Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Oak Grove School

The Oak Grove-Coburn school today, serving as the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

by Mary Grow

We now digress – for a change – from descriptions of churches on the National Register of Historic Places to the Oak Grove School, because of its association with the Sophia D. Bailey Chapel discussed last week (and also known as the Oak Grove Chapel).

According to Raymond Manson and Elsia Holway Burleigh, whose history of the school was often cited last week, the Vassalboro and Fairfield Friends started Oak Grove School in February 1848. The authors provided a detailed description, with dialogue, of the crucial meeting.

They said wealthy mill-owner John D. Lang (1799-1879), of Vassalboro, hosted fellow residents Ebenezer Frye and Alton Page, Samuel Taylor, from North Fairfield, and Alden Sampson, from what is now Manchester. The men agreed to pay Lang’s son-in-law, Charles Osborne, $50 for about an acre of land.

Alma Pierce Robbins, in her Vassalboro history, said the year was 1840 and listed the men who bought land from Charles Osborn (without a final e) as Frye, Lang, Pope and Elder Sampson, all from Vassalboro, plus Taylor, from Fairfield.

Rufus Jones’ chapter on the Society of Friends in Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history listed the founders as Frye and Lang, from Vassalboro, Taylor, from Fairfield, and from Manchester Alden Sampson and Alton Pope; Jones dated their effort from “about 1850.”

The original school at left, and a three-story student boarding house.

The site of the school, as Jones described it, included a grove of oak trees on top of a hill – hence the name. From the hilltop, one could see down the Kennebec River to Augusta and beyond. Across the river, Mt. Adams and Mt. Washington rose above the lesser mountains of western Maine.

In addition to the view being a “constantly inspiring influence,” Jones wrote, the new school would be adjacent to the Friends Meeting House, and close to the wealthy men who each pledged $1,000 to start it.

Manson and Burleigh wrote that Frye was in charge of construction. He oversaw spending $2,500 for a 40-by-60-foot three-story wooden building on the hilltop above the Friends burying ground. The school’s first 16-week term began in December 1850, with William H. Hobby as the first principal.

The Manson and Burleigh history has a sketch of the building, surrounded by trees, with a steep roof topped by what looks like an eight-sided windowed cupola. A flight of at least a dozen steps runs all the way across the 40-foot end, leading to the front wall with a door at either end and a window between (the same pattern as China’s Pond Meeting House; see the photo in the July 8 issue of The Town Line).

Originally meant only for the children of Quaker families, Oak Grove School quickly allowed all students to attend. Nonetheless, it did not attract enough to cover costs – because there were too few nearby homes where students could board, Manson and Burleigh said – and Oak Grove School closed in 1856.

Immediately, another group of Friends led by Eli Jones, from China, began working to re-open the school. They raised $15,000 from Friends all over Maine, got a new legislative charter in April 1857 for Oak Grove Seminary, bought another acre of land on the south side of the road and built a three-story student boarding house and opened the new school in December 1857, with Eli Jones serving as principal for the first year because the oversight committee could not agree on anyone else.

From 1873, the year the Maine legislature required towns to provide high schools, until July 31, 1918, Oak Grove officials usually contracted with the town to be its high school. In 1873, Kingsbury wrote, Vassalboro appropriated $500 for a high school at East Vassalboro, but because of Oak Grove Seminary did not need to spend it.

In the fall of 1862 a gymnasium was added near the boarding house. The school building burned down in 1880; classes were moved to the boarding house until a new school was built beside it, across Oak Grove Road from the original, and dedicated Nov. 24, 1885.

An arsonist burned down the school building and the boarding house on Aug. 31, 1887. The 14-year-old nephew of Principal Charles H. Jones died when he went back to retrieve a watch his father had just given him.

Principal Jones promptly oversaw conversion of the gymnasium into makeshift classrooms. On Sept. 18, 1887, that building was also torched.

Manson and Burleigh described how the arsonist, a 15-year-old boarding student, was traced, arrested, tried and convicted. His motives: he was not allowed to take the courses he wanted and he didn’t like the Oak Grove food or the Town of Vassalboro.

A new and larger school building was dedicated Sept. 5, 1888, including classrooms and laboratories, offices, a library, a kitchen and dining room and housing for students and for the principal. Manson and Burleigh specifically mention the central heating and the “bathrooms with hot and cold running water.”

Photos show an enormous wooden building in several interlocking sections. Much of it was three stories high on top of a full basement with large windows (one photo shows three stories throughout, another looks as though one section had two full stories plus a windowed attic above the basement rooms). A new gymnasium was built nearby.

Charles M. Bailey, of Win­throp, paid for the construction; money raised by Quakers throughout Maine became an endowment fund. The building was named Bailey Hall, and in 1888 the school became Oak Grove Seminary and Bailey Institute.

Oak Grove Seminary seems to have prospered until World War I, under the ownership of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends. It ac­quired additional land and more buildings – a power plant in 1906, a new gymnasium in 1908 after the one built in 1888 collapsed under its snow-weighted roof on March 17, 1907.

Enrollment declined beginning in 1914. Manson and Burleigh blamed the war, and also quoted from a 1915 report by the State of Maine Supe­rintendent of Schools saying more students were opting for public high schools.

In the winter of 1917 the school’s “board of managers” (Manson and Burleigh’s undefined terminology) voted to “lay down” (close) the school, apparently without consulting staff. Staff persuaded them to reconsider until they explored options.

Top, Robert Everett Owen and Eva Pratt Owen when they took over the school while in their 20s, and, above, in later years.

One option was new management. In 1918, Manson and Burleigh wrote, the Board of Trustees hired Robert Everett Owen and Eva (Pratt) Owen, who became joint principals and served until 1968.

Aware of the school’s history, one of the Owens’ many achievements was building the fire-proof brick buildings that form what is now often called “the castle.” When the central building was finished in 1941, the school’s trustees voted to recognize their long-time principals by naming it Owen Hall. The Owens were pleased, but asked the trustees not to publicize the decision, and the new building was called the Administration Building.

On June 7, 1975, after both Owens had died, the trustees of what was by then Oak Grove-Coburn School held a ceremony in Bailey Chapel to publicly rename the building Owen Hall. As part of the observance, Betsy Palmer Eldridge, O.G. ’55, wrote a summary of the Owens’ lives and service.

The Owens were in their twenties when they took over management of the declining school. They had both graduated from Oak Grove, where they met, in 1910 and gone to Colby College, in Waterville. Robert graduated from Colby in 1914 and later got a master’s degree in education from Harvard.

Eva had to leave college to save her failing eyesight. She held brief principals’ jobs at South Thomaston High School and at Erskine Academy, in South China, before she and Robert were married in the summer of 1914.

Eldridge wrote that they spent the next four years at Erskine, Robert as the principal and Eva as the girls’ dean, before they came to Oak Grove in 1918. They promptly began sprucing up Bailey Hall and soliciting students.

In 1925, the Board of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends accepted an education committee’s recommendation that Oak Grove become a girls’ school (and Moses Brown School in Rhode Island become a boys’ school). The goal was to make them specialized schools, distinguished from the co-ed public high schools that were increasingly numerous.

The Owens supported the change, Eldridge wrote. They reported at the end of the first year that enrollment was larger than expected, and “the girls are high-minded and wholesome, and it has been a joy to work with them. They are more contented and doing finer school work than the girls did during the seven years of co-education.”

The Owens’ building project began in 1928 with the dormitory named Briggs Hall (Eldridge gave no explanation for the name). It was followed by the 1938-39 Recitation Building, connected to the east end of the dormitory by a small arcade.

The Administration Building and a second dormitory, later called Senior House, were added in 1940-41, connected by a second, longer arcade students called “the tunnel.” These new buildings provided enough space so that the 1888 Bailey Hall could be demolished in 1942.

Smaller additions were made on the grounds in the 1950s. One was a new cinder-block barn; Eva Owen had always supported the Oak Grove riding program, which she herself taught for some years.

In 1962, Eldridge wrote, the Science Building “completed the Quadrangle by filling in the gap between the Administration Building and Senior House.”

A gymnasium and auditorium were also added in 1962. Eldridge summarized that over 50 years, the Owens had developed Oak Grove from “three buildings on twenty-eight acres to eleven buildings on more than five hundred acres of woods, ponds, lawns and gardens.”

Eldridge called the financing of so many buildings “a mystery” and attributed it primarily to Eva Owens’ enthusiastic sharing of school life with parents, alumnae and others interested. She was famous for writing long friendly letters that did not ask for money, but motivated people to donate anyway.

After their retirement, the Owens continued to live in their apartment in the Administration Building, Eldridge wrote. Robert Owen died July 11, 1973; his wife died Sept. 20, 1974. Both are buried in Green Lawn Rest Cemetery, in Clinton, her home town.

The last sentence of Manson and Briggs’ 1965 history reads, “There will never again be a question of the ‘laying down’ of the [Oak Grove] school.”

However, as mentioned last week, the Owens lived to see the 1970 merger of Oak Grove School with Coburn Classical Institute, a co-ed high school in Waterville, with a history going back to the 1820s. Oak Grove-Coburn School in turn closed in 1989, and the state bought the Owens’ buildings and now uses them as the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

Main sources

Eldridge, Betsy Palmer Owen Hall Pamphlet June 1975.
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Manson, Raymond R., and Elsia Holway Burleigh, First Seventy Years of Oak Grove Seminary ((1965).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Churches – Part 5

River Meeting House

by Mary Grow

Sophia Bailey Chapel and Oak Grove School

Returning to the list of churches on the National Register of Historic Places, the next to be discussed is one that readers met briefly last week. The Sophia D. Bailey Chapel, at Oak Grove School, (the school had several names; Oak Grove School is simplest) was originally known as the River Meeting House. It was where China Quakers worshipped before the East Vassalboro meeting house and then China’s own Pond Meeting House were constructed.

The River Meeting House was built in 1786; Wikipedia says it was the first religious building in Vassalboro. When they nominated it for the National Register in early 1977, historians Robert L. Bradley and Frank A. Beard listed two reasons it deserved recognition:

It is “an unusual architectural adaptation”; and
It is a “link with the Quaker heritage” of the Oak Grove-Coburn School, of which it was a part in 1977, and of the Town of Vassalboro.

The chapel was listed on the National Register on Sept. 19, 1977.

According to Bradley and Beard, the 1786 River Meeting House was a T-shaped wooden building, clapboarded, with gable roofs and a single doorway. It faced south onto what is now Oak Grove Road (previously North Vassalboro Road), they wrote.

Betsy Palmer Eldridge wrote in 1975 that the original building was a typical Quaker chapel, “a very plain building of white clapboard with few and simple windows.” It had no steeple or bell tower.

The building had no cellar. Inside, congregants sat in straight-backed wooden pews facing the pews from which the elders led the meeting.

Kingsbury, in his Kennebec County history, wrote that in 1892, Vassalboro Friends “have a large burial place in rear of their church, near the seminary,” and had also used the Nichols Cemetery, on the north side of Oak Grove Road a few miles eastward.

Vassalboro resident Susan Briggs, one of the leaders of a group seeking to preserve the chapel, wrote in an email that “there is a cemetery East of the Chapel now.” Early Vassalboro maps show two cemeteries on opposite sides of the road, she said.

“You can see where a road used to be on the north side of the present cemetery,” she continued, leading her to assume the road was relocated years ago.

There might be other Quaker graves outside the present cemetery, Briggs added. Since Quakers commonly used small, simple grave markers, “lost” graves are certainly possible.

In their detailed and often entertaining history of the Oak Grove School’s first 70 years, published in 1965 by the Vassalboro Historical Society, Raymond Manson and Elsia Holway Burleigh explained that the River Meeting House and the nearby Quaker school were separate entities until September 1895. By then, the Vassalboro Friends were too few to maintain the building, which needed major repairs.

