Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Agriculture – Part 4

Milking cows in the 19th century.

by Mary Grow


Continuing with the agricultural theme, this article will move readers north on the west bank of the Kennebec River from Sidney to Waterville and will focus on 19th-century cattle breeders.

Samuel Boardman and E. P. Mayo, in their chapters on agriculture in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history and Rev. Edwin Whittemore’s history of Waterville, respectively, provided lists of Waterville’s pioneer cattle-breeders, partly but not entirely overlapping.

Both historians mentioned Dr. Nathaniel Rogers Boutelle (June 13, 1821 – Nov. 23, 1890). Dr. Boutelle was previously included in this series in the Nov. 24, 2022, article on local graduates of Jefferson Medical College.

Mayo wrote that Boutelle’s father, Hon. Timothy Boutelle, was one of the two men responsible for bringing Ayrshire cattle into the area. (The other was John D. Lang, of Vassalboro.) Nathaniel Boutelle and William Pitt Addison Dillingham (see last week’s article) were among early importers of Jerseys, “now so popular among us.”

Dr. Boutelle was active in town affairs. Chapters in the history of Waterville list him as, in 1839, one of Waterville’s first fire-fighters; in 1866, one of 19 members of the legislatively-chartered Ticonic Water Power and Manufacturing Company that in 1868 oversaw building of the Lockwood dam; and in 1873, among organizers of the Waterville Library Association.

In 1875 he and his wife, Mary (Keely) Boutelle (April 6, 1833 – Feb. 14, 1920), were members of the committee (including several other women) who decided where to locate the Soldiers’ Monument honoring Civil War dead. From 1884 until his death, Boutelle was president of Waterville’s Ticonic National Bank (his father was president of the older Ticonic Bank from 1832 to 1855; in 1902 his son George was president of Ticonic National Bank).

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Availability of Ayrshire and Jersey cattle, plus Devons (introduced by Joseph Percival and his brother) and Durhams (imported by Col. Reuben H. Green or Greene, of Winslow), meant that “many of our farmers of moderate means were able to obtain valuable specimens of their several breeds, and the success of agricultural operations in this vicinity are [sic] largely due to them,” Mayo said.

Joseph Percival (Jan 31, 1813 – Feb. 7, 1898) was the second son of William Percival (1786 – 1859), who came from Massachusetts to Winslow in 1804 and in 1807 moved to Cross Hill, in Vassalboro, where he farmed for the rest of his life. William married Elizabeth “Betsey” Fairfield (Feb. 26, 1785 – Oct. 13, 1858) on Dec. 20, 1805.

Four of William and Betsey’s eight children were boys, all of whom were involved, to some extent, in agriculture. Warren, the youngest (March 27, 1819 – July 19, 1877), stayed in Vassalboro and bred Cotswold sheep, Mayo wrote. Sumner (1805, or c. 1808 – July 23, 1869), Joseph and Homer (March 27, 1816 – Apr 6, 1898) moved north to Waterville.

Two different historians, Mayo (above) and Kingsbury, made references to Joseph “and his brother,” without naming the brother. Kingsbury said Joseph “and his brother” ran a general store from 1835 to 1859; then Joseph went into farming, specializing in breeding Jersey cattle (and Cotswold sheep, Mayo said).

After the Maine legislature incorporated the North Kennebec Agricultural Society on July 1, 1847, Mayo wrote, Joseph Percival was its first treasurer and Sumner Percival was a trustee. Sumner Percival was the society’s second president, and a later president was Joseph Percival (though since no date was given, he could have been a son or nephew of the first treasurer).

The Oct. 16, 1862, issue of The Eastern Mail (found on line at Colby College’s ever-helpful Digital Commons) listed prize-winners at the North Kennebec Agricultural Society’s annual exhibition. Homer Percival’s Devon heifer got second place for dairy cows, and his undescribed cow placed fourth; and in a separate heifer judging, his three-year-old took first place in that age category.

