Just Maine Folks

Over two weeks have passed since my last biographical sketch of Lisbon writer Eloise Jordan.  In this last post, it was June, 1924 and Jordan had just graduated from Lisbon High School.  I’m a person who enjoys things in chronological order, but I’ve found that digging through time is not always so orderly.

This week, while browsing through the Maine books at the Lisbon Community Library, I found a ragged volume called Historic Churches and Homes of Maine, published in 1937.   Skimming through the essays, I noted a number of the houses and churches were ones about which Eloise Jordan would later write in her Lewiston Evening Journal Magazine features.

In discussing Jordan’s volume of work with a member of the Lisbon Historical Society, we both wondered “where did she source her material?”  The journalistic style of her era, apparently, did not require quotes and sourcing of documents.  So as I fanned through the pages of Historic Churches and Homes of Maine, I thought I might be able to find some of Jordan’s sources.  I even considered it might be a “gotcha” moment and I would uncover whole paragraphs of Jordan’s material “lifted” from the works of other writers.

Later that evening, I finished reading about Damariscotta’s Cottrill House and turned the page to find “A Spire Against the Sky” by Eloise Jordan.  It was a short essay about the Webster Corner Church, once located on the outskirts of Lisbon Falls.

Remember, it’s 1937.  Jordan graduated from Simmons in 1932 and her mother died in 1934.  Wasn’t she busy working for her father?  In an April 29, 1950 feature about her father for the Lewiston Evening Journal Magazine, she wrote “I traveled with him constantly, driving the car when he was on crutches with an injured foot, keeping accounts, and looking after his business when he was ill.”  When did she find time to write?

The Maine Writers Research Club had published a number of other books, including:

  • Maine, My State, published in 1919,
  • Just Maine Folks, published in 1924,
  • Maine: Past and Present, published in 1929, and
  • Maine Indians in History and Legends, published in 1952.

The introduction to Maine, My State notes the book was “composed of a group of Maine women, concerned in Maine historical matters…”

An essay titled “My Debt to Maine,” by “Colonel Theodore Roosevelt” contributed to the cachet of Maine, My State, noting he “responded to a request for a contribution to this book, by sending the story, and the manuscript, written in pencil by his own hand, is a priceless treasure.”

The introduction further explains “Great care has been taken to make this school reader accurate historically, as well as attractive in its semi-story form.  It has been the careful work of two years and a labor of love, with no thought of gain.”

Maine, My State also included a poem contributed by John Kendrick Bangs titled “The Pine.”

Many of the notable women writers who contributed to Maine, My State would also contribute to Historic Churches and Homes of Maine, including Ella Matthews Bangs, Mabel S. Merrill, and Mary Dunbar Devereux.

An article in the December 18, 1924 Lewiston Evening Journal praised the publication of the club’s book Just Maine Folks, considered a companion to Maine, My State.

“All lovers of Maine will find it good reading and to those who have gone forth from the State it will come as a doubly welcome gift, reminding them of the talent and genius Maine has contributed to the world and strengthening their pride in their native state.”

Is it time for the coffee pause?

What kind of club was the Maine Writers Research Club?  When was it founded?  What was its purpose?  It had the prestige to attract contributions from well-known writers and celebrities from beyond the borders of the state.  Was Ella Matthews Bangs related to John Kendrick Bangs?

Was Eloise Jordan a member of this club?  Who wrote her letters of introduction?

So many questions and so much research remains.

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