Burnham Tavern and Margaretta Days

Burnham Tavern and Margaretta Days


Machias developed around the confluence of three rivers at the head of Machias Bay.  The Scenic Byway passes over the mighty Machias River where it slices through downtown at Bad Little Falls Park. “Bad little falls,” or “bad run of water,” roughly translates from Passamaquoddy to the name “Machias”.  The series of smaller falls drop nearly 30 feet down shear rock.  The estuary below the falls is visited by eagles, osprey, and migratory fish, including endangered Atlantic salmon.  A foot bridge and viewing platform in the park welcome travelers to enjoy this beautiful natural feature and namesake at the heart of historic downtown Machias.    

Just up the street from Bad Little Falls Park is the Burnham Tavern museum, a National Historic Site and one of 21 homes in the United States deemed significant to the American Revolution.  Early in the war, American merchant Ichabod Jones sailed from Boston to Machias to facilitate a trade on behalf of the British, who needed lumber, which Machias produced in abundance.  The British sent the armed cutter HMS Margaretta along to insure Jones’ success. 

Jones demanded that Machias load their lumber before he would unload any British provisions for trade.  Burnham’s tavern became the scene of hot debate as townspeople discussed whether or not to commence trade.  After the Margaretta was positioned within firing distance of town, the people of Machias eventually voted to trade; Jones refused to do business with anyone who had opposed trade.  Several local militias set out to capture Jones, and the first naval engagement of the American Revolution ensued as militiamen fought back British troops with pitchforks, axes, and hunting rifles.  Burnham’s Tavern became a makeshift hospital for the wounded.  The Margaretta’s Captain died here, supposedly leaving behind a wooden chest soaked with his blood.

Great Britain attempted to destroy Machias in revenge for the capture of HMS Margaretta.  The Patriots, with the aid of Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Penobscot warriors, harassed and attacked the British, forcing their retreat.  A living history group in the Machias area re-enacts the Battle of the Rim, including several ancestors of  actual battle participants.

Margaretta Days Festival has become an annual tradition for 15 years.  The Festival is held on the University of Maine campus, within an encampment of period re-enactors and demonstrations.  Attendees can participate in timber framing, blacksmithing, weaving, spinning, and tomahawk throwing and lunch on moose or venison stew, meat and fruit pies, beans, and skillet cornbread. Children’s activities include making corn husk dolls and traditional games such as hoop-rolling. Passionate volunteers and historians reenact stories of the battle between redcoats and patriots and its heroes such as Jeremiah O’Brien, Hannah Weston, Rev. Lyons, and Passamaquoddy Chief Jean-Baptiste Neptune.

Hours: Bad Little Falls Park is open year-round.  Burnham Tavern is open June through October.  Margaretta Days occurs annually during mid-June.

Main St, Machias, ME 04654