Joseph and Sumner were both in Waterville’s earliest fire department, with Dr. Boutelle. Joseph held many municipal offices, including first selectman for at least one term around 1861, and served three terms as Waterville’s representative to the Maine legislature, in 1850-52 and again in 1861 (the 30th, 31st and 40th sessions).

Sumner and Homer worked primarily as bankers. Sumner was cashier of the Ticonic Bank and later first cashier of the Peoples’ Bank, organized in 1855. Homer succeeded Sumner at Peoples’ Bank in 1859; was the first treasurer of Waterville Savings Bank, organized in May 1869; and when three banks merged to become People’s National Bank in March 1865, he became that bank’s cashier, serving until 1893. His son, J. Foster Percival, succeeded him and held the position when the bicentennial history was finished in 1902.

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In the chapter he wrote on Waterville in the Kennebec County history, Kingsbury credited George Eaton Shores (March 27, 1812 – May 14, 1910) with bringing the first Hereford cattle to the central Kennebec area, working with Hall Burleigh (then of Fairfield, according to Mayo, and later of Vassalboro). Shores is also on Boardman’s list of agricultural pioneers.

Shores, Kingsbury wrote (in 1892), “belongs to a class of men who stand at the very sources of national prosperity, but whose ranks in New England are becoming alarmingly thin—the successful farmer.” Mayo called him “one of the men who has ever been in the front rank of agricultural effort in this section.”

Active enough at 91 to ride in the 1902 centennial parade, he was identified in another chapter in Whittemore’s history as “the oldest citizen who was a native of Waterville.”

Shores was the younger son of James Shores, who in 1809 bought a 200-acre farm in western Waterville (by 1892 partly in Oakland). Kingsbury wrote that James raised his son to be a farmer, and George “liked it, stuck to it, has given it the intelligent, faithful service of a life-time, for which devotion it has given him pleasant occupation, a handsome competence and a vigorous, happy old age.”

George Shores inherited the family farm in 1856. By 1867, Mayo said, he had made it one of the best farms in town; but he left it to move to “the village as it was then called,” buying 160 acres that included Oak Hill.

(Whittemore’s description says Shores bought “most of the land between College and Main streets, from the railroad station to the top of Main street hill.” This information should be helpful to those who remember where the Waterville railroad station used to be, on the east side of College Avenue about where the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter now stands.)

Shores sold off more than 100 acres, mostly for building lots, Kingsbury said. He farmed the remainder, and, Whittemore added, traded in cattle and was in the milk business.

Shores’ Herefords won many prizes at fairs, Kingsbury and Mayo wrote. He sold one pair of white-faced yearling steers for $300, a sum Kingsbury called “surprising” and Mayo called “astonishing.”

Shores and his first wife, Sophia (Wyman) Shores (April 12, 1810 – Feb. 22, 1855), had seven children, of whom only one, Amasa (1839-1926), was still alive in 1892 and was “a farmer on the old homestead.” (Consumption, or tuberculosis, killed the other children, and Sophia died of the same disease, according to Kingsbury.)

Cattle breeds raised in Central Maine

Ayrshires are dairy cattle, originally from Ayrshire in southwestern Scotland. The first Ayrshires in America came to New England in the 1820s.


Wikipedia describes Ayrshires as medium-sized; white and red, with the red varying from “a shade of orange to a dark brown”; and capable of producing up to 20,000 pounds of milk a year. The article summarizes information from an Ayrshire Cattle Society paper to say that they are popular because of their “longevity, hardiness, and easy calving.”

The Devon, named after a county in southwestern England, has a more complicated history. An on-line history of Red Devon cattle says Julius Caesar found their ancestors when he invaded Britain in 55 B. C. The article says they “were possibly brought by the Phoenicians, around four hundred years earlier, to trade for Cornish tin.”

A New South Wales (Australia) government website calls the breed “prehistoric and thought to be descended from the original cattle in Britain.”

South Devon

Wikipedia distinguishes American Milking Devons, North Devons and South Devons. The article on American Milking Devons says in 1624 Edward Winslow brought “three heifers and a bull” to the Plymouth Colony. The Australian website says the breed’s “hardiness and practicality” made them a logical import for the colonists.

