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

The Lawrence Library, in Fairfield.

by Mary Grow

Fairfield, Palermo, Sidney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The elusive Barzillai Harrington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News from Victor Grange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous.

China Transfer Committee discusses raising transfer station fees for Palermo residents

by Mary Grow

China Transfer Station Committee members held a special Sept. 21 meeting to talk about increasing fees charged to Palermo residents. The meeting was consistently cooperative and courteous, with each town’s representatives expressing appreciation to the other’s.

According to the discussion, the 17-year contract allowing Palermo residents use of China’s transfer station was signed in June 2016 and was effective Jan. 1, 2017. It prescribes an annual $18,000 payment from Palermo to China; sets fees for Palermo mixed solid waste, which must be in bags that China buys and Palermo residents pay for; and includes China’s right to increase fees charged to Palermo, with at least six months’ notice.

China cannot increase fees by more than the cost-of-living increase (a prescribed measurement and time period are in the contract), except as needed “to cover any ‘pass-through’ costs (such as increases in tipping [disposal] fees) and federal or state mandated policies” that increase transfer station costs.

Representatives of both towns had calculated the consumer price increase since the beginning of 2017. They presented similar figures: China Committee Chairman Lawrence Sikora figured about 13.3 percent, Palermo representative Bob Kurik about 12 percent.

The two men agreed the consumer price increase would justify a recommendation to increase the price of a large trash bag from $2 to $2.25.

China Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood observed that the large bags now used are 33 gallons, not the 30 gallons specified in the contract. There are also 15-gallon bags, priced in the contract at $1.25; they are so little used that over the years the price has been reduced, Kurik and Hapgood said.

There was a long discussion of pass-through costs before committee members agreed that they include four components: tipping fees; transportation; state or federal mandates (no one was aware of any); and higher costs for the Town of China buying the bags.

They do not include pay increases for transfer station staff, because those are defined as part of operating costs that China pays.

Committee member Ashley Farrington had reviewed records from 2017 to Aug. 1, 2021, to prepare information on tipping fees and trucking costs. Committee members did not translate them into a figure to be recommended as an increase.

The trash bags are used for mixed solid waste, the stuff that goes into the hopper at the transfer station. Another component of trash is larger items like furniture and carpets. Sikora and Farrington had collected information to start a discussion of fees for such items, but committee members made no decisions.

Sikora prepared a table based on average weight of different items, as listed in an on-line guide for moving companies. It appeared that if the transfer station charged the new 10-cents-a-pound fee for demolition debris that selectmen approved Aug. 30, disposal fees for some items would increase significantly.

The most conspicuous example was a sleeper sofa, for which a transfer station user is now charged $10. If the typical one weighs 275 pounds, as the guide said (committee members had doubts), the new disposal fee would be $27.50.

These fees for special items apply to China and Palermo residents equally.

Committee member Mark Davis warned his colleagues not to recommend fee increases so big that residents would resort to roadside dumping.

He extended his comments to ask whether the transfer station is supposed to make a profit, or to provide a service to residents. Sikora reworded the issue; it is not a question of profit, but of seeking the appropriate balance between defraying costs and providing service.

Transfer Station Committee members scheduled their next regular meeting for 9 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 12.

Transformation Project

Palermo Christian Church (photo from the church’s Facebook page)

The Bible says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

The Palermo Christian Church believes in lives being transformed and thought it would be great to apply that to a transformation of the bulletin board at Palermo Post Office.

One of the Small Growth Groups at Palermo Christian Church recently spruced up the bulletin board. The frame was straightened, new doors with Plexiglas were installed, fresh coat of paint, turf carpeting was laid, and flowers added a special touch. Many nodded their head of approval for the improvements.

During one break Jeff Twitchell, donated a delicious apple pie. They thoroughly enjoyed and had an opportunity to share with three individuals while they were picking up their mail.

A big thank you to SD Childs Construction and Kempton Tobey & Son who provided gravel and loam.

2021-’22 Real Estate Tax Due Dates


Tax year runs Feb. 1 to January 31
Taxes due September 30, 2021


September 30, 2021
March 31, 2022


Four quarters

August 25, 2021
November 10, 2021
February 9, 2022
May 11, 2022


October 31, 2021


September 1, 2021


Four quarters
September 27, 2021
November 22, 2021
February 28, 2022
April 25, 2022


Four quarters
October 8, 2021
December 10, 2021
March 11, 2022
June 10, 2022


September 30, 2021
March 31, 2022


Four quarters
October 8, 2021
December 10, 2021
March 11, 2022
June 10, 2022

To be included in this section, contact The Town Line at townline@townline.org.

