Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Waterville Liberal Institute

Waterville College, 1909. College Ave.

by Mary Grow

In Waterville, in addition to the private and public schools already described, there was Waterville Liberal Institute.

An on-line list of Universalists’ “higher institutions of learning” says Waterville Liberal Institute opened in 1835. It was the second such school in Maine; Westbrook Seminary opened in 1831 and ran until 1925, when the website says it became a non-sectarian school. These are the only two Maine Universalist high schools on the list.

Another on-line site has the Institute’s Feb. 28, 1835, legislative charter (and its 1851 catalog). Legislators said they were approving “an Institution for the purpose of instructing youth in the several branches usually taught in High Schools and Academies.” The charter listed the initial 10 trustees and said the board should in the future have at least seven and not more than 15 members.

Waterville Liberal Institute Trustees: Rev. Calvin Gardner, Waterville; Hon. Alpheus Lyon, Sec., Waterville; Silas Redington, Treas., Waterville; Jediah Morrill, Waterville; Erastus O. Wheeler, Waterville; Hon. Isaac Redington, Waterville; John R. Philbrick, Waterville; Thomas G. Kimball, Waterville; P. L. Chandler, Waterville; Joseph Percival, Waterville; Rev. William A. Drew, Augusta; Hon. Joseph Eaton, Winslow; Josiah Prescott, M.D., Waterford; Hon. G. M. Burleigh, M.D., Dexter; Hon. Wyman B. S. Moor, Bangor.

Ernest Marriner, in his history of Colby College, said that the Liberal Institute attracted so many students that there were too few left for Waterville Academy, established in 1829 as Colby’s preparatory high school and later Coburn Classical Institute (see The Town Line, July 29), so that the Academy closed from mid-1839 to the fall of 1841.

The 1851 Liberal Institute catalog lists the maximum 15 trustees. Ten were from Waterville, with one each from Augusta, Bangor, Dexter, Waterford and Winslow.

The Principal in 1851 was Rev. James P. Weston, A.M. Seven other faculty members were listed, although two apparently were job-sharing; Miss C. L. Fullam is listed as preceptress and Mrs. H. C. Henry as preceptress for the fall term.

That year there were of 174 students, 91 boys and 83 girls. The majority came from Waterville. Nearby towns that were represented included Albion, Canaan, Clinton, Fairfield, Gardiner, Readfield, Sidney, Skowhegan, Smithfield, Winslow.

Other students came from more distant Maine towns, including Bangor, Bingham, Calais, Cape Elizabeth, Dexter, Hiram, Plymouth and Waldoboro. One girl was from Holliston, Massachusetts. A boy and four girls, three of the girls named Hill and presumably sisters or otherwise related, came from St. Stephen, New Brunswick; another boy’s home was listed merely as Canada.

Not all the students attended all year. The spring term had the smallest enrollment, with 51 students. Only in the winter term did the woman outnumber the men, 41 to 38; in the popular fall term, the 112 students were evenly divided, 56 men and 56 women.

The catalog says the Institute was “situated in a convenient and retired part of the healthy and delightful village of Waterville.”

In 1851, the Institute’s leaders listed four goals: to give both men and women “a good English education”; “to prepare young men for College”; “to communicate a critical knowledge of the modern languages”; and “especially to qualify teachers for their calling.” The teachers’ classes were described as getting the Principal’s personal attention.

Facilities had been improved since the Institute opened 15 years earlier, including by making the “Female Department” permanent and providing “superior accommodations” for women.

Students could board with “good families” at prices that ranged from $1 to $1.75 a week for men and were a flat $1.00 a week for woman. Board included “room, washing, lodging, and lights.” (The difference between “room” and “lodgings” was not explained; the catalog explained that fewer “accommodations” lowered the price and advised that “clubbing” could make board very inexpensive.)

The school offered “Prep­aratory Studies,” a mélange of subjects featuring English language plus introductory mathematics, history and geography. This introduction was followed by three years – Junior, Middle and Senior – with four terms each year, during which the preparatory courses were extended and science and philosophy added.

The English department was considered central, and students were expected to take three years of English. Most courses were open to all. A few were considered not suitable for women and others were substituted; and apparently women seeking “a good Academic education” were expected to take courses in order, while men could drop in and out as their qualifications or schedules allowed.

The department of languages offered Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Foreign language tuition was most expensive, at $5 a term. “High English” was $4 and “Common Studies” $3. Two extras were offered, music for $6 a term and drawing for only $1 a term.

Each day began with reading from the Scriptures, with all students expected to attend. The catalog said all students were also expected to go to the church of their family’s choice on Sundays.

Here is the paragraph on “Government” from the 1851 catalog:

“The Government of the school, though strict, is designed to be kind; and obedience is secured, if possible, by awakening the scholar to a sense of his moral obligations and by appeals to his better feelings. Those who cannot be induced by such means to correct their perverse habits and to submit to wholesome discipline, will be removed from the Institution as unworthy of its privileges and hurtful in their influence upon others.”

The previously-referenced list of Universalist high schools says the Institute closed in 1857.

In or about that same year, 1857, according to the Fairfield bicentennial history, a former public-school teacher named Naomi Bunker opened Bunker’s Seminary.

Bunker’s Seminary was a boarding school “in the old brick house on the corner of Newhall Street and Lawrence Avenue.” The main building had two wings, a gymnasium and the boarding house.

The history does not say whether the seminary was coed. It calls it a college preparatory school that offered music and painting in addition to academics, and that enrolled out-of-town students as well as local ones. No date is given for the closing of the seminary.

James Partelow Weston

In the fall of 1939, a 24-year-old Universalist paster from New Hampshire, Rev. Giles Bailey, visited central Maine and became friends with James Partelow Weston, a Bowdoin College senior taking time off to teach “at a private school in South Montville” to earn money to return to college. Bailey was impressed enough with Weston to follow his career, and to write an essay on his accomplishments for the January 1869 issue of the Ladies’ Repository.

Bailey said Weston was born in the section of Bristol that later became Bremen, on July 14, 1815. On-line genealogies add that he was one of 11 children of Eliphas or Eliphaz and Elizabeth Betsey (Longfellow) Weston.

(For readers who collect unusual names, the genealogies say his siblings included Arannah Weston, Arunah Weston and Greene Longfellow Weston.)

A farmer’s son, Weston grew up with little formal schooling, but in a community that valued education and supported a library. Bailey called him a devout Universalist who preferred teaching to the ministry, and said he started teaching when he was 16.

In 1832, Bailey continued, Weston entered Lincoln Academy, in Newcastle. In 1834 he switched to Maine Wesleyan Seminary (a Methodist school), in Kents Hill, to finish his college preparation. After two years at Waterville College, starting in August 1836, he transferred to Bowdoin, earning degrees in August 1840 and in 1843.

Bailey wrote that after Weston taught a fall term in 1840 in Readfield, he “took charge of” the Waterville Liberal Institute until April 1843, preaching his first sermons there. He also preached in West Waterville (later Oakland), Sidney and other nearby towns. He was ordained at the June 1842 session of the Maine Universalists’ Convention, in Augusta.

Meanwhile, one genealogy says, on June 9, 1841, at an unknown (to the genealogist) location, he married Eliza Elden Woodman (1816-1892). Bailey gave the wedding date as Jan. 9, 1841, and wrote that Eliza was one of Weston’s students in Readfield.

On April 15, 1843, Weston became Augusta’s Universalist pastor, Bailey wrote. He served there until May 1850, when he returned to Waterville Liberal Institute until the winter of 1853.

He next became head of Westbrook Seminary, which Bailey said he restored from near collapse. His work there “attracted the attention of the Trustees” of Lombard University, in Galesburg, Illinois, which also needed rescuing. He started work there Oct. 17, 1859, and was “formally inducted” as president on Jan. 11, 1860.

(Lombard University began life in 1851 as Illinois Liberal Institute. It became Lombard University in 1857 and operated until 1900. A series of 20th-century changes and mergers created what is now the Meadville Lombard Theological School, in Chicago, described as a “Unitarian Universalist Seminary.”)

Weston was still alive when Bailey finished his article, although he had almost died of smallpox in the winter of 1866. Bailey had high praise for his work to improve Lombard, and called him the “respected and honored President” of the school.

The genealogies say the Westons had two daughters, Caroline Eliza Weston, born in 1844, and Mary Emeline Weston Woodman, born in1849. Bailey wrote in 1869 that Mary Emeline was the only surviving child; he believed she had graduated from Lombard University.

Weston died Dec. 31, 1888, probably in Portland, Maine. His burial site is listed as Pine Grove Cemetery, in Portland.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Marriner, Ernest Cummings, The History of Colby College (1963).

Website, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: More high schools (Vassalboro)

Original Oak Grove School

by Mary Grow


In Vassalboro, which until 1792 included Sidney on the west side of the Kennebec River, voters first discussed schools in 1771, the year the town was incorporated. According to Alma Pierce Robbins’ Vassalboro history, voters at a September town meeting approved “Thirty Pounds Lawful money” to support a minister – and refused to appropriate anything to support a schoolmaster.

School districts existed by 1785, in varying numbers and with varying boundaries. After 1806 there was a separate district for members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), at least part of the time.

Oak Grove School, founded by Vassalboro Quakers in 1848 (see The Town Line, July 22), was the third high school established in Vassalboro in the 1800s. The first two were at Getchell’s Corner, a far more important village in the 19th century than it is now.

The earlier, according to Raymond Manson’s research, was Vassalborough Academy.

In his paper on the school, now in the Vassalboro Historical Society’s library, Manson lists the 18 men who, at the beginning of 1835, decided to open a high school. On Feb. 28, 1835, the Maine legislature approved incorporation of The Vassalborough Academy.

Academy trustees commissioned one of their group, Moses Rollins, to build a home for the Academy. Manson wrote that Rollins put the building on the west side of the road through Getchell’s Corner, almost across the street from what was in 1967 Adams Memorial Chapel.

(Rollins, born in 1786, died June 2, 1863, and is buried in Vassalboro’s Union Cemetery. An on-line history says he was a sergeant in one of the Vassalboro companies raised for the War of 1812; this writer found no information on his occupation.)

Nathan Longfellow was the Academy’s first “preceptor,” or teaching principal, serving until the spring of 1837, Manson wrote.

Robbins found an 1837 advertisement in The Kennebec Journal for the Academy’s spring term. Levi Higgins Jr. had succeeded Longfellow; he stayed only one term, Manson said.

The advertisement said quarterly tuition was from $3 to $4.50 (depending on the subjects chosen, as at other high schools). Board was $1.50 to $1.75 a week. Manson wrote that students boarded with neighborhood families in the Academy’s early days, and later arrangements were made to let them room in groups.

In September 1837, Benjamin F. Shaw, who held a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth, became principal. The trustees were pleased. Shaw left in the spring of 1839, but returned sometime in 1840.

Robbins’ first mention of the second high school is for the year 1837. She quotes a long advertisement from The Kennebec Journal for the School for Young Ladies that “Miss A. Howard” planned to open about April 10.

Miss Howard intended to teach “Reading, Writing, Grammar, and Composition”; “the Rudiments of French and Latin Languages”; “Arithmetic, Geography, with the use of Globes, Intellectual Philosophy and such branches of Natural Science as are usually taught in High Schools”; and “useful and ornamental needlework, Painting and Drawing.”

