Aug. 23, 1724: During a Colonial-era conflict known as Governor Dummer’s War, about 200 New Englanders under the command of Capt. Johnson Harmon and Capt. Jeremiah Moulton attack the Abenaki village at Norridgewock, killing dozens of Wabanaki Indians as well as the Rev. Sébastien Râle, leader of the Catholic mission there.

The attackers are trying to open the Kennebec River valley to English settlement, while also curtailing Catholic missionaries’ expansion of French influence in the region. Boston authorities pay the soldiers a reward for the scalps they turn in, including that of Râle.

A granite monument commemorating Râle, whose name is spelled several other ways in later records and on a local road sign, is erected in 1833 in the town of Madison.

Aug. 23, 1780: The only military execution in Maine history occurs at Limestone Hill in Thomaston.

After a Tory raiding party killed an American Revolution supporter and wounded his wife in what is now Waldoboro, Revolutionary War Brig. Gen. Peleg Wadsworth issued a proclamation that the next person caught aiding British forces or British supporters would be executed. Jeremiah Braun of the Damariscotta area was tried for guiding a British party into the backcountry.

Braun was sentenced to death by hanging. His execution shocks local patriots as much as it does the Tories, but Wadsworth, though agitated about it, expresses no regret. “The Act of severity tho’ painfull in the highest degree proved salutary,” he writes decades later, in 1828, “for there was not found another instance of this kind.”

His assertion is false, however. Shortly after Braun’s death, Wadsworth sentences another man, Nathaniel Palmer, to death for helping the enemy. Palmer evades Braun’s fate by escaping from Wadsworth’s barn while awaiting execution.

Wadsworth is the maternal grandfather of famed poet and Portland native Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

In 1824, Limestone Hill later becomes the longtime site of the Maine State Prison, where some civilian executions are carried out in the 19th century.

Theodore Roosevelt, right, is shown during a visit to Maine around 1879 with his hunting companions, William Sewall, left, and Wilmot Dow. Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands

Aug. 23, 1879: Theodore Roosevelt, who was approaching his 21st birthday, arrives in northern Maine for a month of camping, hiking and canoeing, during which, long before the development of marked trails, he climbs Mount Katahdin carrying a 45-pound pack. He reaches the peak with friends Wilmot Dow and Bill Sewall.

Afterward, the future president and Dow embark on a 50-mile, six-day expedition up the Aroostook River in a dugout canoe, hacking their way through beaver dams and log drifts and spending up to 10 hours a day in icy water up to their hips.

“But, oh how we slept at night,” Roosevelt wrote in a Sept. 14 letter to his sister Anna “Bamie” Roosevelt, his lifelong confidante. “And how we enjoyed the salt pork, hardtack and tea which constituted our food!”

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: [email protected]


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