As my biography proudly states, I am a native of the “Great State of Maine” [as my eldest sister proclaims of the 23rd State] and specifically of the village of Paris Hill, Oxford County where the County Jail became the County Library. As you read my novellas and novels set in Maine, hopefully you will recognize the sense of pride I have for my home state and its history.
Although I moved with my family when I was five years old, Maine is still my home state. I have lived in Wales for most of my adult life and the remaining years of my childhood and further education were spent in California, with a short stint in Arizona in my first year of high school. And now, I live in the Treasure State where I am settling on a fifth of an acre, yet Maine, The Pine Tree State, is where my heart sings loudest.
Even so, I know very little about the state that earned the 23rd star on the Stars & Stripes. I have researched as necessary for my stories set in Maine and know much of my family’s personal involvement with the state, such as my distant cousin who fought at Gettysburg in the 20th Maine Regiment and was one of the survivors of the battle of Little Round Top. I also know that Hannibal Hamlin, the 15th Vice President of the USA — serving with Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War — lived in my hometown, Paris Hill.
However, I only recently discovered that my home state was a province of the Massachusetts Colony and attempted to secede from Massachusetts State in 1807 and finally won its freedom in 1819 and statehood in 1820. Massachusetts, one of the first thirteen states — either a red or a white stripe — neglected its northern-most province during the War of 1812, allowing Maine to be attacked and invaded by the British for the sake of its own pro-British merchant class.
I knew that there were strong French communities in the northeast and the central corridor and that “Maine” . Several members of my extended family were of French-Canadian descent. I learned that the Jesuits founded missions in 1609 and 1613, and that Castine, where one of my cousins lives, was established as a French colony. But the most astonishing information I learned today was:
“European contact with what is now called Maine started around 1200 CE when Norwegians interacted with the native Penobscot in present-day Hancock County, most likely through trade. About 200 years earlier, from the settlements in Iceland and Greenland, Norwegians had first identified America and attempted to settle areas such as Newfoundland, but failed to establish a permanent settlement there. Archeological evidence suggests that Norwegians in Greenland returned to North America for several centuries after the initial discovery to collect timber and to trade, with the most relevant evidence being the Maine Penny, an 11th-century Norwegian coin found at a Native American dig site in 1954.” Maine
This one bit of information may finally account for the 19% of my DNA that is Scandinavian. I feel another story coming on. There is, you know, a Norway, Maine and Pavane for Miss Marcher takes place in the fictional town of Oslo Hill.