Saturday, June 21, 2014

June 21, 2014 - Revolutionary War Hero

Maine didn't become a state until 1820, but its history goes way back before that.  The coast of Maine was first explored by Europeans under the Portuguese explorer Estêvão Gomes in service to the Spanish empire in 1525.  The first settlers came to St. Croix Island in 1604.  Then between 1607 and 1608 the Popham Colony was briefly settled.  I have visited the archaeological remains of this colony, and I am always humbled by the strength and hardship these people had to go through in the frigid wilds of Maine.  They didn't last more than a year.  Then about five years later, a French trading post was established in 1613, and the Plymouth Colony was established on the shores of Cape Cod Bay in 1620.  Cape Cod Bay is the southern most extremity of the Gulf of Maine, and until 1820, Maine was a "territory" of Massachusetts.  (And to this day the two states still argue.)

And here lies Colonel James Hunter.  He was the first white man born in Topsham, Maine.  He helped to build Fort Halifax in 1754 and was an officer in the Revolutionary War.  He died in 1809 at the age of 74.  Here in Maine, we decorate all of our veterans' graves, and that includes Revolutionary War heroes (1775-1783).  Did he ever think that I would be visiting his grave and would make a record of it?  Highly unlikely.  The thing I think about most when I see these graves is what kind of life these people led.  To be sure, it was difficult, more difficult than we in the "modern age" could ever imagine.  But I think it was more genuine as well.  Life and death were all too real back then.  People worked hard, but they worked at the business of living.  Nowadays, too many people push pencils and run around in aimless circles.  What would our ancestors think of us if they could see us now?

The Revolutionary War grave of Colonel James Hunter.

Of course, the Red Paint People were in Maine from 3,000 to 1,000 B.C.E.  They were given this name because of their elaborate burials that used red ochre.  After them came the Susquehanna people, who were hunter-gathering communities, and they were the first to use pottery.  By the time the Europeans came, Maine was inhabited by the Wabanaki people, including the Abenaki, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscots.  What might they have said to the "young upstarts" from Europe--those very same people who seem so "ancient" to me?  Ah, time is a fickle mistress who keeps playing tricks on me.

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