Mayor’s runaway pig caused downtown ado

Posted Oct. 17, 2010, at 6:39 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:26 a.m.

Back in the days before supermarkets, many Bangoreans kept farm animals, ranging from cows to chickens, and planted large gardens in their yards. They were not supposed to let their animals roam around the streets, however, and when Mayor John Woodman’s 7-month-old pig, Eugene, escaped from his sty at the mayor’s Pine Street home a century ago, it caused a great commotion.

“Nothing which has happened here since the election, and very little before, has caused so much excitement,” exclaimed a gleeful reporter for the Bangor Daily Commercial on September 28, 1910. What a fine opportunity for a reporter for a Democratic newspaper to embarrass a Republican mayor! If the mayor couldn’t even keep his pig under control, what could he do?

MAYOR’S PIG OUT, declared the overwrought headline. “Great Excitement in Wild Chase Down Exchange Street.” It was rumored that the mayor liked roast pork and applesauce, so naturally everyone wanted to help him catch Eugene.

After forcing his way through the boards in his pen, the wily Eugene started trotting downtown. Almost at once, a number of the small boys who invariably were hanging about on street corners back then spotted the escapee and gave chase.

Eugene was a pig of uncommon ingenuity, although it seems he may have underestimated his pursuers.

“The pig regarded them gravely until they were within a few yards of him,” the newspaper reported. “He then gave a flip of his small ringed tail and a grunt of derision after which he turned and galloped off in the direction of State Street with the boys in pursuit.”

These boys were doing their civic duty by helping out the busy mayor.

“He’s Mayor Woodman’s pig, and we’re trying to catch him,” they shouted breathlessly to every passer-by.

“The cavalcade of pursuers grew amazingly and by the time the bewildered pig turned into Exchange Street nearly half a hundred men and boys were in full chase,” the newspaper reported. “His squeals could be heard nearly to City Hall.”

Others tried to stop Eugene, but failed.

“In front of the Sterns building, Bobbie, a Scotch collie belonging to Frank C. Hinckley, started to head the pig back toward the foot of State Street. But defining the dog’s purpose, Eugene feigned a tack to starboard, came about suddenly to port and passed on unhindered.”

The wild chase continued toward the busy train station, proving Eugene was no slouch in city traffic. “Threading his way in and out, through carriages and teams and past trolley cars and astonished pedestrians on the crosswalks, Eugene continued his mad career down Exchange Street, followed by the excited, yelling crowd of men and boys which was increasing in numbers.”

But his moments of freedom were growing numbered. Eugene was becoming winded. Union Station blocked his way at the foot of Exchange Street. The crowd was closing in.

In an effort to evade the shouting, laughing mob, Eugene headed onto the walkway that lead from the street to the drawbridge across the Kenduskeag Stream. Meanwhile, a particularly skilled group of railroad employees including Guy Hewey, foreman of car inspection, and car inspectors Cavanaugh and Whitney had joined the chase, motivated by a desire to protect railroad property and keep anyone from getting hurt.

After a number of successful dodges, weary Eugene was cornered by Inspector Whitney.

“As the railroad men fell upon him, Eugene gave vent to a series of squeals which could be heard all over that part of the city. Eugene was securely anchored in a coal pocket until Mayor Woodman, who was notified of his escape and recapture, could send a man to take him home,” the story concluded.

The mayor’s reaction went unrecorded, not even whether he promised Eugene’s captors a pork chop or two.

Thus ended the tale of Eugene, the mayor’s pig. Probably repeated for some years afterwards and then quickly forgotten, it is only one of many examples of how life has changed in Bangor over the past century.

An illustrated collection of Wayne E. Reilly’s columns titled “Remembering Bangor: The Queen City Before the Great Fire” is available at bookstores. Comments about this column can be sent to him at wreilly.bdn@gmail.com.

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