Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tommclaughlin@fairpoint.net

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Prehistory of My Place - Part 2

Part 1 last week (scroll down below) dealt with the prehistory of Lovell, including the work of the late amateur archaeologist Helen Leadbeater of Fryeburg citing an article by William Rombola called, “The Ceramic Period in the Upper Saco River Drainage: An Analysis of the Helen Leadbetter Collection” in the Maine Archaeological Society Bulletin for Fall, 1998.Helen Leadbeater’s extensive collection also contained artifacts the age of which Rombola doesn’t guess at, including what he calls “groundstone” tools like “half-channeled gouges” he says “are thought to have been used for some specialized form of woodworking.” By groundstone, I assume he means polished. There have been several polished slate artifacts similar to what he describes found in Red Paint sites all over the northeast and as well as sites in northwestern Europe dating from the same periods. “One,” Rombola says, “was recovered from the north end of Kezar Lake in Lovell, Maine.”North end of Kezar Lake

In July of last summer, fellow teacher Terri McDermith and I arranged for several of our students to assist Maine’s senior archaeologist Dr. Arthur Spiess and his team as they excavated a portion of the area behind the Fryeburg Harbor Church. That’s just across the Old Course of the Saco River from the Kezar Lake outlet dam. Many other locals have extensive collections of artifacts gathered from there during the 20th century. With help from a local archaeologist, Lovell’s Jane Dineen, we found chips and scrapers of hornfels and Munsungan Chert as well as pottery sherds and fire pits surrounded by fire-cracked rock. Dr. Spiess said they all probably date from around 1200 AD. Time and funds ran out just as we were digging the most promising pits and Spiess said that almost always happens. If we can raise enough money - about $6000 for a week’s work - we can resume. That whole area would seem to have been used continually from about 4000 years ago until the Pequawkets (who were Abenaki) cleared out nearly three centuries ago.In the Fall, 1986 Maine Archaeological Society Bulletin, Dr. Spiess published a study titled: “The Kimball Collection From Bear Pond Inlet (Site 22.8).” Locals know that’s in nearby Waterford. The artifacts were gathered prior to World War II by Harold Kimball as he walked by the area where Mill Brook enters the pond on his way to and from work every day. Spiess said, “ . . . the collection . . . apparently includes Early Archaic material (circa 9000 B.P.). B.P. means “Before Present.” He goes on to state that “Abrasive stones are present in a variety of forms.” By “abrasive” I assume he means what Rombola referred to as “groundstone” and other archaeologists call polished slate. Most old stone wood-working tools are made of polished slate. The grainy images of them in the article look like the polished slate tools I’ve seen depicted in Red Paint sites in northeastern North America from Maine all the way to northern Labrador. Spiess states later that, “[this] heavy woodworking equipment, we suspect, belongs with the Early Archaic, Middle Archaic, and Laurentian Late Archaic.” That would mean they were between 3000 and 9000 years old.Also in the Maine Archaeological Society Bulletin for Fall, 1998 was an article by Craig Norman called, “Controlled Surface Collection And Artifact Analysis Of The Stevens Brook Site, Presumpscot Watershed.” Craig Norman, also, was alerted by reports of local amateurs collecting artifacts, this time on the shore of Long Lake where Stevens Brook enters and forms a sand bar. Here also, both stone and ceramics were recovered. The stone was made mostly from the same materials as those in the Leadbetter and Kimball collections. As with the Fryeburg Harbor site, there was much evidence in the form of what archaeologists call “lithic debitage” (lots of stone chips) that stone tools were created on the site over several millennia beginning during the Middle Archaic Period, 7200 years ago.Jane Dineen and Art Spiess

So it seems the earliest evidence of human activity within a 20 mile radius of Lovell is in the form of stone tools 9000 years old when the whole area would have been treeless tundra. They must have hunted animals, some of whom would now be extinct. The tools they made were of materials from as far away as Northern Labrador. Some sites were continually occupied, at least seasonally, for many millennia. We don’t know who the earliest people were, but the latest occupants before European settlement were Pequawkets - the local branch of Abenaki Indians. People around here used pottery for at least three millennia. They planted and harvested corn during the last millennium. The Pequawkets were aggressive, raiding English settlements in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.Terri McDermith and daughter Emily seated

