Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Granges – Part 2 (Benton, China and Clinton)

Benton Grange.

by Mary Grow

Benton, China and Clinton

The 1915 hall that serves Benton Grange No. 458 is one of 16 Maine Grange halls listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and one of two individually listed in Kennebec County. It was added to the register April 28, 2004.

Starling Grange, now town-owned Starling Hall, in Fayette.

(The other Kennebec County Grange Hall on the register is the former Starling Grange, now town-owned Starling Hall, in Fayette. Friends of Starling Hall have a website and a Facebook page and welcome donations for preservation work.)

Located on a 1.7-acre lot at the intersection of River Road and School Drive, south of Route 100, Benton Grange Hall is a wooden building two stories high with a basement. The south-facing front of the building has a wide center doorway and large open porch. There are three front windows on the second floor; above them a hip-roofed dormer holds a sign, in need of repainting, identifying the building.

Architectural historian Christi A. Mitchell, of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, prepared the nomination form for the National Register (as she did for two farms described in the March 10 issue of The Town Line). She calls the Grange building’s architectural style “essentially Colonial Revival,” and the more elaborate porch “Queen Anne-esque.”

Inside, the lower floor has a dining room beyond the entrance-way. Most of the second floor is a large open room for meetings and community activities, like the Saturday-night public dances the Grange sponsored in the 1950s.

Benton Grange was organized in 1906. Mitchell found that many of the charter members switched from Clinton Grange, established in 1887 or 1888, to the new one, probably because Benton was their home town.

In 1909, she wrote, town records showed that 94 out of 298 heads of household in Benton “(including retirees and widows)” gave their occupation as “farmer.”

Members met at the Benton Station school for the first years. By 1910, with close to 200 members, they decided to build their own Grange hall.

The decision was implemented five years later. Fairfield architect Frank M. Gifford designed the building; it was completed in mid-October 1915, in time to host that fall’s Grange fair.

Mitchell quoted a description of the Dec. 3, 1915, dedication of the building from the Dec. 4 Waterville Morning Sentinel. Speaker W. J. Thompson commented that the new building was one of the most expensive Grange Halls in Maine. Building it, he said, was a credit to Grange members and to the community.

Benton Grange, like many others, declined with the decline in agriculture. Mitchell wrote that the fairs ended in the 1940s. However, she wrote, Benton town meetings were held in the Grange Hall from 1915 to 1990, and as she wrote in the spring of 2004 Grangers hoped to make the second-floor space handicapped-accessible so town meetings could again convene there.

According to its Facebook pages, Benton Grange is still active, is seeking new members and as of March 2021 resumed renting the Grange Hall for private and public events (no alcohol allowed).

The deteriorating Silver Lake Grange, in China Village, in 2021. (photo by Roland Hallee)

The first of China’s three local Granges was China Grange #295, organized in South China on Dec. 29, 1887. Henry Kingsbury, in his Kennebec County history published in 1892, called it “flourishing.” Members met the first and third Wednesday evenings of the month in the Ancient Order of United Workmen’s South China hall.

(Wikipedia says the A.O.U.W. was another post-Civil War fraternal organization, created in Pennsylvania in the late 1860s with the primary aim of providing insurance for working men. The Harlem chapter, #39, of the A.O.U.W. was organized Aug. 27, 1885, with 13 charter members, Kingsbury wrote. Their name, Harlem, was the Town of China’s name from 1796 to 1818.)

By 1902, according to the Maine State Grange “Proceedings” of that year, China Grange had 111 members.

There is no record of a South China Grange Hall. The China bicentennial history says when the consolidated school on Lakeview Drive (now China Middle School) opened in 1949, town voters let the Grange rent the no-longer-needed South China schoolhouse on the south side of Route 3, just west of the Route 32 North intersection.

The China history says the China Grange remained active “until about World War II [until at least 1949, apparently], when it merged with Silver Lake Grange in China Village.”

Silver Lake Grange #327 was founded between 1892 and 1902, according to the China history. Looking at the numbers assigned to nearby Granges founded earlier (East Vassalboro Grange #322, in 1895) and later (Branch Mills Grange #336, Jan. 1, 1897) narrows the interval to 1895, after East Vassalboro, or 1896.

(Contradictorily, the China history references a February 19, 1876, diary entry saying a Grange had been organized that afternoon at China Academy, the high school on Main Street in China Village. Kingsbury, finishing his history in 1892, made no mention of a Grange in China Village, and the number 327 would not have been assigned in 1876.)

The inventory of the Maine Historical Society’s collection of Grange documents lists under “China” an 1894 “receipt” and “receipt books” for most of the years between 1935 and 1953.

Silver Lake Grange Hall, still standing on the west side of Main Street in China Village, was designed and built in 1908 by local builder Fred S. Wallace. The China history quotes from an account in the March 4 issue of the Bangor Commercial Farmer and Villager describing the Feb. 24, 1909, dedication and praising the new building.

Silver Lake Grange Hall is a two-story, hip-roofed wooden building with an open front porch, a ground-floor dining room and kitchen and a second-floor meeting room. It has no basement.

The Commercial Farmer and Villager writer mentioned the “pleasant, sunny room for a gentlemen’s dressing room” near the entrance and the “ladies’ dressing room…, commodious and convenient” behind the dining room. Neither included toilet facilities.

The “well attended” 1909 dedication began with a 10:30 a.m. ceremony at which the State Grange Master spoke. After lunch in the new dining room, an afternoon program offered speeches and instrumental and vocal music.

A lengthy evening program included more music, recitations, a farce and two “scenic readings,” one of which had a dog in the list of participants.

Silver Lake Grange had a stable in 1909, because the China history says the local Masons appropriated $91.67 for one-third of it, probably for rental, not purchase. (In 1824 the two Masonic Chapters built their own stable beside the Masonic Hall, which was at the south end of Main Street.)

Silver Lake Grange “dissolved in the late 1960s,” according to the China history.

China’s short-lived third Grange, called China Grange #578 (or occasionally China Lake Grange, depending on the source), was organized in the fall of 1974 and took over the Silver Lake Grange Hall. Dennis Harding was the first Master.

The new organization lasted two years or less. The China history quotes Harding as saying one reason for its failure to take hold was that “the young people did not like to use the outhouse.”

Sometime after 1977, ownership of the hall reverted to the Maine State Grange. (The 1977 application for the China Village Historic District lists the China Grange as the owner.) The state organization sold it in the fall of 1983 to two local residents who hoped to create senior citizen apartments.

Their plan was never realized. The present owner of Silver Lake Grange Hall has had it on the market for several years.

Clinton Grange #287 was established in March 1888, according to Kingsbury, although its number implies it was founded in the last half of 1886 or in 1887. Kingsbury wrote there were 70 charter members, and by 1892 about 100 members. The Maine State Grange records show 231 members in 1902.

Kingsbury says in 1890, the Grange bought Centennial Hall, on Church Street, in Clinton. In 1892, he wrote, the second floor was for exhibitions and the organization used the ground floor for its other activities.

(John P. Billings built Centennial Hall in 1876, Kingsbury wrote. Billings was a Clinton native, born in 1828. In 1843, Kingsbury says, he was learning to make edge tools – knives, hatchets and the like – in Waterville.

In 1851 Billings joined the California Gold Rush that had started in 1848 and, Wikipedia says, attracted 300,000 hopeful gold-seekers by the mid-1850s. After 14 years as a miner, Billings returned to Clinton in 1865, apparently wealthy enough to build the hall, and resumed the “manufacture of edge and stone tools.”)

Maine State Grange records include a receipt book from Clinton Grange for the years 1933 through 1935.

One of a set of antique postcards on line shows an undated photo of a Clinton Grange hall, set on flat land, with newly-planted trees beside the building and across the street. The building is a three-story wooden rectangle with a high peaked roof and a flat-roofed open porch across the entire front.

The double front door has a window on each side, three windows above it and one more full-sized window under the roof. On the visible side of the building there are five windows on the ground floor (perhaps because the stairs go up the inside wall where the front one would otherwise be) and six on the second floor.

The building is painted white. The shutters on the second- and third-story front windows appear to be a yellow-green (probably because the postcard is discolored by time).

This writer does not know whether the building on the postcard is Centennial Hall or a later replacement.
Clinton’s 2006 town comprehensive plan lists the Grange hall as one of the town’s significant buildings, and says the Historical Society’s records are kept at the Brown Memorial Library (the library is the only Clinton building that is on the National Register of Historic Places).

A long-time resident says the former Grange Hall is now an apartment building.

The second Clinton Grange #287, according to state corporate records, was organized July 15, 1949, and dissolved Sept. 6, 2006, for failure to file state-required annual reports. An on-line history refers to a Grange and 4-H exhibition hall built in 1994, giving no details.

Main sources

Grow, Mary M., China, Maine, Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Web sites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: The Grange – Part 1

Vassalboro Grange (photo: vassalboro.net)

by Mary Grow

The mother and father of all United States agricultural organization is the Grange, formally known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. The national Grange was organized in Washington, D. C., on Dec. 2, 1867, by a seven-person group headed by Oliver Hudson Kelley (1826 – 1913), a Bostonian who moved to Minnesota in 1849 to become a farmer.

A Grange historian quoted in Ruby Crosby Wiggin’s Albion history wrote that the organization was a response to the “depressed condition” of agriculture after the Civil War. The 1873 financial panic hastened its growth.

In 1864, Kelley, working for the national Bureau of Agriculture, inspected post-war farming conditions in the southern states. He realized the need to help farmers earn their living from their land, found like-minded friends and created the Grange.

Kelley intended the organization as “an agricultural fraternal order,” not unlike Masonry, with rituals, named offices, degrees and an aura of secrecy, Maine Grange historian Stanley R. Howe wrote in a 2010 article reproduced on line.

“Fraternal” was never accurate, however; Howe credited Kelley’s niece, feminist Caroline A. Hall, with gaining women near-equality in the Grange. They had voting rights from the beginning and four of the 16 elected offices in each Grange are exclusively for women.

(Online information says in 1893 the Minnesota Grange elected a woman named Sarah Baird as the first female state Grange President [Master] in the United States. Minnesota’s current state Grange president is a woman, and so is the president of the national Grange, for the first time: Betsy Huber, of Pennsylvania, a Granger since she joined a Junior Grange at age five, has been national president since 2015.)

The name Grange comes from Great Britain, where the part of an estate used for agriculture was called the grange, Howe explained.

As the organization developed and spread, four main purposes emerged.

Economic improvement remained central. Means included cooperative stores, where the organization bought in bulk and sold to members at cost; discounts on things like life and health insurance; and spreading information about improved agricultural techniques, new machinery or seeds and other benefits to farmers.

Education, agricultural and general, was important. Granges published reports, newspapers and bulletins; many Grange halls had libraries; most Granges sponsored educational presentations on topics important to local farmers and the community; many hosted classes and workshops.

Having an organization that operated locally, state-wide and nationally gave Grangers political clout. One of the first national efforts was to pressure Congress to lower railroads’ shipping rates so that farm products could be sent to market more cheaply. Grangers also wanted grain elevators’ charges controlled.

The Grange lobbied for the postal service’s Rural Free Delivery system, so that isolated farmers would not have to choose between driving miles to the post office or paying a commercial carrier to pick up their mail. Grangers supported a variety of national cooperative farmers’ institutions; one source says they were instrumental in making the head of the United States Department of Agriculture a member of the President’s Cabinet in 1889.

Grange members lobbied for the Prohibition movement (implemented by the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, in effect Jan. 16, 1919, and repealed by the 21st Amendment, in effect Dec. 5, 1933). They helped implement progressive political ideas, like direct election of Senators (the 17th Amendment, in effect April 8, 1913) and voting rights for women (the 19th Amendment, in effect Aug. 18, 1920). Current national President Huber advocates expanding access to broadband service, especially in rural areas.

Complementing these economic, educational and political goals, at the local level the Grange became the social center for rural towns across the country, providing a community meeting hall and sponsoring suppers, dances and local and imported entertainments. One historian called this function especially important to rural women, who were more isolated than the men.

The Maine State Grange was organized in Lewiston on April 21, 1874, a year after the first Grange in the state was established in Hampden. Grange and state websites say there were 64 Maine Granges with about 2,000 members by the end of 1874; within two years, 228 Granges and 12,000 members; in 1907, 419 Granges and more than 55,000 members; and in 1918, 450 Granges and 60,000 members. Membership peaked at around 62,000 in the 1950s and has declined in recent years.

