I experienced an odd coincidence recently. About two weeks ago, I acquired an old book called “Lion Ben,” by Elijah Kellogg, which is a boy’s novel from the 1800s. The name of the author sounded familiar, and inside the front page was an inscription that read, “Isaac L. Dunning, North Harpswell, Maine, Sept. 25, 1869.”

Last weekend, I took my wife down to Harpswell to show her the old meeting house. It’s a beautiful spot, and in the past, I had wandered the graveyard and peeked in the windows. We pulled into the parking lot of the historical society building across the street, which I had never noticed before. The door was open, and a man was standing there. It seemed odd for the place to be open at 4 in the afternoon on a Sunday, but I thought maybe I could look around for a few minutes before it closed. Instead, we got a two-hour tour of the historical society, the old one-room school house, the cemetery and the meeting house.

As you may know, the church across the street from the meeting house is called the Elijah Kellogg Church. It turns out that Kellogg was not only a prolific children’s book author, he was also the minister of the Congregationalist Church in Harpswell from 1844 to 1854. The barn of the historical society holds Kellogg’s old horse-drawn wagon. And the coincidence I mentioned: They also have Kellogg’s writing desk. So a week after I picked up an antique book, not realizing who the author was, I was standing at the very desk where it was written.

The man who runs the historical society is David Hackett, and he graciously took time out of his day to give us a personal tour. Inside the old meeting house — built in 1750 — he showed me the old hex symbols carved into floors and doorways to keep out evil spirits. He let me hold one of the 200-year-old powder barrels that were found in the attic and still full of gunpowder. And I got to stand in the original pulpit where a minister once told his congregation about the news of Lexington and Concord and urged the men to join the revolution.

Later, I learned some interesting gossip and sordid details about the early days of the Maine Maritime Museum — where Hackett used to work — but I won’t go into that here. I left with a promise to return with donations: the Elijah Kellogg book, an old map of Harpswell archeological sites and the Orr’s-Bailey’s Island version of Monopoly, which I found at Goodwill recently.

If you are interested in local history, you have to go to Harpswell and let David Hackett give you a tour. And if you have any old Harpswell antiquities, think about donating them to the historical society.

Zac McDorr is a Coastal Journal contributor. He can be reached at [email protected]