The Early Years: 1914 – 1942 Dad was born September 9th, 1914 in Lubec, Maine, the second child and first son of Frank and Elizabeth Keegan Rier. He had an elder sister Marion. As the years went by, Dad had four brothers: Francis (“Babe”), Julian (“Barney”), Paul, Raymond and three more sisters: Evelyn, Patrica and […]
Machias Valley News Observer, Wednesday, June 3, 1936. The Burnham Tavern is a historic landmark of the Revolutionary War.
My maternal ancestor, Joseph Getchell Jr., fought the British in the rebellion for independence of the American colonies to prevent the British from taking their primary resources: timber for ships and their hard-earned money, taxation without representation. Once British demands were made, residents of Machias not only refused to comply by providing timber or paying their taxes, they erected a “liberty pole” in the town square. And then, they set out to seize British ships that entered their harbor.
A group of townsmen met to decide on their plan of action. Once agreed upon at the Rubicon, the brook they all jumped across to seal their pact, these men collectively captured the British ship “Margaretta” and hid her upriver. Joseph Getchell Jr. was among the first men who jumped on board the Margaretta in the assault. The captured British ship captain died. His blood remains in the Burnham Tavern where they took him after their assault. It was the first naval battle of the American Revolution.
The preservation of the Burnham Tavern is overseen by the Hannah Weston chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), as a reminder to future generations never to yield to tyranny. The DAR chapter in Downeast Maine is named for Hannah Weston, a Revolutionary War heroine who carried ammunition through sixteen miles of wilderness for the men who were engaged in the first naval battle of the war which took place in Machias Bay. I am proud to be a member of the Hannah Weston chapter of the DAR, as was my mother, Louise Johnson Rier. It is the second largest DAR chapter in the state of Maine, second only to Portland.
My great grandmother, Nellie Getchell Means, was the great grandchild of Joseph Getchell Jr., Revolutionary War soldier at the age of 18. His father, Joseph Getchell Sr., was the first Getchell settler at Machias in 1769. My great grandmother’s father was Marshfield Getchell, son of John who was the son of on Joseph Jr. Thus, Joseph Getchell Jr. is my 4X great grandfather.
Reference: History of Machias, Maine by George W. Drisko. Press of the Republican. 1904.
The Burnham Tavern, beautifully preserved, as it is today.
This summer, the Tavern will be open from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday, beginning on Tuesday, July 5th and continuing through Friday, September 2nd. In addition, it may be possible to arrange visits at other times if a docent is available. Please call 207-733-4577 or e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org> for further information.
July 23, 1963. The trio publicized the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Machias that year. Men in town grew beards, sported top hats, and dubbed their group “Brothers of the Bush.” Dad and Phil failed to achieve the 10-inch length of Mr. Goat’s whiskers, the original member of the group.
It was the only time my Dad had a beard. I recall it well because he had dark brown hair but his beard was red, revealing his Irish ancestry.
Farris Dry Goods Store in the background. I recognize Vi Payson immediately, standing front left with the parasol.
Located at the corner of Dublin Street and Kennebec Road, Machias, Maine. Pictured from left to right are: Gene Rier, George “Robbie” Robinson, Jim Rier, Charlie Cunningham, Emily Robinson, Lucy Dunn, Connie Young, Spencer Dill, Burt Bagley, Shorty Ackley, Warren Foss, Phillip Blyther, Fabian Thistlewood, Gordon Ackley, Phil Watts, Clyde Ackley, Warren Wood, ______ Foss.
The cars: 1963 Buick Riviera and 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix. Gene and Gordon are in top hats because it was Machias’ 200th Anniversary Celebration, 1863-1963. Lettering on the wrecker and parts van was done by my Uncle Robert (Bob) Johnson. (As told by my brother Jim Rier.)
If any viewers know the first name of the last man to the right in the photo, please let me know.
When I was growing up in Machias, Maine at the house at 24 Broadway, the soap box derby, sponsored by the Bangor Daily News, was a big deal. Hundreds of boys spent weeks building their derby cars, designed to enhance downhill speed. There were discussions among boys and fathers in neighborhoods and yards about lowering wind resistance, the best wheels.
Then one fine June day the entire Eastern Maine community traveled in throngs to the races held at “Derby Downs” in Brewer, crowds lined the road and cheered on family and friends to be first over the finish line.
A view of the race in 1966 featured classmates of mine.
In 1958, I stood with my family and other, rather overly excited, Machias residents close to the finish line. We watched as three soap box cars sped down the hill in the championship finals. Standing in a huddled crowd, fighting to maintain my view (I was only six and not very tall), I watched Jim cross the finish line first. Everyone around me was cheering – or a more apt description is – screaming. Jim went on to win the Class A grand championship.
The prizes were way too cool. A bicycle. Best of all, at least for me, a 14-foot aluminum boat that was a fixture of summers on Indian Lake at the family camp. That boat was our joyous transport for decades, not just for boat rides. There was endless fishing, exploration of coves and wetlands, and water sports. I learned to water ski behind that boat when I was eight. There were no other girls on the lake, just my brothers, and the boy next door, another brother David. David and I used to take boat rides down by the lake outlet beach and have contests to see who could catch the most blood suckers on our legs in the shallow water.
I diverge from the soap box derby story. It is enough to say that that prize boat led to years of good times, good memories.
The other prize for Jim was an all expenses paid trip for him and his family to Akron, Ohio for the National Soap Box Derby competition. It was my first experience on an airplane. I’m the little girl in the front of the photo with a big smile clutching a carry-on bag, in vogue for the time.
Two reporters from the Bangor Daily News accompanied us to Ohio, pictured at the top of the photo. The man on the right, reporter Raymond Goode, sat beside me on the plane. I remember him vividly. He chatted with me during the trip, easing any fear of airplanes I might have had otherwise. He drew sketches for me and taught me how to draw a cat that I imitated for years.
Jim won his first heat in Akron but lost afterwards. It didn’t matter. It had been a most excellent adventure!
Some photos and descriptions in this post are thanks to the Paper Talks magazine.
My Dad, James “Gene” Rier, left the US Army Corp in 1945 after serving at West Point as a pilot instructor. He and my mother, Louise, moved to Calais for a little over a year where Dad worked at the mill to save money to start a business. In the garage of their rented home, Dad cut the logs for a cabin. The next year, he built that cabin on Dublin Street in Machias where his family lived while he constructed the building for his business and a second floor apartment for their growing family.
By 1949, they had two sons: my brother “Jimmy” age four and David, born that year. Dad managed to secure the franchise to sell Buick automobiles, operate a dealership, repair shop and sell parts. Soon, he added Pontiac to his line of cars and the business became “Rier Buick Pontiac.” Later he added Chevrolet and GMC to his inventory at “Rier Motors,” located at the corner of Dublin Street and the Roque Bluffs road.
My mother kept the photos of that time period in an album. She cut titles out of magazines to tell the story of their humble beginnings.