As you travel throughout Maine you’ll go through villages, towns and cities that proudly and prominently display their memorial to the residents of their town that served in the Civil War. There are about 150 of these monuments throughout the state and within Knox County you will find them in Appleton, Camden, Rockland, Thomaston, Vinalhaven and Warren. Maine provided quite a few soldiers for the Union Army. At Gettysburg alone there were about 70,000 Maine soldiers.
So now the question—where is the Civil War monument in St. George? The answer is that there isn’t one! And the background behind it is very interesting.
First you must know that the town of St. George was very active in shipping during the mid-1800s, providing a lot of ships and sailors. And where were a lot of the destination ports? In the south! Therefore, a war with the South would have a devastating impact on the economy of the town. You can only imagine the heated discussions during this period on the topic of a war between the North and South. The local newspapers at this time (available at the Rockland Public Library on microfilm) provide interesting opinions on the subject. The St. George Historical Society is also in possession of some letters from the 1860s that shed light on the controversy.
Don’t get the wrong idea—St. George did provide its quota of soldiers for the war. The St. George Town Office vault holds a book on the activity of the era that provided volunteers, draftees and substitutes. The men provided from St. George totaled about 150.
But that doesn’t mean that the controversy didn’t exist. Oral history provides stories of heated disputes between neighbors, young men leaving town and volunteering for service in Rockland, and even a dispute with the town line in Spruce Head village. State records show that in the 1860s a bill was presented and passed that changed the town line between St. George and South Thomaston (created as a separate town in 1848). Research did not provide proof as to the reason for the change, but oral history strongly refers to the controversy over the Civil War as the reason.
As a side note—there is a monument at Wiley’s Corner that was erected to the memory of the men of the Gilchrest family who served in the wars dating back to the Revolutionary War, including the Civil War. The monument sits on a small green as you round the corner.
PHOTO: Julie Wortman