There are many gaps to fill in my quest to understand everything that ever happened around here, and I’ve only got about 25 years left to do it. A few thousand dollars for more digging would help a lot, so if there are any pecunious readers out there who want to help, let me know. I promise to spend your money more wisely than government would, and I’ll also report back about how it was spent without your having to file Freedom of Information Act requests.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Prehistory of My Place - Part 1


I want to understand everything, but with a tight travel budget and less than a century of life-expectancy to study, I can only try to understand everything in the area where I live - within, say, a twenty-mile radius of Lovell. I want to know how the mountains formed, how old they are, what’s inside them, and what grows on them. I want to know why the rivers and streams flow as they do, how the lakes and ponds and swamps formed. I want to know what’s under the ground I walk on and how it got there. I want to know why it rains and snows and freezes and thaws as it does, and understand the glaciers that scraped it all. And, I want to know about the people who have lived here since the last time those glaciers melted.

The best guess is that the first people arrived when two-mile-thick glaciers last receded from here in southern Oxford County around 11,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of human activity found so far is in the form of stone tools from approximately 9000 years ago on the shores of Long Lake in Bridgton, as well as Bear Pond in Waterford, Kezar Pond and Lovewell Pond in Fryeburg and in other locations in the Fryeburg area. The earliest evidence of human activity so far discovered in Lovell proper is about 4000 years old along the shore of Kezar Lake.Old Course of Saco River Fryeburg Harbor

One of the most intriguing bits of evidence - though of unknown antiquity - was a skeleton uncovered in the year 2000 near Pleasant Point on Kezar Lake. Norris Bennett was digging a ditch with his backhoe to sink some water lines when he found a human skeleton. It’s rare for bones to survive long in Maine’s acidic soils. My daughter, Annie, was working there at the time and told me a forensic archaeologist guessed that, because of skull’s shape, the bones might be those of an adolescent Indian female. They went to the University of Maine Orono and I’ve heard little about them since.

Last summer I mentioned the skeleton to Dr. Arthur Spiess, Senior Archaeologist for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. He’d never heard of it, though he’d been to Lovell on at least two other occasions in the performance of his work. That surprised me, but he indicated that when archaeologists uncover bones likely to be Native American, they usually avoid going any further. He didn’t say much more, but I got the impression that it was because of potential objections from modern Indian groups who would object to people digging up their ancestors.Test Pit in Fryeburg Harbor

It’s questionable whose ancestors they might belong to if the bones should date from 4000-9000 years ago. Little is known for sure about who those people would have been, and any claim they would be ancestors of today’s Abenaki is weak. Evidence that old of human activity in Ireland, for example, is probably not from my Celtic ancestors who seem to have arrived on the Emerald Isle only about 2500 years ago. We simply don’t know much about where those early Lovell residents (or visitors) came from or where they may have gone.

A lot of archaeological research in this area is confidential. I’ve had to promise to keep it that way in order to learn several things and that constrains what I can write here, so I’ll only refer to them obliquely. That goes against my nature, but a promise is a promise.

The Maine Archaeological Society Bulletin for Fall, 1998 contained an article by William F. Rombola entitled: “The Ceramic Period in the Upper Saco River Drainage: An Analysis of the Helen Leadbetter Collection.” Helen was the most knowledgeable of the many amateur archaeologists in our area and had the most extensive collection of artifacts found in Fryeburg, Lovell, Bridgton, Hiram, Conway and Ossipee. She was often accompanied by her friend, Eve Barbour, and both have since passed on. Though Rombola’s article focused mostly on Helen’s ceramic artifacts, he included some analysis of her lithic (stone) artifacts as well and those intrigue me most.

Rombola says the oldest artifacts in the Leadbetter collection date from the “Early Archaic Period” which would mean they are among the oldest artifacts found anywhere in Maine so far - 7000-9000 years old. Most are made of hornfels, which Rombola says “is prevalent in New Hampshire and southern Maine” and usually gray/black. Other artifacts are made of material from Mount Jasper in Berlin, NH, from the Moosehead Lake region, the Munsungan Lake region, the Champlain valley, from upstate New York, and several other sources. There was one piece made of the most intriguing material - found only in one location: Ramah Bay in northern Labrador. It’s a material favored by the “Maritime Archaic” or “Red Paint People” who lived in northeastern North America, including northern Labrador, more than 7000 years ago. Though I don’t know where Helen Leadbetter found her one piece, I was very lucky to find a small arrowhead made of Ramah chert last June near the Kezar Lake outlet dam in Fryeburg Harbor.My Ramah Chert Arrowhead

Part 2 next week.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Trouble In Utopia


“Americans work too hard,” said my son-in-law. “Over there, people sit around sipping good wine and relaxing. Maybe we should pack up and move to Europe.” He and my daughter had returned from cruising the Mediterranean on their honeymoon, stopping in Spain, Italy, and Greece. I had been reading things like America Alone by Mark Steyn about the looming debt crisis and low birth rates in those countries.

