I love learning about the colorful history of Lubec. My great great grandparents Ingraham and Mary Rier immigrated to Lubec from Nova Scotia in the 1870s with their four children. My grandparents Frank and Elizabeth (Keegan) Rier lived most of their lives there. Growing up, I visited Grammy Rier often at her home overlooking Johnson’s Bay, and my aunts, uncles and cousins who lived nearby.
This is not about a relative of mine but it is a fascinating story and gives one a glimpse into life in Downeast Maine in the 1870s. Captain Tristram Thirlow Corbett from Cutler had taken a load of local goods to the West Indies on the Lena Thurlow. There he loaded rum, sugar, and other products to unload at points along the New England coast. But, Captain Corbett’s wife died in 1873 at Aransas, Cuba.
Published in the Machias Valley News Observer. November 15, 2017. Compiled and edited by Valdine C Atwood. Published in a little booklet entitled “A Brief History of Cutler and Some Interesting Incidents” written in 1976 by the late Jasper Cates and Arlene Dennison.
The W B Holway storefront in the village of Machias, Maine. Circa late 1800s, early 1900s. In the 1881 Atlas of Washington Co by George N Colby and Co., the Holway and Sullivan business was located on the river side of Main Street three buildings up (toward the horse trough) from the GW Longfellow business. If it is the same business as in the photo, it was not far from the Machias Hardware store that exists today.
In the Machias Register, State Yearbook and Legislative Manual (1913), W B Holway was listed under Lumbermen of Machias. The Holway Sullivan Co Steam and Saw Mills were just up Main street close to the Machias bridge. The ES Means store was across the street during the same time period, owned by Eliphalet Means, my great grandfather’s elder brother. He sold a wide variety of local products including eggs, cranberries, meats (partridge, smoked beef), as well as merchandise and tropical fruits ordered from Boston. Sample pages from his cash book document the sales of the ES Means store in 1875.
In the later years of the 1800s and early 20th century, Machias was a booming village. Lumber and shipping commerce was at its height, oranges and exotic goods could be bought at the East India Tea Company. Shipbuilding was prominent in the village economy and the surrounding seaside towns.
As the years went by, the new century was not kind. The ports of Machias and near-by Bangor gave way those in the south that did not freeze in winter, Portland and Boston, or Saint John, Canada. Timber harvested, milled and sold to the shipbuilding industry faded as steam powered ships replaced the great ships and schooners built in downeast Maine. In the late 1920s and 1930s, the economic downturn that ravaged the entire country forced coastal Maine villages to reinvent their livelihoods. Yet residents of downeast Maine, including my ancestors, survived. They had descended from sturdy, determined immigrants and possessed the skills to be resilient, hardy, frugal, and endure hard work to provide for themselves together as a community.
This mind set exists today, handed down from generation to generation. We are joined by like-minded people who settle here from all over the country, to live a life tied to the land, our families and our neighbors. We live in a time when those skills will serve us well.
Eliphalet Scribner Means had a store in downtown Machias, Maine. He was my great grandfather William‘s elder brother. The Means store sold a wide variety of foods and household items: butter, milk, eggs, cider, smoked beef, partridge, fish, cranberries, faucets, dressers, clothing. And candy. The freight book shows that Means ordered and received produce from Boston to sell, including oranges and green gages.
The list goes on. Here are some sample pages from the Cash Book of the Means store.