Sunday, February 28, 2010

Brass beds

After I acquired a receipt of payment for the transportation of brass beds from Bangor to Lincoln I have spent a very frustrating few months trying to piece together the story of the Steamboat W.N.Ray and the history of the Bangor, OldTown and Milford Railroad Co.
I imagined the story of a bed, probably manufactured in New York or Europe, travelling via ship to the Port of Bangor. From there it was carefully loaded on one of the first railroads in the United States to make the short trip to OldTown. There it was transferred to the steamboat and off to Lincoln it goes. From what I have found a brass bed was a status symbol in the 19th century and even iron beds were considered beyond the reach of most people in Maine.
While I am not a huge Wikipedia fan and completely understand that the “facts” there may be far from the truth, my story which I am sharing here will cite an article about Charles P. Rogers who started importing beds into this country starting around 1855. So without any real facts let call it a Rogers brass bed.
If you look at the map posted on this blog it shows the railroad crossing (44°56'28.79"N, 68°38'58.42") the Penobscot River to end at a depot in Milford. I have been unable to find exactly where the steamboats loaded cargo and people. If you look at the map and try to imagine, it may be easy to guess until you recall that there was not a dam in place as there is now so exactly how fast was the current anywhere in this location? That would have been one wild ride if the boat broke loose and headed downstream!
I did find an advertisement in the Bangor Whig & Courier stating that the steamboat departed for Five Islands at 7 o’clock A. M. after connecting from the train from Bangor.
If you look at a map you will not see a place name Five Islands, but Thoreau wrote that the location was just south of Mattawamkeag. So I will guess it would be around here: 45°21'41.94"N, 68°32'43.88"W.
In 1858 the Whig also stated the captain of the Steamboat W.N.Ray was Joseph L Smith. An article describes a tour to Aroostook which the steamboat trip was part of the itinerary. Old Joseph L. lived here (44°56'16.50"N, 68°39'2.79"W) and has a pretty interesting history which I will leave to you to explore.
As I live in Las Vegas now, my research will continue on my annual unplanned trip to Maine, only so much can be done via the internet. I would like to take a boat to retrace the path of the steamboats, but frankly, the Penobscot still scares me. My days as I grew up staring at the cold, sometimes dirty, waters, I still can feel the unnatural pull even 2500 miles away.