Historic Name: Major Reuben Colburn House             


Other Name/Site Number: Colburn’s Shipyard Site      





Street & Number: Arnold Road                                           Not for publication: X                    


City/Town: Pittston         Vicinity: X  


State: Maine                 County:  Kennebec                                            Code:         


 Zip Code: 04435                                         





                        Ownership of Property                         Category of Property

                        Private:                                                 Building(s): X        

                        Public-Local:                                                    District:     

                        Public-State:       X                                           Site: X                  

                        Public-Federal:                                                 Structure:              



Number of Resources within Property

                        Contributing                                                      Noncontributing

                           3                                                                         buildings

                                                                                                   1   sites





Number of Contributing Resources Previously Listed in the National Register: 3  


Name of Related Multiple Property Listing: Arnold Historic Trail To Quebec




As the designated authority under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, I hereby certify that this ____ nomination ____ request for determination of eligibility meets the documentation standards for registering properties in the National Register of Historic Places and meets the procedural and professional requirements set forth in 36 CFR Part 60.  In my opinion, the property ____ meets ____ does not meet the National Register Criteria.



Signature of Certifying Official                                                   Date



State or Federal Agency and Bureau



In my opinion, the property ____ meets ____ does not meet the National  Register criteria.



Signature of Commenting or Other Official                                            Date



State or Federal Agency and Bureau





I hereby certify that this property is:


___  Entered in the National Register 

___  Determined eligible for the National Register 

___  Determined not eligible for the National Register 

___  Removed from the National Register 

___  Other (explain): 



Signature of Keeper                                                                              Date of Action



Historic: Domestic                                            Sub: Single Dwelling    

               Industry                                                    Shipyard and office

Current: Recreation and Culture                        Sub:  Museum 

               Domestic                                                   Single Dwelling




Architectural Classification:       Colonial

Materials: Oak timber frame, Pine-paneling 


Foundation:      Stone-Granite


Walls:   Oak Timber Frame, Clapboards


Roof:    Oak Timber Frame, Shingles


Other:   Brick, Mortar




Describe Present and Historic Physical Appearance.


The Major Reuben Colburn House in Pittston, Maine is a large two-story basic colonial that dates to 1765 when the builder, Major Reuben Colburn, together with his two brothers, Oliver and Benjamin, constructed the house on its present site. It is located on a section of old Maine State Rt. 27,thirteen miles north of Wiscasset and two miles south from Randolph side of the bridge over the Kennebec River to Gardiner. The house remained in the Colburn family until 1953, and passed through a series of owners until the State of Maine took it over in 1971. In 1969 it was included in the Arnold Trail Historic District as a contributing resource, but received no recognition for itself, and can’t be found in the NRHP listing.


The home is original and classic in the basic colonial style of the period and remains on the original site. The barn is also in the original condition from the 1800s and houses the remains of the Colburn Shipyard, where the bateaux were built for the Benedict Arnold Expedition in the fall of 1775. Samples of bateaux are housed here. The grounds remained unchanged from the period, with large pines and oaks surrounding the buildings and a sloping lawn that gives way to dense pine forest to the west and east, and commands a fine view of the valley. It still feels, when standing before the house, as if Major Colburn still lives there. The addition of indoor plumbing, and heat are the only major changes from the original condition as constructed in 1765. The interior detailing and woodwork in the Colburn House contains finishes and styles from different periods that are typical of 18th century houses and the house was added to the National Register in 1969 with this knowledge in hand. Emphasis has been on preservation to date, and restoration efforts are underway to replace foundation sills, level the foundation, and to replace the front door frame. There is a question concerning the original door trim and door, which dates to the 1820s, not 1765, with two different surrounds from the 1850s and 1950s respectively, all installed after Colburn’s death. Hence, restoration has halted do to lack of information. Period surrounds and front door should be installed preserving as much of the historic material as possible. There is no need to stop because of 1950s trim since it has no historic value. This author sees no mystery as to what was used in 1765. Even further preservation of the ca. 1820s underlying casing work is still within the period of significance and should be allowed under the guidelines.


More work is needed, including restoring the original color, which research by this author, is found to be white with green trim. The present color is red, in a deteriorated condition. It has a composition roof obviously not of the “period.” Clapboards are not original and date to the mid-1800s. Some are missing and many are in bad repair. The interior has undergone superficial remodeling in the1820s, 1850s and 1950s and includes wall plaster, fireplace restoration, (location unchanged), and eve cornices. The house has had no additions attached beside the original ell built by Colburn. The inside of the ell has been updated for modern living conditions, and is not open to the public. Nothing impairs the Historic Character as seen from the outside. Inside, the historic wainscoting from the period remains, composed of the wide pine boards that only could come from that era. Replacing moldings not from the historic era should be done where possible, preserving the oldest. The front staircase was replaced in the 1820s when the opposing door and frame found today were installed along with the rebuilt fireplace and chimney. The staircase built by Major Colburn probably was similar, but without the curved wall and landing installed by his son David Colburn at this time.      




The original house built circa 1765 by Major Reuben Colburn is a two-room deep, two- story central fireplace house typical of the more substantial buildings along the Kennebec. The south facade facing the river is symmetrical with the exception of the second story hall window being off center. Relatively small windows, 24" x 56"on the first floor and 24" x 44" on the second are 9/9 and 9/6 panes respectively and are good reproductions of the original windows. There is no evidence of shutters, and the window trim may have been modified. The house was "modernized "in the 1840's to replace original Georgian elements with a Greek Revival cornice and door.




A remarkable amount of the original fabric remains which warrants preservation. Some original feather joint clapboards on the exterior and clear pine floors and wall paneling bear the rich patina of two hundred and fifty years of use. The Greek revival changes of nearly a hundred years later record the continuing prosperity of the Colburn family, but is would seem that it declined later in the century as no major renovations were undertaken until the mid 20'h century. Our assessment of the exterior and structural conditions is treated separately from the interior conditions. In this study, we have only considered the house, the ell, barn and carriage house each suffer from deterioration and need to be address after the extent of the main house work is determined




The "best rooms" along the south‑facing facade once commanded a pretentious overview of the Kennebec where the Arnold expedition bateaux were fitted out and launched. Today, the vista is interrupted by a stand of second growth trees permitting a glimpse of a tennis court below and little sign of the river. Two old maples flank the main house, otherwise, little but topography remains indicating the original setting which the original house shares with the nineteenth century barn and carriage house.




Les Fossel and Suzanne Carlson of Restoration Resources in Alna, Maine spent several days examining the original building. The first day was spent doing a room by room evaluation of surface conditions and how they might reflect hidden problems. Another day was spent investigating hidden conditions by opening registers, lifting floorboards and peering up and down penetrations wherever possible without damaging surface finishes. Their last effort was to establish the amount of distortion in the structure by taking accurate measurements with a builder's level.


The mortise and tenon frame is badly out of plumb, with the entire building listing at the eaves toward the north by several degrees. Bowing at the first floor on the east and west corners indicates foundation and sill settlement which has caused the first floor joists to pull away from the main frame and could cause serious structural damage if not stabilized in the near future. As noted above, the sills on the south wall are badly deteriorated and continuing water damage is further rotting both the sill and the bottom of the entire door and sidelight frame. Powder post beetles have infested the structure and should be exterminated as soon as possible. (The firewood next to the first floor east room is even infested and should be removed.)


The rate of settlement of the chimney and the potential damage to the frame from the stress on it is difficult to assess at this time.


Further restoration of either the exterior or interior of the building should be deferred until this structural work has been completed.




Deterioration of the exterior is at its worst at the foundations with conditions improving with the height above ground. Foundation fieldstone is deteriorated. Granite veneer with brick backing was probably added as part of the Greek Revival remodeling. The foundation on the north wall of the main building and east wall of the ell has been recently replaced with a concrete foundation as part of the installation of a new bulkhead. Clapboards and corner posts are in fair condition; but watertables are badly deteriorated. A portion of the second floor clapboards with feathered edge joints appear to be original mixed with replacement clapboards with butt joints. Some replacement appears to fill the area behind an original Georgian pediment that was removed and replaced with Greek Revival trim and entablature. The cornice returns are in fair condition, but are Greek Revival in style and out of character with the simple rake, which may have been cut back from an the earlier Greek Revival rake projection. Otherwise, cornices are in fair condition with wooden gutters in poor condition.