On Sept. 19, 1895, the Vassalboro Monthly Meeting of Friends gave the chapel to what was then Oak Grove Seminary. Sophia D. Bailey, wife of Charles M. Bailey, offered to pay to have the building repaired and remodeled.

According to an undated copy of Harrie B. Coe’s Maine Biographies found on-line, Charles M. Bailey (1820-1917) established in 1844 Charles M. Bailey’s Sons & Company in Winthrop. The company manufactured floor coverings; Coe wrote that it produced some 30,000 rolls annually and had on average 65 employees. Bailey was a Quaker; his wife, also born in Winthrop, was Sophia D. (Jones) Bailey.

Kingsbury’s version is that Charles Bailey was one of two sons who, with his brother Moses (1817-1882) took over the oilcloth business his father Ezekiel started. Oilcloth, invented in Scotland in the mid-1800s, was used as an inexpensive floor covering into the 20th century, before more durable linoleum supplanted it.

A 2017 newspaper article about the effort to preserve the chapel identified Charles M. Bailey, husband of Sophia Bailey, as one of the headmasters of Oak Grove School. Manson and Burleigh’s list of Oak Grove Seminary Principals from 1850 to 1918 does not include a Bailey. (It does include eight different Joneses.)

Bradley and Beard described in some detail the 1895 “architectural adaptation.”

It resulted in a Shingle-style building with all the windows changed and relocated, two entrances and a square tower in the southeast angle of the original T. The tower was designed as a bell-tower, but no bell was provided.

The building they described in 1977 had the main doorway in the base of the tower with a partly enclosed porch with columns and arches. A second doorway at the far end of the south side had a flat arched window above it. A four-section south-facing window in the main building and a larger one in the base of the tower were also topped by arches.

Manson and Burleigh added that the work included adding a cellar to house a heating plant. The bricks for the cellar walls had been chimneys in wealthy manufacturer (and Quaker) John D. Lang’s Vassalboro mansion, donated by Hall Burleigh after he tore down the building.

Bradley and Beard wrote that there were two cellar windows on the west side, none on the east side.

The two-story tower is square, with four large arched openings in the second story above what the historians called bowed balconies. In the south side below the window and balcony is a small rose window.

Manson and Burleigh said the inside was changed dramatically, although several newer sources mention that the original ceiling survives. The traditional double row of pews that seated the group of elders facing the rest of the congregation was removed and a pulpit built.

Cane-seated chairs replaced the other pews (contemporary interior photos show that the pews are black). A carpet was laid and an organ purchased. Space was provided for a “combined Sunday school and lunch room.”

By 1895, the Quakers had given the chapel to the Oak Grove School. The renovations were designed by William H. Douglas (or Douglass), of Lisbon Falls; after Sophia Bailey funded the work, the name was changed to Sophia D. Bailey Memorial Chapel, dedicated Dec. 8, 1895.

For almost a century after 1895, the fate of the chapel was intertwined with the school’s rising or falling fortunes, which will be summarized in next week’s article in this series. Eldridge mentioned one change: in 1949, the entrance was again relocated, the driveway eliminated, and the inside repainted.

In 1970, Oak Grove School merged with Coburn Classical Institute, in Waterville, to create a high school called Oak Grove-Coburn. In 1989, the school closed for good.

In 1990 the school buildings, but not the chapel, were sold to the State of Maine and became the site of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. Proceeds from the sale created the Oak Grove School Foundation, which assumed ownership of the chapel.

Preserving a building was low on the Foundation’s priority list. Its purposes are support of education and educational innovation, especially at the high school level, and aid to charitable and religious groups.

The chapel was used for religious gatherings, graduations and other school-associated events, and after the school closed hosted weddings, reunions and other celebrations.

By 2015, the Sophia D. Bailey Chapel was on Maine Preservation’s list of critically endangered historic buildings. The Yarmouth-based nonprofit organization’s explanation for the listing said that “The Chapel is underutilized with deferred maintenance, and is falling into disrepair.”

The report cited water entering the building through both the roof and the cellar, and said that the Foundation had considered demolishing the building. In response, the Maine Preservation report said, an alumni group organized the Friends of the River Meeting House and Oak Grove Chapel to try to preserve it.

Current leaders of the effort include Vassalboro residents and Oak Grove-Coburn alumnae Susan Briggs, Jennifer Day and Jody Welch (mentioned as East Vassalboro Grange Master in the April 29 issue of The Town Line; she and her husband Bernard, who wrote part of the April 29 story, were married in the chapel in 1981).

In 2017, the Maine Community Foundation’s Belvedere Historic Preservation Grant Program provided a $7,500 grant to repair the foundation and stop further water inflow.

By 2020, the alumnae group was planning to remedy the chapel’s major deficiency, no running water and no toilet facilities. Their proposed remedy, as they explained it to Morning Sentinel reporter Greg Levinsky in November, is to build a nearby caretaker’s cottage that will provide these amenities to any group using the chapel.

They foresee renting the cottage, so it will support itself financially. In addition to providing restrooms, they plan a small kitchen available for events at the chapel and probably additional space for meetings.

Cost of the project was estimated at around $160,000 pre-pandemic. It has increased since. Last fall, Levinsky reported, an anonymous donor offered $80,000 if the Friends group could raise a matching amount.

Day said in an email that the pandemic suspended active fundraising. She now looks forward to getting a more firm estimate of construction costs and resuming activities, including small-group chapel tours.

Day pledges to “keep reinforcing the historic value of the chapel and the future relevance of the building for community events, private celebrations and cultural gatherings.”

Restoration fund information

People who would like to help fund restoration of the historic Sophia D. Bailey Chapel may make donations through Paypal to oakgrovechapel@gmail.com or send checks, made out to Friends of the Rivermeetinghouse, to Sue Briggs, 593 Main Street, Vassalboro ME 04989.

More information is available from Briggs, whose email is briggsusan@gmail.com.

Main sources

Eldridge, Betsy Palmer, Owen Hall Pamphlet June 1975.
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Manson, Raymond R., and Elsia Holway Burleigh, First Seventy Years of Oak Grove Seminary ((1965).BOX
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Personal correspondence, Susan Briggs and Jennifer Day.

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Rufus Jones houses

Rufus Jones home on Jones Road, in South China Village.

by Mary Grow

Moving sideways (as this series so often does) on a temporary detour from churches on the National Register of Historic Places, this article will describe three National Register properties in the Town of China recognized for their association with Rufus Jones or members of his family, plus China’s other two National Register properties (one demolished, the other mostly intact).

In the National Register nomination sheet architectural historian Gregory Clancey prepared in April 1983 for China’s two Quaker meeting houses (see the July 1 issue of The Town Line), he described two houses in which Rufus Jones lived, the Abel Jones house on Jones Road, in South China Village, and Pendle Hill, off Lakeview Drive. Both were added to the National Register on Aug. 4, 1983.

Abel Jones (1781-1853), Rufus Jones’ grandfather, built the South China house in 1815 for his wife Susannah (1784-1877) and their children. Their oldest son was Eli, who married Sybil Jones; the youngest was Rufus Jones’ father, Edwin (1828-1904), who married Mary Hoxie in 1852.

Clancey called the Abel Jones house a “typical Maine Federal farmhouse.” It is two-and-a-half-stories tall, facing west toward Jones Road, with a long story-and-half ell on the north side. Clancey wrote that the large barn farther north on the lot dates from the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th century.

The historian summarized the major interior changes late in the 19th century that relocated the front entrance and stairs and rearranged rooms on the first and second floors. Original features surviving in 1983 included some of the Federal-style mantels and the pumpkin-pine floorboards.

Edwin and Mary’s son Rufus was born in Abel Jones’ house on Jan. 25, 1863, and lived there until he went to a Friends’ boarding school in 1879. He was named in memory of his father’s younger brother, who had died the year before.

His grandparents and his parents spent the rest of their lives in the house, and Clancey wrote that after he became a Haverford College professor and world-renowned religious leader, Rufus Jones frequently came home for long periods.

In 1983, Clancey wrote, the Jones family still owned the house. The South China Library Association is the present owner.

Pendle Hill was the summer home for Rufus Jones and his family. The cottage, as Clancey called it, is on a hill on the west side of Lakeview Drive, a short distance north of South China Village.

Wikipedia says Jones designed Pendle Hill. Local carpenter George Marr started work in 1909, and Jones and his brother Herbert, four years his junior, finished the project by 1916.

The main building was a story-and-a-half Shingle style structure with a generous porch facing the lake. The whole center of the building was open, with a stone fireplace on one wall. Doors on each side provided access to bedrooms, the kitchen and other areas.

The walls were pine boards; the roof beams were exposed, Clancey wrote. Except for the front door with its “oval light and beaded courses about the panels,” the building was undecorated.

The National Register property consists of the main building, “offering a dramatic view of the lake,” a smaller building and the grounds sloping down to the shore. Clancey also included the “long row of mature pines” separating Pendle Hill from the adjoining Jones family property to the south.

In January 1984, Frank A. Beard and Roger G. Reed successfully nominated the Eli and Sybil Jones house on Dirigo Road, in the southwest corner of the intersection with Belfast Road (Route 3). It was added to the National Register on March 22, 1984.

Eli (1807-1890), and Sybil (1808-1873) Jones were Rufus Jones’ uncle and aunt, and like him were known nationally for their faith. They were a major influence on their nephew; the first of the many books he wrote was a biography of the couple.

Eli and Sybil married in 1833 and promptly moved into their newly-built home east of South China Village. From 1840 on, they spent much of their time spreading the Quaker doctrine over a large part of the world.

“In a time when the 12-mile wagon ride from South China to Augusta was a day’s project,” Beard and Reed listed areas they visited: “Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the British Isles, Scandinavia, Western Europe, Greece, Egypt, the Middle East, and Liberia.” They had an audience with the Liberian President, and in the Middle East Sybil Jones talked with women in harems.

The Historical Register nomination form describes their home as a small, one-and-a-half-story wooden building on a granite foundation, facing north onto the main highway. The historians wrote that in 1983, the China Historical Society recognized Eli and Sybil Jones on the then-annual Day of Remembrance and put a commemorative plaque on the house.

In addition to the early homestead described in the March 18, 2021, issue of The Town Line and the buildings associated with China’s famous Quakers described last week and above, the Town of China has had two other National Register listings.

Dinsmore Grain Mill, in Branch Mills, before its demolition.

The Dinsmore Grain Company Mill, as it was called when it was listed on Nov. 17, 1979, was a large building over the West Branch of the Sheepscot River in Branch Mills. It had been built in 1914, last in a succession of grist mills and sawmills on the dam that backed up the river to create Branch Pond.

Wikipedia says the earliest mill on the site dated from 1817 and belonged to Thomas Hacker. Later, Hacker’s son took over, and in 1879 he took as a partner his son-in-law, Thomas Dinsmore (1824-1916).

Thomas Dinsmore left the business to his son, James Roscoe Dinsmore (1858-1937). Wikipedia says this James Dinsmore built the 1914 building that was listed on the National Register, after the 1808 fire that burned the entire village center, and operated it as a gristmill.

James Kenneth Dinsmore (1907-1984, James Roscoe’s son) owned the mill by 1935 and added a sawmill. Wikipedia says the mill remained active until the 1960s.

By 2010, neighbors, Branch Pond landowners and state environmental regulators were unhappy with the deteriorating building and barely-functional dam. The owners of the property were unable to make needed repairs.

In 2017, Wikipedia says, the Atlantic Salmon Federation bought the mill and dam. The Federation oversaw demolition of the building and added a fish passage at the dam.

What was lost?

According to Maine Historic Preservation officials Beard and Bradley, who prepared the 1979 National Register application with student intern David E. Fortin, “The Dinsmore Grain Company Mill is a remarkable survival which is a model for small businesses which may in the future seek to return to water power as a relatively inexpensive and reliable source of energy.”

