Of Pilgrims and Peter Jennings

Peter Jennings had a snatch on the TV news about corporal punishment in the schools and it made me think of the Pilgrim Fathers. There's more misinformation about the Pilgrims than about any other subject, and I like to butt in now and again and defy history and set the Plymouth record straight. Come to think of it, it might be smart to have a few words as well about corporal punishment in the schools.

The book says the Mayflower meant to go to Virginia but faulty navigation and perverse winds took her to Massachusetts. Fiddlesticks! The Pilgrims and the Mayflower skipper knew the destination and hit it right on the button. The same summer that the Pilgrims came to America, 36 English vessels had loaded corned fish at Sheepscot Bay in Maine, two of them the Goodspeed and the Mayflower of Pilgrim connection. Look it up.

The route of those boats used the Monhegan square away and (the log says) paused to catch some cods, welcome fresh food after so many days at sea.

Monhegan is a great bald dome of a rock that sticks up from the Atlantic Ocean, the outermost property of Maine and prominent as all get-out. If you want a view of the Atlantic, that's the place.

From the earliest days of Nordic raiders it was the place to aim for, and then came Maine. Now, as to Massachusetts: The British crown had chartered two companies to settle America. One had New England, the other Virginia, and each had to keep its distance.

The Pilgrims asked if they could settle in Maine. But the company thought this over and said no. The fish business in Maine was doing well, and the people it attracted were hardly of Pilgrim rectitude. Besides, the pious Pilgrims were odd and dissenting, even used the wrong Bible, and they might be troublemakers. Why take chances? So the Pilgrims were told not to come to Maine, but to go to Massachusetts. However, they were given trading privileges in Maine, and they did have truck stations, or trading posts, at several places.

You'd know all this if schoolteachers spent less time on the courtship of Priscilla. The Pilgrims were not too sharp at hoss-swaps and the trading venture failed. But one thing they did in Maine was to lay out a commercial east-west route that would bring inland goods to Atlantic seaports for transshipment to Europe.

This early dream resulted in time in the Canadian Pacific and the Trans-Canada Highway, but in the time of the Pilgrims it remained a line on the map. The Pilgrims projected their highway from the waterfalls of the Androscoggin River at Lewiston, Maine, to tidewater at Abbagadusset Point in present Bowdoinham, Maine. The only part of that highway ever cleared and used ran past our family farm, the section today named the Gould Road.

To return to our story: In time the Pilgrim highway, or Gould Road, was bisected by a north-south road, and the Lisbon Ridge one-room district school was built at the intersection. My grandfather, my father, and our son attended that school. Our son attended the year of the last class before consolidation and the demise of rural schools. My father could do "Amo, amas, amat" all the way, having memorized the Latin verbs in the first grade when the eighth grade recited.

The original Ridge School was replaced in 1874 by the present "modern" building, and some folks felt the new school should be elsewhere, more convenient for them. My great grandfather liked the Gould-Pilgrim spot. In the buggy race to the county building to persuade the commissioners, Great-gramp was coming out as the opposition arrived. The location was already decided, thanks to the fastest horse.

When the era passed and the Ridge School was closed, the town voted to keep the building. Now, it sits there as it should, a reminder of how good the schools were before Educators improved them.

The Lisbon Historical Society is in charge, and once a year Teacher Curtis of the village fourth grade brings her class to reenact old-time lessons. But a former superintendent of schools took the clock, and the original benches are missing.

Corporal punishment prevailed at the Ridge School, and one time the teacher whupped little Stanley Grover, who came home a-cryin' to tell his father. Mr. Grover was aghast. He hitched his horse into the buggy and burned the road to the schoolhouse, arriving just as the teacher was locking up. She turned to step down and there he was, huge and fearful. The poor girl was terrified.

He shouted, "My boy says you whupped him!"

She could say in defense only, "Yes I did. He was unruly and wouldn't obey, and he sarsed me!"

Mr. Grover said, "Well, don't you never do any such a thing never again! You tell me, and I'll whup him! I'm stronger'n you be! You hear me?"

So much for the Pilgrims and Peter Jennings.

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