Primer of Research

A Primer of Research into Bath History and People
as compiled by Nathan Lipfert

If you have been contemplating doing some digging into some question of your family’s past or Bath’s history, where will you start work? There are several institutions that can help, with many published and unpublished resources. In fact, many people from similar-sized or even larger towns in Maine are jealous of the historical work that has been done here and is available to you. Let’s start with the basics, in chronological order.

Histories of Bath
Lemont, Levi P., 1400 Historical Dates of the Town and City of Bath and Town of Georgetown from 1604 to 1874, Bath, 1874  [More like a book of lists, not entirely reliable, very brief when you wish he wouldn’t be, and doesn’t give sources of his information, but the earliest and the only place some things are written down]

Reed, Parker McCobb, History of Bath and Environs, Sagadahoc County, Maine, 1607-1894, Portland, 1894  [Interesting and useful history, although also doesn’t give sources very often, evidently relies on families to provide their own data, and gives short shrift to people who didn’t contribute or who he didn’t like. Index is difficult to use.]

Owen, Henry Wilson, The Edward Clarence Plummer History of Bath, Maine, Bath, 1936  [Good, useful history, though still without footnotes. Lots of good appendices with lists, good indexes]

Baker, William Avery, A Maritime History of Bath, Maine and the Kennebec River Region, Bath, 1973  [Massive, detailed two-volume history of the Bath Customs District, footnotes, lots of appendices, lists of all vessels built in every town, detailed indexes of ships and everything else, emphasis on the shipbuilding industry. Doesn’t cover anything after 1925.]

Martin, Kenneth R., and Snow, Ralph Linwood, Maine Odyssey: Good Times and Hard Times in Bath, 1936—1986, Bath, 1988  [Narrative history of the previous 50 years, relying heavily on oral history and newspaper research, with brief appendices]

Longley, Diane G., and Whitney, Arlene L., The People’s History of Bath, 1936—1990, Woolwich, 1996  [Attempts to present all the juicy local details that the authors felt Maine Odyssey left out, with records from various City departments and businesses, articles written by local folks, lots of lists, nearly 500 pages]

Pictorial Histories
Hewitt, Charles E., A Backward Glance: A Selection of Photographs of Bath in the 1890’s, Brunswick, 1976  [From the glass plate negatives of Wilson F. Klippel of Bath; wonderful pictures of things going on in Bath]

Bibber, Joyce K., Images of America: Bath and West Bath, Dover NH, circa 1995  [Lots of pictures of buildings, many from postcards, but also many pix of people.]

Bath Historical Society, The Sesquicentennial of Bath, Maine, 1847—1997, Bath, 1997  [Lots of pictures from collections of Bath Historical Society and Maine Maritime Museum and a few others; mostly of buildings, some events]

Bath City Directories
Don’t forget these, if you are interested in a person or business after 1868 (when the first real one seems to have been published). Both the Patten Free Library’s History Room and the Maine Maritime Museum research library have long runs of them, starting that year. They give the person’s name, occupation and place of residence, and sometimes place of employment. You can learn when a family came to town, when a man changed jobs, when they moved within Bath, when they left town, frequently a death date. Unfortunately, married women and children are not listed before the 20th century (in fact, unmarried women who are listed generally disappear from the Directory when they marry, even if they are still in town). Still, it is surprising what you can figure out from studying these listings.

Specialized Books and Book-like Objects of Local History
Hennessy, Mark W., The Sewall Ships of Steel, Augusta, 1937  [Much Sewall shipbuilding and shipping info here, but chronologically organized and obscurely indexed. Also wrong on some important points. If you are only going to read one book on the Sewalls, try Bunting’s Live Yankees below.]

Eskew, Garnett Laidlaw, Cradle of Ships: A History of the Bath Iron Works, New York, 1958  [Not the best book on the topic; try Snow’s Bath Iron Works below]

Spear, Arthur G., I Bought a White Elephant in Maine: An Adventure in Homes, pub. By the author, not dated  [The author bought much of the White Project; high jinks ensue. More of a memoir than a history, but it does describe how things worked in town at one point in time.]

