Feb. 16, 1804: In a maneuver masterminded by Navy Commodore Edward Preble (1761-1807) of Portland, a group of sailors stage a surprise attack and set fire to the frigate USS Philadelphia, which had run aground the previous year off Tripoli and had been captured by Barbary pirates.

President Thomas Jefferson put Preble in charge of American efforts to stop the pirates from harassing shipping in the Mediterranean Sea despite the fact that Preble suffered from a longtime illness.

Edward Preble, painted before 1807 Image Courtesy of United States Naval Academy Museum MeBi

In the summer of 1804, buttressed by the loan of eight vessels from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the commodore coordinates six attacks on Tripoli, the first of which results in hand-to-hand combat but also the capture of three Tripolitan gunboats.

Preble developed a reputation for being a firm commander who introduced many long-used Navy regulations and developing the officer corps that proved to be of critical importance to the United States in the War of 1812. His grave is in Portland’s Eastern Cemetery. Six U.S. Navy ships have borne his name, the most recent being a guided missile destroyer.

Feb. 16, 1816: Penobscot County, Maine’s ninth county, is formed from part of Hancock County. It is the last one formed before Maine separates from Massachusetts and becomes a state in 1820.

Feb. 16, 1952: More than 100 people emerge in Patten on foot and aboard snowmobiles, cars and trucks, following snowplows and bulldozers that had freed them from northern Maine logging camps after a Feb. 12 storm dumped 30 inches of wet, heavy snow on them.

The last to arrive are 10 woodsmen who were trapped behind 12-foot snowdrifts at an Eastern Corp. camp 45 miles northwest of Patten. Half of them trudged 4 miles on snowshoes through shoulder-deep snow to reach snowplows that were clearing the rest of the escape route.

Bush pilots dropped bundles of food at the camps to keep the stranded camp inhabitants fed until they could break out and reach civilization.

Feb. 16, 1956: The Rogers and Hammerstein movie musical “Carousel,” starring Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae, is released.

The story is set in Boothbay Harbor, and much of the movie was filmed there and in Camden, Newcastle and Augusta.

Gov. Edmund S. Muskie of Maine chats with actress Shirley Jones at the benefit premiere of “Carousel” at the Roxy Theater in New York on Feb. 16, 1956. Associated Press/Hans Von Nolde

Some of the movie’s scenes were filmed twice to accommodate two types of widescreen processing methods. Frank Sinatra was supposed to play the male lead in the movie, and he even had recorded the songs; but on the first day of production in 1955 he walked out, claiming he wasn’t being paid to act in two movies.

The movie’s lead female star, Jones, said Sinatra told her years later that the real reason he left Maine was because his wife at the time, Ava Gardner, was shooting a movie with Clark Gable in Africa and was threatening to have an affair with Gable if Sinatra didn’t join her immediately.

Gordon MacRae – fresh from his performance in the 1955 film version of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma!” – was hired to take the place of Ol’ Blue Eyes. Critics generally give the film positive reviews, but evaluations of its performance in box office revenue are mixed.

Feb. 16, 2006: Seth Wescott, a Carrabassett Valley High School alumnus, wins a gold medal in men’s snowboard cross in the Olympic debut competition of that event, in Bardonecchia, Italy. The race was part of the 2006 Winter Olympics, hosted by the city of Turin.

Wescott wins a second gold medal in the event four years later at the 2010 Winter Olympics, held in and around Vancouver, British Columbia.

Seth Wescott competing in 2011. Press Herald file photo

Wescott, who grew up in Farmington, began cross-country skiing at age 3, alpine skiing at 8 and snowboarding at 10.

His pre-Olympics training included big-mountain drops in Alaska, in which he rode a helicopter to the upper reaches of a mountain that hadn’t been ridden before, then rode his snowboard down uncharted slopes, including steep faces.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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