May 24, 2018
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Castine diary ‘original,’

By Roxanne Moore Saucier, BDN Columnist

Who would have thought that the original could be found for the typescript “Diary of a visit to Castine, kept by N. Brooks of Boston 1848”?

Certainly not I, reading about Noah Brooks as “Castine’s celebrated author, journalist and friend of ‘Abraham Lincoln” in Paige Lilly’s The Curator’s Corner column in spring 2010 issue of The Castine Visitor.

According to this newest issue of the newsletter of the Castine Historical Society, the typist was one “A.F.” The Witherle Memorial Library in Castine has a copy of the typescript as well.

But the privately owned diary, unbound and residing outside the state, did indeed turn up last year and was purchased by the Collections Committee for the Castine Historical Society.

Yes, the original matches the typescript, but even better, it has additional pages that “N. Brooks” wrote after his trip to Castine.

But, the handwriting in the N. Brooks diary doesn’t look like the penmanship in a signed Noah Brooks letter.

Paige Lilly has researched the topic, from other people named Noah Brooks to reasons why his handwriting might have changed to comparing the writing styles to that found in three letters among Lincoln’s own papers in the Library of Congress.

The curator writes that she is “open to suggestions, and still eager to see more examples of handwriting from N. Brooks of Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois and California.”

If the original diary could turn up, as it did, more than 150 years after being started, it seems that this is a mystery that could eventually be solved.

If you have any examples of the handwriting of “N. Brooks,” who wrote that he kept this diary at age 18, I’m sure that Paige Lilly would be pleased to receive them in care of the Castine Historical Society, PO Box 238, Castine, ME 04421.

The Castine Visitor is published three times a year, and you can receive it by becoming a member of the Castine Historical Society: $15, individual; $25, family; $50, sustaining; $100, contributing; $250, patron; $500, benefactor.

The cover article, “Under the Elms and By the Sea,” by Jennifer Lieberman, shares plans for the Castine House & Garden Tour, scheduled for Thursday, July 29.

Stops on the tour will include a converted windmill, an 18th century captain’s home, the former home of American poet Robert Lowell and the garden at the former home of author Mary McCarthy.

Tickets are $30 if purchased by June 30, $35 if purchased in July. Contact Robin Vogell at or 326-9392.

By the way, an enhanced Civil War period exhibit will be offered this summer at the Castine Historical Society, in the Abbott School.

On another note, the spring issue of the newsletter also has Lynn Parsons’ fascinating “Signs and the Times,” about the wording of certain historic signs posted around Castine.

The article includes photos of two signs that used the word “savages” to refer to the American Indians — one sign which was replaced using the word “natives” in the 1990s, and the other which is to be replaced.

Parsons did a great job bringing in all points of view, including that of David Hackett Fischer, author of “Champlain’s Dream,” that the Jesuits who used the word “sauvages” may have meant people who lived in the forest rather than the Americanized interpretation, “savages.”

Lastly, the Castine Historical Society, the Wilson Museum, the churches in Castine and an editorial advisory board are working toward a church history project for the town.

All this information in just 12 pages of newsletter. Lynn H. Parsons and Ann H. Parsons do a very nice job with this publication.

It’s enough to make you want to plan a visit to this beautiful town on the Maine coast, whether your ancestors came from there or not.

One of my memorable visits to Castine included a tour of the State of Maine, the training ship of Maine Maritime Academy.

If I remember correctly, the State of Maine is 499 feet long, which is almost half the length of an aircraft carrier. On the other hand, it’s more than three times the length of the 157-foot Landing Craft Infantry my dad spent more than a year on in the Pacific Ocean during World War II.


Speaking of aircraft carriers, you may have heard that the U.S. Navy is pondering a new home for the decommissioned CV-67, the John F. Kennedy.

The Portland City Council and the USS John F. Kennedy Museum group, endorsed by the Maine House of Representatives, would like to see the 1,052-foot ship moored in Portland Harbor. The Maine group and one other have advanced to the second phase of application.

In July 2000, I joined several other members of the media on a civilian cruise of the JFK from New York City to Boston. Among our traveling companions were several former sailors from the Intrepid — now a museum in NYC — who had been on the ship when it was attacked during World War II.

Being on the JFK for a couple of days was amazing, and it would be an outstanding museum.


The Wassebec Chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society has an interesting meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11, at the Mayo Regional Hospital conference room in Dover-Foxcroft. After a brief business meeting, Allen Monroe of Milo will give a program on “Miniature Pictures and Portraits.” The public is welcome to attend. For information or directions, call the Bennetts, 876-3073; or Jane Macomber, 876-4125.

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail queries to

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