In 1918, according to that year’s Maine Register, W. J. Thompson, of South China, was Master of the state Grange. His wife held the position of Flora (one of three ritual stations, with Ceres and Pomona, Howe explained) and D. E. Foster, of Augusta, was Steward.

(Wikipedia says Ceres was “the Roman goddess of agriculture”; Flora was “the Roman goddess of flowers” and of spring; and Pomona was “the Roman goddess of fruit and nut trees.”)

Political positions the Maine State Grange took included supporting funding for local schools and the University of Maine and opposing the repeated efforts to move the state capital from Augusta. Augusta’s Maine Farmer newspaper, published from 1823 to at least 1900 (see The Town Line, Nov. 26, 2020), was a Grange publication.

The organization promoted causes that benefited not only farmers, but other segments of society. Howe mentioned sending care packages to soldiers overseas during World War II and building and supporting Grange Cottage to house orphans at Goodwill-Hinckley School, in Fairfield.

Since 1945, the Maine State Grange has been headquartered on State Street, in Augusta.

In the 1880s the state organization added county Granges, called Pomonas. Juvenile Granges started in 1944; Palermo’s Sheepscot Lake Juvenile Grange #106 and Augusta’s Capital Junior Grange #274 were active in the 1950s and 1960s.

A current on-line list from the Maine State Grange says there are 103 active Granges in Maine, counting both local and county Granges. Local ones listed are Benton Grange, Fairfield Center’s Victor Grange and Branch Mills Grange, in Palermo; Vassalboro Grange, in East Vassalboro, should also be on the list, according to its Facebook page.

Albion Grange #181 was one of the earlier local Granges, past and present. Maine State Grange Master Nelson Ham oversaw its organizational meeting on July 6, 1875, historian Ruby Crosby Wiggin wrote. There were 36 charter members: 34 couples, the son of one couple and an unmarried woman.

Wiggin said in 1875, only farmers and their families were eligible to join the Grange. Doctors, storekeepers and all other non-farmers were excluded.

In 1873, Albion residents had organized a local stock company to build a community hall. The hall was finished in 1874, and the first Grange meeting was held there.

Until January 1881 Grangers rented the hall only for meetings. In January 1881, the Stock Company leased it to the Grange at $35 a year, and in 1886 the Grange bought the building.

Beginning in October 1875 Grangers ran a cooperative store, buying a variety of items – coffee, salted fish, cloth, raisins, rock salt, cheese, sugar, chewing tobacco, grass seed – in bulk and selling them to members. Meetings included panel discussions, suppers and other forms of entertainment.

On Oct. 4, 1879, Albion Grange held its first fair, in conjunction with Freedom Grange. Independent Albion Grange fairs were held annually into the early 1950s, Wiggin wrote.

By 1892, Henry Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history, Albion Grange had 150 members. In 1902, the Maine State Grange Proceedings says there were 252 members.

In 1903 Grangers added a dining room to their building, which they still used when Wiggin published her Albion history in 1964. On-line sources suggest the Grange had been re-established in 1957, probably after an interval of inactivity.

In Augusta, records show two Granges. The earlier, Capital Grange #248, was organized April 7, 1883, according to Capt. Charles E. Nash’s chapter on Augusta in Kingsbury’s history. The second Capital Grange Master was Samuel L. Boardman, who wrote the chapter on agriculture in the same book.

On Nov. 12, 1901, according to records of the national Grange, Brother Obadiah Gardner carried an invitation to those attending the national convention to visit Augusta on Nov. 19, traveling by train. The flowery letter was signed by Capital Grange Master G. M. Twitchell and Augusta Board of Trade President C. B. Burleigh.

Attractions included touring the city and the State House; meeting Governor Hill and his wife at “the mansion of the late Hon. J. G. Blaine, which remains as it was when he did his great work”; and visiting “the national home at Togus,” then caring for 2,600 Civil War veterans.

The Grange records say that Brother W. K. Thompson, of South Carolina, moved to accept the invitation. Discussion was postponed from the morning to the afternoon session, when Brother Thompson’s motion was “considered at considerable length and unanimously adopted.”

(Obadiah Gardner [1852-1938], a Michigan native who moved to Maine in 1864, graduated from Coburn Classical Institute, in Waterville, and farmed in the Rockland area, was Master of the Maine Grange from 1897 to 1907. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1908; was appointed to the United States Senate in September 1911, after William P. Frye died in office; and lost his re-election bid in 1912, leaving the Senate March 3, 1913. He was then appointed to the International Joint Commission to deal with boundary-water issues between the United States and Canada, on which he served until 1923.)

In 1902, M. F. Norcross, the Deputy of West Kennebec County, reported on his Nov. 21 visit to Capital Grange, which then had 60 members. He found there were “[n]ew rituals and badges,” and the members were much interested in “working the third and fourth degrees” under a capable Master. “Bound to succeed,” he summarized.

Later references to Capital Grange are hard to find. The on-line index to the University of Maine’s Raymond L. Fogler special collections library says the library has 110 years of Capital Grange treasurers’ records, from 1883 to 1993.

Capital Junior Grange seems to have been created in or before 1955 and to have lasted until at least 1961.

North Augusta Grange #348 was founded in or before 1899 and existed until at least 1973. In the 1902 Proceedings of the Maine State Grange, Norcross, reporting as Deputy for Kennebec County, said North Augusta Grange had 126 members and a Degree Team and appeared to be doing well.

Nineteen pages later in the same book, Norcross, listing himself as Deputy for West Kennebec County, reported on his Nov. 4 visit to the North Augusta Grange. The Master told him meetings had been suspended temporarily “on account of a drama.” Norcross gave no details, but commented, “It is hoped that the work that the Grange is designed to do is not made a secondary matter.”

19 Granges in the central Kennebec River valley, in the order in which they were founded (as nearly as this writer can determine)

Victor Grange #49, Fairfield Center; established 1874, still active.

Oak Grove Grange #167, North Vassalboro; May 11, 1875.

Albion Grange #181; July 6, 1875.

Albion Grange #181, Oct. 28, 1957; suspended Aug. 26, 1998, for failure to file state corporate reports (according to an on-line source).

Sidney Grange #194; November 24, 1875.

Cushnoc Grange #204, Riverside (Vassalboro); January 13, 1876.

Capital Grange #248, Augusta; Apr. 7, 1883.

Windsor Grange #284; June 2, 1886.

China Grange #295, South China; December 29, 1887.

Clinton Grange #287; March 1888 (according to Kingsbury; this date is out of sequence).

Clinton Grange #287, July 15, 1949; dissolved Sept. 6, 2006, for failure to file state corporate reports (according to an on-line source).

Winslow Grange #320; in existence by 1894.

East Vassalboro Grange #322, 1895; still active.

Silver Lake Grange #327, China Village; 1895 or 1896.

Branch Mills Grange #336, Jan. 1, 1897 (organized in China, most of its life in Palermo); still active.

North Augusta Grange #348, in existence by 1899.

Sheepscot Lake Grange #445, in existence by 1905.

Benton Grange #458, 1906; still active.

China Lake Grange #578, also called China Grange; fall 1974-1976?, China Village.

19 Granges in the central Kennebec River valley, alphabetical by municipality

Albion (two) Albion Grange #181, 1875; Albion Grange #181, 1957.

Augusta (two) Capital Grange #248; North Augusta Grange #348.

Benton Grange #458.

China (three) China Grange #295; Silver Lake Grange #327; China (Lake) Grange #578.

Clinton (two) Clinton Grange #287, 1888; Clinton Grange #287, 1949.

Fairfield Center Victor Grange #49.

Palermo (two) Branch Mills Grange #336; Sheepscot Lake Grange #445.

Sidney Grange #194.

Vassalboro (three) Oak Grove Grange #167; Cushnoc Grange #204; East Vassalboro Grange #322.

Waterville had none, apparently.

Windsor Grange #284.

Winslow Grange #320.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Hussey’s General Store: The history of a humble country business

Hussey’s General Store founders, Mildred, left, and Harland Hussey, in this photo taken in September 1936. (contributed photo)

by Eric W. Austin

It was the late 1960s and Elwin Hussey was sleeping on the floor of Hussey’s General Store, armed with a shotgun. Frustrated with the lack of progress by police after a spate of recent break-ins, Hussey decided to take matters into his own hands. He began driving home in the evenings and walking back up to the store in an effort to catch the perpetrators in the act.

“I was sleeping right inside the door,” he remembers, “and I had a shotgun.” On the second or third night of this routine, a rattling at the front door woke him from his uncomfortable slumber. The burglars were attempting another break-in.

Backing into the shadows, Hussey watched as two dark figures snapped the door lock and entered the store.

“I saw them come in — one, two,” he says. “It looked to me like they had something tucked into their pants pocket, which I assumed was a gun.”

Only later did Hussey learn that it was not a gun tucked into the perp’s pants but the tire iron they had just used to jimmy the door.

As the burglars headed to the cash register to collect their illicit loot, Hussey slipped silently out of the store. “I didn’t know exactly how to go at it,” he admits. “I ran across the street and pounded on the door and told the people in the house to call the police.”

After waking the neighbors, Hussey sprinted back across the road to save his store from being burglarized. “I had the shotgun in my hand,” he recalls. “I just sat out there and waited until one of them showed up.”

Not knowing exactly what he was dealing with, and thinking he had seen the glint of a firearm tucked into the pants pocket of at least one of the perpetrators, Hussey was understandably tense. When a dark figure exited the store through the broken front door, he raised the shotgun and shouted, “Come out here! Come out!”

The alleged criminal did not comply. “He turned around and started running down the hill,” Hussey says, “so I shot him.”

The birdshot blast caught the looter in the leg and he collapsed in the parking lot. Not long after, the Four Corners, in Windsor, buzzed with activity as half a dozen police cruisers pulled up to the scene.

Elwin Hussey, 98, is pictured outside his home in Windsor. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

“It ended up that night cost me five thousand dollars,” Hussey laments. The police, he says, “let the guy lay there about an hour and a half before they called an ambulance to take him to the hospital.” The wounded wrongdoer later sued Hussey for excessive use of force.

Police searched the premises and discovered the second trespasser hiding upstairs in the bridal department. Firearms were also found in the suspects’ vehicle.

Hussey’s General Store was already a Windsor institution at this point in the 1960s. It had been established in 1923 by Elwin’s father, Harland, the same year that Elwin was born.

At that time, Harland B. Hussey owned a Durant Motors and Star automobile dealership and Texaco pump station in Windsor. There had been an existing business where Hussey’s General Store is now located, called the Dutton Store. Initially operated by H.A.N. Dutton in the early 1900s, it was later sold to Harry Pinkham. The Pinkhams and Husseys were cousins. In 1923, the Dutton Store burned down, and Pinkham decided they would not rebuild. Upon learning this, Harland purchased the lot adjacent to the old store on the north side of Route 105. On this lot was a stable which he converted to serve as a new storefront. As business grew, a 16-foot extension was added in 1940 and an additional 50-foot expansion in 1947.

In 1954, the Hussey family built the new store where the old Dutton Store had stood 31 years earlier before it burned. The old store, which had started out as a stable, was retired to serve as a warehouse and is still standing today.

Elwin Hussey grew up with the store, and started helping his parents at the age of seven or eight. In the early years of the store, says Hussey, there might be only 10 or 12 customers a day, and they were mostly looking for one of two items.

“It seems to me, about every other one would come in with a jug,” Hussey says. “We would guess whether they were after molasses or vinegar. It was always one or the other.”

Grain and fertilizer were also a big part of daily business. The grain arrived at the store packed in 100-pound cloth bags made of muslin, and these bags became a coveted commodity for local ladies who would turn them into dresses. Suppliers soon caught on to their popularity and began to produce the muslin bags in a variety of patterns and colors.

Working at the store wasn’t the only job Elwin Hussey had growing up. He had a paper route, too. “I was about 12,” he recalls. “I would get up Sunday morning, harness the horse and deliver Sunday papers.” He had about 8-10 customers. “The papers sold for 12 cents,” he says with a chuckle. “I made two cents apiece on them.”

After attending Erskine Academy, in South China, Hussey headed to Colby College, in Waterville, where he majored in chemistry and graduated as the school’s youngest ever graduate at the age of 19. “It was war time,” says Hussey. “The reason I graduated at 19 was because of the war.”

