Out of Our Past

Spring 1916

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 7:15am

The front page stories of old Boothbay Registers reveal what was of immediate interest to the region townspeople — in this case, 104 years ago.

Every front page story on March 31, 1916 was maritime-related. A report on the Cold Storage Plant stated that it had its most successful year, taking in 6,870 barrels of fish (520,000 pounds). One third was bait fish, and two-thirds consisted of food fish shipped to New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. The Townsend Marine Railway (now Boothbay Harbor Shipyard) was building a new vessel, the Halcyon, for the fish hatchery: “Naval Architect Stevens [one of the founders of Goudy & Stevens shipyard] was here in regard to the plans. The oak planks for the Halcyon are cut and on the Newcastle shore awaiting scows.” A vessel could still, at least partially, be built locally by going into the woods nearby and cutting the desired trees. 1916’s modern twist was that a portable mill could roughcut the planking in the woods instead of rafting the timber to a permanent mill. A third story was that Chester Farmer's clam factory at Back Narrows (just south of the old Buzzell place across from Fort Island) had started production for the season. Lastly, Woodbury Love and John and Howard Thompson had gone to Augusta to try to shake loose some action on rebuilding the Southport bridge.

Dogfish, Vessels, and Baseball

April 7, 1916 the top story was an attempt to quell rumors that dogfish attacked humans. Some reservations had been canceled at the Oake Grove Hotel because a Boston paper misquoted Luther Maddocks concerning dogfish. The Boothbay region was, as always, politicking to get more business in town, with some farmers and merchants trying to persuade the Turner Center Creamery to build a Boothbay facility. And the steamers, such as Wiwurna, were being readied for summer service at their Southport winter quarters near what is now Robinson's Wharf.

April 14 the doings at the Townsend Marine Railway were profiled: steamer Islander was on the ways for work, while a fishing schooner and a 100-foot yacht awaited their turns. Baseball was always front page news, with Boothbay — not the school, but grown men — fielding a team every year. In 1916 Nat Grover was captain and Erald Sawyer was manager of the Samoset Club baseball team. An 1813 letter, sent by Amasa Piper of Boothbay to William King of Bath, was printed giving his eyewitness account of the Boxer and Enterprise battle. April 21 the top story was Cyrus Tupper's nomination as judge by Gov. Curtis.

Summer was coming and on April 28 the steamer schedule was announced, with the Wiwurna and Nahanada having trips from Bath every day; and the Boston, Portland, and Rockland boats were profiled. Harrie Smith was named superintendent of schools, and Myra Sherman (Mrs. Daniel) Dodge was proclaimed the oldest lady in town. A long obituary was devoted to Dr. Merrill, Squirrel Island's “Gray Squirrel,” who had written the summer colony’s column for so long.

The Famous Chicken Case and a Dead Whale

A popular form of entertainment was the mock trial, a comic play depending on ludicrous circumstances. May 5, 1916 the paper reported on the performance of “The Famous Chicken Case.” Appearing were L. A. Moore as judge, Leslie Blake as clerk, W. O. Dunton as sheriff, Dick Hallett and Sherb Stevens as defense attorneys, Roy Buxton as prosecutor, and Chester Miller as prisoner. Female witnesses were Dutchy Auld and Roy Rowe, while male witnesses were Carl Pennell, Donald Blossom, and Nat Grover. Also described May 5 were the sea trials of the U.S.’s greatest warship, the new super dreadnought Pennsylvania. Two region men were involved — John A. Thompson was captaining the ship and Harry Giles was engineer.

Grange matters were always big news. May 12 the Southport Grange welcomed nine other Lincoln County granges, hosting more than 100 people. Also on the island, Scott Gray and Willis Brewer found a dead whale, brought it into Cozy Harbor, and commenced to cut the blubber off and try it out in kettles on the shore. Another front page story was a report on the senior class’s trip to Washington, D.C. by steamer and train. May 19 the great amount of vessel construction expected at the Townsend Marine Railway was listed: a three-masted schooner, a 90-foot steamer, a 110-foot steamer, and five 165-foot barges. The summer steamers were getting under way, the Islander already on her route from Boothbay to Gardiner and Augusta. Though our entrance into the war was about a year away, it was rippling into Boothbay; Hite Thurston was contributing by making dies for ammunition shells in his machine shop.

Baseball — a perennially favorite topic — had front page coverage again May 26, with the paper reporting that the “crowd goes nearly frantic” when Boothbay upset Bath. Memorial Day was much more elaborate than it is now, an all-day affair, and the lengthy program was printed May 26. Some of the summer colonies had started their columns for the season, Squirrel, Ocean Point, and Murray Hill among them. June 2 the baseball team defeated Bowdoin's Delta Upsilon team, and the graduation exercises for the nine seniors were covered, as well as the eleventh alumni banquet. The passenger boats, Nellie G. and the Richard T., started their summer routes.

Samosets Swamp Shipping City's Sanguine Citizens Saturday

War was brought again to the town's attention with six destroyers in the Harbor June 9. The intent was to promote preparedness, to familiarize their crews with the shoreline. Most of the front page consisted of a report on the Harbor's schools: the high school, center primary [Oak Street], west side, east side, #8 [Lakeside Drive], and #17 [Lakeview Drive]. The baseball team did it again: “Samosets Swamp Shipping City's Sanguine Citizens Saturday,” defeating Bath. Lastly, the Board of Health was requested to remove the dead whale on Southport.

The Oake Grove Hotel, owned by W. Herbert and Chandler Reed, opened June 16. Also announced that day was the publication, mostly handled by Chandler Reed, of 10,000 descriptive booklets about Boothbay, a promotional item from the Board of Trade. The historical society has about three of the booklets and there are probably many others in town. It can be identified by the centerfold panorama of the Harbor from high on the east side. On June 23 the Bayville Inn and the Lawnmere opened. Summer was upon the region.