Oct. 28, 1787: Kennebec Journal co-founder and editor Luther Severance is born in Montague, Massachusetts. Severance, who later serves as a two-term Whig Party member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine’s 3rd Congressional District, also becomes U.S. commissioner – equivalent to ambassador – to the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1850 to 1853.

James G. Blaine, later a U.S. House speaker and presidential candidate, is the newspaper’s co-owner and editor at the time of Severance’s death in 1855. He writes a memorial tribute to Severance and summarizes the stay in Hawaii, then known as the Sandwich Islands.

“It was during Mr. Severance’s Commissionership that the subject of annexation of the Sandwich Islands to this government was first prominently agitated,” Blaine writes. “In response to a communication from the State Department at Washington, Mr. Severance prepared a paper on this subject, which was extraordinarily minute and accurate in regard to the resources and capabilities of the islands in a commercial point of view. …”

The United States annexes Hawaii in 1898, 33 years after Severance’s death and five years after Blaine’s.

Before going to Congress, Severance also holds seats in the Maine House of Representatives and the Maine Senate.

His gravesite is in Augusta’s Forest Grove Cemetery, literally a stone’s throw from that of Russell Eaton, with whom Severance founded the Kennebec Journal in 1825. Several other former owners of the newspaper are buried in the same cemetery – or, in the case of Blaine, at a park next to it.

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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