In the self-penned essay, Remembrances of 1940, Hussey explains further: “I ended up with two major warnings and two minor warnings that first semester,” he writes. “However, I buckled down and made the dean’s list the following years. By taking extra courses, attending one summer school and getting a three month deferment from the draft, I was able to graduate in three years at the age of nineteen. My graduation in 1943 was the second one at the chapel on the new campus, Mayflower Hill. The first one was in December 1942 for those seniors that attended that summer session. At this time, the only other building there was a women’s dormitory. Colby, when I attended, was on the bank of the Kennebec. All those eight or nine huge buildings of the old campus are gone forever.”

After graduation, Hussey entered military service where he served two and a half years with the U.S. Navy in World War II. There he trained as a radar and radio technician, skills which would serve him well upon returning home.

“Basically, my interest was radios first,” he recalls, “and then [radio company] Philco went into the appliance business about the time TV started out, maybe in 1951?”

For a while Hussey maintained a radio and appliance repair shop in the back of the original store. Later, they did a robust business selling TVs. He remembers the store had a trailer they would haul to the homes of prospective customers. The trailer was a portable antennae that unfolded and could be deployed in a customer’s driveway. This gave customers a chance to try out the new technology before committing to a purchase.

Hussey’s now famous sign that went viral on social media. (Internet photo)

One of the unique features for which Hussey’s General Store is famous across the state of Maine is its formal wear department.
“As we’ve traveled around Maine,” says Elwin Hussey, “more so than anything else, people have said, ‘We bought our wedding dress there.’”

The store began carrying formal wear, in a department dubbed the “Terrace Room,” about the time the new store was completed in 1954. Elwin Hussey’s daughter, Roxanne, who spent more than 25 years working in the store, remembers how it all started.

“This was in the days before specialty shops and malls,” she says. “A lot of women were having difficulty finding gowns and formal wear for many of the events that were planned. I think that’s how it began.”

Speaking of her grandmother, Mildred Hussey, who was involved with the social scene in Augusta, Roxanne recalls, “She started with formal dresses and the bridal [department] got added into that because it’s very similar. There weren’t a lot of places in the state that had nearly the selection that Hussey’s did back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Ladies would come from all over the state to get gowns.”

For years, Hussey’s General Store has been known far and wide for their broad selection and friendly service. Roxanne says the family’s intent has always been “to keep it a humble country business that had all the things local folks needed.”

When the first shopping center in Augusta was being built, Elwin Hussey recalls his father, Harland, being asked if he was worried about the new competition. “There will always be customers that want to go to one place where they can buy a pound of hamburger and a pound of nails,” he responded.

Contact the author at ericwaustin@gmail.com.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Agriculture

19th century threshing machine.

by Mary Grow

By the 19th century, Maine farmers realized the benefits of organizing. Samuel L. Boardman, author of the agriculture chapter in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, wrote that the Waterville-based Kennebec Agricultural Society, founded in 1787, was the first such group in New England and the second in what would become the United States ((Pennsylvania had the first one). This organization’s goals were to share knowledge and resources – “trees, seeds, tools, books, etc.”

The Kennebec Agricultural Society was succeeded by the Maine Agricultural Society, incorporated Feb. 21, 1818. In 1820 this group sponsored, at Hallowell, the first cattle show in Maine, Boardman wrote.

On Feb. 28, 1820, he continued, the Winthrop Agricultural Society came into existence, expanded April 23, 1832, to include all of Kennebec County and renamed the Kennebec County Agricultural Society. The Kennebec County Society still existed when the Kennebec County history was published in 1892.

Boardman described some of the society’s actions, as recorded in meeting reports. In 1818, members collected information about a newly-invented threshing machine, prepared to buy one if it seemed desirable. In 1822, they voted to spend $30 for Spanish summer wheat seed from Malaga or Gibraltar.

In 1825 they investigated Smith Island Sheep, planning to buy a pair if expedient. In 1834 they voted “that this society decidedly disapprove the sale of ardent spirits on the grounds on the days of their cattle show.”

The Kennebec County society established a fairground in Readfield in 1856, Boardman wrote.

E. P. Mayo’s chapter on agriculture in the Waterville centennial history begins discussion of organizations with the North Kennebec Agricultural Society, incorporated by the state legislature July 31, 1847.

The Society enrolled farmers from Waterville and 10 nearby towns, including Benton, Fairfield, Winslow, Sebasticook (later Benton), Clinton, Albion and China. Members made an early decision to “raise $75 for the purchase of standard agricultural works for a library.” They sponsored their first agricultural show in October 1847.

The author of an on-line list of some of the prize-winners at the North Kennebec Society’s 1863 fair commented on the high-quality cattle displayed, including five from Thomas S. Lang’s beef herd that, in the writer’s opinion, were alone worth the time a farmer spent attending the fair. Lang also won first place in the breeding category with a cow named Bianca.

The cow who placed second to Bianca was raised by Edwin Spring, of Winslow; William Nowell, of Fairfield, owned the third-place cow. The judges commended Mrs. Spring’s tomato ketchup, and 11-year-old Marcia Spring got a special award for her cheese.

Boardman wrote that between 1855 and 1875 the North Kennebec Agricultural Society’s fairs were among the best and best-attended in Maine. He said the Society still held annual exhibitions in 1892; Mayo said after the 1880s, the increase in competing fairs and fairgrounds let to its (undated) dissolution.

In January 1854, Mayo wrote, Society members appointed a committee to find a place for a horse track. They bought land in southern Waterville and built a half-mile track, but apparently used it for their contests for less than a decade before leasing it in 1863 to a short-lived Waterville Horse Association.

The Oct. 10, 1865, New York Times announced that on Oct. 12 the Waterville Horse Association fair would feature a trotting race between two “noted Eastern stallions,” General Knox and General McLellan. This race would have been two years after the race mentioned in last week’s issue of The Town Line in which General Knox beat J. L. Seavey’s Hiram Drew; this writer could not find out whether he won again in 1865. General Knox was one of Thomas Lang’s horses.

(While searching on line for a stallion named General McLellan, this writer learned that after a European tour in 1855, then-Captain George B. McLellan designed the McLellan saddle, which the United States Cavalry adopted in 1859 and used until World War II.)

“Nelson” and his breeder Charles Horace Nelson, in a photo that appeared in The Centennial History of Waterville, 1802-1902, by Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore. The chapter on agriculture was written by E. P. Mayo.

Charles Horace “Hod” Nelson, of Sunnyside Farm, breeder and owner of the horse Nelson (also mentioned last week) rented the North Kennebec Society’s track to train his horses, and from 1887 to 1897 owned the former Society’s Central Maine Fairgrounds. The Lost Trotting Parks website says Nelson sold the property in 1897 to the City of Waterville; Mayo wrote that it was sold “for the enlargement of our present beautiful cemetery.”

In 1904 and 1905, and perhaps later, on-line sites mention the fairs at the Central Maine Fairgrounds, located where Seton Hospital was built in 1965. The fairgrounds had a large two-story exhibition hall, and tents were set up on the grounds.

In addition to palmists, “Honest Bill’s Wonder Show” and a photographer who offered “old fashioned tintypes made ‘while you wait,'” the Maine Memory Network website says the fair included “horse racing, livestock competitions and shows, and other entertainments.” This writer found no record of who owned the fairgrounds or sponsored the fairs.

Two other organizations Boardman listed were the South Kennebec Agricultural Society, incorporated in 1853, and its successor in1860, the Kennebec Union Agricultural and Horticultural Society. Both included Augusta and towns south and west.

The Eastern Kennebec Agricultural Society was organized in the spring of 1868. Members immediately bought 16 acres off the west side of Dirigo Road, in China, and built a half-mile track, completed in time for an inaugural three-day exhibition to open Oct. 20. In 1869 a 40-by-60-foot exhibition hall was constructed.

Boardman wrote that the Society held seven fairs, the last in 1874. The majority of exhibitors were from Albion, China, Vassalboro and Windsor. Boardman explained that bad October weather reduced fair receipts to the point that the Society ran out of money. It was disbanded in December 1877 and the land sold.

Windsor later joined Chelsea, Pittston and Whitefield to form the South Kennebec Agricultural Society. Boardman wrote that it was organized in March 1888, leased land and built a half-mile track at South Windsor Corner and held its first fair Oct. 3 and 4, 1888.

The legislature chartered the new Society in February 1889, adding the Lincoln County towns of Jefferson, Somerville and Whitefield. Boardman wrote an exhibition hall was added that summer, and up to 1892, “the annual fairs have been successful in the highest degree.”

The South Kennebec Society survived, but less successfully and renamed an association, well into the 20th century. In the spring of 1973 the Maine legislature passed an emergency bill deleting the requirement that members be from the towns listed in the 1889 charter.

The bill’s preamble explained that it was passed as emergency legislation, effective immediately rather than 90 days after the session ended, because agricultural societies are economically important “since they encourage one of Maine’s basic industries”; legislative action is “vitally necessary” to increase the South Kennebec Agricultural Association’s membership; and expanding membership is “essential” before 1973 Association meetings.

Albion, China, Sidney and Vassalboro also organized local fairs in the 19th century, Boardman wrote. In 1869, the Maine Board of Agriculture suggested that agricultural societies help organize and support local farmers’ clubs; Boardman wrote that many such clubs were organized, but gives no specifics.

Well before then, a Vassalboro Agricultural Society was organized in 1820, according to Alma Pierce Robbins’ history of the town. She wrote that it awarded premiums and prizes for “wheat, corn, hemp, flax and silk” and “cattle, sheep and swine.”

Albion’s first agricultural society, according to Ruby Crosby’s Wiggin’s town history, was the Farmer’s and Mechanic’s Club of Albion. Organized Oct. 5, 1863, it held annual fairs, the first on Oct. 13, 1863. (This writer suspects the fair was organized before the club.)

Wiggin wrote that fair displays included varied livestock, mostly horses, oxen and cows, “a large display of farm produce and vegetables” and miscellaneous foodstuffs and home-made items. She listed 16 different kinds of potatoes named in fair reports over the years.

The reports on annual fairs end in 1991, Wiggin found; she believed the fairs did not end then. Gradually, she wrote, horses took over, and the fairs moved to the trotting park near Puddle Dock, in southern Albion. The trotting park became a plowed field a few years before she published her history in 1964.

Augusta probably had only one trotting park, although on-line and written information might be describing two different ones. According to The Lost Trotting Parks website, the trotting park was built in 1858 on the west bank of the Kennebec River, just south of Capitol Park. The website shows an excerpt from an 1892 publication, Agriculture of Kennebec County, Maine, and an aerial view of the park, an oval track with what looks like a grandstand on one side.

The website says the aerial view is a postcard, property of the Kennebec Historical Society. In 1892, according to this site’s information, the Capital Driving Park Association managed the park.

When Kingsbury’s history was published in 1892, Capt. Charles E. Nash wrote in his chapters on Augusta that the Augusta Park Association, organized in 1888, owned and operated the trotting park “adjacent to the state house grounds.” He is probably referring to the 1858 park; some 19th-century city maps show Capitol Park and the grounds around the State House as a single unit. However, the river is not visible in the aerial view.

In 1920, the Lost Trotting Parks website says, city and state changed the trotting park to a recreational field on which an Augusta semi-pro baseball team played for years. (Confusingly, this information seems to come from the 1892 book.)

The Fairfield bicentennial history includes a brief and frustratingly undated history of the Fairfield trotting park, which was located on the west side of West Street, about where Lawrence High School and Keyes Field are in 2021. Two local civic-minded entrepreneurs, Amos Gerald (1841–1913) and Edward Jones Lawrence (1833–1918), are credited with building it.

Other names the Fairfield historians associate with the park are John Hiram Gilbreth (1833-1871), described in an excerpt from a 1939 memoir as “[a]bout the first of the really famous horsemen of Fairfield”; and in later years Ralph Jewell (1883-1960). (An on-line Cornish [Maine] Agricultural Society race card reveals that Jewell’s brown gelding, McKinney Volo, placed fifth of five and fourth of five in two races at Cornish on Aug. 5, 1936.)

The Fairfield history reproduces an undated September 29 and 30 race program for Fairfield Park, with five trotting events and one pacing event and winners’ purses from $100 to $250.