Another year of outstanding water quality at Sheepscot

PURPLE SKIES: Ashley Wills, of Palermo, photographed this unusual sunset over Sheepscot Lake recently.

by Carolyn Viens

All who pause to look out at our Maine lakes see a beautiful natural marvel, but how do we know if a lake is as healthy and vibrant as it looks. The answer is through water testing and the Sheepscot Lake Association (SLA) is committed to the task. Throughout each summer the lake association tests for water clarity, dissolved oxygen from the surface down to the deepest part of the lake, and for phosphorous. SLA founding member Beth Bond initially ran the monitoring for the lake association for several years, and for the last five years the testing has done by Lake Steward of Maine Certified Lake Monitors Ursula and Joe Burke of the SLA board.

The water clarity is tested using a Secchi disk and scope. The Secchi disk is a plain black and white circular disk 30 cm (12 in) in diameter used to measure water transparency or turbidity in bodies of water. The disc is mounted on a tape measure and lowered slowly down in the water. The depth at which the disk is no longer visible is taken as a measure of the transparency of the water. This measure is known as the Secchi depth and is considered the standard methodology for measuring water clarity. The last test revealed a clarity to 16.1 feet, over an inch better than state average.

The SLA monitor also tests for dissolved oxygen using a YSI Pro 20 dissolved oxygen meter, and for phosphorus. The measure of total phosphorus in Sheepscot averages 7 ppb (parts per billion). The state average for tested lakes is 12 ppb. This is good news as phosphorus is a nutrient that feeds algae, and the lake has been fortunate not to have had any algal bloom.

Phosphorous is our primary concern these days. When this natural element lands in the water algae thrives on it. It comes from soil that’s washed into the lake from rain and snow melt as well as from fertilizer and leaking septic systems. Human development along lake shores results in five to ten times more phosphorous than from undeveloped land. There is also a threat of additional phosphorous from fish die-offs, such as when alewives, should they be in a lake, spawn and, during low water years, cannot leave the lake at the end of their cycle.

The SLA also coordinates the LakeSmart program which helps lakefront homeowners understand how their property impacts the lake and how to reduce that impact. If you are a lake homeowner and interested in having your property evaluated, please email us at sheepscotlakeassoc@gmail.com for a free evaluation.

In addition to the lake quality testing regularly performed and the LakeSmart program, we also continue to run an invasive plant patrol, a courtesy boat inspection (CBI) program funded in part by grants from the Town of Palermo and Maine DEP. The CBI team regularly inspects boats entering and exiting Sheepscot via the boat launch. The goal is to identify any invasive species foreign to our lake prior to a boat being launched.

At our annual meeting this year we transitioned the presidency of the lake association board from Slater Claudel to board member Maria O’Rourke. Thank you, Slater, for your years of dedicated service to SLA. We also welcomed John Curtain to our board. John, in addition to Jeff Levesque and Chrissy Doherty, will be taking over the water quality monitoring program from the Burkes. We appreciate their years of dedication to this important role, thank you Joe and Ursula!

Sheepscot Lake is a wonderful resource for all Palermo residents and visitors to enjoy. With the continued attention to the health of the lake by all, we will help it thrive for many, many years to come. To learn more about how you can help protect Sheepscot, and to join us in our efforts to monitor and maintain this treasure please contact the lake association at sheepscotlakeassoc@gmail.com. Enjoy the remainder of the summer.

Sheepscot Lake Fish & Game Association: Nonprofit Spotlight

(photo by Roland D. Hallee)

Central Maine non-profit organizations: Their Mission, Their Goals

by Martha Sullivan
Back in the early 1940s, a group of young men in Palermo, who often fished and hunted in the area, talked about how they wanted to form a fish and game club, and build a clubhouse. But, Pearl Harbor was bombed and soon these men went off to war. When they returned, their families came first, but soon that clubhouse dream was back.
On April 5, 1953, these met at the Branch Mills Grange Hall and formed their club. By the next meeting, in May, they had people offer to donate their trees and a local sawmill volunteered to cut and deliver the lumber. Other local people offered to donate time and materials. They found a great spot on Sheepscot Lake and the land owner, Charlie Hannon, offered them a 99-year lease. The Sheepscot Lake Fish and Game Association, Inc., was formed.
On April 24, Lawrence Glidden presented the by-laws, which, except for a few minor changes, remain the same today.
On May 8, Arthur Tyler, Clair Bradstreet, Millard Saban and Wilbur Jewett were appointed to look for a site to build a clubhouse. Until the new clubhouse was built, meetings were held alternately at Branch Mills Grange and Sheepscot Lake Grange.
In three years the building was completed. In 1969 they purchased an adjoining lot for parking.
The mission of this club is to encourage projects to teach sportsmanship, and to promote and save hunting and fishing, protect the lake, and to instruct the youth on improving our environment and safety in hunting and fishing.
In the 1950s they had regular monthly meetings, held an ice fishing derby (which is still held to this day), held Beano games, and field days. They paid for students to go to Boys and Girls State and gave camp and school scholarships. They also held regular dinners and dances to raise money.
They still do many of these things and also give a scholarship to a Palermo resident at Erskine Academy to continue their education in the field of conservation or related area study.
The clubhouse is available to organizations and private parties. Some of them have been the snowmobile club, ATV club, Palermo Athletic Group, senior citizens, extension homemakers, Boy Scouts, fire department gatherings, family reunions, parties for birthdays, wedding, etc. Many classes are held there including hunter’s safety course, trapping class, Sportsmen Alliance of Maine and swimming classes.
Around 1960, the Dirigo Boys Baseball League was formed. Needing money to function, the fish and game club donated to that cause.
In the early ‘70s, Charlie Hannan passed away, and club members Gordon Ballantyne and Walter Banton were appointed and offered to purchased the land from Frances Boynton, Charlie’s daughter. She agreed to sell the property for $3,000.
In recent years they have held a fishing derby in February and a big two-day yard sale in September as fundraisers.
Currently, the association is working with the state to improve the boat landing and re-arranging the driveway, along with paving the parking lot.
The organization is currently seeking new members with new ideas and a willingness to keep the club active. The meetings are held on the second Friday of each month at 6:30 p.m., when a potluck supper is held. The meetings are open to the public. For more information, contact Rodney, Jane or Elizabeth Glidden, 993-2625, Marty Holzer, 993-2270 or Martha Sullivan, 993-2349.
CORRECTION: The byline of this article has been updated.

