The Abyssinian Church is founded in Portland by the city’s African-American community led by Reuben Ruby. It was an important stop along the Underground Railroad and is reputed to be the third oldest black church in the United States that is still standing.


July 4, 1866

What begins as a small fire in a boat yard on Commercial Street in Portland develops into a great conflagration. By the time The Great Fire is extinguished, eighteen hundred buildings have been destroyed including numerous landmarks. Incredibly only two deaths are reported.

October 14 1889

The SS Portland is launched in Bath, Maine.


June 14, 1890

The SS Portland undertakes her maiden voyage to Boston.

February 18, 1898

The USS Maine explodes and sinks in Havana Harbor Cuba. The incident leads to hostilities between Spain and the United States. Ironically more Americans will be killed during the 36 hours of the Portland Gale then will be killed in combat during the ensuing Spanish-American War.


November 26, 1898

The SS Portland is docked at India wharf in Boston taking on freight. Many individuals wishing to return to Maine from Thanksgiving family visits in Massachusetts book reservations. The Portland’s Captain is Hollis H. Blanchard. Blanchard has recently been promoted from pilot to Captain.

November 26, 1898 | 10:30 a.m.

The Weather Bureau orders red flags raised as storm signals along the eastern seaboard from Norfolk, Virginia to Eastport, Maine as a storm develops off of Cape Hatteras North Carolina.


November 26, 1898 | afternoon

Captain Blanchard goes to the Weather Bureau’s office in Boston to discuss the forecast with meteorologist John W. Smith. Blanchard also has a phone conversation with Alexander C. Dennison, Captain of the Portland’s sister ship, the Bay State, docked in Portland. Dennison informs Blanchard that he will not leave port due to the increasingly bad weather.

November 26, 1898 | 7:00 p.m.

The SS Portland promptly casts off her lines at India Wharf and proceeds into Boston Harbor. As the steamer leaves Boston’s outer harbor snow begins to fall and the wind picks up.


November 26, 1898 | 9:30 p.m.

The fishing schooner Maude S, Captained by William Thomas, is making its way towards Gloucester Harbor. Thomas sites the Portland making her way north. At this time the Portland is off of Bass Rocks, southwest of the twin lighthouses on Thatcher’s Island.

November 28, 1898 | 2:20 a.m.

Surfman Gideon Bowley of the High Head Life Saving Station is patrolling the beach when he comes upon the body of an African American man wearing a life belt from the SS Portland. Over the course of the day additional bodies are found along the beach.