July 16, 2017, York, ME-
My penchant for delving into the past, of any given community in which I find myself, is fairly standard by now. As a native New Englander, I will always look at the reasons for people’s settlements. Maine began as a county of the colony, and later, of the Commonwealth, of Massachusetts. Most initial settlement in the region was, naturally, along the coast. The Penacook Abenaki people, who predated Europeans here, called their settlement Agamenticus. There is no specific definition given, for that name- but it refers to what is now known as the York River.
In 1624, Sir Fernando Gorges, representing the British Crown, established a settlement here and made it the administrative center for the District of Maine. He called it Gorgeana. Upon his death, the Massachusetts Bay Colony laid claim to Maine, and the town was renamed York.
I set out, this afternoon, to visit the three museums, over a 2 1/2 hour period. Upon the advice of the chief curator of Old York, I first went to Old Gaol (jail), as it would close first.
It was, as one might expect, a rather unwelcoming place. The jailer lived in the facility, and was also a weaver. His loom and his sleeping quarters were in one room, on the first floor.
The miscreants, of course, did not have such comfortable digs.
“Have a seat” also meant something different, back then, when addressed to, say, the town drunk.
The punishments of the day were a fair bit more severe than what we might exact for a similar offense, today. Note that there were two ways of writing the letter ‘s’.a
The walkway between cells was not intended for easy passage.
I would then, as now, preferred to observe the laws of the land.
Having been convinced of the earnestness of justice in Old York, I headed to Emerson- Wilcox House, which is an example of a residence which was leased from the First Parish Congregationalist Church of York, by one town merchant, Edward Emerson, a granduncle of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 1766, for 999 years. After Mr. Emerson died, his son inherited the house, but was unable to maintain himself financially, and died penniless. The surviving women remained in the house, which was purchased by the town magistrate and constable, David Wilcox, hence Emerson-Wilcox House. Mr. Wilcox expanded the home, out of necessity, so there are two period styles of architecture in the home: Georgian and Federal. Photography is not permitted inside the home, but here are some views of the exterior.
After a friendly and informative guided tour of the house, I passed by the Old Burial Ground,
and browsed the Remick Collection of York memorabilia, which include original bed hangings from one of the first homes in York. Again, there was no photography permtted inside the collection, but here is a look at the outside.
The adjoining Jeffords Tavern, however, is photo-friendly, and gives a view of the casual side of colonial life. Maine was nowhere near as Puritanical as Massachusetts Bay Colony, being more concerned with maritime commerce, from its inception. There were several churches, which were mostly concerned with keeping the Sabbath and ownership of land.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Jeffords Tavern.
You can see that not all the furniture is from the Georgian Period. The modern fare is for the convenience of researchers and other visitors.
Lastly, here is the Old York Schoolhouse, now-but not then- placed adjacent to Jeffords Tavern.
York has a plethora of places of interest, many of which are natural preserves. In the next post, the last in this series, Hartley-Mason Preserve, and York Harbor, are the focus.