The trip had nothing to do with landing on another planet, though it felt that way

According to the map, it looked like a good road. I had just taken a lovely, very smooth one a few miles to the east, so I expected to enjoy more of the same. But when the pavement abruptly ended, I kept going. After fifteen or twenty miles of encountering no house or other vehicle, I finally came out on the state highway – one of three paved roads running east-west across the county. I did have to back up at one point and try the one intersecting logging road I encountered. Good thing my little Sonic has a compass on the dashboard array. It’s easy to get disoriented in hilly wilds.

Welcome to Washington County, Maine.

The drive had me remembering forays into the logging back country of the Pacific Northwest or even a “shortcut” in the ’50s along Devil’s Ridge in southern Indiana that was pure hillbilly, uh, perfection. I think that route’s long since been covered in asphalt. What a shame – it was timeless.

Long ago, I learned you can’t always trust maps, no matter how much you need them. A tourist site like a commercial cavern might be indicated on the wrong side of the road, or there might be a circle for a village that today is no more than a trio of houses.

Still, they’re pretty essential. As I said, there was one intersection on this trek where my car’s compass had me confounded. Checking the map, I realized I should have turned left and headed south, so I turned about and course-corrected. Good thing, too. According to the map, I would have spent the rest of the day heading into the sunset on a rocky dirt lane.

If I keep this up, I really will need to get a battered pickup or four-wheel-drive SUV.

A goodly part of Dover Meeting was actually the first Quaker body in Maine

In the organizational system of the Society of Friends, the local congregation is called a Monthly Meeting, based on its deliberative business sessions held once a month. This is the body that maintains the membership rolls, conducts marriages and memorial services, holds the property, and enforces discipline, as needed – not that we do much of the final one these days.

Neighboring Monthly Meetings are linked together in a Quarterly Meeting, so-named because they assemble four times a year.

The Quarterly Meetings themselves are arrayed within a larger region, creating a Yearly Meeting, the top of the hierarchy of Friends’ administrative structure.

Beyond that, the Yearly Meetings communicate as independent equals, somewhat like the Eastern Orthodox churches.

Remember, traditional Friends never take a vote, with a majority winning the decision. Instead, we wait until all are in unity. Time and again, our clerks prove sensitive in their discernment, though not always perfectly.

The Great Meetinghouse in Newport, Rhode Island, long served the annual sessions of New England Yearly Meeting. Men sat in the right side, women in the center. The left building served the local Meeting and likely committees.

Thus, Dover Monthly Meeting is part of New England Yearly Meeting, the oldest in the world, which met for much of its existence in Newport, Rhode Island, before venturing to fresh locations in the 20th century.

Dover Friends also fit into Salem Quarterly Meeting, with its sessions rotating among Salem, in Massachusetts, and Hampton and Dover, in New Hampshire, and Berwick, Maine, until Dover was set off as a Quarter in 1815.

A small roadside burial ground is all that remains of Eliot Friends Meeting, barely a mile across the river from Dover Friends first meetinghouse. In accord with Quaker discipline, many of its members were buried in unmarked graves, the locations recorded within the Meeting’s books.

Dover’s role as a Friends’ center evolved through the establishment of “Indulged” and “Preparative Meetings” that conducted weekly worship in their own neighborhood but joined in the larger Monthly Meeting for the business decisions and community. Over time, Dover Monthly Meeting had not just the two meetinghouses in Dover – the one on Dover Neck and the other at Cochecho Village – but also groups worshiping in Gonic and Meaderboro in Rochester as well as Lee, New Durham, Gilmanton, Wolfeboro, Sandwich, and possibly Barrington, in New Hampshire, and Eliot/Kittery and Berwick, Maine.

Berwick’s second  meetinghouse was erected here in 1758, where the impressive stone wall to the burial ground still stands.


A turnstile leads into the burial ground.


The third meetinghouse was built in 1850 in the village at North Berwick. It’s now used for retail stores.

During this period, Dover Monthly Meeting’s sessions rotated across both sides of the state line, meaning the first Quaker business in Maine was done as part of Dover, Friends Meeting based in New Hampshire. Some of Dover’s earliest clerks, in fact, resided in Maine.

In time, when these smaller bodies grew sufficiently, they were set off as their own Monthly Meetings. Three large families, after all, could fill a small meetinghouse, especially if grandparents or aunts and uncles were included.

And then, once these new Monthly Meetings were functioning, Dover continued the relationship as a kind of “mother” to the newer bodies through Dover Quarterly Meeting.

Thus, while my new book is a history of Dover from a contrarian perspective, it ranges far beyond the city itself, both before and after the Quakers swirl in.


Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in your choice of ebook platforms at

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


Precocious precious Elise

back to drive across mountains and plains how well I remember unanticipated letters in my post box before phone calls from a colleague fed up with working in a field of little growth but with no desire to return to the daily buzzard “from what I’ve seen, for what’s demanded, our managers are far under-compensated” within major cities parallel to something I’ve been preaching the last thirty years amen hope you find welcome me too wishing upon that star

You can hike and camp on Treat Island, but you get there only by boat

Named for Upham Stowers Treat, the island once housed a fishing hamlet and then a Civil War battery. Today, as one of the Maine Coastal Heritage Trust preserves, it’s open to the public and has a 1.2-mile network of trails offering stunning views of the surrounding bays.

As seen from Eastport’s South Side.


The Army Corps of Engineers operates a marine concrete testing station on three acres on Treat Island’s northwest side.
Officially, it’s the largest uninhabited island within the city of Eastport.
Dudley Island adjoins Treat.

Kayakers are advised to get a guide who knows the waters’ treacherous currents.

Meet the Old Friar

Some early wag exploring the channel that separates Eastport and Campobello Island thought a rock formation visible only at low tide resembled an old monk and dubbed it the Old Friar.

To me, it looks more like an old hound. The poles to the left lead to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt summer cottage.

The headland behind it soon became known as Friar’s Head.

For a little perspective, note how small the Friar looks against the bluff.

As for the channel? It’s Friar’s Roads, curving along the island to its end on the Bay of Fundy.

The Old Friar himself may have lost some features during the Civil War when cannoneers stationed on Treat Island used the monolith for target practice. Canada, apparently, never complained, sparing the U.S. an international incident.

The Passamaquoddy, meanwhile, referred to the pillar as the Stone Maiden. The legend told of a young brave who left on a long journey after instructing his lover to sit and await his return. The distraught young maiden sat on the beach and waited for months. Alas, when he finally returned, he found her turned to stone, forever to wait and watch.

Why Maine’s blueberries are special

Across the country, pumpkin flavoring seems to infuse about everything on the menu come October, and something similar happens every summer in Maine with blueberries. The tourists and summer people, especially, seem to eat it right up. (Err, couldn’t help myself there.) So it’s not just lobster they come to devour.

Here are some facts about Maine’s in relation to the rest of the nation and world,  mostly.

  1. The local brewpub calls its obligatory blueberry ale Skul Clothes. The name puzzled me until I was told that’s how kids traditionally earned the money for their school clothes each year, at least before mechanized machines took over most of the patches. “It’s hard work, down on your hands and knees,” as one recent high school graduate told me. “But the pay’s good.” After that, I could tell the locals who walked in for the first time, looked at the offerings on the chalkboard, and broke out in a grin. They’d all done it.
  2. Ours are lowbush, wild, unlike the highbush varieties cultivated elsewhere. We lead the world in lowbush production, though it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the highbush harvests of British Columbia, Oregon, or Washington state. While Atlantic Canada produces half of the world’s wild blueberry tally, that covers more than a single province – Nova Scotia is the leader there.
  3. Lowbush berries are smaller but more flavorful, in our humble opinion.
  4. They’re also preferred in making blueberry wine.
  5. Blueberries are one of the few commercially-available fruits native to North America. The First Nations, some of whom called them star-berries for their blossoms and the tiny ring at their base, have been eating them for at least 13,000 years
  6. They top the list as an antioxidant and are rich in Vitamin C and even manganese.
  7. Wild blueberry patches are burned every two years.
  8. Wild blueberries freeze in just four minutes.
  9. Some research indicates they counter memory loss in aging. I’ll have to remember that. They’re also good for the heart, cancer-risk reduction, and lowering blood pressure.
  10. I like mine fresh, with yogurt or cream. Pancakes, muffins, jams and jellies come next.

We have some huge tides and treacherous currents

Listen to me, like I’m an expert.

Still, the Old Sow can be seen about a mile away from Eastport if you time it right, about three hours before high tide on the biggest days of the month. The Western Hemisphere’s biggest whirlpool not only swirls but also shoots spouts into the air. As if I could capture that flash with my camera.

The current, though, often runs at seven knots, faster than an Olympic champion swimmer could manage in even a very short burst. It’s also treacherous for Scuba divers, waders, and sailors alike.

It’s by no means the only place to be mesmerized while watching the charge.

Tide pressing from the Atlantic into Dennys and Whiting Bays churns and ripples.

Another impressive sight is the Reversing Falls in Pembroke, though “rapids” would be a more accurate term. The sounds of the waters rushing from one bay to another are as mesmerizing as any waterfall, though.

As the level intensifies, a large whirlpool with a concave depression forms behind the rock ledge, setting off smaller whirlpools around it.
The major action is a set of rapids I’d hesitate to call “falls,” though they’re just as noisy. Once the tide comes in, it has to go out, keeping the action going endlessly. As I was shooting this, a pair of seals lolled in the whitewater wings, diving and coming up with fish in their mouths.