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A frequent skirmish between Maine and New Hampshire concerns ownership of a piece of land in the Piscatiqua River – a pile of silt that just happens to have a shipyard on it – the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
From time to time, New Hampshire officials file annoying federal lawsuits trying to lay claim to the whole island and, of course, the shipyard on it. Maine officials are a tad upset with this neighborly dispute, mostly because they think the sand pile in the river belongs to the people of Maine.
If this piece of land was just a pile of silt, of course, we probably wouldn’t care who owned it. But the shipyard makes it a pretty valuable piece of property. Not only that, everyone working at the shipyard is required to pay income taxes to Maine. New Hampshire doesn’t have an income tax.
This isn’t the first time, and it probably won’t be the last, that we argue with our neighbor about the exact location of the border. A few years ago, a team of surveyors was hired by Maine and New Hampshire to try and set the border between us once and for all. One day they were working over in Oxford County, and after spending a day going through swamps and fields and pucker brush, they discovered that a particular farm on the border was not in Maine at all but was actually in New Hampshire.
One of the surveyors was given the task of telling the farm’s owner the news. The surveyor was a little concerned, not knowing how the farm’s owner would take to being told that his farm had just been moved from one state to another. He walked up to the farmhouse, calling “hello” a few times, and finally an elderly gentleman came to the door.
The surveyor said, “Sir, I’m with the survey team that’s straightening out the state line through here and after surveying through and referencing old deeds, we discovered to our surprise that your place isn’t in Maine at all –y our entire farm is actually in New Hampshire.”
The old man looked a little stunned at first and almost lost his footing, but eventually said: “Thank you young fella for that news, and thank the good Lord, too. You know I was just sitting here in my house wondering how I was going to make it through another Maine winter.”
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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