Cross Country Journey – Part 1 Stage One: From Belfast to Ohio

Riding along the Erie Canal Trail.

This is the first of a three-part series on Steve Ball’s trek across American on a bicycle. Steve is from Windsor.

by Steve Ball

This is a story of a trip across the United States, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The idea of making the trip was crazy. Ride across the country on a bicycle. Are you nuts? I am one of those riders who peddles along our local roads, streets, and byways: Lake View Drive, Rte. 3, Rte. 32, Rte. 17… and the list goes on. It’s how I find my inner peace.

Steve starting out in Belfast.

Riding can be a lonely endeavor. Cycling without anyone or any device talking gives me time to think, to ponder on all sorts of happenings without interruption. The focus quickly becomes where I am and what’s around me. I also get to see the world at 12 mph, a pace that lets me take it in, to see the detail missing when traveling at 65 or even 25 mph. This for me is near bliss.

It was on one of my local rides around China Lake that the idea of riding across the country first popped into my mind. The idea of taking on the nearly 4,000 mile bike journey seemed almost too grand not to give it further thought.

After many miles and rides I convinced myself that I needed to take on this challenge. It would be a trip to remember and I’m certainly not getting any younger. It was after this clear realization that my rides took on a greater purpose: get myself ready for the ride of a lifetime.

Our plan was for me to ride my bike and Allane would travel along as my trusty and able assistant and partner. In the cycling world she would be my “SAG”; Support and Gear. Whew, was I glad for that. She drove our truck with clothes, camping gear and everything else we would need to make the journey. She was the best partner I could have asked for, always there and ever positive.

The ride started on May 10, 2021, in Belfast. I was joined for the beginning stages by three good friends: John Williams, Judd Thompson and local rider, John Benziger. All are either avid bike riders or outdoorsmen with a similar insatiable appetite for getting outside of the normal flow of life and interacting with nature. On Day One we rode from Belfast to our homes in Central Maine, 35.7 miles. We were off and biking.

It was a good start. No one got hurt, no flats, nice weather and the hills manageable.

We rode through Auburn, Bridgeton, and Fryeburg. Maine seemed even more beautiful than ever. I knew the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont would present the perfect beginning for this transcontinental challenge. Our first big trial was coming up – climbing the Kancamagus Highway. On Day 4 we woke up in Center Conway, New Hampshire, and headed for the mountain. The day was clear and traffic was light, conditions seemed perfect. As it turned out, the thought of climbing the ‘Kank’ was more daunting than the actual ride. All members of the team made it! In retrospect, this would turn out to be a relatively small mountain at just under 3,000 feet, but conquering the ‘Kank’ on this day felt like quite a feat!

We rode on through the spectacular mountains of western New Hampshire into Norwich, Vermont. Norwich was a timely and wonderful stop after riding over a string of mountain passes that tested us. The views were spectacular. After Norwich we peddled through the quaint, picturesque towns of Quichee and Woodstock, Vermont. If you want to visit some of the best of New England culture and tradition, these towns are worth the trip. John and Judd had to turn back in Woodstock. Jobs awaited them.

John Benziger and I peddled on. Once we scaled the mountains that frame Killington and Pico Ski Resorts we were headed into New York.

We rode through Whitehall, along scenic Rte. 4. We were at Day 8 and felt good. I had my first flat tire coming into New York. This certainly wasn’t a big problem, but I hoped it wasn’t an omen of things to come. After patching my tube we continued on to Glens Falls, a small town on the Hudson River.

Until we got to Rochester our riding in New York was largely a journey along the Erie Canal Trail, a multi-use trail that runs from Albany to Buffalo. We entered to the Erie Canal Trail, in Amsterdam, New York, and would end up hugging the active waterway until we got to Brockport, New York. We met Lock Operators opening and closing the locks allowing barges, personal fishing boats, and kayaks (!) to travel up and down the Erie Canal. We saw local groups having rowing regattas and plenty of tourists and locals enjoying the pleasant, peaceful pace of life along this historic waterway. To be honest, I had no idea the Erie Canal was as active as it is today.

Steve outside Russo’s Grill, in Amsterdam, New York.

Amsterdam, New York, sitting on the Mohawk River, is an old mill town with a lot of personality. Families are out on their porches, children are playing, kicking balls, and riding bikes in the old style neighborhoods. Tucked away in a small working class Italian neighborhood was Russo’s Grill. The charm was palpable. We were greeted by Marie, our waitress who didn’t hold back in recommending specialties and telling us a bit about this post-WWII restaurant/pub. The food was out of this world. Marie was one of 16 children, all by the same mother and father! Wow! She was charming in a warm Italian way and packaged up our leftovers with the care of a mother wrapping her children’s lunch for school.

John Benziger had to return home to South China once we hit the campground in Lyons, New York, near Rochester. Allane and I were on our own.

We traveled from Lyons to Brockport and headed south toward Lake Erie. We were now on Day 16, having already spent just over a week in New York. I had no idea New York so long!

