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.