A few years ago Renee Perron discovered that the property she’s lived on for the past ten years once belonged to a fascinating figure in Bangor’s history — Sam Guess, a Civil War veteran and former slave considered “for many years one of the best known characters of the city,” the Daily Whig and Courier reported on Friday, Nov. 18, 1910, a day after Guess died at the Togus Hospital. Perron’s 14th street property was given by Guess to his daughter, Annie Warner, who built the house in 1894 and whose family lived there until the mid-20th century.
Perron’s home, and the story behind it, will be featured on an episode of HGTV’s history show “Who’s Lived In My House?” a program that looks into the hidden stories in homes across America, from famous former residents to crimes committed to historical events.
A film crew will be in Bangor during the first week of May to shoot a segment about Perron’s house and about the history of one of Bangor’s most notable African American residents. A run date for the episode has not yet been scheduled.
Perron always felt there was something a little different about her house. It wasn’t until she and her husband removed the mantelpiece above an old fireplace on the second floor and found the name “Warner” scrawled on the wall that they discovered her suspicions might be founded.
“This probably sounds really weird, but ever since we moved in here I’ve felt a presence. I don’t want to say a spirit, but I knew something was up,” said Perron, a social worker at Bangor High School, who lives in the house with her husband, Guy, and their three children. “Then, a few years ago, Wayne Reilly wrote a story for the BDN about this runaway slave and veteran named Sam Guess, and then Brian Swartz from the BDN called me saying that they figured out that Guess used to own this property, and they wanted to do an article on it… We figured out that ‘Warner’ was Sam’s daughter, and it all just fell into place.”
According to both Reilly and Swartz’s articles, Guess was born into slavery in Kentucky around 1830, but while traveling with his slave master in Louisiana escaped to freedom, around the beginning of the Civil War. After very nearly being shot by Confederate soldiers, Guess was rescued by soldiers from the 22nd Maine Infantry Regiment, a regiment he eventually “unofficially” joined; in 1865, he joined the 41st United Colored Troops, from which he was discharged in Portland in June 1865. He soon after settled in Bangor with his wife, Rosa Maria, a native of the Cape Verde Islands, and his five children, including Annie.