June 20, 2018
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Inventory CDs key to trove of Washington County records

By Roxanne Moore Saucier, BDN Columnist

I’ve already opened one Christmas present — an e-mail from Valdine Atwood about a wonderful project inventorying Washington County records.

She directed me to the Sharon Mack story in the coastal edition of the Dec. 8 Bangor Daily News, which I had not seen. Now I share a little more material that Valdine had sent me.

Several years ago more than 100 boxes of materials and documents had been found in the attic of the courthouse. For the past five years the Washington County Courthouse Archives Preservation Committee has been working to preserve these documents by first inventorying them, preserving them in an archival materials so that they will be available for public study, and transferring the inventory data to CDs so that they can be made available to the researching public. Recently the first three of these CDs were presented to the Washington County commissioners.

Some 150,000 documents of Accounts and Files from county transactions dating to 1791, and up to 1979, were inventoried, flattened, placed in numbered, acid-free file folders and stored in acid-free boxes for safekeeping.

The inventory was put on a CD as a finding aid which includes a complete index and a glossary. The CD is being sent to several libraries and is now available to those interested in doing research from these documents.

To obtain your copy of the Inventory CD, send a check for $10 payable to the Washington County Courthouse Archives Committee, c/o Washington County Probate Office, PO Box 297, Machias, ME 04654-0297.

To examine the actual documents, make an appointment at least two weeks in advance, specifically identifying the request with the number of the box in the finding aid. Up to six boxes may be requested at one sitting. The contents of the boxes may be examined only in the Washington County Probate Office.

Copies of the CD Finding Aid also are available at Porter Memorial Library, Machias; University of Maine at Machias; Calais Free Library; Peavey Memorial Library, Eastport; Bangor Public Library; Maine State Archives, Augusta; and Maine Historical Society, Portland.

In addition to the courthouse attic documents, the Courthouse Archives Committee has been working since 1999 to preserve the newspaper collection at the courthouse. More than 600 bound volumes of Washington County newspapers from 1818 to the present day are housed there. The collection is the largest of its type in Maine. The committee has overseen the filming of newspapers with more than half now preserved.

The two collections — the documents and the newspapers — have been called by one archivist “the most significant collection of its type in the State of Maine.” Researchers can view these microfilms in the Washington County Probate Office at the courthouse on the microfilm reader-printer that was purchased by the archives committee.

The actual inventory was done by Susan Wright as time and funds were available. Funding for the inventory project has come from the University of Maine at Machias AmeriCorps Program; Maine Community Foundation, King and Jean Cummings Charitable Trust Fund; three grants from the Maine State Archives Historical Collections Program; and a part of two years’ funding allotted by the Washington County Budget Committee and the Washington County commissioners for the work of the archives committee. In addition, funding for filming the newspapers comes through the regular funding process of Washington County budget and commissioners.

The contact is the Washington County Probate Office, open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, Washington County Courthouse, 85 Court St., Machias, phone 255-6591, probate@washingtoncountymaine.com or Web site www.washingtoncountymaine.com. Carlene Holmes and the staff in the Probate Office have worked wonderfully with the committee.

Committee members are chairman Valdine, Judge Lyman Holmes, Dr. Ruth Ahrens, Dr. Robert Sloan, Dr. Karen Kimball, Frances Raye, Carlene Holmes, Jennifer Peters and Susan Wright.

“Perhaps most exciting to the members of the archives committee,” Valdine said, “was the discovery of a deposition given in 1839 by then-80-year-old Hannah (Watts) Weston, telling of her trek through the forests between Chandler River [now Jonesboro] and Machias on June 12, 1775, along with her sister-in-law, Rebecca Weston, bringing all the powder that remained in her settlement to help with the capture of the British armed vessel Margaretta in what became the first naval battle of the American Revolution.”

Bravo to the archives committee, the Washington County commissioners and all who helped with this project.

May I add that my dear friend Valdine Atwood was for three years state regent of the Maine Daughters of the American Revolution.

She belongs to the DAR chapter in Machias — yes, the Hannah Weston Chapter.


Millinocket Historical Society calendars for 2010, featuring vintage photos from the society’s collection, are available for $9 from businesses such as the IGA, Levasseur’s and Memories of Maine.

Or order calendars by mail for $11.75 each from Millinocket Historical Society, PO Box 11, Millinocket, ME 04462.

Proceeds go to the society’s building fund. Visit the current museum 1-3 p.m. Thursdays on the third floor of the municipal building, 197 Penobscot Ave.

Visit the Web site at www.millinockethistoricalsociety.org, where you also can order “Millinocket: Magic City of Maine’s Wilderness” by Dorothy Bowler Laverty, and the Arcadia series book “Millinocket,” by David Duplisea.

Another fine Christmas gift is “Indians in Eden: Wabanakis and Rusticators on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, 1840s-1920s,” by Bunny McBride and Harald E.L. Prins. I especially enjoyed information on the Penobscot Nation in Old Town. Published by Down East, it is available in bookstores for $16.95.

Merry Christmas!

Send queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, PO Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail familyti@bangordailynews.net.

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