Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Kingsbury’s people

“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.

by Mary Grow

This article is for people who enjoy an occasional glimpse into someone else’s life – nothing scandalous or earth-shaking, just odds and ends about the ordinary lives of people in another time. The main source is Henry D. Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history.

The Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 was first published in 1892, after what editor Kingsbury described as “two years of labor.” Simeon L. Deyo is listed as co-editor and there are 18 “Resident Contributors.”

In the introduction, Kingsbury thanks “twenty writers whose names these chapters bear,” “more than twenty hundred” people who contributed through correspondence or interviews or both and “the good people of Kennebec who have so kindly and faithfully cooperated with us.”

The initial edition, by H. W. Blake & Company, 94 Reade Street, New York, was limited to 1,600 copies. The last page is number 1273, and that number does not count the introduction, illustrations or instances in which pages have the same number followed by a or b. The result is a volume that measures 11 inches high, eight inches deep and almost four inches wide – a worthy companion to the family Bible that would have been conspicuous in many Kennebec Valley homes in 1892.

Although there is no evidence of other editions until recently, there are references on line to two-volume versions. In 2018 a 956-page paperback was published.

Kingsbury divided the work into two sections. Each of the first 15 chapters covers a specific topic, like land titles, military history, courts and the law and the medical profession. The rest of the book describes individual towns, giving most a single chapter, Waterville two chapters and Augusta three chapters.

Kingsbury and his contributors were not infallible. Later historians have corrected some of his information, probably because they have more resources and more time than he had. Nonetheless, the Kennebec County history is a valuable starting point. Many on-line displays quote the same comment: “This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.”

Each chapter on a city or town ends with what Kingsbury labeled “Personal Paragraphs.” These profile an individual, or occasionally a family, who lived in the municipality in the 18th century. The number of profiles per chapter varies, depending partly on the size of the municipality.

The vast majority of those Kingsbury chose were men – your writer has not reviewed towns outside the central Kennebec Valley, but within the area has found only two women who deserved mention. Some were prominent citizens; at the end of the chapters on Augusta, publisher Edward Charles Allen (1849 – 1891) was described as “the wealthiest man of Augusta…[who] paid the largest personal tax.” (See the Nov. 12, 2020, issue of The Town Line for information on Allen’s publishing empire and its impact on Augusta’s growth in the 1870s and 1880s.)

James G. Blaine (1830-1893; United States Representative and Senator, Secretary of State, unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1884, called the Plumed Knight by his friends and the Continental Liar from the State of Maine by his opponents) got eight and a half pages of fine print, contributed in April 1892 by “his townsman and former business partner, Hon. John L. Stevens, United States Minister Resident, Honolulu, Hawaii.” (Blaine was profiled in the Aug. 20, 2020, issue of The Town Line.)

The majority of people to whom Kingsbury gave a few sentences or a few paragraphs were less exalted. Many were farmers, blacksmiths, small businessmen and the like. As a city, Augusta offered a choice of educated professional people, some of whose stories he told.

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Sidney native Henry Pishon, born in 1833, attended Vassalboro and Waterville academies and served as an acting ensign in the Navy for two years of the Civil War. In the 1860s and 1870s he served two short stints as chief clerk in the Maine secretary of state’s office.

When the Augusta post office and courthouse were built on Water Street between 1886 and 1889, Kingsbury wrote, Pishon was the “clerk of construction.” A United States treasury disbursement list for July 1889 found on line lists four local men involved in the project: Thomas Lambard clerk, Pishon foreman, Herbert G. Foster disbursing agent and Melvin S. Holway superintendent of construction.

If “p.d.” in treasury records means per diem, Lambard earned $6 a day, Pishon and Foster earned $4 and Holway was paid some (illegible) fraction, perhaps one-half “of 1 p. ct.” of an unknown amount.

Sereno Sewall Webster (1805 – 1893) was the descendant of four Nathan Websters and two John Websters. The first John Webster was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1605. The second, Sereno’s father, was born in 1777 or 1778 and died in 1828.

(Kingsbury’s source called the 1605 John Webster a “free-man,” leading your writer to wonder if he was a former Black slave. Not necessarily; in colonial Massachusetts, a free man was anyone who had full civil rights. Some colonies, not all, required membership in the established church; land ownership was not necessary.)

Sereno was born in Gardiner, according to an on-line genealogy on the Find a Grave website. John Webster moved his family to Vassalboro in 1806, according to Kingsbury. Sereno held a “clerkship” in Washington, D. C., for nine years; in 1845, he married Mary A. Hayes (1821 – 1893) from Dover, New Hampshire. Kingsbury said the couple had three children; the on-line genealogy lists four, born between 1846 and 1857, Helen, Emeline, Sereno and Otis.

Sereno Clifford Webster, Sereno number three, was born in 1850 and died in 1919, according to the genealogy. He married Alice Etta Tracy; they named their first son Sereno Sewall Webster (1889 – 1980). Most members of the family are buried in Augusta’s Wall Cemetery, at 422 Riverside Drive.

The on-line search for Sereno Webster turned up yet another man with the same name: an obituary for Sereno Sewall Webster, Bowdoin Class of 1943, who died April 12, 2006, in Brunswick. The obituary says he was born in Augusta Aug. 9, 1920, graduated from Cony High School and after World War II service had a career as an engineer and surveyor. His wife, Eula Willetta (“Billy”) German, died in 1999; he was survived by a daughter Anne and a son Clifford Sewall Webster, Bowdoin Class of 1972.

A sad story: J. Albert Bolton, of Augusta, was born in 1820 and was still alive in 1892. He and his wife Priscilla (Merrill) had only two children. Their daughter “died in infancy” and their son, William A. Bolton, a Cony High School and Boston Commercial College graduate and “a young man of great promise,” died at 21.

J. Albert was the grandson of Savage Bolton, first settler on Augusta’s Bolton Hill. Charles Nash, in his Augusta history, quoted from Martha Ballard’s diary for Oct. 21, 1789: “Savage Bolton and his wife were taken with a warrant for breaking the Sabath.”

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Moving up-river to Sidney, Kingsbury profiled many farmers. Some were descendants of first settlers still occupying family homesteads, others more recent incomers. Quite a few had second occupations. Examples follow.

Frank Abbott, who was born in 1853, was the great-grandson of Joseph Abbott (1743-1833), who in 1804 came from Massachusetts and bought 1,000 acres on the Pond Road. Kingsbury did not specify whether Frank still farmed the original family land.

James H. Bean (1833 -??) combined farming with wagon-making and blacksmithing. He was probably an ancestor of the James H. Bean for whom Sidney’s elementary school, opened Sept. 6, 1957, on Middle Road, is named.

(Sidney historian Alice Hammond wrote that the Bean for whom the school is named was honored for his many contributions to education in Sidney “and is still remembered [in 1992] with love and respect.”)

Civil War veteran Thomas S. Benson moved from Augusta to Sidney in 1876 and was a farmer and deputy sheriff.

Albert Black was the grandson of a former Palermo, Maine, resident who moved to New York State in 1820. Black came back to Maine in 1863, at the age of 23. His agricultural specialty was apples, Kingsbury wrote – he grew them and bought other farmers’ and for 16 years had been making cider vinegar, 10,000 gallons in 1891.

James D. Bragg, a third-generation Sidney farmer born in 1821, and Charles H. Burgess, born in 1861, served as postmasters in two different Sidney post offices beginning in the late 1880s. Hammond wrote that Bragg served for only one month, in 1887. Burgess, whose farm Hammond located on Middle Road, was also a harness maker, Kingsbury said.

Atwood F. Jones, who moved from Mercer to Sidney in 1849 at the age of 27, was a teacher as well as a farmer until 1872, when he became “a dealer in nursery stock.”

Charles H. Lovejoy, the fourth generation of his family in Sidney, “has been messenger in the state senate since 1878.” He had also been a Sidney selectman for 12 years. (Charles’ great-grandfather, Abial Lovejoy [1731-1810], came to Sidney in 1778; see the Feb. 3, 2022, issue of The Town Line for more information on this prominent citizen.)

Stilman S. Reynolds, born in 1818, farmer and mechanic, “has worked on the river twenty years and carried the mail eight years from Sidney to Riverside” (presumably by ferry across the Kennebec).

Oliver C. Robbins (1817-1891) was a butcher and lumberman as well as a farmer. Kingsbury wrote that his widow, Mary (Weeks), and younger son Edwin were continuing the farm after Oliver’s death.

De Merrit L. Sawtelle was the third generation of his family on the same farm, previously owned by his father, Asa, and grandfather, Nathan. His specialty was “breeding and training horses.”

In addition to long family histories in Sidney and multiple occupations, many Sidney farmers had two other things in common. They were Civil War veterans; and, not surprisingly, they tended to marry neighbors and relatives, creating a town full of interrelated families.

For the most part the families were not large. Kingsbury often lists four or five children, but seldom more – with two exceptions your writer thought worthy of note.

Flint Barton (1749-1833; moved to Sidney from Massachusetts in 1773) and his wife Lydia (Crosby) Barton had 12 sons. The 10th, whom they named Anson, was born in 1799; he married Rhoda Sisson and they had 13 more Bartons.

Another man who started a large clan was Thomas Bowman, the second of that name, who moved from Massachusetts to Sidney. Kingsbury did not give dates nor mention Thomas’s wife’s name, but he said Thomas had eight sons, including a third-generation Thomas, and two daughters.

Kingsbury gave brief biographies of five male descendants, all farmers in Sidney. Grandson Isaac had farmed the land formerly his grandfather’s, where “the family burying lot is,” until he died on May 16, 1890, leaving his widow, Phebe (Richards), and oldest son, Isaac N., running the farm.

Correction to August 4 article

Benton historian Barbara Warren wrote to point out an error in the Hinds genealogy in the Aug. 4 piece on natural resources, the section on Augustine Crosby (1838-1898), who invented a gold dredge and married Asher Hinds’ daughter, Susan Ann Hinds (1837-1905).

This writer incorrectly identified Susan Hinds’ father as Asher Crosby Hinds, known as “the Parliamentarian.” Her father was actually Asher Hinds (1792- 1860), whom Warren calls “the builder” (he sponsored the building of the Benton Falls Meeting House in 1828 and in 1830 built the Benton Falls house in which Warren now lives). Warren describes him as “a prosperous farmer and merchant,” War of 1812 veteran and delegate to the Massachusetts General Court.

Susan Ann (Hinds) Crosby was Augustine Crosby’s third cousin and Parliamentarian Asher Crosby Hinds’ aunt. Her brother, another Asher Crosby Hinds, was born in 1840 and died in 1863 in the Civil War. The Parliamentarian’s father was Susan’s brother, Albert Dwelley Hinds (1835-1873).

The confusion is understandable, Warren wrote. For four generations, the Hinds family included an Asher; and Hinds and Crosbys often intermarried.

Update on the Aug. 4 update on the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta

Kennebec Journal reporter Keith Edwards wrote in the paper’s Aug. 7 edition that Augusta City Councilors voted at their Aug. 4 meeting to declare the historic Arsenal property dangerous. They gave the private owner another 90 days to “address concerns,” and authorized the city codes officer to extend the time to 150 days.

Main sources

Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, miscellaneous

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Natural resources – Part 5

From left-to-right: Gold, Pyrite and Tin Ore.

by Mary Grow

Previous articles have talked about some of the natural resources in the central Kennebec Valley, notably clay and granite. Renewables, like timber, fur-bearing and other game animals and fish, have been ignored – would an enterprising reader like to tackle one or more of those topics?

This piece will cover a varied assortment of other resources. As with those discussed before, information from local histories is scanty.

* * * * * *

Gold is unusual in Maine but not completely lacking. The Maine Geological Survey has on its website a list of streams, all but one in Franklin, Oxford or Somerset county, worth panning for gold. (The outlier is the St. Croix River, separating the United States and Canada; gold has been found in Baileyville, in Washington County.)

Locally, there might have been gold in the Albion-Benton area. One of the personal paragraphs in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history is about Augustine Crosby (1838 – 1898).

Born in Albion, son of Luther and Ethelinda Crosby and grandson of Robert and Abigail Crosby, Augustine spent 10 of his early years in Massachusetts; came back to Benton and went into lumbering; served in the Civil War (as did his father) and as of 1892 was in “the South” building sawmills.

