Maine History

Going once … 1700s papers head for sale

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Monday, May 20, 2013 - 6:30pm
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These documents appointing Edgecomb's Moses Davis a justice of the peace in Lincoln County in 1775 and 1781 will be up for auction June 1  and 2 in Thomaston. Courtesy of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries.
These documents appointing Edgecomb's Moses Davis a justice of the peace in Lincoln County in 1775 and 1781 will be up for auction June 1 and 2 in Thomaston. Courtesy of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries.

A couple of pieces of Edgecomb history are slated to go up for bid in June. Thomaston auctioneer Kaja Veilleux bought the documents, each a quarter of a millenium old, at fellow auctioneer Robert Foster's auction in Newcastle this spring.

Both papers are rare, Veilleux said. One dates to just before the American Revolution and the other to that war's closing days.

He was struck by their beautiful condition, and a signature on one of them: It was John Hancock's, a signature so big and bold that Hancock's name became a synonym for signature.

In 1781, Hancock, governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, was one of two men who reappointed Edgecomb's Moses Davis as justice of the peace in Lincoln County.

Davis was a key player in Edgecomb's early history. He deeded the federal government a Sheepscot River parcel that would become Fort Edgecomb.

Davis Island was named for him.

Hancock's signature on the reappointment is clear and not faded, Veilleux said.

The document is dated October 6, 1781, the first day of the Siege of Yorktown that ended the Revolution.

The other document, from 1775, is an earlier appointment of Davis' to the same job. Dated just three months before the Revolution broke out,  it was considered treasonous, according to Villeux' Thomaston Place Auction Galleries.

That appointment was done on a British form with the heading marked out. “The Government & People of Massachusetts Bay, New England” was written onto the document.

It had more signatures than such appointments would typically have; the men apparently were asserting themselves, flexing their collective muscle to the British, according to information from the galleries.

The documents are part at the galleries' spring feature auction June 1 and 2. The galleries' website, www.thomastonauction.com, lists a $20,000 to $30,000 estimate for the 1775 document and a $10,000 to $15,000 estimate on the 1781 appointment Hancock signed.

“It's very exciting,” Edgecomb Historical Society member Jo Cameron said of the documents' survival for so long. The group has a list of marriages Davis presided over during his years as justice of the peace, she said.

Unfortunately, small historical groups like Edgecomb's don't have the kind of money it would take to buy the appointment documents that are headed for sale, she said.

“Hopefully, whoever gets them would be willing to make us a copy,” she said.

Cameron said she met Davis' last local descendant Laurence Davis when her family moved to Edgecomb in the 1940s. He was the town clerk at the time, she said.

The Wiscasset Newspaper was unable to learn where the documents have been over the centuries. Veilleux didn't know; nor did Robert Foster, the Newcastle auctioneer. A private seller wishing to remain anonymous had them delivered, and provided no information on the documents' past whereabouts, Foster said.

Susan Johns can be reached at 207-844-4633 or sjohns@wiscassetnewspaper.com.