So this is how Dover’s early houses looked?

Some historical accounts contend that the first housing in Dover was log cabins, as opposed to the thatched roof houses of Plimoth Plantation we can visit down in Massachusetts on our way down south of Boston to Cape Cod. (Go there, if you get the opportunity, by the way. It’s truly enlightening. And you won’t have to eat turkey or cranberry, not that I would object. Anyway, did those Pilgrims have mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes on that big event menu?)

Let me emphasize, log-style construction is often claimed for both the Hiltons’ settlement at Dover Point and the growing settlement’s first meetinghouse, which sat on what’s now roughly under a toll plaza on the Spaulding Turnpike.

Alas, both Dover sites represent lost opportunities for historical research.

In contrast, Colonial Pemaquid, Maine, from the same era, has been subject to extensive archeological work. This reproduction is a typical West Country fisherman’s family structure for the period, based on those findings.

Yes, that’s right. A whole family would fit in one.

Notably, the earliest residents there and in Dover were from the West Country of England – especially Devonshire. And from nearby Bristol, a name that’s been applied to both.

An extended conversation with one of the dedicated volunteer caretakers convinced me on this style, unlike log cabins, which were apparently brought to America by Scandinavians to Delaware a few years later.

Fish-drying racks would have been important.

In a related conversation, close to where I now live, I was surprised to hear that the French settlers on St. Croix Island in 1604 arrived with pre-fab housing and set it up, rather than constructing their village and fortifications from scratch. When the survivors abandoned the site in the spring of 1605, they readily dismantled these and took them to their new site, Port-Royal, Nova Scotia.

That had me wondering how all of that would fit into a ship, but then I started thinking of it as the cargo coming in one direction, replaced with fish, fresh timber, and pelts on the return. Maybe it was bigger than a bunch of U-Hauls. You’d be surprised how much we’ve shoved into a few of those.

So might something similar gone on when the English sailed up the Piscataqua? It would make a plausible alternative to the log cabin assumption.

The Maine historical site adds details to the reasoning behind their reconstruction.

By the way, the Borderlands region of England had a structure known as a cowpen (sounds like cabin), reflecting the reality of a somewhat temporary house that would be destroyed by fighting within 50 years. Or maybe even a wild party.

I’ve never been quite comfortable with the traditional log cabin description of Hilton Point’s early settlement. Point made?

There has to be great music

What would you look for in moving to a new community? It’s an interesting mental exercise, even if you’re staying in place.

What we’re seeing when we look at Eastport is the reality of how ephemeral much of what its attraction for us remains. Quite simply, people are a big part of what makes this place so special, and most of the population here skewers toward the gray end of the scale. Who’s in the wings to step up when they move on?

Our young director of Stage East, Mark Macey, for instance, is heading off to London on the theater fellowship. It puts a dent in the scene.

For me, having a Quaker Meeting is a central factor. Ours is small, older, and spread over a wide geographic area. It’s precious while it lasts.

And, as you’ve seen on this blog, natural wonder in the outdoors is important.

Let me add to that music, usually especially in a classical vein. Eastport is especially blessed on that front.

For example, before I had even met John Newell, his influence became a swing factor in my moving to Eastport. Other family members were already on board for relocating, but I was less ready to uproot, no matter the natural wonder of the place. But then, during a visit, I saw a poster for an upcoming Quoddy Voices concert and sensed this was no ordinary community chorus. Its repertoire was much like the one where I was singing in Boston – except that we didn’t yet have a piece in Chinese. Mandarin? (Which our conductor there did speak.) I also appreciate the fact the Down East ensemble is not auditioned and was told, at a small store downtown, that they’d likely really welcome another male voice. (Whew! I can’t imagine auditioning, only the fright.)

Flash ahead to actually living up here.

During the Covid lockdown, I joined the ensemble as it continued to rehearse via Zoom. At least it kept us in shape, and I did see how much fun everyone had together. But how would we sound when the time came?

Here’s a surreptitious shot of John Newell rehearsing Quoddy Voices. We were so grateful the masks came off most of us for the actual concerts.

Quite simply, at our first in-person rehearsal post-Covid, I knew from the first two chords out of our mouths in warmup that this was home. After my first concert with the group, I especially appreciated an aside from another bass-section member, “We’re so happy to have you,” or something to that effect. It’s a much smaller chorus than my previous one, and thus more demanding.

Quoddy Voices is, of course, John’s dream and labor of love. Like my previous directors, he’s meticulous yet patient, a published composer, an excellent keyboardist, a clean conductor, and someone with fine senses of humor and delight who also genuinely cares about his singers and colleagues. (George Emlen and Megan Henderson deserve posts of their own. Note to self.)

How perfect!

But, after ten years at the helm of the chorus, he and his wife are relocating to be closer to family for much of the year.

One thing about singing together is the personal warmth people often develop. The right director can be especially admired, for many good reasons.

John will be missed, of course, and warmly remembered. Many thanks to him for all he’s given to us and the wider community.

If you want to see more of our feelings, visit the Eastport Arts Center’s Facebook site.

We do hope he’ll be back often, perhaps even singing under our next director, someone we know is also a Character in his own right.

Meanwhile, from here to September we have a gap in our Monday night schedules.

Pemaquid, out beyond the Piscataqua frontier

Call it a serendipitous trip.

My stopping off at the Colonial Pemaquid historical site in Maine during a weekend at the Common Ground Country Fair last year was an impromptu decision. I’d made a side trip to visit the iconic lighthouse down on Pemaquid Point in midcoast Maine and saw a roadside sign and thought, what the heck, on my drive back.

After all, the settlement had some connections to early Dover, as I note in my new book, but simply setting foot there gave me a more substantial sense of the place than as a footnote vaguely out there somewhere up the coastline.

At first, the state-managed site appears rather modest. Its small museum and nearby seafood restaurant were both closed, this being the shoulder season. But nosing around revealed much, much more, as I’ll explain here and in some upcoming posts.

It was settled by West Country fishermen, like those who were pivotal in early Dover, shortly after Edward Hilton and Thomas Roberts set up shop along the Piscataqua, so they would have shared a common culture. Notably, both sites were established before the great Puritan migration into Massachusetts Bay, bringing a much different English culture into New England.

Unlike Dover, the Pemaquid village was destroyed repeatedly in attacks from the French and their Native allies in the decades from King Phillip’s war on.

In short, English settlement was erased from Maine all the way down to Wells and York, close to Dover. I have to admit that caused me to give lesser attention to settlement much to the east of the Piscataqua River.

Still, the Pemaquid site, now in the town of Bristol, was left relatively undisturbed after the late 1700s. In the 1990s, though, extensive archeological excavations determined the shape of the village and a gave a clearer understanding of its economy and lifestyle. Today, the stone foundations and interpretative signage present some of their findings.

In those, as I’m excited to see, I got a clearer sense of how early Dover may have also emerged along High Street – today’s Dover Point Road.