"Our Captaine discovered up a great river, trending alongst into The Maine about forty miles, . . . the beauty and goodness whereof I cannot by relation sufficiently demonstrate." So wrote James Rosier in 1605, admitting his literary skill was unequal to his duty -- he was the scribe aboard the ship "Archangel," and his job was to write the publicity blurbs for the New World. He was supposed to bring back to England such descriptions as would entice the Britishers to enlist as "planters" and come over here to colonize and cut the fish. His Captaine was George Waymouth who, as a discoverer was perhaps a bit of a poseur. Well, the history books neglect to include that before he was sent over here to discover a site for a colony he had for two decades served as commander of a Royal Patrol to protect the British fisheries on The Bank. He knew the north Atlantic coast as any good housewife knows her kitchen sink, and the excursion up the St. George's River was probably not his first. I suspect he "discovered" it many times before he showed it to Rosier.
Rosier went on: "As we passed with a gentle wind up with our ship in this river, any man may conceive with what admiration we all consented in joy -- the farther we went, the more pleasing it was to every man, alluring us still with expectation of better."
Rosier remains our first tourism tub-thumper, and his descriptions of Maine did entice 120 men to sign up -- they sailed from Plymouth, England, on May 31, 1607, but instead of coming to the lovely St. George's, they came to the less lovely and hardly hospitable Sagadahock, where they languished in the harsh winds that whistle past Seguin and made a failure of the first settlement. I have many times wondered if a more happy outcome would have prevailed on the St. George's. Had Rosier sufficiently demonstrated the salubrity, a settlement there would undoubtedly have survived, and "America's Home Town" today would not be Plymouth, Massachusetts, but Thomaston, Port Clyde -- maybe even St. George.
The St. George's of Rosier is the St. George of today, and it winds from Quantabacook Pond some 42 miles to the Atlantic, coming down along a handsome valley peopled sparsely by folks who missed a place in history. Rosier must have measured hism forty miles from the outer, open, ocean, because not much of the upper river would accommodate the "Archangel" with sails spread. The upper river is, however, a beautiful stream to canoe, and recently son Terry and I shoved the old guide's model in at North Appleton and came down on paddle to admire what Scribe Jimmie had advertised almost 400 years ago. We were on our annual forage for fiddlehead ferns, and Phyllis Hanes will be delighted to hear that we got 350 pounds of them -- she's our food editor, and she lately had a recipe for them. Terry remarked during our pause for lunch that he doubted if Plymouth, Massachusetts, and truly gained from success.
At North Appleton, we were well received. We saw a young woman loading rocks into a truck, and we approached her as strangers.
"Good morning," I said.
"Sure is," she replied with a smile of logical positivism, and she wiped her beaded forehead with a sleeve, not only for cosmetic reasons but to settle the fate of a few blackflies that were freeloading.
"Tell me," I said, "would we displease anybody if we backed down the field to shove our canoe in?"
"Gracious sakes, no!" She rubbed some woodsmanm behind her ears -- that's a fly dope that stinks magnificently and some believe it to be more unbearable than the flies. "Good of you to ask," she went on, "some don't bother."
"What gives with the rocks?" I asked, thinking her kindness warranted our showing an interest in her business.
"Fillin' a spring gunkhole in the road," she said. "Got a mire that eats rocks whole. But they's plenty of rocks in Appleton -- help yourself if you want some."
So there you are. Friendly, willing to share the assets. "About forty miles" wrote Rosier, and as we set off downstream with eyes alert for last-year ostrich fern fronds, tell- tale for this year's fiddleheads, Terry said, "Good start! How far do you suppose we go before we see a Keep Out sign?"
We didn't canoe that far, but it would be down in rosier country.