The School for Young Ladies was across the street from the Academy, and, according to Manson, was so successful that after three years of running the Academy for boys only, the trustees decided they should admit girls. For the spring 1838 term, they added to the one-man faculty an “instructress,” whom they described as “eminently qualified.”

This writer has been unable to find any record of Miss Howard or her school later than 1838.

Vasssalborough Academy apparently adapted to co-ed education promptly. In August 1839 the new principal, Ashiel Moore, added “Chinese Painting and Linear Drawing” (for an extra fee), and in the spring of 1840 he introduced “Wax and Needlework,” specifically for the female students.

Manson found lists of Vassalboro Academy principals, course changes and occasionally tuition fees through the 1840s. There was a new principal about every 12 months, including three Bowdoin men in a row (it is unclear whether they were graduates or still students).

The new principal in the fall of 1848 was Josiah Hayden Drummond, Waterville College Class of 1846 (the first of several Waterville College men to head the school in the 1840s and 1850s). Manson wrote that when Drummond was 14 years old, he had been Vassalborough Academy’s assistant math teacher under Principal Shaw.

Science courses were added, physiology in the spring of 1841, chemistry “and other sciences” in 1842. Manson’s first mention of a music course (type unspecified) was in the fall of 1841.

French and German were the foreign languages taught in 1846. In that year’s fall term, Italian replaced French. In 1856, Latin, Greek, French and German were offered.

By the 1850s and 1860s Vassalborough Academy was publishing catalogs, giving Manson additional information.

For example, in 1856 Principal Reuben Foster had four assistants, one a woman. They taught 78 students in the spring term and 88 in the fall term.

The majority of students lived in Vassalboro. Others were from nearby towns – Augusta, China, Windsor and Winslow. The enrollment also included three students from Hanover (west of Rumford) and one each from Buxton (west of Portland), Olney (neither the web nor Chadbourne’s Maine Place Names lists a Maine town named Olney), Palmyra (north of Pittsfield), South Leeds (southwest of Winthrop) and Topsham (north of Brunswick).

The Academy’s purpose was always to prepare male students for college or for teaching. The 1856 catalog repeated these goals and added preparation for business. For girls, the catalog offered “an elevated course of female education.”

By 1861, Manson said, Oak Grove Seminary was providing serious competition for Vassalborough Academy. The 1860s were probably when, according to Kingsbury, the Academy building was used for “religious as well as secular instruction.”

William Penn Whitehouse, Colby 1863, became Academy principal in the fall of 1863 – perhaps the last principal, Manson wrote. (Whitehouse later became a Justice of the Maine Supreme Court [see The Town Line, Dec. 10, 2020].)

The Methodist Society bought the Academy building in 1868. Manson added an item from the April 29, 1870, Waterville Mail saying the work to convert the building to a Methodist church should be finished by July 1870.

The Getchell’s Corner Methodists merged with the North Vassalboro church in 1890, Manson continued. After the merger, he wrote, the building “became a general store and was destroyed by fire about 1917. All that remains of the old academy are the foundation walls.”

There might have been a successor to Vassalborough Academy. Robbins mentioned in 1869, in quotation marks, ” ‘the upper school’ at North Vassalboro,” where Lewis Mowers was the teacher. She provided no further information.

After the Maine legislature required town high schools in 1873, Robbins wrote, Vassalboro opened two, in East Vassalboro and at Riverside.

According to Vassalboro Historical Society President Janice Clowes and information in the Historical Society library, the East Vassalboro High School was on the west side of Main Street, approximately opposite the present Grange Hall. Kingsbury said voters appropriated $500 for the building in 1873, but by 1892 “the continued success of Oak Grove Seminary has superseded the necessity for the high school.”

Undated postcards the Society owns show a two-story wooden building with an attic. Two doors with a window between them face east, toward the street; the second floor has a single front window above the ground-floor one, and above that is a semi-circular attic window.

Accompanying information calls the school a primary or grammar school. It was discontinued in the latter half of the 1920s, and students moved to the “new” East Vassalboro School. That building now houses the Historical Society museum.

Neighbor Harold Taylor bought the old schoolhouse in the 1930s, and his daughter, Betty Taylor, had the building torn down in 1981, according to Historical Society records.

The 1873 Riverside School, Clowes says, is the building on the north side of Webber Pond Road, a short distance east of Riverside Drive (Route 201). She commented that it has been “very changed.”

In 1873, too, North Vassalboro residents spent more than $6,000 for a new school building there. Kingsbury called it the “best school building in the town,” with “three departments, and a large public hall on the second floor.”

Neither Kingsbury nor Robbins said what grades it housed. After serving as a school and then as the town office building, it is now the office of Mid-Maine Internal Medicine.

Robbins cited an 1889 state law that required each public school teacher to “devote ten minutes of each day to the principle of kindness to birds and animals.”

After the 1903 state law telling the town to pay $30 tuition to “any high school of standard grade,” Robbins wrote that from Vassalboro, 33 students went to Oak Grove Seminary, 10 chose Coburn Classical Institute, in Waterville, four attended Erskine Academy, in China, and one each went to high schools in Hallowell and Yarmouth.

Vassalboro historians Alma Pierce Robbins and Raymond Russell Manson

Alma Pierce Robbins was born Oct. 4, 1898, in Vassalboro, youngest of five children of Ira James Robbins (1855-1929) and Lucy Alma (Smiley) Robbins (1862-1930). She died Nov. 29, 1997, aged 99 years and almost two months, according to an on-line genealogy.

The three girls in the family were travelers. Older sister Elsie Marion (1886-1960) died in California; second sister Edna Mildred (1888-1987, another long-lived family member) lived in Massachusetts and Illinois; and Alma Pierce worked in Massachusetts and died in Florida.

Their brother Wendell Ira (1891-1983) spent his life in Augusta. Brother Maurice Smiley (1893-1970) got as far away as Mechanic Falls, but died in Waterville and is buried in China’s Chadwick Hill Cemetery.

Robbins’ obituary, published in Nantucket County, Massachusetts, says that after elementary schooling in Vassalboro, she graduated from Brewster Academy, in Wolfboro, New Hampshire, in 1917 and attended colleges in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

For more than 30 years she was a social worker in Boston. She lived on Nantucket and edited the Nantucket Historical Association newsletter.

The genealogy, but not the obituary, says that from January to December 1928 Robbins was married to Herman Schwartz. In 1930, the genealogy says, she was described as an osteopath in Brunswick, where she lived for about two years.

On-line military records show Robbins enlisting in the Women’s Army Corps on Aug. 14, 1944, from Boston. Army records describe her as unmarried and without dependents. She had had four years of college; her occupation was in the category “Social and welfare workers.” She was discharged Sept. 2, 1945.

The obituary says after retirement, “she lived in Vassalboro, Clearwater [Florida], and Arcata [California],” moving to Florida permanently in 1985. Her “numerous published writings” include the 1971 Vassalboro history.

With permission of her great-nephew Stephen Robbins, between 1990 and 2003 The Town Line published several of Robbins’ articles describing early 20th-century life on the family farm on Webber Pond Road.

Raymond Russell Manson, another Vassalboro historian, wrote a short autobiographical piece for the Maine State Library’s Special Collections compilation of correspondence from Maine writers. The library has made his 1967 information available on line.

Manson wrote that he was born Oct. 6, 1899 (almost exactly a year later than Robbins), in North Vassalboro, George Thomas and Mary Jewett Manson’s fifth child.

He went to Vassalboro elementary schools and graduated from Oak Grove Seminary, Class of 1918. He entered Colby College in the Class of 1922, apparently after army service in World War I. On June 1, 1919, while still in college, he became a post office employee in Waterville, rising to the rank of Assistant Postmaster before he retired on Dec. 31, 1960.

He married Vivian Crafts (born Nov. 19, 1904), from Watertown, Massachusetts, on Sept. 3, 1930. They lived on Burleigh Street in Waterville; both were Christian Scientists.

Manson was a member of the Vassalboro Masons and the Vassalboro Historical Society. He wrote numerous historical pieces about his native town, including the history of Oak Grove that he and Elsia Holway Burleigh wrote in 1965 (previously cited in this series; see The Town Line, July 22, issue).

Manson died Jan. 11, 1980. In 1989 his widow married Clarence Merryfield; the couple lived in Belfast until 1993, when they returned to Waterville. She died there Dec. 5, 2006.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Manson, Raymond M., Vassalboro Academy (June 15, 1967; manuscript, Vassalboro Historical Society).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: More high schools, part 3

The Lawrence Library, in Fairfield.

by Mary Grow

Fairfield, Palermo, Sidney

In Fairfield, according to the Historical Society’s bicentennial history, town meeting first appropriated money for schools in 1793, five years after the town was incorporated. As in other towns, schools were based in neighborhood school districts. The history says in 1904 there were 25 schools within the town boundaries.

The first high school classes were in 1873, in “part of the already existing grammar-school building…at the corner of Main Street and Western Avenue.” Voters raised $500 for high-school education. This building was presumably the one that was North Grammar School by the middle of the 20th century, and now houses businesses.

In 1881, an article asking voters to build a separate high-school building was on the warrant for the March town meeting. Voters passed over – did not act on – it.

The history says a building for Fairfield High School was built in 1890-91, on Burrill Street (which is at the south end of the business district, running west from Water Street across Main and High streets to West Street). It cost $5,000 and “served the Town until Lawrence High School opened in 1907.”

After 1907 it became South Grammar School, on the north side of Burrill Street between High and West streets. It is now an apartment building.

The 1907 Lawrence High School was a brick building on the west side of High Street, facing Memorial Park. It opened on Sept. 21, with the more than $60,000 construction cost paid by Edward Jones Lawrence.

Lawrence had made a fortune in lumber, street railways, shipbuilding and other ventures. Readers will see more about him in a future article, because Fairfield’s Lawrence Library is also named in his honor.

The Fairfield history says Lawrence’s fortune was drastically reduced in the global financial panic in 1906-1907. He kept his promise to build the high school by “mortgaging his home and borrowing against the schooners” – six-masted schooners built in Bath in which he had invested.

On Feb. 15, 1925, the high school building was “gutted by fire,” the bicentennial history says. It was rebuilt by the spring of 1926.

The Fairfield town report for the year ending Feb. 28, 1926, includes financial information on rebuilding. The town borrowed $50,000, with repayment beginning Jan. 1, 1927, and got more than $57,000 from insurance. The “contract price for construction” of $103,446 covered payments to the architect, contractor, electrician and plumber.

The report from the new Lawrence High School Principal, Edward S. Young, in the same town report said that the school “opened September 14 [1925] in its temporary quarters in the Opera House with an enrollment of 204.”

(The Fairfield Opera House was built in 1888, supported by Amos Gerald [1841-1913], “the Electric Railroad King,” another local boy who made good. It was “demolished in 1961 to make way for the present modest municipal building,” which is at 19 Lawrence Avenue. Lawrence Avenue runs from Main Street at the end of the Kennebec River bridge up hill past the library to High Street.)

Young continued: “Your principal has made a determined effort to make the scanty equipment in the Opera House adequate for a good school and he feels that real work is being done in spite of adverse conditions.”