While in Benton, Crosby married Asher Crosby Hinds’ daughter, Susan A. Hinds. And, Kingsbury wrote, “He invented a dredge for gold dredging and spent some time operating it.”

According to a Crosby family diary found online, Augustine fell ill in September 1898 and died Sept. 28. He was buried Sept. 30 in what the diarist wrote “was called Smiley burying ground.” The funeral was well attended, with 23 teams, the diarist believed, following the hearse. His wife survived him; the diarist mentioned several times her visits to and sympathy for Sue.

(See the website called Winslow Maine Crosby Diary for additional excerpts. The diarist was Elizabeth B. Hinds Crosby (1892-1912); the hand-written diary was transcribed by Clyde Spaulding, her great-grandson.)

(Asher Crosby Hinds [1863-1919] was a Benton native and Colby College graduate, Class of 1883. After newspaper work in Portland, in 1889 he got a position as clerk to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He served in clerkship positions until 1911, editing the Rules, Manual, and Digest of the House of Representatives [1899] and Hinds’ Precedents of the House of Representatives [1908]. In 1911 he was elected to the first of three terms as a Republican Representative from Maine. He died in Washington, D.C., and is buried in Portland’s Evergreen Cemetery.)

In China, Indian Island (previously Round Island or Birch Island) in the east basin of China Lake was reported – inaccurately, it appears — to have gold deposits. Several sources cite prominent Quaker Rufus Jones’ memoir of his boyhood, in which he wrote that people dug over the whole island and found only pyrite, an iron sulphide often called “fool’s gold” because it is yellowish.

One more hint of local gold is found in Milton E. Dowe’s Palermo Maine Things That I Remember in 1996. Dowe wrote: “It’s known that there was a gold mine east of the Marden Hill Road [in north central Palermo]. I have been there to the site but never heard the facts of it.”

* * * * * *

Tin, described by Wikipedia as “a soft, silvery white metal with a bluish tinge,” that does not occur as “the native element” but has to be extracted from other ores, is another resource Kingsbury mentioned.

Mixing tin with copper creates bronze, as people discovered some 3,000 years B.C. Wikipedia does not list the United States as a source of tin. But Kings­bury related a story about tin in Win­slow, Maine.

As he told it, about 1870 Charles Chipman noticed “[i]ndications of tin ore” in the rocks along a brook on J. H. Chaffee’s property. He and others, including Thomas Lang (a prominent citizen of Vassalboro) and a doctor from Boston, concluded it might be worth mining.

They organized a company and dug more than a hundred feet down, finding more tin as the shaft went lower, but not enough to cover costs, never mind make a profit. Kingsbury wrote that they gave up around 1882.

* * * * * *

One rather unusual resource is a mineral spring. Mineral springs are similar to ordinary springs, areas (often hillsides) where groundwater naturally comes to the surface because the ground slopes below the water table.

Wikipedia says a mineral spring contains dissolved minerals, especially salt, lime, lithium, iron and sulfur compounds, and sometimes harmful components like arsenic.

For generations people have believed some mineral springs are healthful. “Taking the cure” or “taking the waters” was popular, especially in 18th and 19th century Europe for upper-class Europeans and Americans. Spas have been developed around mineral springs as destinations for people seeking better health; Wikipedia’s illustrations include mineral spas in Europe, India and Iran.

Major mineral springs that have been developed in Maine include Blue Hill Mineral Spring near Blue Hill, in Hancock County, and especially Poland Spring, in Poland.

The spring in Blue Hill was “well-known” before a company was organized in 1888 to exploit its supposed healing properties, according to the Maine Memory Network. Blue Hill’s mineral water was sold nation-wide, including being available on Pullman cars on many eastern railroads. The company folded after a November 1915 fire destroyed its processing buildings.

In 2014, three former University of Maine professors wrote a short article on two mineral springs in Baxter State Park that contained potassium and sodium and served as salt licks for deer and moose.

Poland Spring, in Poland, is by far the best-known Maine spring. According to Wikipedia, the spring is on the lot where Jabez Ricker opened an inn in 1797. In 1844, Jabez’s grandson, Hiram Ricker, said drinking water from the spring had cured his chronic indigestion.

The inn was enlarged, more guests heard about the alleged properties of the water and the Rickers started bottling and selling it. The elaborate Poland Spring House opened in 1886.

There is still a hotel at the spring, Poland Spring Resort. Bottled water now sold under the Poland Spring label comes from more than one part of Maine.

Locally, there are records of mineral springs in Augusta and China.

James North wrote in his Augusta history that in 1810 there were two prominent mineral springs in the area. The Togus Mineral Spring, also called the Gunpowder Spring (North did not explain why) in Chelsea had become well-known as the enthusiasm for mineral waters spread. It was in a meadow; its water had been compared to water from a similar spring in Bowdoin.

Wikipedia adds that the name “Togus” probably came from a Native American word, worromontogus, which can be translated as “place of the mineral spring.” In 1858, a granite dealer from Rockland built the Togus Spring Hotel, with “a stable, large pool, bathing house, race track, and bowling alley.” The venture was unprofitable, and in 1866 the United States government bought the building for a veterans’ home.

According to North, a newly discovered spring in downtown Augusta, close to the Kennebec, was even more popular in 1810 than the Togus spring. He described the location by naming the owner of a nearby house that was on Water Street “opposite Laurel Street,” information that puts the mineral spring in the northern end of the business district, north of the Calumet bridge.

The mineral spring in China, according to local historian Clinton Thurlow, was northwest of South China village, on the west side of China Lake’s east basin. In one of his histories of the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington narrow-gauge railroad, Thurlow provided information on the branch line from Weeks Mills to Winslow that ran trains for a few years, beginning on July 9, 1902 (the tracks were removed about 1915, he wrote).

There was a dance pavilion in South China then, on the western edge of the village, and Thurlow wrote that the railroad would run excursions from Winslow to South China, taking passengers to the pavilion early in the evening and bringing them back to Winslow around midnight.

There was another popular place on the WW&F line to Winslow, not far north of the pavilion. Thurlow wrote: “A mineral spring between the Pavilion and Clark’s Crossing provided the occasion for many an unscheduled stop while train crews and passengers alike refreshed themselves.”

Clark’s Crossing was presumably the place where the tracks crossed the still-existing Clark Road that runs toward China Lake from what is now Route 32 North (Vassalboro Road). Your writer has found no other reference to this spring, but does not doubt its existence, because Thurlow talked with several former WW&F employees.

Update on Victor Grange

Victor Grange

Victor Grange #49, in Fairfield Center, organized in 1874, first was profiled in this series on May 13, 2021. This year’s July 14 issue of The Town Line reported that Grange members were about to have the hardwood floors downstairs refinished, probably for the first time since the building opened in 1903.

Grange Lecturer Barbara Bailey reported on July 31 that the floors are done! Grange members intended to spend the first day of August cleaning up dust from the sanding and washing windows before they rehung curtains.

Wednesday, Aug. 3, is the scheduled day to move furniture – including two pianos – back in.

Bailey invites anyone interested in this building preservation and restoration work to contact her at 453-9476 or email baileybarb196@gmail.com. The Grange email address is victorgrange49@gmail.com.

Update on the July21 update on the Kennebec Arsenal

Kennebec Arsenal

Augusta’s Kennebec Arsenal, a group of eight granite buildings dating from 1828-1838 and designated a National Historic Landmark District, has been discussed in two earlier articles in this series, in the Jan. 21, 2021, and Feb. 10, 2022, issues of The Town Line. The buildings have been privately owned since 2007; when the owner bought them from the state, he agreed to keep them in repair and maintain their historic value.

This writer’s July 21 update, citing a story by Keith Edwards of the Kennebec Journal, reported that the Augusta City Council was considering declaring the property dangerous. A declaration would let councilors have repairs made and bill the owner, or have the buildings demolished.

The council postponed a decision until its July 28 meeting, Edwards wrote. In the July 29 Kennebec Journal, he reported that after almost four hours of discussion, councilors again delayed a decision. They plan to continue the hearing at their next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 4, at 5:30 p.m.

Edwards wrote that Augusta Codes Enforcement Officer Rob Overton told council members the buildings were in deplorable condition inside and out. He estimated the cost of making them usable again at around $30 million.

The owner, accompanied by his lawyer, pointed out that he had reroofed all the buildings – Overton had exempted the roofs from his criticism – and made other repairs. He said he intends to ask for local permits to renovate five buildings by the end of August, planning to complete the work within two years.

The owner estimated the cost for that part of renovations at $1.76 million. For another $3.5 million, maximum, he said he could convert what Edwards called “the large Burleigh building” into upscale apartments.

Correction to above article

Benton historian Barbara Warren wrote to point out an error in the Hinds genealogy in the Aug. 4 piece on natural resources, the section on Augustine Crosby (1838-1898), who invented a gold dredge and married Asher Hinds’ daughter, Susan Ann Hinds (1837-1905).

This writer incorrectly identified Susan Hinds’ father as Asher Crosby Hinds, known as “the Parliamentarian.” Her father was actually Asher Hinds (1792- 1860), whom Warren calls “the builder” (he sponsored the building of the Benton Falls Meeting House in 1828 and in 1830 built the Benton Falls house in which Warren now lives). Warren describes him as “a prosperous farmer and merchant,” War of 1812 veteran and delegate to the Massachusetts General Court.

Susan Ann (Hinds) Crosby was Augustine Crosby’s third cousin and Parliamentarian Asher Crosby Hinds’ aunt. Her brother, another Asher Crosby Hinds, was born in 1840 and died in 1863 in the Civil War. The Parliamentarian’s father was Susan’s brother, Albert Dwelley Hinds (1835-1873).

The confusion is understandable, Warren wrote. For four generations, the Hinds family included an Asher; and Hinds and Crosbys often intermarried.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Thurlow, Clinton F., The WW&F Two-Footer Hail and Farewell (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Natural resources – Part 4

An 1837 wood etching of the railroad bridge crossing the Kennebec River. The bridge sat on granite pillars.

by Mary Grow

Augusta granite industry

“Augusta has been abundantly supplied…with the best of granite, easily quarried, and of convenient access,” Augusta historian James North wrote. He expressed surprise that the resource was not developed earlier; not only did the workers on the 1797 Kennebec bridge and the 1808 jail use boulders instead, but, he wrote, three gentlemen who built houses in the first decade of the 1800s brought granite for the foundations from the Boston area, “at great expense.”

One entrepreneur used Augusta granite beginning in 1825. However, North said when the State House was built in 1832 the granite came from Hallowell, in blocks “twenty-one feet long and nearly four feet square.”

In 1836, North wrote, three new granite companies were organized to develop Augusta’s deposits.

The Augusta and New York Granite Company planned to exploit the “Hamlen ledge,” about two miles out Western Avenue from the Kennebec. The Augusta and Philadelphia Granite Company focused on the “Ballard ledge,” about a mile and a half out Northern Avenue from the west end of the Kennebec bridge. The Augusta Blue Ledge Company bought “Hall’s ledge” across the river, about two and a half miles from the east end of the bridge via the North Belfast Road (today’s Routes 202 and 3).

There were also the “Thwing ledge” and the “Rowell ledge,” which North wrote were “a continuation of the Ballard ledge” that “cropped out of the neighboring hills.”

Kingsbury added later granite companies just outside Augusta, the Hallowell Granite Company (1871) and the Hallowell Granite Works (1885). Both were organized and led by Joseph Robinson Bodwell (June 18, 1818 – Dec. 15, 1887) of Hallowell, who was elected governor of Maine in 1887 and died during his first year in office.

Hallowell granite was famous for its high quality – “white, free working and soft, and can be almost as delicately chiselled as marble,” Kingsbury wrote.

In 1884, Kingsbury wrote, Joseph Archie started the Central Granite Company, in Manchester, whence came the granite for the 1891-92 “extension of the state house.”

Other central Kennebec Valley towns had deposits of granite, slate and probably other useful forms of stone, though mention in local histories is scant. Kingsbury said granite was the type of stone underlying farmland in towns as far apart as Albion and Windsor, but he did not write about quarries.

In Vassalboro, Alma Pierce Robbins wrote, the 1850 census had a summary paragraph on the town’s amenities, including pure water, timber, natural fertilizer (“swamp muck hauled into yards in summer and in one year it proves about equal to stable manure”) and “rocks, granite and slate.”