Window sash are probably early twentieth century replacements retaining the original 9/9 or 6/6 light configuration. All the first floor window frames and sills are badly deteriorated, Sash and glazing are in poor condition due to condensation trapped between the sash and storm windows, wood storm sash in poor condition. Mitered trim is flush to clapboards and Greek Revival in style. There is no evidence of cap flashing over the windows. The doors are severely out of plumb, with frame, hardware, transom, glazing, trim, and entablature badly deteriorated and stressed beyond repair.


Roof. Asphalt shingles appear in good condition. Step flashing at the Ell and chimneys flashing appears sound. The chimney from the roof up is in good condition and may have been rebuilt recently. Wood gutters and down spouts are in good condition but require a lot of maintenance.


On the west elevation, a significant portion of the clapboards, particularly in the gable, appear to be original. Some replacement clapboards with butt joints, are all in fair to poor condition. Corner posts in fair condition, there is no watertable, the lower courses of clapboards are in bad condition and the whole frame is bulging out from the sill.




Detailed descriptions of each room in the main house are provided in Appendix A. Following are general comments.


Throughout, interior sash are badly deteriorated from condensation trapped between sash and storm sash. There is additional deterioration from water penetration above windows missing cap flashing. Rotted sills have been patched with wood putty, but continue to deteriorate. All glazing is in bad condition. There is no evidence of interior shutters. Heating grate remains from abandoned hot air system. Ceilings are plaster and appear to be original. Shadow lines on the ceiling outline a summer beam, but there is no indication that the beams were ever exposed. Some original doors remain, several Greek revival replacements and many are Victorian replacement doors of low quality These doors are not compatible with the original features of the house. The hardware is modem reproduction hardware.


The east parlor (Rm. 1 ‑ 1) has retained more of the original fabric than any other room in the house and is thus the best example of a period room from the time of the Arnold Expedition. Walls retain original paneled wainscot on three sides and full height paneling on the fireplace wall. Firebox appears to have been rebuilt and modified to provide a baffle and smoke shelf. The plaster above wainscoting is in good condition. Casing on corner posts is in good condition and original.


The floor has been replaced or perhaps a new layer of wide pine boards installed. There is no finish on the boards, mediocre quality with excessive knots. The hearth has been replaced. The base has been augmented with an additional coping at floor joint and appears quite recent.


Along with the front door, the stair hall (Rm. 1‑2) was completely remodeled and updated to Greek Revival in the 1840 renovation. The stair itself was fit into a semicircular niche with graceful winders to the second floor. Balusters, newel and drop posts complement the new design. The original floor is in fair condition with some nails popping out and boards squeaking. Stair treads are original to the remodeling and in good condition. Posts are mortised and tenoned. Exterior door assembly consisting of the door and adjacent full height sidelights is badly deteriorated. The lower part of the frame is rotted out, bottom panels of the sidelights replaced with plywood. The whole assembly is loose and detached from the supporting studs.


The west parlor (Rm. 1‑3) also fell victim to (or was improved by,) the 1840 renovation with fireplace and all standing trim redone to reflect Greek Revival sensibilities. However, the original hard clear pine floor was left in tact and is in excellent condition. The firebox appears to have been rebuilt and modified to provide a baffle and smoke shelf and refitted with a Greek Revival mantel. There is no crown molding. The casing on southeast comer post is in good condition and the other is buried in a corner hutch cupboard.


The original kitchen (Rm. 1‑4) has undergone a number of remodelings and very little of the original fabric remains. Some original boarding remains, while other walls have been sheathed with new boarding to match existing profiles. The original fireplace and oven has been replaced a rustic square cut log mantel and rebuilt large brick firebox and with a "heat‑a‑lator" included. Either the original floor remains or a layer of wide pine boards has been installed. The hearth has been replaced with square pavers. Evidence remains on the floor of an ell shaped partition in the northeast comer, which undoubtedly housed a staircase to the second floor. Sheetrock ceilings are in poor condition. Investigation shows that the beams and joists had at some time been painted white. It is not possible at this time to tell if the ceiling had been exposed originally.


This little back room (Rm. 1‑5) has bits and pieces of original fabric and replacement items that more or less match. An original or early sub‑floor is exposed Walls retain original paneling on three sides. Original casing on corner posts is in good condition.





The east chamber (Rm. 2‑ 1) has retained original paneling and floor with Greek Revival doors introduced. Structural failure from chimney settlement has contributed to the failure of the chimney beam making the floor out of level and the walls out of plumb.


The original clear hard pine floor remains. The hearth bricks have been replaced. Plastered walls are wallpapered. The casings on comer posts are in good condition and original. Original paneling on fireplace wall matches paneling in Room I ‑I below. Square panels floating in cockeyed frames are reminders of the once square form of the wall. Shallow crown molding appears to be original, but it is the only room with a crown molding.


NE second floor of the stair hall (2‑2) reflects the Greek Revival remodeling. Original clear, hard, pine floor remains and is in good condition. Walls are plastered and in good condition.


The west chamber (Rm. 2‑3) underwent a more modest Greek Revival remodeling, probably at the same time as the rest. The original clear hard pine floor remains. The hearth bricks have been replaced. Plaster walls are in good condition. Original casing on corner posts is in good condition. Greek Revival mantel and fireplace frame is square, highlighting the settlement of the firebox and providing the clue that lead to the discovery of the chimney settlement as the source of the structural failure. Shallow crown molding is a recent addition. The plaster ceiling seems to have been lowered 2", probably to cover the exposed plate on the south wall.


The north back room (Rm. 24) has been altered to incorporate the most recent attic stair and gives only clues to its original form. Strains on the floor and shadow lines on the walls indicate an additional small room, probably an earlier stair hall to the attic. Plastered walls are wallpapered. Original casing on comer posts is in good condition. Plaster ceiling appears to be original.


The west back room (Rm. 2‑5) was converted into a bathroom, which has been removed leaving only a linoleum floor, probably covering the original clear pine boards. Floorboards define the outline of the tub. Walls are vertical boarding plastered with the north wall a modem wood stud and sheetrock addition.


The east back room (Rm. 2‑6) has a replacement floor. The sub-floor may have been exposed for many years. NE south walls retain its original featheredge sheathing. The east and north walls are original, but the west wall has been altered mid century. The original back stair was located in this corner.[1]


House Plan


The Colburn House is built on the Center Chimney plan. Ca 1750. This allowed for expansion without the addition of another chimney. The second floor layout duplicates the first floor and the house has three fireplaces, a bake oven on the first floor, and one fireplace in each of the two front chambers, (master bedrooms), on the second floor. Lime mortar was the rule.




The eight –foot deep foundation of the Major Reuben Colburn House is a hallmark of 18th Century masonry. It is made of stone, drawn from the fields nearby, and originally laid dry, (without mortar), to grade, the level of the soil about even with the road. The fieldstones, with their narrow and nonexistent mortar joints were topped off with hand-split, foot thick granite slabs. In erecting the house the first step was to build the central chimney. The entire chimney including the fireplaces and oven had to be carefully planned and built from the cellar up with detailed exactitude. The selection of this design by Colburn was logical. He knew he would have to enlarge his home by degrees over the years to accommodate his growing family. Reuben and his wife Elizabeth Lewis had ten children in the home.


He started with the massive fireplace and ovens in the keeping room and the fireplace in the parlor, which was a prime necessity in the 18th century for home activities. Planning ahead for additional rooms to be arranged around the chimney not only conserved heat, but made possible a fireplace for each room both upstairs and down. This massive pile of masonry also formed a solid and substantial core for the frame house. The base of the centrally located chimney is supported on a stone pier surmounted by a brick barrel arch. The arch saved on bricks, but more importantly it gave a firmer support to the massive chimney. Each brick supports the others when placed in the direction of the radii of the curve, the pressure of the whole being supported by the diagonal position of the bricks. The archway space was used as a closet for storing.