An innovation was provision of a hot lunch twice a week, at cost, “through the cooperation of the domestic arts department,” for students who did not go home during the noon break.

The 1925 school routine included 10 a.m. daily chapel, with two hymns, the Lord’s Prayer and a Bible reading. Outside speakers were invited every Wednesday. To prepare students for public speaking, “Three times each week a student gives a declamation before the entire school. He is introduced by a fellow student.”

When yet another new Lawrence High School was completed in 1960, the 1907 building became a junior high school. It is now Fairfield Primary School, serving students in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.

In Palermo, historian Milton Dowe found early settlers had many children – John Cain had 18; Amasa Soule 13; Jacob Worthing 12, five of them born before 1800. Primary schools were in existence before 1811; that year, seven school districts were created.

By 1886, Dowe wrote in his 1954 town history, Palermo had 17 schoolhouses. “At this time several of the elementary schools also held terms for free high school classes,” he added.

Millard Howard’s 2015 history said Palermo’s 17 school districts never operated simultaneously; and he said not all districts hired a teacher for every term. His book includes a paragraph on high schools, in which he wrote that Palermo offered none until after Maine’s 1873 Free High School Act.

By 1888, eight Palermo school districts offered high school courses, Howard wrote, the first established in 1882. He explained, “This meant that these districts were occasionally providing a ten-week high school term. There was no fixed course of study.”

Howard found an 1893 Kennebec Journal reference to a free high school at Carr’s Corner ending a term at the end of April. Carr’s Corner, on North Palermo Road, was the site of the schoolhouse for District 13, which was organized in the 1830s and lasted until Palermo school districts were consolidated in 1953.

Dowe also mentioned the Academy Hall on the China side of Branch Mills Village, described in last week’s account of China high schools as Barzillai Harrington’s high school.

Alice Hammond wrote that the Town of Sidney never provided a town high school. There were primary schools from 1792, when Sidney was separated from Vassalboro.

Hammond did not say what opportunities for higher education were offered in the 1800s. Nor does Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history have any information; in a half paragraph about education in Sidney, Kingsbury wrote that by 1891, the number of school districts was cut from 18 to 14 because there were so few students.

From 1906 on, Hammond wrote, Sidney paid students’ tuition to out-of-town schools. The majority chose the public high school in Augusta, Belgrade or Oakland or Oak Grove Seminary, in Vassalboro.

The elusive Barzillai Harrington

Barzillai Harrington, who built an Academy in Branch Mills Village, in China, in the 1850s, was, according to on-line genealogies, born in Tinmouth, Vermont, June 13, 1819; or in Sherburn, Massachusetts, in 1816.

The genealogies and the Maine Historical Magazine, Vol. 1 (1886) identify him as a son-in-law of Shepard Bean (July 16, 1784-1847, the 12th of 14 children of Joshua and Mary Bean). Shepard Bean was born in Readfield, and his wife Jerusha (Hayward) (d. 1876), was from Easton, Massachusetts. Shepard and Jerusha Bean had five children, born in Readfield.

The three older Bean children all found spouses in Readfield. The younger of the two daughters, Lucy Ann, born May 20, 1828, married Barzillai Harrington on Oct. 12, 1843.

(Lucy’s younger brother, Alvin S. Bean, married Phebe Snow, of China, according to the magazine; or Phebe Worth Jones, of China, and after her death a widow named Lizzie [Erskine] Tyler, according to one genealogy.)

Barzillai and Lucy Harrington had eight children between 1844 and 1860. Their oldest son, Myron Clark Harrington, born Aug. 1, 1844, died Oct. 9, 1862, at Bellow’s Heights, Virginia (almost certainly a victim of the Civil War).

Their second son, born Nov. 30, 1845, was named Barzillai Shepard Harrington after his father and grandfather. The genealogies offer no further information.

The magazine article identifies the senior Barzillai Harrington as “from China” and adds: “He built the Lowell, Me., tannery.”

Milton Dowe offered one more clue to the family when he wrote in his Palermo Maine Things That I Remember, in 1996 that “The Branch Mills Sewing Circle was organized at the home of Mrs. B. Harrington in 1853” and went on to list the officers, including “Mrs. L. Harrington,” secretary.

Lowell is a small Penobscot County town, east of Passadumkeag, south of Lincoln. Ava H. Chadbourne’s book on Maine place names says it was Page’s Mills Plantation in 1819 or soon thereafter; then Deanfield Plantation; and Huntressville when incorporated as a town in 1837. It became Lowell in 1838, reportedly to honor Alpheus Hayden’s son Lowell Hayden, the first male child born in the town.

Chadbourne has no Harringtons on her list of early Lowell families. She wrote that Alexander Webb, a New Yorker who had managed tanneries in other Maine towns, “superintended” the building of a large one in Lowell after he moved to town in 1856.

Did, then, the senior Barzillai Harrington literally build the tannery, with Webb overseeing his work? If so, why and how did Harrington switch from running a high school in China to building a tannery in Lowell, a hundred miles away?

Lowell was not his farthest journey. One on-line genealogy says he died May 13, 1885, in Harvard, Nebraska; another says he died in 1881. Lucy survived him, and also died in Nebraska, according to one source.

News from Victor Grange

Here is another update on a prior topic, Victor Grange #49, in Fairfield Center, described in the May 13 issue of The Town Line.

The Grange’s Fall 2021 newsletter reports the successful completion of the effort to raise funds to insulate the building. The money is now in hand, and, the newsletter says, “Northeast Poly Insulation [of Fairfield] will start the job shortly.”

Grangers also obtained the advice they needed on ventilating a well-insulated building. The report says D. H. Pinnette Roofing, of Oakland, “will install six turbine vents, this should do the trick.”

The Grangers expect the insulation will much improve heating in the building and allow more programs. People are invited to suggest programs they would enjoy.

The newsletter lists Grange programs and events. They are open to anyone interested, whether a Grange member or not.

Vaccination clinics are scheduled from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, and Thursday, Oct. 28. The Grange Hall will host Northern Light Health personnel administering the Pfizer vaccine against Covid and the quadrivalent flu vaccine, which offers protection against four different strains of the influenza virus.

The annual Grange Fall Fest and Craft Fair is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bridge lessons are offered Mondays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The newsletter says the original turnout of two tables (eight players) has already doubled some days as more people hear of the chance to learn this card game.

Grange members are looking for help with two more projects, one needing money and the other expertise.

They would like to buy an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) to provide emergency help to a heart attack victim. The cost is listed as $1,300; donations are welcome. The newsletter requests checks made out to Victor Grange 49 AED Fund and left at the Hall, at 144 Oakland Road in Fairfield Center; or mailed to Victor Grange 49, c/o Roger Shorty, 118 Oakland Road, Fairfield ME 04937.

For the Nov. 13 Fall Fest, Grangers are looking for someone who can sharpen knives and scissors, for a fee. Anyone interested can get in touch through Roger Shorty or by emailing Victorgrange49@gmail.com.

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E. , History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Dowe, Milton E., Palermo, Maine Things That I Remember in 1996 (1997).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Howard, Millard, An Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine (second edition, December 2015).
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, miscellaneous.

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.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: More high schools

Old Erskine Academy

by Mary Grow

China Academy, China misc, Erskine Academy

The Massachusetts legislature chartered China Academy in June 1818. Charter language quoted in the China bicentennial history is almost identical to the language used 50 or so years later for Hallowell Classical and Scientific Academy: purposes are to promote “piety, and virtue,” and to provide instruction “in such languages and in such of the liberal arts and sciences” as the trustees prescribe.

The school initially had five trustees, four China Village residents and Rev. Daniel Lovejoy, from Albion, father of Elijah Parish and Owen Lovejoy. Elijah and Owen attended China Academy, and Elijah taught there in 1827, after he graduated from Waterville (later Colby) College. In 1819, the Academy charter was changed to allow 15 trustees.

The first China Academy building was on the shore of China Lake, across from the present site of the China Baptist Church (built in 1814, relocated in 1822). John Brackett donated the land, “in consideration of the love and good will” he had for the trustees; the only condition was that they keep the fence around the lot in repair.

The trustees had a wooden building constructed; the bicentennial history says classes began in or before September 1823. The first two principals were Colby graduates.

In 1825 the Maine legislature approved a land grant for China Academy. In November 1829, the trustees sold the lot in what is now Carroll Plantation (on Route 6, in Penobscot County, east of Lincoln and Lee) for $3,400 (about 30 cents an acre, the bicentennial history says).

With legislative support and “an encouraging student enrollment,” the trustees put up a two-story brick building on Main Street, in China Village, across from the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library (that former house dates from about 1827 and has been a library since 1941). First classes were in November 1828, with 89 students.

From 1835 to 1844 China Academy did well, under Principal Henry Paine, the bicentennial history says. There were 221 students in 1835 and again in 1844, most from China but some from other Maine towns. Teachers included a Colby senior, a Colby graduate and at least one woman, Sarah A. Shearman, in charge of “instruction in the ornamental branches.”

School was held for four 12-week terms, beginning “the first Mondays of March, June, September, and December.” The history quotes advertisements in the weekly China Orb newspaper that said quarterly tuition was $3 for basic English reading and writing; $4 for advanced English courses; and $5 for “Latin, Greek, and French.”

The Academy had no dormitory. The history says it (trustees, teachers or both?) helped students find nearby places to board, at rates ranging from $1.33 to $1.50 a week.

After Waterville Academy was chartered in 1842 and organized successfully by James Hanson (graduate of China Academy and Colby College – see The Town Line, July 29) and Paine left China in 1844, China Academy enrollment dropped. By 1850, average enrollment was around 50 students. The Civil War caused a temporary closure.

After the war, the Academy reopened and, the history says, in 1872, “had a staff of five who were teaching 40 to 60 students a term.” Terms were “shortened to ten weeks,” and tuition increased to $3.50 a term for basic English, $4.50 for advanced English and $5.50 for foreign languages or bookkeeping. Music was added, 20 lessons for $10; the history does not specify vocal, instrumental or both.

The history says that students’ records “included the number of words misspelled, the number of times tardy, and the number of days they were caught whispering in class.”

After state law required free high schools in 1880, China Academy apparently became a hybrid – the history says the brick Academy building was used to teach free high school classes, but “This institution still called itself China Academy and was supervised by a board of trustees.”

Enrollment rose – “54 students in the spring of 1883, 70 in the fall of 1884, and 88 in the spring of 1885.” The history notes that more girls than boys enrolled in each of those terms, after years when male students had been more numerous.

The history lists courses offered, in a “four-year course sequence” in 1884-85: “English, math, geography, history, bookkeeping, sciences, and philosophy,” plus Greek and Latin “if requested.” There were two or three terms a year, and financial support came from the local school district, other nearby China districts and one district in Albion.

In 1887 the brick building was deemed unsafe and was blown up, scattering fragments of brick onto adjoining properties. The trustees sold the lot to the local school district. “Willis R. Ward built a wooden schoolhouse at a cost of $1,000 which served as both high school and elementary school from 1888 to 1909.”

In 1897, China voters appropriated no money for high schools, so the bicentennial history says China Village residents funded one anyway, with state aid. By 1899 village residents also relied on “contributions and subscriptions” to keep high school classes going.

