Gary Miller retires from presidency of Sheepscot Lake Association

Current president Slater Cladell , left, recognizing Gary’s service and dedication to protect the health and beauty of the lake he loves. The association is grateful for his commitment and looks forward to his continued support and involvement as a member. (contributed photo)

“We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a thousand points of light.” ― George H.W. Bush

This quote by our 41st president recognizes the need for individuals to share their time and energies with worthy causes. Gary Miller recognized a need nine years ago when he joined and helped found the newly-formed Sheepscot Lake Association (SLA), in Palermo. As a founding member he helped form the mission of the association to: “…work with property owners, local and state officials to preserve, enhance, and protect the beauty and quality of Sheepscot Lake and its adjacent areas.”

Soon after Gary Miller was elected president of the SLA and served for eight years. Under his leadership the membership grew and the programs expanded to include water quality inspections, courtesy boat inspections, annual loon count and participation in the Lake Smart program.

For more information about the Sheepscot Lake Association or to become a member please email

Submitted by Pam McKenny and Carolyn Viens.

New roof at Palermo Community Center

Tim Fletcher working on the roof of the Palermo Community Center. (contributed photo)

Finally, after years of saving and fund-raising, the Palermo Community Center, on Turner Ridge Road, is getting a new roof! Now the Palermo Food Pantry will have a comfortable, dry place to provide nourishing food to area residents, and the Living Communities Foundation, which owns the building, will be able to carry on with its community programs, as soon as the COVID crisis allows.

“We are so grateful to our volunteers, donors, and supporters, who put in a lot of time, effort, and their own resources to help make this happen,” said Connie Bellet, president of the foundation. “Pauline York’s daughter, Diana Murphy, also recently donated a refrigerator-freezer as the growing food pantry needed the space. It’s been a productive month so far!”

The foundation is still looking for a donated chest freezer no more than eight feet in length. To donate a working freezer, please contact Bellet at 993-2294. The LCF is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit, so donations are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

Palermo Community Library celebrates phase 2 of reopening with purchase of park pass

(Photo courtesy of Palermo Community Library)

The Palermo Community Library began Phase 2 of re-opening during the Covid-19 pandemic by opening to the public while continuing Curbside Pickup. The Board of Trustees worked hard behind the scenes to make the library as safe as possible by installing Plexiglas hygiene barriers, providing a deep thorough cleaning of the library’s interior, and creating policies following the guidelines of the Maine State Library and Maine CDC that will protect the health of our staff and patrons.

The library has purchased a Maine State Park Pass to ensure all of our community members have access to the great outdoors during this pandemic. The park pass may be borrowed by library patrons, age 18 and over, to visit state parks. It admits occupants of up to a 17-passenger vehicle to day-use facilities of select Maine State Parks and Historic Sites. The Park Pass may be borrowed for a 3-day checkout limit; it cannot be renewed nor reserved. For more information:

Library hours are Monday 10 a.m. – noon Thursday 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – noon.

The library is located at 2789 Route 3. For more information call 993-6088 or email or visit

Family outing: loon count on Sheepscot Lake

Nine-year-old Harper Winkley sits in his grandparents’ boat searching for loons during the annual loon count on Sheepscot Lake. (photo by Pamela McKenney)

by Pamela McKenney

Throughout the night they called from the lake. Their wild, haunting voices are unmistakable and considered by many to be the definitive sound of summer here in Maine. I gladly accept the sleep disturbance to hear them any time, but this night was particularly exciting as I anticipated participation in my first official Audubon Loon Count.

In the morning, all across Maine, bird enthusiasts would traverse to their designated sections of lakes, ponds, and rivers to count loons between 7 and 7:30 a.m. It is important to limit observers and observations to a particular time and space to ensure accuracy. For example, Sheepscot Pond, in Palermo, is divided into four sections. This year our counters included; Joe and Ursula Burke, Gary and Marge Miller, Lynda and Dave Pound, myself and husband Dale McKenney assisted by our 9-year-old grandson, Harper Winkley. The Loon Count on Sheepscot is one of several conservation efforts supported by the Sheepscot Lake Association of which Joe Burke, our loon count coordinator, is a long time member and currently serves on the board. Joe distributed materials well in advance of the count and asked us to record our direction of travel and time of observations using the chart and maps provided by the Audubon society.

