Tuesday, October 13, 2020

CURBING GOVERNMENT POWER



Has government exceeded its power with Covid shutdowns? Some have thought so from the beginning, but almost everyone cooperated for the first few weeks to “flatten the curve.” It seemed logical not to overload our hospitals and I heard no one object in my small circle, but that’s changing. 


The curve has been flattened for some time now but media hype continues unabated and, consequently, so does public fear. Mask-wearing is viewed as a public responsibility to some and an exercise in virtue-signaling for others to whom it has become a woke, fashion accessory.

Michigan Governor Whitmer

We’ve learned that not all of us are vulnerable to the virus — that only elderly persons with multiple co-morbidities need worry. We’ve also learned that the first dire predictions of millions dying in the the U.S. were way overblown. We’ve learned that the CDC has been over-counting Covid deaths by 94%. Studies are beginning to emerge indicating that shutdowns may not have curbed spread of the virus at all — but it’s becoming almost treasonous to suggest that.


Months ago, some Americans filed suit against blue-state governors for exceeding their constitutional authority and rulings on those suits are beginning to come down. In Pennsylvania, a federal judge ruled that Democrat Governor Wolf’s lockdown orders are unconstitutional. Plaintiffs include Republican state representatives, county officials, and Congressman Mike Kelly from the Pittsburgh area. The decision was issued in September and Wolf has appealed. A circuit court stay is in place and it will take more time to work this through to a final conclusion.



Meantime, in Michigan, the state supreme court ruled that Democrat Governor Whitmer exceeded her authority with Covid restrictions as well. The Michigan attorney general declared he would no longer enforce her edicts. It’s hard to determine how much her autocratic behavior around the virus contributed to the FBI-foiled plan by anarchists to kidnap her. Perhaps that will come out at trial, assuming the perpetrators don’t plea-bargain.



And what an odd bunch they are. Governor Whitmer immediately blamed President Trump for the kidnapping plot, but then a video came out of one potential plotter wearing earlobe-stretching disc earrings as he expressed his hatred for the president. Given leftist, anti-government riots perpetrated by BLM and Antifa on one hand and right-wing, anti-government actions by the likes of Terry McVeigh and Terry Nichols twenty-five years ago, it’s hard to position these plotters on the political spectrum.


WHO reverses itself on shutdowns


Just days ago, the World Health Organization reversed itself and advised world leaders to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method” with the Coronavirus, and “Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.” It wasn’t long ago that President Trump cancelled US support to the WHO for being in cahoots with the Chinese Communist Party. Now they’re on the same page.



It’s not just political groups rebelling against autocratic edicts by Democrat officials. In New York City, conservative Jews openly defied Democrat Mayor DiBlasios’ and Democrat Governor Cuomo’s ban on religious gatherings by dancing in the streets. Also in NYC, Brooklyn Roman Catholic Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio filed suit against the state of New York for violating his First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion. New York’s usually-timid Cardinal Timothy Dolan surprisingly backed DiMarzio’s suit.



After President Trump tested positive for the virus, mainstream media claim it’s because of his refusal to wear a mask. Some outlets imply that he got his just desserts for his reluctance. I do not believe they’re effective against spreading the virus and I resent the signs on entry doors telling me I cannot enter without a mask. Although they cost me $15 apiece, I purchased some face masks online which declare: “THIS MASK IS USELESS, AND SO IS YOURS.” Some shoppers just stare at me, while others tell me: “I love your mask.”



As I’m about to submit this column on Tuesday, I see a report by national security correspondent Jordan Schachtel that:


“[A]CDC study, which surveyed symptomatic COVID-19 patients, has found that 70.6% of respondents reported “always” wearing a mask, while an additional 14.4% say they “often” wear a mask. That means a whopping 85% of infected COVID-19 patients reported habitual mask wearing. Only 3.9% of those infected said they “never” wear a face covering.”



Last August, according to the Huffington Post, Joe Biden said: “Let’s institute a mask mandate, nationwide, starting immediately, and we will save lives.” A few days ago though, Biden said he’s not sure a president can do that, but he would mandate them on federal property. A glance at the map of federal land in the USA, you’ll see that half of California and nearly all of several western states.


