Mysterious New England: Rediscovered Aroostook County, Maine Archives

 

By Carla Charter

HOULTON, ME.- The Aroostook County Courthouse sits in in Houlton Maine. On the courthouses’ third floor sits a room within the building’s attic space, which houses a number of documents including complete bound editions of county newspapers, dating from the 1850’s to the 1990’s. Some of these papers are no longer in print and some are not even from Aroostook County.  “There is a paper out of Lewiston Maine which is all in French.  There were a lot of French speaking people in Lewiston from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s,” according to Ryan Pelletier, County Administrator for the County of Aroostook.   The archive contain survey plans dating back to the beginnings of county when the townships were first being laid out in the 1800’s as well as a few photos of people believed to have had a connection to the county’s past.

No one knows why the archives are there, why they were begun or why they do not extend beyond the 1990’s. “A local historian made me aware of the of the archives as she would do research in the place. The historian contacted the state archives in Augusta who said they believe some of the documents are archived nowhere else in Maine,” said Pelletier, who has been county commissioner for a year.

“We reached out to other county offices, none of which have archives like we do,” he continued.  “We were told there was a belief at one time that there was a law that the county’s archives preserve certain things but we cannot find any law requiring them to do that.  There have been three county commissioners, two since the mid-1980’s, and they do not have any recollection of the history of the archives.”

The county is now looking for a better way to preserve the archives.  “It is hot there in the summer and cold in the winter. We are concerned they will deteriorate even further. We would like them to be in a climate-controlled room and a place that has better access for the general public. We are right in the middle of the budget process and we hope to add money to come up with a plan to house them,“ Pellitier said.

The county is also looking to partner with an organization who can help them to preserve the items in the archives.  “We have had some people reach out to work with us. We are looking for someone who can show us how to preserve them.” Anyone with information on the history of the archives or who has an interest in helping to preserve them can contact Pelletier at ryan@aroostook.me.us