Sidney also had slate deposits that were worked, Robbins said. She quoted a source saying that in 1837, Sidney slate cost $8 a ton, versus $27 a ton for slate imported from England.

* * * * * *

Daniel Cony

Last week’s article mentioned Augusta’s first bridge across the Kennebec, built in 1797. North described the construction.

The initial project cost was $15,000, he wrote; local people contributed, but could not have started without help from Massachusetts-based landholders and others, including a man named Leonard Jarvis, “owner of lands beyond the Penobscot.”

(This Leonard Jarvis would have been too young to be the Leonard Jarvis [1781-1854] of Surry, Maine, Harvard Class of 1800, Hancock County sheriff, representative to Congress 1829-1837. However, bridge investor Jarvis might have been the Leonard Jarvis [your writer found no dates] who, with Samuel Phillips and John Read, sold the Bingham Purchase, two million acres of Maine land bought by William Bingham, of Philadelphia, in early 1793. This Leonard Jarvis was in correspondence with Daniel Cony, a prominent Augusta resident, in the 1790s.)

Captain Paul Boynton

An architect North called Captain Boynton designed the bridge. Work started on May 5, 1797, only two months after Augusta separated from Hallowell. The wooden foundation, forty feet square, supported on its timber floor the bridge pier, described as “stone walls [North said “granite” in the next sentence] nine feet thick, forming on the inside an oval or egg-shaped opening.”

This stage of construction was finished Sept. 9, 1797, and followed by a public celebration. Next, the abutments were built, also of stone, and then the superstructure. North observed that, “The granite used for the masonry was obtained from boulders, the stratified granite so abundantly quarried at the present day being them unknown.”

The whole “very graceful and elegant” bridge was finished Nov. 21, and there was another celebration, a dinner shared by the incorporators, the workmen and residents. Citing midwife Martha Ballard’s diary, North wrote that “Cannon were fired responsive to toasts given, and David Wall, James Savage and Asa Fletcher who were managing the gun were injured by some of the cartridges taking fire.”

(If your writer found the right James Savage on line, his injuries were not fatal. Born June 5, 1775, in Augusta, he married Eliza Bickford on Feb. 21, 1822, in New Hampshire; on Nov. 11, 1826, became father of a son, also named James; and died Jan. 27, 1865, in an unknown location.)

The bridge was a covered bridge, as were almost all 19th-century bridges crossing the Kennebec. In his Kennebec Yesterdays, Ernest Marriner explained that covering was “to protect the timbers from weather,” so they wouldn’t rot so fast.

North wrote that the final cost of the bridge was $27,000. The stockholders paid off the debt with income from tolls; not until eight years later did they get their first dividend.

Because the 1797 Augusta bridge was the first bridge across the Kennebec (and “the greatest enterprise of the kind yet undertaken in the District of Maine”), nearby towns on both sides of the river laid out roads to lead to it, promoting Augusta’s growth.

This bridge collapsed, noisily but without killing anyone, the afternoon of Sunday, June 23, 1816. North wrote that a ferry, pulled on a rope, ran back and forth until a new bridge opened two years later.

The new bridge, opened in August 1818, served until it burned in 1827. North, amply quoting from a source he did not list, gave one of his more dramatic descriptions.

The fire started a little after 11 p.m., Monday, April 2, he said. First seen “bursting through the roof,” soon “the flames were fanned into the wildest fury, and with a ‘tremendous roaring,’ in a dense and waving mass high above the water, spanned the river from shore to shore, capped by rolling clouds of black smoke.”

After the flammable covering over the bridge burned away, “a magnificent spectacle appeared of a bridge with a framework of fire,” each piece of the structure outlined in flames. The debris fell into the Kennebec, in two pieces, and floated downriver, still burning.

North wrote that the tollkeeper’s wife was badly burned as she tried to run away. Stores on both banks of the river were damaged; residents on the east bank, including “ladies who worked with great coolness and energy” passing buckets of water up from the river, saved two stores there.

Hallowell sent two fire engines, but “owing to the bad state of the roads” the worst was over by the time they arrived. North estimated losses at $16,000, with almost nothing insured.

Arson was first suspected, because a man had been seen “lurking around the bridge” shortly before the fire. The final consensus was the cause was accidental, “probably from a lighted cigar thrown upon the flooring.”

Reconstruction began promptly, supervised by Ephraim Ballard, Martha Ballard’s husband. North wrote that the first people on foot crossed the successor bridge on Aug. 3 and the first carriages on Aug. 18, 138 days after the fire. The 1827 bridge was still in use in 1870.

This Kennebec bridge was a toll bridge, bringing income to its owners but annoying residents. The first attempt at a free river crossing was a legislative act March 23, 1838, authorizing a group of citizens (one was named James Bridge) to build another bridge within 10 rods north of the Kennebec Bridge and to buy the Kennebec Bridge. The group failed to raise enough money.

Voters at the 1847 town meeting appointed a committee of town officials to ask the Kennebec Bridge owners about renting or buying the bridge and to get a cost estimate for free ferry service from the town landing. Talks failed, as did renewed discussion the next year, and a seasonal subscription-supported ferry “was too expensive to be long continued.”

New bridges at Gardiner and then Hallowell kept discussion going, and on April 15, 1857, the legislature approved a charter for the Augusta Free Bridge Company. It was authorized to try to buy the Kennebec Bridge and, if no agreement could be reached, to build a new bridge.

Company stockholders could use the new bridge for free; the first plan was that everyone else would pay tolls until the cost of the new bridge was recouped and a $15,000 maintenance fund built up. North summarized a great deal more discussion, with Augusta city officials getting involved. With municipal financial backing, on July 1, 1867, the bridge across the Kennebec at Augusta became a free bridge.

* * * * * *

An unusual resource found in some Kennebec Valley towns was bog ore or bog iron, a naturally occurring material that can be transformed into useable iron.

Wikipedia calls bog iron “a form of impure iron deposit that develops in bogs or swamps by the chemical or biochemical oxidation of iron.” The iron is unearthed by groundwater, oxidized in the atmosphere and carried into the swamp; “bog ores consist primarily of iron oxyhydroxides, commonly goethite (FeO(OH)).”

Conditions making iron bogs possible include “local geology, parent rock mineralogy, ground-water composition, and geochemically active microbes & plants,” Wikipedia says. Bog iron is considered a renewable resource; a bog “can be harvested about once each generation.”

Bog iron can be purified without melting it, Wikipedia says, and humans have been using it since pre-Roman times. Vikings are mentioned as major users, and the article says the presence of bog iron seems to have been one factor that influenced Vikings’ choice of settlements in North America. Bog iron was turned into iron ore at the well-known Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland.

Later European settlers developed the resource extensively in Virginia, beginning in 1608; Massachusetts, from the 1630s; and New Jersey before the Revolution – Wikipedia says New Jersey made bog-iron cannonballs for the American army.

Again, local histories are not filled with information on bog iron. Two sources, however, document two different workings in Clinton.

The earlier of the two was “at the mouth of the fifteen mile stream, on the Kennebec,” according to North. He wrote that because the 1807 embargo cut off iron imports, by 1808 Jonathan B. Cobb was making iron from bog ore at his forge there. North mentioned it in his Augusta history because Cobb advertised in the Feb. 16, 1808, Kennebec Gazette offering bar iron, mill cranks and plough and crowbar moulds.

Kingsbury wrote that sometime before 1824 a Mr. Peavy set up a forge near Carrabassett Stream, which flows into the Kennebec at Pishon’s Ferry, opposite Hinckley, in Fairfield. There he “made iron out of bog ore obtained on the spot.” The forge was closed by 1826, Kingsbury wrote, but its remains could still be seen in 1892.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).

Website, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Natural resources – Part 3

Augusta House

by Mary Grow

Three brick and granite buildings in Augusta

Attentive readers will have noted that the previous discussions of brickyards and brick-making have omitted the two cities in the central Kennebec Valley, Augusta and Waterville. Your writer deliberately saved them for last, because they have so many buildings of brick and granite as to deserve extra space.

In James North’s detailed history of Augusta, the first mention of a brickyard is in a list of businesses active in August 1792 in what was then Hallowell. There were no brickyards in the northern part of town, which after February 1797 became a separate town named Augusta.

In the southern area called the Hook, which remained Hallowell, Samuel and Phillip Norcross owned buildings, two quarter-acre house lots and “brickyard, lime kiln and earthen ware kiln.” Their total property was valued at 50 pounds, one of the town’s smaller businesses.

Samuel Norcross (Oct. 18, 1729 – Dec. 1, 1800) was the oldest of five sons of Philip and Sarah (Jackson) Norcross); his brother Phillip (1732 -?) was next oldest.

An on-line genealogy says Samuel was born in Newton, Massachusetts, where in 1752 he married Mary Wiswall. The first seven of their “at least 14” children, starting with Samuel II and Philip, were born in Massachusetts.

The family evidently came to Maine in 1762 or 1763, because the genealogy lists the seven youngest children as Mary, born in 1763 in Hallowell; Hannah, born in 1764 in Lincoln; Nathaniel, born in June 1764 in Gardiner; Sarah, born in 1766 (no place of birth listed, but in 1786 she married in Pittston); Thankful, born in 1767, in Gardiner; Susannah, born May 10, 1769, in Gardiner; and Elizabeth, born in Lincoln in 1769.

(Hannah and Elizabeth do not fit, biologically or geographically. Perhaps Hannah and Elizabeth are listed in this family in error; or perhaps Samuel kept a second family?)

The same on-line genealogy has no information about Phillip except that he remained in Newton for “about 18 years.” Another on-line source is an 1803 court record of the Kennebec Proprietors (the inheritors of British land grants who continued to claim land rights for generations) filing an action of ejectment against Phillip Norcross and others of Hallowell, in Kennebec County Supreme Judicial Court in September 1803. The Phillip Norcross born in 1732 would have been 71 by then.

North wrote that the Norcross’ house, brickyard and kilns were “at the north end of Water street” in Hallowell, “just south of the present railroad crossing.” The family also ran a nearby ferry across the Kennebec “for many years.”

There must have been other brick-making businesses in the northern part of Hallowell, because North recorded that at the first town meeting in Augusta, on March 13, 1797, voters chose among their town officials two “Inspectors of Lime and Brick,” Henry Sewall and Daniel Foster.

About 1804, North wrote, Lombardy poplars were planted on both sides of State Street from Bridge Street “to the brickyard at the southerly end of Grove street.” (Your writer found one map that identifies Grove Street as the roadway between the rotary at the west end of Kennebec Memorial Bridge and the south end of Water Street; other maps call this stretch Water Street.)

Augusta’s first brick schoolhouse went up in the spring of 1804, according to North (and to Captain Charles E. Nash, who “borrowed” North’s information for his chapters on Augusta in Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history), on the northwest side of the intersection of State and Bridge streets. It was also Augusta’s first grammar school (offering classes more advanced than primary schools); the building burned down March 16, 1807.

Readers with unusually good memories will remember that most of the commercial buildings on Water Street, in Augusta, are on the National Register of Historic Places (see the February 2021 issues of The Town Line). Some are listed individually; some are part of the Water Street Historic District. Almost all are brick; and they are not the buildings described in the following paragraphs, but their successors, built after the great fire of Sept. 17, 1865.

Merchants whom North identified as “Robinson & Crosby” built the first brick stores in 1806, two together in a block on the north corner of Market Square on the river side. In 1811, Joshua Gage, Bartholomew Nason and Benjamin Whitwell built a second block of three stores nearby.

North added that all five stores were closed temporarily in 1813, as a result of the economic slump caused by the dispute between Britain and the United States that led first to a United States embargo on trade and then to the War of 1812.

These brick store buildings had what North called “old-fashioned brick fronts,” featuring “heavy wooden door and window shutters,” hinged and locked with diagonal iron bars. By 1833, the new fashion was “granite posts and lintels.”

Seven new brick stores were added on Water Street in 1835, five at the north end and two farther south. None survived the 1865 fire.

Brick was also used, along with stone, in the Augusta jail that was built after an inmate burned down the wooden one on March 16, 1808. North wrote that prisoners were held in a very insecure temporary jail while a two-story building was built “of large blocks of rough hammered stone fastened together with iron dowels.”

This building, finished in December 1808, “was connected, by a brick ell, with a two story square brick jail house” at the intersection of State and Winthrop streets. The brick building was standing when North finished his history in 1870, but had been supplanted as a jail by a larger stone building, completed in 1859.