Photo by Pamela McKenney

This year, on July 18, we woke Harper at 6:15 a.m. to dress and gather our equipment. We had our binoculars, camera, and papers ready to sight and document loons. The morning was cool and the water was shrouded in a light fog. At the mouth of the river, we traveled along the shore searching with binoculars. We had been watching them from a distance all summer, but would we spot one in our section this morning? Adding to the drama, the sun broke through the mist about half way through our circuit of the cove. But no loons.

At 7:20 a.m., we had crossed the main lake, and rounded the point into Turtle Cove when Dale pointed and asked, “What’s that?”

With binoculars, Harper confirmed that the dark silhouette across the cove was a loon. He marked the time and location just as I spotted another loon deep in the curve of the shoreline. As we continued to circle avoiding close contact with the pair and with just eight minutes to complete our section of the lake, Dale said, “I think there’s something with that adult. Maybe a chick?” He was right. The chick was at first riding on the adult loon’s back, then swimming beside it.

At 7:30 a.m., just as our part in the count finished, a bald eagle swooped out of a tall pine at the end of Howell’s Shore. Harper also saw a pileated woodpecker and kingfisher as we cruised up-river to our dock. The presence of these birds is something we often take for granted but on this day the iconic loon was counted. Sheepscot Lake counters reported sighting four adults and one chick. For more information about loons and the results of the statewide count, check out these sites. The Audubon website offers an interesting pamphlet, Living in Loon Territory, and each explains what the loon calls may actually communicate. and

Sheepscot courtesy boat inspectors

The 2020 Courtesy Boat Inspectors are now working weekend shifts at the boat launch at Sheepscot Lake, in Palermo. They are encouraging boaters to check their vessels for invasive plants before entering the lake.

Riley Reitchel, left, will be a junior at Erksine Academy, in South China, in the fall. She is a high honor student and a premier soccer player. Jacob Sutter, a 2020 graduate of Erksine Academy, will be attending Thomas College in the fall to study business. (Contributed photo)

Peaches are coming!

You need a break from the monotony. The Living Communities Foundation is bringing in big, drippingly-sweet peaches from northern New Jersey starting on July 31, with one or two more deliveries in August. The schedule isn’t set in stone yet, as details are still crystallizing. However, the first order has to be turned in and paid by July 24, so time is of the essence. The good news is that the price has not gone up! It’s still $37 for a 37 to 40-pound box or $23 for a half box. If you get together with friends and neighbors and order four or more boxes, you get a $2 discount per full box!

To order, email Connie Bellet at and mention your daytime phone number for confirmation, and a call when the peaches arrive. Or you can call her at 993-2294 and leave a message with your name, phone, and preference of which Friday you can best pick up your peaches. Checks may be made out to LCF and sent to P.O. Box 151, Palermo, ME 04354. The peaches will arrive at the Palermo Community Center, on Veterans Way and Turner Ridge Rd., across from the ball field. You’ll see the electric sign. Our volunteers will place your boxes in your vehicle. To maintain social distance, please stay in your car. As the delivery dates are firmed up, you’ll get further emails. Thank you for your support!!!

Proceeds from this sale will go toward maintaining the Community Center, repairing the roof, and paying ongoing bills. The COVID pandemic has put a big dent in our normal fundraising, so your support is greatly appreciated!

