BANGOR – Attired in a powdered wig, black brimmed hat, long coat and britches, a local man portraying the Rev. Seth Noble returned Monday night from the annals of history to read aloud Bangor’s 1791 incorporation charter, the document some call the city’s birth certificate.
The city’s copy of the incorporation papers was destroyed by mice while hidden in an attic during the War of 1812. The original charter – signed by such American Revolution era notables as John Hancock, David Cobb and Samuel Phillips – is housed at the Massachusetts state archive, where it was originally issued because Maine was not yet a state but rather a district of Massachusetts.
During a meeting of the city council, local officials received a Bangor history lesson of sorts from local historian Carol Smith Fisher, a Bangor native who now lives across the Penobscot River in Brewer. She found the original charter in Massachusetts while researching a book. Her husband, Ken Fisher, portrayed Noble, who played a key role in incorporating and naming this city.
According to Smith Fisher’s research, Seth Noble was born in Westfield, Mass., in 1743. He was the son of a farmer and reported to have been a self-taught scholar. He joined the Congregational Church in 1770 and his first ministry was in Sunbury, Nova Scotia, which later became part of the province of New Brunswick.
He came to Kenduskeag Plantation – now Bangor – in 1786 and became the area’s first minister. The plantation’s first petition to incorporate called for naming the city Sunbury, after his first ministry. However, the Massachusetts General Assembly rejected that name because it was “in no mood to grant an English-Canadian name while a border war was still raging between Maine and British Canada,” according to Smith Fisher.