Thursday, October 08, 2020

SERIOUS COMIC BRILLIANCE



If I start reading a book and it doesn’t grab me twenty pages in, I put it down. I’m a slow reader and life is too short to justify finishing books that bore me. There are too many interesting ones out there and not enough time to read them.


Here in the 21st century, the same is true of YouTube videos. Just now I finished watching a 1959 interview of Ayn Rand by Mike Wallace that fascinated me. Twice I’ve tried to read one of Rand’s novels after strong recommendations by people I respect, but both times I put them down. The interview, however, was great. It grabbed me.


As with many intellectuals like Rand, I agree with some of her points and disagree with others, but she gets me thinking. I also love that YouTube provides a list of related video links in the margin. Nest to Ayn Rand were thinkers like Orson Wells, Milton Friedman, Aldous Huxley, and George Carlin. I watched a few and ran out of time while realizing there are so many fascinating YouTube videos that I won’t live long enough to watch even a small fraction of them.


I stumbled onto Ayn Rand after friend sent me an article by an anonymous thinker with the pseudonym “Sundance” whose blog is called "The Last Refuge," and sometimes the “Conservative Tree House.” At the bottom was the link to the Wallace/Rand interview. One interesting tidbit leads to another on today’s internet and I was grateful for whatever algorithm put the links there. The worldwide web analyzed my interests effectively and offered additional intellectual stimulation. That nebulous entity we was teaching me the way I tried to teach young minds for decades before the web existed.


It was most effective when I was able to take advantage of teachable moments whenever they emerged. A student would ask a penetrating question, for example, which, if I took sufficient time to answer it, might take the class on a tangent only marginally related to the curriculum I was responsible to deliver. I learned to recognize it when a critical mass of students became engaged by the question. If it intensified while I delivered the answer, and if that answer led to more earnest questions from other students waving their raised hands enthusiastically, I knew I had stumbled onto fertile ground.


At that point, my job was to exploit their curiosity by subtly steering discussion more deeply into the curriculum I was charged to teach — 20th century US History including economics, civics, the US Constitution, and current events. I miss my classroom and still think like a teacher. If a student asked a question about Ayn Rand — an intellectual who railed against government regulation — I imagined steering the conversation toward the dangers of regulatory government as identified by Ronald Reagan or Calvin Coolidge, depending on what period of 20th century history we might be covering.


In one of the paragraphs above, I classed comedian George Carlin with 20th century intellectuals though probably very few of you would think of Carlin that way. Did he belong there? I’m beginning to think so after finding so many links to his routines beneath a serious article. I’m sorry he’s not around anymore to demonstrate his intellectual prowess by making us laugh about significant topics. Unlike most comedians, he wrote his own material.


He thought of himself not so much as a comedian who wrote his own stuff, but as a writer who performed his own stuff. Repeatedly courtmartialed from the military and expelled from school, I bet he was a brilliant class clown. Watching him pace back and forth as an adult during his rapid-fire deliveries on YouTube, I realized he also was probably also ADHD — not unusual for a class clown. The ones I recall were usually quite smart.


To make people laugh the way Carlin did about a wide variety of topics, he had to know what things his audience seriously believed, and he needed a deep understanding of those things. Then he would have to think of new, unusual, and often irreverent ways to look at them. A powerful intellect is required to do that. Often I see links to one of his comedy routines on subjects I take seriously—  and he nearly always gets me laughing.


It’s only when he’s unnecessarily profane that he doesn’t. Rather than add to his comic brilliance, it detracts — and it exemplifies something I once read on a bathroom wall: “Profanity is an attempt by a weak mind to make a strong statement.” As I claimed above though, Carlin didn’t have a weak mind, but like many, he got lazy at times and let his powerful brain lapse into degeneracy. Although he’s been dead for twelve years, his comedy routines have withstood the test of time, which is, of course, further evidence of genius.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

LEFT & RIGHT WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23RD, 2020


Newspaper publisher Mark Guerringue again sits in the left chair this week.

