MINOT — Since Pam Cooper was a girl, she’s had an interest in history that was sparked by a black binder the size of a checkbook.

Young Pam would take the book to history classes, read the tiny text and imagine 19th century Portland as seen by her great-grandmother, Emily Abigail Hayes.

The volume — a combination of diary entries, speeches, photos and poetry — was written by Hayes. And it offers firsthand reminiscences of Portland and Boston during the Civil War.

“This book sparked my interest in history,” Cooper said, patting the black leather cover. “It brought Portland to life.”

For Cooper, now 59, the connection was built on her mother’s fond recollection of Granny Emily, a lady who was sweet and soft-spoken but also fiercely independent.

“Mom used the word ‘genteel’ to describe her,” Cooper said.

Cooper looked at a page in the book that pictured Hayes as a young woman. Her expression seemed no-nonsense and practical. This was a young woman who tried to convince soldiers billeted in Portland to sign a temperance pledge, promising not to drink alcohol.

Hayes’ clear-headed prose and her use of still-familiar place names further connected Cooper to her great-grandmother.

“We know Munjoy Hill,” Cooper said. “We know Preble Street and State Street. She puts you in those places.”

Hayes was unmarried and only 17 years old when she moved to Portland from Lowell, Mass., in search of work. She arrived in the city just as presidential candidates Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln were battling for votes.

“I was living in the city of Portland, employed as a compositor in the printing office of Brown Thurston, in a five-story brick building on the corner of Middle and Exchange streets,” Hayes wrote.

“Politics ran high all that summer,” she wrote. “Caucuses were held. Companies were formed and political meetings were held in every city.”

In Portland, the Republicans, commonly known as the “wide awakes,” seemed to capture the electorate. Even an appearance by Douglas did little to draw Democratic votes, Hayes wrote.

“He came to Portland and I heard him address a crowd from the balcony of the Preble House,” she said. “But he was bound to be defeated.”

From her position in a newsroom above a telegraph office, Hayes seemed to see the whole drama unfold.

“On the sixth of November, the election was held,” she wrote. “And as the returns began to come in the people thronged to the telegraph office.”

“Cheer after cheer went up as Abraham Lincoln’s election became more and more assured,” she wrote. “Then followed the booming of guns, the burning of bonfires, illumination of residences and the grand torchlight procession two miles long. It was a pretty sight to stand on Congress Street and witness the blazing procession which seemed to fill the street away up on Munjoy Hill as far as the eye could reach.”

In a few months, the country was at war. At first, optimism overflowed.

“It seems to me that one of the most glorious sights I ever saw was hundreds of men in their new uniforms, keeping perfect step, marching up State Street on a lovely morning,” Hayes wrote.

 She described the sale of newspapers with war news and the growing understanding that it was a bloody affair.

“Newsboys were in their glory and pushed and elbowed their way into the printing offices to get their papers and be the first to rush into the street and proclaim, ‘Here’s your Portland Evening Express, extra ‘Great battle at Pittsburg Landing, terrible slaughter on both sides, fighting still going on’  No trouble to sell, then. Papers were eagerly clutched and as eagerly read,” she wrote.

Before the war ended she moved to Boston. There she described her first glimpse of Confederate prisoners — “they were very much like other men, except they wore gray uniforms and looked tired and sad” — and the death of Lincoln.

“Clocks were stopped with their hands pointing at 22 past seven. Dwellings and stores were draped,” she wrote. “… On the day of his funeral, all business stopped for two hours from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., even the steam cars.  A more than Sabbath stillness pervaded the city. Every face was sober and every heart was sad. It was the saddest public day I ever knew.”

Sadder still were the images of the returning Union soldiers.

“What a contrast to the eager, joyous troops that set out in the full expectation of quelling the rebellion in a few months, was this mere handful of men, bronzed from exposure, with garments worn, and banners tattered into fragments,” Hayes wrote.

It’s the kind of passage that makes Cooper feel that she knew Hayes.

“Seeing the boys come back from war was heartbreaking for her,” Cooper said recently.

Cooper, a grandmother herself, has read Hayes’ book countless times. Her children all took the book, a copy of the lost original typed in 1949, with them to school.

Someday, the book will go to one of her children. But they will have to wait.

“When my Mom passed away, Daddy gave it to me,” Cooper said. “I’m not going anywhere.”

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