Of Pumpkins and Politics

I’ve spent the last few days up in York, far away from the maddening crowds in Salem. This strategy of exiling myself from Witch City in October as much as possible is working well so far. Do not be fearful of my title: I’m certainly not going to weigh in on this terrible election. But I do like to discuss politics as a historical and social phenomenon occasionally, and this weekend the consequences of our long national nightmare weighed heavily on me. It was a beautiful, golden weekend, with harvest festivals everywhere I went in southern Maine. In York, the entire spectrum of the community was assembled with tents and tables on the green before the First Church and Town Hall: representatives of local businesses, nonprofits and civic groups mingled with with colonial reenactors and festival attendees. The happy Democrats were there, but the Republicans, either due to embarrassment or division, were nowhere to be found. Their absence made me very sad, not for the sake of partisanship but for community: I grew up in a world where the important standards and goals were engagement and civility and discourse, and I fear that world is no more. I remember the Democrats’ table and the Republicans’ table being side by side, prompting a healthy, happy exchange; I remember holding a sign for my candidate and that of his opponent, while my neighboring, “opposing” signholder went for coffee for both of us.

Of course these sentimental/sad thoughts did not stop me from taking in the local color, which was very autumn-hued, and it’s always comforting to look at beautiful old houses, which have seen worse than this (maybe?)







York Village Pumpkin Patch and Marketfest this weekend, and some of the open houses of Museums of Old York:  Jefferds’ Tavern (c. 1750), the Emerson-Wilcox House (exterior and interior, c. 1742) and some militiamen in front of the Old Gaol (c. 1720). Below:  a bit further out: Hancock’s Warehouse on the River, a favorite house on Pine Hill Road heading towards Ogunquit, the McIntire Garrison (c. 1707) on Route 91, and two Historic New England properties, the beautiful Hamilton House (c. 1785)  and Sarah Orne Jewett  (c. 1774) House, both in South Berwick.






12 responses to “Of Pumpkins and Politics

  • helenbreen01

    Donna, you express the sentiments of most of us. Thanks for the lovely fall pics. Love York!

  • Andy Perrin

    So many gorgeous houses in York! I love your photos.

    On the politics, I have a book (which must have had a good seller, since I have seen several copies for sale and it was published in 1888) called A Half-Century In Salem by M.C. D. Silsbee. Silsbee says:

    Side by side with this healthy prosperity [at the start of the 19th century] flourished the political differences which often severed friendships and nourished animosities, and although Salem may not have been more bitter than other places of its size, doubtless the gall was poured into the wine of life in liberal measure. Republicans and Federalists could not take the same newspaper, could not dance in the same ballroom, and it would seem, form a glance at localities, could hardly live in the same part of town[…]

    I can’t help comparing this to your memories of York and the modern reality!

  • Andy Perrin

    *FROM a glance at localities

  • daseger

    Thank you, Andy! I love this quote–it reminds me of how vicious things were in the Federal era in Salem so maybe we can get through this too. Historical perspective always helps!

  • Andy Perrin


    Donna, there is a digital copy here:

    And you can get an old paper version at Manchester-by-the-Book (in Manchester-by-the-Sea, naturally) unless they sold it already.

  • grammiepoet

    Tomorrow I’ll be in Maine; I hope I can see some of these beautiful homes.

    I just finished reading J. W. Ocker’s book, Á Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts’ which you ,mentioned her recently. I think he did a good job of covering as many of the varied opinions and aspects of Witch City as possible, and he does a fair job of explaining how Salem came to be Halloween Central. I particularly liked the fact that he is very clear that the victims of the 1692 were not witches. He also differentiates between the Witches who practice neopaganism today and the Halloween witch. All in all, it’s a surprising thoughtful read.

  • Brian Bixby

    Somehow, political controversy is a lot more fun when it is political, especially if it’s religio-political controversy. My home town’s first history was written by a Masonic Unitarian who couldn’t restrain himself from splenetic comments as he approached his own times in the history.

  • Cecilia Mary Gunther

    I liked your story of the two signs,you holding them while your new friend went for coffee, so sad this hungry anger and hatred gobbling up common sense. However I am sure these old beautiful houses have seen worse — much love c

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