Producer question #1: Would it more politically beneficial to confirm a new Supreme Court Justice before the election, or between the election and inauguration day? Mark says the original sin was committed by Harry Reid in 2013 when, as Democrat Senate Majority Leader, he eliminated the filibuster. Then Mitch McConnell delayed Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016, saying he wanted to wait until after the November election. He said there’s a lot of hypocrisy all around regarding supreme nominations, but when is it too much and voters remove the hypocrites? Mark brings up the Obamacare issue soon to come before the court that Amy Coney Barrett will be adjudicating — the constitutionality of Obamacare without the mandate. We discuss Chief Justice Roberts around that and other statements he’s made, like “no Obama judges or Trump judges” as if all judges are without political bias, which I consider ridiculous. I point out that conservatives often appoint justices who were conservative only to see them go over the left after serving for a time — yet there are none I can think of who have gone the other way. Mark applauds that and claims our country tilts left. I dispute that. We go into Barrett’s Catholicism and I point out that Kerry, Pelosi, Biden, and other Democrats are Catholics nominally, but don’t practice their religion. Coney Barrett does. She’s a conservative Catholic in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Democrats hate that. We go back into justices making decisions according to “original intent” and “precedent” with Mark pushing the latter. I’m an originalist who believes we stick to strict interpretations of wording. Mark goes back to Obamacare saying his business needs it or he wouldn’t be able to offer health insurance to his employees. We discuss pre-existing conditions and Medicare for all. I bring up demonstrations turning into riots across the country and cite George Soros millions electing district attorneys across the country for the past six years. They’re leftists who refuse to charge rioters in several cities, enabling anarchy to spread widely. I say it’s shaping up as the biggest issue in voters’ minds as they go to the polls. Mark believes the riots are rare and “not a big deal.” People aren’t concerned about it nationally. I offer evidence that they are and we argue about it at length. We discuss national reaction to Covid, which I contend is way overblown because it’s politicized.. Mark justifies it in various ways about which we again disagree.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

HISTORIAL REVISIONISM RUN AMOK



No, the United States wasn’t born in 1776 with the idea that, “…all men are created equal [and] endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” According the US History curriculum designed by the New York Times, our country was born in 1619 when the Jamestown colony first imported slaves from Africa.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the author of the new history, “won” a Pulitzer Prize and her curriculum is used in at least 4500 classrooms around the country at this writing. I wrote a few paragraphs about her in a June column wondering if the Pulitzer committee was aware of her previous writing in which she declared: “[T]he white race is the biggest murderer, rapist, pillager, and thief of the modern world.” She also called whites “bloodsuckers” and “barbaric devils.”


No, the United States didn’t come into existence led by Founding Fathers who risked their lives and property when pitting thirteen tiny colonies against the world’s strongest military to create a nation “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” According to new, revised histories, this country was seized by selfish racist, white men to enrich themselves by oppressing and exploiting everyone else.


One of my last school photos


The decades I spent teaching US History were among the most satisfying of my life. The Fryeburg school district supplied me students, a classroom, textbooks, and materials to do my work, but didn’t interfere with how I did it. It gave me autonomy. However, I retired at 60 because of clear signs that my autonomy was ending. The left’s control of public education tightened and the time of teaching traditional US History was ending.



That was almost ten years ago and results of the new historical revisionism have been coming in. According to Doug Ducey writing in National Review last week: “Survey after survey shows that Americans have a dismally poor understanding of the founding principles underpinning our nation. Only one in four Americans can name all three branches of government. Seventy percent don’t know that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.” That’s particularly discouraging because my curriculum included civics and the Constitution.



It’s not just US History instruction the left has transformed. Last week, the Boston Globe reported that: “For centuries, dead white men have dominated high school English classes,” then it praised an English teacher at Newton South High School who, “Like many in her department… is teaching texts only by authors of color.” No more Mark Twain or Scott Fitzgerald. No John Steinbeck, Fenimore Cooper, or E. B. White. No Robert Frost or Edgar Allen Poe  No Thoreau or Hemingway. No white guys are allowed at Newton South.


