TakeMe2 Lincolnville, Maine!

The Lincolnville Blog

Who We Are

Diane O'Brien - Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Lincolnville, the small coastal town between Camden and Belfast, halfway up the Maine coast, is way off the beaten path of 21st century America. If you’ve come to Lincolnville as a visitor, you probably know we’re four hours north of Boston and nearly eight hours from New York. Of course, you can fly to Maine, but you’ll land in either Portland or Bangor and still be two or one-and-a-half hours, respectively, from my hometown. It’s a pain to get here, and honestly, that’s one of its charms. People don’t buzz up here for a day of shopping. Come to Lincolnville and there’s some intention behind the visit.

Notice I referred to my “hometown”. Lincolnville is not the place of my birth or childhood. I came to Maine from Chicago when I was 23 years old, and yes, it was a pain to get here, and intentional. But today, some 48 years after that trip, almost all my adulthood to date, I do indeed claim Lincolnville as my hometown.

So what about the rest of my fellow townsmen? An 88-year-old neighbor is living in the house she was born in, and I know, hopes to die there. Every day she uses the things her parents used, hangs her wash along the stone wall her father built, looks out over the pond where she and her sister held skating parties. She’s certainly not alone. Another old woman, fiercely independent, spent months in a Camden nursing home struggling to recover from a stroke, determined to get home. Against all advice, she did, lived there another six months, and passed away at 96.

I’m going to make a wild guess: about half of the people living here today were born and raised in Lincolnville. Well, they were born in Belfast, Camden or Rockland, where there are, or were, hospitals, although many of the elderly were born at home, and a steady number of younger people, starting in the 70s were also born at home (including my 36 year old son).

Of those who can truly call Lincolnville their hometown, a surprising number trace their ancestry back to the original settlers who arrived here in the late 18th century when Maine was still part of Massachusetts. Glance at the U.S. Census of 1790 and 1800 for Lincolnville, and you’ll see the names of several of our neighbors: Heal/Heald, Thomas, Knight, Harvey, Collamore, Mathews, Wade, French, Parkman, Dean, Marriner, Lang, Pottle, Mahoney, Calderwood, McFarland, Young, Richards, Moody, Milliken. And for every person carrying one of these names to this day, there are dozens with those and other old names in their ancestry.

What about the rest of us, those “from away”.  Well, we must make up the other half of Lincolnville’s population, right? That includes folks from Rockland or Belfast or, like my husband, Augusta. Sure they’re Mainers, even mid-coast Mainers, but believe me, there’s a distinction. People know.

Then there are those really from away, from out of state. Like me. A fairly large cohort of us arrived in the 1970s and 80s, weird enough to be mistaken for back-to-the-landers. Some were; they built their houses with their own hands, found work where they could, started a food co-op (which exists to this day as the Belfast Food Co-op, the most successful and oldest co-op in the state), traveled the county to week-end contra dances, and generally bewildered the folks who were already here. Others, like my husband and I, knew that realistically, we couldn’t “live off the land”. Well, I thought we could, but remember, he’s a Mainer. “We’ve got to have a paycheck,” he said, and he was right. The folks from those days who succeeded in making Lincolnville their home found a way to bring in a more or less steady paycheck, even as they plowed up gardens, kept chickens and heated with wood.

And we had children, kids who grew up playing in the woods, sliding on snowy hills, raking blueberries, ice fishing with their dads, riding the school bus – a very different childhood from the suburbs where many of us grew up. Today, as these offspring are becoming parents themselves, many are settling down here, just as their schoolmates with a longer pedigree in town, are doing.

Of course, as anyone over 50 knows, there’s life after kids. Is there ever! These are the years when local couples, who moved away in their younger years to find more lucrative careers, come home. They come home to the family homestead after their parents pass away, or to land long in the family and build a new place. They re-connect with old friends who stayed, and generally slide right back into the life of the community.

Summer residents, folks who’ve had a camp on one of our ponds or a place on the shore, often decide to make this their home. As one lifelong summer resident told me, “This is the one place that’s been constant in our lives; Lincolnville really is our home.” Some, who move here after their kids are grown, have visited the area for years. One Boston couple camped at Camden Hills State Park every summer while their children were growing up. Once they could see a way to retire, they found a house with a view of Penobscot Bay and never looked back.

I love meeting all these new folks; they bring vitality to our town, an eagerness to volunteer, and get involved. They’re often people who’ve been missing the feeling of community that’s so strong in many of Maine’s rural towns. I’m glad they’re here.

But I’m also glad that I came as my adult life was beginning, glad that my children were born and grew up here. Chances are we would have made more money if we’d lived somewhere else, but honestly, that’s the only thing we missed. Certainly not the traffic, the endless commercialism, the anonymity of urban/suburban life. Settling down in Lincolnville, Maine, making our lifelong home here, was the best decision my husband and I ever made.

Here's a link to my new PenBay Pilot article; a new one goes up every Monday.