In 1812, owners of the newly-chartered Kennebec Bank had a brick building put up on Court Street. This building served as a bank for four years, then as a house; North wrote that it was torn down when the county courthouse was enlarged in 1851.

In 1813, Kennebec County officials, concerned about keeping paper records in the wooden county courthouse, had a brick building with “four fire proof vaults” built nearby. With brick floors, brick partitions and iron doors on the vaults, it was assumed safe; but, North wrote, when it was replaced years later, county officials were surprised to find wooden floors under the vaults, so that “the building could not have burned without consuming the contents of the vaults.”

The Augusta House on State Street, a leading hotel for many years, was built of brick and opened Jan. 31, 1831. Among its guests, according to Nash, were General Winfield Scott, who stayed about three weeks in the spring of 1839 during the Aroostook War (see The Town Line, March 17, 2022); and President Ulysses S. Grant, who visited with his family on Aug. 3, 1865, and was entertained at a state dinner at the hotel.

The Augusta House was enlarged substantially during the Civil War. On-line postcards from 1912 and 1938 show a six-story building on an above-ground granite foundation. The main door in the center of the front veranda is protected by a two-story portico supported by columns. Another on-line source says the hotel was closed and torn down in 1973.

On June 7, 1833, the Citizens’ Bank opened in its new brick building at the intersection of Oak and Water streets, in the middle of downtown. This was a three-story building, North said; the bank had the back rooms on the second floor, jeweler Benjamin Swan and dry-goods merchant G. G. Wilder shared the street floor, and the Kennebec Journal newspaper, founded in 1825, had its office on the top floor.

Another brick schoolhouse was erected in the summer of 1835 to house Augusta’s first high school. Located at the intersection of State and Bridge streets, not far from the site of the earlier brick grammar school, the building cost $7,000. North (and Nash) wrote that it was two stories high, 65-by-50-feet, with four Doric columns supporting the front pediment.

Owned by a group of corporators, the school briefly did well; but after the first head teacher moved on, it began to fail and after 1848 the building served as a public high school for the surrounding school district.

Residents must have approved of two-story brick schoolhouses, because North and Nash recorded several more built in Augusta school districts in the 1840s and 1850s, and Nash added a “large four-room” one, Cushnoc Heights Grammar School, built in 1890 at the intersection of Franklin and Oxford streets, partway up Sand Hill at the north end of the city.

The Winthrop Street Universalist Church, started with a June 19, 1867, cornerstone laying and dedicated March 5, 1868, was “built of brick laid in colored mortar,” North wrote. The building was 80-by-61-feet, with 33-foot-high walls; on the southwest corner was a 55-foot tower enclosing a 1, 500-pound bell and topped by a 135-foot (from the ground) spire.

Other brick buildings in Augusta that have not been described in earlier articles in this series and that are on the National Register of Historic Places include:

  • The Lot Morrill House on the north side of Winthrop Street at the Prospect Street intersection, built about 1830;
  • The Governor Samuel Cony House, also known as the William Payson Viles House, on the east side of Stone Street (Route 9 on the east side of the Kennebec), built in 1846;
  • The former Augusta City Hall, at 1 Cony Street, on the east bank of the Kennebec, and the north side of Bridge Street, built in 1895-96; and
  • The Governor John F. Hill Mansion, on State Street at the Green Street intersection, built in 1901.

The old city hall is now an assisted living facility. The Hill mansion is an events center welcoming area residents to rent its facilities. The Morrill and Cony houses appear to be privately owned.

* * * * * *

As previous articles (see 2021 indexes to The Town Line) have shown, another major building material was granite, used in Augusta especially for religious and public buildings, and for a minority of the commercial buildings in the Water Street Historic District.

Two major granite building complexes on the east side of the Kennebec River were the Kennebec Arsenal, built between 1828 and 1838 (see box), and the original building at what was in 1838 the Augusta Insane Hospital, plus the wing added in 1848.

Granite buildings on the west side of the Kennebec included:

  • the Kennebec County Court House, on State Street (1829);
  • the State House, on State Street (1832);
  • the Kennebec jail (1859);
  • South Parish Congregational Church, on Church Street (1865);
  • St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, on Summer Street (1886);
  • Lithgow Library, on Winthrop Street (completed in 1896); and
  • St Mary’s Catholic Church, on Western Avenue (1926).

Because of space limitations, discussion of the development of the granite industry in the Kennebec River valley will be postponed to next week.

Update on Augusta’s Kennebec Arsenal

Kennebec Arsenal

The Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta is a collection of eight granite buildings built between 1828 and 1838 and designated a National Historic Landmark District in 2000 (see the Jan. 21, 2021, and Feb. 10, 2022, issues of The Town Line). It is now privately owned.

A June 24 Kennebec Journal article by Keith Edwards said the owner has failed to maintain the buildings. City council members discussed declaring the Arsenal a dangerous site, but decided at their June 23 meeting to postpone action until July 28.

Edwards explained that if the property were declared dangerous, councilors could set a deadline for action, at minimum presentation of a repair plan. Failure to meet the deadline would let the city have the work done and bill the owner, or have the buildings demolished. If the owner didn’t pay the bill, the city could lien the property; if the lien were not paid, the buildings would eventually become the city’s.

The current owner bought the property 15 years ago, Edwards wrote, accepting an obligation to maintain its historic value. A local group has been formed named Concerned Citizens for Augusta Historical Preservation of the Kennebec Arsenal.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).

Websites, miscellaneous.

New exhibit at Vassalboro Historical Society depicts textiles

Painting signed by Hedwig Collins. Eva (Pratt) Owen, headmistress at Oak Grove School from 1918 – 1958, front and center in a light blue gown and matching hat, holding a white shawl; her husband, headmaster Robert Everett Owen, under the trees at left in a dark suit, behind a young lady in red. The woman in purple hat coming down the lawn is said to be Mrs. Owen’s sister.

by Mary Grow
Photos courtesy of Jan Clowes, VHS president

The new display at the Vassalboro Historical Society (VHS) Museum in East Vassalboro is titled “All Things Textile,” and the name is appropriate.

The most eye-catching items are women’s dresses, from the early 1800s to the 1950s, in varied materials and colors, and on one wall a large painting of young ladies in spring outfits (and two gentlemen) gathered on the lawn of the Oak Grove School.

The gentleman in black, half hidden behind a bevy of students under the trees in the left of the painting, is identified as Headmaster Robert Owen. Front and center is his wife, Headmistress Eva (Pratt) Owen, wearing a light blue gown and matching flat hat. Behind and to her left, the woman in the purple dress and hat coming toward the viewer is said to be her sister, Edith (Pratt) Brown.

By the castle, on the right side of the painting, students greet an unidentified man on horseback.

The painting is signed by Hedwig Collin. Wikipedia identifies her as a Danish artist, born May 27, 1880, and known primarily as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. She also did portraits and landscape paintings, Wikipedia says, and another on-line site includes reproductions of fashion illustrations from different decades.

Collin spent World War II in the United States, and VHS President Jan Clowes says the Oak Grove painting is dated 1940. Collin died near Copenhagen, Denmark, on April 2, 1964.

The black dress is a walking suit from 1910. The red dress is a teenager’s from 1830 and the white wedding dress Mary C. Haynes designed and wore when she married John Bussell on June 13, 1953.

On other walls are three samplers stitched by young Vassalboro residents in 1816, 1821 and 1836. Shelves and display tables and cases contain a working sewing machine from the late 1870s, children’s clothing, men’s hats and shoes and other items. Two interactive stations let visitors test their skills by working on a hooked or a braided rug.

There is also an antique quilt frame that Clowes said is being raffled off as a fund-raiser for the Society.

The Society’s website says the display was put together with help from Textile Conservation Specialist Lynne Bassett, who is from Massachusetts. Her assistance to museum volunteers included identifying fabrics and estimating ages of items in the collection; advising on proper storage; and teaching volunteers four “conservation stitches” so they can do authentic repairs.

Bassett is scheduled to continue working with Society volunteers later in July. “We take care of things, and consult experts when we need to,” Clowes said.

Elsewhere in the building, visitors can enjoy replicas of a 1950s kitchen and a much earlier Native American encampment; view local artists’ work; and admire a collection of furniture, tableware and dozens of other items once used by Vassalboro families.

The Society’s library has an invaluable collection of letters, documents, books and other sources of information on past events in the town. The website credits volunteer Russell Smith for answering reference questions.

Other volunteers mentioned are Juliana Lyon, in charge, with Clowes, of organizing accession records; Ben Gidney, Stewart Carson, Jeremy Cloutier, Dawn Cates, Simone Antworth, Judy Goodrich, Steve and Sharon (Hopkins) Farrington and David Theriault; and specifically for the textile conservation project, Goodrich, Cates, Maurine Macomber, Theriault, Terry Curtis and Holly Weidner. More volunteers are always welcome, Clowes said.

Clowes also welcomes donations of local items, although she does not know where there will be room for them. Some families who have donated larger items are storing them for the Society, Clowes said.

This dress, part of the textile display, is a two-piece wedding dress, with a long train trimmed with lace. Annie Mae Pierce wore it when she married Henry Allen Priest on Aug. 31, 1880.

The next major project is acquiring a barn. In Clowes’ vision, it has two stories; generous space on the ground level will display farm equipment and similar large items, with smaller items above. Monetary donations toward the barn project, and to maintain the present building, are appreciated; the VHS is a non-profit organization and donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

The museum is in the former East Vassalboro Schoolhouse, at 327 Main Street, on the east side of Route 32, just north of the boat landing at the China Lake outlet. In one room, the old tin ceiling is visible, and the floors show the circles of screwholes where students’ chair-and-desk combinations were attached.

The VHS website is vassalborohistoricalsociety.org. The telephone number is 923-3505; the email address is vhspresident@gmail.com; and the mailing address is P. O. Box 13, North Vassalboro ME 04962. Regular open hours are Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The summer and fall calendar includes open houses Sunday afternoons from 1 to 4 p.m., on July 24, Aug. 14 and 28, and Oct. 9 and 23.

Three special programs are scheduled for Sunday afternoons from 3 to 5 p.m.: on July 17, Sharon Hopkins Farrington, on “Rug Hooking Past & Present”; on Aug. 21, Nate Gray, on “River Herring Ecology & History”; and on Oct. 16, Suzy Griffiths, “Holman Day Film-Fest.”

In September, the museum will be open during the Vassalboro Days celebration Sept. 10 and 11. The annual meeting and potluck meal are scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, at the East Vassalboro Grange Hall.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Natural resources – Part 2

An old sawmill with a rock dam.

by Mary Grow

Rocks & clay

Last week’s article talked about some of the towns in which European settlers found naturally-occurring resources, like stones and clay. Stones were described as useful for foundations, wells and similar purposes on land; another use was for the dams that have been mentioned repeatedly.

Palermo historian Milton Dowe, in his 1954 town history, said settlers coming to the area then called Great Pond Settlement (because it was near the head of Sheepscot Great Pond) in the late1770s lived in log houses until entrepreneurs built sawmills to make boards. The prerequisite for a sawmill, he wrote, was “a dam of rock and dirt on a brook of almost any size.”

The majority of local histories describe early water-powered mills in Kennebec Valley towns, most built on streams (many of them tributaries to the Kennebec) before men had the courage to try to dam the larger river. Assuming a dam for each mill or cluster of mills, thousands of stones must have been moved.

In Vassalboro in the 1820s, according to an unnamed source quoted in Alma Pierce Robbins’ town history, there were “19 water powers,” presumably dams and presumably at least partly made of stone. Thirteen were on Outlet Stream, which flows north from China Lake through East and North Vassalboro to the Sebasticook; the other six were on Seven Mile Stream, Webber Pond’s outlet into the Kennebec.

Windsor historian Linwood Lowden described the agreement that allowed the building of an 1809 dam across the West Branch of the Sheepscot River, at Maxcy’s Mills, in Windsor. Cornelius Maguire and Joseph Linscott signed a 15-year lease allowing Joseph Bowman, from Gardiner, to dam the river and build a sawmill.

Bowman’s lease included land on each bank to anchor the dam, and “the right to as much gravel, dirt, timber or stones” as he needed, except he could not cut pine or oak. Other Windsor streams also had mills; the remains of some of the mill dams were visible in 1993, Lowden wrote.

