August 12: Replies Made By History1Day Members
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Did you happen to catch the PBS reality series 'Colonial House?' Although choreographed to an extent, it was surprisingly entertaining and educational. It was the first show of its type actually worth watching.
Yes, I watched every episode raptly. The series was shot in Maine but the terrain is very much like coastal Massachusetts, where the original settlers landed. Except for the absence of clam shacks and other tourist attractions, there isn't much difference at all.
Actually, two earlier PBS series in the same genre were just as interesting. The first was the British-made "1900 House," which transplanted a 20th Century family to the Victorian era. I forget the title of the second, maybe "Frontier House," which had the same premise and transported three 21st Century families back to the American West in the 19th Century. Both were the next best thing to a time machine.
BTW the original Plymouth colony has been recreated as "Plimouth Plantation" in Massachusetts, complete with actor/guides in period costumes. They've taken great pains to make it as historically accurate as possible (we take history seriously in these parts since we manufactured so much of it); they have even included a Wampanoag village with real Wampanoags playing the Indians. Incidentally, I have never heard a Wampanoag call himself/herself "Native American." They either refer to themselves by their tribal name or call themselves "Indians."
The Wampanoags spearheaded King Phillip's (Matomet's) War but they were joined by the Narragansetts of Rhode Island and Mikmuks of Connecticut. The Mohawks of western Massachusetts stayed out of it because they had lucrative trade relations with the settlers, who were still far enough away from their lands as to be no threat. The "theatre of war" was located between present day Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, about 50 miles apart as the crow flies. All told, 13 colonial villages were destroyed, many more were attacked, and about 2600 settlers were killed. But at least three Indians died for every settler killed. Disease and starvation also played a part in Matomet's defeat. He was already on the run when he was tracked down and killed, betrayed by a disaffected follower.
I hope not to sound too regionalistic (is that the right term?) but coastal Maine was actually being settled at the same time if not before coastal Massachusetts. An awful lot of heifer dust has been raised over the "Pilgrims," but few people stop to wonder how Squanto came to be speaking English when he walked into Plymouth Plantation in the spring of 1621. He had learned the lingo from the folks at an already established English colonial town at Pemaquid on the coast of Maine. It was largely because of the folks at Pemaquid (who sent food down) that the Plymouth people even survived their first winter. More and more, archeology is turning up evidence of even older fishing communities on the coast of Maine - settlements that may have been permanent right through the French and Indian. Plymouth, of course, was not unimportant (I, as well as a skinny zillion other Americans, an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower), but that settlement's reputation was raised above its real significance in the American consciousness because of its geographical and social connections to the eventual centers of power.
Point taken, but until 1819, Maine was still part of Massachusetts. Maine was admitted to the Union in 1820 as part of the Missouri Compromise, though Mainers voted in American elections long before statehood because they were Massachusetts citizens.
Your point taken. Of course, you are right. My fourth book "Peter Loon" deals with some of these issues. I was thinking of the geographic map, however, rather than the political one. I guess what had pricked my ears was the statement "The series was shot in Maine but the terrain is very much like coastal Massachusetts, where the original settlers landed." This seemed to indicate one definite bit of geography over another.
Even in the days when it was the "District of Maine" this place (Maine) felt very separate from Massachusetts on more points than geography. Massachusetts may have claimed Maine but didn't have anymore effect on Maine's growth and character than did the other colonies from which settlers arrived or (even more to the point) Scotland, Ireland, England, and France from which shores many people arrived directly. Politically, Maine has always been a very different (and sometimes confounding) entity. Even when part of the Commonwealth, for instance, Maine was embracing Jeffersonian creeds long before Massachusetts.
The reason I used the term "regionalistic" (as in "I hoped I didn't sound too much so") is that Maine folk who know their history can prickle a bit when the connection to Massachusetts seems to be overemphasized or when Plymouth's pre-eminence in our (written) history is perpetuated. Recent cultural shifts in our state (particularly on the coast) have only added to some of this feeling, but certain types of pride almost always turn silly when they are not tempered with a good deal of self-knowledge and there's few things less attractive than a chip on the shoulder. As something of a chronicler of Maine history and character in a series of historical novels I deal with this element of the local social consciousness pretty frequently and hope I do so with perspective and (most of all) humor.