Morse, Harry F., One Yankee Family, New London, 1969  [Morse family history written informally by a Morse family member with a serious bias.]

Longley, Diane G., and Young, Arthur H., Steel over the Kennebec, Bath, 1978  [A pamphlet, really, but the best description of building the Carlton Bridge to date.]

Aldridge, Richard, ed., Memories of Morse, 1904—1979: A Seventy-Fifth Year Tribute to Morse High School in Bath, Maine, Brunswick, 1979  [An informal history of the school, with contributions by former students and teachers]

Marentette, David B., “An Historical Geography of Bath, Maine: 1600—1920,” University of Oregon, 1983  [Never published doctoral thesis, but copies can be ordered; Maine Maritime Museum has one]

Snow, Ralph Linwood, Bath Iron Works: The First Hundred Years, Bath, 1987  [Best history of the yard to date. Good to look things up in, but also very readable.]

Martin, Kenneth R., and Snow, Ralph Linwood, The Pattens of Bath: A Seagoing Dynasty, 1996  [A professional history hampered by a scarcity of records]

Martin, Kenneth R., Patriarch of Maine Shipbuilding: The Life and Ships of Gardiner G. Deering, Woolwich, 2008  [Excellent family shipbuilding history, written by a professional, rather than a member of the family.]

Bunting, William H., Live Yankees: The Sewalls and their Ships, Gardiner, 2009  [The trouble with the Sewalls is that they left behind too many records. It is hard to write just a single-volume book, and no such book can be adequate for family research. This book is superb for reading; for research go to the original records at Maine Maritime Museum.]

Hughes, Ann Drummond, So Ends This Voyage: The Sailing Vessels of Trufant & Drummond of Bath, Maine, Baltimore, 2008  [Well-researched assemblage of information on the partnership’s vessels. Once again, a firm that left behind no mother lode of records.]

There are, of course, many other books about the Kennebec River, individual towns on the river, shipbuilding and shipping, Maine, traveling the Maine coast and other topics which cover or mention Bath in some way, but the books above are really the most useful.

High School Yearbooks
Class Book, 1919-1922
Senior Class Book, 1925-1927
Morse High School Yearbook, 1929—1947
Tabulae, 1948—1952
The Clipper, 1957—present

Of obvious help in researching a local person from the 20th century. These are available in the History Room at Patten Free Library and in the Alumni Room at Morse High School.

Sagadahoc History & Genealogy Room, Patten Free Library
This is the first place to go for local genealogical research. There is no place better in this area. If you are a member of Bath Historical Society, you should already know this—BHS was founded to provide financial and psychological support for the History Room, and continues doing so 20 years later. Below is a general and specific listing of the types of material assembled there, as originally compiled by former manager Denise R. Larson, and updated by Peter Goodwin. Technically, some of these resources are owned by Bath Historical Society and some by Patten Free Library, but that doesn’t really matter.

Books: More than 1,000 volumes, listed in computerized catalog at, focusing on towns of Sagadahoc County, including town histories, town vital records (births, deaths and marriages pre-1892), family histories and genealogies, Bath City Directories from 1867, high school year books (see Part I) and many others. The books do not circulate.

Cemetery Records:  Transcriptions of grave inscriptions for cemeteries in the following towns: Arrowsic, Harpswell (Bailey Island), Bath (Maple Grove, Oak Grove, and 16 private cemeteries), Boothbay, Bowdoinham, Bowdoin, Bremen, Bristol, Brunswick, Damariscotta, Dresden, East Harpswell, Edgecomb, Freeport, Georgetown, Newcastle, Nobleboro, Phippsburg, Sabattus, South Bristol, Topsham, Waldoboro, West Bath, Westport, Wiscasset, Woolwich, York County.