Another listing in the Town of China is the China Village Historic District. It consisted of 47 buildings when it was added to the National Register on Nov. 23, 1977.

The district extends from the north end of Main Street, at the intersection with Routes 9, 202 and 137, south on Neck Road to what was then the Brown Farm, set well back from the west side of the road, and the Bubar house on the east side of the road. It jogs eastward to include buildings on Peking and Canton streets and Water Street (now Causeway Street) as far as the end of China Lake’s east basin.

(The Bubar house was the home of Benjamin Calvin Bubar, Jr. [1917-1995], a Blaine, Maine, native who moved to China in 1952 to work for the Christian Civic League of Maine, which he directed from 1954 to 1984. In 1976 and 1980 he was the national Prohibition Party’s candidate for President of the United States.

Three other Maine residents have been Presidential candidates, all for major parties: Republican James G. Blaine in 1884, Re­publican Mar­garet Chase Smith in 1964 and Democrat Edmund Muskie in 1972. Each got more votes than Bubar did; none got enough votes to be elected.)

In the 19th century, China Village had a significant business district at the south end of Main Street and extending out Neck Road and down Water Street. Stores and small manufacturing establishments – blacksmiths, carriage shops, harness-makers, shoemakers, tailors, hatters, furniture-makers – served area residents.

The China bicentennial history includes an anecdote about one of the shoemakers, George Wentworth. One Fourth of July (a holiday that, like Halloween, “was an occasion for mischief-making,” the history explains), local boys put Wentworth’s cobbler’s bench atop the roof of the shop. The next morning, Wentworth opened the shop, “put on his cobbler’s apron, climbed up on the roof, sat down at his bench, and went to work.”

From 1843 to 1927, Main Street had a Methodist Church on the west side, north of the Grange Hall. A private high school, China Academy, operated from 1828 to 1887 in its second and final home, a brick building on the east side of the street across from the library.

Most of the buildings in the District were in 1977 and are in 2021 private homes. They represent a variety of architectural styles and dates. Historian Beard and graduate assistant Stephen Kaplan, who prepared the nomination form, dated the earliest houses from 1809 and 1810 (families still live in and maintain both these Federal-style buildings).

The non-houses in the Historic District in 1977 were:

The concrete-block China General Store, built in 1961; now a private home.
Silver Lake Grange Hall, built in 1908; now a vacant former Grange Hall (see The Town Line, April 15, p. 10).
The China Village Post Office, a single-story Federal-style wooden building constructed in 1960 by local residents William Foster and Karl Wilson; still the village post office.
The Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, since 1941 in the Fletcher-Main House, a two-story wooden Federal building dating from about 1837.
The Alfred Marshall – Benjamin Libby Block, known then as the Masonic Hall, a large, Federal style, two-story brick building dating from about 1825 that had seen many changes of use; now demolished and the lot used for parking.
The Farnsworth Boat Shop, described as a two-and-a-half-story Greek Revival building built in or before 1836; still standing.
The Woodsum Building at the top of Water Street, a two-story wooden Greek Revival building built in or before 1839 that housed stores and shops, briefly the library and later the American Legion Hall; now demolished.
The two-and-a-half story hotel barn just north of the large Brackett (later Adams) house on the north side of the top of Water Street, built sometime in the 19th century when the house was a stagecoach stop and an inn; now demolished and the new Masonic Hal on the site.
The China Village Volunteer Fire Department headquarters, a single-story wooden building dating from about 1955, with additions; still in use.
The China Baptist Church, a single-story Federal building with a tower and steeple, dating from 1835, remodeled in 1900; still in use.

Beard and Kaplan described the district as a “cohesive, homogenous grouping of 19th and 20th century architecture.” Over almost two centuries, they wrote, “the predominent [sic] characteristic has been a simple forthright interpretation of the current architectural mode. The structures are well-designed vernacular examples of their period, with no pretensions.”

The result, in their view, was a “villagescape” that, despite scattered unobtrusive modern buildings, “retains the fabric and flavor of Maine’s 19th-century era of prosperity.”

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Churches – Part 4

South China Meeting House.

by Mary Grow

Two churches in the Town of China were added to the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 4, 1983. The earlier is the Pond Meeting House, on Lakeview Drive, built in 1807. The South China Meeting House, now South China Community Church, on Village Street, dates from 1884. Both were originally houses of worship for the Quakers, or Society of Friends.

The present Town of China’s first settlers, two generations of the Clark family, came in 1774 and established their homesteads around China Lake’s east basin. Originally named Jones Plantation after surveyor John Jones, the area was Harlem from 1796 to 1822 and became China in 1822, with various boundary changes along the way.

In his chapter on the Society of Friends in Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, Rufus Jones, China’s most famous Quaker, wrote that Miriam Clark, wife of settler Jonathan Clark, and her sons Andrew and Ephraim were Quakers; her husband and two other sons were not.

Andrew and Ephraim Clark made their homes on the east shore of the lake. For the first few years, the nearest Quaker meeting was 40 miles away in Durham.

In 1780, the Vassalboro Friends established the earliest meeting in Kennebec County, Jones wrote. The first Vassalboro meeting house, built in 1785-86, was near the Kennebec River, about 10 miles from the Clarks’ China home. In 1797 the East Vassalboro meeting house opened, an easy ride across China Lake.

Enough other Quaker families arrived in the next two decades to justify a China meeting, which began in 1802 in Lemuel Hawkes’ house. Jones quoted from February (2nd month, to Quakers) 1807 minutes of the China Friends meeting, at which they voted to share the cost of building a 30-by-40-foot meeting house on land bought from Jedediah Jepson. They appointed Jepson, Reuben Fairfield, Isaac Hussey and James Meader as the building committee, instructing them to work as they thought best and report when necessary.

Pond Meeting House

The Pond Meeting House is about three miles south of the north end of the lake. Gregory Clancey, the architectural historian who wrote the application for National Register recognition in April 1983, described it as “a modest but pleasing post and beam structure, devoid of all ornament or stylistic claim, save for the concern with regularity and proportion characteristic of Federal buildings.”

The building is a story-and-a-half high with a steep roof. The equally tall entranceway, attached at right angles on the west side of the building, has separate entrance doors with a window between them.

Although Quakers always accepted women as entitled to speak at meetings and to act as preachers, inside a meetinghouse men sat on one side and women on the other, usually with a moveable partition between them. They would be together for worship, separated for business meetings.

Update on Victor Grange

The May 13 history article was about Victor Grange in Fairfield Center, the oldest continuously operating Grange in the central Kennebec Valley area. Since then, Barbara Bailey, the Grange member who contributed so much to the story, has sent out the Grange’s summer newsletter.

One theme is continuing work on the grounds and building. The new parking lot beside the Grange Hall is finished and in use. Interior work has run into unexpected problems, as so often happens with old buildings (readers will remember, of course, that the hall was built in 1902 and 1903).

The section headed “The Insulation Saga” explains that Grange members are fund-raising to insulate the building. The first step, finished in May, was “to get all the critter droppings cleaned out and disinfected” to protect the ceiling.

An insulation vendor explained that insulating required adding ventilation. Grangers are now seeking someone who can ventilate and insulate the top of the building, as they continue to raise funds to pay that person. Suggestions, volunteers and donations are welcome.

The mailing address is Victor Grange, c/o Roger Shorty, 118 Oakland Road, Fairfield, Maine 04937; the email address is Victorgrange49@gmail.com. The Grange has a Facebook page that includes information on coming events, the second theme of the newsletter.

These include hosting the Fairfield Historical Society’s annual Quilt Show on Saturday, July 10, and Sunday, July 11, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 to view more than 50 antique and new quilts. Grange members will provide lunches and snacks.

On Saturday, July 31, from 9 a.m. to noon, Rita Fortin, President of the Clinton and Somerset County extension services, will host a free workshop on canning green beans. She is scheduled to return on Saturday, Aug. 28, same hours, to talk about canning tomatoes. Interested area residents can sign up at the Grange email address above or by contacting Fortin directly at 453-2945 or ritafortin2@gmail.com.

The Pond Meeting House originally had two rooms separated by what Clancey called “a shutter-door attached to the ceiling with iron hooks.” The interior was a single room by 1983, except that in 1930 a corner had been partitioned off to make a kitchen.

Clancey described the interior with its exposed beams and hand-hewn pine floorboards and roof timbers. The meeting house was by then, as it is in 2021, part of the China Friends Camp, founded in 1953 under the auspices of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

What is now the South China Community Church was initially a Friends meeting house also, built in 1884 on the north side of Village Street.

The first church building on the lot, Jones wrote, was the Second Baptist Church’s brick meeting house, built in the 1820s or 1830s. On May 10, 1856, church members approved selling the building. It was moved, and in 1862, they put up a larger wooden building on the lot.

The South China Baptists were active in the prohibition movement in the 1860s and 1870s. On Oct. 1, 1869, Jones wrote, “a liquor man” burned down their church. The Friends later bought the lot for a dollar on condition that they build a house of worship.

The China bicentennial history names the building committee for the new meeting house: five men, one surnamed Philbrook and four surnamed Jones.

The earliest section of the meeting house, Clancey wrote, was a single room in a minimally-decorated, clapboard-sided story-and-a-half building with a pitched cedar-shingled roof, its gable ends on the north and south. There were three windows on each of the long sides and a small vestibule on the south (street) side

About 1900, Clancey wrote, the vestibule was extended across the gable end and four street-facing windows were added. At the west end of the vestibule a square tower not much taller than the building was constructed, with a south-facing door in the base. Another door was added to the east end of the enlarged vestibule.

At that time, the upper part of the tower was shingled rather than clapboarded and was “painted a darker color than the rest of the church,” Clancey wrote. Later (undated) additions included a room behind the tower attached to the original west wall and a small shed that Clancey wrote was a kitchen in 1983.

The interior was remodeled repeatedly. The change Clancey mentioned specifically was the 1970s addition of a stained-glass window parishioners bought from Whittimore Associates, of Needham Heights, Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, the building was home to weekly Friends meetings until the 1930s, when the congregation became too small to support a pastor. In 1935, the bicentennial history says, the Friends proposed uniting village residents in the South China Community Fellowship, which continues active today.

The Friends own the church building. Fellowship members retain their individual religious affiliations, but they cooperate to maintain the building, select a minister and organize and finance community religious and social activities. Current Pastor Paul Harwath has served since 2012, according to the church website.

Clancey’s 1983 application for National Historic Register listing included three other buildings associated with Rufus Jones, who was profiled in the July 30 and August 6, 2020, issues of The Town Line.

Two residential buildings gained individual listings and will be discussed, with a third, in the next article in this series. The third nominee, the South China Public Library across Village Street from the church, was rejected by the keepers of the National Register.

The square story-and-a-half library building was built in 1900, Clancey wrote, with donated materials and local labor. It housed books for a library originally incorporated in 1830. Library association members have described the South China Library as the oldest continuously functioning library in Maine, but not the oldest library (see box).

The first library in the State of Maine (before Maine was a state)

Blue Hill Library

The Blue Hill library, in Hancock County, was organized in 1796 in the local grocery store, with the grocer as the librarian. According to an on-line history, “Overdue fines were six cents a week, with additional fines of two cents per page for spilled drops of oil or tallow.”

The library’s bookplate, which the history site says is still used, was designed by the first Congregational minister in town, Jonathan Fisher (1768-1847; in Blue Hill from 1794 to 1837). Fisher, one of the founders of Bangor Theological Seminary, was also an artist (his self-portrait is on his Wikipedia page), a writer (including local newspaper reporting) who could bind his own books, a scientist, mathematician and surveyor. He built his house and designed and built furniture.