Robbins and Dowe mentioned another use for stone: building bridges. Robbins found that an 1831 town meeting voted to build a stone bridge “near Jacob Southwick’s plaster mill.” In 1841, Dowe wrote, Palermo town meeting voters appointed a three-man committee to oversee construction of a 640-foot-long bridge “of stone covered with earth,” a four-year project.

Stone has multiple meanings, and historians seldom specify what size, shape or material they’re talking about. Stones interrupting plowing are not the same as the stone in Thomas Saban’s Palermo quarry “near the head of Sheepscot Lake” that Dowe described.

Dowe wrote: “Here the stone was found in layers of various thicknesses all standing on edge from the upheaval of the earth centuries ago. To obtain any size wanted the stone was drilled and wedged.” The two specific uses he cited were steps and well covers.

(Wikipedia provides engineering information on wedging. The process could work several ways. If the stone had natural cracks, steel wedges were hammered into the cracks to split the stone into desired sizes. If there were no cracks, the quarryman made some. He drilled a row of holes, into which he inserted conical wedges called plugs and flat wedges called feathers and hammered them; or, one source says, he put wooden plugs with the feathers and wetted the plugs so that they expanded and broke the stone.)

* * * * * *

Bricks, their production and uses, were the focus of last week’s article, and, as usual, your writer found more than a page’s worth of information, so this week’s installment will continue the topic.

Robbins tossed off a comment in her Vassalboro history, in a section on early settlers: “Bricks were a great business, developed almost as soon as the sawmills according to most histories of Maine. (The town records confirm this statement.)”

There were several brickyards in Palermo, Dowe said. One, not long after 1800, was on the Marden brothers’ property (presumably in the Marden Hill area, east of Branch Pond); they sold their bricks to neighbors for “chimneys; fireplaces and brick ovens.” A mixture of ashes and clay made mortar, Dowe added.

Another 19th-century brickyard was “in the meadow… where clay was very plentiful” on the Sumner Leeman farm near Greeley Corner, the intersection of what is now Route 3 with Turner Ridge Road, east of the head of Sheepscot Lake.

Sidney had at least one brickyard in 1780. The quotation from Robbins’ Vassalboro history about the importance of brickmaking was in reference to a proposed road on the west side of the Kennebec River (in what became the separate town of Sidney in 1792) that was to follow a way already in use “on the east side of the Brick Kiln at Dudley Does.”

Kingsbury in his Kennebec County history and Alice Hammond in her Sidney history agreed Sidney had many clay deposits. As Kingsbury put it, “wherever bricks were wanted for one or more buildings in times past, when wood for burning them was always at hand, they were made in that locality.” Kingsbury said one yard (perhaps Doe’s) was producing “excellent brick” before 1800.

Hammond mentioned two houses on Middle Road made of brick, reportedly from a nearby brickyard by a brook, and three early River Road farms with brickyards. Perhaps citing Kingsbury, she wrote that in 1860 Nathaniel Chase’s bricks from the Bailey farm (one early Bailey farm was Paul and Betsy’s, on River Road across the Kennebec from Riverside in Vassalboro) “were transported by flat boat to the Augusta market.”

In Vassalboro, Robbins wrote that the Farwell family, Isaac (1704 – 1795) and his son Ebenezer, acquired large tracts in the southern part of town in the 1760s. Their holdings included land around Seven Mile Stream, where they built early mills, and extended south; Isaac built for Ebenezer the large house with white columns called Seven Oaks, still standing on the east (river) side of Riverside Drive (Route 201) near the Augusta line.

Robbins wrote that Isaac’s first house was near a brook – probably Seven Mile Stream – on which he built “a grist mill, saw mill and brick kilns.”

(Another prominent family in southeastern Vassalboro were the Browns, Benjamin and his son Benjamin, Jr. Robbins did considerable research to record their contributions to the town and the area. Riverview, their 1796 one-and-a-half-story Cape house on Riverside Drive, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2001.

(Robbins wrote that when Benjamin Brown needed bricks for fireplaces in his “large and quite handsome tavern” that he built sometime before he became postmaster in 1817, he imported them from England. Were the Farwell kilns closed by then? Quite likely; or perhaps the Farwell bricks were not to Brown’s taste.)

And here is another question Robbins raised: did “John DeGrucia, brickmaker,” make bricks in Vassalboro in the 1770s? She wrote that in 1769, DeGrucia “gave bond for forty pounds to Samuel Howard, mariner, for land on the east side of the river on Lot No. 80”; she didn’t mention him again. (Lot 80 is one tier inland from the Kennebec River and about half-way toward Vassalboro’s north boundary.)

In 1806, Robbins found, town meeting voters elected a “Surveyor of Bricks,” apparently for the first time.

When John D. Lang started his first woolen mill, in North Vassalboro, in 1850, Kingsbury wrote that he bought and moved a tannery building. Then he had a brick kiln built on the site, “and after the brick were burned the walls of the mill were built around it.” The mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Oct. 5, 2020.

Your writer was unable to find information about Windsor brick production in available sources. Kingsbury made one reference: Thomas Le Ballister, from Bristol, acquired 300 acres in southeastern Windsor and built a log cabin around 1793. When he upgraded to a frame house about 1803, “The chimney was laid with the first bricks manufactured in Windsor.”

In Winslow, Kingsbury listed eight or nine places with “good clay for making brick,” identifying their locations by their pre-1892 owners. A major operation started in 1873 was by 1892 Horace Purinton & Co., with a workforce of 15 and an annual production of 1.5 million bricks.

Kingsbury also described a series of mills built by men named Runnals, Norcross and Hayden on a stream he did not name (identifying it by the mills still operating in 1892). Other sources’ information on the family names suggest it might be Chaffee Brook, which runs into the Kennebec in southern Winslow.

Hayden’s mill dam backed up the stream to make Hayden Mill Pond, and Kingsbury wrote that on one side of the pond was a bed of clay good enough to make pottery. William Hussey, a skilled potter, and Ambrose Bruce started a pottery factory in the late 1820s.

Kingsbury wrote that Hussey’s earthenware was popular – “Most of the milk pans then in use by the housewives in this section were his handiwork.” Unfortunately, according to Kingsbury, Hussey was “[t]oo fond of convivial enjoyments” and drank up so much of the proceeds that the pottery went out of business.

William Hussey is listed in Lura Woodside Watkins’ Early New England Potters and Their Wares, originally published in 1950.

Winslow buildings using brick that Kingsbury mentioned included a century-old house standing in 1892, made of brick from an adjacent yard “near the river two miles above Ticonic falls”; and an early tavern “in a house with a brick front” south of the junction of the Sebasticook River. The Hollingsworth and Whitney mill building, under construction as Kingsbury finished his history, required 2,500,000 bricks, he said.

Winslow’s brick schoolhouse on Cushman Road, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was described in the Jan. 28, 2021, issue of The Town Line. Two other brick school buildings in Winslow were mentioned in the Oct. 28, 2021 issue.

Update on Fairfield Center’s Victor Grange

Members of Victor Grange #49, in Fairfield Center, organized Oct. 29, 1874, continue to make progress on rehabbing their Grange Hall, which dates from 1903 (see the May 13, 2021, issue of The Town Line). The Grange’s July newsletter reports the building is insulated and as of mid-June has a ventilation system.

The next ambitious project is to have the ground-level hardwood floors professionally refinished, Grange Lecturer Barbara Bailey believes for the first time ever. Grange members need volunteers to help move the furniture from the building to a storage trailer on July 24, beginning about 11 a.m., and will need them again to move everything back about two weeks later. They offer hot dogs and hamburgers to the July 24 crew.

Funds have been donated; Timmy’s Trailers, aka C and J Trailer Repair and Towing, of Fairfield, has loaned the trailer; and Pro Movers, of Waterville, will move out, store and return two pianos.

As a fundraising effort, Grangers are selling more than six dozen 1880s chairs from the organization’s early days, at $10 apiece.

The newsletter writers expressed their appreciation to community members who support the Grange and included the weekly and monthly schedule of ongoing public events. People listed as sources of information about Grange activities are Rita, 453-2945; Roger or Wanda, 453-7193; Marilyn, 453-6937; Deb, 453-4844; Barb, 453-9476; Rick or Lurline, 453-2082; Janice, 453-2266; Steve, 347-254-8556; Anastasia, 835-1930; Tina, 649-5396; and Sherry, 238-0334. The email address is Victorgrange49@gmail.com

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
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).

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Natural resources – Part 1

Brick making operation in Brewer.

by Mary Grow

As the preceding articles have at least partly shown, pre-European inhabitants of the Kennebec Valley lived off the land, using natural resources to provide food, shelter, clothing, transport, decoration and other necessities and frivolities.

The first Europeans, arriving in small (by our standards) ships, had no choice but to imitate the Native Americans. They got food by hunting and fishing, built wooden shelters and grew crops suited to local conditions. However, they quickly branched out in two directions, monetizing many natural resources and adding imported and manufactured items.

Monetizing applied to wild animals, notably the sale of beaver and other furs to European traders; to fish, especially migratory species, a trade being revived in the 21st century; to forests, as land was cleared not only for houses and farms but for a lumber industry that covered much of Maine and continues today; and even to the ice that formed in the Kennebec River every winter and was exported globally (see the article on lumber driving and ice harvesting on the Kennebec in the May 14, 2020, issue of The Town Line).

The Kennebec Valley offered other natural resources that Europeans developed. Linwood Lowden, in his history of Windsor, mentions one of the most common: rocks.

After a would-be farmer in the Kennebec Valley cut down trees, hauled away the wood and dug out the stumps, he was usually left with a field full of rocks. Nuisances, yes, but, Lowden points out, useful: big ones were “drilled, split and removed to be used as foundation stones.” Smaller ones lined cellars and wells or made stone walls as field or property boundaries.

Some, Lowden wrote, were immoveable: the farmer and his friends would dig a hole and bury such problem stones. Smaller ones that continued to surface as the fields were plowed went to the “stone dump,” the otherwise unused area in some corner on every farm.

* * * * * *

The invaluable USM Digital Commons on line includes Mining in Maine: Past, Present, and Future, published in 1990 by Carolyn A. Lepage and others. This source considers granite, limestone, slate, feldspar and iron among Maine’s commercially important minerals.

In 1836, the Maine legislature hired a Bostonian named Charles Jackson to survey the state’s mineral resources. Lepage wrote that he inspected mostly coastal areas and “major river and overland routes.” From this sample, he concluded Maine minerals were worth developing.

By 1836, Lepage wrote, Maine was already an international granite exporter. Hallowell was one of five granite centers (plus Biddeford, Blue Hill, Penobscot Bay and Washington County).

The rest of the 19th century featured continued exploitation of resources, especially along the coast, and a brief period of excitement about gold, silver and other metals after the Civil War (with no indication that the Kennebec Valley was involved). Granite remained important; in 1901, Lepage wrote, the value of granite produced in Maine exceeded that from any other state. Maine’s granite industry slowly declined in the 20th century, especially during and after the Great Depression of 1929-1939.

A Maine Geological Survey website emphasizes slate, used especially for roofing tiles, as another important mineral. This site mentions the “Central Maine Slate Belt” that runs from the Waterville area more than 70 miles northeast to Brownville Junction.

* * * * * *

Another natural resource common enough to be mentioned in many town histories is clay.

Clay, Wikipedia says, is a fine-grained soil that contains clay minerals. Clay minerals, according to the same source, are “hydrous aluminium phyllosilicate minerals, composed of aluminium and silicon ions bonded into tiny, thin plates by interconnecting oxygen and hydroxide ions.”

These minerals are plastic – they stick together and are flexible – when they’re wet, but become rigid when they dry. The material can thus be made into many things, from bricks for walls to dishes for the people inside the walls to eat from.

Wikipedia provides more scientific information, including noting that clay is commonly found where water bodies, like glacial lakes, let the soil settle to the bottom. Since much of Maine was once under a glacier, the prevalence of clay is to be expected.

An on-line source says Maine clay is not particularly suitable for ceramics, but is excellent for brick-making. Residents exploited clay deposits for building materials, for houses and for larger structures like mills and public buildings.

The all-brick Besse Building, in Albion.

In Albion, Ruby Crosby Wiggin’s history described a brickyard on the shore of Fifteen-Mile Stream, across from the Crosby sawmill (built in 1810 and operated into the 1880s). When George Crosby built the Crosby mansion in 1886 (see the June 11, 2020, issue of The Town Line for more on the stream and the Crosbys), he used bricks from the brickyard.

