Holmes Tells of Margaretta Days, Past and Present

Sen. Joyce Maker and senate candidate Marianne Moore donned their colonial best and posed in the hot sunshine with Rep. Will Tuell.

By Reagan Gilbert

 

Carlene Holmes presented a slideshow of past and upcoming Margaretta Days festivities to a recent meeting of the Machias Rotary Club. Holmes chairs the annual June event for the Machias Historical Society.

This year marks the 14th year for the festival which took place on Saturday, June 16, on the University of Maine at Machias campus. Holmes dressed in period garments for her presentation, showing off candid photographs of past events. She told of the first Margaretta Days Festival in 2005, when the Machias Bay Chamber of Commerce made the decision not to allow the anniversary to pass unacknowledged another year. “It was so sad,” Holmes said, reflecting, “Here we all were, all going about our business like it was just another day. Most people didn’t even know about the Margaretta before the festival was started.” 

Margaretta Days celebrates a revolutionary battle that took place in the Machias Bay just after the Battles of Concord and Lexington, famous as the first naval battle of the American Revolution and called the “Lexington of the Sea.” On June 11, 1775, Machias patriots refused to give lumber to the British, who intended to use it for building defenses against the Massachusetts Minutemen. Machias-area patriots attacked the British, gave chase and ultimately killed their leader, Midshipman James Moore, then captured their ship, the Margaretta. 

Two years later the British returned to take vengeance and were defeated only with the assistance of Native American allies. Chief Francis Joseph Neptune of the Passamaquoddy delivered a fatal shot that turned the tide of that battle while standing just along the Machias river where Helen’s Restaurant stands today. That was the Battle of the Rim.

After the second year was rained out, the event was moved from the downtown area up to the University of Maine campus, graciously donated by the college in case of rain. 

Today the event showcases many period trades such as timber framers, woodworkers, spinners, weavers and blacksmiths, as well as recreational activities for adults and children alike, such as making dolls from corn husks and hoop rolling.  Holmes said the festival reminds us of the historical importance both of the battle and her motivations for making sure it remains a growing tradition that stays strong, binding us both to our community not only through the past events themselves but also through the act of remembrance as we come together again.  

Holmes was especially excited about the return of the Passamaquoddy drummers. “I hope they get a giant, warm greeting. Drumming is a sacred thing,” said Holmes.

She also looked forward to Arise Addiction Recovery’s new contribution - the frying pan toss.

“I’m just proud of the way so many different organizations have come together,” said Holmes.

Recurring festival highlights included Wayne Peters of the Rotary Club as the emcee for the event, a new troupe of local reenactors in combination with others reenacting troops from outside of Washington County, as well as the people of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and other indigenous cultures in the surrounding area whose ancestors played a critical role in Downeast revolutionary events. There was a large teepee on display near the pond in front of the Reynolds Center.

Holmes said that the lessons of the Machias patriots are as relatable today as they were in 1775. “They had lumbermen and farmers with pitchforks and scythes. These were little people,” she said. “They were not soldiers. And then they got together with the Native Americans, and they helped too.”

“Everybody put aside their differences and they worked together and accomplished a fantastic goal. I think it’s a microcosm,” said Holmes. “It worked then, it can work now.”  

Margaretta Days Festival and Crafts Fair took place Saturday, June 16 at the University of Maine at Machias.

 

Sarah Craighead Dedmon contributed to this article.