Oct. 23, 1651: The Massachusetts Bay colony’s General Court sends a letter to authorities in southwestern Maine, the part of Maine that retains the name after a division of that colony into four parts, saying that the area is under Massachusetts’ jurisdiction. No response is given.

In November 1652, four Massachusetts commissioners arrive in Kittery with a marshal and armed deputies. Kittery submits that day to Massachusetts’ authority, and York does so six days later. In 1653, Wells also falls into the Massachusetts orbit. Thus begins Boston’s domination of Maine, which will last until Maine achieves statehood in 1820.

Oct. 23, 1864: A seven-hour fire consumes about 50 businesses in downtown Eastport, then a community of nearly 4,000 people, or more than three times what it has today.

Eastport Harbor. Photo taken after 1850. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library

The fire breaks out on Union Wharf and wipes out the entire business district. The loss is estimated at $500,000, or $8.3 million in 2019 value.

Its wreckage includes all the homes on Boynton Hill and the schooner Camilia, with nearly all its cargo.

Because the blaze occurs during the Civil War and so close to the U.S. border with Canada, authorities speculate that Confederate sympathizers might have started the fire, just as they had launched a raid from Canada into St. Albans, Vermont, four days earlier.

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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