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Down the Road

Fort Point State Park, a brief walk through history
By Milt Gross
Oct 21, 2012 - 9:42:01 PM

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The old Fort Point Light is a feature of Fort Point State Park in Stockton Splring. Milt Gross photo.
If you want to take a hike without actually taking a hike, try a much shorter walk at Fort Point State Park in Stockton Spring.

We did recently, because by the time we did this and that and this, it was too late to go farther for the walk we had originally planned at Fernald's Neck, a peninsular trail system at Megunticook Lake.

We were glad we took the shorter walk, because it was the first cold day -- about 50 degrees in a vigorous wind, which had our noses running while our feet walked.

Of course, while we were there, a couple asked for directions to the new bridge over the Penobscot at Bucksport. We suggested Maineiac directions, leave the state park, turn right, and keep the sun on your right. We didn't see them again, so they must have kept the sun on their right.

Once we were at the park by keeping the sun on our left, since we came from the east, we found the park to be an interesting smaller mix of history, a lighthouse posing for photos, and paths in woods leading to picnic tables overlooking Penobscot Bay.

The remains of the fort are what you first see as you walk away from the parking area, depressed areas with remainders of stone walls remaining. We wonder sometimes about the cost of modern defense systems, and these remains made us wonder about the comparative cost in the yesteryear in which it was built.

Remains of Fort Point, built in the mid-1700s by the British. Milt Gross Photo

I wonder how that cost compares with those of today.

Plenty of information about the lighthouse, about the fort itself information is on a sign under glass is limited. How much can you print on a sign-monument? Just nothing about the cost of either.

The fort was proposed by Massachusetts Governor Thomas Pownall in 1758 to keep the French and the Indians away from the useful bay at the mouth of the river. This was British turf then, and the British recognized the value of this piece of peninsula at the northeast corner of a peninsula at Stockton Springs.

"In May 1759 Gov. Pownall brought 400 men here to build Fort Pownall. Soon afterward Quebec fell to the English, thus ending France's foothold in North America. Though Fort Pownall did not fulfill its military purposes, its presence encouraged later English settlement of the Penobscot region and the fort served as a center for trade," according to an interpretative sign at the site of the old fort. *

Accompanying Pownall on his trip was Samuel Waldo, one of the earliest settlers of the region, according to another interpretative sign. For this wealthy resident of Falmouth and land proprietor, Waldo County was named.

As proprietor of the area, Waldo, who had been an officer in the British army, went to Europe to recruit German people to settle his land. He owned 576,000 acres.

I didn't know any of that. Imagine a guy of 29.5 whose been in Maine 46 years not knowing any of that! Sure glad we visited. It was worth the runny nose and wearing long pants because of the cold and brisk breeze.

I doubt if Pownall, Waldo, or any of those with them saw the site as a tourist attraction, and we haven't ever thought of it as much of one. But about six or eight cars were parked there. Two of the tourists we met were visiting all the Maine lighthouses, which, of course, includes the Fort Point Lighthouse that was first built in..." 1837 and was the first river light in Maine. It was automated in 1988 and remains an active aid to navigation.

The light's fourth order Fresnel lens is one of only eight Fresnel lenses ** still in use in Maine. The original fog signal, a 1200-pound (550 kg) cast iron bell suspended on a pyramidal tower built in 1890, is still visible today, although it has been replaced by a fog horn in the same building," Wikipedia states.

"As Fort Point Light Station, the lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 23, 1988," Wikipedia adds.

Wow! All that, and we just went there for a walk.

What would I learn if we took a hike?

* Sometimes wandering about is educational. A similar sign under glass at Pemaquid Point states that during the troubled years which featured the French and Indians as one team and the British as the other, The British controlled Maine from Pemaquid south, while the French took charge of all to the east.

** Also from Wikipedia, "A Fresnel lens is a type of lens originally developed by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel for lighthouses. The design allows the construction of lenses of large aperture and short focal length without the mass and volume of material that would be required by a lens of conventional design. A Fresnel lens can be made much thinner than a comparable conventional lens--in some cases taking the form of a flat sheet. A Fresnel lens can capture more oblique light from a light source, thus allowing the light from a lighthouse equipped with one to be visible over greater distances."

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@midmaine.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012

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