These animals’ descendants spread along the east coast. In the early 1800s, other British breeds were imported and cross-bred to improve the stock, especially in New England where the breed was concentrated. Devons were used as draft animals and to provide both milk and meat.

Red Shorthorn Durham

Durhams are commonly called Shorthorns. The breed was developed by crossbreeding in Durham county in northeastern England in the late 1700s. An on-line history says brothers named Charles and Robert Colling started by breeding cows named Cherry, Duchess, Strawberry and Old Favourite with a bull named Hubback.

The on-line Encyclopedia Britannica describes breed characteristics as “short horns, blocky conformation, and colour ranging from red, red with white markings, white, or roan resulting from a mixture of red and white hairs.”

The first Durhams imported into the United States came to Virginia in 1783; an on-line source says the breed “became favorites of the pioneer, furnishing meat, milk and power.”


The Hereford, yet another red cow with white (in the 1700s and now; in the 1800s, interbreeding produced some that were grey or grey and white), came to America from Herefordshire in England’s West Midlands. One source says the breed probably was “founded on the draught ox descended from the small red cattle of Roman Briton and from a large Welsh breed once numerous along the border of England and Wales.”

Various sources agree that Kentucky politician Henry Clay brought the first three Herefords to the United States in 1817, where they spread rapidly. Herefords are primarily beef cattle.


Jerseys are dairy cows valued for their milk, which is high in butterfat and protein. They are fairly small; their coats come in shades of brown, with fawn common.

Originally from the English Channel island of Jersey, and probably descended from imports from Normandy, Jerseys were recognized as a separate breed around 1700, Wikipedia says. Information varies on when Jerseys first came to America. One site says colonists brought them in 1657; three others date the first imports to the 1850s.

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: Agriculture – Part 3

Southdown sheep.

by Mary Grow

This subseries began last week to talk about some of the central Kennebec Valley’s agricultural pioneers whom Samuel Boardman named in his chapter on agriculture in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history.

One was Rev. William Pitt Addison Dillingham, of Sidney, who was previously noticed in an introductory essay on agriculture in the March 18, 2021, issue of The Town Line.

Dillingham (Sept. 4, 1824 – April 22, 1871) was primarily a minister, mostly in the Universalist church. Sidney historian Alice L. Hammond wrote that one of his posts was with the Sidney First Universalist Society, of which his father-in-law, Dodavah or Dodivah Townsend (June 4, 1775 – Dec. 4, 1852; one of Sidney’s early settlers), was among the organizers in June 1840.

Dillingham and his wife, Caroline Price Townsend (born May 25, 1817), owned a farm that Hammond said was called Fairview Farm and was also the home of Caroline’s father.

(The 1879 map of Sidney shows no Dillingham property. There is a D. Townsend house, on the north side of Bartlett Road, closer to Tiffany Road than to Pond Road. The 1856 map shows the same D. Townsend property.)

Hammond wrote that Dillingham brought two sheep breeds, Oxford Downs and Southdowns, to Sidney in 1858.

Oxford Downs sheep.

The Southdown, according to Wikipedia, is the smallest of British sheep breeds “and the basis of the whole Down group of breeds.” Southdowns were first bred in East Sussex, England, around 1800, for both wool and meat.

Boardman said it was Charles Vaughan, of Hallowell, who brought the first Southdowns into Maine, in 1834.

Wikipedia says Oxford Downs were bred in Oxfordshire (hence the name) in the 1830s, by cross-breeding Cotswold rams with Southdown and Hampshire Down ewes. The result is a large sheep with short white wool and “a large, meaty carcass,” making it a breed raised primarily for meat.

C. K. Sawtelle also raised sheep in Sidney, according to Hammond and Boardman.

Boardman called cattle – cows and oxen – “the real basis of successful agriculture.” He again credited Benjamin and Charles Vaughan for importing valuable breeds that got the Kennebec Valley off to a good start.