The chimney tapers above the cellar foundation to the three fireplaces on the first floor. Above the first floor fireplaces, the chimney tapers perceptibly to the size of the chamber fireplaces on the second floor. This slope, or shoulder, is used for closets made of pine paneling. Upstairs there were originally three openings in the chimney, the front staircase taking the fourth side, the fireplaces made small and shallow. Hearth or hearthstone is the floor of the on which the fireplace is built. Lintel, a support that carries the weight of an opening, that is, the lintel supported the weight of the chimney above. As was typical with the building of early American braced frame houses, the chimney was built up to at least the foundation or first floor level before the frame could be raised.  




The Colburn House is of the braced-frame type with a rafter-purlin system of roof framing. It was built on a frame of hewn timbers jointed and pegged together, kept square with stiff braces in the vertical angles and horizontal purlins to support the roof rafters. The framework of the Colburn House was of massive hand-hewn oak logs, several of which still retain their bark. These were cut and fitted in advance on the ground and marked by Roman numerals for identification of their location in the final assembly. The timber sizes, names, and numbers were determined by the position they took in the structure. The lowest number was the most important, is the sill, which anchors the house to its foundation. These big timbers set flatways on their broad side and jointed at the corners and ends determined the size of the house (approximately 38 ½ feet by 28 ½ feet). The ten posts, all of which run the full height of the outer walls, consist of four corner posts, two intermediate chimney posts front and back, and a center post on each end. With the help of his brothers, the community and with ropes and pulleys, Reuben Colburn raised one unit (bent) after another of his new home into its upright position. Then, the four sides set into place, the rafters for the roof were put on and the ridgepole was laid in place. The entire structure was put together without nails by various joints, accurately cut, and secured by large hand-hewn pegs called trunnels (tree nails), driven in with a heavy mallet called a beetle. There isn’t a single metal nail to be found in the frame. The interior partitions are made of planks about 2” thick and are load bearing. The rafter-purlin was employed when Colburn put on his roof. The rafters were placed approximately 7 feet apart, or about finger tip to finger tip with outreached arms left and right, and fitted together at the peaks with pegs. The panes of original glass in the windows contain bubbles attesting to their authenticity. They were hand-poured by Colburn, hardened in the molds and set into place in the frames.




The interior of the Reuben Colburn House is centered around the main fireplace structure and parlor; this where the family gathered by the hearth for entertaining and quiet relaxation. Great care was taken in the details of the two doors, sometimes called “Christian Doors”, because they were paneled resembling the shape of a cross. The door openings were framed by a three-inch molding. No two uses of molding in the parlor are identical in detail, but not one can be considered simple in detail either. The parlor draws much of its appeal from the fireplace set off by a completely paneled “end” and a harmonizing low paneled wainscot around the other 3 walls. The builder found himself committed to an arrangement of cased structural members, although they still projected into the room beyond its finished surfaces. Accordingly, the corner posts are all encased and given a decorative treatment by means of beading and chamfering. All the panels are of the Greek (flat) ovolo type, bordered with the Roman (quarter-round) ovolo cut on stiles and rails. The fireplace itself, typically lacking a mantle-shelf, is framed by a large-scale bolection molding. The usual treatment of rooms built just prior to the Revolution was to cover only the chimneybreast and panel with wood, but in the parlor of the Colburn House only the fireplace wall was completely wainscoted and with the other walls remaining plastered but covered to chair height (up to 3 and ½ feet) with a paneled wainscot.


It is interesting to note that with the access to Reuben Colburn had to huge virgin timber, the widest board in the house falls about an inch short of 24 inches. And that board is one of the two horizontal five-and-a-half foot long panels above the fireplace. The Major couldn’t have a one-board panel because pine trees more than two feet in diameter, (three feet from the ground), were reserved for the masts of the Royal Navy. Royal Tree Viewers placed Broad arrow marks into these trees identifying them as British property. It was a capital crime to cut one of these down for personal use. Even when taken from one’s own land. This was no doubt a major factor in Colburn’s leading the charge for independence from Britain, as ship masts were a large part of his livelihood.


The completely paneled fireplace “end” of the parlor is the featured decoration of the Colburn House. As plastered walls became popular, the usual treatment of rooms finished just prior to the Revolution was to panel only the fireplace wall with vertical boards. The fireplace wall in the parlor is completely finished to the ceiling with lovely paneled wainscot and crowned by a beautiful four-inch cornice. The other three walls have been paneled in like manner to chair height, including a nice one-inch molding at the top and a rather intricate three-inch molding at the base. The fireplace is framed (6’x 4’) with a six-inch bolection molding, three-inches deep given a similar detail as the smaller molding only on a large scale.


 Keeping Room/Living Room


The Colburn House follows a basic four stage architectural pattern in floor plan. Central to this plan is the keeping room that extends across the back of the house from the east end. This large (11 ½ x 29) rectangular room with its typical seven and a half, white, plastered ceiling and wide board floor served as kitchen, workshop, and living area. Off the west end of the keeping room is a small (11 ½ x 8) but very important room – the pantry or buttery (buttree). In the buttery, food, dishes and other household items were kept, and much of the food was prepared. Access to the cellar via a trap door instead of the customary staircase called for a bulkhead through the north side foundation. This allowed privacy in the Colburn’s first bedroom off the east end of the keeping room. The picture window in this room was replaced with the original sash found in the barn as part of an AEHS preservation effort in recent years. 


Entry, Hallway


The entry, or hall as we know it today, has diminished in size to a mere vestige of its namesake – the medieval “hall”, which served as a central greeting and gathering place. But, while the hall may now be small, it still plays an important role in the Colburn House. Not only does it offer the first impression of the house, but it acts as a transition area between indoors and out and provides smooth passage from one room to the next. It serves a s a mudroom for storing outerwear and equipment. By the federal period when people were less reluctant to display their wealth, three 9x13 glass panes were set in vertical rows on either side of the front door. These six panes of clear glass helped to light up the hallway and staircase to the second floor during inclement weather.



Dining Room


The dining room is a natural place for social gatherings, but as history shows, the setting wasn’t necessarily elaborate to enhance the pleasures of dining. In the early days of the colonies, the custom was simply to pull the table and chairs away from their resting place next to the wall and dine in whatever room was convenient- usually the kitchen, keeping room and parlor. The outstanding architectural feature of the room is its fine corner cupboard, which occupies the conventional position, i.e., the left-hand corner as one stands with his back to the fireplace.




The most personal room in the home, the bedroom has come a long way in the Colburn House from the makeshift arrangements Reuben and Elizabeth (Lewis) Colburn, must have had to make when they first started out in 1765. Then sleeping quarters were generally nothing more than beds pushed to the east end of the living/keeping room against the east side of the all-purpose “hall.” The parlor commonly doubled as the master bedroom. These rooms were never just sleeping quarters- space was too precious to be so limited. It has been said that four generations of Colburn’s were born in the southwest room downstairs. In fact it wasn’t until the very end of the 18th century and well into the federal period that the Colburn’s were finally able to afford sanctuary away from the children and guests (and Indians). The southwest bedroom was one of the last rooms to be carved out of the house’s single, all-purpose space. The four-poster was originally draped with heavy curtains to ward off the night chill. The bedrooms on the second floor were named by their location over the lower rooms, such as the parlor chamber, meaning over the parlor.





Practically all early-American houses have an attachment of one sort or another. The most usual, and without a doubt, the most convenient method of enlarging a house was to add a rear ell. The principle purpose for the ell was to provide extra ground floor space and greater convenience by moving the kitchen out of the house proper. Therefore many ells, such as the one on the Colburn House have a chimney and a fireplace of their own. It is narrow enough to leave the original kitchen window unobstructed and not so high as to disturb the rear roof of the house. In addition, the ell of the Colburn House shelters the original dug well. A big advantage of this ell is that it provides a rear stairway to the house. The stairs rise just beyond the chimney, giving access to the roof space (a suitable sleeping space) and, by means of a door, access to the second floor of the house.[2]


Renovation History

In the early 1950s the home passed from the Colburn family who had used it as a summer home for fifty years, to the Paul Plumer family. The Plumers set to work restoring the inside to its original condition. Plaster was torn from the walls to reveal the original wainscot, and the ceiling to the hand hewn beams. The fireplaces, all five of them, and chimney had been laid up in blue clay that had settled over the years. Using the staircase as a form, they encased it in cement. A replica of a period mantle was fashioned from a barn beam. The original location is unchanged but the firebox is new as on ca.1820. The biggest change was the addition of an artesian well and indoor plumbing to the Ell section only. Since this time sheet rock was added to the parlor ceiling that should be torn down to the hand hewn beams again. The front door casing and trim will need to be restored to the original period trim installed by Major Colburn’s son David in his 1820s renovation to the staircase and front entry chimney column. Sill replacement is complete and the main structure is now level and plumb. All damaged dysfunctional interior doors are now returned to their original state with the repair of the south wall. The roof and frame are in a sound condition as of May 2001. Foundation work is planned adding a new footing to the south wall and rotted framing replacement in the north wall. These renovations by the State of Maine are done with the scientific scrutiny and authenticity required by NPS guidelines.


