HALLOWELL — This year’s Old Hallowell Day was marked by a visit from old Hallowell.

The annual celebration, held Saturday, attracted visitors from the north, Old Fort Western in Augusta, who staged an encampment in a field off Gows Lane. Going to Hallowell, said Linda Novak, director of Old Fort Western, is, in a sense, a return to the fort’s roots. When it was built in 1754, Old Fort Western was a part of Hallowell. Augusta wasn’t incorporated until 1797.

“We’re showing our support for Hallowell because Fort Western was in Hallowell for the first 40 years,” said Novak, who, like nearly a dozen other re-enactors, was dressed in period clothing to represent Capt. James Howard’s company. “All these towns around were part of Hallowell.”

The city once again became the hub of the region Saturday as countless people descended on the downtown to eat, play games and shop. Festivities kicked off Friday with a lobster roll supper and a cribbage tournament and resumed at 7 a.m. Saturday with yoga by the river and the beginning of a daylong yard sale. A few hundred people laced up their sneakers for the 5-kilometer run, which Jenna Karajewski won with a time of 18:15. The parade, considered by many to be the highlight of the day, started a short time later.

Events took place throughout the city, but much of the energy was focused on Water Street. The waterfront park at the north end of the street’s downtown section offered food, games and bands. The southern terminus was marked by Capt. Howard’s encampment just across from the boat launch. The group rowed down from Fort Western on Saturday morning in their bateau, a flat-bottomed boat that looks a lot like a canoe from above. The vessels were vital for moving goods up and down the Kennebec River in Old Fort Western’s heyday.

Howard’s company was stationed at the fort in the 1750s and ’60s to guard the river during the French and Indian War between the British and French colonies.

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“Many contemporary historians consider that the first world war,” said Peter Morrissey, who took the part of Capt. James Howard. “Over 900,000 people died.”

The re-enactors of Howard’s company form a living history re-enactment unit based at and in association with Fort Western. The company is dedicated to preserving and promoting Old Fort Western by participating in activities both at the fort and off the site. Howard was captain at Fort Western from 1754 to 1767. Some of the company re-enactors are on the staff at Old Fort Western, but many volunteers take part as well. Morrissey said the group tries to interpret and show life as it would have been under Howard.

“The best we can as the law allows us,” he said with a chuckle.

Events such as Old Hallowell Day offer a chance to look back at the region’s history, said Stephanie Thibodeau, who played the part of one of the women who eventually would go to the fort. And when it comes to the Kennebec River, he said, that history is rich and significant.

“It brings out the old soul in people,” she said. “It’s not like watching a video. It’s using all your senses.”

The group members recite dates and history with the familiarity and energy of a mother sharing memories of her family, but it can be a challenge to get people close enough to share, Morrissey said. Lots of people turn out to see what’s going on, but many are hesitant to come close.

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“People will stand off at a distance,” Morrissey said. “I don’t know if they think we’re weird.”

The original Fort Western was built in the same year as Fort Halifax in Winslow. The location of Fort Halifax was strategic, Novak said. At the time, it was seen as a likely converging point for parties involved in the war, but it was too far up river for ships to sail there. Fort Western was built as part of a supply line for Fort Halifax. Ships dropped supplies at Fort Western, and men in bateaux would make the daylong row upriver to Winslow to take supplies to Fort Halifax.

“The primary job of Fort Western was to supply Fort Halifax,” Morrissey said.

About 24 men were stationed at the fort the first year of its existence, Morrissey said. The men lacked adequate supplies, and it happened to be during what is now known as the mini-ice age.

“Some of the soldiers suffered,” Morrissey said. “Most of them were Scotch-Irish. They were tough.”

Creating camp at Old Hallowell Day is a chance to expose Old Fort Western to people who might never visit the fort, Novak said. People come from across Maine and even the world to see the fort, but many people born and raised in Augusta have never stopped by, she said.

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“It’s surprising how many people who come from Augusta … have never been and don’t know the history,” Novak said. “It’s 400 years of history.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4


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