Monday, July 16, 2012

USM Student Uncovers Centuries-Old Spanish Coin

Whitney Parrish, a University of Southern Maine student from Portland, discovered a Spanish coin dating to the 1600s or 1700s at the Old Berwick Historical Society’s archaeology dig in South Berwick. 

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine – It was small and thin.  Caked with dirt and found a few feet down, it looked like a stone and could easily have been discarded.
But, out on her first day digging at the possible site of a 17th century tavern, Whitney Parrish wiped off the dirt and saw a silver gleam and intricate markings.  She had found a Spanish coin, known as a real, or “piece of eight.”
“A piece of eight basically means the silver was worth a lot so they would divide it into eight pieces,” Parrish said. “We found a pretty good section where the Spanish cross is still visible and a few numbers of the date. It’s not definitive at this point. It’s pretty worn.” The coin has indistinct markings but reveals the digits 6 and 8 and a cross characteristic of Spanish coins of the 1600s and early 1700s.
Parrish, who is working on a degree in the classics and anthropology (with a minor in archaeology) at the University of Southern Maine, commutes from Portland to take part in the Old Berwick Historical Society’s archaeology project directed by Dr. Neill De Paoli.
Parrish said the group was looking for the tavern and what they think was a garrison used to shelter civilians during attacks.
“Where I was digging when I found it seemed to be a walking area, so someone could have dropped it while walking,” she said. “We also found pieces of pots, pipe stems, pipe bowls, drinking vessels, shoe buckles. Essentially we’re looking for walls, some kind of structure. We haven’t found anything definitive at this point, but we are finding some interesting things.”
De Paoli explained that in the 1600s and early 1700s, a shortage of currency led to Spanish coins making their way into the English colonies after being minted in South America and traded in the Caribbean. He has seen only a few in his thirty-five years of experience as a historical archaeologist in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
“This find is an example of how an artifact helps tell the story of a region’s economy and people’s livelihood hundreds of years ago,” said De Paoli, adding that historic information, not monetary value, is the goal of the archaeology project.
“On the nearby Salmon Falls River, at a place called Pipe Stave Landing, local materials for making barrels shipped through Portsmouth to the Caribbean, and products like rum came back.  Someone involved with that trade, directly or indirectly, must have come here to Old Fields, the oldest part of what is now South Berwick.”
De Paoli is adding the coin to other evidence that the site was the dwelling and tavern of Humphrey and Mary Spencer from about 1696 until 1727.  A later house, home today to South Berwick residents Paula and Harvey Bennett, stands a few feet from where archaeologists are digging on their property.
“Perhaps,” De Paoli speculated, “the coin was lost by someone enjoying a tankard of ale at the Spencer tavern.”
In addition to the coin, the dig so far has turned up foundation stones as well as fragments of clay pipes and stoneware dishes and flasks, and other artifacts supporting the theory that the site was a tavern three centuries ago.  At that time, South Berwick was not yet a separate town. Today’s Berwick, South Berwick and North Berwick were collectively called Berwick, and are now nearing the tricentennial of their separation from Kittery in 1713.
Parrish is one of sixteen enrollees and four field assistants working in a three-week field school De Paoli organized to explore Old Fields, an area that at that time was a small hamlet of several homes, a tavern, meetinghouse, burial ground, wharves, and expansive hay fields.
Historical documents suggest this locale contained a fortified garrison during the conflict-ridden 1690s and early 1700s. In 1690 and 1691, Wabanaki war parties in separate incidents attacked the Spencer garrison and two men working in a nearby field.
DePaoli is an adjunct professor at Southern Maine Community College and has devoted most of his career to the study of English settlement and Anglo-Indian and English-French relations in early northern New England.
The current field school ends on July 13, but volunteers are needed to process artifacts at the Counting House Museum during the coming months. No experience is necessary, and information is available by contacting the historical society at or 207-384-0000.
The Old Berwick Historical Society owns the Counting House Museum, which exhibits artifacts from another 17th century homestead, that of Humphrey and Lucy Chadbourne.  The museum is open on weekend afternoons from 1:00-4:00 pm through the end of October, and year round by appointment.
Though she was the one to find the coin, Parrish seemed shy about the media spotlight, and was quick to credit her classmates and Dr. DePaoli for their work. “It’s really exciting to have found this coin, but we’re all finding a lot of good stuff here.”