From Brockport I made it to Chaffee, arriving just seconds before the skies opened up with a fierce thunderstorm. We then headed west toward Pennsylvania. This took me along the southern border of Lake Erie through vineyards and orchards, miles and miles of grapes and apples. Once I could see Lake Erie I felt like I might possibly find my way out of New York. I rode 465 miles from the eastern end of New York to the western end, making up nearly 10 percent of the trip. Whew! I have a whole new respect for the Empire State.

From New York I rode through Erie, Pennsylvania to Conneaut, Ohio. We intended to spend the night in Conneaut and then ride on to Cleveland, but Mother Nature had other ideas. I pulled into the small resort town of Conneaut with mostly sunny skies. Allane and I rested up, I got my bike ready for the next day’s ride and we ate at a nice Italian restaurant. The weather started to turn and, just like in Maine, it can go bad quickly. The winds kicked up, rain came in and there was a serious storm churning the lake’s waters. By the time we awoke the winds were at 50 mph and the temperature was 47 degrees. It was pretty clear I wasn’t going to be able to ride my bike. The nice proprietor where we were staying suggested we stay another day and we readily agreed.

The day following the storm was beautiful. I enjoyed my ride to Cleveland. As it happened I rode into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame parking area and decided this was a good place to stop. Allane and I were looking forward to arriving in Cleveland since John Williams and his wife Nancy Beardsley were meeting us there to ride with us for a week. This was our 20th day on the road and I’d cycled over 1,000 miles.

[Read part 2 here: Cross Country Journey – Part 2 Stage Two: Defiance, Ohio, to Medora, North Dakota]

I’M JUST CURIOUS: Dart’s escape

by Debbie Walker

Apple Tree Notch is the home of the Bailey fairy family and many of their friends. Mom and Papa Bailey had noticed that as their fairy children grew older their home became busier.

Their children could in a matter of seconds turn their quiet little home under the apple tree into a very busy, crazy home. Can you just imagine Momma Bailey trying to clean her home when three little children came flying through the door? Some times they were running, sometimes flying, flitting and scurrying between Momma and Papa trying to tell them about their adventures that day.

Well, this day was no different. All three of the Bailey children came rushing through the door and following closely behind was their friend, Dart. He was a very excited young dragon fly. They all began flying and flitting around between the parents and of course Dart was “darting” around, that was how he had gotten his name.

Papa finally stood up from his chair and said, “Everyone stop, there are too many talking at the same time, Momma and I just can’t understand. Dart it sounds as if you are the one with the adventure, so you may tell us. Daisy, Fern and Twig settle down while Momma and I listen”.

It was hard for the excited three to settle down. They were excited remembering how Daisy had escaped the big house behind Apple Tree Notch. The child, Tristin had almost put Daisy in a vase of water as a present to her parents. The escape had been a close call and now this!

Dart began to explain. I was just flying around with some friends. We were playing a game of chase. One of my friends made a quick swoop past the open door of the house. “I missed him and flew right into the house. I saw the people there but they didn’t see me, so I hid behind the curtain.”

“A short time after the house got quiet, I thought everyone had left. So I started trying to wing my way out from behind the curtains. Sometimes I still can’t control my wings as well as I would like to.”

“I heard the mother of the house say to herself, “what is that noise I hear?” I knew she was looking for me. That made my wings flap even harder against the window.” “The woman moved the curtain out of the way, and she caught me in her hand. I was so scared, but I got out and flew, only to land behind another curtain and I knew she was still after me. Papa, Momma, I was so scared. I was afraid my wings would get torn or something worse.”

“The lady was still after me. I couldn’t help flapping my wings and again she found me. You won’t believe what the woman did. She grabbed me and I thought that was it for me. The woman spoke to me. She said, “little dragon fly if you will slow down just a second I will help you out.” The next thing I knew I was on her open hand, and she let me fly out the door! That’s when I almost hit Twig as I was flying away. That woman let me go, just like that and I’m not hurt at all!”

Momma and Papa saw the sparkle of light from the Sprite, the guardian of all the local children. They saw him fly out the door, so they knew everything was alright.

Momma had been fixing dinner while Dart was telling his story. She said “Well Dart with all that flying you must be tired and hungry.” The whole family giggled as they looked at Dart. He had lit on a cushion and fallen fast asleep.

No harm was done. They ate dinner as Dart slept dreaming of his release by the woman. Apple Tree Notch is certainly full of adventures, but for now things were quiet.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy a little kid’s stuff.

Debbie Walker of Lecanto, FL. Contact me with any questions or comments.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Church steeples; Author: Thornton Wilder; Singer: Kay Starr

George Fox

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Church steeples

The Protestant church steeples still seen in The Town Line’s surrounding communities include the towering beauty at the China Village Baptist Church. Back during the decades of 80 or more years ago, some of these steeples summoned the citizens of the surrounding communities to Sunday morning assemblies to an extent not seen as often today, no matter what the weather was.

This might seem like a big leap here but bear with me for a moment. I was reminded of the required weekly attendance at both church and Sunday school from my parents, for what seemed like untold years to my immature mind, at the East Vassalboro Friends Meeting AND how often we kids heard about Quakerism’s 17th century founder George Fox (1624-1691) after recently reading a quote from him about steeples in his Journal, itself quoted in a critical essay by Sir Victor S. Pritchett (1900-1997).

