Bath, Maine, USA - 1889 - Bath
NEW ENGLAND had many a romance in its younger years, which amid the mystic glamour of a primeval period, would easily have developed into legend or myth or even epic song. But in no department of her life, perhaps, has there been more of romance and poetry than in the strugglings and voyagings of her sturdy sons upon the sea, of the old seaport towns of the New England coast; and few attained higher prestige or were more broadly typical of the restless, enterprising spirit which accomplished so many victories on the seas of the world, than Bath, Maine, and though the ardor of that spirit has been cooled, or turned into other directions by numerous reverses, there still lingers in the old city many memorials of the sea-faring days of the past. The old town sprung indeed from one of the most prominent shipping towns of New England, being settled in 1718 by Thomas Elkins from Salem, Mass., who came here with several other stout-hearted pioneers and founded the settlement in that year. During all the following years of that troubled century the village grew steadily, though slowly, and though the Indians gave considerable and serious annoyance, it does not seem, as many others round about were, to have ever been abandoned. The men who had come here had the purest and strongest blood in their veins of that race who had dared defy a king and plant a settlement in an unknown wilderness, and they were not going to be thwarted in their plans by any number of “blood-thirsty Red-men or wiley Frenchmen.” But for many years the struggle for existence, not to say progress, looked doubtful, and in 1750, at the turning point of the century, there were only about two dozen houses here, and the Indians were still menacing them with destruction in fire and blood. But the following years witnessed a gradual adjusting of the disturbing influences, and the little town began to grow with more rapidity. In 1753 it was estimated that there were forty families settled here, and these formed the nucleu8 for a settlement which in a few decades had become one of the most important on the Northern part of the coast of New England. In 1760 the settlement had advanced to the dignity of erecting a meeting-house and seven years later the first settled minister, the Rev. Francis Winter was called, and began a long and faithful work here. For a time in the middle part of the century, Bath might have been taken as an example of the famous Malthusian law of the geometrical progression of population, for in 1764 it had increased to over 400 and continued to do so up to the time of the Revolution.
The shipping interests of Bath are well worthy of careful study. As they, developed the town saw some of its palmiest days, and the presence of its ships on all the waters of the world gave it an extended fame which has not died out at the present day, though the character of its industry has partially changed. It is a curious and noteworthy fact that the first vessel known to have been built in this country, was built at this spot. In 1607-8, the Popham Colony came here to build a vessel which, when completed, was called the “Virginia” after the Virgin Queen, and so far as known was the first constructed on the soil of the United States. The abundance of good timber and the excellent facilities for launching suggested to these early residents of the region the natural fitness which in after years developed so largely.
The aggregate number of ships built from 1781 to 1880 is 3,022, of tonnage 1,078,159, and the total valuation is $54,375,809. The shipping reached its apogee in the decade just before the last war and how disastrously that struggle affected it. Since that time, however, it has shown signs of rejuvenated life and has grown with comparative steadiness up to the present writing.
In the War of the Rebellion, Bath maintained its traditional laurels with increasing honor. It had received a city charter in 1847, and in 1854, upon the formation of the County of Sagadahoc, had been made the county seat. By virtue of its great shipping interests chiefly, it had become at the beginning of the War one or the largest and most influential cities of Maine, and nobly sustained its position from the start. It contributed liberally both of men and money and from it went forth some of the most talented and able officers in the State Regiments. Its volunteers were chiefly enlisted in the 3d, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 13th, 17th, 19th, 25th and 30th Maine Regiments, though it was represented in almost every one from the State. But the “pet Regiment” at Bath was the 19th, which was organized here, almost entirely composed of Bath men, and commanded by one of Bath’s must prominent and honored citizens, Col. F. D. Sewall. This regiment served with distinguished honors at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, the Wilderness Campaign and around Richmond in 1864 and ‘65. The honor list of Bath was very large and she was called also to mourn the loss of many of her noblest sons whose memory she has always tenderly cherished and fittingly perpetuated. Though a sufferer in her business interests from the great conflict, she never bated a jot of full patriotism and service and has since turned much of her enterprising spirit into other channels from those in which it ran before the War.
The city of Bath socially is one of the most famed in the State. The people are celebrated for their gentility and hospitality. The winter social seasons, unlike many parts of the Garden State which flourish only in summer, has a metropolitan atmosphere of social enlivenment and activity. The young people of the city have the wide-spread fame of being the leaders in the social world of Maine, and the season here has innumerable features of enjoyment and improvement which only those who have passed one here can at all appreciate or expect. Besides its own numerous shipping, Bath is connected with Boston and Portland by steamer and the Maine Central Railroad.
Leading Business Men of LEWISTON, AUGUSTA and VICINITY BOSTON MERCANTILE PUBLISHING COMPANY 1889
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