A Bremen resident with long ties to the community recently discovered several boxes of historic municipal documents in the attic of a family residence.
Mary Sue Weeks said she plans to donate the documents to the town. In the meantime, she has been keeping busy looking over these pieces of the town’s history.
The documents consist of a variety of municipal and family documents with the municipal records dating back to the mid-19th century and family ledgers, documenting business expenditures, going back to the mid-18th century.
From birth certificates to wedding certificates to selectman’s reports and town warrants written out in longhand and all rolled up in tan, crackling parchment reminiscent of a bygone era, the boxes and the documents within offer a glimpse into the history of the coastal municipality.
The dates on the documents – 1874, 1848, 1897 – show that despite all the things that have changed in the Midcoast over the last century-plus, many of the processes of municipal government remain the same.
“I’m fascinated with the age of the documents and all of the history contained within them,” Weeks said.
“A lot of these names are people I remember from childhood,” she said. “Most of the boys I went to school with were named after their grandfather or great-grandfather.”
Weeks, who lives in the old Broad Cove School on Waldoboro Road, found the documents in the attic of her family’s house nearby.
“I grew up down the road and even the house has been in the family continuously for 200 years,” Weeks said.
She joked that since her family hadn’t moved over the last couple centuries, the documents remained where they were found for many years.
“When a family never ever moves, nothing ever gets thrown away,” Weeks said.
Filling positions ranging from selectman to town clerk, her family members gained ample experience in governance at the town level.
Her grandfather, Willis Hilton, was Bremen’s town clerk from 1909 into the 1950s, and Weeks has found his signature on several of the documents she discovered.
Her great-grandfather, William Bainbridge Hilton, served as a town clerk and a selectman.
“My father, mother, grandparents, and great-grandparents were all involved in town offices,” Weeks said.
Her mother, Frederica Hilton, was another Bremen town clerk, and her father, Carl Hilton, filled the role of tax collector for Bremen.
Weeks believes the documents ended up in her family’s possession because, since there was no town office at the time, the town clerk often acted as the keeper of the records, storing documents at their home.
“It appears they never left and have been stuck in the attic hidden away until now they have come to light,” Weeks said.
Other documents Weeks discovered included voter registration lists, and though they were not dated, she said it is possible to estimate the age of lists from the family names appearing on them.
Weeks also discovered a number of petitions brought to the attention of the selectmen over the years, ranging from a petition to build a town office to one from the residents of Bremen Long Island to combine the island’s two schools into one.
She also discovered a report from a committee assembled to find a location for the town office.
Another item, written in flowery, formal language, was a notice of a meeting between the selectmen of Bremen and Bristol to consult on the location of the town line between the two communities in the late 19th century.
“I love the language they use,” Weeks said.
Weeks discovered another box containing town documents a few years ago and donated it to the town office.
“The thing I realize, going through these documents, is that I recognize all the names and all the families are still here. My generation and I are the last people who are going to remember some of these people’s names. That’s why it means so much to me,” Weeks said.
Weeks said she wants to turn the documents over to the town of Bremen and sees an opportunity for their usefulness in the realm of genealogical research. She said she would encourage the town to digitize the birth and death certificates toward this end.
She said grants are available from the Maine State Archives to digitize these types of records.
“I plan to turn them over to the town. That’s where they belong,” Weeks said.