Pritchett wrote:

“One hesitates, since Freud, to admit to a strong personal feeling for church steeples, and yet who does not respond to the ring and vividness of that phrase which occurs again and again in George Fox’s Journal and which puts the man and his book a key higher than the common chord of living – ‘As I was walking in a close with several Friends, I lifted up my head and espied three steeple house spires and they struck at my life.'”

Both Fox’s Journal and Pritchett’s 1991 Complete Collected Essays, which contains over 1,300 pages of his book reviews, are highly recommended.

Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play Our Town is a wistful and, at odd moments, sardonic tribute to pre-World War I village life in the fictional Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire, in three acts with the subtitles 1901, Daily Life; 1904, Love and Marriage; and 1913, Death and Eternity.

Whether it’s two housewives, Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb, chatting outdoors while snapping stringbeans, the alcoholic church organist Simon Stinson rehearsing the choir on Wednesday night, the young high school graduates George Gibbs and Emily Webb falling in love or the recently departed spirits of a few villagers conversing in a holding pattern at the cemetery while a funeral is occurring during a driving rainstorm, Wilder caught the immediacy of life more than a century ago in this village quite brilliantly.

One quite apt quote from the main character who’s referred to as the Stage Manager – “We like to know the facts about everybody.”

A very good movie version came out in 1940 starring William Holden, Thomas Mitchell, Martha Scott, Faye Bainter, etcs.

Kay Starr

Kay Starr

Jazz singer Kay Starr (1922-2016) recorded a Capitol lp, Movin’ (ST 1254) which contains 12 positively vibrant performances of Great American Songbook classics – On a Slow Boat to China, I Cover the Waterfront, Around the World, Sentimental Journey, Night Train, Indiana, Lazy River, etcs. She had the arrangements of the gifted conductor Van Alexander while the album was produced by Dave Cavanaugh.

And it can be heard on YouTube.

Robert PT Coffin essay Kennebec Crystals continued

Continuing with Robert PT Coffin’s essay Kennebec Crystals, on Maine’s once most important winter industry, the harvesting of ice from the Kennebec River:

“May saw the ice ships arrive and tie up at the docks. The Kennebec crystals came down the runs, slithered across the decks of the four-masters and into the holds. When a number of the old hulls were loaded, which had once breasted the waves on the underside of the world, white under thunderclouds of sail, a tugboat steamed down-river on a neap tide, dragging the old veterans of the Atlantic back to the Atlantic again, below Popham.”

More next week.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Increasing Diversity In Cancer Clinical Trials

Researchers are looking for new and better ways to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in cancer research and improve outcomes for minority populations.

(NAPSI)—There’s good news, bad news and better news about combating cancer in America these days.

The good news is there’s been an overall decline in U.S. cancer deaths since 1991.

The bad news is not all patients have benefited equally from advances in prevention, early detection and precision medicine. One study found that around 8.1 percent of cancer patients participate in a clinical trial. Of those, FDA data show that only 4 percent of clinical trial participants are Black and 5 percent are Hispanic.

What’s more, minority groups overall in the U.S. have both the highest death rate and shortest survival rate for most cancers. These inequities in cancer care have been ongoing for decades, due in part to socio-economic barriers, insufficient information about trials and their benefits, as well as other challenges.

The better news is a major funder of cancer research is working to tackle cancer disparities. Stand Up To Cancer® (SU2C), which raises money to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now, began formalizing its Health Equity Initiative in 2017. The initiative aims to increase minority representation in cancer clinical trials and ensure new cancer treatments are effective for all.

Improving diversity in cancer clinical trials

Moving forward, SU2C-funded research teams will be required to address issues related to recruitment and retention of patients from minority groups to improve diverse participation in cancer clinical trials.

“As one of the leading funders of cancer research, we believe it is our duty to ensure that minority representation in cancer clinical trials is addressed. Now, more than ever, better understanding of the role of biology in cancer treatment, advances in precision treatment, and development of new technologies demands that we also make significant improvements in diverse clinical trial participation,” explained SU2C CEO Sung Poblete, PhD, RN. “We are confident that this initiative will make a significant and meaningful impact to ensure all communities have equal access to potentially life-saving treatments.”

SU2C is collaborating with a number of industry leaders who are also committed to improving cancer disparities, including Genentech, Exact Sciences, Bristol Myers Squibb and Amgen. Funding from these donors supports SU2C’s Health Equity Initiative, including cancer screening and clinical trial awareness efforts as well as research into specific types of cancers that disproportionately impact people of color. Another collaboration with the Black Women’s Health Imperative and Friends of Cancer Research is Project TEACH, which will empower Black women to effectively engage with researchers and clinicians as well as increase participation of Black women in cancer-focused clinical trials. Project TEACH is supported by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

“Bringing a diverse patient population into the clinical trials arena is complex,” said Dr. Edith A. Perez, MD, professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic, chief medical officer at Bolt Biotherapeutics, chair of the SU2C Health Equity Committee and vice chair of the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee. “As a part of this effort, Stand Up To Cancer is amplifying the conversation around health equity so that researchers, institutions and cancer research funders join this effort and become more engaged in increasing diversity in cancer clinical trials, similar to Stand Up To Cancer’s successes in normalizing collaboration across cancer research.”