Over two dozen boats in Sheepscot parade

The Sheepscot Lake Association hosted the second annual Independence Day boat parade, on Sheepscot Lake, on July 4, 2020. Over 25 decorated boats participated, with many others enjoying the festivities from the shore. (contributed photos)

The Sheepscot Lake Association 2020 boat parade. (contributed photo)

The Sheepscot Lake Association 2020 boat parade. (contributed photo)

The Sheepscot Lake Association 2020 boat parade. (contributed photo)

Local libraries begin to re-open with limitations

Waiting for curbside pickup in Palermo. (photo by Andy Pottle)

Palermo Community Library curbside pick-up service begins

As we navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic, the first phase of reopening the Palermo Community Library is to offer curbside pickup beginning Saturday, June 20, 2020. To protect the safety of our staff and patrons, the library will be following the guidelines of the Maine State Library and Maine CDC. Staff will wear masks and gloves while preparing your bags for check-out. Patrons and staff are expected to respect social distancing recommendations.

Procedure for pickup (see detailed description under ‘policies’ on website):

  1.  Visit the library website at to search the library’s catalog for the books, DVDs, and other materials you’d like to check out.
  2.  Email your request to by Wednesday for a Saturday pickup.
  3.  Come to the library between 10 a.m. and noon on Saturday to pick up the items you are checking out. When you arrive, call 993-6088 and they’ll bring out your bag of books and place it on the front stoop for you to pick up.
  4.  Return library items to outdoor book drop when you are finished. All returned library materials will be quarantined for 72 hours and then sanitized.

In the meantime, the trustees are working hard to prepare for the next phase of reopening by installing plexiglass hygiene barriers, providing a deep thorough cleaning of the library’s interior, and writing policies that will protect the health and safety of our staff and patrons. Hope to see you soon!

Vassalboro public library re-opens


The Vassalboro Public Library is reopened to the public during their regular hours. Monday and Friday noon – 6 p.m., and Wednesday and Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. They have a new ongoing book sale room that is open to the public. They will also host a partially virtual summer reading program for all ages. Please check their website for the Covid-19 policies.

Oakland public librarry is open

The Oakland Public Library is now open. You may check out books, magazines and movies. There is a 30-minute time limit on visits, with a five item limit on loans. Computers are available.

Hand sanitizers are available upon entering and also at the service desks. Masks that cover the nose and mouth must be worn, and patrons must observe 6 foot physical distancing.

Hours are: Tuesday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Wed., Thurs., Fri. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

For more information, call 465-7533.

Albion library will fill book orders

Albion Public Library

The Albion Public Library will fill orders for books, audio books and DVDs. Simply go online to the Town of Albion website:, click on local links, Albion library, online, display.

Or, log-in: first initial and last name, patron #. Ex.: rmorin,123.

You can browse the materials they have in the library.

To order, they will need the author and title of the book, audio book or DVD.

Send this to

Be sure to include your telephone number. They will fill your order and make an appointment with you for pick up.

Palermo Community Library annual meeting going virtual

(Photo courtesy of Palermo Community Library)

The Palermo Community Library will broadcast its 18th annual meeting on Facebook Live Sunday, July 12, at 2 p.m. Trustee Andy Pottle will be filming/producing the online event.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the library had planned to host Captain David Sulin, a 20th Maine civil war re-enactor, to speak about Palermo residents in the civil war, specifically, the Battle of Gettysburg. He looks forward to giving this presentation in the future. The library will not have a speaker at this year’s event; it will be a customary business meeting including the election of officers. The public is invited to join the meeting virtually—check out Palermo Community Library on Facebook for details of how to participate.

Also, please note that the library has curbside pickup available for library materials. See the website for details:

For more information call 993-6088 or email or visit

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Palermo

The Branch Mills Library in the 19th century. (Internet photo)

by Mary Grow

Palermo is the only town in this series that is not in Kennebec County. The boundary line between China on the west and Palermo on the east is also the line between Kennebec and Waldo counties. It runs through Branch Mills, formerly Palermo’s main commercial center.

It is not Palermo residents’ fault that they don’t live in Kennebec County. In 1760, all of Maine was organized as Lincoln County; divisions since then have created the present 16 counties. In 1789, part of Lincoln County, not including current Palermo, became Hancock County. On Feb. 7, 1827, Waldo County was created from parts of Hancock and Lincoln counties and included Palermo.

On Feb. 23, 1827, historian Millard Howard says in An Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine, (second edition, December 2015), Palermo voters unanimously asked the legislature to add them to Kennebec County. Their request was not granted.

