SEARSMONT, Maine — Two hundred years ago this week, a bustling 10-year-old community located on the banks of the St. George River in Hancock County, Mass., was officially incorporated into the town of Searsmont.
Though the county and state names have changed quite a bit in the intervening centuries, Searsmont remains a thriving town of about 1,400 people, some of whom have spent the last three years planning a big bicentennial celebration that will kick off with a Founder’s Day party on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
“It’s a wonderful community,” Carol Robbins, who grew up here and returned in 1964 after 30 years away, said recently. “The people of Searsmont, when there’s something to get done, they join together and it gets done.”
She and other bicentennial planners have decided on the slogan “a caring community for 200 years” to describe their town. That legacy of caring stretches back to the early days, she said, when Quantabacook village was part of the Waldo Patent purchased by wealthy investors from Boston, including David Sears, the community’s namesake. It continues today, with such major feats as the building of the $900,000 community center in 2001 with more than 1,180 hours of work donated by residents.
“When we moved in, the building was completely paid for — we raised all of the money locally,” Robbins said. “Our residents are generous with both their time and money when it comes to community projects — truly a caring community for 200 years.”
Ben Ames Williams, a well-known American novelist and short story writer who came to Searsmont beginning in the early 1900s, wrote many stories about the community, which he called “Fraternity Village.” The general store is named after that fictional moniker, Robbins said. By 1914, about 1,000 people lived in town, many of whom worked at the lumber mills, barrel stave factories and other small factories. The centennial celebration drew a large crowd, and organizers hope the bicentennial celebration will replicate that success.
The Founder’s Day celebration will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Searsmont Community Center and feature a bicentennial proclamation, a concise history of the town and a slide show. There also will be birthday cake, the singing of happy birthday to Searsmont, and the presentation of essays from the pupils at the Ames School about why they love their town.
“The essays are adorable,” Robbins said. “That will be really neat.”
Other events planned for this year include a special Memorial Day parade to mark the bicentennial celebration and a whole week of activities from Aug. 2 to Aug. 9, culminating with a pig roast, lobster dinner and barn dance.