The Blue Hill Library history page explains that lack of interest caused the library to close before the Civil War. After almost 20 years, a new group reorganized it in the 1860s as the Ladies Social Library of Blue Hill.

The ladies met once a week to swap and discuss books over dishes of ice cream. By 1895, Blue Hill had a new town hall and the library had two rooms on the ground floor. The first professional librarian, a Colby College graduate named Anne Hinckley, was hired in or soon after 1930.

In the 1930s, the library had a car that was its bookmobile, used to bring books to remote residents and to students in Blue Hill’s seven elementary schools and George Stevens Academy. The history site says library services included party planning.

Besides Hinckley, two other women are associated with the 20th-century Blue Hill Library, according to the history site.

Adelaide Pearson was responsible for hiring Hinckley and was the driving force behind the first separate library building, a brick structure designed by Augusta architects Bunker and Savage and opened in March 1940. She and Hinckley persuaded the federal Public Works Administration, created to combat the Depression by funding big public works projects, that a library in Blue Hill, Maine, qualified.

An on-line photo shows the ground-breaking for the building, Dec. 19, 1938, with the comment, “It was 12 degrees below zero.”

Dorris Parker was the first full-time Blue Hill librarian. She started as head librarian in 1944 and retired in 1981. An on-line photo, from the 1950s, shows a small, dark-haired woman behind a large, rather cluttered circulation desk that has three panels across the front and two more on back-folded side wings, each with a scene that appears to depict a historical event. Well-filled bookshelves rise on either side of the desk and the office area behind it.

The Blue Hill Library remains active today, in space that was doubled by a $2 million expansion in 2000 and 2001. The expansion provided a children’s room and a community meeting room. The website says the library building typically hosts 450 meetings and 400 library-sponsored events annually.

Clancey had the library building on his nomination list because, he wrote, “Rufus Jones served as library president 1919-1948, the only civic activity with which he was associated.”

Main sources

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

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Churches – Part 3

Inside view of First Baptist Church, in Waterville.

by Mary Grow

First Baptist Church, Universalist-Unitarian Church in Waterville

First Baptist Church, Waterville, in1907.

Moving up the Kennebec to the city of Waterville, two of its many church buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places: the First Baptist Church, at 1 Park Street (on the northwest side of the intersection with Elm Street, across Elm Street from the Waterville Public Library), and the Universalist-Unitarian Church, at 69 Silver Street, in the north corner of the Y-shaped intersection of Elm and Silver streets.

The First Baptist Church was built in 1826 and listed on the National Register Jan. 2, 1976.

Patricia Brown, the student assistant at the Maine Historic Preservation Commission who prepared the National Register nomination papers, wrote that the church is historically significant as “Waterville’s oldest existing public building and first denominational structure.” Brown used as one of her sources a book now almost 100 years old, Minnie Philbrick’s 1925 1818-1918 Centennial History of the First Baptist Church of Waterville, Maine.

Baptist congregations had been established in towns near Waterville, including China, Clinton, Sidney and Vassalboro, between 1788 and 1806, according to George Dana Boardman Pepper’s chapter on churches in the Waterville Centennial History. Rev. Jeremiah Chaplin (Jan. 2, 1776 – May 7, 1841) organized Waterville’s first Baptist congregation, at his house, on August 27, 1818.

Chaplin came from Massachusetts to Waterville in 1818 as the first President of the Maine Literary and Theological Institute (later Waterville College and then Colby College); he returned to Massachusetts in 1833. Pepper called the Waterville church “the child of the college.”

Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history that of the 20 founding members of the Waterville church, 13 were from Sidney’s First Baptist Church.

Kingsbury probably meant Second Baptist. In her history of Sidney, Alice Hammond explained that in 1818, Sidney’s Second Baptist Church had no pastor, leading 13 members to join with seven from other towns under Chaplin’s leadership. “Second Baptist in Sidney is proud to have been the ‘mother church’ of the First Baptist in Waterville,” Hammond wrote, giving the church a second parent.

Hammond further explained that organizers of the first Baptist church in Sidney, in 1791, named it the Second Vassalboro Church (Sidney did not separate from Vassalboro until 1792). It became First Baptist when Sidney’s second Baptist congregation organized in February 1806, and later West Sidney Baptist.

The early Baptist services in Waterville were held in a 1796 meeting house on the site of the present Waterville City Hall. In 1824, the congregation decided to build their own church.

Historian Brown wrote that in 1824, “it was illegal for a religious group to own property.” (The state legislature eliminated the prohibition in 1901.)

Church members therefore formed the Waterville Baptist Society. State Senator Timothy Boutelle donated the Park Street lot; contractor James Packard, of Readfield, and a three-man building committee designed the building; and Packard built it in 1826.

Pepper wrote that Packard’s contract was for $3,375. The foundation cost another $100 plus a free pew worth $125. Most of the money came from selling pews, Pepper wrote. The new church was dedicated Dec. 6, 1826; but Pepper wrote that heating stoves were not approved until 1832.

Until 1829, the First Baptist Church hired no pastor, depending on Literary and Theological Institute ministers. From 1834 to 1841 its pastor was Rev. Samuel Francis Smith, who had written “America” in 1831, while he was studying at Andover Theological Seminary, in Massachusetts. Smith was simultaneously teaching modern languages at the former Institute, which had become Waterville College on Feb. 5, 1821.

The church building went through changes and additions from the 1840s on. Kingsbury wrote that the church was “repaired and reseated” in 1846. In 1875 there was a major renovation, inside and outside, that Kingsbury said cost $17,000. The work was done under the direction of architect Francis Fassett (who has appeared repeatedly in this series of articles, most recently on June 10 as architect of Augusta’s South Parish Congregational Church).

The 1875 changes included removing a chapel Samuel Redington had paid to have built in 1836 and adding the vestry on the west end.

As the Waterville centennial history went to print in 1902, Pepper wrote that because of the growth of the Sunday School, a building committee was planning another addition.

This idea might not have been carried out, because Brown wrote in the 1975 National Register application that the church was its original size, except for the addition of the vestry on the back, and stood on its original granite foundation.

A two-story wooden building facing east, it had a steeple enclosing the bell and topped by a weathervane. Brown described its architectural style as “a combination…ranging from the Neo-classical revival to the Victorian Era.” Later she called the main entrance Romanesque style.

The many large windows have always been clear glass rather than stained glass. Fassett, Brown wrote, added “window moldings and gable decorations.”

Inside, Brown found that the original pulpit was so tall that the minister “looked straight at the people sitting in the balcony.” It had been lowered before Fassett did the major interior renovation that left only the three-sided balcony (accessed by curving stairways from each side of the vestibule) as originally constructed.

The building was rededicated after the reconstruction, Brown wrote.

Universalist-Unitarian Church, Waterville, in 1910.

Waterville’s second National Register church, the Universalist Unitarian Church at the south end of Elm Street, was built in 1832 and gained historic recognition on Feb. 17, 1978.

The nomination form for the National Register was prepared by Frank A. Beard and Robert L. Bradley, the team who nominated Augusta’s South Parish Church, assisted by intern Kristin Stred. Writing in 1977, they described a “late Federal style meetinghouse with early elements of the Gothic revival.”

The original church on the site was built by a Waterville Universalist congregation that Rev. Sylvanus Cobb organized May 18, 1826. Kingsbury wrote that the first worshippers included 11 people from Waterville, four each from Fairfield and Sidney and one from Winslow.

Members met in Cobb’s home (per Wikipedia) or the “town meetinghouse” (per Beard and Bradley) for the first five years. In 1831, “having matured a plan to erect a church edifice” (Kingsbury), they formally organized as the First Universalist Society in Waterville (Pepper).

At the society’s first official meeting, Nov. 17, 1831, they appointed a six-man building committee headed by Jediah Morrill to have a church built within a year.

Sources agree that Simeon Matthews or Mathews donated part of the lot at the intersection of Silver and Elm streets. Kingsbury cited the record of the Jan. 28, 1833, meeting during which parishioners thanked him for the gift, “valued at $100.”

James Crommett might have given another piece of the lot, but, Kingsbury wrote, the deed got lost, leaving no record of the donor. The church bought the south point of the lot from Crommett for $50.

The Universalist church was finished July 9, 1832. A Universalist Society meeting on Nov. 8, 1832, authorized Morrill to chair another committee to provide furnishings, including a stove.

Inside view of the Universalist-Unitarian Church, in Waterville.

The church was dedicated Jan. 1, 1833. It had 60 pews, Wikipedia says, and cost $4,100 ($4,200, according to Kingsbury and Pepper). Congregants raised another $360 to buy a bell, and Morrill donated a $350 clock and paid to have it wound and kept in working order. Kingsbury called it the town clock.

Morrill had earlier made a generous contribution to the building fund. Kingsbury wrote that when he died in December 1872, after more than 50 years as “the acknowledged leader of the society,” he willed $3,000 to the church, the interest to be used to further its activities.

Beard and Bradley learned that in 1833, Waterville officials agreed to pay someone not more than $30 a year to ring the church bell three times a day. They further agreed the town would maintain the area in front of the church, to be used as a park.

Kingsbury said the first organ was added in 1852 (Pepper wrote that there had been at least one before then). In 1854, the congregation spent $600 on repairs. In 1879, Susan Hoag, Morrill’s niece, donated another $500 for repairs.

In 1894 a chimney fire caused considerable damage. George H. Ware offered to pay for building a basement farther north on the lot and moving the church onto it. The entrance was changed to face south as part of the project (there is no mention of which way it originally faced; this writer guesses it had faced east).

Pewholders voted $1,500 for repairs, in addition to Ware’s donated work. The renovated church got a new organ, donated stained-glass windows and a new bell (for $150 plus the old bell, by then cracked, according to Beard and Bradley).

Mean­while, the Unitarians had built a church on Main Street in Waterville in the 1860s. They invited the Univer­salists to meet there while damage from the 1894 fire was repaired.

Neither group was wealthy, leading to 20th-century merger talks. In 1952, Wikipedia says, the Waterville Unitarians and Fairfield’s Church of the Good Shepherd joined the Universalists, creating the Universalist Unitarian Church of Waterville.

Writing in 1977, Beard and Bradley called the church building “a well proportioned Federal-Gothic Revival transitional structure” and a significant Waterville landmark. They described a rectangular wooden building on a granite foundation. Each side wall had five bays, each bay with a tall stained-glass window under a louvered Gothic-type arch.

The projecting entrance with double doors, each with six panels, had stained-glass windows above it and on both sides. On either side of the front projection were more stained-glass windows, the lower ones topped by “louvered arches in the Gothic manner.”

Each side of the square central tower had a clock face with Roman numerals. Above the tower, an octagonal belfry had a “delicate wooden balustrade” and “eight open Gothic arches.” The belfry roof was an octagonal dome topped with a cross.

By 2008, Wikipedia says, the bell tower was so weakened by age that it was removed. Tower, clock and lightning rod were sold at auction, and a new tower was put up by Christmas Eve 2008.

Kristin Stred

Kristin Stred

Kristin Stred, the Maine Historic Preservation Society intern who worked on the application for National Register of Historic Places listing for Waterville’s Universalist Unitarian Church, is a Lewiston native and Winthrop High School graduate now living near Seattle, Washington.

After a college major in Chinese history, she graduated from Harvard Law School in 1984 and worked in the corporate world, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. She switched to working as a corporate recruiter, and in 2012 formed Stred Executive Search, LLC, a firm that finds qualified and experienced new members for executive boards.

The motto on the firm’s website: “We promise you: ‘No empty suits.'”

Stred describes the 1977 summer internship researching and writing at Maine Historic Preservation as “a good fit,” and adds “Frank Beard and Robert Bradley were supportive mentors that summer.”