Learn More

For further facts and stats about Stand Up To Cancer, go to

LEGAL NOTICES for Thursday, September 30, 2021

18-A MRSA sec. 3-801

The following Personal Representatives have been appointed in the estates noted. The first publication date of this notice September 23, 2021. If you are a creditor of an estate listed below, you must present your claim within four months of the first publication date of this Notice to Creditors by filing a written statement of your claim on a proper form with the Register of Probate of this Court or by delivering or mailing to the Personal Representative listed below at the address published by his name, a written statement of the claim indicating the basis therefore, the name and address of the claimant and the amount claimed or in such other manner as the law may provide. See 18-C M.R.S.A. §3-80.

2021-245 – Estate of JEANNETTE M. ARSENAULT, late of Madison, Me deceased. Dale Arsenault, 30 East Houghton Street, Madison, Me 04950 appointed Personal Representative.

2021-247 – Estate of ROBERTA A. HUSSEY, late of Skowhegan, Me deceased. Wanda Zimba, 318 East Benton Road, Benton Me 04901 appointed Personal Representative.

2021-249 – Estate of GWENDOLYN DAY, late of Madison, Me deceased. Fedalise, M. Arsenault, 30 E. Houghton Street, Madison, Me 04950 appointed Personal Representative.

2021-250 – Estate of PATRICK THOMAS GUSTIN, late of St. Albans, Me deceased. Shannon Marie Bullock, 259 Avenue Road, Garland, Me 04939 appointed Personal Representative.

To be published on September 23, 2021 & September 30, 2021
Dated September 20, 2021
/s/ Victoria Hatch,
Register of Probate



Notice is hereby given by the respective petitioners that they have filed petitions for appointment of personal representatives in the following estates or change of name. These matters will be heard at 10 a.m. or as soon thereafter as they may be on October 6, 2021. The requested appointments or name changes may be made on or after the hearing date if no sufficient objection be heard. This notice complies with the requirements of 18-C MRSA §3-403 and Probate Rule 4.

2021-185 – Estate of EMILY IRENE HATHAWAY, Petition for Change of Name (Minor) filed by Curtis and Joan Hathaway, 134 Nichols Street, Pittsfield, Me 04967, requesting minor’s name be changed to Corvidae Irene Hathaway for reasons set forth therein.

2021-191 – Estate of MONICA LYNN LeCLAIR, Petition for Change of Name (Adult) filed by Monica Lynn LeClair, 305 Main Street, Fairfield, Me 04937, requesting her name be changed to Monica Lynn Irving for reasons set forth therein.

2021-193 – Estate of LUKE ADAM BAJPAI. Petition for Change of Name (Minor) filed by Jessica Courtney, 54 Hathaway Street, Skowhegan, Me 04976, requesting minor’s name be changed to Luke Lyn Courtney for reasons set forth therein.

2021-199 – Estate of SAMANTHA MAUREEN FERRARA. Petition for Change of Name (Adult) filed by Samantha Maureen Ferrara, 25 Independence Drive, Norridgewock, Me 04957, requesting her name be changed to Jacob Marshall-Cole Currier for reasons set forth therein.

Dated: September 20, 2021 /s/ Victoria Hatch,
Register of Probate

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Even more high schools

by Mary Grow

Continuing the discussion of (mostly) 19th-century high school education, this article will talk about Albion, Benton, and Clinton. In following weeks, continuing alphabetically, readers will find information on Fairfield, Palermo, Sidney (don’t expect much), Vassalboro, Windsor and Winslow.

Albion voters first appropriated school money in 1804, and endorsed building schoolhouses the same year. Town historian Ruby Crosby Wiggin said children aged from three through 21 could attend town schools.

Albion began offering education beyond the primary level in the 1860s, according to Wiggin. She referred to “subscription high schools” started in 1860. One was in the “new” (1858) District 3 schoolhouse.

In April 1873, she wrote, interested residents organized a stock company to provide a public hall in an existing building. The leaders quickly sold 90 shares at $10 a share and appointed a three-man building committee.

“It is supposed the building was finished that year [1873] and used for the first free High School,” that started in 1874 or 1875, Wiggin wrote. Henry Kingsbury, in his 1892 Kennebec County history, dated Albion’s “first high school” to 1876.

Because of “lack of interest,” the free high school had closed by 1880. In January 1881 the stock company trustees began the process that led to Albion Grange owning the building (see The Town Line, April 8).

About 1890, Wiggin wrote, high school was reintroduced, this time alternating between the McDonald School (District 9) and the Albion Village School (District 8).

A fall 1891 10-week term in District 8 had 87 students and cost $214; a later 10 weeks at McDonald School with 33 students cost $80. The state paid half the bill, leaving the town to pay $147, Wiggin wrote.