Courses included “advanced English, mathematics,…science… and a five-student Latin class.”

The China Village free high school gradually lost students early in the 20th century and closed in 1908. Many students transferred to China’s other private high school, Erskine Academy (see below).

The wooden building remained an elementary school until the consolidated China Elementary School opened in 1949. It was sold and became a two-story chicken house. The building was demolished in 1969 and replaced by a house.

A China Village high school was re-established from the fall of 1914 through the spring of 1916 – the bicentennial history gives no reason. Classes met in the second floor of a building (later the American Legion Hall) on the southeast corner of the intersection of Main Street, Neck Road and what is now Causeway Road.

The China bicentennial history provides partial information on three other nineteenth-century high schools in China, in Branch Mills Village, in South China Village and at Dirigo.

The earliest, the East China high school in Branch Mills, “was established about 1851 in a building constructed for that purpose by Mr. Barzillai Harrington.” The building was on the south side of the village main street, west of the bridge across the West Branch of the Sheepscot River. It appears as a large rectangle on the town map in the 1856 Maine atlas, labeled “B. H. Academy.”

In 1852, the history says, elementary classes met in “Mr. Harrington’s high school building” because the district schoolhouse was “in such poor condition.”

An 1856 advertisement for the school listed Claudius B. Grant as the principal for an 11-week term beginning Sept. 1. Tuition was $3 per term for basic English, $3.50 for advanced English and $4 for “languages,” unspecified.

The bicentennial history cites China town reports saying high school classes were provided in Branch Mills in 1857 for one term; in 1865 for one term, taught by Stephen A. Jones, of China; in 1882, for two terms, taught by Thomas W. Bridgham, of Palermo; and in 1883 for one term, taught by J. A. Jones. The writer found no evidence of continuous classes, and locations were not specified.

Though classes were listed in 1882 and 1883, the Branch Mills map in the 1879 Maine atlas identifies the building by a name, indicating it was a private home. The China history says the Academy building was sold in the 1880s. Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history says it was in 1892 the Good Templars Hall.

A footnote in the bicentennial history adds: “In 1894 the school committee recommended a term of high school at Branch Mills, but the town records provide no evidence that it was held.”

The high school in South China Village started in the 1860s and ran at least intermittently through the spring of 1881, according to the bicentennial history.

In 1865, former primary school teacher T. W. Bridgham taught a spring high school term. In 1877-78, A. W. Warren was teacher for a seven-week term. F. E. Jones taught 51 students in the fall of 1880. The next spring, J. E. Jones taught what was apparently the final term, “with the expenses being borne by three adjacent school districts.”

The writer of the bicentennial history found only a single reference to the high school at Dirigo (or Dirigo Corner), where Alder Park and Dirigo Road meet what is now Route 3 (Belfast Road). In 1877 and 1878, the town report described two China free high schools, South China “and a 20-week term at Dirigo.”

Fred D. Jones was the teacher at Dirigo, “and the supervisor of schools commended the residents of this quite small school district for supporting so long a term.”

(Attentive readers will have noticed numerous teachers named Jones. They were probably related, at least distantly, and were probably members of the Society of Friends. The genealogical section of the China history has 25 pages of Joneses, several identified as teachers.)

Yet another private high school, Erskine Academy, opened in September 1883 and is thriving today. The China history gives a detailed account of its origins: it became a private academy because China voters at the beginning of the 1880s refused to accept donated money for a public high school.

As the history tells the story, Mary Erskine inherited her husband Sullivan’s considerable wealth when he died in 1880. Having no children, she consulted John K. Erskine, her late husband’s nephew and executor, about ways to use the money.

John Erskine, who regretted his own lack of educational opportunity, suggested endowing a high school in the Chadwick Hill school district, south of South China Village. Mary Erskine agreed, and at a Nov. 13, 1880, special town meeting, voters accepted a $1,500 trust fund for a free high school.

At the annual meeting in March 1881, voters reversed the decision and told the town treasurer to return the money. In March 1882, school supporters presented an article again offering the $1,500 and “specifying that the town would not pay for providing the school building.” Voters passed over it, that is, did not act.

A month later, a group of supporters asked the Erskines to let them establish a private high school. Mary Erskine approved and helped organize a board of trustees headed by renowned Quaker Eli Jones (see the July 8 issue of The Town Line). John Erskine was vice-president and Samuel Starrett treasurer.

The trustees “bought the seven-acre Chadwick common from A. F. Trask for $100.” (Wikipedia says the campus is now about 25 acres.) Mary Erskine donated $500 for a building.

Starrett encouraged the owners of a disused Methodist church on the lot to sell it at auction. They did, and he got it for $50.

The trustees had the building moved to the middle of the lot and turned into a schoolhouse. “A bell tower and other necessary buildings” were added, and Mary Erskine donated a bell and furnishings in the spring of 1883.

The trustees organized a “tree-planting picnic:” area residents were invited to bring a picnic dinner and a tree. The China history says the grounds gained about 250 trees.

Mary Erskine attended Erskine High School’s opening day in September 1883. There were two teachers and “more than 50 students.”

The school ran two 11-week terms a year, and in some years “a shorter summer term.” The history lists 16 courses: “reading, grammar, elocution, arithmetic, algebra, history, geography, natural philosophy, bookkeeping, ancient languages (Latin and Greek), botany, geology, astronomy, and anatomy and physiology.”

By 1887, increased enrollment required a third teacher. The building “was raised ten feet to make room for more classrooms underneath.”

Students from Chadwick Hill and other school districts came and went by the term, not the year. Therefore, the history says, it was not until 1892 “that four students finished four years apiece so that the first formal graduation could be held.”

Trustees had a dormitory for girls built in 1900 and “later” (the history gives no date) another for boys. In 1901 the Maine legislature incorporated the school as Erskine Academy and approved an annual $300 appropriation.

Erskine’s original school building was destroyed in a fire on Nov. 5, 1926. Fortunately, Ford gymnasium had opened in November 1925; the bicentennial history says classes were held there until a new classroom building was ready in 1936.

The history also said that Mary Erskine’s bell was saved from the fire and “mounted on campus.” In the fall of 1971, someone stole it.

Main source

Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Hallowell academies

Hallowell Classical and Scientific Academy, Hallowell, ca. 1882. Contributed by Frank Trask through Hubbard Free Library.

by Mary Grow

In preceding articles, readers have learned a bit about three private high schools, Cony Female Academy, Coburn Classical Institute and Oak Grove Seminary (see the issues of The Town Line for Sept. 2, July 29 and July 22, respectively) and about some of the public high schools in Augusta and Waterville (in the Aug. 26 and Sept. 2, The Town Line issues, respectively).

Remaining to be described are numerous other 19th-century public and private schools in central Kennebec Valley towns. A few are well documented; for most, local histories offer only tantalizing glimpses.

For example, Whittemore wrote in his history of Waterville that “private and corporation schools” played important roles, starting in 1823 when “Miss Pettengill” ran “a school for the education of young ladies.”

In 1824, John Butler and “Miss Lewis” opened another school “which with its modern methods and apparatus won enthusiastic approval.” A successor, before or in 1902 when Whittemore’s history appeared, was Miss Julia Stackpole.

Two private academies mentioned previously are Hallowell Academy, in Hallowell, and China Academy, in China Village. The latter will be described in a future article.

There were two 19th-century academies in Hallowell. Their histories are intertwined with each other and with the public high school; your writer wishes her readers luck trying to untangle them.

The first, Hallowell Academy (in one source called Hallowell Academy for Boys), was chartered in 1791. (Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history that Hallowell and Berwick academies, chartered the same day, were the first in what later became the State of Maine.)

Hallowell’s second, Hallowell Classical and Scientific Academy, opened in 1868 (online source); or was incorporated Feb. 8, 1872 (Maine Congregational Church annual meeting minutes, 1872-1874); or as of 1873 was the new name for the earlier Hallowell Academy (Kingsbury); or, most definitively, was scheduled to open Jan. 1, 1874 (online The Maine Journal of Education for 1873). Bob Briggs, in his 1996 history Around Hallowell (found online, delightfully illustrated with old photographs), called it on one page Hallowell Classical and Scientific Institute.

The Academy chartered in 1791 opened for classes in a newly-built schoolhouse in 1795. Briggs wrote that the first two academy buildings burned down; Kingsbury mentioned only one destructive fire, in 1804, after which, he said, the building was replaced a year later.

In 1807, Kingsbury said, the school trustees bought a Paul Revere bell for the belfry. Briggs wrote that in 1841, a brick building was put up. The Academy and (public?) high school were “united” from 1868 until the Classical Academy opened in 1873, he said.

In 1888, Briggs wrote, the Academy building “became Hallowell High School.” Remodeled in 1890, when he wrote in 1996 it was a private home.

The photo illustrating these words, dated about 1880, shows a group of students, the women in skirts from ankle-length to floor-length, in front of what must be the main entrance. Four two-story Doric columns are spaced across the width of the brick building, with two large doors on either side of a window behind them.

Briggs wrote of the 1795 Hallowell Academy that “students received their secondary education under some of the ablest and best educated men in the state.”

Kingsbury listed the first 28 teachers, up to 1838, and their years of service. One, surnamed Moody, stayed for eight years, and Curtis taught for three years. Six others were there for two years; the remaining 20, Kingsbury said, stayed only one year each.

After the 1795 Academy closed, high school age students attended the Hallowell Classical Academy, the Maine Memory Network says. As noted above, the Classical Academy almost certainly opened at the beginning of 1874.

The Classical Academy was on Central Street at the intersection with Warren Street. The Memory Network describes it as a co-ed college preparatory boarding and day school. It was established to promote Christian education and to train young people “in such languages and in such of the arts and sciences” as the school trustees chose.

The school was “affiliated” with the Congregational Church in Maine and, Kingsbury added, “a feeder for Bowdoin College.”

The 1873 Journal of Education, which this writer accepts as an authoritative, contemporary source, says the Maine Conference of Congregational Churches established the Classical Academy. A Congregational minister, Rev. H. F. Harding, was the academy’s first secretary and treasurer; his report to the statewide church meeting in 1874 mentioned connections with Bowdoin and with Bangor Seminary.

The Classical Academy was intended to be Hallowell’s high school and also a state institution to prepare “the sons of Maine” (daughters were not excluded – see below) “for her Colleges and Theological Seminary, without the necessity of going out of the State.”

The Academy was on an 11-acre lot, with views up and down the Kennebec. It started with three buildings, the article continues: “the old Hallowell Academy, which is to be used for recitation rooms” plus a new boarding-house that would accommodate 40 boys in double rooms and a new girls’ boarding house.

The latter is described as three stories with a Mansard roof, 160-feet long with two 40-foot-wide wings, “containing 76 rooms.” The rooms were arranged with two double bedrooms and a “parlor” for each four students.

Gas lighting was planned for the new buildings. The girls’ dormitory had steam heat, “bathing rooms” and a generous supply of “pure spring water,” according to the report in the 1872-74 minutes of the state Congregational Church meetings.

