Preserving the Past to Serve the Present: The Pote House Barn
from Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment, written by local historian Kathy Smith
A historic barn on a seaside hilltop at Wolfe’s Neck Farm has been brought back to life. Known as the Pote House Barn, the post and beam structure shares its site with the saltbox-style house built in the 1760s by Captain Greenfield Pote, one of the oldest houses in Freeport and on the National Register of Historic Places. An iconic pair of buildings on a rise overlooking the ocean, the Pote House and Barn will be a lively centerpiece of farming operations once again, continuing almost 250 years of farming activity at this place. It will house the heifers and dry cows of the farm’s new training program for aspiring organic dairy farmers.
Captain Pote, whose father, uncle, three brothers and son William were all mariners, farmed this place while trading in his own ships in the West Indies, Europe, and along the Atlantic coast. William inherited the property in 1797 and built the barn in the early 1830s, though some materials such as hand-hewn nails might come from an earlier structure belonging to his father. One of several barns on the farm, it was underused and deteriorating because its spaces did not meet current needs.
The barn has been dismantled and rebuilt on its original footprint by John Libby Construction, with almost all of the members of its interior post and beam structure restored as needed and put back in place with a meticulous numbering system. The varied styles of post and beam construction in three sections of the barn hold stories of changes over time by members of the Pote family and the Banks/Pettengill families who followed in ownership for 100 years. Lawrence M.C. and Eleanor Houston Smith purchased the property in 1955 and made it part of Wolfe’s Neck Farm.
In preserving historic elements while reconfiguring spaces to make the barn useful once again, Wolfe’s Neck Farm is preserving the past while serving the present, as others have done before them. They are also continuing a tradition of innovation and experimentation begun by the Smiths, who were pioneers in organic farming in the 1950s. The farm’s Organic Dairy Farmer Research and Training Program, which began three years ago with a $1.7 million grant from Stonyfield and supported by a major grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is the first of its kind in the nation.
Many interested in local history know about the Pote House because of its dramatic move by sea to this site from its original location in Falmouth. Some sources say Captain Pote did it in anger because he was fined for sailing on the Sabbath in 1764, against the law at the time. That is true, but real estate records show the move took place in 1787, the same year the U.S. Constitution was written and signed. The house has stood on this site, largely unchanged, with its view of the ocean, ever since.
The Pote Barn renovation will be completed later this month…stay tuned!
Freeport High School Student Artists Honored
news from Kimberly Medsker
I’ve had the pleasure of celebrating six incredible students at the Maine State House Inclusion Awards (2nd place Corilie Green, 3rd place McKenna Troast, and honorable mention Alex Les) and Donate Life Awards (1st place Leora Doyle, 2nd place Anna Labbe, and 3rd place Jessie Minieri). My heart was bursting with pride seeing them receive their awards and have their artwork featured at the State House. Quite a few of these students are very quiet and reserved, so it’s extra special seeing them featured at the Hall of the Flags. Absolutely, they use art as a vehicle of expression. You can find their images and artist statements – along with many other recent accolades awarded to Freeport students at my Student Art Awards page (you’ll have to scroll down a little bit). Please congratulate these students when you see them!
The Freeport Woman’s Club officially judged last month’s student art exhibition at Freeport Community Library. This is an annual exhibition that includes around 100 student works of art from Freeport High School students. Congratulations to these students, whose work was recognized for excellence by the judges.
1st – McKenna Troast, Moi
2nd – Anna Labbe, Jeremy
3rd – Elias Dorsey, Homestead
1st – Madison Landry, Pine Cone
2nd – Leora Doyle, Night Out On The Town
3rd – Caroline Stairs, Legs
1st – Braelyn Bailey, Pond Water
2nd – Ella Carignan, Team Love
3rd – Susanna Li, Color
1st – McKenna Troast, Traffic
2nd – McKenna Troast, Puffin
3rd – Reagan Davis, Buttons
Freeport Historical Society acquires Soule portraits
by Arielle Kellerman
The portraits of the Honorable Rufus Soule and his first wife Susan Mitchell Soule have come home to Freeport. The portraits along with 19th-century photographs of the portraits were purchased at Skinner Auctioneers in early March. These two oils are attributed to famed 19th-century Maine folk artist William Matthew Prior and date to around 1840. These stylistically academic pieces are synonymous with his early work. The portraits have been in a private Maine collection since the late 1960’s. We are indebted to our nine generous donors for making this acquisition possible — including the Soule Mates, a local group of Soule family descendants.