No more to the lake

Why not? Because teaching stuff by white males is “Eurocentric” and, “It’s doing some harm to the souls of our students who are Black, indigenous, and people of color,” said English teacher Joana Chacon, “and it’s honestly doing harm to the souls of all our students.” And it’s not just US History and English classes. The Globe reporter wrote: “At Brookline High School, a physics teacher wants to make topics on race and diversity ‘organic’ parts of her usual lessons.” In physics class? Really?



I hardly recognize our schools now. While we never had an official national curriculum as such, most public schools taught US History in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades. A student with a high school diploma then would have been taught the history of the United States from Indians to the present three times. Somewhere along the way, history got watered down into “social studies,” and few students learn civics at all. My Apple word processing dictionary defines “social studies” as, “various aspects or branches of the study of human society, considered as an educational discipline.”


A discipline? That’s a laugh.



Recently I agreed to assist a 14-year-old in the Portland, Maine school system with “social studies,” which has been further watered down there by merger with “language arts.” Searching the district web site for an 8th grade “social studies” curriculum, I got nowhere. I found Maine state “learning results” which are the same as when I was teaching, but they’re so nebulous I’m reminded of the lady in that old Wendy’s commercial asking: “Where’s the beef?” What I need are minimum standards at least, which I would use as a framework and then insert things I know would engage the young man.


Zoom cannot substitute for classrooms

Our schools’overreaction to Covid is making a bad situation worse. I sat in on zoom class last week and students were still doing exercises to help them get to know each other. That stuff should be over on day one, but there it was the end of September — and their homework assignment was more of the same for this week. Nothing about US History was covered the whole first month. 


Thursday, September 24, 2020

WILL THE ELECTION BE ABOUT FEAR?


Every four years, it seems, we have “the most important election in history.” Exaggeration? Maybe, but I don’t think so, not this year anyway. While many Americans see November 3rd as  Biden vs Trump, others see it as left versus right. I’ve voted in every presidential election since I became eligible in 1972 and, while I used to be swayed by who the person running was, that’s not very important to me anymore. It’s the platform he or she espouses that matters now.

Over that forty-eight year span, my political outlook has moved across the spectrum from left to right and two aphorisms sum up why. The first is attributed to Winston Churchill: “If you’re not a liberal when you’re twenty, you have no heart; if you’re still a liberal when you’re forty, you have no brain.” The second is from that other British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who said: “The facts of life are conservative.” Democrats are so far left now they’re becoming socialist.


In a February 17th column, I said Trump looked unbeatable, and he did. Then, in the last paragraph, I wrote something which has proven prophetic: 


But nine months is an eternity in politics. Anything can happen between now and November. Like what you may ask? The Corona virus, for one thing. Chinese efforts to contain it have been futile. So have their efforts to censor information about how serious it is. Their economy is slowing considerably and likely to tank. Pulitzer-Prize-winning science writer Laurie Garrett has covered first-hand over thirty epidemics worldwide and she offers a very sobering account of what we may expect from the virus now being called COVID-19. “The economic and political repercussions are going to be enormous,” she says.



Then, on March 16th, a British professor at Imperial College named Neil Ferguson issued a devastating prediction. If the U.S. and the U.K. did not shut down for eighteen months and isolation measures were not taken, he claimed, 2.2 million Americans and more than half a million British would be killed. American and British health officials — and President Trump —took that very seriously and shut down their countries. Thus, covid became the biggest issue in the campaign.



Ten days later, Ferguson said, Whoops! I was wrong! And he revised his prediction down. Only 20,000 Brits would die; half of them would have died anyway of old age and comorbidities; and the U.K. already had enough ICUs to handle the victims. But it was too late. The left loved the shutdown here in Amcrica because President Trump’s surging economy — his biggest asset for reelection — was crippled. The left and its mainstream media allies weren’t about to let it recover until after election day in November.



Using the British scale above, Ferguson’s prediction for the deaths in the U.S. would revise downward by 2500%, from 2.2 million to 88,000. Here in mid September the CDC has reported 200,000 Covid deaths, but in August the CDC said that only 6% of fatalities reported as Covid deaths were solely from the virus. The other 94% involved Covid, but the virus wasn’t the only killer. Nonetheless, mainstream media continue to hype the virus with endless stories about how many are testing positive and how many are dying. Is that because they want the shutdown to continue through to the election? Seems like it.