The Journal article said Classical Academy leaders intended to build “a much larger and much better edifice” as soon as they had the money. As of 1873, they had raised about $70,000, mostly from the City of Hallowell, and gotten a $4,000 bequest (the Memory Network, too, mentions a will). Additionally, the Journal article said, “Mrs. Eastman,” a former resident now living in Italy, had donated a $1,000 scholarship and “is also making a fine collection of paintings for the school.”

Classical Academy students came from Hallowell and from other parts of Maine, Illinois, California and New Brunswick, the Memory Network says.

The Congregational meeting minutes mentioned above describe the success of the Classical Academy in its first almost-two years. By 1874, James G. Blaine (then Representative in the U. S. Congress) was President of the Board of Trustees; Harding was still secretary and Joshua Nye, of Augusta, had succeeded him as treasurer.

The next term was to start Thursday, Sept. 2, 1875. A calendar for the next two years said a 12-week fall term would run from Tuesday, Sept. 2, through Nov. 28, 1876; after a week off, a 14-week winter term from Dec. 5, 1876, to March 13, 1877; after a two-week spring break, a 13-week spring term from March 27 through June 21, 1877.

There were 108 students and a staff of seven teachers and two matrons. Each dormitory had a matron; two teachers also lived in the dormitories and had supervisory responsibilities. Three were women; the teacher in the boys’ dormitory was a man.

Subjects taught were English (both English Studies and English Literature), French, German, Latin, Greek, history, natural sciences, mathematics, “Mental, and Moral Science,” bookkeeping, penmanship (these two subjects were on one list, not on a second), piano and vocal music and drawing and painting.

There were three departments, which the report described as follows:

The Classical Course offered “thorough and ample preparation for the most advanced Colleges.”

The Seminary Course was “especially for young ladies,” “to carry their training and culture considerably beyond that given in our public schools.”

The English and Scientific Course gave students of both sexes “the most valuable studies for a shorter course.”

Memory Network photos of the Classical Academy from the early 1880s show two large squarish three-story buildings connected by a three-story rectangular building. The lower stories are white, probably clapboard (possibly brick). The upper story, with a pediment above and below it, appears to be a shingled mansard roof, with four single flat-topped windows in one end and three across the front.

(This description is similar to the Journal of Education’s 1873 description of the new girls’ dormitory.)

Briggs’ book includes a photograph of a quite different building, dated about 1885 and identified as the Classical Academy. This building is rectangular, clearly brick, three stories with no mansard roof. The windows are paired under arches. There appear to be no connected buildings, although at one end is a “strange invention” (Briggs’ words) that looks like a windmill atop a two-story tower.

(Perhaps this is the building the Journal said Academy trustees were in 1873 waiting for money to build?)

Hallowell High School opened in 1887, and the Classical Academy closed in 1888, the Memory Network says. Briggs said lack of money forced the Classical Academy to close, and “its buildings were razed in the early 1900s.”

The Memory Network has a photograph, dated “circa 1900,” of the 1887 high school, a two-story brick building with towers on both ends, one three stories tall, and a triple-arched front entrance. Accompanying information says it was on a lot “used exclusively for education since Hallowell Academy opened in 1795.”

Briggs’ version is that in 1887 the Hallowell school committee agreed to establish a high school separate from the Classical Academy. In 1890, he continued, the “City fathers” renovated “the old Hallowell Academy building,” implying that the 1887 building was not constructed from scratch.

The Maine Memory site says the 1887 high school was converted to a primary school after a 1920 high school building opened “on the site of the old Classical Academy,” that is, at the intersection of Central and Warren streets.

Hallowell might have had a third private high school. Yet another on-line site, called Maine Roots, includes an undated reference to “a female academy” started by John A. Vaughan “where the granite offices now are, which continued a number of years.”

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).

Websites, miscellaneous.

CORRECTION: A correction to the story on the Asa Bates Memorial Chapel, or Ten Lots Chapel, in Fairfield that ran in the Aug. 5 issue of The Town Line: the people responsible for repairing the large windows were Pastor Gene McDaniel and his father, Gary McDaniel, who did the reglazing. Kay Marsh did the painting, and Howard Hardy offered encouragement.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Central Maine high schools

Old Cony High School – Flat Iron building.

by Mary Grow

According to Millard Howard’s history of Palermo, an 1817 Massachusetts law that apparently carried over into Maine in 1820 required each town with 50 families to provide a primary school and each town with 200 families to have a grammar school whose teacher was able to teach Latin and Greek.

Alice Hammond’s history of Sidney has a slightly different version, perhaps referring to a different law: she wrote that when the population reached 100 families, “the authorities should set up a grammar school to instruct youth for the university.”

Over the years, central Kennebec Valley towns have complied with the law by supporting a local public high school, contracting to send students to a larger town’s public high school or contracting with a private high school.

This essay and its successor will not attempt to follow all the convolutions in every town and city, nor will they extend much later than 1900. The twentieth century saw a continuation of all three methods, with state law establishing various consolidated programs (Maine School Administrative Districts, Regional School Unions, Alternative Organizational Structures) and with the foundation of new private schools, secular and religious.

This series has already partly discussed the public high schools in the cities of Augusta and Waterville, in connection with their former homes in historic buildings that are now Cony Flatiron Residence and Gilman Place (see the issues of The Town Line for Sept. 2 and Aug. 26, respectively). This week’s article will summarize some earlier high-school buildings in the two cities, as described in local histories.

Public high schools in Augusta

According to Kingsbury, Augusta’s first high school opened in 1803. It seems to have been a private corporation – he wrote that “a group of citizens” put up a brick grammar school building where Bridge Street then ended at State Street (Bridge Street has since then continued west another six-plus blocks). Shareholders could send one student for each share owned.

School started in the spring of 1804, with “a Mr. Cheney” teaching courses that included the “dead languages.” (Wikipedia says there are at least 673 dead languages, defined as those “that no longer have a native speaking community.” Kingsbury probably meant Ancient Greek and Latin.)

The building burned in 1807, Kingsbury said. Until 1835, Augusta students wanting more than a primary education could attend Hallowell Academy.

On Feb. 19, 1835, Kingsbury wrote, the Maine legislature approved incorporation of the Augusta Classical School Association. This group, headed by seven directors, raised money by selling shares.

The Association bought the lot where the earlier school building stood and built an east-facing, two-story, 65-by-50-foot brick building “with pediment front, supported by four Doric columns of wood.” The first classes started April 18, 1836.

William H. Allen was the preceptor, assisted by his sister, identified as “Miss Allen,” Joseph Baker and Hannah Lambard, whose brother Thomas was one of the directors. Allen was succeeded by two “English ladies” named Taylor, presumably sisters, and then by “Mr. Woodbury.”

Classical School tuition was $6 per term and, Kingsbury wrote, was supposed to support the school. It did for only a few years before the “worthy promoters suffered its doors to be finally closed.”

Meanwhile, an 1833 state law allowed Augusta school districts to combine, and early in 1842 two of them did, forming the Village School District. The new district had 974 students, and the directors decided they needed six primary schools, two grammar schools and one high school.

This district included the site of the earlier high schools, and the Village School District first rented and in 1848 bought, for $3,000, the Classical School building. It was succeeded in 1869 by a building that, Kirk Mohney found in his 1988 research for the National Register of Historic Places listing for the Cony Flatiron, was designed by Francis Fassett (1823-1908). Readers have met Fassett before as the architect of many buildings throughout Maine, including in downtown Augusta (see The Town Line, Feb. 4).

In 1881, Kingsbury wrote, the Village District high school was superseded by Cony Free High School.

Public high schools in Waterville

Waterville High School from 1912 – 1963.

According to Elwood T. Wyman’s chapter in the Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore’s 1902 bicentennial history of Waterville, primary schools opened before 1802, when Waterville separated from Winslow, and continued afterwards, with the usual fluidity of school district boundaries. Originally designated by names – Ticonic, Ten-lot, Almond Soule’s, Asa Soule’s, for example – the districts were quickly numbered for official reports.

Beginning in 1846, Carey wrote, “more advanced pupils” attended Waterville Academy (later Coburn Classical Institute), founded in 1823. It is puzzling that a page later he wrote of Latin and French being “authorized” as high-school courses in 1855; and of teachers “of high and grammar grades” being asked in 1859 to report weekly to parents on their children’s “conduct and scholarship,” as though Waterville officials were in charge.

In and after 1864, Carey continued, “pupils of high school rank” were sent to Waterville Academy, and Waterville paid the Academy $4.50 a term for tuition. The agreement continued until Waterville Free High School opened in 1876.

Carey listed nine “masters” (principals) of Waterville Free High School, all Colby graduates. The ninth had just resigned, and in 1902 was to be succeeded by Richard W. Sprague, Colby 1901, Carey wrote.

(Graduating from Colby and immediately becoming Waterville High principal was a recurring pattern, according to Arthur Roberts’ paragraphs on teachers in Whittemore’s history. Lincoln Owen, Colby 1889, was, on Carey’s list, the school’s fourth head, from 1889 to 1893. Next came Dennis Bowman, of Sidney, Colby 1893, who served until 1898. The principal who was departing in 1902, John Edward Nelson, of China, Colby 1898, took over in September 1898, according to Roberts. Carey, who included no dates, listed three other men between Bowman and Nelson.)

So where was Waterville Free High School between 1876 and its move to Gilman Street in 1912?

In 1853, after long debate, Waterville school officials had two brick primary schools constructed. The one on the 1902 site of North Grammar School (dedicated Feb. 28, 1888) was moved to a College Avenue location and in 1902 was a tenement.

The other 1853 school, presumably the south one, was in 1902 “the main part of the present high school building.”

This 1853 building that was by 1902 incorporated into the high school appears to have been close to the site of the 1920 Albert S. Hall School. The Hall School, at 27 Pleasant Street, housed students in kindergarten through grade six in 1970, according to someone who taught there; it now serves students in fourth and fifth grades, according to its website.

An on-line chronology says in 1922 (10 years after the high school moved to Gilman Street, two years after the Hall School was finished), “Old High School on Pleasant Street was demolished to make room for the new Junior High school construction.”

A brief on-line history of the Hall School says it “has served as Waterville High School” and Waterville Junior High School before becoming an elementary school. But sources cited in the earlier story about Gilman Street School say the high school was there from 1912 until 1963.

(The original Pleasant Street School was renamed in honor of Albert Sedgley Hall, who started his 35-year career in education in Waterville as a sixth-grade teacher and ended it after 11 years as the city’s Superintendent of Schools.)

Backing up to 1902, Carey further noted that in the last 15 years of the 18th century, Waterville officials had overseen construction of four new (primary) schools and remodeling of two older ones; and there was a need for another new primary school “and for a new high school building.”

The new high school was probably the Gilman Street School; readers will remember that construction began in 1912. An on-line chronology adds that in 1914, the “New Senior High School” was damaged by fire.

William H. Allen
and two of his fellow teachers

William Henry Allen (March 27, 1808 – Aug. 29, 1882) had a varied career in education and educational administration.

He was born in Readfield, son of Jonathan and Thankful (Longley) Allen. He went from Kents Hill Seminary to Bowdoin, graduating in 1833, and, the Prabook on-line site says, “received a degree of Doctor of Laws from Union College as well as from Emory and Henry College.”

