Tag Archives: Maine history

Birch Canoes in Maine


September…mr Ballard Still prepareing for his Tour. he brot Two Birch Cannoes to our shore.*

The marvelous accommodations my husband Monte and I stayed at in Lamoine, Maine, provided much for our traveling comfort—cupboards filled with cooking needs (oil, salt, pepper, spices), cupboards of dishes and pans, drawers of silverware, linens…and one thing we had no desire for: canoes.

Colorful canoes can be seen at lakesides, in stores, atop cars, and in yards across the country. There are even some colorful canoes in my little community of Laurel Mountain Borough, Pennsylvania, flotation devices that attest to our proximity to waterways such as lakes and rivers. IMG_3468e2Canoes weren’t always colorful as the ones we see lined up outside stores, such as one in Ellsworth, Maine. Nor were they made in structures like our modern day canoe factories. IMG_7620E2I can’t help but insert a paragraph from the first draft of my novel-under-construction:

  •  Rosalie noticed that the Googins children were as handsome and large as they were affable and hospitable, in spite of their father’s potential disdain. Through their conversation she learned that they grew vegetables, maize, barley, potatoes, and flax, dined on venison, fish, pork, beef, fowl, and milk products. Nearly all had canoes they used for transportation and fishing. They salted the fish and exchanged it for sugar, flour, molasses and oil. They were also engaged in lumbering, and made tables and other furniture which they bartered for whatever commodities they needed.

Perhaps the canoes Rosalie saw the Googins family use were birch bark canoes. Birchbark_canoe,_Abbe_Museum,_Bar_Harbor,_ME_IMG_2301    2E2

The Penobscot Indian birch bark canoe, sturdily constructed and light enough to be carried overland by a single person, furnished an easy, convenient mode of water travel for the Indians of Maine and the Maritime Provinces. Such a canoe was critical to both the Indians and the white man during early colonial fur-trading era.

In 1632 Nicolas Denys, an early New Brunswick settler, wrote a detailed description of the Indian canoe, which measured about 2 feet wide in the middle and narrowed to nothing at the ends, and was deep enough to come up to the armpits of Continue reading


MADAME ROSALIE BACLER de la VAL: A Character Sketch


Since March is Women’s History Month, and March 8 was International (Working) Women’s Day, I developed a character sketch on Madame Rosalie Bacler, a French émigré who came to the United States during the French Revolution, and who was a “working” woman, a “noble” who planned a French refugee colony in the Massachusetts Territory of Maine. Whenever I “introduce” this historical female to people, they become fascinated. Madame is the main character in the historical romance novel that I am attempting to write.

Frederick S. Allis, Jr.* suggests that Madame played a minor chapter in the larger story of the French Revolutionary War emigration from France to the United States. I contend she plays a major role, if not in land speculation and emigration, in the fact that Madame, within two months of arriving in the United States, and minimal knowledge of the English language, was dealing in land speculation with two of the major American land speculators, Henry Knox and William Duer. In less than two years, she was negotiating with William Bingham and Alexander Baring. Although her dreams were not realized, it was not due to her ineptitude in business and skill, but due to the financial over-extension and financial irresponsibility of both Henry Knox and Henry Jackson.

     Madame Rosalie Bacler de la Val, a French émigré who came to the United States to escape the atrocities of the French revolution, was an independent land speculator/settler in what is known today as Hancock County, Maine. In the 1790s, this region was the Maine Territory of the State of Massachusetts, part of the Penobscot Land Tract purchased from the State of Massachusetts by land speculators Henry Knox and William Duer.
     Only about ten percent of the post-American Revolution land speculators worked independently, outside a company. None, as far as I have encountered, were women—much less foreign émigrés. This identifies Madame as a strong and unique woman.
     The novel I am working on is historic romance. Madame the heroine in the first half of my work, will be placed in and developed through the context of actual historic documents. It is my task to demonstrate that her identity is not an extension of the men in her life, but is a result of both her gifts and her flaws.
     The truth be known, Madame was not “into” romance, needing neither marriage nor a relationship with any man to determine her identity. Men were simply a means to an end. However, in her culture, in her times, they were also necessary evil if a strong women wanted to achieve her goals.
     Whether she was married in France or simply had a relationship with the man identified on documents as “her husband” is unclear. What is clear is that she had a relationship with Jean Antoine Gontran Marzel de Leval, one that provided her with a power of attorney which enabled her to purchase land in the United States and may have provided her with an ultimately worthless deed for twelve hundred acres of Scioto (Ohio) land.
     He was also likely the father of her daughter, Saraphine.
     In the United States, the persons Madame connected with were necessarily male, since that was the gender of the land speculators. Within three months of arriving in the country, she had developed a relationship with William Duer, Henry Knox and Henry Jackson, all major players in the Scioto Land grant fiasco and the Penobscot Tract purchase. She was also involved with the Netherlands ambassadors to the United States, father Herre Van Berckle and his son and Franco Van Berckle.
     That she had plans to enter land speculation prior to her leaving France is implied by her intelligence, business acumen, and the speed with which she entered the playing field. After inspecting the land with her partner, Jean Baptiste de la Roche , she completed a contract to purchase land they had viewed from atop Schoodic Mountain, laid out the plans for a colony where French émigrés find refuge, and successfully sought settlers. All her actions awaited her receipt of the deeds. These actions were outside the images and ideas of what women were expected to be in the 1790s.
     Throughout the material available on Madame, little reference is made of her Continue reading



I recently presented a program to fifth grade students in my granddaughter’s reading class, which had been reading The Sign of the Beaver. I picked the book up when she was visiting, and discovered its setting was on the west side of the Penobscot River. My research has been mostly on the east side of the river, but I had viewed the river from the Penobscot Narrows Observatory in September, and, using the pictures and the results of much of my research, I believed I had something valuable to share with the class.


     The Penobscot River and bay area is rich in Native American history. In former times the region was part of the traditional homeland of the Wabanaki Confederacy, one tribe of which was the Penobscot tribe. The Confederacy at one time, thousands of years before the arrival of the white man, controlled much of New England. Ancient remains of their campsites have been found on the bay’s shores and islands, where they hunted, fished, gathered clams and ate other food in the bay area of the Penobscot River watershed. Today, they believe they are the caretakers of the Penobscot River and its watershed, with carries a sacred duty to protect the river and its surrounding region.

     The spelling of Penobscot was a difficult matter for the French…a Dr. Ballard discovered nearly sixty different ways the French people spelled it…the English did better, catching the sound, Penobscot.The word “Penobscot” originates from a mispronunciation of their name “Penawapskewi.” The word means “rocky part” or “descending ledges. The Tribe has adopted the name “Penobscot Nation.”

The late Dr. Frank Siebert, whose death was in recent years, actually lived among the Penobscot Indians. He was the last white man who fluently spoke the Penobscot language, and at the time of his death he was compiling a dictionary, in an attempt to keep the language alive. Much of his artifact collection is at the Abbey Museum in Bar Harbor.

     Mr. Treat and his family, who settled in this area in 1759, are considered the first permanent European settlers on the Penobscot River. His oldest son, Joshua Treat, Jr. (1756-1826), built the first log house, saw mill, and vessel in (Frankfort), near Castine, about nine miles up the Penobscot River from Fort Point.

     With the exception of the wetlands, mountain tops, a few barren and burned areas, the Penobscot river basins were forested with (to continue reading click on: http://carolyncholland.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/the-spectacular-penobscot-river-a-natural-wonder-in-maine-part-2/