FREEPORT, Maine — It officially is the end of an era.
Municipal officials are poised to acknowledge Tuesday that Freeport’s long-standing motto, the “Birthplace of Maine,” is nothing more than colorful local fiction.
The claim has been suspect for more than a decade. Even the Daughters of the American Revolution — the group that embroidered Freeport with the claim 100 years ago — has renounced its validity.
The Town Council planned to carry out such a renunciation at its meeting tonight, with subsequent instruction to remove the motto from its municipal seal.
Legend had it that representatives from the Joint Commission of Massachusetts and Maine met over ale at the Jameson Tavern, established in 1779, to discuss separating into individual states. But no documentation of otherwise credible proof of such a confab has ever been found or produced.
It’s about time to give up that particular ghost, said Freeport Historical Society Executive Director Christina White.
“The [Daughters of the American Revolution] has been banging that drum for about 15 years now,” White told The Times Record this week. “The high school’s history classes have been conversing for two years about this issue, this myth, and this year they decided it was something they wanted to take up for study.”
In renouncing the birthplace claim, a statement from the Daughters of the American Revolution explained that “the Maine State DAR readily acknowledges that the information on the Jameson Tavern plaque is inaccurate” and that they are “wholly unsubstantiated and appear to be based on myth.”
Approval for such a plaque today “would never be sought and most certainly never granted.”
Jameson Tavern closed suddenly in February, a casualty of diminishing business and rising prices. When it did, it presented an opportunity for Geoff Dyhrberg to set his Honors level American Studies class on a quest.
“It was just something that dropped in our lap, an authentic learning experience,” Dyhrberg said. “We took advantage of the opportunity to have kids look at local history and facilitate a discussion about it.”
Twenty-two students presented their results in May, during the National Honor Society induction ceremony.
The proposed slogans ranged from sober to satirical, with audience members voting on the top three for presentation to the Town Council.
Dalton Chapman’s offer — “Freeport: Less Flammable Than We Used To Be” — originated from his attempts to view places he learned about during interviews with older Freeporters.
“Each time he’d ask about a place [the interview subject] had just finished telling him about, the response was, ‘Ah, that place burned down years ago,’” Dyhrberg said.
Others played upon the town’s transition from shoe manufacturing to retail sales: “Freeport? Nah, L.L. Beanport.”
However, most of the slogan proposals were connected to maritime history, outdoor recreation or ever-present tourism.
Two of the three finalists from May — Chapman and Shelby Sawyer — will offer their slogans for council consideration.
White, the historical society director, said she expects the town’s search for a new motto to be an exciting and unprecedented process.
When she called the Maine Municipal Agency to inquire about the process, she was told there isn’t one. What’s more, the person she spoke to at MMA said she’d never before been asked.
“The DAR ladies care deeply about credibility, and rigors surrounding the process really weren’t there 100 years ago,” White said.