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Churches – Part 2

The Fuller-Weston House in Augusta.

by Mary Grow

In the June 10 issue of The Town Line, readers learned about three of the four Augusta church buildings that have gained recognition on the National Register of Historic Places. The fourth, and an associated building, are described herein.

The building that used to be St. Mark’s Church, at 9 Summer Street, in Augusta, was built in 1886 and, Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history, consecrated Feb. 2, 1887. It was the second home for an Episcopal congregation organized in 1840; the first was a small wooden church Wikipedia says was a little north of Lithgow Library. Kingsbury said the first building was consecrated July 20, 1842, and “greatly enlarged” in 1858.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church postcard in 1900.

The 1886 Summer Street church cost $40,000, according to Kingsbury. The old one was sold to John W. Fogler, who in turn sold it to Dr. George W. Martin, who built “a fine residence” on the lot in 1891.

Rev. Walker Gwynne was St. Mark’s rector from Jan. 17, 1884, to at least 1892, when Kingsbury’s history was published. He was the author of a Manual of Christian Instruction, According to the Church Catechism, Adapted to the Christian Year, and in Four Uniform Grades. The Manual was published in London and reprinted in New York. It has an introduction by the Very Rev. R. W. Church, M.A., D.C.L., Dean of St. Paul’s, London; and an endorsement by John Fredericton, Metropolitan of Canada.

Architect Richard Michell Upjohn designed St. Mark’s granite Gothic Revival building with its slate roofs. The main section, with a steep gable roof topped with crosses, has a large window, in 10 sections, under a pointed arch in the east end.

Near the east end, an almost-square lower annex with another steeply-pitched roof has a round window above three arched ones in its south face. A brick chimney rising well above the roofline marks its western junction with the center of the main building, by the main entrance.

Near the west end, a tall square tower with what look like louvers in its upper level rises to a four-sided roof with a cross atop its peak. Wikipedia says the belfry is in the tower.

Richard Michell Upjohn (1828-1903) was the son of a British emigree architect, Richard Upjohn. The son joined his father’s firm in New York in 1853 and later became his father’s partner.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in 2013.

Wikipedia says his earliest commission was probably New York City’s 1853-1854 Madison Square Presbyterian Church. He designed many other churches, working mostly on the east coast but doing an Episcopal church in La Grange, Texas, in 1855. Other buildings he designed included the First National Bank, in Salt Lake City, Utah (1871), and the Connecticut State Capitol, in Hartford, Connecticut (1871-1878).

Maine Historic Preservation Commission architects Frank A. Beard (who also did the South Parish application in 1980; see the June 10 issue of The Town Line) and Roger G. Reed wrote the May 1984 application for National Register status for St. Mark’s. They wrote that as of that spring, the church interior was “unaltered since its construction.”

With evident pleasure, they described particularly striking aspects. “Large marble columns with stone palm leaf capitals support lancet arched arcading flanking the nave. …The pulpit is panelled wood with a hand-wrought copper railing shaped in a floral motif. The ceiling of the chancel is painted with original stenciling.”

They also mentioned the “screens carved with openwork Gothic tracery” and the stained-glass window brought from the earlier church and placed above the choir.

The building deserved historic listing because it was an outstanding example of Gothic architecture, the two historians wrote. “No other church in the area conveys a similar rusticity and none has a more carefully worked interior.”

Wikipedia says the Saint Mark’s congregation supported community services, like groups supplying food and clothing, and musical events. The latter included an annual organ concert that from 2010 was named the Marilyn Tedesco Memorial Concert, to honor a former organist and music director.

In January 2015, the St. Mark’s congregation began worshiping in Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, because they could no longer afford to maintain their own building. They put St. Mark’s church on the market in 2016. Social services continued to operate from the 1908 parish house, according to a Dec. 22, 2014, Central Maine newspapers story by Craig Crosby.

The former St. Mark’s Church was added to the National Register on July 19, 1984. The parish house was not included in the application.

However, the building at 11 Summer Street that served as the rectory for St. Mark’s Church has a separate listing as the Fuller-Weston House. Historians Beard and Reed filled out its application in January 1984 and it was added to the National Register on March 22, 1984.

The two-story wooden house with a Federal-style door in the center of its south-facing, five-bay front is just west of the former church. Built in 1818, it is recognized not only for its architecture, but also for three early owners.

The first owner was Connecticut-born lawyer and judge Henry Weld Fuller (1784-1841) who, Wikipedia says, bought most of the land that is now downtown Augusta. He married Esther Gould (1785-1866) in 1806, and they had nine children, including Henry Weld Fuller, Jr. (1810-1889), who in turn begat Henry Weld Fuller III (1839-1863).

The senior Fuller became a wealthy man as the value of his land increased. Beard and Reed wrote that he represented the Plymouth Proprietors (the British-chartered landholders who owned part of Maine) as a lawyer, served in “the General Court” (presumably the Massachusetts General Court before 1820) and was a Maine Militia Colonel and “eventually” a Kennebec County judge of probate.

In 1826 or 1827, Fuller sold the house to Nathan Weston, Jr. (1782-1872). Weston was one of the original (1820) associate justices on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and in 1834 became Chief Justice, serving until 1841.

Weston and his wife, Paulina Bass (Cony) (1787-1857) had four sons and four daughters. Fuller’s son Frederic married Weston’s daughter Catherine, and in 1833 Catherine bore a son, Melville Weston Fuller (1833-1910).

Frederic and Catherine divorced shortly afterwards, and Melville Fuller lived with his grandfather Weston in the Fuller-Weston house until he left for Bowdoin College, from which he graduated in 1853. Two years later he graduated from Harvard Law School; in 1888, President Grover Cleveland appointed him Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

The controversy over Fuller’s statue, 2013-2021

Fuller statue

In their application for inclusion of the Fuller-Weston house on the National Register of Historic Places, historians Frank A. Beard and Roger G. Reed wrote that Supreme Court Chief Justice Melville Weston Fuller was “highly respected as a jurist.” They mentioned several important issues that came to the Supreme Court during Fuller’s tenure, including income taxes and immigration.

They did not mention “Plessy v. Ferguson”, the 1896 case that created what became known as the “separate but equal” doctrine for United States white and colored citizens. In 1954, the “Brown v. Board of Education” ruling overturned “Plessy”.

Fuller was part of the seven-man Court majority. (Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent contained the statement that “the Constitution is color-blind.”)

In Augusta 2013, a bronze statue of Fuller was erected in front of the historic Kennebec County Courthouse, on State Street, in Augusta.

Commissioned and funded by Robert Fuller, Jr., an indirect descendant of the former Chief Justice, and approved by the Kennebec County Commissioners a year and a half earlier, the statue was sculpted by Forest Hart, of Monroe. Tony Masciadri of S. Masciadri & Sons, in Hallowell, provided the granite base.

Kennebec Journal reporter Betty Adams attended the installation. The statue shows Fuller “seated and robed and looking much like Mark Twain” on the “front lawn of the Kennebec County Courthouse, welcoming all,” she wrote for the Aug. 14 issue of the newspaper.

Among those at the ceremony were Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley (who retired in 2020) and Daniel Wathen, Chief Justice before Saufley. Adams quoted from Saufley’s speech, which did refer to “Plessy”.

After calling Fuller ” ‘an Augusta boy [who] made good,’ ” Saufley “praised his administrative skills and emphasis on collegiality” among his Supreme Court colleagues. She then called “Plessy” “one of the [Supreme Court’s] most reviled decisions.”

Fuller’s joining the majority in the case “is a good reminder that respected, capable people can do something that is so flatly wrong,” Adams quoted Saufley as saying.

By the summer of 2020, the statue became controversial. A series of Kennebec Journal reports by Rob Montana and Jessica Lowell followed developments.

The Maine Judicial Branch, in an Aug. 5 letter signed by Maine Supreme Judicial Court Acting Chief Justice Andrew Mead (Saufley’s interim successor), asked Kennebec County Commissioners to consider removing the statue. Mead wrote that the “Plessy” decision was not consistent with state values, and that it was inappropriate for the Fuller statue to be “the monument that members of the public see as they approach the courthouse.”

Kennebec County Commissioners held a hearing on the future of the statue in December 2020. In February 2021, they voted to have it removed, and created an advisory commission to suggest where it might go.

On April 20, the Commissioners made the advisory commission’s role superfluous by voting unanimously to accept Robert Fuller’s offer to take back his gift. Commissioners “sold” it to him for $1 and gave him 12 months to remove and rehome it, at his expense.

Reporter Lowell wrote that advisory committee members hoped the statue would be placed where its “educational value” would be preserved. They had suggested giving it to the Maine State Museum, but Lowell said Museum Director Bernard Fishman said the museum had no money to buy it or to store it while renovations to the museum building are finished.

Main sources

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

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Goodwill-Hinckley – Part 2

Moody Chapel

by Mary Grow

Averill school, Prescott admin, Kent woodworking, Carnegie library

The Goodwill-Hinckley campus has more buildings of historic interest than there was space to describe in the May 20 The Town Line article, including a third school included in the boundaries of the National Register area.

The Averill School, later Averill High School and now Averill/Alfond School, dates from 1930. Originally a two-story Georgian Revival brick building, with chimneys on either end, it acquired two wings and more chimneys on its new ends.

After listening to school founder George W. Hinckley’s requests for a new school nearer the center of campus, Keyes Fibre executive Dr. George C. Averill (1869-1954) and his second wife, Frances Mosher Averill (1873-1962), provided money for the school, and remained important supporters of Goodwill-Hinckley for years. (Averill also bought, in 1944, the Great Pond property for the Boy Scouts to build Camp Bomazeen, in Belgrade.)

Later, Maine philanthropists Harold and Bibby Alfond supported redoing the Averill School interior and adding a middle school; the building was rededicated in September 2000. The school’s online information says it is coed, serving students in grades six through 12, with a 4:1 student:teacher ratio.

The Averill family also provided Averill Cottage. An on-line photo caption relates its story: on Jan. 2, 1927, during a service in Moody Chapel, Hinckley announced a gift of $20,000 to build another girls’ home and name it in honor of Leah S. Averill, George Averill’s mother. The donor was identified as Averill’s second wife, Frances B. Mosher, of Bangor. Maintenance Superintendent James Tuttle built the two-and-a-half-story wooden Colonial Revival residence with its spacious porch; it was dedicated Sept. 18, 1927.

Frances Moody, of Bath, mentioned in the May 20 article as the funder of the Moody School building, made the donation that led to construction of Moody Memorial Chapel. The stone chapel was built in 1897 and expanded in 1927, after the congregation outgrew the original space.

The architect was Wilfred Mansur (1855-1921), described as the most prominent architect in Bangor in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most of his work was done in Bangor, including the Penobscot County courthouse, the Mount Hope Chapel and Office in Mount Hope Cemetery and several buildings in Bangor’s historic district.

Moody Chapel is in Romanesque style, which Mansur used on other buildings as well. It features arched windows and a square bell tower. Two stained-glass windows honoring Frances and Mary Moody face east and west, one showing flowers and the other fruit.

The windows were created by Cyrus Hamlin Farley (1839-1934), of Portland. A web page from Church on the Cape UMC, a Cape Porpoise church with six Farley windows, says Farley began a career making nautical instruments; switched to eyeglasses; and then switched again to windows, ornamental and ordinary.

Goodwill School closed in 1909 after the Maine attorney general found its effort to become a college preparatory school violated its charter and state funds were withdrawn. Leaders reorganized and raised money and the school reopened.

After the reorganization, a 2011 Harold Alfond Foundation gift made it possible for Kennebec Valley Community College to acquire part of the Goodwill-Hinckley campus, including Moody Chapel. The college, the foundation and “a team of preservation professionals” went to work to restore the building.

As with the Moody School, extensive reconstruction was needed, including “reattachment of veneer stones to the wall core,” rebuilding “the two buttresses at the front of the building,” and restoring the bell tower from lobby to roof.

