Sunday, August 30, 2015

Favorite Views: Medomak

Looking down the Medomak River in my hometown from the Main Street bridge, it is hard to imagine that 200 years ago big ships were built and launched within this view.

Medomak River from Main Street
According to Jasper Stahl in his history of Waldoboro (The History of Old Broad Bay, 1956, two volumes), in 1820, Waldoboro citizens owned 21,754 tons in boats (vol. 2 p. 141), which was the second largest figure (after Portland) in the state at that time. According to the Waldoboro historical society, on a sign at the public landing, which is located just past the trees on the right and across from the building on the shore, there were 22 boat yards "from the lower falls to Dutch Neck" and "more than 600 ships of various types and sizes have been built...." What is fascinating about how big an industry this was in this small town is that the brackish water here is tidal, and the river is fairly narrow. It hard to picture it, although there are old photographs. In Stahl's words he described it this way, "Wherever from a steep or sloping hillside the rains of autumn, or the melting snows of winter or of spring ran down in little brooks to the river, and wore out a guzzle through the mud beds to the channel, there was a likely site." (vol. 2, p. 143)

Today one or two boats may be seen moored here regularly in the summer. Locals launch skiffs daily to dig clams during low tide. (My dad did just that hundreds of times. He practically lived on this river.) In early spring elver nets crisscross the falls. Storer Lumber, the building to the left, is a busy place. (The Storer name also figures prominently in town history, and two shipyards on the map at the landing are labeled as owned by Storers.) The old hulking black and gray button factory with its dark windows still looks out over the river just down from Storer's. Many of those of my grandparents' generation worked there at one time or another, including my grandparents. I have my own memories of going down river with my family in our boat to fish mackerel or go to island picnics. I will never look down this spot without thinking of my dad or without wondering what it really was like to see a great five-masted schooner come down its wooden ways and sail off to trade in large cities.

The northern view on a cloudy day

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