Nor is Palermo part of the Kennebec River watershed. Instead, the town is doubly in the Sheeepscot River basin. Branch Pond and Branch Mills, on the western edge of the town, are on the West Branch of the Sheepscot, and Sheepscot Pond, which fills about a third of the southern half of Palermo, is on the main stem. The two rivers join well south of town, between Coopers Mills and North Whitefield.

A multitude of small ponds are scattered through northern Palermo; not all have names on the contemporary Google map. Named ponds include, in a northern tier and moving from east to west, Prescott, Nutter and Chisholm.

The next tier south, approximately east of Branch Pond, includes, from east to west, Bowler, Foster and Belden. South of them are Dowe Pond on the east, not far from Branch Mills; Saban Pond and to its south Bear Pond, about mid-way between the eastern and western boundaries; and Jump Pond, south of Foster Pond.

Beech Pond, near Greeley’s Corner (or Greely Corner, or Center Palermo) between Parmenter and Cain Hill roads, is the final named pond north of Route 3. South of the highway, Sheepscot Pond has a tiny nameless blue spot on the map to its northwest; Turner Pond, shared with Somerville, on its southwest; and on the southeast another blue spot identified as Deadwater Slough.

According to Howard, Stephen Belden, his wife Abigail and their son Aaron were Palermo’s first settlers, in 1769. Their second son, Stephen, Jr., was born in 1770, the first settlers’ child born in Palermo.

The Beldens chose not to homestead beside Sheepscot Great Pond, as Sheepscot Pond was then called. Howard suggests they chose a more secluded location because they were squatters with no legal title to the land and did not want visits from agents of the Kennebec Proprietors, owners of a large tract 15 miles on either side of the Kennebec River.

Howard locates the first Belden homestead only by late 20th century owners Robert and Susie Potter. Later, he said, the Beldens moved to the shore of what was then Belden, and later became Bowler, Pond.

Other people who arrived in the 1700s, according to Howard (who did a great deal of research in early documents) were Hollis Hutchins (1775), who, Howard says, settled “in the lower Turner Ridge area”; Jacob Greeley, Jr, (1777) and John Foye (1778), near Beech Pond; and Jonathan Bartlett (1788), who built the first sawmill on the Sheepscot south of Sheepscot Great Pond.

Other early names Howard mentions include Albee, Boynton, Bradstreet, Cressey, Lewis, Turner and Worthing. Ava Harriet Chadbourne’s Maine Place Names and the Peopling of Its Towns (1955) adds Bowler, Clay, Longfellow and Waters in the 1770s and 1780s. Many settlers had large families who intermarried through the generations. For example, Howard says Hollis Hutchins’ five sisters married into the Albee, Boynton, Cressey, Foye and Turner families.

The area was first called Sheepscot Great Pond Settlement. After an 1801 survey of 27,100 acres by William Davis of nearby Davistown (now Montville), it was organized as Sheepscot Great Pond Plantation. Howard says the first clerk of the plantation was a well-liked 24-year-old doctor from Vermont named Enoch P. Huntoon.

Immediately after the plantation was created, 55 residents asked the Massachusetts General Court to make it a town and to name it Lisbon. The requested name, Chadbourne and Howard explain, was part of a trend to name Maine towns after important foreign places – hence the famous Maine road sign that lists seven foreign countries honored in Maine plus Naples and Paris (but omits Belgrade, Lisbon, Palermo, Madrid, Rome, Sorrento and Verona Island).

The Lisbon on the sign is the Androscoggin County Lisbon between Lewiston and Brunswick, not the one requested in Waldo County. Lisbon was settled in 1628, its website says, and incorporated as Thompsonborough in June 1799. In December 1801 residents asked the Massachusetts legislators to
change the name to something less cumbersome, suggesting Lisbon. On Feb. 20, 1802 (after Sheepscot Great Pond’s petition was filed but before the legislature acted) Thompsonborough became Lisbon.