Soon, however, interest waned, and herds began to deteriorate, Boardman wrote. Among a new generation of farmers who “took up the responsibility of obtaining high priced registered stock from abroad, or improving the best of that which remained” in the 1830s and 1840s, he named Luther and Bradford Sawtelle, of Sidney.

The index to Hammond’s history has almost two pages of Sawtelles, from Abbie Z. to Zypporah, plus a column of Sawtells; and there is a multi-page summary genealogy. Kingsbury explained that an early Pond Road settler named Moses Sawtelle had seven sons and was distantly related to another settler named John Sawtelle: “This accounts for the frequency of the name in Sidney.”

Luther Sawtelle (Aug. 7, 1800 – June 25, 1872) and Bradford Jorel Sawtelle (May 18, 1811 – Nov. 12, 1897) were sons of John and Thankful (Robbins) Sawtelle. When Kingsbury wrote his history in 1892, he said Luther’s oldest son, Ambrose, was living on the family homestead, a farm Luther bought in 1824 called Pleasant Plain Farm, and Bradford (by then in his early 80s) was farming part of it.

Summer Sweet apple.

Hammond listed apples, hay and potatoes as other important products of Sidney farms. Hay, she pointed out, was a common export from much of Maine to cities in Massachusetts while horse-drawn transport prevailed. In 1850 she found that Sidney “produced more than 5,700 tons of hay.”

Apples were the “second largest crop” in Sidney in the first half of the 1800s. Farmers planted apple trees “along stone walls or together in clumps on less desirable land” that wasn’t as good for raising hay. Early varieties included Baldwin, Ben Davis and Stark.

Hammond named Sidney farmer Paul Bailey as an experimental apple breeder, “originating a variety named Bailey’s Golden Sweet.”

An on-line source called Out on a Limb Apples recognizes another Sidney-bred apple: Ichabod Thomas created the Summer Sweet around the year 1800. It’s described as a yellow apple with “a beautiful golden apricot-orange blush” and usually “apricot around the stem area.”

The Summer Sweet is “medium-small,” about two inches in diameter, firm-fleshed, with “a mild sweet flavor, best for fresh eating or sauce. It makes a thick, creamy, tropical-flavored sauce—with hints of banana and pineapple —that takes a while to cook down and may need some added water to keep it from burning to the bottom of the pot.”

Ichabod Thomas

On-line sources say that Ichabod Thomas (March 14, 1758 – Feb. 25, 1845) was born in Marsh­field, Massa­chusetts. He was a Revolu­tionary War veteran, having served almost a year in two different regiments. Moving to Maine, on March 10, 1791, he married Mehitable Crosby (Sept. 16, 1767 – April 26, 1842) in Winslow; she was from Albion.

The couple had seven children between 1791 and 1805. The oldest was born in Vassalboro, before Sidney became a separate town on Jan. 20, 1792.

Thomas was a respected citizen, according to records Hammond found and another on line. She identified him as Sidney’s first town clerk, elected at the first town meeting. An on-line record says he held the office two later years, and was a selectman for five years and town treasurer for two non-successive terms.

He and Mehitable died in Brownville, Maine, and are buried in Brownville Village Cemetery with his mother, Eleanor (Mrs. Joseph) Thomas, who died in June 1823 aged almost 96.

Other Sidney residents were apple growers, on various scales. In 1876, Hammond said, the largest apple orchard in Kennebec County was the Bowman brothers’ on Middle Road, which had 75,000 trees.

Hammond wrote that Sidney’s apple crop became less important after the mid-1800s, “as the original trees grew old and there were few new plantings.”

Sweet corn was “a major crop for a good many years” in Sidney, Hammond said. She credited Isaac Winslow, “of Vassalboro,” with learning how to process food while he was in France “on naval duty” and starting a canning factory “around 1840.”

Sweet corn, Hammond wrote, was well suited to less specialized farms: “It provided a cash crop, utilized the farm manure, produced cattle forage, and used family labor….”

It was in 1850 that the railroad along the east bank of the Kennebec River first reached Waterville, Hammond wrote, expanding markets for up-river farmers. Sidney farmers ferried crops to railheads in Riverside and North Vassalboro while the water was open.