As in other submissions, “perfect” architecture is not an absolute requirement to be an NHL unless submitted under that category. The appearance and basic floor plan is the same. Suspect interior and exterior finishes need not be a death knell to the nomination. With grant money, these restorations can be addressed with a minimum of output. Research will be done on exactly what treatments would have been used in 1765 and other significant periods in the Colburn family history documented in the house and the findings reported. The home is in peril from further deterioration from weather and needs federal intervention to preserve the main structure.


Mr. Daniel H. Warren Jr. president of the Arnold Expedition Historical Society, who lives in the ell of the house and conducts limited tours in the summer, has told this author that he has been trying to get the place painted for years, but has failed do to bureaucratic inaction and paralysis. The ABPP associated historic property submission, and the completed sill and south facing wall restoration in 2001 by Arron Sturgis[3] addressed this issue. Family members currently in their 80’s state that the home is unchanged from when they were children growing up down the road. The original color was white with green trim. Sea captains never paint their homes red according to local seafaring traditions, so this holds up. Most of the older homes in Maine are white. Proper removal methods of the old paint should be employed even if removal of clapboards is necessary prior to painting.


The issue of the missing shipyard and the resulting concern is unfounded. While it is true that currently the site is empty and has been for 150 years, at the time, actual buildings would have been minimal. Research from the Maine Maritime Museum shows that a sawmill type of building and stocks called “Ways” that supported the framework of the ships would have existed on the shipyard site below the home. As stated before, lumber was sawed at the many mills owned by Colburn to the north and south of his property at Agry’s Point, and transported to the yard of this site at the present Colburn home.  They would be built on land or “dry dock.” This structure doesn’t currently exist, as it is a temporary scaffolding only.[4] This would be easy to recreate for educational purposes, as the home is an operating museum, rare in the NHL system according to the Philadelphia Office of the NPS. For interpretive purposes, a sign illustrating the activities that would have been going on in the shipyard at the site would serve the event and public well without the actual artifacts. Removal of the Edwards Dam upstream in Augusta, in place since 1854, in 1998 returned the Kennebec River to its natural state, the way it was in 1775 when the Broad Bay and other transports anchored at Colburn’s, further enhancing the original feel of the home and site.




Because of the ownership and lease agreement between the state and the Arnold Expedition Historical Society, the long-range development of the Colburn House as an interpretive center for the Society will of necessity be a public‑private effort, with a commitment on both sides to realize these goals. In addition to addressing the architectural restoration (brick and mortar) issues, development plans must include fundraising strategies, management responsibilities, financial management, and program development and administration. In effect, develop a total plan for the operation of a small museum.


The "big house" reflects two periods of style and construction: (1) The original colonial building retains profiles and details in the kitchen, northeast room, southeast rooms on both floors and the attic. (2) Greek revival changes appear in the front hall, (including door, pediment and sidelights) stairs, and southwest rooms on both floors.


Since the division is distinct with major changes in detail, we suggest that the first group of colonial rooms reflect the conditions at the time of the Arnold Expedition and the second set to reflect the history of the family and the evolution of the development of the house and its surroundings.


We also suggest that the original stair located in the northwest corner of the kitchen be reconstructed to provide a second means of egress from the second floor to improve traffic flow and to leave the rest of the house in tact for historical interpretation.[5]



The home would be fine addition to the system as it is currently visited by schools as a part of efforts to show the story of America’s fight for independence. Many artifacts are displayed there and more are being added. The fireplace, in front of which, Benedict Arnold and his officers were entertained on the 21st and 22nd of Sept.1775 still remains in the exact same location now, as then.  It is here where Col. Arnold bounced Reuben’s daughter Betsey on his knee and praised her beauty. Colburn House is a monument to the American Ideal as described under NHL Criteria 1 and Criteria 3.








Certifying official has considered the significance of this property in relation to other properties:

Nationally: X   Statewide:    Locally:  


Applicable National

Register Criteria:                       A  X   B X   C    D  


Criteria Considerations

(Exceptions):                            A    B    C    D    E    F    G  


NHL Criteria: 1, 2, 3


NHL Theme(s): I. Peopling Places.

                            Contact with Indians; Development of the English Colonies 1700-                               1775 (1960).

                          IV. Shaping the Political Landscape.

                     1. Parties, protests, and movements

                     3. Military institutions and activities

                       American Revolution; Sites in New England Associated                             with the War for Independence 1972.

                             V.  Developing the American Economy

                                      1. Extraction and production

                                      2. Distribution and consumption

                                      3. Transportation and communication

                                      4. Workers and work culture

                                     Commerce and Industry (1966)


Areas of Significance:    Military, Transportation, Industry, Maritime History, Commerce


Period(s) of Significance: 1765-1830   


Significant Dates: August 15th1775, to October 1st 1775                      


Significant Person(s):     Major Reuben Colburn, Col. Benedict Arnold, Aaron Burr, General Henry Dearborn, John Hancock.


Cultural Affiliation: NA             


Architect/Builder: Major Reuben Colburn                     


Historic Contexts: American Revolution, Quebec Campaign, Maritime History, Commerce.                                          

State Significance of Property, and Justify Criteria, Criteria Considerations, and Areas and Periods of Significance Noted Above.



The life and reputation of Reuben Colburn, in the opinion of those in the least way familiar with the story of the American Revolution, has been primarily based on the bateaux his shipyard built for the Arnold Expedition to British-held Quebec. Few American and Canadians, indeed few historians, are fully aware of the vital role played by Reuben Colburn in the success or failure of the Arnold Expedition.

Theses: Reuben Colburn provided transport (in the form of river bateaux), some provisions, and some critical intelligence to Benedict Arnold’ expeditionary army on its epic march through Maine during the two-pronged American invasion of British-held Canada in 1775-1776. Contemporary narrative and modern historical interpretation have tended to minimize the role Reuben Colburn played. Most have criticized the poor quality of the bateaux constructed under Colburn’s supervision. 


I contend that:

Reuben Colburn’s role in providing logistics and intelligence support was a significant and critical one that affected the outcome of Arnold’s expedition and, by extension, control of Quebec and British North America. It is widely accepted that the primary factor in getting Arnold’s army through the wilderness invasion route through Maine’s rivers, swamps, and forests to Quebec was the brilliant and persistent leadership of Colonel Arnold.

In providing the logistics and intelligence support, Reuben Colburn performed his duties, and responsibilities to the best of his abilities in the face of the severe operational time constraint and lack of resources. Colburn operated under the restraint of American command decisions made by General George Washington and Colonel Benedict Arnold prior to Colburn’s contract to provide such support.


Shallow dismissive handling by historians of Colburn’s role in the march to Quebec and its subsequent failure i.e., “the boats leaked,” recounted in all too brief descriptions in history books leave Colburn in a bad light, and conveniently leave out the details of his effort or the circumstances. That Colburn is seen only as a “provision provider” is an incomplete picture. He in fact played a major role in instigating, and implementing the expedition.


For his close personal dealings with George Washington and Benedict Arnold in instigating and organizing the expedition to Quebec from August 14 to Oct 10, 1775, The Major Reuben Colburn House qualifies for national significance under NHL Criteria 2. For his contributions to the shipping industry and colonial marine commerce the home qualifies under NHL Criteria 1. As an outstanding example of an effort of a leading historical figure to promote the ideal of American independence before the signing of the Declaration in 1776, Major Reuben Colburn qualifies under NHL Criteria 3., Promotion of the Great American Ideal of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; controlling our own destiny free from foreign control, the very foundation on which our nation is based.    



