REMEMBERING ELLSWORTH AND LAMOINE, MAINE
I’ve said this in previous writings: the most common question my husband Monte and I are asked about our autumn trips to New England is: Are you going to leaf peep? Certainly New England puts on a great display of brilliant fall leaves, but I can vouch that the hills of Southwestern Pennsylvania matches their splendor. No, we don’t go to leaf peep. We much prefer ocean viewing.
We were completing our 2013 travel to New England as September rolled over into October. On our return home—driving across New England into New York and south to Pennsylvania—some trees gave us a sneak peak of grandiose leaves, but we were traveling before they peaked. Thus, we enjoyed being inadvertent leaf peepers, viewing what many tourists drive to New England to do: enjoy autumn’s march from summer into winter.
Last year my husband Monte and I were visiting the towns of Ellsworth and Lamoine in Downeast Maine on September 30 and October 1. We stayed several days at SeaCat’s Rest, on the banks of the Jordan River, where our hosts were Bruce Gillett and Kathleen Rybarz and their Maine Coon cat.
As wonderfully calming SeaCat’s Rest was we couldn’t laze around all day.
On Monday, the 30th, we headed to the Ellsworth Public Library, where I had the opportunity to meet with Mark E. Honey. He’s a Maine history buff who has done much writing about Hancock County, which is the setting of my historic romance novel—and some of my ancestors. We’d had occasional contact through the years but had never met. I was amazed at what he had accomplished in spite of the fact that he has a disabling illness chaining him to a wheelchair. We both agreed that Downeast history is fascinating, and that this library has always been helpful and encouraging to those of us interested in researching the area.
Upon our return to SeaCat’s Rest the Jordan River reflected the hues of orange, pink, and gray from a sunset exploding from behind several mountains located on Mt. Desert Island, across the water. Patches of bright blue peeked through the cloud-like sunset. This breathtaking scene is perfect as September rolls into October and my time in Downeast Maine is coming to an end.
On Tuesday we headed to the deeds office at the Hancock County Courthouse. It’s enjoyable to have the freedom to walk into a government building without being searched, without being made to feel like a criminal. The staff there has always been as helpful as the library staff is. After leaving the courthouse I dined on a lobster roll at Jordan’s Snack Bar (Monte, a vegetarian, passed on this experience).
That evening we drove to Lamoine Beach, arriving just in time to welcome the sunset. We were greeted by a barricade that said to me: The eyes are upon you.Monte stayed in the car while I walked up and down the beach, occasionally wading in the softly lapping waves, and admiring the pinkish sky over Cadillac Mountain, across Frenchman Bay on Mt. Desert Island. And yes, swatting mosquitoes.
I noticed another car pull in, greeted the couple who walked casually to the beach. Amazingly, they were from a town in Indiana County, Pennsylvania—perhaps an hour distant from our home in Laurel Mountain Borough. Although their 50th anniversary had been in June they were on an anniversary vacation, returning to the place they had worked at a camp close to Ellsworth after their wedding. They were disappointed to learn that the camp no longer exists. Being a romantic, I asked them to kiss and as they did I activated my trigger finger (on my camera).
We spent a short time enjoying the sunset before dark obliterated it and the mosquitoes chased us away.
On our return to SeaCat’s Rest we drove over the farmland owned by Madame Rosalie de Leval in the early 1790s, and by French emigrant Louis des Isles and his Trenton/Maine-born wife Mary Googins in the late 1790s. Louis and Mary are my 4-great-grand-parents. Part of a house once belonging to William des Isles, their son, still remains.
We came to 740 Lamoine Beach Road, a two-story white house once owned by my great-great-great-grandfather William, son of French emigrant Louis des Isles and Surry resident Mary Googins. William and his wife Isabelle Young passed the house down to their daughter Armenia and her husband, Alan Walker, in 1788. She became widowed and owned it until 1945.
There were lights on in the house, so I implored Monte to stop. He stayed in the car while I introduced myself to the tenant-occupants. They invited me in and we had a delightful conversation on the history of the house. They identified the current owners, who live in Massachusetts. Missy and James were expecting their first baby last January, a baby I suspect is the first one to have this house as its first home.
Lamoine’s sunset and leaf changes heralded other changes besides those of days and seasons. Changes in generations, home ownership, stages of life, physical location. Changes can often be bitter in their endings, sweet in their making way for beginnings (or endings might be sweet and beginnings bitter).
Leaving Lamoine, leaving Maine, leaving New England—was bittersweet. I wanted to stay longer—but it was also nice being home. The sweetness I experienced in New England remains, to be visited as I view and share my photos, read my notes, and, on occasion, speak to people we met on the way.
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