CD-ROMs & DVDs:  Index to 1860, 1870, 1910 Federal Census (Maine); Irish Immigration; Maine Marriages 1743-1891, 1892-1966, Town History Series and other BHS and SPI lectures, assorted vital records, Bath cemetery database, Roy Lawrence Photograph Collection.

Indices of Newspapers (marriages and deaths):  Eastern Argus (Portland) 1803-1830; Maine Inquirer (Bath) 1824-1833; Lincoln Telegraph (Bath) 1838-1842; Daily Northern Tribune (Bath) 1856-1857; Bath Daily Tribune August 1857– August 1858; Kennebec Journal January-March 1853.

Manuscripts:  All forms of hand-written and typed documents, including such things as Civil War correspondence, student journals, ledgers for stores and other businesses, fire department ledgers, historical records and genealogical manuscripts. Also includes other rare items, such as ephemera [things intended to be used up and not kept: tickets, programs, timetables, etc.] and newspaper supplements. These are a combination of things collected by Bath Historical Society and the Patten Free Library.

Maps, Both Original and Reproduction:  Bath: 1760, ca. 1827, 1851, 1858, 1873, 1878 (Birdseye View), 1877 (Birdseye View, south end). Bath street maps 1897-present; Nequassett Plantation (Woolwich) 1740; Noble Arthur Farm Plan 1743; Maine and Sagadahok 1750; Sanborn Insurance Maps of Bath 1909, 1919; Midcoast Maine 1906; Railroads in Maine 1906. Atlas maps of Maine 1885, 1891, 1901.

Microfiche:  Bath Common Council records 1848-1948, Bath City Records 1753-1995, Bath Death Records 1892-1995, Bath Marriage Records 1892-1995, Topsham Vital and Town Records 1760-1925.

Microfilm:  Maine Census, Lincoln County 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850; Sagadahoc County 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920. Bath City Records 1831-1966. 1890 Civil War Schedules. Maine Old Cemetery Association inscriptions from gravestones in Maine, all counties. Newspapers: Maine Inquirer (Bath) 1824-1833 incomplete; Lincoln Telegraph (Bath) 1838-1842, Daily Northern Tribune (Bath) 1847-1848, Eastern Times (Bath) 1850-1856, Bath Daily Tribune 1855-1858, Daily Sentinel & Times (Bath) 1862-1868, Bath Daily Times 1869-1967, American Sentinel (Bath) 1869-1892 incomplete, Bath Enterprise 1889-1903 incomplete, Bath Independent 1894-1961, Bath Anvil 1906-1909, Coastal Journal 1966-present, The Times Record (Bath-Brunswick) 1967-present, Maine Times 1986-1995. Passenger Lists: lists of passengers arriving at the smaller port of the Atlantic, including all Maine ports, especially Bath 1825-1867 and Portland/Falmouth 1848-1859. Vital Records: Arrowsic 1741-1891, Bath 1757-1838 (compiled/reconstructed) and 1838-1891, Bowdoinham 1780-1891, Richmond 1786-1891, West Bath 1845-1891, Woolwich 1756-1818. Sanborn Insurance Maps (Bath) 1890, 1891, 1896, 1903, 1909, 1919, 1945. City of Bath records, including tax records.

Photographic Images:  Also a combination of material collected by both Bath Historical Society and Patten Free Library. Includes photographic prints of all sizes, negatives, and slides. There is a subject index, with such subjects as bridges, buildings, Patten Free Library, people, residences, schools, transportation.  Collections of special interest are: the Emma Eames Collection with large pictures of the opera star in costume; the Roy Lawrence slides of Bath in the second half of the 20th century, and BHS’s photographic survey project at the end of the century, Bath 2000.

Scrapbooks: Larrabee’s, 1946-1976, indexed, Bath and West Bath. Others not indexed.

Vertical Files (research files):  Biographical materials, newsletters of area historical societies, town files (for Sagadahoc County only: Bath, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Georgetown, Macmahan Island, Pejepscot, Perkins Township, Phippsburg, Richmond, Sebasco Estates, Small Point, West Bath, West Bowdoin, Woolwich), and others.

