Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Booknotes: Longfellow's Provincial Bloodlines

(Editor's Note: I recently bought a copy of Ronald Banks's Maine Becomes a State: The Movement to Separate Maine from Massachusetts, 1785-1820, so I figured I'd kick off a new feature of the blog that will include thoughts on Maine-themed books I'm currently reading.)

Though Mainers' drive for statehood did not culminate until the
Missouri Compromise of 1820, the genesis of the movement can be traced to the September 17 and October 1, 1785 editions of the Falmouth Gazette, when notices calling for a public meeting "to discuss the advisability of taking steps leading to a separation" were published. Interestingly, of the thirty men from Cumberland, Lincoln, and York counties who attended this initial meeting that took place 22 years before Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1807 birth, a couple of them figure prominently in renowned poet's family tree:

As near as it is possible to determine, most of those present were
representatives of the "more substantial" separationist element, who evinced
little interest in stay laws or the emission of paper money. It was no surprise,
therefore, that two men, William Gorham and Stephen Longfellow, Jr., both of
whom belonged to this element, were chosen president and recording secretary
respectively. The only significant result of this first meeting was the
appointment of a seven-man committee headed by Peleg Wadsworth.
Stephen Longfellow, Jr., was the poet's paternal grandfather, and Gen. Peleg Wadsworth was the poet's maternal grandfather. The former is described in Charles C. Calhoun's Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life as one of the "acknowledged leaders of Cumberland County," whereas the latter was a merchant in Portland who went on to establish the town of Hiram.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Booknotes: The More Things Change... (May 27, 2010)
Related: Booknotes: Thank You, New Hampshire (May 24, 2010)

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