Part Twelve - B
As the American Revolution approached… and this young Sophia neared the end of her ‘grew up on the boat’… that boat made ever more frequent visits to an isolated but active cove… along the Maine coast. This ‘safe harbor’ was guarded by two rocky shore cliffs… of moderate height… at the sea’s edge on the sides of the entrance to the cove. “UP” the cove, at its head was a ramble of low and oddly constructed buildings that hovered just below “sticking up”. Two docks were before these buildings. These docks, their deep water and the space about them to come and go… were on a very straight line between the cliffs from the open sea. If one was ‘at sea’, in the dark, but had fires burning on the top of the cliffs, one could quickly sail ‘straight in’ to the cove. Extinguishing the fires promptly assured that no one could follow… or even ‘know you were there’.
Compass Parker had many and various clients. He preferred business clients who did business for themselves so looked to him to provide a quantity… and quality… of rum that they, in turn, could water and trade. Compass, in exchange, traded for their business stock. The better the quality of this trade stock, the more affluent in appeal of this trade stock, the more unique of object this trade stock and the more consistent the supply of this trade stock… all had a great influence on how much business… and how often this business… ‘was done’.
John Armstrong, a fine young man who came from a fine Maine coast family that was more of a clan… too; just like the Parkers… lived in the buildings at the head of the cove and considered all of the activity there to be his. HE came from a family line named John Armstrong; father, grandfather, great grandfather… et al. John carried on the tradition of the family; he was ‘in the family business’. He was a ‘wrecker’.
A wrecker, in its short definition, is a person who… ‘salvages’ …usually from wrecked boats and sea shore castings… ‘anything they can sell’. This career pot boils to a fullness of …actually causing wrecks to take place… along the Maine coast. This practice is less actual and more legend. Destroying boats along the Maine coast in the 18th century was ‘a waste’ especially if all that boat had as cargo was lumber or ash. From John’s vantage, purloining a cargo of ... small kegs of rum and the boat TOO was the right idea. Of course Compass Parker had to deal with these thoughts from many and …John understood this and … realized that HE and not Compass Parker, might become the wreck. This sort of professional standoff was standard business and… remains so to this day… in Maine. Unless… it involves ‘summer people’ in their ‘summer place’. They… ‘are fair game’.
My grandmother considered the wrecker trade to be the earliest form of antiques dealing in Maine. John’s marked ability to procure, purloin and ‘collect’ singular objects from singular cargos and from the singular fellow traveling wreckers… created a singular set of buildings filled with a singular trade stock at the head of a very ‘easy in – easy out’… to a rum peddler in a boat. Rum, of course, for John Armstrong, was “better than gold” when it came to assuring a regular and ‘best’ supply. There was no advertising, no business card and no …way to get there (to the store). No one wrote anything down. To come by wagon seeking to trade for a keg or kegs of rum… one had to ‘set out’ ‘toward the sea’ and ‘find it’. They did.
My grandmother considered… in her mind… WITH ‘the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance’… this trade to be … the finest antiques shops in Maine… ever. So did Compass.
Compass took away his small boat loaded with purloined plunder of… preferably English but acceptably French, Spanish and Portuguese ‘trade goods’ preferably ‘traded good’ from THE CAPTAIN’S CABIN. That included the fixtures and ‘anything else they could sell’. MOVING this booty ‘out’ was John’s second most active state, just below the first state of procurement. John, by modern antiquarian standards, had a ‘good eye’. That was not too hard to have. He simply saw, identified and purloined ‘good stuff’. And sold it. He sold it to Compass… who sailed it down the coast and …sold it (traded it for more rum)… in Boston and Salem.
To no surprise, the young Sophia growing up on the boat and young John Armstrong at the head of his cove… fell in love and were married. Sort of. THEY had a daughter. SHE was named Sophia TOO. She… was a ‘wrecker’s daughter’ in the classic Maine sense. What is ‘the classic Maine sense’? It is not ‘summer people’ in their ‘summer place’. It is ‘the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance’. That means this Sophia grew up standing on the cliffs above the cove in the dark night next to the fires with her mother while her father ‘came in’.
By the end of the American Revolution, Compass and his wife were getting older. John Armstrong and his wife …with their daughter… were “doing great”. The daughter; Sophia; Compass’ granddaughter, was “growing up”. The war had not affected these people. Trade was brisk in rum and plunder. A canvas bag of various national flags that could be ‘run up’ as needed, maneuvering along a jagged dark coast and …knowing a great many people of all sorts through the trade in… little kegs of rum… assured ‘the business’; now a family business, ‘flourished’. New coastal traders appeared. Called ‘Privateers’ and often having printed paper licenses to be a ‘that’… they were actually more pirate and smuggler. One of this new breed of fine young man turned ‘sea captain’ came into the cove one day. His name was Merritt Kimball; CAPTAIN Merritt Kimball. He kept coming back. The youngest Sophia noticed this. The captain noticed Sophia. Eventually they were married. Sort of. THAT is how Sophia Armstrong came to live in the Captain Merritt Kimball house. And that is also how Captain Kimball ‘made his fortune’ as “a privateer”.