Testing of the both documents revealed the discovered one was genuine, while the archival one was written at least 100 years later.
“What they thought was the real deal was in fact a fake,” said Larry Doughty, a longtime Brewer resident and city councilor. “We tested what we thought was the original charter and found that it was actually written sometime in the early 1900s.” Doughty added that testing of both the ink and paper on the archived document revealed the fiber of the paper was consistent with paper produced in the early part of the 20th century, and the ink used was not even around in the early 1800s.
In contrast, both the ink and parchment paper of the document discovered in the home were found to be consistent with that of the early 1800s. The signatures were also determined to be authentic.
According to Bernard Lubrick, a world renowned historian with the Massachusetts Historical Society, the reason it may have gone unsigned is when the City of Brewer was supposedly incorporated, the sitting governor at the time was so distracted with political issues that he never had a chance to approve the charter.
“At the time, Elbridge Gerry was governor, but he was under such fire for creating favorable voting districts – that’s where we get the tem ‘gerrymandering’ – that he was never able to sign the document before he left office on March 4, 1812,” Lubrick said. “Documents say Brewer was incorporated in February, but it never happened.”
Brewer resident and bicentennial committee chair Richard Ruhlin was stunned by the discovery and wonders why the document was never authenticated before. And since Brewer is apparently still a part of Orrington, he also fears town officials there will seek 200 years of back taxes.
“Somebody should have told us long before this,” he said. “What do we do next?”