Kingsbury’s information again differs from Wiggin’s. He wrote that the high school started again in 1884 “and has since received cordial support.” He located fall sessions in “No. 10 school house in the Shorey district,” rather than the McDonald School, and spring terms in District 8.

(Both writers could be accurate, if they were describing different years. Also, however, other town historians have disagreed with Kingsbury. Considering that his book ends on page 1,273, and that some of the page numbers double and triple – 480a and 480b come between 480 and 481, for instance – an occasional error seems unsurprising.)

Families again lost interest, Wiggin said, and by 1898 the McDonald School no longer hosted high school classes and the “average attendance at the village was only 18.”

The village school was apparently one built in 1858, after a long debate, on the village Main Street (Route 202) where the Besse Building now stands. It was revived as a high school after 1898, because later Wiggin wrote, “From this school came the first pupil to graduate from Albion High School with a diploma.” His name was Dwight Chalmers, his graduation year 1909.

Wiggin wrote that the old high school building was moved to a new site and in 1964 was a private home.

The large brick Besse Building, now home to the Albion town office, was a gift of Albion native and then Clinton resident Frank Leslie Besse. Designed by Miller and Mayo, of Portland, and built by Horace Purington, of Waterville, it was dedicated as Besse High School on Sept. 20, 1913.

Maine School Administrative District (MSAD) #49, now Regional School Unit (RSU) #49, is based in Fairfield and serves Albion, Benton and Clinton. It was organized in 1966. Besse High School closed in 1967 and Albion students began attending Fairfield’s Lawrence High School.

The Town of Benton, northwest of Albion, was part of Clinton until the Maine legislature approved a separation on March 16, 1842. First named Sebasticook, the town became Benton, honoring Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858), on June 19, 1850.

Like other area towns, Benton had multiple villages in the 19th century. Higher education appears to have been concentrated at Benton Falls (sometimes called The Falls).

Benton Falls is on the Sebasticook River just south of the existing bridge, where waterfalls powered manufacturing in the 1800s. The Falls area includes the current locations of the Benton town office, on Clinton Avenue on the west bank, and the Benton Falls Church, on Falls Road on the east bank.

A brief on-line Benton history mentions an “academy” at Benton Falls, along with a church, a library, 10 stores and six taverns, apparently in the first half of the 1800s. Kingsbury adds several mills and in 1824 the town’s only blacksmith shop.

Kingsbury wrote in 1892 that Benton had a high school in the District 5 school building at The Falls, apparently since 1860; and he wrote that Benton’s District 5 schoolhouse was “on the site of the old Clinton Academy.”

But, he wrote, in 1892 there was no local school appropriation, “the proximity of Waterville offering advantages in higher education with which it was useless for Benton to compete.”

(By 1892, Waterville had both a free high school [see the Sept. 9 issue of The Town Line] and Coburn Classical Institute [described in the July 29 issue].)

In Clinton, “the first school in town to teach the higher grades” was what a local group intended as a Female Academy, according to Major General Carleton Edward Fisher’s history of Clinton, or a female seminary, according to Kingsbury.

Fisher wrote that in September 1831 Asher Hinds gave the school trustees an eight-by-nine rod lot on the east side of the road in Benton Falls, and Johnson Lunt added more land. (One rod is 16.5 feet, so the original lot was 132 feet by 148.5 feet.) Kingsbury disagreed slightly, saying construction of the Academy building started in 1830.

The two historians agreed that the would-be founders ran out of resources and handed the incomplete building to the Methodist Society. The Methodist Society finished it and opened a coed high school that ran until around 1858.

After the area separated from Clinton in 1842, Clinton students continued to attend the Academy “for a few years,” Fisher wrote. In 1845, he found, enrollment was 49 male and 31 female students.

The school year then was two 11-week terms, beginning in September and March. Students were charged $3 for the “common branches,” $3.50 for natural sciences and $4 for languages (unspecified).

By 1853, Fisher wrote, there were no students from Clinton enrolled, but the Board of Trustees still had two Clinton members. The school closed in 1858, he said.

Kingsbury recorded that the building changed hands three times in 1858 and 1859 before being sold to School District 5 in July 1859, with the sellers “reserving the right to hold a high school in it for two terms each year.”

This building burned (in 1870, Kingsbury said) and was rebuilt the next year. In 1883 “an attractive hall was finished off in the upper story.” Whether it was still a high school in 1883 Kingsbury did not say.

There was, however, a free high school in Clinton, started in 1874 and still open in 1892. Kingsbury wrote that the initial funding was $500. The “well attended” high school operated two terms a year, spring and fall, moving among the 13 school districts.

This school was superseded early in the 20th century. On-line Facebook pages feature graduates of the 20th-century Clinton High School that opened in 1902 or, according to a Clinton Historical Society on-line source, was approved by voters in 1902, started classes in February 1903 and had its first graduation in 1906.

A current Clinton resident locates the 1902 high school building on the Baker Street lot where the town office now stands.

The Facebook source says the yellow three-story building was 68-by-40-feet; an accompanying photo shows basement windows. The Historical Society writer specified three classrooms each on the first and second floors and one on the third floor.

