Remembering Dorothy Shaw Libbey

By Linda Snow McLoon

A 1963 news clipping shows Dorothy Shaw Libbey and historical society president Percy Wright inspecting a scroll presented to her by town selectmen to honor her historical work.
From the SHS collections

Over the years a number of individuals have made major contributions toward preserving Scarborough’s history, but no one has done more toward saving our past for future generations than Dorothy Shaw Libbey. Long before she and her husband Clarke Libbey helped found the Scarborough Historical Society in 1961, Dorothy was working hard to research and chronicle Scarborough’s past. She was the first to hold the title of Historian for the historical society.

Born in 1907, Dorothy could trace her Scarborough family roots to Joseph Waterhouse of Portsmouth, NH, who married Mary Libby of Kittery before they established a home in Scarborough in 1730. She became fascinated with old manuscripts and the early wills of old settlers, and she studied epitaphs on cemetery gravestones. Dorothy spent endless hours before the time of computers hand-copying early municipal, church, and cemetery records. Testimony to her dedicated work were the 40 cartons of her historical material that were brought to the historical society after her passing in 1989.

Dorothy Shaw Libbey’s crowning achievement was her book, Scarborough Becomes a Town, which was published in 1955. Covering events from 1625 to 1850, the book describes the gathering of 29 men from Black Point, Blue Point, and Stratton’s Island on July 14, 1658, to formally create a town where records would be kept, courts convened, and taxes paid under the protection of the government of Massachusetts Bay. The lives of the early settlers, their homes, the introduction of slavery, the schools, and the town’s role in the American Revolution are all covered in her book.

A valuable service Dorothy performed was transcribing the records of both the Black Point and Dunstan cemeteries. She and her husband also drew a map locating many of the smaller family burying grounds in Scarborough.

We certainly owe Dorothy Shaw Libbey a debt of thanks for the extensive efforts she put into preserving Scarborough’s history.

[Editor’s Note:] This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of Owascoag Notes

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