Living in History

On Sunday, December 3, the Ruggles House Society hosted their annual Christmas Tea.  According to Peter Winham, a member of the Ruggles House Society Board of Directors, over 100 visitors attended the event.

Winham and his wife Kathy own Teas of Cherryfield and they provided a variety of restorative beverages for the event.  In addition to their tea business, the Winhams also own The Englishman’s Bed and Breakfast located at 122 Main Street in Cherryfield, a few miles down the road from The Ruggles House.   The bed and breakfast, a two-story Federal style building known as the Archibald-Adams House, is located along the Narraguagus River and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Back in July, when I first visited Columbia Falls and decided to attend the tea, I had only an inkling of the area’s historic credentials.  It was a whimsical idea, taking a car trip in December when the bad weather odds increase exponentially.  But Paul Cousins, Maine meteorologist, predicted “a sublime and unusually mild weekend” and his predictions of fair skies held firm.

I invited a friend, one with Revolutionary War roots dating back to the Battle of Machias and we sallied forth.

Fortunately, since my July visit, I had planted a seed of interest in my friend’s mind, encouraging her to begin her Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) membership.  I told her she might meet a number of DAR members at the Ruggles Tea, and we could even wander around old cemeteries looking for her ancestors.

When we first arrived in the area, we visited the Rock Maple Cemetery in Harrington.  She located the stone of her great-grandfather, George Wellington Stevens.  From a family history written by one of her great aunts, I learned Stevens was a “sturdy heavyset man and he did hard work but was never in a hurry.”

We made it our mantra to not be in a hurry while we were in Washington County.  It was a pleasant respite and in fact, one local woman told us we could slow time to the extent that we could “go back in time” if we visited Jonesport and Beals.

Of course, the allure of reversing time is always of interest to women and so we did visit the suggested idyllic area.

The highlight of the trip came when my friend’s 79-year-old cousin Carole Ann, a DAR since the age of 17, gave us a private tour of the Burnham Tavern in Machias.  The building is significant because it was a meeting place for the local militia prior to the 1775 Battle of Machias.  The Hannah Weston Chapter of the DAR operates the Burnham Tavern today and it’s an interesting repository of information.

After our tour, we took our time heading home and even stopped at the iconic Helen’s Restaurant in Machias for a cup of chowder and a piece of pie.  Cousin Carole Ann provided a wealth of historical information in addition to knowing almost everyone at the restaurant.

Stepping back in time courtesy of Washington County towns is a relaxing off-season practice.  If you have any reason to believe your ancestral roots may be planted in this area, I highly encourage you to visit.  And if you do, take a cue from Grampy Stevens and do not hurry.

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