The UMPI Library will be full of Aroostook County history, County-themed refreshments, and even a little singing when the Friends of the Aroostook County Historical Center and the University of Maine at Presque Isle mark the 175th anniversary of Aroostook County's incorporation on Sunday, March 16, 2014, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. The community is invited and encouraged to attend this free event, sponsored by KeyBank and the County of Aroostook.
The celebration will include historical exhibits, a presentation by Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth, and the opening of a Time Capsule Potato Barrel created by the Friends group during The County's 150th anniversary. Honorary guest U.S. Senator Susan M. Collins will lead the ceremonial opening of this special time capsule. At the event's end, the time capsule will be refilled with old and new items and then ceremonially resealed so it can be reopened on March 16, 2039 during the 200th anniversary of The County's incorporation. Aroostook County Commissioners Norman Fournier and Paul Underwood will lead the ceremonial closing of the barrel.
"The efforts of the Friends of the Aroostook County Historical Center, including the creation of the time capsule, their celebration of Aroostook County history 25 years ago, the publication of the book The County: Land of Promise—a comprehensive history of the region published during that celebration—and their support of what is now the Special Collections room in the UMPI Library are among the significant reasons we're hosting this event on March 16, 2014," UMPI President Linda Schott explained. "This is going to be a wonderful opportunity to focus on our County's rich history and we hope to see many community members, neighbors and friends attend this special event."
"The Friends of the Aroostook County Historical Center at the Library are so pleased to see this 175th anniversary event and time capsule opening happen," Anna Mcgrath, one of the founders of the Friends group, said. "To have Senator Collins open the barrel and Mr. Shettleworth speak are an unexpected pleasure, and to have historical societies involved with exhibits makes this truly a County celebration."
Mcgrath, who worked in UMPI's Library for 30 years, has been heavily involved in preserving the County's history since the 1980's. She and Jere Green, then Head Librarian, had placed all of the Library's material on Aroostook County and Maine into a separate collection and discussed the formation of a group to support new acquisitions. Mcgrath and one of her librarians, Nancy Roe, were instrumental in establishing the group and, by 1982, the Friends of the Aroostook County Historical Center was in place.
Around that time, Mcgrath received a phone call from Donning Publishing Co., which offered to publish a pictorial history of Aroostook County knowing that the area was about to celebrate its Sesquicentennial. The Friends group was able to get a loan from KeyBank to fund the book's publication (the loan was repaid as copies of the book were sold) and began collecting pictures and essays on Aroostook history. Mcgrath was named editor and the Friends undertook several fundraisers and other activities, such as the sale of commemorative metal coins, tote bags, and T-shirts, a ceremony to include a time capsule, and the Sesquicentennial Celebration itself, to mark The County's major milestone. The Sesquicentennial Committee was composed of Phil Turner, Dr. Clifford O.T. Wieden, and John Martin.
The Friends used the money raised during the Sesquicentennial to purchase equipment for the Special Collections room and the remaining monies were placed into an account to purchase more books for the Special Collections, now managed by Nancy Fletcher and Gretchen Brissette. The Friends group has been quiet for the past several years, but has come together to help present the 175th anniversary celebration. Group members Mcgrath, Roe, Martin, Fletcher, Maureen Murchison, Guy Dubay, Harold Drost, and Dennis Harris have worked on the event planning with UMPI's Community and Media Relations Office and Library Director JoAnne Wallingford.
The March 16 event will kick off with an official program, emceed by John Martin, former Maine State Speaker of the House. Guest speaker Maine State Historian Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. will deliver a short presentation on Aroostook County history. A native of Portland, Shettleworth became interested in historic preservation through the destruction of Portland's Union Station in 1961. In 1971, he was appointed by Governor Curtis to serve on the first board of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, for which he became architectural historian in 1973 and director in 1976. In 2008, Shettleworth was reappointed by Governor Baldacci to a second term as State Historian.
Following Shettleworth's presentation, Senator Collins will address the gathering. Her participation in the event is especially significant as she is a proud County native. She was born and raised in Caribou, Maine, where her family runs a fifth-generation lumber business, founded by her ancestors in 1844. First elected in 1996, Senator Collins is serving her third term in the United States Senate. She has never missed a roll-call vote during her tenure and has shown leadership in critical areas ranging from homeland security, national defense, and disaster response to education, business development and health care. She has also served as a tireless advocate for people across Maine, working to keep jobs in the state at sites like Bath Iron Works and the Defense Finance and Accounting Services Center in Limestone. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of St. Lawrence University, she is married to Thomas A. Daffron and resides in Bangor.
Following her remarks, the Senator will lead the ceremonial opening of the time capsule. At the conclusion of the ceremonial opening, event-goers will be encouraged to either stay for the rest of the barrel unpacking or to enjoy the historical displays set up throughout the main floor of the Library. Exhibits are slated to be presented by local historical societies from Island Falls to Fort Kent, Northeast Publishing Company, the Presque Isle Air Museum, County educational institutions and even a little music by members of a local fiddling group.
County-themed refreshments, from Aroostook potato skins to traditional Acadian ployes, will be available. Tours of UMPI's Special Collections room will be offered and event-goers are encouraged to add their thoughts on what life will be like in the County in 2039 to a "Predictions Jar". Local businesses have also been asked to add their predictions by completing a three-question survey, located at www.umpi.edu/survey175, by Saturday, March 15. Entries from the jar and the online survey will be added to the time capsule before it is resealed. A short poem—"Where Aroostook Begins"—will be read and there will be a chance to take part in a sing-along of a traditional Aroostook County song. After it is removed from the time capsule, event organizers also hope to show the video taken a quarter-century ago when the barrel was first sealed.
Other items from the time capsule will be on display until the repacking of the barrel begins around 2 p.m. County Commissioners will lead the ceremonial barrel closing and then Maine State Representative Robert J. Saucier will read a legislative sentiment regarding the County's 175th anniversary.
During the festivities, commemorative copies of The County: Land of Promise will be available for purchase. Only 13 books are available to sell and purchases are limited to one copy per customer. While some copies of the book have been found for sale on internet sites for as much as $800, event organizers have decided to sell the books at a historically significant price. Back in 1989, the books sold for $29.95, so they have been adjusted for inflation and will be sold for $60 each.