This writer said the building housed 12 grades until 1960 (another source said until the 1940s), though it was called a high school. The privy was a separate building out back, until Clinton resident Frank L. Besse paid to have “indoor plumbing and central heating” added in 1917. The next year, Besse funded electricity.

In 1922, the on-line writer said, a second-floor classroom for business classes was divided into two, because “the sound of the new typewriters was annoying to the other students.”

Clinton High School, like Besse High School, in Albion, closed after graduation in 1966, when Clinton joined MSAD #49 and students went to Lawrence High School, in Fairfield. The school building on Baker Street housed middle-school classes either for a “couple of years” (Maine Memory Network) or until June 1975 (Clinton Historical Society), when it was no longer needed and was closed.

After a month of vandalism, the second Clinton Historical Society writer reported, the building burned July 25, 1975. The writer quoted a newspaper article mentioning the “suspicious origin” of the fire.

In 2016, alumni placed a memorial stone by the main door to the town office.

The Besse family in Benton and Clinton

1913 photo of Frank Besse seated in a Cadillac convertible, in front of Besse High School.

There are 11 Besses in the index to Ruby Crosby Wiggin’s Albion history (plus three Besseys), and an on-line genealogy of Besses in Albion lists 105 names.

Kingsbury traced the Albion/Clinton family to Jonathan Besse, born in 1775, “the first male child born in Wayne,” Maine. His son, Jonathan Belden Besse (Oct. 15, 1820 – March 5, 1892), became a tanner and married an Albion girl. Wiggin explained how that happened:

Jonathan Belden Besse was a soldier in the 1839 Aroostook War. Typhoid fever delayed his return home, but when he recovered, he headed back to Wayne on foot, “gun over his shoulder.”

He stopped in Albion for a drink from Lewis Hopkins’ well; Hopkins came outside and they talked; Hopkins said he needed help in the tannery. Besse decided to try it. He “went in, hung his gun on the pegs over the door, and went to work.”

Wiggin suggested maybe “Hopkins’ daughter had something to do with his staying.” An online Albion genealogy says Jonathan married Isabelle Hopkins (c. 1833 – Aug. 8, 1870) on July 29, 1852, in Albion. In 1859, he took over the tanning business; in 1890, he moved it to Clinton, “on account of better facilities for transportation.”

Kingsbury lists the Besse tannery as one of the three important industries in Clinton in 1892 (along with the creamery on Weymouth Hill and the shoe factory under construction in Clinton Village, which was expected to provide 100 jobs). The steam-powered tannery “near the railroad station” had 14 workers.

“Russet linings only are manufactured, the weekly production being 1,000 dozen skins,” Kingsbury wrote.

(An on-line leather supplier’s website describes a Russet lining as “a traditional bespoke shoe lining,” also used for “handtooling/carving, falconry and a host of leather goods.” It “is produced on a mellow dressed calf side tanned in vegetable extracts.”)

Jonathan and Isabelle Besse had five sons and two daughters between 1853 and 1868. Frank Leslie (April 15, 1859 – March 26, 1926) was their fourth child and second son. On Sept. 17, 1881, he and Mary Alberta Proctor, of Clinton, were married in Albion. Kingsbury wrote that he became a partner in his father’s business when he was 25 (therefore about 1884), and by 1892 had taken over.

Wiggin, however, wrote that Frank Besse “joined” his father’s business around 1878. She quoted from his speech at the dedication of Besse High School: he said that “when he joined his father in the ‘sheep skin business’ he had a cash capital of just $94.”

After Jonathan died in 1892, Wiggin wrote, Frank bought out Everett and his sister Hannah (Besse) Trask and became sole owner of the Clinton business. In 1906 he joined two Boston merchants to create Besse, Osborn and Ordell, Inc., a company “buying and selling sheepskins” that Wiggin said still existed in 1964.

(On-line sites today identify Besse, Osborn and Odell as a foreign-owned business headquartered in New York City, incorporated Nov. 11, 1910.)

The on-line genealogy lists no children born to Frank and Mary. It says in the 1900 census of Clinton, Frank’s occupation was listed as “tanner sheep skins.” It adds that the tannery “at one time tanned 3,000 skins a day.”

The Maine Memory Network has a September 1913 photo of Frank Besse seated in a Cadillac convertible, a long dark-colored vehicle with running boards and white-wall tires, in front of the Besse building. The caption says he was still running a tannery in Albion at the time.

According to the on-line genealogy, Frank Besse died March 26, 1926, in Ontario, California. Mary died July 10, 1945, probably in Clinton.

Kingsbury mentioned another of Jonathan and Isabelle’s sons, Frank’s younger brother Everett Belden Besse, who in 1892 was living “on the old homestead.” The genealogy says he was born Jan. 23, 1861, in Albion. On Jan. 24, 1889, he married Jessie Ida Rowe, born Nov. 20, 1868, in Palermo; they had four sons and two daughters between 1890 and 1906.

Wiggin wrote that when Jonathan Besse transferred his tanning business to Clinton in 1890, he left Everett in charge of the Albion branch.

