8,500 BC The fist Native Americans arrive at Thomas Hill. Paleo Indians and their successors, the Abenaki, summer at the mouth of the Slaigo Brook, fishing and farming the meadows created by abandoned beaver dams. - (Interesting to note that beavers continue to build dams today in the same location ! )
1736 – Samuel Waldo receives title to 10,000 acres from the King of England, and immediately creates 20 lots. A family named Little leases lot number 15, the present location of Thomas Hill Farm, and likely started clearing the land.
1760s – A tavern is built on the summit of Thomas Hill. The current farmhouse is likely built on the former site of the tavern.
Little would anyone today ever suspect that Sampson Cove in Waldoboro, Maine and the Webcam image you're looking at, was once a major East Coast shipping port !
Origin of the Customs House *
One of the first tasks of the new Congress was to ease the tax on American vessels while increasing the tax or duty to foreign shipping so as to protect US manufacturing.
(Today, exactly the opposite policy has been adopted (with arguably disastrous consequences) - US Manufacturer's are penalized while foreign manufacturers' are rewarded)....
American vessels now paid a tax of 6 cents/ton while foreign vessels were required to pay a duty of 50 cents/ton. To collect the funds, the Congress set up a system of customs districts. Sampson Cove in Waldoboro was the site of Waldoboro's first Customs House.
When a ship - foreign or domestic - entered Maine waters heading for a port to unload its cargo or to pick up Maine cargo destined for New York, the captain would sail either to the official port of entry and register there, or if that were inconvenient often due to inclement weather or sea conditions, he could sail to a nearby harbor such as Waldoboro..... Waldoboro as it turns out, was a popular port - due in part to its' location being well protected by the numerous islands in Muscongus Bay, as well has having been endowed with a wealth of forest products in demand by a rapidly growing new country.
The Midcoast area & Monhegan Island at the southern entrance of Muscongas Bay, was usually the first American landfall for European vessels destined for America. So popular was this shipping lane, that the very first lighthouse commissioned in the United States was Franklin Light (still in operation today & named after Benjamin Franklin who personally commissioned it in 1805) which lies at the approach to the southern entrance of the Medomak River and 12 miles to our south.
first Customs House site was Sampson Cove which comprised the
area of Slaigo Brook and Thomas Hill,
(we are located near the top of Thomas
Hill overlooking Sampson Cove and the Slaigo Brook which abuts
the northern end of our property boundary)
where a settlement had been started on
Sampson's Cove. Here there were lumber yards, a gristmill, tannery,
storehouses, homes, and a ferry service for the bay. The first
Customs House was built on the "East side of Slaigo Brook and
at the foot of Thomas Hill" who's site is "guessed-imated"
as being the location of where the picture of where the Slaigo
Brook was taken above and abuts our property line.
Ships regularly arrived to take away wood, hides, grain, & fish
destined for Boston. (The view
at the very bottom of the WebCam is where it all happened !
By 1799, the Customs House site was transferred to Waldoboro Village with its deeper water. The new Custom's House was heavily built since the ship captains usually paid the duty in Gold Bullion ! Shipbuilding and commerce flourished in Waldoboro's customs district which extended from Bristol to Thomaston. By 1850 tonnage produced in this area exceeded all other districts excepting Bath's.
Though once a major East Coast shipping port, Waldoboro was mostly famously known as a major ship building center, with over 14 major shipyards that came and went over the years. From the late 1700's to the early 1900's, over 600 large commercial sailing vessels were constructed in town. There were undoubtedly more, however a combination of poor record keeping and lost files makes the exact count unknown. Thus the actual number of vessels built is probably significantly more. From the records that survive however, the confirmed vessels totaled: **
300 Three Masted Schooners
76 Fully Rigged Ships
Waldoboro was most famous, for being the first port to construct a 5 Masted Schooner - The "Governor Ames" - 1764 tons - launched December 1, 1888. Constructed by the Storer Shipyard, the vessel was 265 ft in length overall - 49.6 ft beam and fully loaded with 3000 tons of coal, would draw 20 ft of water.
