19th century Cumberland newspaper gets new life online

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CUMBERLAND — A small newspaper that had a brief life in the 19th century is making a comeback in the 21st century, in the form of a monthly online newsletter.

The Cumberland Globe was originally published from 1877-1880 by George Blanchard and George B. Bagley, who did business as Blanchard & Bagley Publishers. Single copies were three cents each, while annual subscriptions cost 25 cents. Contents included news from local towns and around the world, advertisements, literature, obituaries and recipes.

More than 130 years after the Globe ceased publication, Prince Memorial Library Director Thomas Bennett is reaching into the town archives for content for an online newsletter that carries the name of its print-version forbear. He is aided in the production by library circulation aide Arabella Eldredge.

The newsletter serves as a vehicle for showcasing Cumberland’s history and people, with contents culled from old photographs, documents and artifacts. Two issues in the library’s possession were eight pages.

Noting a large advertisement on the back of one of the issues has Blanchard’s name on it, Bennett suggested the paper could have started as a vehicle for his large dairy operation.

The December 2011 debut edition features the transcribed version of a two-page letter, found in the archives of the Cumberland Overseers of the Poor. The discovery was aided by a grant the library received two years ago from the Davis Family Foundation of Falmouth for the organization, inventorying, conservation and analysis of documents related to the Overseers.

The letter provides a unique window into December 1842, when the Portland writer, Joseph Smith, told Overseer Nicholas Rideout Jr. of a Cumberland widow, a Mrs. Chase, who had asked him for help. He noted that “her principal object at this time was to obtain some wood, being entirely destitute and a cold storm coming on.”

Smith said he purchased “a small load of wood” for $1 and sent it to Chase, and that he thought the Overseers “had better see to her soon in order to present a bill of cash, as she has four small children with her and is very destitute.” He added that he feared that “there would be a bill afloat” if she applied to Portland for help.

The Overseers, which included members of the Board of Selectmen, had to take care of the town’s poor and indigent people who lawfully lived in the town, the newsletter states. If a municipality cared for non-resident, the Overseers of that person’s municipality could be billed for reimbursement.

Also in the newsletter is the story of the “Storm of 1842,” during which Stephen Chase, son of the aforementioned Widow Chase, was the only crew member to survive the wreck of the schooner Napoleon. Smith mentions Stephen Chase in his letter, written one month after the wreck, as being “now confined at Thomaston, unable to be moved home.”

Chase, found “badly frozen” according to the storm report, recovered enough to pen a poem about the demise of his captain, James E. York, printed in February 1843.

The online Cumberland Globe is available at http://bit.ly/ty61Pb.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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Thomas Bennett, director of Prince Memorial Library in Cumberland, displays the town’s 19th century newspaper, “The Cumberland Globe,” in front of the new 21st century online version.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.