Exhibit puts viewers in touch with Freeport's history

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FREEPORT — A exhibit at the Freeport Historical Society allows visitors to understand the town’s growth and appreciate its strong sense of community.

“Stories of Freeport’s Past: Celebrating Our Collections” features an array of items used or saved by people who settled in this town and left their generational mark.

It’s a bit of a yard sale, but without the sale. The diverse collection includes rarely seen objects from the historical society’s collection, said collections manager Holly Hurd.

The exhibit will be on display Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through May 31 at the society’s headquarters, 45 Main St. The stately red brick building and its adjoining ell is itself historical. It’s known as the Harrington House, a multi-storied home where boarders working locally sometimes stayed.

If every picture tells a story, so does every item on display have a tale. From a Freeport High School Class of 1928 black and orange football uniform to ivory and wood dominoes handmade by 19th century Freeport sea captain and Pownal native Henry Warren Brown, the exhibit allows for time travel.

Choosing which items to display can be a tough task for Hurd. Exhibit themes can be more easily worked out than the space needed to display the artifacts. 

“We have more collections here than can be shown,” Hurd said. 

Climate-controlled storage space is at a premium. It’s another challenge to be resolved, said Hurd.

What Hurd chose to display comes from residents new and not-so-new to Freeport: an eel fork; ivory dominoes; and a family Bible, with its joyous and tragic entries written in thin, unwavering lines of black ink, in the pre-ballpoint pen era.

Freeport Historical Society Executive Director Jim Cram said he remembers hearing people talking about catching eels with the multi-pronged fork. It’s an image “of three or four eels squirming” that he finds hard to shake.

The Yankee motto of “use it up, make it do, make it last” is visible in the hardscrabble life some years caused. For instance, a handmade blueberry rake rests not far from the Rube Goldberg creativity of Lambert Road farmer Carleton Groves. An early 20th-century farmer, Groves fashioned a combination cultivator, seeder and fertilizer to tend his crops. 

“When moved through the soil, the front canister dispensed fertilizer, the plow opened the soil, and the back canister delivered seed,” a placard reads.

These are some of the stories behind every item on display. The exhibit is easy to walk through, and perfect for a lunch or school break. All ages will find something of interest, which is why a writing contest invites viewers to engage fully. The contest runs through April 15; details are available from the historical society.

On a promotional flier, viewers are encouraged to participate in the collection of stories behind each displayed item: “View the exhibit, select an item that moves you, and write!” 

Lisa D. Connell can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or lconnell@theforecaster.net. Follow Lisa on Twitter: @connell_ld.

From its 19th-century Merchant Marine days to a Union officer’s Civil War cot to an early 20th century women’s bathing suit, Freeport Historical Society’s “Celebrating Our Collections” shows off mementos saved by Freeport residents over the years.