In 1905, she continued, the Albion tannery was moved, after town voters offered a tax abatement if it were rebuilt along the line of the new Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington narrow-gauge railroad. Everett Besse ran the tannery at its new location “on the outlet to Lovejoy Pond above Chalmers’ mills” – and on a railroad siding – until it burned down in 1924.

Albion’s first telephone line, in the fall of 1905, was installed by the Half Moon Telephone Company, of Thorndike (then a rival of Unity Telephone Company), to connect Everett Besse’s house to his tannery, Wiggin wrote.

The genealogy says Jessie died May 29, 1940, and Everett died the same year – no month or day is given.

Frank and Mary Besse and Everett and Jessie Besse are among family members buried in at least four Besse plots in Clinton’s Greenlawn Rest Cemetery, on the west side of Route 100 just south of downtown.

Main sources

Fisher, Major General Carleton Edward, History of Clinton Maine (1970).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.


Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

There are a series of books out about what is called Blue Ocean Strategies. The premise is that most businesses operate in the same ocean, “the Red Ocean”, but to truly succeed a company has to swim in their own ocean, the Blue Ocean. This is all fancy metaphor talk for being different, being better, finding a way to do things differently. A way that will change everything and wow your customers to the point of not only improving your business, but dramatically changing your market as well.

Some examples of Blue Ocean companies are what Uber did for paid ridership and what BnB did to the hotel industry, what Door Dash did for food take out services and, yes, what Instacart did for grocery shopping.

And, of course, there is the biggest example of Blue Ocean strategy, what Amazon did to the retail business…not only changed everything but literally took it over to the point of outright domination.

Okay, let’s get our head out of the clouds and back to earth. What can you do about your particular industry, and marketplace? What kind of Blue Strategy can you come up for your business?

Now, I don’t claim to have all the magic answers, I don’t know your particular business as well as you do, but I can show you how these companies did it.

It’ simple: they focused on their customers. They used their imagination to take them out of their proverbial box of business as usual.

They followed George Bernard Shaw’s advice as often quoted by Robert Francis Kennedy, “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.”

And they ignored the advice of Charles Holland Duell, the commissioner of the U.S. Patent office who, in 1899, wanted to close the office saying, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

So how about you and your business? “What can you do to dream things that never were and ask why not?”

Here are a few steps to help you along the way:

  • Sit down and think about your business. Put yourself in your customers’ place. If you were your own customer, what would you like from your business?
  • Forget what has come before, what you did before and think of what you can do now, and better yet, what you can do tomorrow.
  • Dream a little, or a lot. Don’t let facts and existing barriers get in the way of your imagination. Just let yourself go wild and when you come up with a new great idea…then walk backwards to figure out how to do it.
  • Take a look of the world around you. Research what similar companies in other parts of the country, and the world, are doing. Learn more about your own industry, network with other owners in other parts of the world and get some ideas and inspiration from them. The nice thing about being a local business is that if you discover a great Blue Ocean idea from someone in your industry in Salem, Oregon, or London, Ontario, there is nothing wrong with taking the idea and bringing it into your local area.
  • The most important thing here is to dare to dream, to find a way to do it, not only differently, but better than anyone in your local marketplace has done it. Create your own Blue Ocean to swim in. And that’s a great way to grow your business.

CRITTER CHATTER: This is time of year to release healthy animals


by Jayne Winters

This is the time of year many critters are released from the Duck Pond Wildlife Center, although if animals are old enough and sufficiently rehabbed, releases also take place throughout the summer. Chipmunks and squirrels are usually not turned out after mid-October, as their primary natural food sources have dwindled. This year’s fawns are still small and likely unable to survive the first winter on their own, so will be kept for May release. By August, the first to go are the opossums, then the raccoons, skunks, and foxes. To date, Don Cote and his volunteers have released nine of last year’s fawns, over a dozen opossums, six skunks, 13 red foxes, and one gray fox. Several squirrels, skunks, and 16 coons were transferred to another rehabber, the latter of which had been fully inoculated against the parvo virus when they left the Duck Pond Center. Unfortunately, the other rehab facility did lose quite a few raccoons to parvo, but we hope our transfers were protected from this highly contagious disease.

There are still 25-35 Canada geese and ducks on site, nine tiny fawns, the three bobcat kittens I wrote of in August, an opossum which needs vet evaluation to determine if its vision is compromised, and several gray squirrels. I asked Don if he would release the kittens together or separately. He explained they’ll be released individually and in different locations for several reasons: 1) they need to establish their own territories; 2) food resources need to be considered; and 3) bobcats don’t necessarily want or need companionship, even of their siblings; they tend to live solo except during mating season.

baby raccoons

I also wondered if there were special site requirements for different species and if the time of day for release mattered. Don said he looks for nearby water in all areas, whether it’s a marsh, pond, or an active brook or stream. Deer are usually turned out in the morning, foxes in the afternoon, all on empty stomachs so they won’t get sick during travel and will begin to actively seek out food in the wild.

