FEATURED COLUMN by John McDonald: Our NH neighbors, ‘Live Free or Die’

By John McDonald

This may be the kind of useless information only a radio talk-show host like me would love, but did you know Maine is the only state of the lower 48 bordering on one state? The state, of course, is New Hampshire.
All seriousness aside, we love our “Live Free or Die” neighbors over there to the west. What other state can put their entire tax policy on their license plates? But I digress.

The Maine-New Hampshire border is the creation of colonial politics and clever colonial surveying. As with any neighbor, there are occasional “issues” that arise between ourselves and the fine folks of the Granite State, and those issues can sometimes lead to inter-state bickering.
A frequent flash-point between Maine and New Hampshire concerns ownership of a once-worthless piece of land in the Piscataqua River — a pile of silt and fill that happens to have a valuable shipyard on it.
From time to time, New Hampshire officials file a suit in federal court trying to lay claim to the whole of that island and, of course, the shipyard sitting on it. Maine officials are a tad upset with this claim of our neighbors, mostly because they think the silt pile in the muddy river belongs to the people of Maine.
If this argument just involved a pile of silt, of course, the people of Maine probably wouldn’t care who claimed it, But the sprawling, bustling shipyard sitting on the silt pile makes it a bit more valuable. Not only that, but everyone who works there at the shipyard is required to pay income taxes to Maine, no matter which state they claim as their home state. There’s no telling when we might argue with our neighbor again about the exact location of the border.
A few years ago, two teams of surveyors were hired by Maine and New Hampshire to finally set the border between the two states — once and for all. One team was hired by New Hampshire officials in Concord, and the other team was hired by Maine officials in Augusta — just to try and make the procedure fair. It was assumed each team would look to see that the interests of their state were well represented.
One day the survey team was working over in Oxford County near Gilead, and after spending a day going through swamps and fields and pucker-brush, they realized the beautiful farm on the border they had just surveyed was not in Maine at all, but was, in fact, in New Hampshire.
One of the surveyors was given the task of going up to the house and telling the owner the news. The surveyor fella was a little concerned because he didn’t know how the farm’s owner would take to being told his farm — with a few twists of a surveyors instrument — had just been moved from the Pine Tree State to the Granite State. It would mean the owner, who always thought of himself as a native Mainer, was no longer a native at all. It would also mean he, his wife and children would all now be considered “from away.” The seemingly simple news would completely change the family’s life forever.
He walked up to the farmhouse, called “hello” a few times, and finally an elderly gentleman came to the door. “Sir,” he said, “I’m with the survey team straightening out the border here and after carefully surveying through your farm, we concluded that your beautiful place here isn’t in Maine at all; it’s actually in New Hampshire.”
The old man looked a little stunned and appeared to be a bit unsteady upon hearing the news. The surveyor was concerned and asked the man if he wanted to sit down. The man said he’d be fine and then thanked the surveyor for the news.
“Young man,” the old gentleman said, “I don’t know how I can thank you for the wonderful news you’ve brought me today. I not only want to thank you, but I want to thank the good Lord, too. You know, I was just sitting there at my kitchen table wondering how a man my age was going to make it through another Maine winter.”

John McDonald has a program of Maine stories for your company’s next banquet, conference, convention or special event. Call 207-240-8324 or email maineauthorjohn.mcdonald@yahoo.com.