May 2014 Newsletter


Broad Arrow Seal
The Seal of King George

Greetings from the Harraseeket Inn!  When one thinks of Freeport, Maine, LLBean takes top billing, but back in the early 1700's, in the days before the Bean Boot, Great Britain's King George played a key role in the Pine Tree State.  Maine was known for its white pines, trees over two hundred feet tall and big enough at the stump to stand a team of oxen on.  These virgin pine were majestic trees, their trunks free of branches for eighty feet or better, their crowns towering over the landscape.  Great Britain had long since depleted its own forests and the king needed Maine's white pine for making masts for his navy fleet.  White pine is very light,strong and flexible, easy to work and resistant to rot, all  excellent qualities in a mast as well as other ship's components such as the frame, planking, knees and spars.  Pitch and tar for caulking, resins and turpentine for paint and varnish; Maine's venerable white pine provided all these ship building ingredients and was highly sought after in the days of sealing wax and sailing ships.  


Great Britain ruled the seas and New England was all crown land, so to ensure the king could maintain the swiftest, strongest ships in the British Royal Navy, he had his surveyor-generals and crews mark the colonist's pine with a broad ax.  The king's mark was made in three slashes, one vertical, and the other two forming an upside down "V" over the vertical slash, creating an upward pointing arrow.  This mark was known as the broad  arrow and all trees marked thus were "King Pines", off limit to the colonists even tho the trees grew on their own lands.  These laws were strictly enforced, and floor boards in the colonists homes were not to exceed 23 inches in width.  If they used wide boards, they were usually laid in the attic floor where they were less likely to be seen, but if found, a fine would have to be paid. Not surprisingly, the colonists didn't like these rules very much.  When the laws were later changed to forbid the cutting of pine over twelve inches in diameter, rebellion broke out in the form of "Pine Tree Riots". There are those historians who believe that the king's requisition of New England's white pine had more to do with the Revolutionary War than the tax on tea.  It is also rumoured that a flag bearing the white pine was flown in 1775 at the battle of Bunker Hill.


Some of the colonists weren't above cutting "King Pines", removing the king's mark and selling the valuable lumber, which is why the king's men became a constant and highly unpopular presence in the settlements, keeping close watch over the colonists and assessing fines when the king's rules were broken.  Surveyor-Generals, mast agents and their crews marked the chosen mast trees and  supervised the cutting, which was done in the fall when the trees were full of resin, or in winter when the snow lay deep on the ground.  Great preparations were taken to ensure that when these massive trees were felled, the trunks would not crack or split.  All trees in the direction of the felling that might interfere were cut and interlaced over the snow or bare ground as additional cushioning.  The large limbs of the mast tree were removed, the smaller ones left to help break the fall. Once the tree was felled into its carefully prepared "cradle", it was completely limbed and cut tall shipto length.   A mast had to be a minimum of two feet in diameter at the butt with a length of seventy two feet.  The rule of thumb was that for each inch in diameter, one yard of mast length was measured.  A mast that was three feet at the butt had a height of 108 feet, which was standard mast height for a 74 gun ship in the king's royal navy. There could be no defects in this mast log.  Single stack masts were the strongest of all and could hold sail in the heaviest of gales.

These mast logs weighed as much as 18 tons and could not be dragged.  It took as many as 50 yoke of oxen (one hundred animals) to transport the logs to the mast landing, using fore and hind wheels on dry ground or scoots (runners) on snow, and requiring many ox drovers and helpers. Upper Mast Landing and Lower Mast Landing roads in Freeport were both trodden routes taken by these strong and steady teams, usually in winter.  It was quite a spectacle and everyone turned out to watch the giant logs being pulled by the long, lumbering teams of oxen to the landing at the head of the tide on the Harraseeket River, where the logs were then graded, hewn to sixteen sides and loaded into special ships with large stern ports for transportation to England.   Some of these specially outfitted ships could carry up to fifty of these enormous timbers (baulks) below decks.  An estimated 4,500 masts were shipped to the Royal British Navy between 1694 and 1775. Maine's white pine were in no small way responsible for England's dominion over the high seas during this period.


Broad Arrow Sign

Our recent celebration of Independence Day may have had more than a little of the Maine state tree embroidered into its history, and certainly our own Broad Arrow Tavern reflects the influence that both those majestic trees and King George  had on the state of Maine and this nation.  The sign over our tavern door embraces the spirit of that age; the eagle, the flag, the arrow and the star.  What began with King George's appropriation of Maine's white pine for his royal navy ended with the birth of a new nation.  And that's the story behind the Broad Arrow Tavern's name. Next month we'll expound a bit more on the history of the Harraseeket Inn.  


etching at Pettingill HouseMaine Audubon's Mast Landing Sanctuary  is just a short drive from the inn and has lovely walking trails that skirt the edge of a mill stream near the place where the giant pines were cut.  Sadly, none of the venerable old giants remain, but their offspring still shade the paths.  Nearby Pettingill Farm is an historic salt water farm along the edge of the Harraseeket River and the winding road out to the homestead is one steeped in history.  A tall masted schooner is etched on the wall of an upstairs room, recalling Freeport's bygone days. This is another highly recommended walk that takes you back in time.  The homestead is just as it was in the 18th century, carefully preserved by the Freeport Historical Society.  We'd be glad to pack a picnic lunch for you. It's a beautiful, peaceful place to spend an afternoon.

Broad Arrow Tavern
The Broad Arrow Tavern


Special offers and Upcoming Events:

*JULY STATE OF MAINER at the Harraseeket Inn
Available Sunday July 27 through Thursday July 31 2014
 $175. Room rate, plus tax

Why eat and run? Come for dinner in our Maine Harvest Dining Room or the Broad Arrow Tavern and stay overnight in the best room available at the time you make your reservation. Afternoon tea and full buffet breakfast for two are included in this popular package. Advance reservations required.Dinner in the Maine Harvest Dining Room or Broad Arrow Tavern must be charged to your room in order to receive this special overnight room rate.

*LLBean Summer in the Park  free concerts every Saturday at 7 pm, Friday Farmer's Market, Dog Days of August, the fun never stops in Freeport!
*LLBean Outdoor Discovery Schools Learn to fly fish or paddle a kayak on Casco Bay.  Make some special Maine memories!
*Freeport USA has a list of special events in Freeport check out their coupons and calendar!
*Topsham Fair August 5 through the 10th Just a short drive from the inn, a very popular agricultural fair for the family to enjoy!

Last month's trivia question asked which rivers Six River Farm was named for and where the rivers met.  The answer was the Androscoggin, the Abagadasset, the Cathance, the Muddy, The Eastern and the Kennebec, which all meet in Merrymeeting Bay.  This month's trivia question is:  What was the name of King George's senior mast agent who lived in Portland, Maine in the mid-1700's?  
All correct answers win a voucher worth $5. toward food or lodging on your next visit, and one grand prize winner will receive a gift certificate for dinner for two in our Broad Arrow Tavern or Maine Harvest Dining Room.  You may redeem up to 12 vouchers ($60.) at one time.  
Good luck, enjoy this wonderful summer and we hope to see you soon!

Best regards,