(Union College, founded in 1795, is a private liberal arts college in Schenectady, New York. Emory and Henry College is in Emory, Virginia; campus construction began in 1836, and the first students were admitted in 1838. It was founded by the Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and is now affiliated with the United Methodist Church.)

From 1833 to 1836 Allen was a Latin and Greek teacher at Oneida Methodist Conference Seminary, Cazenovia, New York. In 1836 he came to Augusta to head the Classical School; he left after six months for Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. There he taught chemistry and natural history for 10 years, then philosophy and English literature, and at some point spent most of a year as acting president.

Chosen as president of Girard College, identified on line as a 12-grade college preparatory school in Philadelphia, in 1849, he took over in 1850. He resigned in 1862, but after three years “lecturing and writing” and two years as president of Pennsylvania Agricultural College, now part of Penn State University, in University Park, he returned to Girard for 15 more years described as “most gratifying to him and most valuable to those for whom he labored.”

The Prabook article says nothing about Allen’s sister or other siblings, but it lists his four wives: Martha Ann Richardson (d. 1839); Ellen Honora Curtin (sister of Pennsylvania Governor Andrew G. Curtin); Mary Frances Quincy (daughter of Samuel Quincy, of Boston); and Anna (Dunton) Gamwill (married Allen in 1858 and survived him).

Joseph Baker was born June 23, 1812, in Bloomfield (now Skowhegan). His father, Amos, was a Revolutionary War veteran who farmed in the summer and taught in the winter.

Joseph attended China Academy and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1836. Like his father, he taught in the winter. The on-line Biographical Encyclopedia of Maine of the Nineteenth Century, says when he boarded in rural school districts, he would breakfast at 3 or 4 a.m. with the farm family and spend the hours until school began “reading nearly the whole of the British Poets.”

After graduation, Baker studied under local lawyers during two years as assistant teacher at the Augusta high school. Admitted to the bar in 1839, he promptly set up a practice in Augusta that continued, with partners, all his life. His later career included terms as Augusta City Solicitor and Kennebec County Attorney and service in the Maine House and Senate. He died Nov. 29, Thanksgiving Day, 1883.

Sarah and Hannah [Lambard] Walcott were daughters of Dolly Lambard, who acquired Martha Ballard’s diary after the now-famous Hallowell midwife died in May 1812. After Dolly Lambard died in 1861, her daughters kept the diary until 1884, when they gave it to Ballard’s great-great-granddaughter, Mary Hobart, a doctor.

Main sources

Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Howard, Millard, An Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine (second edition, December 2015).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed. Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Cony Flat Iron Building

Old Cony High School – Flat Iron Building

by Mary Grow

One more former school in the central Kennebec Valley is on the National Register of Historic Places: the original Cony High School, in Augusta, often referred to as Old Cony High School, to avoid confusion with present-day Cony High School, or as Cony Flatiron, for its unusual shape.

Kirk Mohney of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission prepared the National Register application for the building in July1988. The listing is dated Sept. 29, 1988.

The Cony Flatiron is on a 1.5-acre lot, Mohney wrote, on the southeast side of Cony Circle, the traffic circle at the east end of Memorial Bridge across the Kennebec River.

The name comes from the building’s unusual wedge, or flatiron, shape. The slightly curved end with the entrance faces northwest onto the rotary; the sides flare out, so that the building is wider at the back.

High school education has been available in Augusta since 1816. Augusta’s on-line Museum in the Streets says in 1815, Daniel Cony put up a building on his land at the intersection of Bangor and Cony streets, on the northeast side of the present traffic circle. “At first a mystery, it was soon announced to be an academy for girls”; it opened as Cony Female Academy the next year.

The Museum in the Streets says in 1844 the Academy, needing more space, relocated across Cony Street into the former Bethlehem (Unitarian) Church building. The new site was the Flatiron Building lot.

Cony Female Academy closed in 1857. Henry Kingsbury, in his Kennebec County history, and Mohney summarized information on other post-primary Augusta schools between the 1830s and the 1880s, apparently located on the west side of the Kennebec.

By 1880 the newest of these schools was overcrowded. Kingsbury wrote that Cony’s grandson, ex-Governor Joseph Williams, proposed that the still-existing Academy Board of Trustees give the school’s trust fund, which by then had grown to almost $20,000, to the city for a new high school.

Augusta officials accepted and built “the present [in 1892] stately edifice” as Cony Free High School on the Flatiron site. The building pictured in Kingsbury’s history resembles a church, with peaked roofs, an arched entrance and a tall, decorated central tower.

Museum in the Streets says the city “controlled the property” by 1908. In 1909 the Cony Free High School building acquired “substantial wings” (Mohney’s words), but by the 1920s it, too, had become too small, and officials replaced it with the Flatiron Building and renamed it Cony High School.

Mohney’s description of the Flatiron said the Colonial Revival style brick building was designed by Bunker and Savage, of Augusta, and constructed between 1926 and 1932 (Museum in the Streets gives the dates as 1929-1930, suggesting most of the work was done then).

The building is three stories tall on a granite foundation, with “rusticated brickwork” on the first level. (Wikipedia explains “rusticated” brick, masonry or stonework as having a rough outward surface that gives a textured appearance.)

The ground-floor front has three bays on its curve, each with an inset doorway with granite moldings around the doors. Brick plinths between bays support the two-story Tuscan columns above them; each bay has three tall windows on each floor.

The second and third floors are “separated by a wide, ornate stringcourse,” Mohney wrote. The stringcourse, a curved granite band, “is decorated with carved swags and an open book bearing the date 1926.”

Above the third floor another stone band has the words “CONY HIGH SCHOOL” in its three sections. A brick parapet with a clock with Roman numerals topped the front of the building.

Both sides were provided with a generous number of tall windows – fourteen to a side since a 1984 remodeling, Mohney wrote, almost twice as many originally. He described the fourth side of the building (the back) as having “two walls that meet at an obtuse angle” and variety in height and arrangement of doors and windows.

Inside, he wrote, the school was minimally decorated and had the wide staircases with landings that were typical of the period. The third-floor auditorium was the fanciest room, with a stage at one end and a balcony at the other and “Colonial Revival style details with classical moldings and pilasters.”

Wikipedia says the school was dedicated Dec. 12, 1930, although the top floor remained unfinished until 1932.

Again the number of students increased to exceed the capacity of the building, and an addition with more classrooms was built farther up the hill in 1963 or 1965 (sources differ). The addition and the enclosed, elevated walkway connecting it to the Flatiron were demolished, Wikipedia says in 2008.

A Cony graduate said she took most of her classes in the addition, but went to the old building for her typing class; she believes business and perhaps shop courses stayed in the Flatiron. The main difference she remembers is that Old Cony’s classrooms had high ceilings.

The present Cony High School at 60 Pierce Drive, next to the Capital Area Technical Center, opened in the fall of 2006, and Old Cony High School closed that year.

Wikipedia says the city used the Flatiron Building to store city property until 2013, when Housing Initiatives of New England leased it (for 49 years at a cost of $1 per year) and converted it to senior housing. The conversion maintained historic features, including stairs, corridors and most of the auditorium. New windows were designed to look like the old ones.

The Daniel Cony clock was preserved. It says on its face: “Presented by Hon. Daniel Cony. Time Is Fleeting.”

An article by reporter Keith Edwards in the July 19, 2015, Kennebec Journal describes the opening of the 48-apartment Cony Flatiron Senior Residence, with former Cony High School graduates among the first tenants.

Daniel Cony

(Emily Schroeder, the archivist for the Kennebec Historical Society, wrote an article on Daniel Cony for the January-February 2020, issue of the Society’s newsletter, Kennebec Current. She was inspired by paintings of Cony and his wife on the wall of the society’s headquarters building. Much of the information on Daniel Cony is from her piece; other on-line sources and Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history have contributed.)

Daniel Cony

Daniel Cony (Aug. 3, 1752 – Jan. 21, 1842) was a Stoughton, Massachusetts, native who studied medicine in Marlboro, Massachusetts, under a doctor named Samuel Curtis. On Nov. 14, 1776, he married his preceptor’s niece, Susanna Curtis.

In April 1775, when the first battle of the American Revolution was fought, Cony was a doctor in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, about 70 miles west of Lexington and Concord. Soon after his marriage, he joined General Horatio Gates’ army at Saratoga, New York, and was there when British General John Burgoyne surrendered on Oct. 17, 1777.

Meanwhile, in 1777, his parents, Samuel and Rebecca (Guild) Cony, moved to Fort Western on the Kennebec River. Daniel and Susanna joined them in 1778, with their first daughter, Nancy Bass Cony, who died that fall at the age of 13 months. They subsequently had four more daughters, Susan Bowdoin, Sarah Lowell, Paulina Bass, and Abigail Guild Cony.

Daniel Cony was among the founders of the Unitarian church, in Augusta. He served Hallowell as town clerk and later a selectman; became a member of the legislature, first in Massachusetts and, after Maine became a separate state, in Maine; was a member of the state Executive Council, a Kennebec County judge and a delegate to the 1819 Maine constitutional convention.

Schroeder found that in the constitutional convention he argued for renaming Maine “Columbus,” in honor of the explorer. An opponent objected that Columbus never got far enough north to know there was such a place as Maine.

Despite – or perhaps because of – his own lack of formal schooling, Cony strongly supported education, including education for women. His creation of and support for Cony Female Academy are cited to explain why Augusta high schools have been named in his honor.

Additionally, he was representative to the Massachusetts legislature when it chartered Hallowell Academy in 1791 (Augusta was part of Hallowell then) and was on the academy’s first board of trustees. He helped found Bowdoin College in 1794 and, Schroeder wrote, was a Bowdoin “overseer” from 1794 to 1797. In 1820 Bowdoin gave him an honorary degree.

And the four Cony daughters:

Susan (Dec. 29, 1781 – May 13, 1851) married Samuel Cony, her first cousin, on Nov. 24, 1803. Their son Samuel (1811-1870) was Governor of Maine from Jan. 6, 1864, to Jan. 2, 1867.
Sarah (July 18, 1784 – Oct. 17, 1867) married Reuel Williams, member of another prominent Augusta family, in 1807. Their oldest child and only son, Joseph Hartwell Williams (1814-1896) was governor of Maine from Feb. 25, 1857 to Jan. 6, 1858, after Hannibal Hamlin resigned to return to the United States Senate.
Paulina (Aug. 23, 1787 – Sept. 11, 1857) married Nathan Weston on June 4, 1809. He was one of the first Maine Supreme Court Justices (1820-1834) and second Chief Justice (1834-1841). Their grandson was United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Melville Weston Fuller (see The Town Line, Dec. 10, 2020).
Abigail (Jan. 17, 1791 – Nov. 29, 1875) married Rev. John Henniker Ingraham, from Portland, on Jan. 28, 1818, and died in Bangor.

Cony Female Academy

In 2002, the University of Maine provided a Women’s History Trail for Augusta that includes a history of Cony Female Academy, now available on line; and Henry Kingsbury summarized the academy’s history in his Kennebec County history.

Daniel Cony established the school to educate “orphans and other girls under the age of 16,” the University of Maine writer said. He speculated that Cony had in mind not only orphans, but also his own daughters, although by then all were adults and three were married.