In 1765 Reuben Colburn built a fine family mansion on the east bank of the Kennebec. The mansion was set back off the river upon a cleared bluff, with a commanding view of the meadow that dipped to the shoreline. Constructed of oak timbers, the sturdy Reuben Colburn House still stands as a fine example of plain colonial architecture and serves today as the headquarters of the Arnold Expedition Historical Society. [6]


The Reuben Colburn House in Pittston, Maine is the site of one of the original settlements in Maine. Part of the Gardiner purchase, and first known as Gardinerston, Colburn House was one the first houses built on the east side of the Kennebec River, known locally as “Colburntown” later changed to Pittston.[7] In 1761, four brothers Jeremiah Jr., Oliver, Reuben, and Benjamin, along with their parents and four sisters, moved to the area by ship from Dracut, Massachusetts. The families great, great grandfather Edward Colburn sailed from London, England in 1635 on the ship “Defence”[8] and went on to found the town of Dracut, where the family removed from in 1761. Immediately after arrival in Maine Reuben’s brother Jeremiah Jr., and his young son William, moved on to Orono and founded that town.[9] It is interesting to note that his house on Bennoch Road in Orono is on this register at present. Likewise, the Major Reuben Colburn House is significant in the NR area of exploration and settlement, and NHL Theme of Peopling Places. The Reuben Colburn House is the original site of a colonial endeavor known as Colburn’s Shipyard. It is mentioned in many history books, local archival records, and the George Washington Papers in the Library of Congress. It is mentioned in fictional form (Genre only) by Maine author Kenneth Roberts in “Arundel” the story of Benedict Arnold’s March to Quebec in the fall of 1775.[10] Colburn was one of the first shipbuilder’s north of Bath[11] at that time and as the colonies progressed toward the Revolution, Reuben Colburn, a natural born leader and businessman, was a prominent figure in the national effort that rapidly escalated in, and around the Boston area. Reuben Colburn made three trips to Cambridge in the summer of 1775.


At that time Colburn was commissioned by General Washington to supply boats, supplies and services for an attempt to capture Quebec City from the British. Colburn gathered up Chiefs from the Indian tribes of St. Francis, brought them to Cambridge and presented them to Washington who enlisted their services in the American effort.[12]

Washington was pleased with his contribution and paid him for his services as he told General Philip Schuyler in a letter immediately after Colburn’s first visit. “Yesterday Sen-night arrived at camp in Cambridge, Swashan the Chief, with four other Indians of the St. Francois tribe, conducted thither by Mr. Reuben Colburn, who has been honorably recompensed for his trouble. The above Indians came hither to offer their service in the cause of American liberty, have been kindly received, and are now entered in the service. Swashan says he will bring one half of his tribe and has engaged 4 or 5 other tribes if they should be wanted. He says the Indians of Canada in general, and also the French, are greatly in our favor and determined not to act against us.”[13]


Based this leadership effort, now recognized by Washington, Horatio Gates and Col. Benedict Arnold, Reuben Colburn was given the responsibility to supply an army of 1000 men. His time frame was short and work on 200 ‘bateaux’ began three weeks before the proposed date of departure for the expedition.[14] The letters authorizing Colburn to do this work on many fronts are in the possession of this author and the Library of Congress. Receipts of expenses are also available for viewing.[15] The army arrived on board the “Broad Bay” anchoring at Colburn’s on Sept. 20th, 1775 led by Col. Benedict Arnold who was in the company of 19 year-old Aaron Burr.[16] They spent the night in the Colburn House before moving on in the bateaux and by wagon to Fort Western ten miles to the north. For two hundred years since, Colburn House has been known as the place where “Benedict Arnold slept.” In the upstairs bedroom SW corner to be exact.[17] Burr went on to become vice president under Thomas Jefferson in the bitterly fought election of 1800, and later killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.


The Continental army encamped camped at Colburn’s for up to ten days in some cases, (Col. Roger Enos’s Division), including Joseph Farnsworth, the Commissary of the army attending to the disbursement of supplies, while Colburn saw to twenty additional bateaux built at Arnold’s request.[18]


“Since Gardinerston was about as far up the Kennebec as the sailing vessels could go, supplies were transferred from the ships to the bateaux for the remaining nine or ten miles to Fort Western (Augusta), which was to be the final staging area for the expedition. Arnold assigned 100 men to row the boats up the river. A road between Gardinerston and Fort Western also made it possible for some of the supplies - probably some of those that had been delivered at Colburn’s shipyard by Joseph Farnsworth, the commissary to be moved over land. For some three days men and supplies were sent up to Fort Western, where supplies were stowed in the bateaux and the troops were reorganized for the wilderness march.”[19]


Arnold was unhappy with the bateaux, many he felt were too small and built with green lumber. Colburn at this late date had no dried pine planking left in his stockpiles. Nor did anyone else on the river. He did his best with what he had and a great effort to make up the difference. The lumber had already been used in previous projects by the time he got the word from Washington and Arnold. Messrs. Washington and Arnold didn’t understand the needs of this type of river travel and the orders to Colburn were vague as to what design to use. This was because they didn’t really know. Colburn gave them what was used in this area on the river. The shipyard site and home was the hub of the effort to capture Quebec City. Colburn not only supplied the food and bateaux, but also military intelligence, maps of the route, and the scouts who traveled the route prior to the arrival of Arnold’s army.[20] This is collectively a significant effort of one man to the American cause. Colburn provided the maps, bateaux, foodstuffs, hired and sent scouts as an advance party, and built a coalition of Indian tribes for the American cause; all of his own initiative. This is not the work of a run-of-the-mill subcontractor.   It should be noted, that not all of the citizenry were in favor of American Independence, some vehemently opposed such as Dr. Sylvester Gardiner, the wealthy Boston landowner who owned most of the territory at the time. Most of the citizenry of the area were Tories so Colburn had his work cut out for himself in providing the labor and the foodstuffs from in some cases a hostile pro-Britain crowd. Colburn supported the American cause, as did the other prominent patriots including his friends John Hancock and Samuel Adams, whose homes are recognized at a level above NHL based on their prominence in the same effort as their peer and compatriot Major Reuben Colburn.  It can be said that without the efforts of men such as these there would be no nation, therefore these contributions by definition are “national” not “local” as determined in the earlier decision. Without a nation, all military efforts in the Revolution were only “local” skirmishes by this logic.


At one point Washington himself was considered a failure because he only lost battles in the Mid-Atlantic theatre of the war while Horatio Gates won in the north. Without the valiant efforts in the attempts to capture Quebec, victory would have been impossible. The war in the north consumed three quarters of the Revolution. This is a national event heavily dependent on one man, (Colburn), for support, technical expertise and leadership. And this from a private citizen as well, Colburn received no “federal” commission for his military contribution. In fact, he was used without pay, save the 26 pounds[21] he actually received from Washington but promised in writing from him at the outset and denied by Congress.[22]  Legend has it that Colburn went to Mount Vernon to speak with the ex-president on the matter but arrived the day after Washington died in 1799.[23]


Colburn went on the mission with a company of artificers to repair the bateaux on the ill-fated failed mission as ordered by Washington.[24] They went as far as the “chain of ponds” section of the historic district trail before returning home to Pittston. Colburn was never paid for his expenses as noted above and fought the Congress unsuccessfully until his death in 1818.[25] The family carried on this fight until 1856. In 1818, General Henry Dearborn, who served as a captain on Arnold's expedition, and later became Secretary of War and then General in Chief of the Army, testified to the justice of a claim on this account which Colburn made at that time.[26] Final action on Colburn's claim did not come until March 1824, when Congress refused to approve payment largely on the ground that the lapse of so much time, and the loss of public records, made the justice of the claim doubtful.[27]