The trotting park is shown on an 1891 map in the Fairfield history, and it was active on Aug. 21, 1895. The races hosted that day attracted participants and spectators from miles around, and the town lumber mills closed at noon so interested employees could join the crowd. As a result, no one noticed the fire that started in the boiler room of a lumber mill on the river until it had a good hold. Despite efforts by firefighters from all around the area, the connected mills that made up Fairfield’s lumber industry burned.

Dedication to Nelson

Photo by Roiland Hallee

An inscribed granite marker at the Sterling Street Playground, in Waterville, honoring the life of the horse Nelson. The playground is part of what was once Sunnyside Farm, the home to Nelson, a champion trotting stallion. The marker was placed almost 100 years to the day of the death of the horse on December 3, 2009.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge. (1964)

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Livestock

Fulling mill.

by Mary Grow

Besides crops, the other major facet of agriculture is livestock. For early Kennebec Valley settlers, cattle, a term that includes milk-producers, meat-producers and draft animals, were especially important.

North Fairfield settler Elihu Bowerman, whose account of his early life was excerpted in the Fairfield Historical Society’s bicentennial history (and quoted in the March 18 issue of The Town Line), acquired two cows in the summer of 1784. The cows were turned loose, and Bowerman claimed “he ran hundreds of miles in the woods after cows, often without shoes.”

Vassalboro’s 1792 assessors’ report, excerpted in Alma Pierce Robbins’ history of the town, listed “96 cows, 114 oxen, 37 horses, 104 steers, and 124 swine.” The town also had a tannery and a slaughterhouse.

In his history of Windsor, Linwood Lowden wrote that the first cattle were heavy breeds like Durhams. Horses came into favor later, and so did milk cows, he wrote. Other local historians, including Alice Hammond in her history of Sidney, list milk cows and chickens as essential for an early farm family.

Milton Dowe, of Palermo, born in 1912, wrote both a 1954 history of his town and a booklet of reminiscences, Palermo, Maine: Things That I Remember in 1996. In the latter he observed, without giving a date, that teams of oxen, “strong but slow moving” were common. If an ox died, he pointed out, the meat was eaten – “This was different than losing a horse.”

Lowden cites one Windsor farmer who died in 1812 and another who died in 1813, each leaving one horse and one cow. A Windsor farmer who died in 1817 had two cows and a bull, two yearlings and a calf, four sheep, five pigs and two swine.

(Other sources use “pig” and “swine” interchangeably. Wikipedia says a pig is “any of several intelligent mammalian species of the genus sus, having cloven hooves, bristles and a nose adapted for digging”; and a swine [the word is both singular and plural] is “any of various omnivorous, even-toed ungulates of the family suidae.”)

Lowden surmises that the man who died in 1817 had owned at least one team of oxen, because his belongings included an ox yoke and ox-cart wheels. Also in the inventory was a pair of sheep shears.

Carding mill

Lowden could find no statistics on sheep in Windsor, but he assumed they were numerous, because before 1815 Owen Clark built a fulling mill on the West Branch of the Sheepscot River. It changed hands almost immediately, and ran “for many years.” There was apparently an associated carding mill or carding machine.

(Wikipedia explains that in a carding mill, wool fibers were brushed into alignment to make the wool into rolls for spinning or batting for quilts. In a fulling mill, wooden mallets powered by water pounded woolen fabric to make it thicker and more compact.)

Ruby Crosby Wiggin mentioned in her Albion history that William Chalmers, who had a gristmill on Fifteen Mile Stream by around 1800, “later is said to have built other mills including a carding mill.” Wiggin also found Jonah Crosby’s account book in which he recorded trades he made. Sometime in 1814 he loaned 10 sheep to Benjamin Webb for a year, expecting in return 10 pounds of wool.

Henry Kingsbury, in his Kennebec County history, listed three carding mills in Waterville, one in Sidney and a three-story-tall carding mill in East Vassalboro that started in business before 1816. In 19th-century China, he wrote, there were two carding mills on the West Branch of the Sheepscot River, in Branch Mills, one north of Main Street and one south.

From the 1700s well into the 1800s, cattle, horses, mules, pigs, sheep, geese and other animals often shared common grazing land, instead of being fenced on their owner’s land. Animals that wandered off the common land could and often did damage gardens and crops.

Town Pound in Waldoboro.

At many early town meetings voters discussed the town pound, a feature of New England town life brought from the Old World. The pound was an area enclosed by walls of fieldstone, granite or wood, with a wooden gate, where stray animals were corralled until their owners reclaimed them.

Each town was legally required to have a pound and to appoint a pound-keeper to round up and restrain loose livestock. To reclaim a strayed animal, the owner was usually required to pay a small fee to the pound-keeper and to recompense any neighbors whose property the animal had damaged.

The first town meeting in Vassalboro, held May 2, 1771, elected 22 town officials, including four hogviewers, but there is no record of a pound or pound-keeper. Historian Robbins quoted another vote from the record: “Swine shall run at large without ringing, with a yoke on their necks according to the law.”

The warrant for the Sept. 9, 1771, Vassalboro meeting asked voters to decide “what the Town will do about Pounds.” What the town did was vote to build two pounds before June 5 [1772], on two specified lots, and to have town residents build them on the first Monday in December 1771, with absentees to be fined “two shillings and eight pence Lawful money.”

Kingsbury adds that the dilapidated remains of a 19th-century stone pound were still standing in Vassalboro when his history was finished in 1892.

Another view of Town Pound in Waldoboro.

Albion’s first town meeting, when the future town was still Freetown Plantation, was held Oct. 30, 1802, Wiggin wrote. Apparently it was not until the fifth meeting, on April 16, 1804, that voters in what was by then the Town of Fairfax elected a pound-keeper (unnamed). Wiggin recorded that the April 1804 meeting also banned horses from the common and prohibited swine running at large.

A March 1805 Fairfax meeting approved a town pound. A month later voters reconsidered and reapproved the question and, Wiggin related, provided detailed specifications.

The pound was to be 32-feet-square. Walls more than four-feet-tall were to be supported by eight-inch cedar posts and made of five-by-four-inch ash or pine rails. The gate was to be hung on iron hinges, with a lock and key.

The pound was to be by Abraham Copeland’s house, and he was chosen pound-keeper. The bid to build it was awarded to Thomas J. Fowler, low bidder at $37. Presumably he met the voters’ June 20 deadline.

At the same meeting voters decided that neither hogs nor sheep could run loose, except that “Phineas Farnham’s sheep shall have the privilege of the road the width of his lot.”

(When William Chalmers was chosen tax collector at the Oct. 30, 1802, meeting, Abraham Copeland and Phineas Farnham were his bondsmen, financially responsible for making sure he performed his duty. Their appointment suggests they were respected men of property.)

The 1805 wooden-walled pound lasted until 1822, when a March town meeting approved Joel Wellington’s offer to build a new one for $20. It was to be near Edward Taylor’s house, and Taylor was chosen pound-keeper.

Kingsbury wrote that in 1803 voters in Harlem, now China, banned geese from the common. They must have approved building a pound around the same time, because Kingsbury said that in 1805 Ephraim Clark (one of the brothers of Edmund Clark, whose homestead was a topic in the March 18 The Town Line history article) was chosen pound-keeper, and reportedly held the job until he died in 1829.

In a meeting sometime between 1801 and the end of 1804 in Great Pond Plantation (later Palermo), voters decreed that hogs running at large had to be both yoked and ringed. Those who were not were impounded by the hogreeves. Voters chose as many as 14 hogreeves some years, Milton E. Dowe wrote in his 1954 Palermo history.

Fairfield, by contrast, at its first town meeting on Aug. 19, 1788, elected a single “Hog Ref,” one Thomas Blackwell.

At Palermo’s first town meeting, held Jan. 9, 1805, Millard Howard found that voters elected Daniel Clay as pound-keeper, assisted by an unreported number of “field drivers, who were to control domestic animals running at large with the exception of hogs which were controlled by hog reeves.”

The compilers of the Fairfield Historical Society’s history located a pound in Larone, the settlement on Martin Stream in the northern end of town, close to Norridgewock. Citing an earlier history of Larone and giving no dates, they wrote that the pound was 40-feet square and six-and-a-half-feet high. Town records credit 17 men who each gave a day’s work to build the pound.

For some farmers, by the middle of the 19th century, livestock had moved from an essential part of life and livelihood to a source of prestige. Local histories include accounts of breeders who made Maine nationally famous with their prize-winning cattle and especially their speedy trotting horses.

One of the latter, described by E. P. Mayo in his chapter on agriculture in the Waterville centennial history, was Nelson, born in 1882 and described on-line as “the only Maine bred trotting horse to be elected as an immortal in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame.

Thomas Stackpole Lang, of Vassalboro, brought Nelson’s maternal ancestor to Maine around 1860, and C. H. Nelson, of Waterville’s Sunnyside Farm, brought his sire from Massachusetts. C. H. Nelson was the horse’s breeder, owner, trainer and driver.

Nelson won his first Maine State Fair races as a two-year-old and a year later as a three-year-old. As a five-year-old he won a New England race. In 1890 and 1891 he set records in Indiana and Michigan and was much admired throughout the mid-west, and afterward continued to race in New England and New Brunswick.

Currier & Ives made six prints of Nelson. Other Maine trotting horses who were subjects of Currier & Ives prints include Lady Maud and Camors, two of many horses sired by Lang’s General Knox.

Mayo described a famous race between General Knox and Hiram Drew, bred by J. L. Seavey, of Waterville. Held Oct. 22, 1863, in Waterville, it drew a large and excited crowd from all over Maine. General Knox won.

Cattle breeders Mayo mentioned include Col. Reuben H. Green, of Winslow, one of the people who first brought Durhams to the area; Joseph Percival (Devons); Dr. N. R. Boutelle, owner of the Millbrook Herd, and others, including William Addison Pitt Dillingham (profiled in the March 18 The Town Line), who introduced Jerseys; and Hon. Timothy Boutelle, of Waterville, and John Damon Lang, of Vassalboro, (Ayrshires).

Mayo credits Green with the introduction of Bakewell sheep (better known as Leicesters; Robert Bakewell [1725-1795] was a British farmer famous for introducing selective breeding techniques to produce improved cattle, horses and sheep). Dr. Boutelle was one of the first to breed Merinos, and Joseph Percival, of Waterville, and Warren Percival, of Vassalboro, were Cotswold breeders.

John Damon Lang (1799-1879) was the first owner of the large farm on Dunham Road, the section of Old Route 201 south of Getchell’s Corner, that was later Hall Burleigh’s. He was also instrumental in developing the woolen mill that became the economic heart of North Vassalboro; his son, Thomas Stackpole Lang, was mill agent in the mid-19th century.

Hall C. Burleigh, born in 1826, grew up on a farm in Fairfield and in 18881 moved to the former Lang farm, in Vassalboro, with his wife, Clarissa K. (Garland) Burleigh and their 11 children. Well before then he had been breeding cattle, specializing in Herefords; by 1860 he was exhibiting in Maine and by the 1870s was recognized throughout New England and beyond.

A Henrietta, Texas, cattleman, Captain W. S. Ikard, reported attending the September 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where he saw Burleigh’s Herefords, including a bull named Compton Lad. Burleigh’s and other Herefords so impressed him that he is credited with importing the first Herefords into Texas.

In 1879 Burleigh went into partnership with former Maine Governor Joseph R. Bodwell. The two imported close to a thousand head of cattle that Burleigh chose from all over Britain. An 1893 on-line biography says by 1893, Burleigh’s cattle had won “more prizes in the show rings of the United States than those of any other individual in America.”

Next: agricultural organizations

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Dowe, Milton E., Palermo, Maine Things That I Remember in 1996. (1997)
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
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).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902)
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: 18th & 19th century agriculture

Edmund and Rachel Clark Homestead

by Mary Grow

The third farm property in the area this series covers that is on the National Register of Historic Places is in China.

The Edmund and Rachel Clark Homestead is on the west side of China Lake. It was listed on the National Register on Oct. 4, 2006. The person who prepared the nomination form was the same Christi Mitchell who described the two farm properties listed in last week’s article on the Albion and Benton farms.

Like the Hussey-Littlefield Farm and Colcord Homestead, the Clark Homestead is private property; the owners’ rights must be respected. Unlike the other two, the list of Maine historic places says the address for the Clark property is restricted, and the application is not available on line.

Wikipedia says the 15-acre property has a surviving farmhouse, the main single-story Cape-style section built about 1789 and a Cape-style addition on the north that dates from the early 1800s. The article is erroneous in that the house and ell are each a story and a half, with paired second-story windows under the pitched roof.