Unique Research Aids of Special Interest:  There are two areas where some talented people have done a great deal of your work for you—this is something that researchers are always looking for.

Bath Families of the 19th Century, a compilation of genealogical data covering many local family lines of that century. This massive hand-written study was researched and assembled by Dr. Alfred Holt. It lists many sources and gives you leads for additional research.

Survey of Houses in Bath contains files on most houses in the City, and was compiled by Sagadahoc Preservation, Inc.  Includes architectural information and many historical details.

Maine Maritime Museum 

243 Washington Street, Bath ME 04530, 207-443-1316, ext 336,
Hours: 9:30 to 3:00, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and by appointment

The Museum’s library has some genealogical material, but its focus is on maritime history: ships, boats, shipbuilding and boatbuilding, maritime trades and businesses, the fisheries, the Navy, cargoes, exploration, and so forth. It also attempts to cover the entire coast of Maine, not just Bath. However, there is something about Maine

Maritime Museum which you may not know. It was created in 1962 and started collecting in 1964, before there was a Bath Historical Society or any other historical group in Bath. Consequently, the Museum collected both historical objects and library/archives material which pertained to Bath history, even if it was not maritime in nature. So there are large numbers of Bath items in the Museum Library.

You may see early references to the Museum under its original name, the Marine Research Society of Bath, or the name under which it did business for many year, Bath Marine Museum.

Books:  More than 15,000 volumes on maritime history worldwide, with an emphasis on Maine history, and works of local history and genealogy.

Periodicals:  More than 55,000 issues of nautical magazines—not a great deal of local interest here, except the local businesses that advertised in national boating and shipbuilding magazines.

Photographs:  Over 200 photographic collections, totaling more than 100,000 images. Of special interest to Bath antiquarians are the thousands of pictures of Bath streets, houses, businesses, schools, and people. Ask to see the inventory of PC-3, the biggest reference collection. Many of the photos of Herbert Douglas and earlier Bath photographers are here. Also videotapes and motion picture film—some of this being of Bath.

Manuscripts:  Over 400 collections of  original documents, totaling perhaps several million pages. There are both personal papers from individuals and families, and records of firms and organizations. Many Bath businesses are covered, including Bath Iron Works, Torrey Roller Bushing Works, Hyde Windlass Company, and the various Sewall shipbuilding and shipping partnerships. Of particular interest are: the notes of Henry W. Owen, author of The Edward Clarence Plummer History of Bath (1936); the papers of Mark W. Hennessy, long-time local reporter for the Portland Press Herald, author of Sewall Ships of Steel (1937), and originator of the work on A Maritime History of Bath, Maine, and the Kennebec River Region (1973); and an incomplete batch of pre-1920 Bath City Records acquired in 1972, which includes some tax records and other records from all City departments.

Microfilm:  620 reels of microfilm, mostly the Bath newspapers available in the Patten Free Library’s History Room, but also including Maine Gazette 1820-1825. Also, the New York Commercial and Shipping List, and the New York Maritime Register, for tracing the voyages of ships, and the National Archives passenger lists for all Maine ports, listed earlier at the History Room.

Ephemera:  Timetables, menus, broadsides, calendars, tickets, handbills, any printed item with a Maine maritime or Bath connection, not originally intended to last a long time.

Oral Histories:  Circa 220 interviews on tape, nearly all maritime in nature, but some also Bath.

Newspapers:  As mentioned above, on microfilm, but also the originals.

Maps & Charts:  Over 1,000 items, including maps of Bath and the local area, as well as all of Maine, and navigational charts of the world.

Ship and Boat Plans:  Over 40,000 sheets, mostly Bath Iron Works vessels. Includes small craft.

Special Indexes:  Of interest are the Maine Sea Captains Index, a card index leading researchers to other information on local captains (now being computerized); two Maine-Built Ship indexes; and a database of objects in the Museum’s historical collections.