In looking through some of Carleen Cote’s columns, I found one from October 1996: “There are events in everyone’s life that are memorable. We will never forget one release – that of our first fawn. The month of May had arrived and we looked for a site where the fawn would not be harassed nor, hopefully, hunted. We discussed many sites before choosing one, finally realizing there was no way to forever protect it from being hunted. We had given it a second chance at life; it belonged in field and forest to run and frolic. We called the people who owned the property we thought would be a good release site. “Yes,” they said, they would be thrilled to have the fawn released on their land and would watch over it to the best of their ability, notifying us if problems developed.

“Release day arrived. We loaded the deer into a specially constructed transport crate and headed out. A dirt road led to the field where the deer would be set free, but a rainy spring had turned it to mud. Despite using four-wheel drive, the wheels got stuck. The landowner and his son helped Donald slide the crate from the truck and after carrying it on foot, the deer was released into an open field. As we walked up the muddy trail to the truck, I glanced back. There, right behind us, was the deer. It followed us right back to the farm house! The landowners later reported the deer visited them on a daily basis and had become quite fond of Fruit Loops!”

A reader recently asked what type of items she could donate to the Center. The “Wish List” always includes bleach, cleaning supplies, heavy duty garbage bags, towels, dry dog and cat food (no dye), canned dog and cat food (no dye), paper towels, frozen berries (no syrup), birdseed, and even apples (not from recently sprayed trees). Please be advised that leftover, torn or opened bags of pet food cannot be accepted.

The Wildlife Care Center greatly appreciates the continuing assistance from other rehabbers to help while Don and his long-time volunteer, Amy, deal with health issues. We ask that you check these websites to see if there is a rehabber closer to you to help make critter care at Duck Pond more manageable: or

Donald Cote operates Duck Pond Wildlife Care Center, on Rte. 3, in Vassalboro. It is a nonprofit state permitted rehab facility supported by his own resources & outside donations. Mailing address: 1787 North Belfast Ave., Vassalboro ME 04989; TEL: (207) 445-4326. EMAIL:

Vassalboro mass gathering ordinance, junkyard permits on selectmen’s agenda

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen will start their Thursday, Sept. 30, meeting in the town office meeting room at the usual 6:30 p.m., with two public hearings as the first agenda items.

The first hearing is on the proposed Mass Gathering Ordinance selectmen and Town Manager Mary Sabins drafted over the summer. Board members invite comments on the ordinance, which will be presented to voters for approval or rejection at the polls on Nov. 2.

The second hearing is on 2021 applications for auto graveyard/junkyard and auto hobbyist licenses. There are 10 applications.

A list of license applicants and a link to the complete text of the Mass Gathering Ordinance are on the Vassalboro website,, in the center section under the heading “What’s New in Vassalboro.”

Bullying problems addressed by Vassalboro school board

Vassalboro Community School (contributed photo)

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro School Board members heard a parent’s complaint about bullying at Vassalboro Community School (VCS) at the beginning of their Sept. 21 meeting. They reacted with sympathy and concern and said they, administrators and their policy committee will continue to address the problem.

Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer, who has had positive experience with anti-bullying programs earlier in his career in education in Maine, is looking at a broad approach. He reported that after “significant conversations” with Maine Department of Education (MDOE) officials, he has just signed up VCS for an MDOE pilot program called SEL (social emotional learning, which includes bullying, school safety and related issues).

Pfeiffer’s statement continued: “The MDOE Office of School and Student Supports and the Maine School Safety center are supporting this effort. More conversations will occur in the coming days and weeks to build a thoughtful sequential framework of steps for the next several years.

“This is an effort to support all students, families and staff through the effects, residual effects and ongoing effects of the pandemic over the past 18 months,” he concluded.

Most of the rest of the Sept. 21 meeting involved reports on the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

Pfeiffer was upbeat. There have been scattered coronavirus cases, which have been handled promptly and appropriately, he said. But, he said, the good news is, “We’ve been in school all day every day for 14 days,” and he hopes to continue.

VCS offers a remote option for students unable or unwilling to attend in person. Curriculum Director Carol Kiesman said 11 students were learning remotely as of Sept. 21.

Kiesman praised new remote teacher Jennifer Bonnet as “a superstar.” Bonnet is certified to teach both regular and special education students, she said.

Nurse MaryAnn Fortin had conducted the first pool test for coronavirus the day before the meeting and was pleased with the cooperation from students and staff.

Dr. Steve Diaz, Chief Medical Officer at MaineGeneral Hospital, in Augusta, spoke from the audience about the Delta variant, which he said is affecting children more than previous versions of the virus did.

It is important for students to attend school in person, educationally, socially and emotionally, he said. Since children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, school authorities must use multiple other protective measures – he specified keeping sick children at home, observing social distancing and masking.

“You’re doing the right thing,” he assured VCS officials and the audience.

Principal Megan Allen said teachers are finding out what students missed during last year’s disruptions as they begin the current year. Assistant Principal Greg Hughes said intermural sports have started normally.

In the usual beginning of the year routine, school board members approved hiring Bonnet and more than a dozen other new staff members. Pfeiffer reported a continuing shortage of teacher aides, substitute teachers and bus drivers.

Previously-retired driver Ellie Lessard is still back at work, he said, and Maintenance and Grounds Director Shelley Phillips is finding time to fill in as a bus driver.

The next regular Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19.