“I don’t think they’ll be relaxing like that for too much longer,” I said.

Last week, the end of the European vacation was coming into view. The almost-daily riots in Greece had escalated. Leftists threw Molotov cocktails at police. Huge banners hung from the Parthenon calling for revolution in Europe.Financial reality had intruded into socialist utopia and the left didn’t want to face it. Ironic that the birthplace of democracy and the birthplace of Achilles is also the place where democracy’s Achilles’ heel is being exposed. And what is that? Democracy works well until the majority realizes it can vote itself money out of the public treasury. The Greek majority has been doing that in the form of extended vacations, boundless entitlements, cushy jobs with short hours, and early retirement. Spain, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, and other European countries are right behind them - weakening democracies lined in a row and ready to tip over.

After World War II, average life expectancy rose in Europe as retirement ages declined. That meant Europeans would be sipping wine, relaxing at sidewalk cafes, and collecting fat pensions for many more years than the system could sustain. Taxes rose somewhat to help pay for it all, but not nearly enough. Added to this was an unwillingness to bear children. They weren’t having babies to grow up into workers paying those increased taxes.It takes money, effort, time, and self-sacrifice to raise children. That cuts into vacations and afternoon wine-sipping. It’s definitely more difficult to relax with little kids running around, teenagers challenging you, asking for money, borrowing your car, and questioning your values. It’s much easier to just go on living with your own parents until you’re forty-five. Mom can do laundry, cook, clean, and iron your clothes while government takes care of everything else. When your aging parents move on to assisted living or die, you can take over their house. Then retirement for you won’t be far away because you can stop working altogether at 53.

If anyone should suggest Europeans are too lazy and selfish even to reproduce, post-modern rationalizations abound. There’s: “Who would want to bring children into a world full of racism and imperialism?” Then there’s: Having children uses up scarce resources and increases our carbon footprint! Haven’t you heard about global warming?” And, of course, there’s: “Humans are overpopulating the earth and crowding out other species.”

While whales and polar bears are doing fine worldwide, human beings in Europe are declining rapidly and their economy is heading for a crash. Liberal/socialist politicians have been reelected again and again on promises of more and more unsustainable entitlements. When taxes were insufficient to pay for it, they borrowed. When it became obvious to lenders that Greece couldn’t pay it back, the money dried up. Liberal/socialist politicians couldn’t deliver on utopian promises and announced cutbacks. The left went ballistic. It was like parents with declining income cutting allowances to their children, who then threatened to burn down the house.Left wing demonstrators in Greece riot because they want government to do more for them. The conservative Tea Party in America demonstrates because they want government to get out of their way while they take care of themselves. Greek leftists leave behind destruction and dead bodies after their riots. Conservative Americans pick up after themselves, leave their demonstration sites spotless. Still, American media do their best to depict them as racist homophobes.

As Greece sank into anarchy, over here the Dow went into an afternoon free-fall brokers hadn’t seen before. Some analysts were blaming a computer glitch, but others knew what it was: the realization that the United States isn’t very far behind Greece. We’re on the same road they are and rapidly accelerating. We’re $14 trillion in debt and adding to it with trillion-dollar-plus annual deficits for the foreseeable future. Our demographics aren’t as dismal as Greece’s, but bad enough. Unfunded liabilities for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security exceed $100 trillion and that’s without considering the costs of the new health care “reform.” American investors looked at this and Greek riots - and they saw America’s future. That vision shook them deeply, as it should.

Conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher saw it coming decades ago when she said: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Mayday-Mayday

Illegal aliens from Mexico are pouring into our country. It’s the federal government’s responsibility, but the feds don’t really want to stop the invasion. Washington feigns concern and wants to appear to be trying to prevent it - while avoiding measures that would actually stop it, like building a real fence. This has been true for both Democrats in the Obama Administration and Republicans in the Bush Administration, as well as congresses controlled by both parties for twenty-five years. Citizens, meanwhile, are getting angrier by the day. They resent pressing one for English in their own country.Somewhere between twelve and twenty million illegals are here already and tens of thousands sneak in every month, mostly into border states like Arizona. They go on welfare, work under the table, or with a stolen identity. They use hospital emergency rooms when sick or injured and don’t pay. They send children to public schools costing at least $10-15 thousand a year per child. They fill prisons at $45,000 a year per prisoner. Hospitals in border states are going bankrupt. School budgets are at the breaking point. According the Federation for Immigration Reform, California’s illegal aliens cost that state more than $10 billion in 2004. Today, California is nearly bankrupt.Illegal immigrant crime is exploding. A month ago, an Arizona rancher and his dog were shot and killed. The murder seems to have been the final straw leading to the passage of SB 1070, a law allowing making illegal immigration a state crime in Arizona. Demonized by leftists as Nazi-like, the law makes illegal immigration a major issue for the November elections. The left sponsored demonstrations in cities all over the country last Saturday, May 1st. I drove down to the one in Portland, Maine to watch.The Arizona law was definitely the aiming point for the few hundred in attendance. They came in from two directions on Congress Street singing a song in Spanish I couldn’t understand and chanting “Si se puede!” I looked that up and it means: “Yes we can!” or “It is possible!” Along with Hispanics and blacks carrying signs were white people with rainbow flags, SIEU and Obama T-shirts, Palestinian keffiyehs, and lots of tattoos. It was slickly organized by the Maine People’s Alliance, a left-wing group of “community organizers” with offices in Portland, Lewiston, and Bangor. The MPA pushes the usual panoply of government-expanding issues like socialized medicine, special rights for homosexuals, fluorescent light bulbs, amnesty for illegal aliens, and more taxes to pay for it all. It’s affiliated with national “progressive” groups like USAction and has an annual budget of over $800,000 with which it lobbies for the above issues.Portland, Maine demonstration

Mike Tipping, communications director for MPA, gave me a press kit which included endorsements by the Maine Civil Liberties Union. He told me his fiance would have had to wait ten years to get into the country if she were not engaged to him, implying that legal restrictions on immigration aren’t reasonable. “There aren’t enough busses to deport all the immigrants living here,” he said, and “families shouldn’t be broken up.”“Then let’s deport them intact,” I said.

He paused and he stared at me for a second. I had tipped my hand.

“But I don’t think that would be necessary,” I continued. “If we fined their employers and stopped giving them welfare, illegals would leave the same way they came.”

“Don’t you think it’s time for immigration reform?” he asked.

“You mean amnesty,” I said. “President Reagan did that twenty-five years ago, but 12-20 million more illegal aliens have sneaked in here since. No. I don’t think it’s time for amnesty. Arizona is doing what it has to do because the federal government isn’t doing its job.”

After the demonstrators gathered in Congress Square, various speakers railed against SB 1070 as “racial profiling.” However, the Arizona law only requires immigrants stopped for something else to show proof they’re in our country legally. Consider how many times we citizens must show our papers in the course of living our lives: at airports, banks, traffic stops, checkout counters, etc. It’s not racial profiling. Liberal Affirmative Action policies are racial profiling.MPA’s Tipping would seem to allow anyone from anywhere in whatever numbers to sneak the United States and stay - and anyone who objects is accused of racism. Hypocritical Mexican President Felipe Calderone called SB 1070 “racial discrimination,” although Mexico’s own laws against illegal immigrants coming into Mexico from poorer countries to his south are much tougher. US law requires resident aliens to carry registration papers on them at all times, yet President Obama says Arizona’s law would “undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.” Presidential hypocrisy is rampant on both sides of the border.On May 1st four years ago, illegals carried Mexican flags and “Amnesty” signs in similar demonstrations. That indicated where their true loyalties lay but it backfired with Americans who watched it on television. Leftist organizers have since corrected that mistake. All I could see this year in Portland and elsewhere were American flags and “Immigration Reform” signs. Appearances have changed, but their motive hasn’t.

May 1st is Mayday, and Mayday is a warning. We’ll see how it plays out in November.

ADDENDUM:
For those who question immigrant welfare benefits, consider this from the Center For Immigration Studies:

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