Wiggin listed specific uses: three chimneys, “a large brick oven and water heater in the kitchen,” “a large tank in the cellar which was used for the liming of eggs” and brick paving for the section of the cellar floor used to store potatoes. (Storing fresh eggs in a mixture of water and lime in a cool place was one of several ways to keep them edible before refrigeration.)

The front wall of the wooden ell added to the mansion in 1832 had a brick facing, Wiggin wrote. After part of it collapsed into the driveway some 50 years later, the remaining bricks were replaced with clapboards.

Wiggin mentioned another brickyard at Puddle Dock, in southern Albion, and yet another “along the clay flat beside Alder brook.” From the later, allegedly, came bricks used to build a brick schoolhouse.

This building was the town’s District 4 schoolhouse, shown on the 1856 Kennebec County map on the north side of what is now Route 202, opposite the north end of Quaker Hill Road. Wiggin quoted Henry Taylor’s memory of his father’s description of the building as “a brick schoolhouse with a wooden clock on the outside denoting the time, quarter to nine.”

No one seemed to know what significance, if any, that particular time held. A new District 4 schoolhouse off Quaker Hill Road was built around 1858, Wiggin wrote. She did not say whether any others of Albion’s 20 or so school buildings were brick, nor did she list owners of any of the brickyards.

The 1913 brick Besse building was originally Albion’s high school and now houses its town office (it is briefly mentioned in the Sept. 30, 2021, issue of The Town Line).

In China, various sources say there were at least three brickyards, along the north end of the east basin of China Lake; there might have been seven in the town, according to the bicentennial history.

The history describes how clay was turned into bricks. It was “shoveled into a circular pond; water was added; and the mixture was stirred with a long sweep propelled by a horse walking around the pond.” The resulting goop was put into a “hand-operated moulding machine” that could make six bricks simultaneously. The bricks were sun-dried and then kiln-baked.

Captain Nathaniel Spratt started his brickyard on the stream then called Wiggin Brook, which runs into the west side of China Lake’s east basin a short distance south of China Village, in the 1820s or early 1830s, according to Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history. He ran it for 25 years; the bicentennial history says that in October 1834 he advertised in the China Village newspaper, the Orb, that he had 230,000 bricks for sale. Later owners were Samuel Benson and Zalmuna Washburn. The brickyard went out of business in 1865.

(The bicentennial history explains that two early Wiggin Brooks were named for the Wiggin [or Wiggins] family of early settlers, which included two Nathaniels, father and son, one of whom fathered 25 children. The west-side Wiggin Brook, later Broad’s Brook, flows under Neck Road; Kingsbury associates “Hollis Broad’s widow” with the Spratt brickyard. The other Wiggin Brook, now commonly Meadow Brook [or Hunter Brook or Starkey Brook] is larger and flows into the east side of the muldoon [swamp] at the head of the lake.)

There are numerous handsome brick houses along Neck Road, including one just north of the former Wiggin/Broad’s Brook.

On the east side of the head of the lake, the bicentennial history says Abraham Talbot, a former slave, operated a brickyard. The town comprehensive plan dates it tentatively to the 1790s (see the June 23, 2022, issue of The Town Line for more information on the Talbot family).

Neither Kingsbury nor the bicentennial history gives a name or location for a third brickyard.

One significant brick building in China Village was the double store on the west side of the south end of Main Street, facing east down Causeway Street toward the end of the lake. Built around 1825 by two residents, Alfred Marshall (the northern two-thirds) and Benjamin Libby (the southern third), it housed various stores and intermittently the local Masonic chapter, with the two sections changing ownership separately.

The Masons briefly owned the whole building in 1866, but they promptly sold the north section. In 1919 they reacquired that part; the entire building was the China Village Masonic Hall until 2006, when the organization finished building a new hall on the east side of Main Street and had the old building demolished.

The Fairfield Historical Society’s 1988 bicentennial history says nothing about brickyards, but it and other sources describe many significant buildings made of brick.

One of the earliest was William and Abigail (Chase) Kendall’s house, built in the 1790s at the intersection of Lawrence Avenue and Newhall Street, a block west of the downtown area that was for years called Kendall’s Mills. The history says the building later housed Bunker’s Seminary, founded about 1857 (see the Oct. 21, 2021, issue of “The Town Line); it served “as a Masonic Lodge and as a boarding house” before it was demolished in the 1890s.

An on-line history says that “The United Boxboard and Paper Company, a three story brick mill complex, was established in 1882 at the northern tip of Mill Island.” (Mill Island is the largest and westernmost of the islands in the Kennebec between Fairfield and Benton.)

This mill provided pulp for paper-making at “the company’s other paper mill at Benton Falls and the Hollingsworth and Whitney Company (later Scott Paper) in Winslow.” The northern end of the island is now the town-owned Mill Island Park, designed by Waterville dentist Steve Kierstead, with walking trails built by the town public works crew and remains of the mill foundations visible here and there.

On Aug. 21, 1883, the bicentennial history says, some of wooden commercial buildings on Main Street burned down. The writers surmise that the fire probably “stimulated the building of the first of the brick blocks” on the street.

The most elaborate downtown brick building is the former Gerald Hotel, opened on June 4, 1900. Designed by Lewiston architect William R. Miller (1866-1929) for Fairfield business magnate Amos Gerald (1841-1913), it is described as “a striking Renaissance Revival structure, with a sophistication of design and decoration not normally found in rural Maine.” The building served as a hotel until 1937, according to the history, and was considered “the most elegant, if not the largest” in New England.

After 1937 the building was for many years home to Northern Mattress and Furniture Company. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2013.

The original Lawrence High School, on High Street, opened in September 1907, is yet another significant brick building in Fairfield (see the Oct. 7, 2021, issue of The Town Line). It is now Fairfield Primary School.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988.)
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Lepage, Carolyn A., Michael E. Foley and Woodrow B. Thompson, Mining in Maine: Past, Present, and Future (1990) found on line.
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Native Americans – Conclusion

The Kennebec tribe, also known as Norridgewock and Kennebis, was an early Abenaki band who lived in the Kennebec Valley of Maine. Their name comes from the Kennebec River, which was named after the bay it emptied into — kinipek meaning “bay” in the Abenaki language.

by Mary Grow

No historian your writer has found says how many Native Americans lived in the Kennebec River Valley before the Europeans arrived. The Maine Historic Preservation Commission has a document on its website estimating 25,000. Another on-line estimate for Maine and Maritime Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) says 32,000.

Diseases brought by Europeans in the 1600s reduced the number by at least 70 percent and perhaps by as much as 90 percent. If 25,000 is accurate, a 90 percent reduction would have left only about 2,500 Native Americans in all of Maine.

A later figure comes from Old Fort Western Director Linda Novak’s bicentennial lecture. She said that by 1726, about 40 members of the Kennebec tribe were among an estimated “289 warriors remaining along the Kennebec.”

Beginning early in the 1600s, Europeans extended their clearings and buildings along the river from the coast to, eventually, Moosehead Lake. Because the settlers were moving into land already occupied by Native Americans, and because in general they had no respect for the earlier inhabitants, their advance was intermittently resisted by force. During the series of wars between 1675 and 1763, frontier settlements were repeatedly attacked and wiped out. In intervals of peace, the settlements would be reclaimed and new ones started, always farther up-river.

The story of this European conquest is told by European historians, writing from Samuel de Champlain in the 1600s to the present day. Their histories abound with stories of “savages” behaving savagely, torturing and killing men, women, children and domestic animals indiscriminately.

Nonetheless, most of the historians this writer has read expressed some sympathy for Native Americans. Many, while deploring attacks on European settlers, implied or said that the Europeans started it. The Native Americans were initially friendly, but European arrogance, indifference to indigenous values and occasional acts of violence turned them against the newcomers.

One example widely cited is a story from 1675. British sailors encountered a woman and child in a canoe on the Saco River and deliberately tipped over the canoe, to see whether it was true that Native American children were natural swimmers. The boy drowned; the father, a chief named Squando, not unsurprisingly retaliated against the British.

(In February of this year, the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation gave the Biddeford Culture and Heritage Center [BCHC] a $40,000 grant to help put up a statue of Squando. Peter Scontras, chairman of the BCHC’s Indigenous Peoples Awareness Initiative, said in an email that the statue “acknowledges the correct relationship between Indigenous people and English colonists.”

Total cost is estimated at $150,000. The BCHC is seeking additional funding and an appropriate site in the Biddeford-Saco area. Scontras described preliminary design plans, which he hopes will be final later this summer.

The Portland Press Herald’s and other local newspapers’ February 2022 stories about the statue were picked up by U.S. News and World Report and by The Navajo Times, published in Window Rock, Arizona.)

William D. Williamson, completing his history of Maine in 1832, talked a lot about relations with Native Americans in the first 13 chapters, covering the years from 1691 to 1763.

By 1703, he wrote, the Native Americans realized that the newcomers were overpowering them. “Every hope of enjoying their native land, freed of white men, was full of despondency.”

But his sympathy was definitely mixed. A few lines later, he wrote of the Native Americans, “They made no advancements in mental culture, moral sense, honest industry, or manly enterprize.” Blaming French influence, he referred to depravity, breach of treaties and “a keener appetite…for ardent spirits, for rapine, and for blood.”

Summarizing the situation around 1750, Williamson wrote about the “best and bravest of [British] men” who had died in the wars that had “nearly exterminated” the “savage tribes.” He described the settlers as resolute patriots who, after peace was (temporarily) agreed, “cheerfully returned to their habitations,” beginning a period of piety, harmony and union.

The French, continuing their rivalry with Britain, quickly stirred up more trouble for Maine settlers, and Williamson’s next chapters talked about “barbarians” and their “depredations,” including taking settlers prisoner and killing them.

While lamenting Europeans’ sufferings, Williamson added that 1756 was not a happy year for the Native Americans, either. Describing Maine tribes generally, presumably including the Kennebecs, he referred to their “state of despondency. The French neglected them, and they were wasted by the war, and more by the smallpox, which was destructive among them, as it was in the American camp.”

As British settlement expanded after the 1759 defeat of the French, Williamson implied that the Massachusetts government developed a sense of responsibility for the Native Americans, without considering whether it was welcomed. A new governor, Francis Bernard, was installed in 1760, and Williamson wrote that one of his ideas was to make Fort Halifax one of two “truck houses” to monopolize trade (the other was at Fort Pownal in what is now Stockton Springs, at the mouth of the Penobscot).

Each trading center would have 25 or 30 soldiers, “two chaplains and armorers.” The centers would supply everything the tribes needed, and Bernard expected “favor, presents, and honorable traffic” would win their permanent friendship.

The result Williamson described does not sound friendly. Before the year ended, he wrote, Governor Bernard proposed changing “the laws concerning the Indians” to prevent them from contracting such large debts that they could repay them only by selling themselves or their children; and further, when a Native American violated British rules, to replace fines, “which they can seldom pay” with “corporeal punishment.”

In 1919 Louis Clinton Hatch published a history of Maine that included a chapter on Native Americans, mostly spent delineating the different tribal groups. He gave wars with settlers relatively little attention, preferring to emphasize wars with the Iroquois tribes to the west.

“There is a sentimental tendency to bewail the hard fate of the Indian and to blame the English for exterminating his race,” Hatch wrote. But, he continued, the Abenakis were relocated, not exterminated; and had it not been for the French influence, they would have remained friends with the British, for protection against other tribes and for European goods.

Hatch went on to describe the Maine Native Americans’ way of life, emphasizing how much hard work it required. “The ‘lazy Indian’ is a figment of the white man’s prejudice,” he wrote.

More than 50 years later, Vassalboro local historian Alma Pierce Robbins expressed sympathy for the Kennebecs. In her 1971 bicentennial history, Robbins cited numerous earlier sources on local Native Americans as she summarized the roles of the British and French in stirring animosity in Maine.

One of her sources described the Kennebecs as “sincere and faithful devotees of the Catholic Church.”

Another of her chosen quotations, from Thomas Hutchinson’s 1764 History of Massachusetts, is from a 1688 letter from “Randolph” to William Penn: “These barbarous people, the Indians, were never civilly treated by the late Government, who made it their business to encroach upon their lands, and by degrees to drive them out of it all.”