Reuben Colburn was a Representative to the Massachusetts General Court from 1783 to 1789, and a delegate to the Falmouth Convention of 1786 where he voted for Maine Statehood that was defeated by the majority. He was a personal friend of John Hancock, (who also stayed at the house), voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution in Massachusetts before it was sent to the Congress for final ratification in 1787.[28] He died in Sept. 1818 at age 78 and is buried across the street from the house at Riverside Cemetery, with most of his descendants. After the war he continued building ships and contributing to the national shipping heritage and promoting the American Ideal. As one of the first American shipbuilders with his partner Thomas Agry, Colburn and his son David built schooners at the house and shipyard that exceeded 100 feet in length and sailed the world under the American flag, engaged in trade and the War of 1812. Examples of these vessels are as follows: Criterion-1807 Caroline-1807, Emeline-1810, and with Agry, Dolphin-1784, Phenix-1788. These represent excellent examples of his contributions to American shipping history. [29] 


Reuben Colburn held a wider economic dream for western Maine. He and fellow shipbuilder Dummer Sewell of Bath were among the commercial visionaries, in pre-Revolutionary War Maine, who had projected the Coos Trail that connected Hallowell on the Kennebec River to New Hampshire and points west as a shorter trade and pioneer migration route to the sea from northern New Hampshire, Vermont, Montreal, and Quebec.[30] At the outbreak of the Revolution in 1775, Reuben Colburn was a member of the Committee of Safety in Pittston.[31] He built the first Saw and gristmills at Farmington Falls after his company Reuben Colburn & Associates mentioned above was awarded the surveying contract from Gov. John Hancock and the Massachusetts General Court on which he served ten years.[32] Other mills he owned and operated were located at Togus Stream in present day Augusta and Showhegan on the Kennebec River, five and forty miles apart respectively a far ranging operation in those days. All were run from the Colburn House and Shipyard in Pittston. He shipped lumber to all parts of the young nation that was key to the building of America in the 1700s and early 1800s.


As to the issue of Colburn House not being the first stop of Arnold’s army and Fort Western the headquarters of the expedition. The members’ journals tell a different tale. The river is too shallow for navigation past Colburn’s. That is the reason the Colburns chose the spot in 1761. The Broad Bay and other transports anchored off Colburn’s and Arnold and his men came ashore at the house before moving upriver to Fort Western by wagon and bateaux as stated.


When the frigates delivered the Continental Army to Pittston, they wasted no time changing to the bateaux. “Here on the eastern shore of the broad Kennebec, just below a little turn in the river, could be found a narrow strip of meadow, where tough oaks, well suited to furnish the ribs of boats loved to grow. High above, at the verge of a terraced bluff, stood the house of Major Colburn, while at the edge of the water lay his shipyard. Everything looked a-bustle in the shipyard. Colburn himself was on hand, strong and hearty. On hand was Thomas Agry, a shipwright that had settled at the point a year before. A squad of workmen were whacking away at their smartest on oars, poles, and paddles, and not far off on the shore lay the fruit of the labor already done--two hundred flat-bottomed boats with high flaring sides, and a rather long, sharp nose at both stem and stern. ‘Good day, Colonel Arnold,’ Colburn said, and saluted.”[33]


Some have denied the place the expedition actually started was Colburn’s shipyard, and home. I answer that with the words of Capt. Simeon Thayer.


“Sept. 22. Went on shore with Col. Arnold at Capt. Copelins, (Colburn), where there were one hundred men to row the bateaux to Fort Western.”[34]


And surveyor John Pierce saw it this way.

“Friday Sept. 22.Cast anchor about 11 O’ clock in a place in the river called Gardner Town where was a liberty pole erected and 2 saw mills and a number of good dwelling houses on the right of the river- battoes all lying on shoar ready to receive our detachment, about 60 houses in said town.”[35]

Private Abner Stocking also confirms the need to stop at Colburn’s shipyard. “Sept.20. By the evening we floated to within 6 miles of Fort Western, where we were obliged to leave our sloops and take to our bateaus.”[36]


John Joseph Henry, a judge in later years said this in his account. “We ascended the river to Colburn’s shipyard; here we left our vessels and obtained bateaux, with which we proceeded to Fort Western.”[37]


Dr. Issac Senter had this to say.

“Friday Sept. 22nd. Passed Pownalborough ere we arrived at Gardner’s Town, where a number of battoes were preparing for our reception after the transports became useless. These were not quite finished. Sept. 23rd. Arrived at Fort Western at 10 o’clock in the morning. We were now come to a rapid in the river, beyond which our transports could not pass. Most of them were left at Gardner’s Town, where the bateaux were built, and the troops disembarked from them into bateaux, except those who were obliged to take land carriage. The bateaux were made of green pine boards, which made them somewhat heavy.”[38] 


Captain Eleazer Oswald, writing for Arnold.

“Thursday. 21—Proceeded as far as Gardinerstown. Friday 22—This morning arrived three of the transports; were employed the whole day in forwarding the men, provisions, bateaus, &c., to Fort Western; engaged two caulkers, some guides, and assistants.”[39]

Captain Return Jonathan Meigs is the only journalist that mentions the short amount of time allotted Reuben Colburn to build the bateaux and round up the provisions. He includes it in his entry for the 20th.

“I would mention here, that this day makes fourteen only, since the orders were first given for building 200 battoes, collecting provisions for levying 1,100 men, and marching them to this place, viz., Gardiner’s Town, [Colburn’s] which is great dispatch. 21st. All day at Gardiner’s Town; weather fine. 22nd. Embarked on board battoes—proceeded up the river toward evening. I lodged at the house of Mr. North, and was very agreeably entertained. 23rd. In the morning proceeded up the river, about six miles, to Fort Western.”[40] This justifies Colburn House as the original destination for the expedition. It took effort to move the army on in waves to Fort Western the second supply depot and encampment. Fort Halifax was third. Both are NHL’s. The latter currently is of low Integrity, much less original than Colburn House in comparison. Reuben Colburn is referred to in many literary records and a few selected quotes would further make the case for national significance under NHL Criteria 2.



“Yesterday Sen-night arrived at the camp in Cambridge, Swashan, the chief, with four other Indians of the St. Francois tribe, conducted thither by Mr. Reuben Colburn, who has been honorably recompensed for his trouble.”


                                    George Washington to Philip J. Schuyler



“On the Kennebec, at Gardinerston, six miles below Fort Western we found rafts of lumber moving down river toward Reuben Colburn’s shipyard, which was a turmoil of shouting and pounding. The shore was covered with bateaux.”

                                                               From Arundel


“There’s times when it seems as if they expected me to fight the whole damn war alone.”

                                                    Reuben Colburn in Arundel


“Mister I believe in Washington and Arnold.” Reuben Colburn in Arundel



“Mr. Reuben Colburn,

    Sir, His Excellency General Washington desires you will inform yourself how soon, there can be procured, or built, at Kennebec, two hundred light Batoos Capable of carrying six or seven men each, with their provisions & baggage, the boats to be provided with four oars two paddles & two setting poles each, the expense of building them & whether a sufficient quantity of nails can be procured by you.”


                                                From Benedict Arnold’s letter


“You are to receive forty schillings lawful money for each Batteau, with the oars, paddles, and setting poles included; out of which you are to pay the artificers & for all the provisions, nails etc. they shall expend.” “Given at Headquarters at Cambridge this day of September 1775.”


                        From the letter of George Washington to Reuben Colburn



“It was on the eastern side of the river, in what we now call Pittston, that Arnold and many of his men stopped. There, on the shore of the Kennebec, about a couple of miles below the present city of Gardiner, lived Major Reuben Colburn. He too was a landowner. In 1763 he was granted two hundred and fifty acres; but that seemed nothing and on New Years Day, 1773, he bought himself a present of two and a half square miles. The Major owned a house there, and a good one too. One can easily accept the tradition that Arnold lodged there. There were good reasons why the commander of the expedition halted at this point: Colburn was the real fulcrum of the enterprise.”


                                             Justin Harvey Smith from

                                             Arnold’s March


“To his excellency John Hancock in Boston, Pittston, July 28, 1787

Dear Sir, I have shipped fourteen sticks of fine timber, agreeable to your directions on board of William Porter- J.H.”


                                             Reuben Colburn to John Hancock



“Mr. Bell from the Committee on Claims to whom was referred the petition of Reuben Colburn, made a report accompanied by the following resolution: Resolved, that the prayer of the petitioner ought not be granted.”


