read about.
Another thing Fletcher tells from talking to older people, some of us have read before: “The Winter of 1780 was the coldest of any year since the settlement of the town. Lt. Benjamin Benton, then stationed at Camden, crossed over to Castine on the ice with a flag of truce, to secure the exchange of a young man named Isaac Libby, a resident of Warren who had been captured on an American schooner a few months previous.” I do not believe we have had another winter so cold that one could walk on the bay to Castine.
According to "The Annals of Camden," Fletcher stated, “After the close of the long war, the people of Camden were left in a state of poverty. They now laid aside their weapons of war and resumed the implements of peace. During the long contest there had been but few additions to their settlement, and many who had migrated from the west before the war commenced, returned to their former homes, disgusted with the hardships of a frontier life. But those who remained were made of a” sterner stuff.” They came from a race of men who knew no fear, and were possessed of bone, nerve and muscle, well fitted for a pioneer’s life. They were men of intelligence, of sound common sense, and much of that Yankee shrewdness which has been the characteristics of the people of the New England states, and they transmitted that to their descendants, who are now living in our midst, the same love of country, habits of industry and devotedness to those principals which form the character of honest and upright citizens. The proprietors of the soil of this region were desirous to dispose of it to actual settlers, and therefore very liberal terms were offered, and every facility extended to all who wished to avail themselves of this opportunity to make themselves homes in the wilderness.”
There was plenty of game in the wilderness for the first settlers to hunt after the Revolutionary War. Moose were numerous and so were bears. If one wanted venison to eat, they just grabbed their trusty muskets and headed toward Mt. Battie and Mt. Megunticook. The shots of the muskets were heard and the family was quite sure they would have a nice dinner. James Richards (first settler) and the active, agile Leonard Metcalf were two of the most noted ones of their day. Their aim was great (with much practice during the Revolution), their muskets seldom missed the game and their dogs were always with them.
Then came the Charles Barrett (who settled Barrettstown and when incorporated named Hope), Mr. Appleton (town of Appleton), Hosmers, [You can read his love story in Who's Who at Mountain View] Hodgmans, Russells and Philbrooks. To insure the improvement of lands, there was a provision inserted in the deeds that if each settler did not clear up and improve his lands within a stipulated time, he should forfeit his claim. Samuel Appleton, after a year or two of hard labor, came to the conclusion that he had made a mistake in his calling; returned to Boston, entered into trade and became a millionaire.
Others followed, such as William Molyneaux, who settled at Megunticook Lake just above the river. According to Fletcher, people welcomed him, although he was of a gloomy temperament and erratic but he did have plenty of money. People sought out his company for this reason. But what Fletcher did not know was what ever happened to him. Well, I read that he imbibed quite a bit. He was a very large man and his hat fit tightly on his head. One day he was near his home on the lake in his boat and he fell overboard. He was found, but too late. His hat was above water and he was still attached to it. Thus ended his business here in Camden and also in Boston
Do you wonder what you will read about next week?
Barbara Dyer is Camden's official town historian.