The Two Ebenezers
By Stanley J. Quinlan*
By Stanley J. Quinlan*
My name is Ebenezer C. Staples, not to be confused with that other Ebenezer fella - you know, the one nobody likes, especially around Christmas time. On the other hand, I must confess that I do enjoy seeing my last name in big red letters up on the sign at those big-box business supplies stores.
Most folks know me as the guy who built the Old Orchard Beach Inn (originally known as the Staples Inn) back in 1837, but that's not why I'm here. The real reason is to tell folks about my 1875 dust-up with still another Ebenezer, one who went by the last name of Seavey.
Now, this Seavey fella and I didn't like each other a whole lot, especially after we battled over a parcel of God's green Earth in the heart of what you folks know as "Old Orchard Beach," but what we called "Saco" or "Pepperellborough" way back when . . .
You see, the two of us had helped to organize the "Old Orchard Association" for the purpose of selling home sites in the town. So, one day I was out looking to mark off some of my land to sell house lots on what was to become your "Old Orchard Street." I was aiming to mark some land about a rod and a half back from the barbed wire fence that ran down the middle of the road, when along came one of my partners, Ebenezer Seavey, who owned the land on the other side of the fence.
"Whatcha doin' there, Staples? he inquired.
"Ain't none of your dang business," I retorted. (They didn't call me "the meanest man in Saco" for nothing, you know).
"Looks to me like you're fixing to mark off some lots," he said.
"Go about your business, Seavey, and leave me alone!"
Seavey, not being a stupid man, said to no one in particular, "Well, if Staples is measuring land for house lots, he must know something I don't know and it's probably going to make himself a pretty penny. Guess I'll do the same thing on my side of the fence."
Which, of course he did, leading to the dust-up.
Fortunately, I figured Seavey would do what I was doing, making a line all the way down the hill, a rod and a half wide from the barbed wire, so it would allow for a road to be built in that space for its entire length.
But Seavey told me he thought the road should be on my side of the barbed wire. So, I bought more land a rod and a half wide. Now I had a piece of earth three rods wide all the way down the hill.
This is where Seavey went wrong. He guessed the road was already laid out on my land, so he sold some of his house lots right up to his side of the barbed wire. Fortunately for me, Seavey told me what he was going to do before he did it.
"Fine by me," I told him, "but I'll be darned if I'll let you use my road. The Town hasn't accepted it yet, so it's all my land. You'd best build your own road, Seavey!"
I couldn't believe it, but that's exactly what Seavey did. He put a three-rod road on his side of the barbed wire all the way down the hill!
So now you know why Old Orchard Street is a six-rod road all the way to the beach and is one of the widest roads in all of Maine - all because of a couple of old Ebenezers!
*Adapted from Colby College Special Collections, Digital Portal Search, Read only, Wesley McNair Papers, December 6, 2010. Read only, December 6, 2010, Posted in "Little Talks," Marriner, "Read and Listen." Little Talks #329, January 27, 1957. http://web.colby.edu/specialcollections/2010/It329-read-only.