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USM’s Matthew Edney lectures on history of ‘Witchcasset’

Prof Matthew Edney

USM Geography Professor Matthew Edney spoke recently to the Lincoln County Historical Association on the history of a detailed, pre-Revolutionary War map of the Boothbay, Wiscasset and Westport area.

In the map — created around 1771 or 1772 — the area where the town of Wiscasset sits was labeled “Witchcasset.”

Edney's talk was covered by reporter Phil Di Vece of the Wiscasset Newspaper.

The map was drawn by Ensign George Sproule, a member of the 59th regiment of the British infantry who became known for his detailed and accurate maps, said Edney, USM's Osher Professor in the History of Cartography.

Regional maps of the same era showed the extent of territory but were very basic and general, he said. Sproule’s maps contained legends that indicated points of interest like meeting houses, houses of worship, sawmills, roads and garrisons. Features like these make them of great interest to present day historians.

Edney said original Sproule maps are pretty rare and hard to find in America. Most were turned over to the crown.

“King George III had a passion for collecting maps, amassing close to 50,000 of them during his reign,” Edney said.