Ranco basket exhibit at BRHS museum

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 7:15am

The Boothbay Region Historical Society is exhibiting baskets and gift items made by the Ranco family from 1906 to the mid-1900s. From the advent of summer colonies in 1870s coastal Maine, Penobscot Indians seasonally came from the reservation in Old Town to make and sell their baskets to local buyers where there were summer visitors. In the Boothbay region, the Sockalexis family came to Squirrel Island in the 1870s. A daughter married John Ranco from the reservation, and that Indian family continued to come to Squirrel and Boothbay Harbor until the 1970s. There are descendants today living in the region year-round.

When I requested information about the Rancos in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they were well-remembered by 14 residents who called me. Many were good friends with them, providing them with places to stay, visiting them, going on hunting trips with them, and so on. Those who called were delighted to pass on info about their old friends. The Rancos traveled throughout the region to gather the raw material for the baskets: sweetgrass and ash. Those residents who lived near local wetlands remembered them coming to gather sweetgrass around the wetland’s edges. From the ash they made splints, thin flexible strips of wood which they wove into baskets. Sweetgrass was either interwoven in the baskets or baskets were wholly made of it. Besides baskets, the Rancos made other saleable items as souvenirs — the war club was very popular. Baskets and gift items were donated by Chetley Rittall, Emily Gove, Jean Chenoweth and Alfred Pinkham.

The museum is at 72 Oak Street in Boothbay Harbor. We are open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Call 633-0820 for more information.