July 28, 1759: Britain’s construction of Fort Pownall, in what now is the town of Stockton Springs, is completed. It is named for Massachusetts Bay provincial Gov. Thomas Pownall, who oversaw construction.

The fort is intended to make the area safe for European settlement and to drive off Norridgewock and Penobscot tribes. It is later destroyed in the Revolutionary War by both American colonists and British forces to prevent it from being used.

July 28, 1911: The head-on collision of an excursion train and a regular passenger train in violent weather in the Penobscot County community of Grindstone kills nine people and injures two dozen others.

The excursion train departed from Kidders Point on Penobscot Bay, near Searsport, headed to Caribou. The passenger train left Van Buren bound for Bangor.

The crash occurs just as musicians in one train lift their instruments to serenade an injured baseball team member aboard the train.

The 1911 train wreck at Grindstone Image courtesy of Presque Isle Historical Society, VintageMaineImages.com, item #17057

Rail commissioners release an investigation report in August concluding that the southbound passenger train had the right of way, and that the northbound excursion train was at fault. It says the actions of conductor H.G. Dibblee and engineer Frank W. Garcelon aboard the excursion train “constituted a grossly reckless disregard of duty amounting to criminal carelessness, and were the sole cause of the accident.”


Garcelon died in the crash. Dibblee, who jumped to safety before the crash, admits his role in causing it. He pleads guilty a few months later to a charge of manslaughter, is sentenced to 60 days in jail and is fined $500.

July 28, 1973: Blue Hill native Mary Ellen Chase, author of more than 30 books, dies in Northampton, Massachusetts, at the age of 86.

Chase, a 1909 University of Maine graduate, is considered to be one of the most important regional literary figures of the early 20th century.

Her novels are set largely on the Maine seacoast and involve seafaring families. Her best-known works of fiction are “Mary Peters,” “Silas Crockett,” “Windswept” and “Edge of Darkness.”

Chase also wrote history, children’s books, literary criticism, biblical studies, essays and writing instruction. One of her books, “Jonathan Fisher: Maine Parson, 1768-1847,” is based partly on a diary that Fisher, a Congregational minister from Blue Hill, wrote in a code that he had devised while a student at Harvard. The diary was deciphered more than 160 years after his death.

From 1926 until her retirement in 1955, Chase taught at Smith College in Northampton.




Presented by:

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: jowen@mainetoday.com.

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