BUCKSPORT — Town Councilor David Kee took on a new identity on July 19. He briefly became Raymond Fellows, a town resident who, in March of 1945, read a narrative poem about the history of Bucksport. As Kee made evident, Fellows could really spit some rhymes.
“The salmon were plenty in ye olden time, they were netted and sprayed, never caught on a line,” Kee said before an audience of about two dozen people in the library’s main reading room. “What they could not sell well, as a nice appetizer, were spread on the garden — nitrogen fertilizer.”
Kee was one of six readers to participate in “Readings of the Past,” an event held in celebration of the Buck Memorial Library’s 130th anniversary. The event began when the old clock in the reading room struck 2.
Librarian Geraldine Spooner led an introduction before Nancy Bourgon read a passage from Rufus Buck’s “The History of Bucksport to 1857.” Buck, a descendant of the town founder, Jonathan Buck, read that history out loud at the old town hall on July 4, 1857.
“…It is not unfrequently that we turn with pleasure to the past,” Bourgon read. “Hence it is that we remove the moss from the gravestones of our Fathers…as if to find and converse with their departed spirits, and know what they thought, enjoyed and did.”
The spirits were alive and well in the library that day. The next reader, Larry Wahl, dressed up in a bowler hat, sleeve garters and an old West-style necktie. He performed as Bucksport resident Roy Homer, who was born in 1879 and was interviewed along with Florence Homer by the Rev. Charles Brown, of the Elm Street Congregational Church, in 1973 about their experiences growing up in the town.
Wahl described the first circus Homer saw in Bucksport. It took place in the mid-1880s, when the older man was 5 years old. At one point, Homer saw two elephants drinking out of a stream.
“One of them immediately started wetting his back down and then he took a shot at the people who were watching,” said Wahl, who own Wahl’s Dairy Port and is the chairman of the library’s board of trustees. “That to me was a wonderful sight and it’s been wonderful to remember, as the first circus to come to town.”
Bucksport native Frank Dunbar also played the role of Roy Homer.
“…About a hundred Indians from Old Town came down every summer and camped out on that point [Salmon point],” Dunbar said, “and some of them would go on down the river farther and gather their sweetgrass for their baskets. I guess a white man would hardly recognize it; but they knew where it grew.”
A retelling of Bucksport history would be incomplete without revisiting the Sarah Ware murder of 1898. Ware disappeared for two weeks, and her body was found in an abandoned field. When people tried to pick up her body to put in a coffin, her head fell off.
Though a local man named William Treworgy was tried for the murder, he was never convicted. The killer was never found.
“I just remember that my mother wouldn’t go across the street over to my grandfather’s house without my grandfather standing in the front door,” said Florence Homer, played by Jackie Dunbar. “People were awfully scared.”
The next reading was more cheerful: it was about the band concerts that played every summer. There was also a mention of the town water pump, where the whole town gathered for drinking water.
“Children with pails and men and women with pails come to the town pump to carry home the water for supper,” said Florence Homer, played this time by Verna Cote.
The readings concluded with Kee reading excerpts from the narrative poem.
“When I must go to the distant land, that nature and nature’s god has planned, I know I’ll be safe, but I want to be where familiar faces I plainly see,” Kee said, at the poem’s end. “Yesterday’s faces, as well as today, so heaven must be down Bucksport way.”
Awaiting the audience afterward was a freezer chest full of Wahl’s Dairy Port ice cream. But first, Wahl had an announcement. He said that hopefully within the next week the library leadership will put out a bid for a mason to rebuild the inner brick wall on the west side of the building.
Those repairs will be the last step of a restoration process that started 24 years ago. If all goes well, the library’s granite facade on the west side will be torn down piece by piece, so that workers can rebuild the brick wall behind it. Once that’s complete, workers will put back the granite facade the same way it was before.
“It’ll last hopefully forever,” Wahl said, before reassessing his statement. “At least for another 130 years.”