Carnegie Library

Goodwill-Hinckley’s Carnegie Library was designed by Albert Randolph Ross (1868-1948), built in 1906 and 1907 and dedicated May 29, 1907, according to Wikipedia’s list of Ross’s works. The Carnegie Corporation of New York donated $15,000 in 1905 for the building.

The brick and granite building is in Classical style. Photos on line show tall pillars flanking a central entrance, with a large dome over the center section and a chimney at the end of each wing. There are basement windows below tall main-floor windows.

An on-line site explains that Hinckley always realized that his school needed a library. As soon as he started it in 1889 he began soliciting books, and within a few years had 150.

By 1904 the library had grown to 5,000 volumes. The on-line site says on New Year’s Eve 1904 the original Moody School (built in 1895; see the May 20 issue of The Town Line, which did not include this recently-discovered information) burned down and the books were lost.

When Hinckley started rebuilding in the summer of 1905, he sought funding from Andrew Carnegie, leading to the grant that allowed construction of the Carnegie Library.

Architect Ross was born in Connecticut, son of architect John Wesley Ross (1830-1914), he practiced in Buffalo and New York City before moving in 1901 to what Wikipedia calls Negro Island off Boothbay Harbor. Some of his many other works include the Pittsfield Public Library (on the National Register of Historic Places) and the Old Town Public Library, both dated 1904.

(A July 27, 2020, letter to the editor of the Boothbay Register, signed by six couples who made up the Negro Island Property Owners Association, announced the island’s name had been changed, by unanimous vote, to Oak Island. The original name dated to the mid-1700s, the letter said, and had been making the island’s residents “increasingly uncomfortable.” The new name was chosen because of numerous oak trees and as a symbol of “strength, endurance and serenity.”)

The first Goodwill-Hinckley librarian was Hinckley’s sister, Jane E. Hinckley. (She was also the first Matron, the first office employee, and the organizer and first director of the boys’ choir, among other roles.) The on-line site mentioned above as a source of the library’s history says the library’s collection had expanded to 12,000 volumes by the time she died in February 1914.

The Goodwill-Hinckley Library closed in 2008. Recently, it has reopened with grants and donations paying for renovations and updates. Like other contemporary libraries, Goodwill-Hinckley’s now offers high-speed internet service, a 3D printer and other contemporary technological features.

The Prescott Memorial Administration Building was designed by New York architect Edgar A. Josselyn and built in 1916. The application to add the campus to the National Register of Historic Places gives the additional dates 1921 and 1922, and one on-line source says the original building burned.

The two-story brick building is in Georgian Renaissance style. On-line photos dated 1916 and 1926 each show a square three-story central tower with an arched window above the entrance and above that level an impressive wooden cupola. The square bottom of the cupola has four clock faces; above them, two receding round towers with windows are topped by a small golden dome and a weathervane.

An on-line slideshow says Portland-based landscape architect Carl Rust Parker (1882-1966) laid out Prescott Drive, a main road through the campus, and sited the Prescott building. He explained to Hinckley that the building should be “in a commanding position, and be easily accessible from the railroad, highway and the rest of the campus.”

Building and (presumably) roadway were named in honor of Amos L. Prescott (1853-1926). Born in South Berwick and later moving to Passaic, New Jersey, Prescott was a successful manufacturer of stove polish. He served on the board of Good Will Homes and donated money for the building.

The single-story brick Kent Woodworking Shop named in the 1986 application for Historic Register listing is another of Josselyn’s Georgian Renaissance buildings, built in 1919. On-line information is lacking.

The woodworking shop might have been successor to the 1903 Quincy Manual Training Building, where students from Goodwill and from outside, mostly boys, learned “carpentry, drafting, printing, and metal work.” The building now houses the L. C. Bates Museum (see the May 20 issue of The Town Line).

George Walter Hinckley

George Walter Hinckley

George Walter Hinckley (1853-1950), a Connecticut native trained as a minister and a teacher, wanted to help underprivileged and troubled youngsters. An on-line history describes his seeing another child arrested for trying to steal from a lunch pail because he was starving. As a teen-ager, Hinckley persuaded his parents to take in an orphan boy.

By 1889 Hinckley was in Maine, “doing fieldwork for the American Sunday School Union of Philadelphia.” He bought the 125-acre Isaac Chase farm, in Fairfield, owned by former Senator Margaret Chase Smith’s grandparents. The farm became the basis of Goodwill-Hinckley, and Hinckley devoted most of the rest of his life to raising money to support and expand it.

In addition to his sister, Jane Hinckley, filling many roles, Hinckley’s older son, Walter Palmer (1885-1963) succeeded his father as manager in 1919; and his younger daughter, Faith Jayne (1891- 1987) worked at the school.

Walter’s daughter Harriet married Donald Price, whose parents had been school employees, and the younger couple also worked there.

The present campus offers a variety of walking trails, a bird sanctuary, an arboretum, an artificial pond, a picnic area and gardening and farming spaces, including greenhouses. Located on the campus are:

  • The Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, Maine’s first charter high school, emphasizing agriculture, forestry and environmental science, some of whose students live in on-campus housing;
  • The Glenn Stratton Learning Center, a day school for students in kindergarten through 12th grade whose “significant social, emotional and behavioral problems” make public school difficult for them;
  • The Roundel Residential Center, providing “safe and supportive housing with specialized support services” for people in need aged from 12 to 21; and
  • The College Step-Up Program, providing housing and support for high-school graduates or GED (General Education Diploma) holders as they work toward a community college degree or certification.

The Goodwill-Hinckley website, provides a telephone number – 207-238-4000 – and an email address –info@gwh.org. It shows a map of trails and monuments on campus and invites people to schedule a visit. The name Goodwill-Hinckley refers to an organization as well as the physical property; donations are welcome.

Carnegie Libraries

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was born in Scotland, emigrated to the United States when he was 12, invested wisely and became for a time the richest man in America, even richer than John D. Rockefeller. He was noted for giving away almost all of his fortune through foundations and organizations that supported the arts, science, education, world peace and other causes.

A “Carnegie library” is a library built with financial assistance from a Carnegie fund. Wikipedia says between 1883 and 1929 Carnegie money helped build 2,509 libraries world-wide, including 1,689 in the United States. Others were in places as distant as South Africa, New Zealand, Mauritius and Fiji.

Maine’s 20 Carnegie libraries were funded between 1901 and 1912, with the exception of $2,500 awarded in 1897 to finish the Gardiner Library. The most common grant in Maine was $10,000; the most generous was Lewiston’s $60,000 in 1901. The state’s total came to $311,450.

Of the 20 libraries, 18 were or are public; Goodwill-Hinckley’s and the University of Maine at Orono’s are categorized as academic. Eighteen of the 20 are still libraries, including Goodwill-Hinckley, Waterville, Oakland and Pittsfield.

Freeport’s Main Street library was replaced in 1997 and is now home to a private business. UMO’s Carnegie Hall houses the Virtual Environment and Multimodal Interaction (VEMI) Laboratory.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Granges – Part 7

Charles Moody School.

by Mary Grow

Hinckley Grange

Last week’s article was on the two Fairfield Grange organizations, still-active Victor Grange, in Fairfield Center, and no-longer-active Hinckley Grange, with its Hall across the Kennebec River from Fairfield, in Clinton. There is one more connection between the Grange and the town of Fairfield, a connection that brings us back to the National Register of Historic Places.

Maine State Grange voted at its 22nd meeting, held in Bangor in 1895, to raise money to build and equip a “cottage” for the new “Girls’ Farm” at what was then Good Will Homes, in Hinckley, one of Fairfield’s original seven villages.

Good Will Homes, for a while Goodwill Home-School-Farm and now Goodwill-Hinckley, is a charitable organization dedicated to helping orphaned and at-risk children and young adults. Its multi-building campus stretches along about two miles of Route 201 between Nye’s Corner to the south and Pishon’s or Pishons Ferry to the north.

Connecticut native George Walter Hinckley (1853-1950) founded the institution in 1889 as a home for boys, with the girls’ division added not long afterward. By the time Hinckley died, Wikipedia says, the school owned 3,000 acres, had 45 buildings and was serving thousands of young people.

Grange Cottage, 1911.

The original Grange Cottage was dedicated on Dec. 20, 1897, according to an on-line source. The building burned in 1912 and was promptly replaced. On-line photos on the mainememory site, from the L. C. Bates Museum collection, include a 1908 photo of the first cottage and a 1912 photo of the second cottage.

Both buildings were two full stories high with third-floor windows in front and side gables. Each had an open front porch and appeared to have a basement, though in the 1912 photo the foundation is hidden by the snow around the building.

The 1912 building was designed by Augusta architect, Charles Fletcher. It was larger than the first one, and the larger third-floor windows imply more usable space in the gables. The front porch wrapped around part of one side.

(Charles Fletcher also designed the 1890 Doughty Block, at 265 Water Street, in Augusta. See the Feb. 10 issue of The Town Line.)

The second Grange Cottage burned in 1987 and was replaced by a third building.

According to the 2009 Journal of Proceedings of the One Hundred Thirty Sixth Annual Convention of the Maine State Grange, Goodwill-Hinckley had just discontinued its residential program and the use of Grange Cottage. The state Grange’s Committee on Women’s Activities was holding money intended for the building, which Goodwill-Hinckley owned; the meeting report says the money would be “redirected if the program does not start up again.”

Good Will Cottage, 1940.

Grange Cottage is in the section of the Goodwill-Hinckley campus described in the application for National Register listing (completed in November 1986; the property was added Jan. 9, 1987). The area designated as historic includes 33 buildings (two are complexes of buildings), “the original historic core” of the Hinckley Home-School-Farm, on about 525 acres.

Martin Stream, a major tributary that drains northern Fairfield into the Kennebec, divides the historically significant area. The application says the main campus, including the first cottages for boys, is south of the stream; the area where the first girls’ cottages were built is north of it.

Historian Frank Beard, writing the application for the Maine Historic Preservation Commis­sion, explained the significance of Goodwill-Hinckley in two ways. Socially, he wrote, it was “an early home,” perhaps the first in the United States, for “indigent and homeless children.” Arch­i­tecturally, its buildings, constructed between 1889 and 1930, “represent an important concentration of period buildings.”

The description of Grange Cottage in the application is of the 1913 building, the one that burned soon after the campus was added to the National Register.

Another among the 33 buildings is on the National Register of Historic Places separately, the L. C. Bates Museum, listed Oct. 4, 1978 (see below).

Carnegie Library.

The other buildings include three schools, (Charles E.) Moody (built in 1905-1906), Edwin Gould (built in 1926-27) and (George C.) Averill (built in 1930); Moody Memorial Chapel (built in 1897 and enlarged in 1927); Carnegie Library (built in 1906-1907); Prescott Memorial Administration Building (built in 1916 and substantially remodeled in 1921-22); Kent Woodworking Shop (built in 1919); and residential buildings.

The earliest residential building is Golden Rule Cottage, designed by architect Henry Dexter, of Dexter, and built in 1891. Beard described it as a two-and-a-half-story Queen Anne style wood-frame building with a “veranda” and a “rear porch with fan-shaped brackets.”

The newest residence on the list, Pike Cottage, dates from 1935 (and is the only building in the historic area constructed after 1930). Colonial Revival style, wooden, two and a half stories, it has a gable roof and an east-side veranda.

Beard called three cottages, Gifford House, Hinckley House and Price House, part of “teachers’ row.” They were all built in 1904, presumably as faculty housing.

Also in the historic area are Easler Cottage and a cluster of buildings identified as Easler Farm. The late-19th-century Easler Farm includes two wooden barns, a metal-sided animal barn and a garage.

