Petition For The Nomination of The Major Reuben Colburn House NHL
We the undersigned believe the evidence of national significance of the Major Reuben Colburn House in Pittston, Maine by its builder and namesake warrants an upgrade as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. The site of this original home built in 1765 and still remaining in the original location, was the scene of early American industry in shipbuilding. Evidence of this is well documented and contained in the barn and museum on the property. The site was the scene of a major military campaign in the American Revolution i.e. the march to Quebec of 1100 soldiers of the Continental army under the command of Colonel Benedict Arnold in the month of September 1775.
The site housed and encamped all phases of this army, some for as long as two weeks, as a base camp and logistics center for the effort. All of this was done under the orders of General George Washington from his headquarters at Cambridge, Mass. Colburn conducted military intelligence for the mission, provided maps, scouts, food, 220 bateaux, oars and setting poles for which he was never paid. The house had many historic guests then and later such as Aaron Burr, John Hancock and Arnold himself. Colburn and his brothers supported the march all of the way to the Canadian border under great duress and hardship as documented in the historical record.
Colburn went on to build the first lumber and gristmills in parts of Maine; large schooners in the shipyard below the home on the Kennebec River; and served for ten years as a representative to the Massachusetts General Court including 1786-87 when the state ratified the U.S. Constitution before it was sent to the U.S. Congress for final approval. While this is not considered “federal” service it notable nonetheless, and not required as full evidence for the national significance of the man or event in and of itself. The house and site are included in the Arnold Trail Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Under these guidelines the “event” is listed as of “national” significance in the areas of military, transportation, defense, battle site and person in the form of Benedict Arnold.
Current rulings on this case indicate that all of these conditions met by the district are now invalid due to a lowered rating of “C” to local significance for the event, et al. This seems to us, contradictory in nature. In light of Colburn’s contributions to the nation in these military affairs and in shipbuilding enterprises in the American colonies and new Nation we would be hard pressed not to think these contributions to be in fact, nationally significant. We protest this revisionist finding.
In the matter of structural “Integrity” that concerns the NPS NHL panel of historians; the record shows that while some remodeling has occurred over the years changes to the structure have been minimal, mostly concerning interior superficial changes currently under review for restoration in accordance with NPS guidelines. Stabilizing restoration of the foundation sills and front door area have been done with NRHP grants and are also in accordance with these strict guidelines.
The matter of the so-called missing shipyard is unfounded. In those days the shipyard itself was little more than a dock and stocks. The bateaux of the event were built by hand on the lawn in front of the house, currently vacant. Lumber was delivered by river from the mill at Agry’s Point one half mile below Colburn’s.
The ruling of park service staff is based on a misunderstanding of this evidence. Hence, we petition the agency to reverse the decision and grant NHL status to Colburn House.
James Kirby Martin Professor of History U. of Houston, Biographer of Benedict Arnold
William Colburn Grandson, Sociologist, State of New Hampshire