Volunteers firefighters to hold Picnic in Palermo

Photo: Palermo VFD Facebook

The Palermo Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) will be holding a fundraiser on Sunday, August 22, from noon – 4 p.m., in the Branch Mills Village field opposite the old Dowe General Store (2 N. Palermo Rd). You invited to join in fellowship and see old friends, welcome new residents, celebrate the community, and raise important funds.

The VFD will be grilling local burgers and hot dogs, from Haskell & Daughter Beef, with veggies and sides from Wild Miller Farm. Tickets are $10 ($12 on the day of the event) and available at the Palermo Town Office, Community Library and Tobey’s Grocery. Volunteers who would like to assist or participate in the event should contact Will Armstrong (armstrongpalermo@gmail.com or 993-5016).

The picnic will feature a controlled burn and the return of the VFD’s Engine No. 4! They will host Palermo authors Gary Dyer (Apple Pie and Sharp Cheese) and Jeanette Scates (the upcoming There Wasn’t Always Peace in the Valley). The VFD is delighted to have support from other Palermo organizations, including the Branch Mills Grange, the Malcolm Glidden American Legion Post #163 and Auxiliary, the Palermo Community Library, and more.

They will have metal folding chair seating and some lawn games on hand, but, you are invited to bring your own of each.

Disabled parking is available on-site and village parking is nearby.

Palermo VFD receives gift from women’s extension group

Photo: Palermo VFD Facebook

On Thursday, July 15, 2021, at the July Palermo selectmen’s meeting, a check for $800 was presented to the Palermo Volunteer Fire Department Chief Roger Kormandt, by the Palermo Women’s Extension Group, to be used for much needed equipment/materials.

The check was made out to the Town of Palermo for the express use of the Palermo Volunteer Fire Department. As a gift, the $800 may be used only for this purpose. The check was presented to Chief Kormandt by Anne Kurek, vice president, Palermo Women’s Extension Group. Chief Kormandt then gave the check to Mary Andrews, town clerk, to keep for the fire department.

The Palermo Women’s Extension Group was pleased to present this gift to the Palermo Volunteer Fire Department. And are happy to know that it will benefit the Town of Palermo and its residents.

Also in attendance were selectboard members: Chairman Robert Kurek, Ilene McKenney, and Pam Swift, Deputy Fire Chief Josh Seikens, Sherry Kormandt, and Diane Bent, treasurer, Palermo Women’s Extension Group.

Palermo library board’s Christmas in July meeting held

Front row, from left to right, Isaiah and Lillian Leeman, Elaina and Ruby Beth Barnes, Elizabeth Elliott and Autum Turner. Back, Isaiah Leeman, Joan Robertson and Diane Dixon. (photo by Andy Pottle)

It was “Christmas in July” at the Palermo Community Library’s recent annual meeting. The scene was festive with a garland of twinkling Christmas lights strung around the refreshment table and a fire blazing on the large screen TV. Joan Robertson donated a Christmas-themed quilt to the library which was hung in the children’s area. Local students had used crayons to color preprinted drawings on fabric squares which were then pressed to set the pigments. The squares were sewn together by Joan Robertson and the piece was finished off with machine quilting by award-winning quilter Diane Dixon.

The library is located at 2789 Route 3. For more information call 993-6088 or email palermo@palermo.lib.me.us or visit www.palermo.lib.me.us.

PHOTO: Courtesy boat inspectors on the job at Sheepscot Lake

Sheepscot Lake Association Courtesy Boat Inspectors Holden McKenney, left, and Aiden French work at Sheepscot Lake’s boat launch to help inspect boats and protect the lake from nvasive species. (contributed photo)