(The quotation is also found on line on page 574 of Massachusetts clergyman Cotton Mather’s 1702 Magnalia Christi Americana [The Glorious Works of Christ in America], attributed to “our late secretary Randolph.” Edward Randolph held the title of secretary in the Massachusetts colonial administration in the 1680s; Wikipedia says he died in April 1703, but perhaps Mather’s “late” meant only that he was no longer secretary.)

Robbins stated her own view: “There is no doubt that Vassalborough was homeland for Indian tribes from earliest times and they struggled to hold it until they were nearly destroyed. Who can blame them; they knew it for the beautiful land it is.”

Early chapters in the history of Maine edited by Richard W. Judd and others and published in 1995 include Native Americans’ perspectives. Harald E. L. Prins wrote about Europeans dividing tribes against each other and introducing devastating diseases. By the 1670s, he said, tribes in the northeast, including Maine, were tired of British clearing forests, providing liquor and especially allowing their free-roaming cattle to destroy Native American agricultural fields.

David L. Ghere gave a more detailed indictment of British actions, as when he accused British interpreters of deliberately mis-explaining Dummer’s Treaty, signed in July 1727 with Maine and Canadian Wabanaki leaders.

One example: “Wabanaki submission to English rule, for instance, was translated simply as a salute to the Massachusetts governor. Since the governor responded by saluting the Wabanaki leaders, the Indians assumed this indicated equal status and not subjugation.”

After 1727, Ghere wrote, Kennebec Valley Native Americans lost their leading role in wars against the Europeans, as they consolidated farther up the river. In the fighting between 1744 and 1763, Wabanakis from Canada attacked settlers along the Kennebec. Some Kennebecs joined them; other tribal members warned the British of pending attacks.

The building of Forts Halifax and Western in 1754 created “an untenable situation” for the Kennebecs, Ghere wrote, “which resulted in a gradual disintegration of the tribe.” Families deserted the valley to join other bands in Canada or elsewhere in Maine.

After the 1760s, the Kennebecs as a group almost entirely disappear from European historical records. One exception is in Kingsbury’s history, which mentions a French priest named Juniper Berthune who held Catholic services “among the Indians” after the Revolutionary War at a “mass house” on the Sebasticook.

Individual Native Americans associated with the Kennebec Valley get occasional notice, like Natanis, probably a Norridgewock, and Sabatis, perhaps a Passamaquoddy, who were among local guides for General Benedict Arnold’s 1775 expedition to attack Québec.

* * * * * *

Last week’s article ended with the explanation of the heart shape carved into a boulder on the shore of China Lake. In Rufus Jones’ The Romance of the Indian Heart, the carving was attributed to a Kennebec chief named Keriberba, who settled his small band on the west shore of the lake’s east basin after the British destroyed the French mission and Indian settlement at Norridgewock in 1724.

Jones wrote that after the group’s sacred symbol was restored, they lived in peace for a few more years. The British fort at Ticonic, built in 1754, cut off their annual trips back to Norridgewock to raise corn in the cleared fields, but they could still hunt and fish.

Then one day “when Keriberba was now an old chief of seventy-five years,” they saw settlers felling trees on the east shore, in an area where they habitually fished in a brook that ran – and still runs – into the lake. Not long afterward, another family started clearing just north of their village, “and they saw a cow where they had usually looked for deer or for bear.”

According to the China bicentennial history, these settlers were members of the Clark family, from Nantucket via Gardiner, Maine. In Gardiner the Clarks met surveyor John “Black” Jones, who had surveyed around China Lake in 1773; they came to claim lots in the spring and summer of 1774.

The Kennebecs met with the settlers and, despite no common language, enjoyed their popcorn and molasses candy, Jones wrote. But they doubted coexistence was possible.

On Keriberba’s advice, they joined other Abenakis who had migrated to Passamaquoddy Bay.

Jones concluded his story by writing that Quakers from China and Vassalboro used to visit the Passamaquoddies; “one wonders whether any of them then remembered that they too had sprung from the shore of the same lake as their visitors.”

Jones never claimed his story was all true, calling it part history and part imagination; and the China bicentennial history says the explanation of the carved heart in the granite boulder falls into the imagination category. But if the right part is true, this small band from China Lake may have been the last organized group of Kennebecs to leave the central Kennebec Valley.

Main sources

Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Hatch, Louis Clinton, ed., Maine: A History 1919 ((facsimile, 1974).
Judd, Richard W., Churchill, Edwin A. and Eastman, Joel W., edd., Maine The Pine Tree State from Prehistory to the Present (1995).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Maine Writers Research Club, Maine Indians in History and Legends (1952).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Williamson, William D., The History of the State of Maine from its First Discovery, A.D. 1602, to the Separation, A.D. 1820, Inclusive (1832).

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Native Americans – Part 4

Early drawing – An Indian Campsite At The “Rips” On Cobbossee Stream, Maine, Circa 1750.

by Mary Grow

East side of and away from the Kennebec

Last week’s article talked about Native American sites along the Kennebec River between Fairfield and Sidney on the west bank, but the east bank between Ticonic (Winslow) and Cushnoc (Augusta) was skipped for lack of space. This week’s article will remedy the omission by talking about Vassalboro and about sites inland on the east side of the river (as was done for the west side last week).

Vassalboro either was popular with the Kennebec tribe or has been more thoroughly explored than other areas (or both), because various histories mention several areas connected with Native Americans, including at least one Native American burial ground on the Kennebec.

Alma Pierce Robbins, in her Vassalboro history, quoted a historian of the Catholic Church in Maine who claimed Mount Tom was an “Indian Cemetery.” Mount Tom is now in the Annie Sturgis Sanctuary a little north of Riverside, on the section of old Route 201 between the present highway and the river named Cushnoc Road.

Charles E. Nash, in the chapter on Native Americans in Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, reported a large burial ground north of the mouth of Seven Mile Stream (or Brook), which runs from the southwest corner of Webber Pond to join the Kennebec at Riverside.

Kingsbury himself, in his chapter on Vassalboro, suggested that Robbins’ source and Nash were talking about the same site. Kingsbury wrote that the burial ground was the south side of Mount Tom, “sloping to the brook, on the Sturgis farm.” Artifacts and bones were still “plentiful” there in 1892, he said.

Nash wrote that the Native American name for Seven Mile Brook was Magorgoomagoosuck. James North, in his history of Augusta, spelled it Magorgomagarick.

The pestle was used against the mortar for crushing and grinding and were commonly used for meal preparations such as reducing grain and corn into wheat and meal. Mortar and pestles would have also been used in the preparing of medicine as well as the manufacturing of paint.

An undated on-line copy of a University of Michigan document titled Antiquities of the New England Indians includes descriptions and photographs of a variety of artifacts, including knives, axes and mortars and pestles. The writer explained that mortars and pestles, either wooden or stone, were essential for crushing dried corn kernels.

One pestle that the writer particularly admired came from Vassalboro, and when the description was written it was owned by Kennebec Historical Society. It is now in the Maine State Museum, according to KHS archivist Emily Schroeder.

The pestle is described as 28.5 inches long, made of green slate, topped with a small human head. The illustration shows an almost round head, with oval eyes, a nose indicated by two straight lines with a connecting line at the bottom and a pursed mouth. The writer said the lower half of the pestle was found near Seven Mile Brook; the upper half was found a few miles away four years later, and “The two pieces fitted perfectly together.”

The pestle was broken intentionally, the writer asserted. He wondered whether the destruction of what could be seen as an idol was related to the nearby seventeenth-century Catholic mission.

There are also references to a Native American site farther north along the river, on the section of old Route 201 called Dunham Road.

Robbins wrote that many artifacts had been found on the shores of Webber Pond – so many, she said, that cottages built around 1900 used them as trim around fireplaces.

The major Native American site in Vassalboro located and partly investigated to date was at the outlet of China Lake in East Vassalboro, partly on property on the east side of the foot of the lake and the east bank of Outlet Stream owned for generations by the Cates family. The Vassalboro Historical Society museum in the former East Vassalboro schoolhouse has a room dedicated to information about and artifacts from the site.

According to the exhibit, the area was occupied at least sporadically from 10,000 years ago until Europeans displaced the Native Americans. Different types of tools, weapons and houses are displayed or illustrated and explained. Alewives were harvested at the China Lake outlet 5,000 years ago.

Correspondence on exhibit shows that the Maine Historic Preservation Commission listed the Cates farm site as a protected archaeological site on the Maine Register of Historic Places in the fall of 1989, as requested by George Cates.

The part of China Lake that is in the Town of China was also frequented by Native Americans. The town’s comprehensive plan says the Maine Historic Preservation Commission has found prehistoric sites on two islands in the lake, Indian Island in the east basin and Bradley Island in the west basin (plus one at the north end of Three Mile Pond, and an accompanying map shows a fourth site on Dutton Road). Commission staff think it “highly likely” that there are other sites in town, especially along waterways.

According to the China bicentennial history, the lake was part of one of the Native Americans’ routes inland from the coast in the fall. After final seafood feasts, people would paddle up the Sheepscot to a place about two and a half miles south of China Lake, portage to the south end of the lake and paddle northwest to the outlet in Vassalboro. From there Outlet Stream carried them to the Sebasticook and then to the Kennebec at Ticonic.

The Kennebecs left behind on the west shore of the southern part of the lake’s east basin a heart shape carved into a boulder. World-famous Quaker Rufus Jones, of China, told a story about this carving several times, including as a chapter in Maine Indians in History and Legends.

Jones began by warning readers that his version of The Romance of the Indian Heart is part history and part imagination. He refused to say which was which.

The legend features a Kennebec brave named Keriberba, son of Chief Bomazeen (or Bomaseen, mentioned in the June 9 article in this series), from Norridgewock, and his wife Nemaha, from Pemaquid, whom he met at one of the annual seafood feasts at Damariscotta.

Coming home from the coast, Keriberba, Nemaha and their companions stopped to roast and eat the last clams on the west shore of China Lake’s east basin by “a large sentinel granite rock” from the glacial age. They continued to Norridgewock, where Father Sebastian Rale married them beneath a picture of the Sacred Heart that hung above the altar.

Nemaha immediately organized a group named “The Sisters of the Sacred Heart,” Jones wrote. The women took lessons from Father Rale and hosted an annual feast.

When the British soldiers made their final and successful attack on Norridgewock in August 1724, Keriberba and a few other young men “escaped across the river.” Nemaha grabbed the picture of the Sacred Heart from the church and with others of her sisterhood ran to a secret hiding place in the woods.

The next morning the two groups reunited. After burying Bomazeen, Father Rale and others, they gathered up what the British had left of their belongings and went back to settle at the feasting spot on China Lake.

Jones described the 300-year-old pines that sheltered their wigwams, and the shrine they built for the Sacred Heart picture that became “the center of their religion.” The importance of the picture was reinforced when, one evening, Keriberba called across the lake, “Le sacré Coeur,” (“the sacred heart” in Father Rale’s native French). His words echoed back to him across the water.

Jones wrote that he too had experienced the echo, from the place on the shore that repeats whole sentences. But to the Kennebecs, it seemed to be the voice of the Great Spirit. From then on, Keriberba called every evening and they were comforted by the reply.

Jones described years of living in peace, traveling to Norridgewock to grow corn (because they could not clear enough land by the lake), hunting deer, moose and an occasional bear, importing clams that fed muskrats (both edible), netting and smoking alewives. As children were born and grew up, the group became larger.

One night, a storm destroyed the Sacred Heart shrine and blew the picture into the lake, where it turned to pulp. The next day, Keriberba began carving a recreation of the sacred heart into the granite rock.

When his picture was finished, the group feasted and danced until late at night. Before they went to bed, Keriberba stood beside his carving and shouted, “Le sacré coeur” – and the words came back just as they should.

There is a little more to Jones’ story; it will be continued next week.

* * * * * *

Your writer has found only bits and pieces of information about Native Americans in the areas now included in the towns of Albion, Clinton and Palermo, and nothing from Windsor.

The 2004 report on the archaeological survey around Unity Wetlands and along the Sheepscot River, reprinted on line and mentioned last week, cited a person named Willoughby who, in a 1986 publication, described one pre-European relic from Albion. The reference is to “an isolated Indian artifact recovered by a farmer in the town of Albion – a ‘mask-like sculpture’ of sandstone with pecked and incised eyes, mouth, and other facial lines. It is unclear if the portable rock sculpture was found within the Unity Wetlands study area or simply nearby.”