Actually, in June, the CDC estimated 0.2 % overall chance of dying from Covid


On my local Left & Right TV show months ago, I asked my left-wing opponent if there will come a time when we view the shutdowns as a major disaster far worse than the virus itself. Never before has there been such a drastic step taken to deal with a disease. Never before has this country shut down its entire economy plus its schools, sports, parades, churches, and countless other activities for medical reasons. Have our state and federal governments exceeded their constitutional authority? Have they violated constitutional rights of citizens?



In 1933, the US Supreme Court ruled that no governments — neither state nor federal — may exercise powers not enumerated by the US Constitution. “[A]n emergency may not call into life a power which has never lived,” said the ruling in HOME BUILDING & LOAN ASS'N v. BLAISDELL. Lawsuits have been filed in several states alleging governors wielded unconstitutional powers, but given the slowness of the judicial process, many plaintiffs will have gone bankrupt before they’re adjudicated.



Governors and other officials, especially in blue states like Maine, drunk with new power over people and economies, are reluctant to give it up as the virus threat fades. Have partisan politics controlled government response to Covid? Do politics influence research into Covid? Consider this: According to Federal Election Commission records, over $285,000 was contributed by CDC employees to Democrats, but only $1000 to Republicans.

Is it possible the CDC is hoping to sway November’s election by pushing fear?


Saturday, September 19, 2020

THE FRYEBURG CANAL ON THE SACO RIVER


Promotion for Barrows' book on Fryeburg History 1938

Exactly two hundred years ago, a group of local farmers in Fryeburg, Maine changed the course of the Saco River with oxen and hand tools. First, however, they had to dig through bureaucratic red tape put in their path by Massachusetts government from which they requested help. Frustrated by that and the state’s refusal of funds, they dug a canal by themselves at their own expense. It was completed in 1820, the same year Maine finally broke from Massachusetts and became its own state.

North Fryeburg farmland today

After rising near Crawford Notch in New Hampshire, the Saco River enters Maine in Fryeburg. Although the town is only about ten miles square, the Saco meanders through it for thirty-six miles. Early settlers cleared land and farmed, but the most fertile land in the northern part of town flooded nearly every spring. It was so bad, farmers petitioned the Massachusetts legislature (which governed Maine at the time) for flood relief in 1786. For the loss of a grist mill, nine houses, numerous animals, and much produce, Fryeburg was granted a tax abatement of 200 pounds. 

Saco River today

That was temporary relief and farmers wanted something permanent. They next petitioned the Massachusetts to fund a canal for flood control in 1812. They had a good idea about where and how to dig it because at one point near the center of town, the meandering courses of the river were only four-and-a-half miles apart. A canal there, through mostly sandy soil, would cut off seventeen miles of river through the fertile intervale in north Fryeburg. The plan was sound and would eventually relieve much of the flooding, but Massachusetts would not give them any money — only permission. So farmers wanted to dig it on their own.


More rich North Fryeburg farmland

First, however, they had to indemnify themselves against legal liability for whatever damages their canal might cause, for along with state permission to form a corporation called “Proprietors of the Fryeburg(h) Canal,” the state attached — to both the corporation and three dozen individual proprietors — legal responsibility for damages in perpetuity. So, the farmers went back to the state in February, 1816 for relief of this endless liability. Massachusetts responded in June, 1816 by limiting it to four years. Only then did the farmers feel safe enough to break ground in earnest.


Old River upstream from Hemlock Bridge

The sequence of actual construction is a bit confusing to this writer. One account said the digging of the first phase began in 1812; others say the digging began 1816 or 1817, but all agree the canal was finished in 1820 with the assistance of Mother Nature. It’s hard to say exactly where that construction started and some say it was done in segments over an eight-year period between 1812 and 1820. The most comprehensive account I have found so far is in John Stuart Barrow’s Fryeburg, Maine: An Historical Sketch published in 1938.