Beard described Easler Cottage, built in 1900, as Queen Anne style, two-and-a-half stories, with a “pedimented veranda supported on turned posts with corner brackets and spindle work.” He listed with the cottage a story-and-a-half barn with a gable roof and a cupola.

Raising the bell to the tower of Prescott Building in 1915.

The sole nameless building listed in the application is a story-and-a-half mid-19th-century wood frame “house.”

The L. C. Bates Museum is in the 1903 Quincey Building, designed by Lewiston architect William Robinson Miller (1866-1929). The brick building is an example of the elaborate Romanesque architecture in which he specialized.

The application for National Register listing mentions the building’s “hipped roof, dormers, recessed round-arched entry, [and] symmetrical round stairwell towers on principal (east) elevation.” A Wikipedia article adds its “distinctive terracotta egg and dart ornamentation, and arched windows.

Inside, the museum has 32 Maine dioramas painted by American Impressionist Charles Daniel Hubbard (1876-1951); impressive natural history collections, from mammals to minerals; and Native American baskets, archaeological artifacts and other Maine historical items.

The Moody School, architect Miller’s earlier building on the campus, honors Charles Eckley Moody, of Bath. A Goodwill-Hinckley web page says Hinckley visited Moody’s two sisters, Mary and Frances, in 1894, a year after Moody died. The visit reminded them that their late brother had favored Hinckley’s project, so they donated $25,000 to build the school. Dedicated Jan. 1, 1896, it was the first brick building on campus.

(The Rev. Albert Teele Dunn, D. D., is quoted as calling the dedication “one of the proudest, happiest days” in Hinckley’s life. Dunn later was honored in Portland by naming Dunn Memorial Church after him, because he organized its congregation shortly before he died in 1904. The church later became Central Square Baptist Church and is now Deering Center Community Church.)

Beard described the two-story Moody School building as Renaissance style, “with hipped roof,…central pavilion with arcaded recessed entry, square-headed and round-arched windows.”

The Edwin Gould School was added in 1926-1927 with funds donated by railroad and Wall Street tycoon Edwin Gould (1866-1933), after he read of the need for a girls’ school on the Goodwill campus. According to on-line sources, the name honors his son, Edwin Gould, Jr., who died in 1917 in a hunting accident.

The building was designed by the Portland architectural firm of Miller, Mayo & Beal, whose members were William Miller, doing his third Goodwill-Hinckley project; Miller’s former head draftsman, Raymond J. Mayo; and Miller and Mayo’s former head draftsman, Lester I. Beal. The firm specialized in school buildings.

An on-line photo from the L. C. Bates Museum’s collection and historian Beard’s description of the Gould School depict a two-story brick Georgian Revival building with chimneys on each end. The building had two entries, one near each end, “sheltered by Doric porticos,” and a wooden cupola atop the middle.

On-line information about the Gould School says it closed in 2009 and stood vacant or was used for storage for four decades. In 2012, officials decided to reopen the building.

By then, there were holes in the roof “leading to severe water damage and rot.” The need for taller rooms on the ground floor required excavation and control of water under the building. Original masonry and interior and exterior trim were restored.

(Gould Academy, in Bethel, originally organized by local citizens as Bethel Academy, was renamed after Rev. Daniel Gould willed it $842 in 1843. Gould Academy’s website says annual tuition is currently $38,650 for commuting students and $62,700 for boarders. This information has nothing to do with Goodwill-Hinckley.)

Colonial Theater update

The restored decorative element, now completed, on top of the Augusta Colonial Theater. Caught at a moment by Dave Dostie – 2021. May.

In the May 14 Central Maine newspapers, the Kennebec Journal and The Morning Sentinel, reporter Keith Edwards continued his description of the reconstruction of the Colonial Theater in Augusta, specifically the elaborate decorations on the front (see The Town Line, Feb. 4).

The Water Street theater has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1914. Edwards wrote that the façade work is part of a restoration project started “several years ago,” after the building had been vacant since 1969. Organizers turned to Maine artisans who had the skills to replicate work originally done in the 1920s.

Total cost of the restoration is estimated at up to $8.5 million. Donations are welcome; they may be made via the website, augustacolonial.org, or by mail to Augusta Colonial Theater Offices, 70 State Street, Augusta, Maine 04330.

People wanting to read Edwards’ article in the Central Maine newspapers should look for the headline “Augusta’s Colonial Theater topped by work of artisans.”

Main sources

Websites, miscellaneous.

Next week: more Goodwill-Hinckley buildings.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Granges – Part 6

Victor Grange,

by Mary Grow

Victor and Hinckley

The members of the next Grange to be discussed should be proud to belong to one of the earliest Grange organizations in the central Kennebec Valley area, and one that is still active in its 147th year.

Victor Grange #49 was organized on October 29, 1874, when, the Fairfield bicentennial history says, “a group of men and women met at the home of Mr. James Porter at the top of what is known as ‘Fuller Hill’ in Fairfield Center.” The Grange was incorporated in 1888.

The new Grange started with 29 charter members, 11 of them women. As with the Albion Grange profiled in the April 8 issue of “The Town Line”, at first only farmers could join. By the 1988 publication of the Fairfield history, membership was open to “those interested in farming and in the welfare of others.”

Barbara Bailey, of Larone (northernmost of Fairfield’s seven villages), is Victor Grange’s lecturer. (Maine State Grange Communications Director Walter Boomsma says the title “lecturer” now means program director.) Bailey has been reading Victor Grange’s records (as of early May, she reported she was up to 1914).

The bicentennial history identifies the first Victor Grange Master as Olando A. Bowman. Bailey said his name was Orlando Bowman, with the last name sometimes spelled Bowerman, and the following dates are written under his picture in the Hall: “1874- 75-76-77-78 1881.”

Inside dining hall of Victor Grange.

In their first three meetings, Bailey wrote, Victor Grange members agreed to repair the Town Hall, which they had rented for five years as their meeting house. The 200 feet of spruce joists they ordered were presumably for that project.

They further voted to buy Grange regalia for 30 Brothers and 20 Sisters, one dozen fifth-edition Grange manuals and 100 letterheads. They ordered a cord of wood, and voted to pay M. D. Emery 25 cents a night “to build fires, fill oil lamps and trim wicks.”

Another early vote, Bailey wrote, was “to change the design of the seal to a Lady holding the Sickle,” instead of a man. Other early Grange seals featured a sickle; most contemporary ones show a sheaf of wheat. In 1967, the U. S. Postal Service issued a five-cent stamp showing a straw-hatted farmer holding his scythe, to honor the 100th anniversary of the National Grange.

(Sickles and scythes are both harvesting tools, hence Grange symbols. A sickle, also called a reaping hook or bagging hook, has a C-shaped blade about a foot long and a handle about six inches long; one harvesting with a sickle bends down, gathers an armful of grass or grain and cuts it a few inches above the ground. A scythe blade is only slightly curved, often over six feet long, attached to a six-foot handle with two handholds; one harvesting with a scythe stands erect and sweeps the blade along the ground, laying the grass or crop in rows. George Stubbs’ painting Reapers shows two men with sickles; Jean-Francois Millais’ painting The Reaper shows a man with a scythe.)

In January 1875, Victor Grange members started buying in bulk to sell to members cheaply: half a carload of flour; a “hogshead barreller of Puerto Rican Molasses and ½ chest of Japanese tea” (Bailey says a “hogshead barrel” was 33-1/3 gallons); and that month and in March spices, including cream of tartar. They appointed Watson Jones their agent to “sell wool for the farmers” and report at the next meeting.

They were also furnishing the Hall, buying four stands and two lamps in January and 25 chairs and a second-hand cookstove in March. In March, too, members voted to “Frame the Grange Charter in a suitable manner” and rent a “suitable instrument” (first an organ, later a piano, Bailey said).

By the first anniversary meeting, Bailey wrote, Victor Grange had 94 members. They voted to pay E. C. Jones 50 cents for stabling their horses during the anniversary celebration; and they voted to buy more regalia, three wall lamps, a hand lamp, window-curtains and “bleached cloth for tablecloths.”

They also voted to have an oyster supper and pastry at their next meeting and to buy “a suitable number” of plates, bowls, mugs and spoons.

In 1878, Bailey said, they spent $300 to buy a nearby store, which they used as a members’ co-op and, the Fairfield history says “the Grange home.”

The Hall standing today was planned and built in 1902 and 1903, and the former store was attached. The Fairfield history says Maine State Grange Master Obadiah Gardiner dedicated the new building on Oct. 1, 1903.

Bailey wrote that the fourth Victor Grange Master was Orlando Bowman’s grandson, George Tibbetts. Dates under his picture are 1883-84, 1885-1889, 1901-1902 and 1905, making him the Master under whom the organization was incorporated and construction of the new Hall started.

Another piece of Victor Grange’s history is a wooden chair, with the inscription on the bottom of the seat, “March 28,”87″ [1887] Geo Tibbetts Wedding.”

On Dec. 27, 1979, Ray W. Tobey wrote Grange members a thank-you letter for the Christmas food basket they left at his house. Thinking back over the 77 years to the rainy night when he took his first two degrees as a Grange member, he wrote that “the new hall was in process of construction and the Grange was meeting in the old Town Hall just north of the present building.”

Grange women used to prepare meals for students in the one-room schoolhouse across the street. After the building was no longer used as a school, Grangers bought it and turned it into a stable.

Tobey referred to the stable as the “building in which my father went to school when he was a boy.”

The Grange Hall stands in the south angle of the intersection of Routes 104 and 139 with Route 23, facing west on Route 23 (Oakland Road). The vacant lot just south of the building is being filled for a parking lot.

The large two-story building (plus basement and attic) has one section that is almost square and one – the former store – rectangular, with the main entrance with an open porch where the buildings join. A brick chimney rises from the roof near the junction.

Bailey said the former store houses the entryway, stairs, kitchen and bathrooms. The second floor is the junior room. Junior Grangers are aged from five to 13, she said; from age 14, members are treated as adults entitled to vote in Grange business.

The 1903 Grange Hall, the square section, has the dining room on the ground floor and a meeting room on the second floor, with a stage and a painted stage curtain.

Bailey said the meeting room has a rainbow-shaped tin ceiling that is 15 ½ feet long. Records show the Grange ordered it in 1899 from Pennsylvania, paying $357. It came by boat from Pennsylvania to Boston, by train from Boston to Hoxie Siding, in North Fairfield, and by horse and buggy to Victor Grange Hall.

In the 1990s, Bailey said, the state relocated Route 23 in front of the Grange Hall, moving it so much closer that vibrations from heavy trucks damaged the building. Window panes cracked and even the granite foundation crumbled.

The Fairfield history calls the Grange Hall “the social gathering place for Fairfield Center” for many years. Bailey found records of oyster stew suppers followed by a play presented in the second-floor room; admission was 25 cents, and up to 200 people would attend.

The Grange used to meet twice a month. Programs included assigned readings, which Bailey interpreted as reading local news reports for the benefit of farmers whose spare time and reading skills were limited.

Debates were another feature. Two three-person teams would present opposite sides of an issue, without a decision whether either side won. Bailey sees this activity as educational and a chance for members to hone public speaking skills.

When a Grange member died, the Charter was draped in black for 30 days and a small group, usually three other members, prepared a Resolution of Respect. The resolutions mourned the lost members, often mentioning a specific contribution that would be missed – the delicious biscuits, the work caring for the Hall, the floral arrangements.

Bailey said Victor Grange almost collapsed in the 1990s, as interest waned nationwide and local leaders aged and fell ill. She credits former Waterville dentist Steve Kierstead (Jan. 5, 1921 – Feb. 4, 2006), whose grandfather had been an early Master, with sparking a renewal of interest.

A neighborhood canvas led to the monthly senior citizen meals that continue today. At first, short programs focused on useful information about local politics, social services and the like.