Hundreds of people came from near & far to witness the Saturday morning launching, and at 8am, the huge vessel slipped gracefully down the ways into it's natural element...
Today, the former Storer Shipyard is now Storer Lumber - still owned and operated by the family descendents. Some of the original buildings survive to this day ! For those aware of the history, a trip to Storer Lumber to see the remaining structures, is a mini journey back in time.
The WebCam is aimed at where the Slaigo Brook (which abuts the back pasture here) empties into the head of Sampson Cove. The faint remnants of the old piers where ships from Europe would unload their goods destined for Boston or pick up additional cargo bound for New York, are still visible today at a low spring tide. No trace of the old gristmill, tannery Customs House or business center still remains, though the spillway for the gristmill is thought to be the foundation for the bridge where Rt 220 crosses over the Slaigo Brook. Interesting to note that some 215 years ago, the webcam image you're viewing today, would have been filled with tall sailing vessels having arrived from Europe as well as a multitude of coastal schooners. Several ships would commonly be seen at anchor, waiting for dock space to open up... A bustling community of warehouses, piers & a tannery would be evident at the bottom of the picture. Few folks would ever suspect that the current Webcam view was once a major East Coast shipping port !
Today, all that is gone..... Sampson Cove has long since reverted back to nature.... with Osprey, gulls, Guillemots (an ocean duck), Terns, Herons and an occasional Eagle, now making it their home.
The innermost parts of the cove today, are a prime clamming flat exposed at low tide. Once the ice is out, it's never long before the "clammers" can be seen on the webcam with lobster boats traversing the cove. Most "clammers" launch their skiffs at Dutch Neck Cove on the far shore, where there are usually some lobster boats moored during the summer months.
Sampson Cove is also on the East coast migratory flyway of the Canadian Geese. Though called Canadian Geese by many, they have now been renamed "Canada Geese" by the international community, so as to remain politically correct & not imply that Canada somehow owns them. Although some winter in Southern Canada, the majority migrate to the southern states or Mexico. Since Canadian winters are long & cold, most of their lives are spent outside Canada..... I suppose it could be successfully argued they should have been called "Mexican Geese" ! (that's probably coming next...) Anyways, come late August, the first of many great "V" formations of "Geese" heading south become commonplace.
References - Credits - Recommended Reading - Places to visit
* Parts of the local history were excepted from the Lincoln County News www.mainelincolncountynews.com
** To learn more of Waldoboro's Shipbuilding days, I recommend reading "Merchant of the Medomak" - Stories from Waldoboro's Golden Years by Mark W. Biscoe. The 8 ½x11 soft cover book totals 322 pages with 100's of photo's, maps and stories of shipbuilding life, spanning the years 1860 to 1910. It makes for fascinating reading - even if you're not from Waldoboro ! The book is available from the Waldoboro Historical Society, Route 220 South PO Box 110, Waldoboro, ME 04572, The Waldoboro Town Offices, as well as the Maine Maritime Museum Bookstore in Bath Maine. It would be a valuable historical addition to any library.
The Waldoboro Historic Society operates the local museum, that in addition to two other buildings, also has a one room schoolhouse complete with many original documents. The museum is a wealth of period photographs, clothing fashions from the 1800's, pump organs, tools and almost anything else you could imagine ! Plan on spending several hours - there's a LOT to see ! ...... The museum is located several hundred yards on the right side of Rt 220 South - just off route 1 and a "stone's throw" from the world famous "Moody's Diner" ! - - - Definitely worth a visit !
Though not related to the shipbuilding in Waldoboro, "The Tancook Schooners" by Wayne M. O'Leary, is another fascinating book on the shipbuilding that took place on Tancook Island in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Perhaps a biased opinion, since many of the builders in Mahone Bay Nova Scotia are my relatives, but think you'll find The Tancook Schooners another fascinating book documenting the life styles & history of wooden shipbuilding in the Maritimes.