Wiscasset [Maine], September 7, 1823. 3 pages plus integral address, unlined folio, 9.5 x 8 inches, approx. 650 words. Docketed on the verso, presumably by Robinson. Some light foxing and soiling and wear; loss of a couple of words from the original wax seal; in very good condition, quite legible. With a preliminary transcript. Item #20063
“How are you Chum? How does Miss Gillet do? I think she is a very pretty girl, and withal not a *fool.* Such an impression has been made on my heart by her irresistible charms, that nothing but a draught from the Lethean stream will be effectual in washing it away. I believe I have taken half of it, by the way. To tell you the truth, I could not but envy you the company of those fine ladies . . . while Wiscasset has not a single representative.” A young recent Bowdoin graduate, Pierce (22 September 1803-10 June 1827) here writes to his Bowdoin class of 1822 classmate who is studying law in Hallowell, touching lightly on the charms of a young woman—and in greater detail on disaster, with a nearly contemporary account of the destructive fire on September 4 that almost claimed the village of Wiscasset: “On last thirsday [sic] afternoon, the wind rose, and blew like a hurricane from 3 to 8 of the clock without interruption. The fire, which was 3 or four miles from the town spread with great rapidity sweeping every thing in its course, houses, Barns, fences and every appearance of vegetation. . . . The long drought rendering every thing quickly combustible, & the wind blowing directly on the town the fire approached it rapidly. Imagine to yourself a fire extending 2 or 3 miles, aided by every possible circumstance and impelled by the wind with the rapidity of lightning towards the village having burned in its course 20 buildings besides a great number of animals, rolling immense volumes of smoke as far as could be seen and messengers every moment coming in stating the impossibility of saving the town, and you may have a faint idea of the confusion and consternation that prevailed. Many families were packing up their goods and preparing to move out as soon as possible. Some children were sent out and others got on board vessels lying at the wharves.” Pierce rode out to survey the damage the next day, and notes “in this town & Alma not less than *eighty buildings* have been levelled with the ground & some of them very handsome. I should think the damage could no be estimated at less than $150,000. . . . You must now expect to open your purse and deal the good things of this life to the poor sufferers, many of whom were comparatively wealthy.” The losses ended up being more than $250,000; see the digitized address of thanks from a local clergyman who had led relief efforts in the village, Hezekiah Packard, A Short Address, Delivered before the Sufferers by the Late Fire in Wiscasset and Alna, at their meeting January 18, 1824, to Express their Gratitude for Donations made for their relief, to which are Added Several Exhortations, and the Lord’s Prayer, Paraphrased (1824), at the Maine Bicentennial project at the University of Maine.