One day a member brought in a scrapbook that contained newspaper clippings and other items, to show another member how he had learned her date of birth. His action led other members to do the same, to copy and to exchange clippings and to reminisce – “some of the most fun things we’ve ever done,” Bailey said.

In recent years Victor Grange has hosted annual sessions with Window Dressers, the nonprofit group that helps people build and install energy-efficient window coverings in their houses.

Bailey said the Hall has a new furnace and is handicapped-accessible, including the restrooms and a stairlift to the second floor. She expects more programs for senior citizens, to save them the drive to Waterville’s Muskie Center or other senior centers.

Currently, Victor Grange members are raising funds for insulation and other energy-efficiency improvements for the Grange Hall.

Bailey said Fairfield had another Grange organization, Hinckley Grange. Its Hall in Clinton is still standing on the east side of River Road, a short distance north of Pishon or Pishon’s Ferry, where Route 23 crosses the Kennebec River from Fairfield.

Hinckley Grange Hall is smaller than the other Grange Halls discussed, but is a typical rectangular wooden building, two stories tall with a peaked roof allowing space for one third-floor front window.

This writer has found one on-line reference to Hinckley Grange #539, in the obituary of former member Martha May Stokes (Sept. 17, 1922 – Sept. 23, 2012), who died in Kansas. The obituary says she was a Good Will High School graduate who “worked as a nutritionist for several hospitals.”

The number assigned to this Grange says it was founded in the 20th century, and Bailey reported that the collage of pictures of Hinckley Grange Masters, now part of Victor Grange’s collection of historical materials, begins in 1920 and ends in 1956.

Victor Grange schedule

Victor Grange meetings are held the second Monday of the month, with a 5 p.m. potluck supper followed by the meeting at 6. The next meeting is scheduled for June 14, the final meeting of the year for Dec. 13.

The Senor Circle meets at 11 a.m. the third Friday of the month. The next Senior Circle meeting is on May 21, and the final one for the year will be Dec. 17.

Public suppers are scheduled for 5 p.m. the fourth Saturday of each month through October. The next supper will be May 22, and the final 2021 supper will be Oct. 23.

Three special events are scheduled in the remaining months of 2021.

On Saturday, July 10, and Sunday, July 11, the Grange will host the Fairfield Historical Society’s quilt show. The show runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days; admission is $5. Grange members will provide lunches and snacks.

The Grange’s annual fund-raising tollbooth will be held in July. Readers ungenerous enough to want to know which day to avoid which road will need to consult the web.

The annual Fall Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 13.

The Fairfield Historical Society holds a barn sale from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 15, and Sunday, May 16, at the History House, 42 High Street, Fairfield. Items offered include furniture, glassware, jewelry, antiques, books, collectibles and more.

The Society’s website says that people attending this and other Historical Society events should wear masks and observe social distancing and other relevant Covid requirements.

Main sources

Boomsma, Walter, Exploring Traditions – Celebrating the Grange Way of Life (2018).
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Personal conversations, Barbara Bailey.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Granges – Part 5

The curtain on the stage of the Windsor Grange. (contributed photo)

North Vassalboro, Cushnoc, Windsor, Winslow

by Mary Grow

In addition to the East Vassalboro Grange discussed last week, Vassalboro had two other Grange organizations. According to Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, the earliest of the three was Oak Grove Grange #167, organized in North Vassalboro on May 11, 1875.

In 1883, Alma Pierce Robbins wrote, Oak Grove Grange was “reorganized” at Getchell’s Corner, then an important village. Kingsbury located the Getchell’s Corner Grange Hall a little south of the Congregational Chapel.

Oak Grove Grangers opened a store in 1889, Kingsbury wrote; Robbins said Isaiah Gifford was store manager.

It is possible that Oak Grove Grange was discontinued before or about 1900. It is not listed in available on-line state Grange documents from 1902.

In the south end of town, 39 charter members organized Cushnoc Grange #204 at Riverside (occasionally called Riverside Grange) on Jan. 13, 1876. Kingsbury wrote there were 115 members in 1892; on-line records show 130 members in 1902, but Robbins said there were 150.

Kingsbury wrote that Cushnoc Grange members built their hall in 1879, naming it Liberty Hall. It burned in May 1885.

In 1886, Robbins wrote, Howard H. Snell and Hartwell Getchell, “Directors of the Cushnoc Grange Corporation,” paid James Robbins $175.74 for the building that had been a broom factory, a multi-family tenement, the post office (until 1856) and Benjamin Brown’s store. The building stood on a half-acre lot on the east side of “the County Road from Augusta to Vassalboro” and the north side of Cross Hill Road.

Robbins wrote that the deed of sale gave the new Grange Hall the “the right to take water from two wells described in the deed of Malina S. Kimball to Nathan Coombs.”

Grangers enlarged the building and, Kingsbury wrote, opened a store on the ground floor in August 1887. Robbins quoted a source describing a store-keeper in business in the Grange Hall from about 1884 until 1905. At some point the former schoolhouse “across the road” was moved beside the Grange Hall for a horse shed.

A Friday, Jan. 19, 1894, Kennebec Journal article found on line describes the Wednesday, Jan. 17, installation of Cushnoc Grange’s new officers (not named), attended by representatives of the state Grange.

After the installation, attendees “repaired to the large dining room connected with the grange hall where a bounteous array of good things had been provided by the ladies of the grange and which received ample justice at the hands of all.”

The writer of the article concluded that in 1894, Cushnoc Grange “has one of the finest grange halls in the State, is prosperous and best of all deserves to be.”

For some years around 1900, Robbins wrote in a 1974 essay republished in the 2017 Anthology of Vassalboro Tales, Cushnoc Grange and Riverside Church each put on a Christmas celebration. In bad weather, she commented, “the long cold drive to the Grange Hall with horse and pung was more hazard than happy,” especially for families with small children. (A pung is a small, box-like sleigh drawn by a single horse.)

Cushnoc Grange hosted fairs with livestock, farm produce and handiwork; oyster stew suppers; and baked bean dinners where neighbors shared “great jars of home made pickles and dozens of apple pies.” The Grange folded in 1967, Robbins wrote. Possessions included “dishes to serve more than one hundred” that were given to Riverside Church. The hall was demolished and a house built on the lot.

The University of Maine’s Raymond H. Fogler Library’s special collections has boxes of Grange documents. According to the on-line catalog, contents include Cushnoc Grange secretary’s records from 1876 to 1914 and from 1926 to 1966.

Moving to another town south and east, Windsor Grange #284 was organized June 2, 1886. Kingsbury lists the first Grange Masters, until he completed his Kennebec County history in 1892, as C. F. Donnell (1886), Frank Colburn (1888), George R. Pierce (1890) and John H. Barton (1891).

Colburn and Barton received individual mention in Kingsbury’s history. Frank Colburn was a “farmer and school teacher”; he started teaching winters when he was 18, and was Windsor’s supervisor of schools in 1888 and 1889.

Barton was the great-grandson of Dr. Stephen Barton, who came to Vassalboro in 1774 and moved to Windsor in 1803 to join one of his sons there. John Barton was another schoolteacher; he married Ellen Goddard, of China. Their daughter was a teacher, and their son, who died in 1890 at the age of 27, had headed the commercial department at Kents Hill School.

Windsor Grange had 105 members in 1902, according to Maine State Grange records. Records at the Fogler Library are dated from 1888 to 1995.

Although Linwood Lowden’s Windsor history refers to agriculture in its title, good Land & fine Contrey but poor Roads, he gives the Grange a single paragraph. The Grange “has always rented space in the town hall,” he wrote, paying $125 for the year in 1923, “when the present hall was new.” Another $30 a year went for “space in the G. A. R. Hall.”

Like many other local Granges, Windsor Grange used a large meeting room with a stage, and the stage had a handsomely decorated curtain. Barbara Bailey, from Fairfield Center’s Victor Grange, said when the Windsor town office took over the Grange quarters, the stage curtain was refurbished and remains in the town office.

Winslow, north and west of Windsor, had a 19th-century Grange organization, Winslow Grange #320, which left almost no records to which this writer has access. According to lists of documents stored at the Fogler Library, the collection includes secretary’s records from 1894 to 1972; the earliest account books that have been preserved there date from 1896.

In 1902 Kennebec County Deputy M. F. Norcross of the state Grange wrote that Winslow Grangers “built the fine hall this year, which shows that they are prosperous and progressive.” At that time the Grange had 221 members.

Readers looking for more information on Winslow Grange might try to reach the Winslow Historical Preservation Committee, the town committee that succeeded Winslow Historical Society. The committee’s website is https://winslowhistory.weebly.com, and it has a Facebook page.

A second Grange in Winslow, Progressive Grange #523, was chartered as a Maine non-profit corporation on Oct, 2, 1914. Clyde G. Berry, at 5 Mar Val Terrace, was listed as the corporation’s registered agent.

MaineCorporations records on line skip from the 1914 filing to July 3, 1979, when a registered agent and address (not given) were filed. In 1981, the organization was sent a notice for failing to file its annual report.

The next record is dated March 22, 1991, when a change of agent and office were submitted. Annual reports were filed in March from 1993 through 2002; after a change of agent in 2002, the filing date moved to April and in 2007 to May.

In March 2009 a report was filed by a new agent and the corporation was reinstated, after having failed to file a 2008 report. In September 2010 it was again dissolved for another failure; a new agent got it reinstated in December 2010.

He (or she) was equally lax, however, because Progressive Grange was administratively dissolved in August 2011, reinstated in 2012, and dissolved for the final time in August 2013.

Clyde G. Berry was also the first agent for Pleiades Grange #355, organized in Augusta on August 28, 1987. Berry’s address was then given as an Augusta post office box.

Pleiades Grange went through a series of suspensions and reinstatements until it was suspended for good in July 1999.

Clyde G. Berry

Clyde “Sonny” G. Berry (Dec. 28, 1946 – May 5, 2018) lived an interesting and varied life, according to his obituary that ran in at least two Maine newspapers.

He was born in Glenburn, attended Bangor High School, graduated from Higgins Classical Institute (a boarding school in Charleston) and attended Husson College and the University of Maine. The obituary says he “worked for several banks before his retirement.”

The Grange was important in Berry’s life. In 1961 he joined Glenburn’s Pleaides Grange, of which he was Master for some years. He later joined and held offices in Mt. Phillip Grange, in Rome. He held offices in three Pomona (county) granges, Penobscot, Sagadahoc and Lincoln.

In the Maine State Grange, Berry was on the Youth Committee, and was Lecturer from 1981 to 1987, Overseer from 1987 to 1989 and Master from 1989 to 1997. Later, he was elected Chaplain in 2011 and Assistant Steward in 2015.

In the national Grange, Berry was a member of the Assembly of Demeter, held the positions of Steward in 1991 and Lecturer in 1997 and worked for the organization as program resource director.

At some time he lived in Vermont, where the obituary says “he was a charter member and Past Master of Upper Valley Community Grange and a charter member and First master of Heart of Vermont Pomona.” He was also a trustee of the village library in Hartford, Vermont, and a “lister” for the town.

In addition to Grange activities, Berry held memberships and offices in historical societies in Hartford, Vermont, and Somerville, Maine; genealogical societies; the Maine Old Cemetery Association; Civil War veterans’ groups; and Sons of the American Revolution.

He served a term on the Glenburn School Board and was for “many years” on the Cemetery Committee; and he co-chaired the 1972 sesquicentennial celebration and co-authored the 1972 sesquicentennial town history.

He died in Bangor at the age of 71, is buried in Glenburn and requested memorial donations to Taconnett Falls Genealogical Society in Winslow.

Main sources

Bernhardt, Esther, and Vicki Schad, compilers/editors, Anthology of Vassalboro Tales (2017).
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).

Websites, miscellaneous.