Kingsbury wrote that Cony gave the 1815 building and its lot to a board of trustees, incorporated Feb. 18, 1818. The legislative act of incorporation referred to “the education of youth, and more especially females.”

Cony also provided Augusta Bank stock “and other gifts.” In 1826, the Maine legislature donated a half-tract of land, which the school sold for $6,000, and a Bostonian donated a $500 lot in Sidney. The school library had more than 1,200 volumes, given by Cony and others, making it one of the best in the area.

In addition to free education for orphans, the school admitted students who could afford to pay tuition, including boys. In 1825, tuition was $20 a year, with the trustees often contributing $10 a year for out-of-town students.

Besides the school building, the academy had a dormitory several blocks away where in the 1820s students boarded for $1.25 a week. Kingsbury wrote it was built in 1826 at the intersection of Willow and Myrtle streets, and was in 1892 Harvey Chisam’s home. The University of Maine writer located the dormitory at the intersection of Willow and Bangor streets, one block farther north.

By 1828, Kingsbury wrote, the academy’s property was valued at $9,795.

Hannah Aldrich, later Mrs. Pitt Dillingham, was the Academy’s first head, and continued her connection with the school into the 1840s. The Kennebec Historical Society has a picture of her when she was 92 years old.

After the school moved to the former Bethlehem Church in 1845, the original building became a house that “survived into the twentieth century” before being replaced by a filling station and later another building.

Kingsbury said the former Bethlehem Church was moved in 1880 to “its present [1892] location on the Fort Western lot at the foot of Cony Street.” The University of Maine writer said it was relocated down Cony Street to “a site near present-day [2002] City Center,” where it burned down in 1902.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, miscellaneous

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Schools – Part 1

Hodgkins School

by Mary Grow

There are four school buildings in the central Kennebec Valley that are on the National Register of Historic Places, two in Augusta and one each in Winslow and Waterville.

Winslow’s Brick Schoolhouse has already been described, in the Jan. 28 issue of The Town Line. The old Cony High School, in Augusta, now the Cony Flatiron Building, will be a future subject.

This piece will describe Augusta’s Ella R. Hodgkins Intermediate School, later called Hodgkins Middle School, and the old Waterville High School, later the Gilman Street School.

The Hodgkins School served students in seventh and eighth grades (one source adds sixth grade) from 1958 to 2009. when the students were moved to a new high school building. The application for National Register status, prepared by Matthew Corbett, of Sutherland Conservation and Consulting, in Augusta, is dated Feb. 26, 2015. The building was added to the register the same year.

The former school, now called Hodgkins School Apartments on the Google map, is at 17 Malta Street, on a 20-acre lot in a residential neighborhood. Malta Street is on the east side of the Kennebec River, northeast of Cony Street and southeast of South Belfast Avenue (Route 105).

Originally designated the East Side Intermediate School, when the building was finished it was dedicated to former Augusta teacher Ella R. Hodgkins. She is listed in the 1917 annual report of the Augusta Board of Education as a Gorham Normal School graduate teaching at the Farrington School.

Corbett described the Hodgkins School as significant both for its architecture and because it was “associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.”

Architecturally, he described the school as exemplifying the Modern Movement; it illustrated “the most recent trends in design and construction.” In terms of historical significance, Corbett wrote that the school was an element of “community planning and development, specifically the town-wide development of educational facilities.”

Augusta architects Bunker and Savage designed the “sprawling” building, Corbett wrote. It rose a single story above the ground and was almost 440 feet long, shaped like an E without a center bar.

The foundation was concrete blocks. The roof was flat; the windows Corbett called “aluminum ribbon sash and glass block.”

Both wings had full basements, giving them two useable floors, the lower partly below ground level, Corbett wrote. The boiler room and the shop classroom were attached on the northeast.

He described the arrangement of corridors, classrooms, offices, bathrooms and other spaces inside. The school had a combination gymnasium and cafeteria, with a stage, and an adjoining kitchen. The grounds provided space for a basketball court and softball and soccer fields.

In the 1950s, concrete blocks, aluminum and glass block windows were examples of modern materials, Corbett wrote. The Hodgkins School was also modern in its emphasis on “natural light and proper ventilation”; architectural drawings “included detailed ventilation and electrical specifications, large windows and skylights, as well as advanced mechanical systems for heating and cooling.”

Hodgkins was the third of three schools built during what Corbett said was “a decade long school building program that updated and consolidated Augusta’s schools to accommodate the post-World War II baby boom.”

He continued, “As the second intermediate school constructed in the city, the Hodgkins School represents the conclusion of the city’s effort to create modern elementary school buildings.”

The first two schools built under the city’s 1953 plan were Lillian Parks Hussey Elementary School (opened in September 1954) and Lou M. Buker Intermediate School (opened in September 1956).

While the Parks and Buker schools have been substantially altered, “The Ella R. Hodgkins Intermediate School retains historic integrity of location, design, setting, material, workmanship, feeling and association,” Corbett wrote.

* * * * * *

Old Waterville High School

Waterville’s Gilman Street School began life as a high school (Waterville’s second, Wikipedia says; the first was built in 1876). It became a junior high, then a technical college and is currently, like the Hodgkins School, an apartment building.

Gilman Street School was added to the National Register in 2010. The application by Amy Cole Ives and Melanie Smith, also of Sutherland Conservation and Consulting, is dated June 11, 2010.

The Maine Memory Network offers an on-line summary of the building’s history. Ives and Smith added details in their application.

The central block at 21 Gilman Street, facing south, was started in 1909 and finished in 1912 as Waterville High School. In 1936, a wing was added on the west side for manual arts classes; and in 1938-1939. a gymnasium and auditorium were added on the east side.

The last senior class graduated in 1963, and the building became Waterville Junior High School.

Meanwhile, Kennebec Valley Vocational Technical Institute (KVVTI), started in the (new) Waterville High School building with 35 students for the 1970-71 school year, rapidly expanded enrollment and course offerings. In 1977, KVVTI rented the Gilman Street building from the City of Waterville; the first courses were taught there in 1978, although some classes stayed at Waterville High School until 1983.

The Memory Network writer said that to save money, vocational students did some of the repairs and renovations the Gilman Street building needed.

KVVTI outgrew its new space, too, and by 1986 had completed the move to its current Fairfield location – a process that took six years, the Memory Network writer said.

The Gilman Street building housed educational offices and served other public and private purposes until Coastal Enterprises Inc. “in conjunction with a developers’ collaborative” turned it into an apartment building named Gilman Place. Its introductory open house was held May 11, 2011, as the first tenants moved in.

Ives and Smith said the original part of the building was designed by Freeman Funk and Wilcox, of Brookline, Massachusetts. The school is one of only a “few known examples of educational architecture” by that group, Wikipedia adds.

Ives and Smith called the school’s architecture “simplified collegiate gothic style.” All three sections are brick with cast stone trim.

The first building, Ives and Smith wrote, is a “symmetrical central three-story five-bay building.” The doors are in the two end bays; the central bays had windows on all three stories.

The doors described in 2010 “had Tudor gothic door surrounds with a four-centered pointed arch, white painted paneled intrados, and flush modern replacement doors with multi-light transoms.” Above each door is an arch over a stone sculpture: on the west, an eagle, wings spread wide, above the City of Waterville seal, and on the east an identical eagle above the Maine State seal.

Centered at the top of the building is a decorative stone rectangle with the words “Waterville High School.”

The 1930s additions were partly financed by the federal Works Progress Administration and were designed by Bunker and Savage of Augusta. Each wing is narrower and lower than the original building, and its front projects out slightly from the main building.

The exterior materials were chosen to match the original building, but Ives and Smith documented stylistic differences.

Of the west wing, they wrote, “Designed with more of the Art Deco influence of the 1920s-30s, the Manual Arts Building was simpler in massing and more streamlined in decoration than the original building.”

The east wing is more elaborate than the west. Ives’ and Smith’s description included a “substantial projecting stylized Tudor gothic tri-partite entrance,” framed by “cast stone quoins,” with its doors “recessed within gothic arched door surrounds” under “three original trios of four-over-six double hung lancet windows.”

They continued, “A cast-stone Tudor arch at the cornice level is elaborated by two round relief sculpture plaques of athletic themes (football and basketball) on either side; the arch fascia is infilled with fancy relief scrolls.”

In this wing, the combination gym and auditorium had an 84-by-68-foor basketball court in the middle; 15 “graduated rows of elevated seating” above the entrance in the south wall; and a 36-by-24-foot stage, with dressing rooms on each side, under a “painted wood Tudor gothic arch” along the north wall. “The aisle-end of each seating row is elaborately carved and painted art deco design,” Ives and Smith wrote.

Showers and locker rooms were in the basement below the stage.

Ives and Smith concluded that the Gilman Street School deserved National Register status for two reasons: its architecture, and its role in illustrating, with its 1930s additions, changes in education, specifically adding courses for non-college-bound students and accommodating increased enrollment.

They concluded, “[T]he property retains integrity of location, design, setting, material, workmanship, feeling and association and has a period of significance from 1909-1940.”

* * * * * *

For readers who wonder when this series will describe the district elementary schools that for years provided all the education many residents got, the answer is, “Not until the next writer takes over.”

The subject is much too complex for yours truly. Many local histories cover it, some writers basing their information on old town reports that contained detailed annual reports on each district.

Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history that what is now Augusta was divided into eight school districts in 1787, 10 years before it separated from Hallowell. Eventually, he found, there were 27 districts.

The China bicentennial history has a map showing locations or presumed locations of schoolhouses in the town’s 22 districts. Sidney started with 10 districts in 1792; lost one to Belgrade in a 1799 boundary change; and by 1848 had 19, Alice Hammond wrote in her history of that town.

Millard Howard found detailed information on Palermo’s 17 districts for his “Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine”. Windsor’s highest number was 15 in 1866-67, according to C. Arlene Barton Gilbert’s chapter on education in Linwood Lowden’s town history.

The authors of the Fairfield bicentennial history didn’t even try to count theirs. Three paragraphs on pre-1966 elementary schools in town included this statement: “There were many divisions of the Town into districts for school management by agents” before state law changed the district system in 1893.

Alma Pierce Robbins summarized the difficulty of describing town primary schools in her Vassalboro history: “In 1839 the School Committee was directed to make a large plan of the twenty-two School Districts. They did, but it was of little value. The next year there were many changes and another school opened.”

Gilman Place

An undated, but recent, online piece by Developers Collaborative begins: “Gilman Place has structurally preserved and bestowed new life into a vacant neighborhood treasure, while repurposing it as affordable workforce housing for area families.”

The article says there are “35 affordable apartments in walking distance from the city’s award winning downtown. Gilman Place is an example of smart growth development simultaneously addressing two concerns many Waterville residents shared: how to preserve and reuse the former Gilman School as well as the need for more quality apartments in Waterville.”

Gilman Place won the 2011 Maine Preservation Honor Award, the piece says. It says state and federal tax credits helped the project, and quotes recently-retired City Manager Mike Roy calling the reuse of the building “one of the best success stories in the city in the last 25 years.”

Correction & Expansion of one of last week’s boxed items

The update on the First Amendment Museum should have said that it was 2015, not 1915, when Eugenie Gannet (Mrs. David Quist) and her sister Terry Gannett Hopkins bought the Gannett family home on State Street, in Augusta, that now houses the museum. The same wrong date was in the account of the Gannett printing and publishing businesses in the Nov. 12, 2020, issue of The Town Line.