Rufus Soule (1785-1867) was one the most eminent shipbuilders in Maine having constructed at least 85 vessels at Porter’s Landing during his career. His son Rufus C. Soule continued in the business and together they built 100 vessels, around the same number known to have been built by the Porters, Soules, Blisses and Talbot of South Freeport, and at Cushing-Briggs and Mast Landing. Another son Robert ran a packet from Porter’s Landing and owned stores in Freeport Village. Rufus Soule’s first wife Susan Mitchell was eldest of 9 children of Benjamin Mitchell of Spurwink (Cape Elizabeth) and Sarah Fogg of New Gloucester. Susan’s family later moved to Chebeague Island where she was would be raised. Rufus and Susan shared 11 children together. Susan died in 1853 leaving Rufus to marry Philomena Talbot, and later Hannah B. Small. He was a first cousin to South Freeport shipbuilders Enos, Henchman, and Clement Soule. A man of wealth and social standing, Rufus was a lifelong Democrat who served as a Representative in the Maine Legislature from 1832-1838. He was a Justice of the Peace and known in the community as “Honorable Rufus,” a title that referred not only to his official life, but also to the integrity of his character.
Rufus and Susan Soule are buried in the Porter’s Landing cemetery. The two portraits are currently on view at Freeport Historical Society.
Figures of Speech receives MAC and MHC grants
Figures of Speech have received an Arts & Humanities grant from the Maine Arts Commission and Maine Humanities Council to support a tour of their Four Quartets at libraries around mid-coast Maine in 2018. They also received Maine Arts Commission’s Arts Learning Grant to support a residency in Eastport this winter in partnership with the Eastport Arts Center.
Figures of Speech is a world-renowned puppet theater based right here in Freeport. While in Eastport, Figures of Speech artists will work with 7th- and 8th-graders to adapt local stories into live shadow plays. This is the latest iteration of The Art of Memory: Stories from Eastport. They will also spend time with all the K-12 students in the district and offer master classes to adults. The intensive week will culminate in a public performance on Friday.
FHS Teams up with “REAL Pirates”!
by Holly Hurd
A few months back, Trustee Guy Blanchard asked the Portland Science Center to donate tickets for their new exhibit “Real Pirates” to the Gala auction. Guy mentioned that the Sales & Marketing front man Matt Stone would love to work with FHS on a project. Enter the amazing pirate collaboration!
Freeport has a pirate history through our privateer the Dash, commissioned by President James Madison to “subdue, seize and take” British vessels during the War of 1812. Dash was adept at doing just that. One of the war’s most successful legal pirating vessels, she holds the record for capturing six prizes in just 3 weeks!
Dash was built at Porter’s Landing in Freeport by Master Builder James Brewer for Seward, Samuel and William Porter in 1812. A fast topsail schooner, later modified to a hermaphrodite brig with a special ringtail sail, Dash made several runs to the West Indies exchanging lumber and other local products for profitable cargoes, in addition to her pirating ventures.
Freeport Historical Society cares for and displays a set of British Naval issue cutlasses and their scabbards captured by Dash. The privateer discovered the dismasted British vessel Thinks I To Myself in a cove near Wiscasset when the fog lifted. Some of Dash’s gunports were outfitted with logs painted black to fool the British into believing the brigantine was more heavily armed than it was. Consequently, Thinks I To Myself quickly surrendered, and Dash carried its prize and the sloop’s crew to Portland in October of 1814.
Owner of the cutlasses and scabbards Philip C. Means inherited them from his great, great grandfather Joseph Porter, and has graciously loaned them for display near our unique Hawk’s Nest model of the famous privateer since 2004. Phil is now living in Arkansas, and when I contacted him to ask permission to display his family heirlooms at the Science Center as part of their “Real Pirates” exhibit, he happily agreed. Not only that, he enthusiastically plans to attend the exhibit in late September when he visits the area, and mentioned that he is “ready to officially gift them to FHS.” A treasure for our growing collections to be sure!
Meanwhile, the precious booty is on display at the Portland Science Center through October 29, proudly telling the story of legal pirating, amongst the treasure found in the shipwreck of the slave ship turned pirate the Whydah. The exhibit is fantastic, and FHS is honored to share in the interpretive history of this era of plunder on the high seas.