Fryeburg before canal showing two ponds in the center
Library of Congress map

There were two ponds within the four-and-a-half-mile stretch of land across which the canal was planned. One, called Bear Pond, was situated about where Canal Bridge crosses the present course of the river and it was completely drained by the canal. Nothing is left. The other, called Bog Pond, was larger and the canal drained most of it too, but a small segment remains to this day off Bog Pond Road between Route 5 and Menotomy Road.


Old Course of Saco near Hemlock Bridge

According to former Fryeburg Historical Society President Diane Jones, the digging began behind what is now the Al Barton farm in West Fryeburg. She told me her late husband, Ed Jones, together with the late Phil Andrews, found what they believed was the beginning of the canal. None of the many accounts I read about or heard about contradict this. For those who said the first segment was dug between what is now the Old Course of the Saco and Bear Pond, the Jones/Andrews claim is as good as any about exactly where. I went down there last week, but vegetation is so thick in the many old oxbow riverbeds, I could see little. I’ll go back after leaf drop in the fall and check it out again.


Old Course of the Saco in Fryeburg Harbor

Canal construction began with a narrow ditch — either in 1812 or in 1816 — and leading into Bear Pond. One account from Bill Vinton of Lovell said that a man could step across it in certain sections. Then came a freshet (river flooding) in 1820 that widened the ditch into the wider canal we see now and drained Bear Pond, then proceeded to Bog Pond and beyond to connect where the main course of the river below Hemlock Bridge now flows. Another account says there were two separate phases and the second phase was dug between the ponds a few years after the Bear Pond phase, and the 1820 freshet widened and deepened that part as well to complete the course of the Saco River as we know it today.


From Canal Bridge where Bear Pond used to be

Today’s course is the river with a sandy bottom so many canoers enjoy. There’s little water left now in the Old Course of the Saco — which is what the 17 miles of river cut off by the canal has been called. There is more water where tributaries still flow in but not enough to use a canoe or kayak until the “Fryeburg Harbor” area where the Cold River flows in from Stow and the Kezar Lake outlet enters from Lovell. Even there the old river is slow-moving and choked with weeds, especially in late summer. Snapping turtles like it and they grow very large, but no one would want to float a tube or swim in it.


Winter dawn on today's Saco River

Indians had traveled the winding Saco River in Fryeburg, possibly for nine thousand years or more. Archaeologists believe they farmed its fertile, intervale planting corn, beans, and squash beginning about three thousand years ago. In the late 20th century, amateur archaeologist Helen Leadbeater excavated two significant Indian settlements, one at Fryeburg Harbor and the other at Lovewell’s Pond. That pond is only a short canoe ride from the Saco as it flows south out of Fryeburg at the southern end end of town. She amassed her huge artifact collection primarily from these two sites.



She also investigated the entire shore of Lovewell’s Pond and, based on the patterns of where she found artifacts, she surmised that Indians often portaged across a two-mile stretch of what is now Fryeburg Village from the Weston’s Bridge area to the northern shore of the pond. That shortcut would eliminate about two dozen miles of paddling through north Fryeburg for those traveling express from settlements in Conway, New Hampshire to other encampments along the river’s course all the way to its mouth in what is now Saco/Biddeford. 


There are many different spellings of Pequawket

The Pequawkets were part of a subgroup of Abenaki Indians called Sokokis who settled Fryeburg in historic times. They also included the Ossipee, after whom both the town in New Hampshire and a tributary of the Saco flowing from the Ossipee area are named. The Pequawkets and the Ossipee traveled up and down the rivers between the coast and the White Mountains regularly. Captain John Smith and Samuel Champlain both had contact with the Sokokis at the Saco River’s mouth in the early 1600s. The section of Maine’s Route 5 between the Fryeburg/Brownfield area and Saco, Maine is still called the “Sokokis Trail.”