Sheepscot voters looked for another capital. They also realized that the P. in Dr. Huntoon’s name stood for Palermo. On June 23, 1804, the Massachusetts General Court approved the incorporation of the town of Palermo. Howard wonders if local residents realized Palermo in Sicily had been an important medieval center and, in his opinion, was a better choice than Lisbon.

Early transportation in Palermo was by the Sheepscot River and by trails. One of the functions of a town government was to lay out, build and maintain roads; Howard says Palermo officials were especially active from 1805 until about 1820. The first road linking the southern settlements with northern Palermo followed a route approximated by the present Turner Ridge Road (which joins Route 3 from the south at Greeley’s Corner, east of Beech Pond); Parmenter Road (which goes north off Route 3 west of Beech Pond); and Marden Hill Road (Parmenter Road’s name north of the four-way junction with Nelson Road and Belden Road). Marden Hill Road continues northeast to connect with North Palermo Road.

The southern end of town gradually lost importance. By the 1820s, Howard mentions five centers along or north of present Route 3: Branch Mills; Greeley’s Corner; Carr’s Corner on the North Palermo Road west of Prescott Pond; Ford’s Corner, where the North Palermo and Chisholm Pond roads meet; and East Palermo, the junction of Banton Road and Route 3.

A “center” would have at least one public building and/or business and a cluster of houses. The public building might be a post office; at various times, Branch Mills, Center Palermo, North Palermo and East Palermo had one. In the 1860s, Howard says, Greeley’s and Carr’s corners each had at least one store, at least one church and a school.

Howard found that Palermo reached its greatest growth in terms of population around 1850. He cites a series of census figures: 1790, 164 people counted; 1800, an almost threefold increase to 444; 1820, 1,056, the first count over 1,000; 1840, 1,594; 1850, the highest recorded, 1,659. A gradual decline began with a loss of almost 300 by 1860. By 1890, the population was again below 1,000, at 887. Howard’s list stops at 1950, when the population was recorded as 511. A steady increase began in 1970, and the 2010 census recorded 1,535 inhabitants, almost back to the pre-Civil War high.

The old Dinsmore Mill, in Branch Mills. (The Town Line file photo)

The 1886 Gazetteer of the State of Maine says Branch Mills was then the largest village, with eight mills. Center Palermo had a “board and shingle-mill” and a stone quarry; East Palermo had two lumber mills; and North Palermo had a factory that made drag-rakes.

One of the mills in Branch Mills was the Dinsmore Grain Company Mill, on the China side of town. The mill building and its associated dam stretched across the Sheepscot River, with access to the building from the east shore.

The first mill on the site was built in 1817 by Joseph Hacker, according to a Wikipedia article. Hacker’s son-in-law, Jose Greely, succeeded him, and in 1879 Greely took his son-in-law, Thomas Dinsmore, as a partner. Thomas Dinsmore’s son James Roscoe Bowler Dinsmore succeeded him.

The 1908 fire that destroyed most of Branch Mills destroyed the mill as well. James R. B. Dinsmore rebuilt it in 1914 as a two-and-a-half-story wooden building, shingled, with a three-story tower on the south side. Initially it was only a grist mill, in 1935 James Kenneth Dinsmore (James R. B. Dinsmore’s son) added a sawmill operation, which continued until 1960.

On Nov. 3, 1979, the Dinsmore mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Subsequent owners proposed reusing it, but none succeeded. Both the building and the dam deteriorated, to the point where waterfront property owners on upstream Branch Pond complained that the dam no longer kept water levels high enough for recreation. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection also objected that its water level regime for Branch Pond was violated.

By 2016, the mill owners claimed the building was too dangerous to repair. In 2017, the Atlantic Salmon Federation acquired the property, tore down the historic building and negotiated with state regulators to add a fishway for salmon and other anadromous fish to the dam.

Main sources

Howard, Millard An Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine (second edition, December 2015)
Web sites, miscellaneous

Note: Milton E. Dowe’s highly recommended History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 was published in 1954. Unfortunately, with libraries closed it was not available to this writer in time to be studied.