On Thursday, the town of Bucksport will hold a belated 300th birthday celebration for its namesake, Jonathan Buck.
Though most people know Buck as the subject of a Maine legend regarding a curse and a tombstone, according to historical records from Bucksport and elsewhere, the real Buck was far from the witch-burning Puritan that the stories portray him as. The historical facts aren’t quite as lurid or spooky as the myth — but they still offer a fascinating peek into the earliest years of the United States.
Jonathan Buck was born on Feb. 20, 1719, in Woburn, Massachusetts, and was raised in Haverhill, just south of the New Hampshire border. After marrying his wife, Lydia, with whom he had nine children, Buck attempted to build a shipyard along Haverhill’s Mill Brook, but the town rejected his request. Fed up, Buck departed for points north, for land along the Penobscot River promised to colonists by the Massachusetts General Court.
In July 1762, Buck sailed up the river to survey six plantations along the eastern banks of the lower Penobscot, south of what is now Orrington. The six plantations that Buck surveyed in those years were the precursors to what is now Orland, Castine and Penobscot (which were counted as one place at that time), Sedgwick, Blue Hill, Surry and Bucksport.
The plantation on which he chose to construct his settlement was, of course, what became Bucksport. There, Buck built the region’s first sawmill and opened its first general store. For more than a decade, the settlement prospered, with Buck acting as the plantation’s de facto administrator.
When the Revolutionary War broke out in 1776, Buck, at the age of 56, was named a colonel in Maine’s 5th Militia alongside his son Ebenezer, also an officer in the militia. Though there had been several naval engagements in Machias and in what is now Portland in 1775, Maine had been a relatively quiet front after the war was officially declared.
Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.
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