                                                Journal of the Senate


This case as carried on until 1856 and shortly after a new Statute of Limitations ended all claims from the Revolutionary period. The Colburn family never received the money promised by Washington and financed the expedition with Reuben’s own resources, which caused him great financial hardship. Receipts in Washington’s expense log show 26 pounds paid him. As a military supply depot, Colburn’s home and shipyard was more significant than Fort Western for as the expedition members’ journals show, the army arrived here first before moving on to Fort Western five miles to the north.[41] Colburn conducted all of the intelligence operations for the expedition from here including gathering of the Indian chiefs for enlistment in the service of America and the hiring of Indians as scouts and guides for Arnold and the army. Reuben Colburn’s close personal Indian friends; Sabatis and Natanis rescued the army when they became lost in the swamp above Lac Megantic, Canada. Sabatis and other Abenaki Indians were frequent guests in the Colburn home. While it is reported, and felt by Arnold that Natanis was a spy for the British and ordered shot on sight, the record shows that Natanis was paid by Colburn along with Getchell and Berry for the reconnaissance prior to the arrival of Arnold. This meeting took place at Colburn’s. Arnold received the report here, not at Fort Western. Natanis was a friend but misunderstood by the leadership i.e., Arnold and division commanders.[42] It was Eneas, a St. Francois Indian from Quebec previously unknown locally who duped Arnold in Norridgewock and was in fact the real British spy. Had Col. Arnold consulted with the busy Colburn laboring behind him repairing the bateaux, he would have known Natanis was not the one to be feared as was later learned in the swamps of Chaudiere Pond, (Lac Megantic), Canada.    


They were frequent houseguests as mentioned, at the Colburn home, as good relations with American Indian tribes of the region was a Colburn family tradition, unlike the practices of some colonists so often referred to in modern historical perspectives, hence a fine example of the rare “good” relationship with “Native Americans” by English American Patriots. Edward Colburn, paid the Wamesit Tribe in 1675 for his own land, (Dracut, Mass.), to make peace. As the site of one of the earliest shipyards in the colonies this site deserves the recognition under NHL Criteria 1 for this industrial pioneering endeavor as spreading the American ideal by land and trading by sea.[43] Ships built at the site by Colburn and Agry brought needed supplies from all over the world to the growing colonies, hence promoting American economic strength and security when the country was in its infancy and needed it the most. [44]


“At Cobbasecontee [Gardiner] there is a considerable of shipbuilding going on, and a double sawmill and gristmill which employ thirty or forty hands. Covered in the statement were “Reuben Colburn and Thomas Agry who were said to have been building vessels as early as 1763 near the present town of Pittston.” [45] The demand for shipbuilding locations where a new supply of timber was readily available led to the spread north of this critical industry. The great era of shipbuilding on the Kennebec began in 1783. [46]


Colburn was always there for his family, his community, his country, and the God of his belief. He built the first Congregational Church next to the home in Pittston, also on the National Register, as is the recent addition of the Colburn School next to the Riverside Cemetery, which educated my ancestors in the Colburn Town area of Pittston in which Colburn House is at the center. Colburn was in a religious minority among Anglicans, part of the reason the family relocated here from Massachusetts. Before he built the Congregational Church he would take his family in canoes down the Kennebec River to Georgetown on Saturday, and return Monday morning after Sunday service.[47]


Congress’s denial of payment caused Reuben and his family great financial hardship at a critical time in our history. He and other New England shipbuilders and traders were greatly hampered by the embargo on trade with Britain in the years prior to and during the War of 1812. Colburn had previously taken a contract to build a large ship for Peter Bryson of Wiscasset and this vessel partially constructed, was left to decay on the stocks in the yard below the house. He was financially ruined. Debt was a disgrace in those days and furniture was taken away by citizens to help cover the debts. His son David, a shipwright who later built many large vessels in his father’s shipyard in later years, came to his rescue and saved the family’s reputation.[48] But the money for the bateaux remained a thorn in his side. No amount of promotion from Congressmen on his behalf could convince the Committee on Revolutionary Claims to honor Washington’s contract. His son and later other family members tried in vain until 1856 when the aforementioned a statute of limitations was passed preventing any further consideration. This is a national disgrace for this pivotal a figure in our fight for independence. Had Colburn not arrived in Cambridge with the Indian chiefs when he did the expedition might have never taken place at all. “It is likely the appearance of this band at headquarters had much to do with Washington’s decision to attack Quebec.”[49] 


I feel the case for national significance is strengthened, given the personnel involved i.e. Washington, Hancock, and Arnold et al. in the context of the history of the United States of America. Colburn was one of the ratifying delegates of the U.S. Constitution as a member of the Massachusetts General Court, although as stated above this is not a national office, but in the light of the historic event, (Constitutional ratification), even participation in the vote in a state legislature is not a run-of-the-mill act that every man was involved in, and it further enforces the case of Reuben Colburn as a nationally significant man for his impact on Colonial America under NHL Criteria 2. As the great, great, great, great grandson of Reuben Colburn, I make his case for National Historical Landmark Status within the National Park Service jurisdiction under the American Revolution, Maritime History and Commerce Themes. Other NHL properties exist in Maine such as the Blaine House, and the Morse house in Portland, that exhibit the trappings of our nation’s wealthiest citizens. Including vessels built much later, such as the schooner American Eagle in Camden.


But America is about more than just the wealthy and their successes. Middle class working patriots who contribute significantly to a national cause based on the belief in it, despite being economically less able to do so and the documented magnitude of the contribution. The six hundred pounds denied Colburn after the fact represented an actual value more than the appraisement of his house, barn and land at the time. Colburn and his house exhibit this class of people who pioneered, persevered and lasted in the face of adversity in a hard time in our history. I contend that Colburn is at least as important to the annals of history, as these wealthier men, if not more so. Patriots that distinguish themselves above others in the scope, and range of their achievements and contributions to the national cause, events and American ideal deserve above average recognition. Major Reuben Colburn is such a man.  





9. Major Bibliographical References









Milliman, Crosby 1992, The Major Reuben Colburn House,

From Early Journal, Memoirs, observations and notes compiled by the curator and vice president of the Arnold Expedition Historical Society.


Fossel, Les., Carlson, Suzanne, Feasibility Study For the Restoration of the Reuben Colburn House Pittston, Maine. Restoration Resources, Alna, Me. pp.2-15


Fairburn, William Armstrong   Merchant Sail, University of Glasgow, 1897 Vol. V p. 3321-3322


Henry D. Kingsbury and Simeon L. Deyo, eds., Illustrated History of Kennebec County, Maine, 1625 – 1892 (New York: H. W. Blake and Company, 1892), 720.

Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War (Boston, 1896-1908), vol.3, 743.

Martin, James K. Benedict Arnold - Revolutionary Hero: an American Warrior Reconsidered. New York: New York University Press, 1997.


James A. Huston, The Logistics of Arnold’s March to Quebec (Professor of History and International Relations, Lynchburg College) American Military Institute. Military analysis of the Revolutionary War: An Anthology by the Editors of Military Affairs. Millwood, N.Y.: KTO Press, 1977.


Smith, Justin H. Arnold’s March from Cambridge to Quebec: A Critical Study, Together with a Reprint of Arnold’s Journal. New York: G. Putnam’s Sons, 1903.

_______. Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony: Canada and the American Revolution. 2 vols. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907.

Merrill, Virginia T. Notes On the Colburn Family of Pittston Maine. Maine State Library

Roberts, Kenneth 1932, March To Quebec: The Journals of the Members of the Arnold Expedition.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­________ 1930, Arundel

Washington, George, The George Washington Papers, Library of Congress Letter, Washington to Nathaniel Tracy, 2 September 1775, ibid., 111, 470-71; see Washington to Gov. Jonathan Trumbull, 2 September 1775, ibid., IR, 470.]”

Orders to Reuben Colburn, 3 September 1775, ibid, 111, 471.


Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington, 111, 492-96.Instructions to Arnold, (drafted by Thomas Mifflin)


Samuel Goodwin to George Washington, Pownalborough, Oct. 17, 1775. American Archives, 4th Series, 3:1083-84.


Hanson, J.W. History of Gardiner, Pittston, and West Gardiner, 1602 to 1852. Gardiner, Me.: William Palmer, 1852.


