Nov. 18, 1833: Ebenezer Dole, his brother Daniel Dole and others meet in Hallowell to form Maine’s first anti-slavery group, called the Hallowell Anti-slavery Society.

The society’s debut occurs about a year after William Lloyd Garrison, one of the more prominent American orators calling for the abolition of slavery, conducted a speaking tour across the state.

Nov. 18, 1855: The Right Rev. David W. Bacon, Roman Catholic bishop of Portland, attempts to lay a cornerstone of a new church in Bath at the site where an anti-Catholic mob had burned a previous church on July 8, 1854.

An anti-Catholic cartoon, reflecting the nativist perception of the threat posed by the Roman Catholic Church’s influence in the United States through Irish immigration and Catholic education, 1855. Library of Congress

Another mob takes possession of the spot, destroys what has been prepared for the ceremony, breaks the crosses and beats those who complain about their actions.

The anti-Catholic fervor is an apparent manifestation of the Know-Nothings’ growing influence in Maine. The state’s Catholic population has grown to about 30,000 by this time, and that sum is scarcely larger than the 27,000 members who have joined Know-Nothing societies in Maine by then.

Nov. 18, 1920: An engine backfires on a motorboat crossing remote Chesuncook Lake in Piscataquis County with about 34 woodsmen aboard. It ignites two barrels of gasoline, which explode and set the boat on fire.

The blast knocks Nelson Smith of Orono, the company clerk, through a cabin window; he is burned but survives. Many other men jump into the water to escape the flames. Some swim to shore, but 17 drown.

The drowning victims, all from other countries, worked for Great Northern Employment Agency and were headed to a Great Northern Paper Co. lumbering site at Cuxabexis Stream, only another mile or so away.

Some who jump into the lake cling to the sides of the burning 40-foot boat, which finally drifts ashore and they survive.

One man from Poland jumps into the water with his pack on his back and matches in his hat. He makes it to shore safely, collects dry driftwood and starts a bonfire to warm others coming out of the lake. People at other lumbering camps notice the flaming wreck floating on the lake, and they rush to help those who come ashore and search for bodies of the missing.

The steamship Madeleine takes the bodies to Chesuncook Dam. From there they go to Greenville by truck. Most of are buried in that town.

The survivors are taken to the Cuxabexis Stream camps, where doctors treat them.

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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