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New narrative history of Rockland to be released

Author John Bird's much-anticipated 'Rockland, Maine: Rise and Renewal' arrives Oct. 6
By Daniel Dunkle | Sep 30, 2019
Photo by: Daniel Dunkle Rockland historian John Bird looks through proofs of his new book, "Rockland, Maine: Rise and Renewal."

Rockland — History buffs in the city are buzzing about the upcoming release of the most significant book on the history of Rockland since the "Shore Village Story" was published in 1976.

The Rockland Historical Society is publishing a new, massive history of the city by John Bird, entitled, "Rockland, Maine: Rise and Renewal."

The book features detailed maps of the city, artwork showing the way the landscape has changed over the years, numerous photos and original illustrations by artist Debby Atwell.

Bird, 82, grew up in Rockland, and has a passion for local history.

"John takes an informal and anecdotal approach to the broad past of our small city on Penobscot Bay and its remarkably rapid rise among Maine communities between 1800 and 1850," Historical Society President Brian Harden says in the foreword. "He has placed special emphasis on people and families and their contributions to Rockland's success, and he has narrated our story into the new millennium where modern challenges have brought adaptations and changing priorities."

The Historical Society is celebrating the launch of the book with an event Sunday, Oct. 6, at 2 p.m. at the Congregational Church, 180 Limerock St.

The book provides overviews of how the city has grown and changed over the years, highlighting the ways in which people were able to adapt to new challenges. It combines this bigger picture with numerous profiles of important local figures. In some cases, it updates stories we want to know more about, such as the story of Lucy Farnsworth, whose vision and generosity led to the founding of the Farnsworth Art Museum. It also adds stories of people we have not heard as much about in previous local histories, including W.H. Glover, one of the premiere builders in the state.

The book includes stories about Elvira and Lavinia Snow, who were part of the Women's Suffrage Movement. It remembers legendary Rockland High School Principal Anna E. Coughlin and pioneering local nurse Eliza Steele. The book also includes a perhaps-overdue profile of local historian Cyrus Eaton.

"As this book reveals, geography and natural resources conspired to favor Rockland in its formative years, then made life more challenging as the country exploded westward and transportation patterns and resource supply and demand needs changed," Bird writes of the forces affecting the city.

The book is more than 500 pages long with numerous illustrations and sidebar material, perfect for the local history buff or as a conversation starter for the coffee table.

The Historical Society is publishing 500 copies in its first printing, with help from Maine Authors Publishing.

Bird recognizes the contributions of the historians who have come before him, including the contributors to the "Shore Village Story," and works including Bertram Snow's "The Main Beam."

"This book focuses on the big picture -- the major factors propelling Rockland's initial development, its challenges and setbacks, and its subsequent renewal," Bird writes in the introduction. "...May my efforts stimulate others who love this community to engage in telling its story in their way, just as the efforts of many people cited in the Acknowledgements stimulated me."

Rockland's new narrative history book arrives Oct. 6. (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
The book features numerous illustrations, photos and maps. (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
Historian John Bird's new book includes profiles of important local figures such as Lucy Farnsworth. (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
Artist Debby Atwell captures the spirit of Rockland in her illustrations. (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
John Bird (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
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Comments (6)
Posted by: Nate Grade | Oct 04, 2019 13:03

This looks incredible! Can't wait to get it.

Posted by: Jane Karker | Oct 03, 2019 20:30

You can order this amazing book for next-day deliver at Maine Authors Publishing Or email Buy a signed copy at the opening this Sunday October 6th at the Congregational church from 2-5:00pm! Our community is so fortunate to have a colorful scholar like John Bird offer this comprehensive and entertaining history of Rockland. Historian Brian Harden was also a big part of creating this book. It was an honor to publish it.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Oct 01, 2019 16:42

Kudos John...I always loved the "bookish" side of you. I will look for the book at my library here in Prescott AZ. Live here now with my daughter and love constant sunshine and cool walks in the early mornings. Hope our old gang is all fine and dandy.

Mary "Mickey" (Brown) McKeever +:0).....

Posted by: Cynthia Mary Anderson | Oct 01, 2019 16:39

I hope you mentioned what a treasure you are to Rockland, although I know you're too humble a man for that!  Thank you for this beautiful history and stellar book.  You always inspire me, John.  You and Mary Alice and two of my very favorite people!!!


Posted by: Colin Wentworth | Oct 01, 2019 09:42

Congratulations!!!!! Cant wait for the book.


Posted by: Ellen Spring | Oct 01, 2019 09:15

This sounds wonderful!  What will the cost be?  I'd like to buy two copies for Oceanside High School.  It sounds like just the information we'd need for local history projects.  Congratulations on all your hard work.

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