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Birthplace of the State of Maine

The following interesting paper was written and read by Mrs. Edwin A. Richardson, Past Regent of Elizabeth Wadsworth Chapter, D. A. R., at the unveiling of the tablet placed on "The Old Jameson Tavern" at South Freeport, Sept. 1, 1915, by the Daughters of the American Revolution of Maine.

Maine's Independence

Among all the interesting old houses in Maine there is none of more importance, from an historical standpoint than the old tavern at Freeport in which were signed the final papers separating Maine from Massachusetts. Built a century and a quarter ago, for Dr. John Hyde of Freeport, it was his home for many years. Later it passed out of the possession of the worthy doctor's descendants, and for a long period of time was used as a public house. At the time of the Commissioners' meeting in Freeport it was known as the Jameson Tavern, later it became the Codman Tavern, and still later it was called the Elm House.

Following this, the old house returned to its original standing, and became once more a private dwelling house, the home of Charles Cushing, a prominent ship builder of the town. It next passed into the possession of the present owner, Mrs. Frank R. Kennedy of Portland, Me.

The act of separation which was finally consummated in this old tavern, took place on the 15th day of March, 1820, and on that date Maine became a State and took the honored place that was rightfully hers in the Union. The movement for the separation of Maine from Massachusetts began soon after the Revolutionary period, and the matter was largely agitated by the most patriotic men of the district at intervals for a period of over thirty years. Eminent statesmen devoted much time and energy to this end, and when it was announced that the papers were actually signed which constituted Maine a free and independent State, great enthusiasm was manifested by those who advocated the movement.

But there were many who were opposed to the Province of Maine becoming a State and there was great excitement among friends on both sides of the question.

Boston most strenuously opposed the separation, and it is not at all surprising that this was true, when we find that in 1819, Maine was paying nearly $90,000 as her proportion towards the support of the Massachusetts government, and a new valuation to be taken the following year would increase this to at least $120,000.

This was a greater sum than supported the combined governments of Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, and while this seemed almost incredible, yet, an examination of the certificates of the secretary of Massachusetts and statements of the executives of the several States demonstrated this a fact and proved at least one vital reason why Boston influence and her connections were unwilling to sanction the act of separation. A statement of figures showed that Maine as an independent State could support a separate government on at least $12,000 less than was being contributed towards the expenses of Massachusetts annually.

A strong argument was waged at this time which appealed to the common sense of Maine citizens. Boston and the state of Massachusetts in general said that they were unfit for self-government; the Bostonians in particular felt that the interests of Maine were better known to them than to the people residing in the province.

This was, however, but a repetition of earlier history. The same contemptible method was adopted by a host of others when our fathers struggled for their independence.

It was quoted that if our connections with England were severed, the States were ruined, for, deprived of the protection and care of the mother country, they could not stand by themselves. But the connection was dissolved and the result was, prosperity and happiness. Our Country became known and respected, and commands attention from all nations.

This old tavern was one of the favorite stopping places for the big stages that journeyed between the eastern part of the province of Maine and Massachusetts. It was chosen by the commissioners for their meeting because it was a convenient location, while its reputation of serving the best food and the best New England rum of any tavern on the old Boston and Maine highway, may not have been overlooked by the commissioners when they ratified the act of separation.

The representatives of both Maine and Massachusetts were in session here for nearly three weeks, and included Timothy Bigelow of Groton, Mass., Levi Lincoln of Worcester, Mass., Benjamin Porter of Topsham, Maine, and James Bridge of Augusta, Maine. These four chose Silas Bolton of Boston, Mass., and Lathrop Lewis of Gorham, Maine, to complete the board.

Sometime previous to this negotiations were commenced by the three commissioners from Maine. Joined by David Rose of the Senate, and Nicholas Emery of the House, they proceeded to Boston and were there met by the Massachusetts commissioners.

Sometime was taken by this board, and meetings were held at several towns and cities in Massachusetts without any definite settlement. Then a meeting of this board was held in Freeport, and in the end it was settled that Maine should give Massachusetts $180,000 for her possessions of public lands in the State. Of this amount $30,000 was in Indian claims, which Maine assumed, while the remaining sum of $150,000 was to be paid in forty years at five per cent, interest. Those were indeed wise men who, upon that 15th day of March, 1820, sat in state in the north-east chamber of this old tavern.

They looked well into the future, and most carefully and conscientiously did they weigh the matter that was left to their decision. Nearly a century of time has passed, yet each passing year does but strengthen the feeling in the hearts of Maine's sons and daughters that no mistake was made when those worthy men placed their signatures to the important documents which gave to Maine her independence.

From the foregoing the reader might, however, form an impression that when Maine became a State in 1820 she then purchased of Massachusetts all of "her possessions of public lands in the state." This is not true. In the first paragraph of Section 1, of the Act of Separation approved by the Governor of Massachusetts, June 19, 1819, is this provision:

All the lands and buildings belonging to the Commonwealth, within Massachusetts Proper, shall continue to belong to said Commonwealth ; and all the lands belonging to the Commonwealth, within the District of Maine, shall belong, the one half thereof, to the said Commonwealth, and the other half thereof, to the State to be formed within the said District, to be divided as is hereinafter mentioned; and the lands within the said District, which shall belong to the said Commonwealth, shall be free from taxation, while the title to the said lands remains in the Commonwealth.

The title to the public lands remained jointly in the two states until 1853 when the Maine Legislature passed the following resolve:

Resolved: That the land agent proceed without delay to Boston, for the purpose of ascertaining from the authorities of Massachusetts, the term; on which that state will sell or surrender to Maine, all her interests in the lands in this state. Also upon what terms Massachusetts will sell to Maine her interest in the lands known and denominated as settling lands, independently of the timber lands, and report to the legislature as soon as may be.

(Approved Feb. 22, 1853) By a resolve approved March 31, 1853, the Legislature was directed to choose by ballot three commissioners to make negotiations with Massachusetts for the purchase of these lands The commissioners for Maine were Reuel Williams, Wm. P. Fesseneden and Elijah L. Hamlin, and on the part of the Commonwealth were E. M. Wright. Jacob H. Loud and David Wilder.

An extra session of the Legislature was held September 20, 1853, at which time the report of the joint commission was received and accepted and their acts ratified and confirmed by a resolve approved September 28, 1853.

Source: Sprague's Journal of Maine History, Vol. 3 No. 4, Published by John Francis Sprague, Dover, ME, July 1916

 



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