June 15, 1781: Brig. Gen. Peleg Wadsworth (1748-1829) and Maj. Benjamin Burton, both U.S. Army officers being held prisoner by Loyalists during the Revolutionary War and confined at Fort George in British-controlled Castine, escape by cutting a hole in the roof of their jail cell.

They were captured and imprisoned for their role in the court-martial and execution of a Loyalist guide who had helped a group of people travel from Falmouth (now Portland) to Castine.

The incident is the second time the British take Wadsworth prisoner. He also was captured during the disastrous – from the Americans’ perspective – Penobscot Expedition of 1779, and he escaped then as well.

Although the British are defeated in the war in 1781 and concede American independence in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, their forces remain in Castine until 1784.

Wadsworth later lives in Portland and serves in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also becomes an overseer of Bowdoin College. One of his grandchildren is famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), a Portland native.

June 15, 1901: The stage play “The Private Secretary” opens at a swampy amusement park on the shore of  Lake Wesserunsett in East Madison, constituting what now is regarded as the birth of the Lakewood Theater, which later serves as a summer proving ground for many career singers, Broadway performers and Hollywood stars.

Myrna Loy, Mama Cass Elliott and John Travolta are among the luminaries who perform there.

Maine Development Commission photo of the Lakewood Theater, 1939. Caption reads: “Summer theaters like this at Lakewood, Maine bring a touch of Broadway to the Pine Tree State and allow visitors to get a close-up of the world’s famous actors and actresses who vacation here and prepare for the next season’s successes.” Image courtesy of the Digital Maine Repository

Presented by:

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

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