YCCC to get $257,000 for precision machining program

WELLS - Legislation sponsored by Rep. Devin Beliveau, D-Kittery, to establish a jointly-operated Precision Tool program between York County Community College (YCCC) and Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) received start up funding from the Appropriations Committee on May 16. The bill was then passed unanimously in the House and Senate.
The legislation provides $257,000 in start-up costs for the new precision machine tool program in 2012-2013 and also provides for ongoing funding to the community college system going forward. In addition, there is $1 million earmarked in the education bond to pay for infrastructure improvement and equipment needed to start the program.
“This education bond will enable YCCC to purchase the machinery needed for a cutting edge precision machine tool program,” said Beliveau.  “This is a wise investment that will create great new jobs in York County. I am both thrilled and grateful that the Appropriations Committee and the Maine Legislature voted to pass LD 627 and fund this fantastic job creating opportunity.”
The three of the largest employers in York County are Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Pratt & Whitney and General Dynamics. All three heavily depend on the technical skills of Precision Machinists and no postsecondary program currently exists in York County for this type of training. The new program will produce Precision Machinists who have the technical skills that are needed for these well-paying jobs that start at $18-$20 an hour.
This program will provide residents of York County with the opportunity to earn an associate degree in their backyard and be qualified for high skill high wage jobs. Pratt & Whitney contributed an initial $100,000 to The Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges designated specifically for the program.
“York County Community College is absolutely delighted with the support of the York County legislative delegation for the bill initiated by Rep. Devin Beliveau to support a Precision Tool program in York County,” said Charles Lyons, president of YCCC. “This industry, throughout York County, provides an endless stream of great jobs for entrants over the next several years. Without the support of the legislature and Governor LePage we would have had a very difficult time supporting the needs of these new workers.”
Both LD 627 and the education bond are awaiting the governor’s signature. The education bond would then need to be approved by the voters.

23rd Annual Decorator Show House Opens in York

By Larry Favringer
YORK – The largest fund-raiser of the season for the Old York Historical Society kicks off this weekend with the opening of the 23rd Annual Decorator Show House.
This year’s showplace is Harmon House at 19 Harmon Park Road in York Harbor.
The show house will be open to the public beginning tomorrow (Saturday, July 14) through August 11.
The house will be open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursdays until 7 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. It will be closed Tuesdays,
Tickets are $20 and are available at the door.
Tickets to the house include free admission to the 5th Annual Old York Antiques Show July 21-22. Free admission to the Museum’s exhibit upstairs in the Parsons Center Gallery, 3 Lindsay Road from July 30 to the close of our season, and a discounted admission of $5 to visit all of the museums’ buildings.
Designer from throughout New England apply to take part in the house and if selected are given areas of the home and/or gardens to redo within certain guidelines.
New Hampshire designers taking part this year include Helen Hanan Interior Design of Newmarket, Meredith Bohn Interiors of Hollis, Jay Goldsmith Photography of Portsmouth, Ethan Allen Design Center of Portsmouth, and Bartlett Design Associates of Dover
Maine participants include Anne Cowenhoven of York, Museums of Old York, Georgie’s Home and Garden of York, Charles C. Hugo Landscape Design of South Berwick, York Art Association, The Daisy Trading Company and Daisy Jane’s of York.
Massachusetts firms include Mary O’Neill Interior Design of North Andover, Gerald Pomeroy Design of Boston, and Finn-Martens Designs of Beverly.
Items used in redecorating will be available for sale and a boutique will be open in the garage on the property.
The chairwoman for this year’s show house is Beverly Young.
Old York has also scheduled a lecture series during the next month.
It starts with a luncheon at Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School July 18 with chef Beth Kozemchak. The session is scheduled from 11:10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
July 19 there will be a cocktail party at York Harbor Inn from 6 to 8:30 p.m. with Don Cresswelll and Behind the Scenes at the Antiques Road Show.
A July 25 luncheon will be held at the Stage Neck Inn and includes a fashion show by Daisy Jane’s. The session is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There is an August 1 Luncheon at Dockside Restaurant with Mary Ann Esposito, cookbook author and creator/host of Ciao Italia, the nationally televised PBS series. That too is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There will be an evening cocktail cruise August 2 on board the gundalow Piscataqua. In partnership with Discover Portsmouth and the Gundalow Company, the cruise will include a tour of the “Under the Shoals” exhibit followed by a river cruise with historian/author Dennis Robinson. Exhibit tour meets at 4:15 p.m. at Discover Portsmouth. Cruise leaves Gundalow dock at Prescott Park at 5:30 p.m.

Aug. 8 there will be a luncheon at York Harbor Reading Room with a designer panel discussion with Sue Bartlett, Gerald Pomeroy, Michael Engelhard and Linda Zukav. It will be held from 11:30 1:30 p.m.
There will be evening cocktail party August 9 at Stage Neck Inn with designer Val Jorgensen discussing “Antiques and Today’s Design Aesthetic.” The party will run from 6 to 8:30 p.m.