The original central chimney had been taken down by the time the Wikipedia description was written. Surrounding farm buildings had disappeared.

According to the China bicentennial history and on-line genealogies, Edmund Clark, with his wife Rachel and four children, and either three or four of his brothers, plus their parents and their sister and her husband, were the first settlers in China.

Edmund Clark was born Nov. 29, 1743, in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Rachael J. (Coffin) Clark was born around June 9, 1749, probably in Nantucket. They married at an unrecorded date in Barrington, Nova Scotia.

John “Black” Jones and Abraham Burrill surveyed the area around China Lake in the fall of 1773 and finished in the spring of 1774. By then Edmund and Rachel and other family members were in Gardiner, Maine, where they met Jones over the winter.

When Jones resumed the survey in the spring, at least a dozen Clarks came with him or followed over the summer. Sources agree that Edmund chose a lot on the west side of the lake; his brother, Jonathan, Jr., might have settled nearby. The senior Clarks, Jonathan, Sr., and Miriam or Mariam, and other family members preferred the east shore. One brother, Andrew, is said to have established his homestead at the south end of the lake.

Edmund and Rachel Clark’s children who came to China with their parents were Miriam (1767-1803), Elizabeth (1768-1776), Eunice (1770-1845) and Randall (1772-1862). Miriam married another early settler named Thomas Ward in the latter half of the 1780s; Eunice married Thomas Ward’s brother, Samuel. Their sons moved a mile or so north to what is now China Neck and the area west of it, giving the early names Ward’s Hill and Ward’s Corner to localities there.

Edmund and Rachel’s fifth child, Annie (Clark) Pray (1774-1866), was one of the first children born in China. Edmund and Rachel later had two more children, Mary (Clark) Worth, (1779-1847) and Elisha (1785-1865).

Edmund Clark died Feb. 11, 1822, and Rachel probably in February 1829, both in China.

Many local histories include information on early agriculture, or as much information as is available when people lacked time and sometimes skill to keep extensive written records.

Samuel L. Boardman opened his chapter on agriculture in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history with an overall description of the land in the central Kennebec Valley. The area is well suited to farming, he observed; it has generous water supplies and in many places good soil, is not mountainous and is far enough inland so that plants are not harmed by “the saline winds and fogs of an ocean atmosphere.”

Haying in the 19th century

Boardman wrote that in Winslow, the soil in the Kennebec and Sebasticook river valleys is rich, productive loam, though the eastern edge of town is “ledgy.” Albion, Benton, Clinton and Windsor he listed as “excellent grazing towns,” meaning their soils produced good hay. Writing in 1892, he called China, Vassalboro and Sidney “without question the garden towns of the county.”

The early Kennebec Valley settlers recognized the advantages, Boardman wrote, and made full use of them. He lists a number of early farmers who deserve credit for making major improvements and for sharing them, including R. H. Greene, of Winslow; Jesse Robinson, of Waterville; and Rev. W. A. P. Dillingham, of Sidney.

R. H. Greene is listed on line as one of the Maine agents for The Cultivator, a monthly agricultural magazine published in New York beginning in 1834.

Jesse Robinson was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, in 1772. He had 10 children by three wives, and according to the record of their births lived in several towns in the central Kennebec Valley. He died in Waterville May 12, 1868, and is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery.

The Universalist Register has a long biographical sketch of Rev. William Pitt Addison Dillingham in its section on deceased clergy and lay people (see box accompanying this article).

Farming in the late 1700s required cutting trees first, to provide wood to build houses and barns and to keep them warm; to clear the land to grow crops; and to sell to provide income. Several histories mention lumbering, sawmills and exports of wood in various forms.

Milton E. Dowe, in his Palermo history, says settlers arriving in the 1770s found trees over 200-feet tall. The flat stumps left when they were cut down “were large enough for a team of oxen to turn on,” he wrote.

(A team of oxen can mean either two oxen, also called a yoke, or eight oxen, in pairs.)

When Millard Howard continued Palermo’s story in his 2015 Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine, he commented that a life dependent on agriculture is defined by the seasons and the weather, and “if the weather failed to cooperate, disaster was close at hand.”

The first homesteads were, of necessity, self-sufficient farms, where the family grew as much as they could of everything needed to feed themselves and their livestock. Farmers produced a variety of crops; specialization came later.

The history of Fairfield quotes from a letter Elihu Bowerman wrote in 1848 remembering his first years in North Fairfield, starting in the summer of 1783. He, his wife and his two brothers lived in the log house they built.

During the first winter, the potatoes they raised on a Vassalboro farmer’s land froze in the farmer’s cellar. A Winslow farmer gave them some corn that they had ground. They mixed the frozen potatoes and ground corn into loaves and baked them to make “the best bread we had for 16 months.”

Fall harvest in the 19th century.

By cutting trees and selling or burning the wood, they cleared enough land by the spring of 1785 to plant “corn, potatoes, beans and some other things, but no wheat.” They also made boxberry tea and maple sugar.

In Linwood Lowden’s history of Windsor, he wrote that a July 1793 deed describes a “meadow” that the seller of the land had “divided into at least two twelve-acre lots and fenced,” and on which he was growing rye.

An 1807 letter from another early Windsor resident lists the “corn, wheat, rye, and hay” he was growing. By around 1815 several settlers had planted apple orchards; Lowden wrote that from the 1860s until the “great freeze of the winter of 1933-34,” apples were one of Windsor farmers’ main crops.

At least one farmer Lowden mentioned grew flax and potatoes. Early kitchen gardens, he wrote, provided “beans, peas, beets, turnips, squash and pumpkins.”

Palermo had 113 barns by 1820, according to agricultural census records Howard reviewed. Products of the land included wheat, hay (1,185 tons in 1820), oats, barley, peas and beans.

Howard copied a December 1851 letter from Nehemiah Smith, a resident of adjacent South Freedom, that gave more details about mid-19th-century agriculture. The common form of wheat was spring wheat, with Red Sea the preferred variety, although winter wheat was gaining in popularity. Spring wheat was sown May 10, and in 1851 brought the farmer $1 per bushel.

Hay, Smith wrote, was mainly clover and timothy. Haying began around July 15; the 1851 price averaged $8 per ton.

Potatoes had been important until an 1845 crop failure. Apples, once unusual, had become an export crop. Cherries were grown until about a decade earlier, when a “barnacle” appeared on the wood and wiped out the cherry trees.

(A 2020 on-line article by Jane Purnell for LawnStarter lists two cherry tree diseases that affect trunks and branches. Black Knot, characterized by “hard, black swellings or knots” up to six inches long sounds likely to be called a barnacle. Purnell wrote Black Knot reduces production; she did not say it kills the tree, though another source does say affected trees die.

Cytospora canker Purnell described as “dark, depressed cankers”; branches wilt, and cankers can kill “parts” of a tree. Other sources list blossom rot and related fungal diseases as fatal to cherry trees, but their symptoms begin with discolored or wilting flowers that Smith did not mention.)

Alice Hammond’s history of the Town of Sidney says that hay was Sidney’s most important crop from the early days, for home use and, as horse-drawn transportation expanded, for sale to urban areas. She quoted an 1850 report that Sidney “produced more than 5,700 tons of hay” that year.

Early settlers in Sidney also planted apples. Hammond wrote that apple trees were at first put on land less useful for farming and along stone walls that bounded fields.

As the population of the Kennebec Valley grew, agriculture was supplemented by manufacturing and commerce, but it has never been replaced, as anyone familiar with the area knows. From haying in the spring through apple-picking and the annual Common Ground Country Fair in the fall, from farm machinery on the roads to farm photos on websites, it remains important.

William A. P. Dillingham

According to the Universalist Register, William Addison Pitt Dillingham was born Sept. 4, 1824, in Hallowell, and raised in Augusta by an uncle after his parents died.

The Universalist biography assures us of his purity, invulnerability to the bad habits of his peers, “noble and generous impulses and…conscientiousness and truthfulness,” character traits that appeared in his youth and continued throughout his life.

Dillingham spent a semester at Waterville (later Colby) College before transferring to “Cambridge” – presumably Harvard – where he abandoned law school for divinity school. Ordained in 1847, he served first in Augusta and then in other Maine towns, including Sidney, where he bought a farm, and Waterville.

He married Caroline Townsend, of Sidney, and they had two sons and a daughter. In 1864 and 1865 he was Waterville’s representative in the Maine House, serving as Speaker in 1865.

In 1867 Dillingham switched from the Universalists to the Swedenborgians, for whom he preached in Chicago before rejoining the Universalists there in 1870. In 1871 he had just come back to his Sidney farm and arranged to preach in Sidney when he died suddenly of pneumonia on April 22, 1871.

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Grow, Mary M. China, Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
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).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Next: agriculture, continued: livestock.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Agriculture history – Part 1

Longmeadows Farm, 2018.

by Mary Grow

Two historic farms, Albion and Benton

Your writer hopes readers are ready for a change from Romanesque Revival and Hallowell granite, because the coming weeks of Kennebec Valley history will not focus on buildings, though they will continue to appear.

The Register of Historic Places for the central Kennebec Valley includes a farm and two farmsteads – a small number, considering the importance of agriculture in residents’ lives since the earliest settlement. They are the Hussey-Littlefield Farm, in Albion, the Colcord Farmstead, in Benton, and the Edmund and Rachel Clark Homestead, in China.

Please note that all three are privately owned. The owners’ rights and privacy are to be respected.

The application for National Register status for the Hussey-Littlefield farm was prepared in October 2015 by Architectural Historian Christi A. Mitchell, of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. Mitchell says Silas Hussey, one of several Husseys prominent in the early history of Albion, settled at what became 63 Hussey Road, on the west side of the road that runs from Route 202, in Albion village, south into Palermo.

Hussey occupied the property in 1838 and acquired ownership in 1844. In or soon after 1838, he built a two-and-a-half story house facing the road, with a rear ell. The style is described as late Greek Revival and Italianate. South of the house he built a separate barn.

In the 1850s or early 1860s, Silas Hussey’s son, Burt, built another ell on the south side; Mitchell wrote it made space for “a summer kitchen and woodshed.” Later, Burt Hussey added a wagon shed that he attached to the barn.

The result is what Wikipedia calls a “connected homestead [that] exhibits the evolutionary changes of rural agricultural architecture in 19th-century Maine.” Mitchell calls it “an excellent example of a New England farm complex.” In an earlier application for the Colcord Farmstead in Benton (see below), she had written in more detail about the development of interconnected farm buildings in the second half of the 19th century.

The Hussey buildings are wooden, with clapboards or shingles on the outside. Mitchell wrote that the house foundations are granite except for fieldstone on the west. The rear ell has a fieldstone and brick foundation.

The house originally had two chimneys. The wide front door, its sidelights covered by 2015, is centered between two pairs of windows. It is sheltered by what Mitchell calls a Queen Anne style porch, open, wooden-floored, with “delicate, scroll-cut bracketed…supports” protecting it.

The side ell has a basement, entered from the west (back) side. The wagon shed’s early doors were also on the west, according to a 1936 photograph Mitchell describes; by 2015 it had garage doors on the road side.

The barn is two-and-a-half stories plus a cupola. Mitchell calls it a bank barn; the front is at ground level on a fieldstone foundation, but as the ground slopes downward to the west, most of the building is supported on cement piers. In 2015 Mitchell took interior photographs showing wooden stalls with a hayloft above.

Mitchell found records showing how the size and use of the farm changed through the years. It is listed on the Historic Register as including 6.8 acres of land in 2015; town records showed 114 acres in 1857 and 1858. Mitchell wrote that part of the land was on the east side of Hussey Road.

Her summary of farm products shows that apples dominated for many years. In 1880, the farm had 215 apple trees. She mentions in 2015 remains of an old orchard with Wolf River and Northern Spy varieties, plus a newer orchard with Northern Spies and semi-dwarf Cortlands.

In 1859, she wrote, Silas Hussey had two oxen, six milk cows, three “other cattle” and two pigs. In the 1860s and 1870s he raised sheep. Mitchell found in census records lists of the farm’s “most valuable products:” butter and potatoes in 1850; “sheep, wool, and butter” in 1860, but only half as much butter as in 1850; cattle and corn in 1870; and in order in 1880, cattle, apples, butter, oats, potatoes and corn.