The first white man thought to have entered what is now Fryeburg was likely Darby Field in 1642 on his way to Mount Washington. He described an Indian village of about two hundred and was probably referring to Pequawket — now Fryeburg. We know Captain John Lovewell arrived in 1725 from Dunstable, Massachusetts to fight Pequawket Indians at the pond named for him. Some historians claim Lovewell came to take Indian scalps, but other sources say he was retaliating for Pequawket raids into Dunstable and nearby Andover, Massachusetts. Lovewell died battling Indians in Fryeburg after which most of the Pequawkets retreated to St. Francis on the St Lawrence River.


John Buxton's "Ambush at Lovewell's Pond"

The man destined to have the most impact on Fryeburg was Colonel Joseph Frye of Andover, after whom Fryeburg is named. A surveyor by trade, he knew of the fertile Saco intervale the Indians prized and persuaded the Province of Massachusetts to grant him the land in return for his service in the French and Indian War.


Cumberland and Oxford Canal

During the late 1700s and early 1800s centuries there was a lot of canal digging in Maine and New England, mostly for two purposes: transportation and power. The Saco River canal for flood control was relatively unusual at the time. As it was completed though, a huge transportation canal project nearby was being planned called the Cumberland and Oxford Canal which was opened to traffic in 1832 from the outlet of Sebago Lake to Portland Harbor on the coast. Canals for water power were dug along the Androscoggin River in Lewiston for powering its textile mills.


Back in the 1970s an older Lovell, Maine citizen told me how her grandfather shipped barrels of apples to England from Lovell in the 1800s. First he took them by wagon over the hills of Sweden, Maine to the northern tip of Long Lake in Harrison Village. There they were loaded onto specialized canal boats for transport down Long Lake, through the Songo Lock to Sebago Lake, then across it into the Cumberland and Oxford canal on the lake’s southern end. From there it was onward to inner Portland Harbor at Stroudwater.


There the apple barrels could be loaded onto ships bound for England, or they could remain on the specialized canal boats for transport along the Atlantic seaboard to the Port of Boston. These specialized canal boats were designed to drop a keel and erect two hinged masts, enabling travel along the coast in good weather.


When coal-driven steam power was introduced, however, both the power function and transportation function were gradually undermined. Steam power made railroads possible and they proved cheaper and faster than transporting goods by canal. Steam power also replaced water power for mills of all kinds: saw mills, grist mills, fulling mills, and textile mills. In Lewiston, water-driven turbines were replaced by steam turbines.


Recent shot of Saco at flood stage near Canal Bridge

The Saco River was the biggest obstacle to travel between the old settlements of Fryeburg, Maine (1763) and Bethel, Maine (1769) over an Indian trail which, today, Route 5 largely follows. Bethel is located on the Androscoggin River; Fryeburg on the Saco. Indians preferred rivers for transportation, but they sometimes traveled overland between river systems. Excellent farmland on the intervales of both rivers which first drew Indians, then attracted Bethel’s and Fryeburg’s early white settlers, Colonel Frye being one of these.


Frye had fought Indians and their French Allies in 1757 at the Battle of Fort William Henry and elsewhere as commander of the Massachusetts Militia during the French and Indian War. For that, he obtained a land grant now comprising the town bearing his name. Like fellow French and Indian War Colonel George Washington, he was surveyor by trade. Both also became generals when the American Revolution broke out, but Frye, being much older, saw little service in it compared to Washington.


Joseph Frye cellar hole today

It Massachusetts made its grant to Frye in 1762, he built his home in the center of town just above the Saco’s intervale. All that’s left of it now is a cellar hole in the woods at the end of a dirt road just off Route 5 north of the Fryeburg Fairgrounds. The road is marked by a brass plate set in a stone beside the paved highway. Frye knew the Saco intervale’s rich soil and huge potential for farming when he sought to acquire his land grant, but apparently not so much about the regularity of its annual floods and the bane they would be to farmers.


He soon learned after settling there himself but he died in 1794 before the canal was dug. He’s buried in the Village Cemetery but other members of his family lived to see the canal completed in 1820 — very close to his original home on Frye’s Hill. The Fryeburg canal stopped much of the flooding in north Fryeburg, but didn’t eliminate it entirely. I can remember twice that my brother Dan, when living on the McNeil Road in North Fryeburg at the edge of the intervale, had to use a canoe to get around for a few days.