BANGOR, Maine — Former Vice President Hannibal Hamlin gave the speech during Bangor’s Fourth of July celebration in 1865, but the guest of honor was the last living Revolutionary War pensioner in New England.
Penobscot resident William Hutchings, 100, had been brought by cutter up the Penobscot River to Bangor for the event. As the watercraft reached the narrows by Prospect, Hutchings received a 21-gun salute fired by the cannons at Fort Knox.
After ceremonies in Bangor, Hutchings said: “My friends told me that the effort to be here might cause my death, but I thought I could never die any better than by celebrating the glorious Fourth.”
Hutchings’ pension was increased that year from $21.26 a month to $25, and the York native died the next year at 101, according to descendant Donna Dunbar Hoffmann of Bucksport, honorary state regent and member of Ramassoc Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.
Hutchings would be an honored guest, indeed, if he could be at this year’s parade, which will step off at 11 a.m. Monday at the corner of Wilson Street and Acme Road in Brewer, cross the Chamberlain Bridge, then proceed down Main Street in Bangor.
Another distinguished guest would be Jonathan Buck, for whom Bucksport is named. We all know the story of the image of a woman’s leg on his gravestone, long said to represent a woman he sentenced for witchcraft. It’s a catchy story, except that Buck never sentenced anyone for witchcraft and the witch trials ended a quarter-century before he was even born.
But who even knows about Colonel Buck’s Revolutionary War service, which includes sailing his sloop Sally in the first naval battle of the war, the Battle of the Margaretta in Machias? Or that he served in the Penobscot Expedition at Castine after helping found Bucksport, then returned to help rebuild the town after the British burned it? There actually is a DAR plaque honoring Buck’s patriotic service in the cemetery where he is buried.
A lesser-known name in these parts is Park Holland, a Revolutionary War veteran buried on the highest point in Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor. Holland was an important surveyor in Maine and Ohio and produced the 1801 cadastral map of Bangor, which showed locations and names of settlers before 1798.
Another prominent guest on the Fourth of July would be Col. Jonathan Eddy, who will certainly get his due when Eddington marks its bicentennial during Homecoming with a parade and other activities July 22-24.
Settlement of Eddington occurred about a quarter-century before incorporation, when Eddy and 19 other Revolutionary soldiers were given a tract of land in recognition of their expedition in 1776 to take Fort Cumberland in Nova Scotia. The expedition failed, but the effort kept 2,000 British busy in Halifax, preventing them from joining their forces in the American colonies.
Hutchings, Buck, Holland and Eddy won’t be there in person, but the presence of veterans and military personnel in Maine parades on Monday pays tribute to their service, as well.