Burt Hussey inherited the farm when his father died in 1894. Burt sold it in 1900 to his brother, John W., who died in 1910. John’s widow, Fannie, and son, Clarence, kept the farm until 1935, when they sold to brothers George and Harold Littlefield, who grew up on an adjoining farm. The Littlefields ran a dairy operation until about 1950, Mitchell wrote. George Littlefield’s son was the owner in 2015.

Of the three farms, the Hussey-Littlefield farm is the newest addition to the National Register of Historic Places, listed on Jan. 12, 2016.

The earliest listed of the three, and the subject of another of Mitchell’s applications, is the Colcord Farmstead, now Longmeadows Farm, at 184 Unity Road (Route 139) in Benton. It was added on Dec. 29, 2005, recognized as “a resource that provides an excellent source for understanding over 100 years of architectural and landscape design within an agricultural context.”

The Colcord Farmstead history goes back to 1786, when Captain Andrew Richardson, Esquire, bought from the Kennebec Proprietors a piece of land on the east side of the Sebasticook River. The property has been farmed ever since, under at least 13 different owners; the Colcord Farmstead has been called the Richardson Homestead; the Moses Stacy Farm; and now Longmeadows Farm.

Moses Stacy bought the property in the 1840s and moved there from Waterville in 1851, Mitchell wrote. In 1860, she found he owned “two oxen, ten cows, three horses, 25 sheep, and several pigs.” In that year, the farm produced “30 bushels of corn, 80 bushels of potatoes, 150 bushels of oats,…400 pounds of butter and 75 pounds of wool.”

After Moses Stacy died in 1867, his widow, Olive Pratt Stacy, hired men to run the farm, including Fairfield native John B. Colcord. In 1870, Colcord bought the farm from her for less than $1,100. He is responsible for most of the buildings that add to its historic value.

The farm remained in the Colcord family until 1926, when Colcord’s widowed daughter-in-law, Dorothy Burgess Colcord, sold it to Mary Louise Shink, who went bankrupt in 1937. Her creditors sold it to businessman Charles Orman Brown. Charles Orman Brown chose the name Longmeadows Farm; the fourth generation of his family now owns and operates it.

The Colcord Farmstead historic preservation listing covers 194 acres, about 20 acres between the river and the road and the rest, including a managed woodlot, on the east side of the road.

The L-shaped two-story farmhouse, with its one-and-a-half story ell with an open porch across the front, is on the west side of the road, with its back to the river. Mitchell quotes the Browns as saying it is the third house on the site; John Colcord built it in 1882. Mitchell describes the style as Italianate.

Attached to the ell on the north is what Mitchell calls a shed. She says the single-story building was built before the house; Colcord incorporated it. In 2005 there was a privy in one corner.

Attached to the shed is what Mitchell calls a shop, in Colcord’s day a stable and, Mitchell wrote, originally a center-chimney house. Two stories high, it was built around 1800-1810; Colcord apparently moved it about 60 feet and took out the chimney and the partitions between rooms.

The final attached building on the north is an equipment shed that Mitchell dates to 1899, after a previous shed burned.

The Kennebec County history includes a picture of the farm as it was in 1892. There were then two large detached barns north of the other buildings. Mitchell surmises they were there when Colcord bought the property, and says they burned with the first equipment shed, sometime before 1896.

About three feet north of the newer equipment shed, and set slightly farther back from the road, is a large three-and-a-half story bank barn, also built in 1899, with an exterior feed rack for cattle on the west (back) side. The open area under the barn, where it is supported on posts, provided shelter for cattle, Mitchell wrote. The Browns added a milk house east of and connected to the barn in 1937.

South of the house and its attached outbuildings, a seasonal stream runs into the Sebasticook River. The 2005 application lists a steel windmill on the river at the mouth of the stream, built early in the 20th century to pump water into the water tank on the second floor of the 1899 barn; and a sawmill, built around 1950, just south of the stream, to help manage the farm’s forestland and provide building materials.

Owners of the Hussey-Littlefield Farm

Hussey-Littlefield Farm on Hussey Road in Albion

Silas Taber Hussey was born Oct. 31, 1811, son of Daniel Hussey (born in Dover, New Hampshire, in 1783) and Fannie Crosby Hussey (born in Vassalboro in 1788), and died July 17, 1894. He married Jane Z. Wellington on Jan. 2, 1838, and they had three daughters and four sons.

Silas and Jane Hussey’s oldest son, John W. Hussey, was born Aug. 26, 1842, and died Dec. 3, 1910. Their third son, Burt Silas Hussey, was born Oct. 12, 1851, and died July 23, 1920, in Bangor.

John W. Hussey married twice. He had two daughters by his first wife, Mary Keay Crosby, of Albion, who died Feb. 28, 1888. Around 1889 he married Francena “Fanny” (or Fannie) Goodspeed; their only child was Clarence Wellington Hussey, born Oct. 28, 1892. The genealogical record says Francena and Clarence lived until after 1930.

Significant owners of the Colcord Farmstead

Colcord Farmstead

Andrew Richardson was born in Townsend, Massachusetts, on Aug. 25, 1760. In April 1775, when he was not yet 15 years old, he and three older brothers joined the Revolutionary Army, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and fought in the June 17, 1775, battle of Bunker Hill.

After two years in the army, Richardson moved to the part of Maine that was then Hancock Plantation and became in 1850 Benton (see The Town Line, April 2, 2020, for a brief history). In 1781 he married Hannah Grant of Frankfort; she died in January 1811.

Richardson is described as a “leading citizen” who captained the local militia, served as a selectman for many years and in 1809 and 1810 represented what was then Clinton in the Massachusetts General Court. He died Jan. 10, 1818.

Moses Stacy was born Sept. 5, 1807, in Acton, Maine. He married twice, first to Helena Rogers Prescott Stacy (1806-1946) and second to Olive Pratt Stacy (1816-1910). He died suddenly of heart problems Jan. 16, 1867, in Benton and is buried in Waterville’s Pine Grove Cemetery

John B. Colcord was born March 11, 1842. He and his wife Anna (they married in April 1867) were parents of Everett Stacy Colcord, born July 26, 1876. After John and Anna sold the farm in 1911, Everett bought it back in 1919, and John and Anna lived there until Everett died in 1925.

Charles Orman Brown (Jan. 9, 1887- Jan. 23, 1962) married Bertha Mabel Small (1881-1968) about 1910. Their great-grandson, Alexander Brown, says they had two children, daughter Ruth and son Robert Orman Brown (1915-2002). Robert married Katharine Rollins Brown (1913 – 2004).

Robert and Katharine Brown had a son, Mark. The Longmeadows Farm website says Mark and Connie Brown lived there for more than 40 years and Mark Brown and his son Alexander, “Xandy”, Brown run the farm, specializing in beef cattle.

Main sources

Websites, various

Next: the Edmund and Rachel Clark Homestead in China and other agricultural information.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Historic listings, Augusta Part 9

Capitol Park, Augusta. (photo by Mainebyfoot)

by Mary Grow

The Augusta historic district not yet discussed is the Capitol Complex Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. This district includes several individually listed buildings: the State House, the Blaine House (official residence of Maine’s governors; see the Jan. 21 The Town Line) and the Gannett House, home of the First Amendment Museum (see the Nov. 12, 2020, The Town Line). Other buildings are the Burton Cross Office Building, the Nash School and several 19th-century residences that now house state offices.

Capitol Park, on the east side of State Street in front of the State House, has been listed individually as a historic property since 1989, and is in the Historic District.

After Maine separated from Massachusetts on March 15, 1820, the state capital was in Portland, the largest city. An on-line story by Don Carrigan, of News Center Maine, quotes historians Earle Shettleworth, Jr., and Herb Adams as they explain why and how Augusta succeeded Portland.

Portland had two disadvantages: it was not central, and would become less central as population expanded inland and north; and it was vulnerable to attack from the sea, important when residents still remembered the War of 1812 with Great Britain.

In 1822, Shettleworth said, the legislature established a committee to find a new capital site. Augusta and Hallowell both applied, as did Portland and two other coastal municipalities, Belfast and Wiscasset.

Augusta offered the current site, called Weston or Weston’s Hill; added the land running east to the Kennebec River for a park, for a total of about 34 acres; and offered to contribute toward expenses. After often fierce debates, the legislature voted on Feb. 24, 1827, to make the move, to be effective by Jan. 1, 1832, and on June 6, 1827, the state bought the land.

Legislators also gave Governor Enoch Lincoln and his Council $500 to improve the lot, including planting trees.

Despite the vote and the follow-up actions, the two historians said, every year until 1907 some legislator introduced a bill to return the capital to Portland. On Sept. 11, 1911, voters approved an amendment to the Maine Constitution stating that “Augusta is Hereby Declared to be the Seat of Government of This State.” The vote was 59,678 in favor to 41,294 opposed. The wording is now in Art. IX, Section 16, of the Constitution.

Capitol Park is the earliest of the historic district components. The park is a 20-acre rectangle bounded by State Street on the west, Union Street on the south, the Kennebec River on the east and Capitol Street on the north.

In October 1827 the Council chose General Joel Wellington to design a park plan. In a little over a month, he spent $373.13 of the $500 to create a path from State Street to the Kennebec River. The Maine Historic Preservation Commission’s 1989 application for national recognition (written by historian Shettleworth) describes an 80-foot-wide avenue, with two 30-foot-wide tree-bordered sidewalks.

Shettleworth says Edward Williams, one of Governor Lincoln’s staff, recommended a fence to keep wandering cattle from damaging the new trees.

In 1842, a granite mausoleum was erected near the river for the body of Governor Lincoln (Dec. 28, 1788 – Oct. 8, 1829), who served from Jan. 3, 1827, until his death. The on-line Maine encyclopedia says the tomb has been empty for years, and there is no record of when, why or how its contents disappeared. (See The Town Line, July 9, 2020, for more information on Governor Lincoln.)

By 1851, more trees and paths had been added. The Kennebec and Portland Railroad crossed the east end of the park along the river.

The park’s amenities disappeared during the Civil War. Shettleworth quotes a May 22, 1862, editorial in The Maine Farmer, an Augusta weekly newspaper, listing “tents and stables and barracks” spread through the park and its grounds used for “drills and evolutions.”

After the soldiers went south, the park was leased for farmland, a use The Maine Farmer writer hailed as much more useful than a military encampment. Shettleworth suggests patriotism as the motive.

By 1878, the park was again a park, similar to the 1850s version. In 1920, after James G. Blaine’s daughter donated the Blaine House as the governors’ house, Governor Carl Milliken had the Massachusetts-based Olmsted Brothers do a complete re-landscaping of the State House, the Blaine House and Capitol Park.

Portland landscape architect Carl Rust Parker was in charge of the project. His ambitious multi-year plan included adding three more tennis courts to the existing two; building a “rostrum” in the southwest as the center of an area for concerts and speeches; building a river overlook and nearby pools and a zoo to house Maine fish and land animals; and adding a Maine shrub garden in the northwest.

Shettleworth wrote that legislators were reluctant to appropriate funds for the changes. The fish pools and zoo were never built, and the tennis courts were removed by the 1960s.

The elm trees Parker carefully preserved died of Dutch Elm Disease and were replaced in 1983 with red oaks. The Vietnam War Memorial in the northwest was added in 1985.

The State House, designed by Boston architect Charles Bulfinch and deliberately imitating the Massachusetts State House, is the second early component of the Historic District. It, like Capitol Park, has a separate listing on the National Register of Historic Places, as of April 24, 1973.

The State House was deliberately sited on a high point on the northwest side of the lot donated by Augusta, rather than in the center. Its cornerstone was laid July 4, 1829. Kingsbury says dignitaries at the Masonic-led ceremony included President Andrew Jackson, Vice-President John C. Calhoun and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall.

Construction was supervised by the Commissioner of State Buildings, William King, who had been Maine’s first Governor in 1820. The four-story building was near enough complete for the legislature to meet there January 4, 1832.

The State House is built of Hallowell granite. The original central section, with a cupola and two wings extending north and south, was 146 feet long by 50 feet wide, plus the 80-by-15-foot front portico with Doric columns, according to Richard D. Kelly, Jr.’s 1973 application for National Register of Historic Places listing (Kingsbury offers different dimensions). Wikipedia says it was supposed to cost $89,000; the final cost, including furnishing and landscaping, was $138,991.34, Kingsbury wrote.