Coolidge, Olivia E. Colonial Entrepreneur: Dr. Silvester Gardiner and the Settlement of Maine’s Kennebec Valley. Gardiner, Me.: Tilbury House Publishers and Gardiner Library Association, 1999.


U. S. Government, Annals of Congress, Senate, 18th Congress, 1st Session, Case of Reuben Colburn, March 12, 1824, p. 338, and March 15, 1824, pp. 342-43.




Previous documentation on file (NPS):


  X   Preliminary Determination of Individual Listing (36 CFR 67) has been requested.

  X   Previously Listed in the National Register.

 X   Previously Determined Eligible by the National Register.

     Designated a National Historic Landmark.

     Recorded by Historic American Buildings Survey:  #

     Recorded by Historic American Engineering Record:  #


Primary Location of Additional Data:


  X   State Historic Preservation Office

  X   Other State Agency

     Federal Agency

  X   Local Government


     Other (Specify Repository): 





Acreage of Property:    approximately 1 acre


UTM References:          Zone   Easting   Northing

            House                 19      439703   4893915 

            Barn                    19      439698   4893940

USGS Quad:  Gardiner   19      439055   4894230



Verbal Boundary Description:


The property is approximately one acre surrounding the two buildings on Arnold Road in Pittston, Maine. Arnold Road forms the eastern boundary of the lot; the driveway to the river property forms the southern boundary, and neighbors to the north and west. Colburn used to own as much as a square mile surrounding the present house, including the riverfront where the shipyard was located and the bateaux built in 1775. However, as stated above this lot is vacant, but now part of the neighboring property not part of the Colburn House parcel. The Continental army headquartered at the present home and site, exactly where it still stands. Forest surrounds the parcel to the west and north.



Boundary Justification:


Present survey records and deeds in the possession of the Bureau of Parks and Lands and Maine Historic Preservation Commission; Sheila McDonald and Kirk Mohney respectively. 


 Map target is 44.2007ºN, 69.7627ºW  -  UTM Zone 19, N 4894230, E 439055

Exact center of display is UTM Zone 19, N 4893945, E 439420


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Name/Title: Mark A. York, Writer, Biographer of Reuben Colburn, Descendant          


Address: 10799 Sherman Grove Ave #39

               Sunland, CA 91040  



Telephone: 818-352-5433       




Edited by:        

                        National Park Service

                        National Historic Landmarks Survey

                        1849 C St., N.W.

                        Room NC-400

                        Washington, DC  20240


Telephone:        (202)343-




                                                       June 17, 2002

[1] Fossel, Les., Carlson, Suzanne, Feasibility Study For the Restoration of the Reuben Colburn House Pittston, Maine. Restoration Resources, Alna, Me. pp.2-5.

[2]Milliman, Crosby, The Major Reuben Colburn House AEHS 1992 pp. 1-7

[3] Sturgis, Arron.,  Final Report, Colburn House South Wall Restoration, May 200,1Preservation Timber Framing Inc. P.O. Box 29, Eliot, Me 03903

[4] Maine Maritime Museum, Bath, Me. See sketch file attached.

[5] Fossel, Les Colburn House Study, pp. 6-7

[6] Merrill, Virginia T. Notes On the Colburn Family of Pittston Maine. Solon  ,Maine Maine State Library

[7] Henry D. Kingsbury and Simeon L. Deyo, eds., Illustrated History of Kennebec County, Maine, 1625 – 1892 (New York: H. W. Blake and Company, 1892), 720.


[8] Coburn W., Gordon, George A. Eds. The Genealogy of the Descendants of Edward Colburn Lowell, Mass. 1913

[9] Ibid.

5 Roberts, Kenneth, Arundel, 1932


[11] Baker, William, Avery A Maritime History of Bath Maine, and the Kennebec River Region, Vol. 1 pp.94.

[12]  Fitzpatrick, John C., Writings of Washington, Vol.3 111, 492-96.



[13] Ibid. Note 99

[14] Smith, Justin H. Arnold’s March from Cambridge to Quebec: A Critical Study, Together with a Reprint of Arnold’s Journal. New York: G. Putnam’s Sons, 1903.

[15] The George Washington Papers, Library of Congress Letter, Series 5, Financial Papers pp.41

     Ibid, pp.35, 5.


[16] Roberts, Kenneth 1932, March To Quebec: The Journals of the Members of the Arnold Expedition.


[17] Smith, Justin H. Arnold’s March from Cambridge to Quebec: A Critical Study, Together with a Reprint of Arnold’s Journal. New York: G. Putnam’s Sons, 1903. pp. 75

[18] Ibid pp. 18-19 Letter to Washington from Samuel Goodwin, surveyor of Pownalborough, Ibid. pp.299-300 Note 16, Arnold’s Receipt for 220 bateaus. See pp. 299 Colburn’s receipt from Thomas Agry for the last twenty bateaus.

[19] James A. Huston, The Logistics of Arnold’s March to Quebec (Professor of History and International Relations, Lynchburg College) American Military Institute. Military analysis of the Revolutionary War: An Anthology by the Editors of Military Affairs. Millwood, N.Y.: KTO Press, 1977. pp. 3



[20]  Fitzpatrick, John C. The George Washington Papers, Library of Congress Letter, Series 4. General Correspondence September 13, 1775, pp.78 ibid, 79 See Remington Hobby for Dennis Getchell and Samuel Berry to Reuben Colburn.


[21] Washington, George, The George Washington Papers, Library of Congress series 5 financial papers

[22] Chase, Philander D., et al, eds., Papers of George Washington: revolutionary War Series (Charlottesville, Va., 1985-: 6 Vols to date. Vol. 1,pp. 409-10

[23] Smith, Arnold’s March Notes to pp. 74-83 pp. 297

[24] Ibid., pp. 298  

[25] U. S. Government, Annals of Congress, Senate, 18th Congress, 1st Session, Case of Reuben Colburn, March 12, 1824, p. 338, and March 15, 1824, pp. 342-43.


[26] Smith,  Arnold's March, pp. 293-97, n.

[27] Annals of Congress, 12 March 1824, p. 338, and 15 March 1824, pp. 342-43

[28] Merrill, Virginia T. Notes On the Colburn Family of Pittston Maine. Solon, Me. Maine State Library

[29] Fairburn, William Armstrong   Merchant Sail, University of Glasgow, 1897 Vol. V p. 3321-3322


[30]Butler, History of Farmington pp.23, 50.

    Merrill, Virginia T. Notes on the Colburn Family of Pittston, Maine. pp. 9


[31] National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, Lineage Books of the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution (Washington, D.C., 1931), vol. 112, p. 51.


[32] Butler, History of Farmington pp.23, 50.

    Merrill, Virginia T. Notes on the Colburn Family of Pittston, Maine. pp. 9


[33] Smith, Justin H. Our Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony: Canada and the American Revolution. 2 vols. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907.

[34] Roberts, March To Quebec, Journals of Thayer, Pierce, Senter, Meigs, Oswald.,  pp. 248-249

[35]Ibid., Pierce

[36] Ibid., Stocking  pp.546

[37] Ibid., pp. Henry pp. 302

[38] Ibid., Senter pp. 198-199

[39] Ibid., Oswald  pp. 41

[40] Ibid., Meigs  pp.174

[41] Ibid. All of the journals document well the initial stop at Colburn’s

[42] Smith, Justin H., Arnold’s March notes pp. 304 Cash paid Natannes the Indian for guiding us on our journey to Quebec 0:6:0 (Shillings)

[43] Baker, William Avery  A Maritime History of Bath Maine, and the Kennebec River Region, Vol. 1 pp.94.


[44] William Hutchinson Rowe, The Maritime History of Maine (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1948), p. 56



[45] Ibid.

[46] Hutchins, John G.B. The American Maritime Industries and Public Policy, 1789-1914 An Economic History, Harvard University Press 1941 pp. 180

[47] See Hansen, History of Pittston, Reuben Colburn.

[48] Merrill, pp. 4

[49] Gurney, Hugh., Park Historian NPS, Area Investigative Report on Benedict Arnold Scenic Road Maine, National Park Service NE Region US. Dept. of Interior March 1965, pp. 7