A photo of what is almost certainly the same sculpture, described as “found while digging potatoes in Albion, Maine” appears in the on-line Antiquities of the New England Indians. The writer described the head as sandstone, about 10 inches long by two inches thick at the thickest point.

The writer continued, “Its natural smooth surface was used for the face, and the rougher fractured surface of the back was smoothed by pecking.” The face tapers to a chin; ears round out on either side; two small round dark eyes each has a circular outline; a smaller dark circle represents the nose; and parallel horizontal lines make a slightly off-center mouth.

The writer described traces of red pigment on the front and yellow pigment on the back. He surmised the effigy came from a grave.

Clinton’s 2006 comprehensive plan says the Maine Historic Preservation Commission had found four prehistoric sites within the town boundaries, one on the Kennebec River, one on the Sebasticook River and two on Carrabassett Stream. Commission staff suggested waterside archaeological surveys. The 2021 plan gives no new information.

Palermo historian Millard Howard doubted there were permanent Native settlements within the boundaries of present-day Palermo, either before or after 1763, because, he wrote, most settlements were on rivers like the Kennebec or the lower Sheepscot.

Kerry Hardy’s map of Native American trails converging on Cushnoc shows one from the coast near Rockland that crosses the east branch of the Sheepscot River a little north of Sheepscot Pond, about where Route 3 now runs east-west a bit south of the middle of town.

Linwood Lowden began his history of the Town of Windsor with the first European settlers. Because the Sheepscot River running out of Long Pond is in southeastern Windsor, including the junction of Travel Brook, it seems likely that parts of the town would have been at least a Native American travel route, if not home to settlements.

Main sources

Grow, Mary M. China, Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Hardy, Kerry, Notes on a Lost Flute: A Field Guide to the Wabanaki (2009).
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).
Maine Writers Research Club, Maine Indians in History and Legends (1952).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Native Americans – Part 3

A sketch of the Kennebec tribe settling along the Kennebec River. (Internet photo)

by Mary Grow

Three local settlements

The Kennebec tribe’s village at Cushnoc (a word that means head of tide, most historians agree) was on high ground on the east bank of the Kennebec River in what is now Augusta, about 20 miles south Ticonic village (described last week).

Leon Cranmer, in his Cushnoc, pointed out that the high land provided views of river traffic both upstream and down and offered some protection against attack. Canoes could land in a cove at the foot of the bank (now, he wrote, a park and boat landing).

Charles E. Nash, in his chapters on Augusta in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, wrote that Cushnoc village had wigwams, cultivated cornfields and open space for young men to practice “wrestling, running and dancing.”

Kerry Hardy, in a nicely-illustrated 2009 book titled Notes on a Lost Flute: A Field Guide to the Wabanaki, argued that Cushnoc was the west end of an important Native American trail that ran from the present town of Stockton Springs near the mouth of the Penobscot River (almost due east of Cushnoc) to the head of tide on the Kennebec River.

Looking at old maps, Hardy traced that east-west trail and found others that converged on Cushnoc, coming from present-day Rockland (on the coast to the southeast), Canton Point (on the Androscoggin River to the northwest) and Farmington Falls (on the Sandy River to the north).

Unfortunately, Hardy did not explain why Cushnoc was the center of a Native American communications network. Instead, he summarized the importance of the British trading post established there (as at Ticonic; and, as at Ticonic, the site of the trading post was later chosen for a fort).

Cranmer offered the theory that Cushnoc was a convenient mid-way place for Native Americans traveling between Canada and the coast to branch off to other parts of Maine.

During archaeological excavations around the trading post site between 1974 and 1987, Cranmer wrote, more than 17,500 artifacts were found, mostly signs of European rather than Native American habitation.

He specifically mentioned a few stone flakes left over as Kennebecs made their edged tools; a stone projectile point that appears from its photograph to be in excellent condition and could be anywhere from 2,200 to 6,000 years old; and a bit of pottery, the remains of what Cranmer called an Iroquoian-like jug or bowl.

If there was a Native American burial ground associated with Cushnoc, this writer has been unable to find a reference to it. J. W. Hanson, in an 1852 history of the area found on line, claimed that “the quiet graves of their [Kennebec tribal members’] fathers clustered around the mouth of each tributary to their beloved river,” but he offered no specific location.

The first British trader at Cushnoc was Edward Winslow from the Plymouth Colony in 1625, Nash wrote (or in 1628, according to Old Fort Western Director Linda Novak’s bicentennial lecture). He and successors traded European goods for Native American products, primarily beaver skins.

By the 1650s, trade and profits were diminishing, Nash said. In 1661 the Plymouth group sold the trading post to four other Europeans, who gave up and closed the operation about 1665.

Novak blamed the decline in trade at Cushnoc on rival traders Thomas Clark and Thomas Lake, who opened competing posts both upriver at Ticonic and downriver near current Pittston. James W. North, in his history of Augusta, blamed “growing Indian troubles” for the decline and said war was the final blow (the first war counted by historians, writing primarily from the Anglo-American point of view, started in 1675).

North listed other problems in the 1650s, including a decrease in fur-bearing animals, the Kennebecs’ recognition that the furs were more valuable than the goods offered in exchange and “the increasing number and avaricious disposition of the traders.”

Cranmer added two more problems that could have contributed to a smaller supply of furs: British settlements expanding into woodlands, and attacks on Maine Native Americans by Iroquois tribes from the northwest (current upstate New York and thereabouts).

In 1655, the governor of the Plymouth Colony appointed Captain Constant Southworth as magistrate at Cushnoc, responsible for administering civil law throughout the colony’s holdings. He had two main jobs, Nash wrote: to prevent other traders from trespassing and “to check the sale of demoralizing liquors to the Indians.”

Nash commented that Joseph Beane or Bane, an Englishman held captive by the Native Americans, reported that remains of the Cushnoc trading post were still visible “among the new-grown trees and shrubbery” in 1692. Novak, however, says the post was burned in 1676, during the first of the serial wars. Either account suggests the Kennebecs had no interest in using the building.

North wrote that the 1725-1744 interregnum in the Kennebec Valley wars was a genuine peace, during which the Kennebecs interacted peacefully with the British traders, who he suggested treated them fairly and even generously, and with early settlers. In 1732, Massachusetts Governor Jonathan Belcher and “a large retinue” toured the coastal settlements. The governor met with an unspecified group of Native Americans at Falmouth, and told them that he planned to establish three missionary stations in the province, one to be at Cushnoc, “where a town and church were about to be built.”

North offered no evidence of such a town, or of any pacifying influence from missionaries, before the final defeat of the French at Québec in 1759. Instead, continued Native American resistance delayed the growth of European settlements around Cushnoc for another generation.

* * * * * *

Besides the settlements at Ticonic/Winslow and Cushnoc/Augusta, Kennebec tribal members lived elsewhere along the Kennebec River, its tributaries and other nearby water bodies. Some of the town histories on which this writer relies describe evidences of pre-European occupation from Fairfield and Benton through Waterville/Winslow and Vassalboro/Sidney to Augusta.

The current Town of Benton has frontage on the Kennebec River, and the Sebasticook River runs (almost) north-south through (almost) the middle of town. The Sebasticook, like the Kennebec, was a major travel route for Native Americans.

Benton historian Barbara Warren says because of the rapids in the Kennebec above Ticonic (until Waterville manufacturers’ dams calmed them, beginning in 1792), upriver travel was via the Sebasticook to Benton Falls, about five miles upstream from the Kennebec, and a portage back to the Kennebec at Fairfield. The Sebasticook was also a connector between the Kennebec and Penobscot valleys, according to another source.

Kingsbury wrote that “the relics found many years ago at the foot of the hill overlooking Benton Falls are now the only traces of the original possessors of the soil.” The “hill” – high land – is the east bank of the river where Garland Road runs through Benton Falls Village. Warren remembers as a child walking along the river and finding artifacts like shards, grinding tools and “a stone weight for a fishing net.”

Warren says a state-listed archaeological site on the west side of the Sebasticook near the dam includes a burial ground. State preservation officials are protecting the exact location of the site. Your writer surmises there was a Kennebec village, at least seasonally for fishing and perhaps year-round for farming and hunting, on the east bank with the burial ground across the river, as at Ticonic.

A 1992 University of Maine at Farmington study of the banks of the lower Sebasticook, between the dams at Benton Falls and Fort Halifax, found 30 archaeological sites along that part of the river, dating from the Archaic period (in Maine, between 10,000 and 3,000 years ago, according to Wikipedia) and the early contact period in the 1600s.

A 2004 archaeological survey related to the Unity Wetlands covered the banks of the Sebasticook in Unity and a small part of Benton and found 16 riverside Native American sites. Ten of the sites were either near rapids or near a junction with a tributary stream.

In the 2004 study, the site at Benton Falls was described as having been used during the Archaic and Ceramic periods. Wikipedia says in Maine, the Ceramic period was between 3,000 and 500 years ago, or from about 1000 B.C. to about 1500 A.D.

Both the Farmington study and a Biodiversity Research Institute publication by C. R. DeSorbo and J. Brockway, found on line, mention pre-European fisheries for migrating river herring. Warren says there is evidence suggesting Native Americans built a two-tier stone fish trap where Outlet Stream from China Lake runs into the Sebasticook in Winslow, within a mile of the Kennebec.

In neither Benton nor Fairfield are there well-known evidences of pre-European settlement along the Kennebec. The Fairfield bicentennial history says Native Americans made arrowheads in an area called the sand hills in Larone, in northern Fairfield. Evidence cited included arrowheads, broken and unbroken, and chips from making the arrowheads (although collectors had picked up most of the chips).

The type of rock used to make the arrowheads was not found locally, the writers said. They surmised the Native Americans brought the rock from Moosehead.

In Alice Hammond’s 1992 history of the Town of Sidney, she quoted Dr. Arthur Speiss, of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, saying there had been Native Americans in Sidney since “at least 5,000 years ago.” By 1992, Hammond wrote, the Historic Preservation Commission had found 11 pre-European sites along the Kennebec River and eight along Messalonskee Lake’s eastern shore.

The Town of Sidney’s 2003 comprehensive plan gives the number of pre-historic sites as 23. Maps show four areas along the Kennebec and three more on Messalonskee Lake. The plan explains that the exact locations are not publicized to protect the areas.

Hammond wrote that there was no valid way to estimate how many Native Americans lived in Sidney, nor are there individuals’ names or information on when the last groups left. She surmised they could have been gone by the 1740s.

Sidney does, however, have its legend, retold in Hammond’s history and in other sources, including Maine Indians in History and Legend.

According to that version, Messalonskee Lake is named from the Native American word “Muskalog,” or “Giant Pike,” a big, voracious fish that lived in the lake. The name further recognizes that 14 other water bodies empty into the lake, “which like the Giant Pike was never satisfied.”

A heroic brave named Black Hawk and a sneaky brave named Red Wolf both loved a lovely, lively maiden named White Fawn. White Fawn chose Black Hawk.

The evening they were formally engaged, White Fawn and Black Hawk stole away from the celebration for some private moments on a clifftop overlooking Messalonskee Lake. Red Wolf followed them, killed Black Hawk, whose body fell into the lake, and tried to kidnap White Fawn.

Screaming, she jumped from the cliff into the water. The rest of the tribe rushed to the scene. Red Wolf cried out “Messalonskee! Messalonskee!” As the avengers closed in on him, there was an earthquake and an avalanche swept him, too, into the ever-hungry lake.

Series of lectures available online

A series of 10 lectures on early Maine history presented at Old Fort Western in 2021 is now available for viewing on line. Topics include Native Americans, Fort Western and Fort Halifax and trading posts on the Kennebec River. Speakers include Dr. Arthur Speiss and Leon Cranmer, mentioned in this article. The series can be found by searching for Old Fort Western or Maine bicentennial lectures.

Main sources

Cranmer, Leon E., Cushnoc: The History and Archaeology of Plymouth Colony Traders on the Kennebec (1990).
DeSorbo, C. R. and J. Brockway, The Lower Sebasticook River: A landowner’s guide for supporting one of Maine’s most unique and important ecosystems. (2018).
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Hardy, Kerry, Notes on a Lost Flute: A Field Guide to the Wabanaki (2009).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Maine Writers Research Club, Maine Indians in History and Legends (1952).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870)
Warren, Barbara, email exchange.

Websites, miscellaneous.