As state government grew, the interior was changed in 1852 and 1860, and in 1891 a three-story wing was built on the west side. In addition to offices, it housed the state library, now in the separate Cultural Building with the state archives and museum. The Cultural Building, built in 1967-69, has been closed since late July 2020 for asbestos removal and upgrades to the heating, cooling and electrical systems.

The State House had major exterior remodeling in 1909 and 1910. The Bulfinch front and back and the rotunda were the only things left unchanged, as the building was made 300-feet long by extending the wings and the cupola was replaced by a 185-foot dome.

Massachusetts architect George Henri Desmond designed the changes; Charles S. Hichborn, of Augusta, oversaw the work. Sculptor and Gardiner native William Clark Noble (Feb. 10, 1858 – May 10, 1938) added a 15-foot gilded copper statue of Minerva, Roman goddess of wisdom, on top of the dome.

Wikipedia describes and illustrates the 2014 replacement of the dome’s 1910 copper sheathing (which had been expected to last 75 years). The work took from March to October 2014 and cost $1.2 million. The Minerva statue was regilded and repaired by EverGreene Architectural Arts, a New York City historic preservation firm.

Wikipedia says legislative leaders put a time capsule in the dome with “a book of Maine laws, a legislative handbook, the September 30 [2014] issue of the Kennebec Journal, some of the old copper, and personal items from the legislators.” The dome looks exactly the same since the restoration, except that it is now a copper-brown color instead of oxidized to green.

Kelly wrote that the Maine State House is architecturally significant as Bulfinch’s only known surviving work after he completed the Capitol in Washington in 1829 and came back to the Boston area. It is also significant as the only Bulfinch building for which his original plans are extant; they were found in the lining of a safe in the building in 1941, and as of 1973 were in the Maine State Archives.

The Burton M. Cross Office Building, a multi-story grey rectangular building west of the Capitol and connected to it by a tunnel, was originally the Maine State Office Building. It is steel-framed with a granite exterior.

Portland architects Miller and Beal designed the building in collaboration with a Boston firm. Construction started in June 1954 and was finished in the fall of 1956, historian Shettleworth wrote in his application for national recognition of the Capitol Complex Historic District, making it the youngest building in the District.

The Augusta State Facilities Master Plan, prepared by SMRT Architects and Engineers in August 2001, says the State Office Building was “state-of-the-art” when it was built, and might have been Maine’s biggest office building. In 2001, according to the SMRT website, the building was renovated, resulting in what the website describes as “a contemporary, open-office environment that supports growth in information technologies and telecommunications and leading-edge mechanical, HVAC and electrical and lighting systems to keep employees comfortable and healthy.”

The renovated building was renamed in 2001 to honor Gardiner native, Maine legislator and Maine Governor Burton M. Cross (Nov. 15, 1902 – Oct. 22, 1998). Cross served from Dec. 24, 1952, to Jan. 6, 1953, as Maine’s 61st governor, because he was state Senate President when Governor Frederick Payne resigned to become a United States Senator. In 1952, he was elected Governor. But his Senate term ended 25 hours before his governorship began, so in the interim his successor as Senate President, Nathaniel Haskell, became the 62nd governor. Cross was the 63rd governor from Jan. 7, 1953, to Jan. 5, 1955.

Other buildings in the Capitol Complex Historic District are former residences, some built around the time Augusta became the capital city. Shettleworth’s application lists the Guy P. Gannett House at 184 State Street, built in 1911; the James G. Blaine House at 192 State Street, built in 1833; the Gage-McLean House at 193 State Street, built around 1837; the Arnold-Gaslin House at 189 State Street, built around 1830; the Edward Williams House at 187 State Street, also built around 1830; and the Gage-Lemont House at 55 Capitol Street, built around 1845.

Also part of the complex is the former Nash School, a two-story brick building at 103 Sewall Street, west of the main buildings, that the state bought in 1976.

According to Shettleworth, Augusta architect Arthur G. Wing designed the Nash School in the Romanesque Revival style; L. E. Bradstreet was the builder. On April 7, 1897, the city and the two men signed a contract for $8,973. The building was finished by September 1897.

About the designers of Capitol Park

Capitol Park designer General Joel Wellington was born in 1782 in Massachusetts and moved to Albion, Maine, early in the 19th century. The source of his military title is obscure; Ruby Crosby Wiggin found him listed as a captain in one of Albion’s companies in the War of 1812.

In 1814, Wellington was on the town committee to rebuild the bridge across the head of China Lake (then part of Albion). In October 1819 he was elected to the state convention that approved separating Maine from Massachusetts, and in the new state he represented Albion in the legislature. He was also a town selectman and Albion’s first postmaster, from March 1825 until 1831.

Around 1830, Wellington and George Pond co-founded the town of Monticello, originally called Wellington Township, on the north branch of the Meduxnekeag River, in Aroostook County. The Find a Grave website says Wellington built the road south to Houlton that is now Route 1, and eventually got repaid by the federal government.

Wellington died July 12, 1865, in Fort Fairfield, and is buried in the Village Cemetery, in Monticello. The website says Pond died the same day. It also says Wellington died at his son Albion’s home (and another website says Albion helped his father clear the land for their first log cabin); but on the same page, Find a Grave lists only four descendants: daughters Harriet and Clarissa (named after his wife, Clarissa Blake Wellington [1786-1868]) and sons James C. and George Blake.

Main sources

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: Historic listings, Augusta part 8

Hartford Fire Station.

by Mary Grow

Just south of the historic buildings at the north end of the west side of Augusta’s Water Street (described in last week’s article) is a much newer building that gained a place on the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1986. The D.V. Adams Co .- Bussell and Weston Building, at 190 Water Street, was built in 1909. Wikipedia calls it “one of the state’s best early examples of a department store building.”

D. V. Adams – Bussell and Weston Building.

Like its northern neighbors, it is built of brick and three stories tall, but the front has much more window space, particularly on the upper floors. The street level has five separate bays, the center one a recessed entrance.

Wikipedia says Boston architects Freeman, Funk and Wilcox designed the building for Bussell and Weston. Roger Reed, writing for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, calls the architectural firm Freeman, Frank and Wilcox – Web references do not resolve the discrepancy – and says Bussell and Weston was a dry goods company.

The original building had what Wikipedia calls a stepped parapet. On-line photos show stepped parapets having more than one level, as the name suggests. Reed wrote that the present Italianate cornice, similar to but elevated slightly above its neighbors, replaced the original sometime between 1912 and 1920.

One on-line source calls the architectural style Classical Revival, and others mention the Chicago style windows on the upper floors. Reed says Bussell and Weston intended, and their architects achieved, a building that would stand out from its neighbors.

In 1920, department store founder and owner Delbert W. Adams bought the Bussell and Weston building and contents and moved from his 1910 store on the east side of Water Street. His store closed in 1982, according to Augusta’s on-line Museum in the Streets; Reed’s report says a department store used the building until 1985. The name change from D. W. Adams to D. V. Adams is nowhere explained.

In 1985, Reed listed the building owner as G. T. G. Association. His description commented on the unchanged interior space, “complete with iron columns, wooden staircase and pressed metal ceiling.”

While on Water Street, it seems appropriate to describe the Hartford Fire Station, although at 369 Water Street it is south of the boundary of the Water Street historic district that this series has covered beginning with the Feb. 4 The Town Line piece.

The station’s alternate address is 1 Hartford Square. It is southeast of the south end of Water Street, with Gage Street on the northeast and the backs of the buildings lining Swan Street on the southwest. Built in 1920, the Hartford Fire Station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017, as a $6 million addition and renovation project was under way.

The large two-story brick building was designed by local architects Bunker and Savage, established in 1916 and still in business. An on-line Maine Preservation article calls its style Classical Revival.

The same article says the name recognizes George Huntington Hartford, whose son donated the land for the building.

George Huntington Hartford (Sept. 5, 1833 – Aug. 29, 1917) was born on an Augusta farm. By the time he was 18, he was in Boston starting a career in retail businesses. In 1861 he was in Brooklyn, New York, where he was hired as a clerk in George Gilman’s Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.

Wikipedia says Hartford moved up in the firm until he became a partner when Gilman retired in 1878 and effectively ran the company until Gilman died in 1901. After Gilman’s death, Hartford bought out his heirs and ran what was by then A & P until his own death, though two of his sons took over day-to-day management in 1907 or 1908. Hartford invented the idea of a chain of grocery stores, and before he died he and his sons made A & P the largest retailer in the United States.

The 1920 Hartford fire station was the first in Augusta to have a fire horn that could signal fire locations to everyone in the city, and the first to be designed to accommodate motorized as well as horse-drawn fire equipment.

As fire trucks became larger and heavier, the station ran out of space and the floors began to deteriorate. In 2016, work started on an addition, plus repairs and interior remodeling of the original building. The on-line Maine Preservation article lists many people responsible for the successful project, including Fire Chief Roger Audette and Sutherland Conservation and Consulting (SCC), of Augusta.

SCC was founded in 2007 by Amy Cole Ives, of Hallowell, who previously spent eight years working for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. In May 2008, the SCC website says, Maine Historic Preservation gave her a Statewide Historic Preservation Honor Award for her role in promoting legislation that led to the state’s Tax Credit for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties and the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (MUBEC).

Ives’ specialty is analysis of historic paint and other finishes on buildings, vehicles and art works. In March 1917 she helped organize the sixth International Architectural Paint Research (APR) Conference at Columbia University in New York City. She also presented a paper there.

(The third APR conference was in January 2008, also at Columbia University. The fourth was in 2010, in Lincoln, in the United Kingdom. The fifth was in March 2014 in Stockholm, Sweden. The seventh was scheduled for Tel Aviv University, Israel, in October 2020, and was retitled, more broadly, the Architectural Finishes Research Conference. It was rescheduled to a January 2021 virtual conference.)

In October 2020, Ives announced that SCC was absorbed by MacRostie Historic Advisors (MHA), LLC, with at least one employee joining MacRostie’s Boston office. Ives planned to continue consulting on historic paint.

George Crosby House

The statement that Augusta has four designated historic districts that opened the Feb. 4 article was an error by this writer. The city has five designated districts: the Water Street commercial district that has been described; the Capital District around the State House on State Street, to be described in the next article; and three residential districts, Bond Street, Crosby Street and Winthrop Street.

The residential historic districts contain mostly private houses that are not open to the public. Should readers care to visit them, owners’ rights and privacy are to be respected.

Bond Street is a short street that connects State and Water streets, just south of Bond Brook. The historic district includes seven one-and-a-half story wooden residential buildings, numbers 8, 9, 12, 18, 21, 22 and 25. All were built between 1878 and 1884 by Edwards Manufacturing Company to house employees in its textile mill. The company sold them to private owners in 1946.

Wikipedia says there are two four-unit buildings and a single-family house on the north side of Bond Street and four duplexes on the south side. All are similar in style. In 1900, the census found 167 people in 20 families living in the buildings.

Although other Augusta mill owners provided employee housing, Wikipedia says the Bond Street buildings are the only ones still standing in the city. The historic district was listed on April 11, 2014.

Crosby Street is a dead-end street south of and uphill from Bond Street. It runs north off Bridge Street, parallel to State Street above it and roughly parallel to Water Street below it. Crosby Lane connects the middle of Bond Street to State Street.

The Crosby Street historic district, listed Sept. 11, 1986, encompasses eight houses: one on State Street, one on Crosby Lane and six on the south end of Crosby Street. These are elegant, stylish homes, the earlier ones Federal and the later Greek Revival style, and would have been built for business and professional men.

The large two-story Federal George Crosby House at 22 Crosby Lane, with a story-and-a-half ell almost as big, is the oldest of the seven, Wikipedia says. Built around 1802 for businessman George Crosby, it was followed about 1806 by a similar house next door built for John Hartwell, described as a carpenter and auctioneer.

A Maine Historic Preservation Commission piece quoted online says the two houses have doorways designed from the1797 “Country Builder’s Assistant”, by Asher Benjamin, one of many architectural plan books that helped builders in places like Maine follow national style trends.

The Crosby house was the home of Governor Samuel Smith from 1832 to 1834. His choice led to additional generously-sized houses built by Eben Fuller and William Hunt, among others.

George Crosby is listed in Captain Charles E. Nash’s chapters on Augusta in Kingbury’s Kennebec County history as the first cashier of the Augusta Bank, chartered Jan. 21, 1814.

John H. Hartwell was born in Lincoln, Massachusetts, Jan. 2, 1787. He married Eliza Brooks (1789-1864) on May 31, 1810, in Hallowell, and they had two sons and six daughters. He died March 6, 1859, in Augusta.