The First Amendment Museum website says the Pat and John Gannett Family Foundation bought the building. The foundation is named for Eugenie’s and Terry’s parents, Patricia Randall Gannett and John Howard Gannett.

They met in Florida when he was assigned there as an Army lieutenant during World War II and married July 5, 1943. Patricia Gannett died Feb. 12, 2013, at the age of 91; John Gannett died July 16, 2020, at the age of 100.

[Editor’s Note: The online versions have been corrected.]

Main sources

Corbett, Matthew, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Ella R. Hodgkins Intermediate School, Feb. 26, 2015, supplied by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.
Ives, Amy Cole, and Melanie Smith, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Waterville High School (former), June 11, 2010, supplied by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Tiffany Hill Chapel

by Mary Grow

So far this series has discussed the following churches in the central Kennebec Valley area whose buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places: Waterville First Baptist; Ten Lots Chapel (Baptist-based, now non-denominational); St. Mary’s Catholic, in Augusta; South Parish Congregational in Augusta; St. Mark’s Episcopal, in Augusta; three Quaker (Society of Friends) buildings, China’s Pond Meeting House and South China Community Church (now non-denominational) and Vassalboro’s Sophia Bailey Chapel; and two Universalist, now Universalist-Unitarian (All Souls in Augusta and Waterville’s).

Tiffany Hill Chapel

Remaining to be described is Tiffany Chapel, sometimes called Tiffany Hill Chapel, at 544 Tiffany Road, in Sidney. It was built as a Methodist church in 1881 and added to the National Register on Oct. 4, 2018.

The Methodists were prominent in Maine from the late 1700s. They were briefly mentioned earlier (see the piece on Fairfield in The Town Line, April 16, 2020).

Jesse Lee, the famous Methodist preacher who led meetings in Fairfield Center and Kents Hill in 1794, also stopped in Sidney. Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history that Lee “planted” Methodism in Sidney on Jan. 29, 1794.

Methodists were active in Sidney from then on. Michael Goebel-Bain, now the Maine Historic Preservation Commission’s Historic Preservation Coordinator for the National Register, wrote in his 2018 National Register application for Tiffany Chapel that because Sidney Methodists were less numerous than those in nearby towns, they were often part of the Fairfield (1837 to 1845, according to Kingsbury) or Readfield (1847 to 1850) circuits, or combined with North Augusta (1860 to 1874) or Oakland (1874-1904) congregations.

There were, however, two early Methodist churches in Sidney, mentioned by Kingsbury and Goebel-Bain and in Alice Hammond’s history of Sidney.

The first was built in 1815 in southern Sidney, Goebel-Bain wrote. Hammond located it at Bacon’s Corner.

The second Sidney Methodist church was the 1828 building that Kingsbury described as ‘the largest house of worship ever in town.” That church was “about three miles north” of the Bacon’s Corner one and had a Paul Revere bell, according to Hammond.
The 1828 building was moved about a mile in 1845 and became a Union church, Kingsbury said. Hammond repeated the story that the big building “was attached to two long skids” and moved by 100 pairs of oxen, 50 to a skid.

Its new site was on land whose owners or heirs were allowed to reclaim it when the building was no longer used for religion. The owners exercised their right around 1880, Kingsbury said.

Hammond retold an interesting story of the Sidney Grange being frustrated in its effort to buy the building when one of its own members, planning to use it for a hay barn, bought the pew-holders’ rights for himself. He was expelled from the Grange.

Not long afterwards, Hammond wrote, the Revere bell was stolen from the barn, allegedly by two men, maybe Grangers, driving a double-horse team pulling a sled with a blanket-wrapped burden. Later, two men, with a similar team and sled, chopped a hole through the ice on the Kennebec River and dumped a blanket-covered object.

In 1892, Kingsbury wrote, the 1815 building was still a church but no longer Methodist: a Congregationalist minister, Rev. Henry Loring, had been preaching there for a year, “greatly to the satisfaction of the people in that section.”

Goebel-Bain, however, wrote that by 1880 both early churches had been “sold for other uses or destroyed.”

Sidney services were sometimes held in schoolhouse, Kingsbury said, including, Goebel-Bain wrote, Tiffany School (no longer existing) near the present chapel site.

Goebel-Bain and Hammond credited Oakland pastor Rev. M. E. King with inspiring Sidney Methodists to build their own church. Hammond referred to a revival; she and Goebel-Bain wrote that in August 1881 the Sidney Methodists incorporated as an independent parish, with King preaching in both towns.

On Aug. 13, church members appointed a three-man building committee consisting of Laforest Ellis, D. H. Goodhue and Zalmon Sawtelle (Goebel-Bain called Sawtelle a “housebuilder”).

Henry Goodhue donated the land, Hammond wrote – the lot is about one-third of an acre. The committee, meeting in Tiffany School, agreed on a plan by Aug. 20, according to Hammond, and the new church was dedicated Dec. 11. Goebel-Bain added that the school continued to be used “as an auxiliary support building for church events.”

(Kingsbury dated King’s tenure in Oakland as 1882 to 1884, and dated Tiffany Chapel to 1882.)

The school and the church were named for Tiffany Road and Tiffany Hill, which in turn were named for “a local farm family,” Goebel-Bain wrote.

He identified the building as historically significant both in its original 1881 form and after major alterations in 1911. Throughout his application he emphasized its small size, lack of ornamentation and other characteristics of a building designed for a small, rural, low-income congregation.

The original building, he wrote, is an example of one of the designs the Methodist Church Extension Service sent out in the latter half of the 19th century, when new congregations were being established in many places. It represents “the smaller type of modest rural church building.”

The major 1911 change was the installation of pressed metal interior walls. Goebel-Bain wrote that the original wall material is not recorded.

The new walls he considered “compatible with the original construction period.” He continued: “[T]he overall 1911 appearance reflects the small modest church of a small rural congregation.”

Later changes he described included reducing the height of the chimney, installing a tile ceiling below the original ceiling and adding asphalt roof shingles and aluminum storm windows.

Goebel-Bain described a single-story, east-facing, one-room wooden building on a granite foundation, with a steeply-pitched gable roof, no steeple and a brick chimney. It is 28 feet wide and 36 feet deep. The cornices above the front door and window “are vaguely reminiscent of the Italianate style, but the building is otherwise devoid of architectural detail on the exterior,” he wrote.

The narrow front door is wooden on the bottom and has two tall, slender windows in its top half. There is a rectangular window on either side of the door; a similar window in the gable above has been filled in with clapboards.

Each side of the buildings has two windows. Goebel-Bain called the back (west) wall “a mirror image” of the front except there is no door, and because the land slopes downward to the west, more of the foundation is visible.

The front door leads into a small “trapezoidal plan vestibule” with wooden doors set in angled walls and a nine-foot ceiling. The doors open into the single room that is the body of the chapel, with a 14-foot ceiling, painted wooden floor and “painted pressed metal” walls and ceiling.

The metal walls are sectioned, for example by a chair rail at the height of the bottoms of the windows, and have “three colors and two designs,” Goebel-Bain wrote.

In the west end of the room is a carpeted platform raised eight inches above the floor. It has a wooden railing across the front, with breaks at either end before lower metal railings covered with cloth connect to the wall on either side.

When Goebel-Bain wrote his description, the room had rows of “open back benches” facing the platform; whether they were original, he did not know. He deduced from the lack of marks on the floor that there had never been fixed seating, in the body of the room or on the platform.

A wood stove near the vestibule provided heat.

Goebel-Bain described the ceiling he saw as “covered with square acoustic ceiling tile in poor condition.” Four lights hung down from it, he wrote. He twice mentioned plans to redo the ceiling to make it more compatible with the historic building.
Despite the modern additions, Goebel-Bain saw Tiffany Chapel as well worth a place on the National Register. “Both interior and exterior are in good condition and retain a high degree of integrity,” he wrote.

And, he concluded, “Compared to other local churches the integrity of design, materials and workmanship is high. Location is intact and setting is largely unchanged from 1881. Although the house to the east is modern, the general setting remains open fields and woods with two farm residences nearby. Feeling and association are high as well.”

In 1967, Hammond wrote, Tiffany Hill Chapel and Oakland’s Dunn Memorial Church merged to create the Oakland-Sidney United Methodist Church. Tiffany Chapel was used only for summer services by the time her history was published in 1992.

Additional information on earlier topics

1) The First Amendment Museum in Augusta (see The Town Line, Nov. 12, 2020), based in what was once the Guy Gannett house, on State Street, has been awarded $249,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to expand its exhibit space. An early-August notice said the grant will help turn the house “into a 21st-century museum,” according to the museum website.

Genie Gannett, Guy Gannett’s granddaughter, and her sister bought the house late in 2015 and started the museum. Genie Gannett, now president of the board of directors, expressed gratitude to the Institute.

“This major grant will help us create a visitor experience that is unique, interactive, and relevant,” she said.

The website firstamendmentmuseum.org offers more information on the museum’s history, activities and staff, an invitation to sign up for a e-newsletter and instructions for making donations to this 501(3)(c) non-profit organization.

2) At a recent open house in Victor Grange in Fairfield Center (see The Town Line, May 13), members showed off recent improvements, especially the new parking lot, and talked about their next projects. The latter include insulating the building, which dates from 1903; restoring the canvas stage curtain; and restoring the colored tin ceiling.

Victor Grange welcomes new members. Grange meetings are held in the hall the second Monday of each month, following a 6 p.m. potluck meal.

People looking for more information or wanting to assist with the on-going fund-raising are invited to e-mail Victorgrange49@gmail.com, or to call 453-9476. The Grange also has a Facebook page.

3) For people interested in helping fund maintenance of Asa Bates Memorial Chapel (see The Town Line, Aug. 5), Kay Marsh offers the following rare family-published books of interest to Mainers:


by Fred Coolidge Crawford 1964

Ancestors of the Waterville area Lot Sturtevant family with ties to the Thomas Burgess and Richard Warren, Mayflower families, includes family charts and recent photos.


by Grace Davenport Winslow 1967

The oldest grandchild of John and Martha (Sturtevant) Coolidge recalls her memory of things past. This book contains “Memories of my childhood”, a biographical sketch of Martha (Sturtevant) Coolidge, presented to a group in Watertown, MA, in 1896. She grew up on Ten Lots Road, in West Waterville, now Oakland. Her birth house still stands, 200 years later.


by Fred E Crawford (her husband) 1945

Several of Mattie’s beautiful watercolor paintings, including one of Lot Sturtevant’s house, period family photos, some early Coolidge family history in Watertown, MA, and Mattie’s role in her many causes are discussed.

Donations for these books will be dedicated to the Asa Bates Memorial Community Chapel Call Kay Marsh, 1-207-465-7458, or email grammy.kay.cee@gmail.com for further information.

[Editor’s Note: This section has been updated to correct the date on which Genie Gannett, Guy Gannett’s granddaughter, and her sister bought the Gannett family house to 2015, not 1915.]

Main sources

Goebel-Bain, Michael National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Tiffany Chapel (June 18, 2018), supplied by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, miscellaneous.