Nash wrote that Eben Fuller (Jan. 25, 1795 – Oct. 7, 1873) opened the Fuller drug store in 1819. The building burned in the September 1865 fire, and Eben and his only son, Henry Lucius Fuller (1827-1875), rebuilt it. Eben Fuller married Eliza Williams (1799-1883); they had one son and four daughters.

The Winthrop Street historic district is the largest of the three residential districts, covering about 100 acres. When the district was designated on Aug. 6, 2001, it included 192 buildings on Chapel, Chestnut, Court, Green, State and Winthrop streets. On Dec. 30, 2008, Wikipedia says, the district boundary was expanded to add the 1830s Federal house at 20 Spring Street.

Winthrop Street runs approximately west from Water Street to the Augusta airport. It separates Mount Hope Cemetery on the north from Forest Grove Cemetery on the south.

Some of the earliest houses in the historic district date from 1815 or before. Most were built between 1830 and 1850, after the state capital was moved to Augusta by law in 1827 and, in fact, in 1832. New houses continued to be built for residents involved in Augusta’s publishing (see The Town Line, Nov. 12, 2020) and manufacturing enterprises until around 1915.

Non-residential buildings include Lithgow Library, the Kennebec County Courthouse, at 95 State Street (see Jan. 7; the Lot Morrill house on Winthrop Street described there is also inside the historic district) and two churches. A variety of architectural styles are represented, with Federal, Victorian and Colonial Revival dominant, Wikipedia says. Some of the former residences now house professional offices.

NOTE ON SHURTLEFF HOUSE

Readers who planned to look at the Shurtleff House, on Route 201, in Winslow, (see The Town Line, Jan. 28, 2021) will not find it. Michael Fortin, owner of Fortin’s Home Furnishings, on the east side of Route 201, said when the property went up for sale, he bought it because he owned adjacent land. When he inspected the neglected house, he found it was “far beyond repair” and, with regret, had it demolished on Feb. 19, 2021.

Main sources

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

Websites, various

Next: Augusta’s Capitol Complex Historic District.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Historic listings, Augusta Part 7

Sturgis/Haskell block

by Mary Grow

The east (river) side of Augusta’s Water Street has another individually-listed 19th-century historic building besides those described in The Town Line articles published Feb. 4 and Feb. 11. The 1899 five-story brick building at 325-331 Water Street was first known as the Gannett Building, later as the “Journal” Building and now as the University of Maine at Augusta’s (UMA’s) Handley Hall.

Gannett building

The Gannett Building was presumably named for Augusta publisher William Howard Gannett (1854-1948), who published magazines in Augusta beginning in the mid-1880s (see The Town Line, Nov. 12, 2020). It was designed by Arthur G. Wing, described in Wikipedia as a local architect who died in 1912; this writer found no additional on-line information about him.

Wikipedia calls the style commercial Renaissance Revival. There are three street- level store fronts and above each four stories with three windows each, the whole topped by a cornice. The windows have granite sills; the most conspicuous arches are on the fourth floor.

According to Wikipedia, this building was the first owned, as opposed to rented, home for Augusta’s Kennebec Journal newspaper. Often described as Maine’s oldest continuously published newspaper, the Kennebec Journal began in January 1825 as a four-page weekly produced by Russell Eaton and Luther Severance.

Augusta became Maine’s capital in 1827, and after state government became established in 1832 the Kennebec Journal gained importance and a new revenue source. It became a daily paper on Jan. 1, 1870.

Various people owned the newspaper in the 19th century. The Gannett family was not involved until mid-1929, when William Howard Gannett’s son Guy P. Gannett (1881-1954) added it to the Gannett Publishing Company papers.

A Jan. 8, 2015, Kennebec Journal article by Craig Crosby on the 190th anniversary of the newspaper says the younger Gannett moved headquarters to a Willow Street building his father had previously owned. Apparently the move was soon after the June 1929 purchase. Crosby fails to say where the move was from, leaving uncertain the date the Journal left what was presumably by then called the “Journal” building.

At another unstated time the University of Maine at Augusta bought the building and contracted with WBRC Architects Engineers to change it from office space into art and architecture teaching areas, with a ground-floor gallery. A WBRC web page shows the exterior, labeled Gannett Building, and says interior work included undoing earlier changes to uncover “wooden beams, punched tin ceilings, masonry walls and wooden floors.”

(According to its website, the WBRC firm was founded in Bangor in 1902 by two young University of Maine engineering graduates named John F. Thomas and C. Parker Crowell; the firm was Thomas and Crowell. Thomas soon moved to Massachusetts; Crowell stayed with the firm for the next 54 years, with its name changing as partners joined and left.

The ninth name, in 1987, was the longest: Webster/ Baldwin/ Rohman/ Day/ Czarniecki. By 1989 Day had left and Bromley and Rich had joined; the new group chose the initials WBRC, and so far no one has changed it. WBRC has branches in Portland, Maine, and in Florida, Maryland and Michigan.)

UMA gave the building its third name, Handley Hall, in honor of UMA’s first female president, Allyson Handley. She took office on March 1, 2008, at the age of 60, and held the post for six years.

A 2018 announcement of her becoming president of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association says UMA was the third college she served as president. It credits her with changing UMA’s undergraduate architecture program to “a four-year, accredited architecture degree,” giving graduates a head start in the profession.

The “Journal” building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1986, at the same time as the buildings described below and the Kresge and Doughty blocks and the Masonic Temple discussed in the Feb. 11 issue of The Town Line.

Noble block

On the inland (west) side of Water Street, starting at the north end, listed buildings include a four-building block built after the 1865 fire described in the Feb. 4 The Town Line article. They are the Sturgis and Haskell Buildings, 180-182 Water Street, and the Noble Block, 186 Water Street, both built in 1867; and the Whitehouse Block at 188 Water Street, built in 1865 (since the fire was in September 1865, it must have been constructed in a hurry).

The brick buildings are three stories tall, in the commercial Italianate style, and connected by a cornice. The northern two are off-white with two different types of blue window trim, the southern two yellow with white window trim. The style of window trim varies not only from building to building but between second and third floors on each building.

Each separate building would have a single street-level entrance and triple windows on the second and third floors, except that the northernmost, and last finished, Sturgis and Haskell Building has a rounded corner as it fronts the intersection where Bridge Street comes downhill to meet Water Street. There are only two east-facing windows on the upper floors overlooking Water Street; the third windows face northeast from the rounded corner.

Architect John C. Tibbetts, of Augusta, designed the double building for Ira Sturgis and Erastus Haskell. A 1985 Maine Historic Preservation Commission inventory says the original cast-iron store fronts at sidewalk level remained, but with larger-paned windows. Arches above the windows at 180 Water Street had been filled in to make the windows square-topped. The building at 180 was then owned by Carrie Chan and 182 by Peder K. Baughman.

Tibbetts also designed the Noble Block next south, for Thomas C. Noble. Wikipedia says the first story of the Noble Block was finished in 1865 and the upper floors in 1867.

Portland-based architect Francis H. Fassett, whom readers met before as designer of the Williams Block on the east side of Water Street (see the Feb. 4, The Town Line) designed the southernmost and first-built of the four buildings for Owen C. Whitehouse. Before the fire, Whitehouse had his dry goods store on the same site. In the new building, Wikipedia says Whitehouse’s dry goods store was on the second floor; street-level tenants included “Augusta Savings Bank and the United States Pension Agency.” Fraternal organizations, unspecified, used the top floor.

Augusta 19th century businessmen Ira Sturgis, Erastus Haskell, Thomas Noble and Owen C. Whitehouse

The quantity and quality of information in readily available sources about Ira D. Sturgis, Erastus Haskell, Thomas C. Noble and Owen C. Whitehouse varies.

Ira Daggett Sturgis (1814 or 1815 -1891), oldest son of James and Nancy (Packard) Sturgis, was a Vassalboro farmer turned lumber baron whose family began operations in The Forks, farther up the Kennebec River, in the 1830s.

An on-line history called Canada Road Chronicles (hereafter Chronicles) says in 1835, Sturgis married Augusta native Rebecca Russell Goodenow (1815-1894). They had four children; the older boy was named Ira.

During the 1840s and 1850s, Sturgis and a half-brother ran water-powered sawmills in Vassalboro, and he bought large tracts of timberland in the northern Kennebec Valley. Captain Charles E. Nash, author of the chapters on Augusta in Henry D. Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, says Sturgis’s factory on Seven Mile Brook, in Vassalboro, built wooden items, including “the first orange and lemon boxes ever exported from the state of Maine.” His nearby shipyard built ocean-going vessels.

Sturgis shifted his interest to Augusta briefly; spent the late 1850s and early 1860s in the lumber business in Aroostook County and New Brunswick; and returned to Augusta.

In 1867, Chronicles says, the younger Sturgis daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, married Josiah Manchester Haynes, of Waterville. Sturgis and Haynes promptly formed the Augusta-based Kennebec Land and Lumber Company, with Sturgis president and Haynes treasurer. A more recent on-line source, A Capital Happening (hereafter Happening) on Facebook, dates this company to 1861. Happening and Nash name Albert Daily as Sturgis’s partner.

Nash says Sturgis made production of steam power cheaper by using sawdust as fuel. A second steam-powered mill in Pittston was soon accompanied by a modern ice house. Sturgis established the connections that made Kennebec River ice familiar in major cities in the southern United States (see the May 14, 2020, The Town Line for more information on ice harvesting on the Kennebec).

In February 1870 a flood washed away a substantial part of the Augusta dam, the fourth time it had been damaged since it was first built in 1837. Sturgis oversaw its reconstruction in July 1870, supervising engineer Henry A. De Witt and the work crews.

Haynes became Land and Lumber Company president in 1875, according to Chronicles; Happening and Nash say the lumberyard burned in October of that year. Both agree Sturgis and another Augusta businessman named Thomas Lambard formed Sturgis, Lambard and Company (in 1876, according to Happening; Chronicles and Nash add Sturgis’s nephew, Ira Randall, as a third partner). That company became Augusta Lumber Company (in 1889, according to Happening); Sturgis was its president until his death. Augusta Lumber Company appears to have remained in business until it was sold in 1941.

Erastus Haskell (1815 – 1891 or 1892), was born in Winthrop. He learned the shoe trade in Waterville and worked in East Vassalboro for three years, moving to Augusta Dec. 1, 1840. Before the 1865 fire, he ran a shoe store on the east side of Water Street, in one of the buildings that burned. The New England Business Directory lists him as an Augusta boot and shoe dealer in 1883 and in 1889.

Haskell served as a City of Augusta assessor for three years, and “served three years in each of the branches of the city government,” according to Nash. He married Mary C. Williams; they had two sons and daughter. Haskell died in Augusta and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

An on-line genealogy lists Thomas Chadbourne Noble, who was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on August 24, 1807; married Adeline Treby Johnson (1817-1901); and died Feb. 5, 1901, in Augusta. They had four boys and one girl; the second boy was Thomas Chadbourne Noble (1846-1890).

Another genealogy includes Thomas C. Noble of Augusta, born in 1845, who married Edith Goddard on Jan. 22, 1880. He died in 1889 and she remarried.

Probably the Thomas C. Noble who was eager to have a new building in 1865 was the older, who would have been 58 by then, rather than his son, barely 20.

Owen C. Whitehouse was one of nine children of Vassalboro residents Daniel Whitehouse, Jr., and Merab (Coleman) Whitehouse. With his older brother Seth he went into the dry goods business in Augusta in 1846. The S. C. and O. C. Whitehouse company “did a large and successful business,” Nash wrote.

Whitehouse had other business interests besides dry goods. A 50th anniversary history of Augusta Savings Bank, founded Aug. 10, 1848, lists him as added to its incorporators in 1852. When the 1833 Freeman’s Bank was reorganized on April 6, 1864, as Freeman’s National Bank, he was one of the directors. The 1877 Maine Register shows him as a dealer in wool and skins at an unspecified Augusta location and a seller of flour and grain on Water Street.

Whitehouse also served his city. Annual reports show he was a fence viewer and a tythingman in 1870-71, and an overseer of the poor in 1883. (Tithingman is the modern spelling, and the term, originally related to keeping order in church, by the 1870s probably referred to a local constable.)

Main sources

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

Websites, various

Next: still more of Augusta’s historic buildings.