In winter, “they risked their lives, teams, and loads to venture across the ice. Many stories have been told of the close calls they had and of the not-so-fortunate who went through the ice.”

Isaac Winslow and corn canning

An on-line account says a Frenchman, Nicolas Appert, invented canning vegetables as a method of preserving food in 1809, thereby earning a reward offered by the Emperor Napoleon as he sought to feed the French Navy. The process was quickly brought to England and America.

For sweet corn, the process consisted of taking the kernels off the cob; putting them in a glass bottle (originally) or a can; heating them to kill bacteria; and sealing the container. First done by hand, it was soon mechanized.

Isaac Winslow

Another on-line site, a Warren County, Ohio, web page, says: “Isaac Winslow is believed to have been the first to successfully can sugar corn for market. He made his experiments in 1842, and applied for a patent which was not granted until 1863.”

Isaac Winslow is mentioned in Alice Bibber’s 1989 paper titled Nearly All in the Family: Nathan Winslow and His Family Network, published in Vol. 28 of Maine History and available online through the University of Maine’s Digital Commons.

Bibber’s focus was on the extended family that assisted Isaac’s older brother, Nathan Winslow (born in March 1785), a Portland-based inventor and merchant whom she credits with “launching the first corn-canning operation in the United States.”

Canned corn from 1800s.

She added, “Although twentieth-century historians credit Isaac with being the first person to preserve corn in tin cans, at least one contemporary who talked with Nathan Winslow about the business stated that the latter had made the experiments.”

Bibber mentioned Isaac as sailing to Le Havre, France, in 1818, not in the Navy but on a family whaling ship; and taking his ill sister-in-law, Nathan’s wife, to Madeira in 1842, where she died early in 1843.

“Some time earlier,” Bibber wrote, “Isaac Winslow had returned home with information about a French method of preserving food in sealed cans.” Nathan and Isaac decided to try it; Bibber wrote they used as “a base of operations” the family farm, which was apparently in Falmouth.

A factory was set up in 1852. When patents were issued in 1862, Bibber wrote, they were in Isaac Winslow’s name, but “assigned to” Nathan’s nephew, John Winslow Jones.

Bibber mentioned Vassalboro once: after Isaac’s father married Lydia Hacker, from Massachusetts, his wife’s family moved to Brunswick and “made marriage ties with a Vassalboro family.”

There is one more possible connection: the Winslows were Quakers, and Vassalboro and China had relatively large numbers of Quakers. However, your writer found no evidence confirming Alice Hammond’s statement that Isaac Winslow lived in Vassalboro.

Main sources

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

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Agriculture – Part 2

The Hubbard Free Library in Hallowell, built in 1800.

by Mary Grow

The Vaughans

Last week’s essay was about early farming in the central Kennebec Valley, as reported in local histories, with emphasis on Samuel Boardman’s chapter on agriculture in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history. This week’s work describes one important farming family and detours to talk about Boardman and another historian who contributed to Kingsbury’s opus.

Boardman wrote that as more people moved into the area and economies diversified, many farms became specialized. Farmers found resources and time to develop specific kinds of crops and of farm animals.

Preparing the truck crops in the 19th century.

By 1892, when the Kennebec County history was published, Boardman could write about orchardists, dairymen, hay farmers and those who “breed a particular kind of cattle, or fine colts of a fashionable family.” Others specialized in raising what he called “truck crops” to sell to urbanites.

“The orchard farmer lets another make his butter, and the dairyman purchases his apples and often his hay of his neighbor,” Boardman wrote.

Specialization was profitable. Boardman wrote that a farmer in 1892 could earn more cash for “a few acres of early potatoes” sold in town on July 1 than from “the marketed crops of his entire farm” two decades earlier.

The first two names on Boardman’s list of leaders among the men “to whom the agriculture of Kennebec county owes so much for its early improvement” are Benjamin Vaughan (Apr. 19, 1751 – Dec 8, 1835) and his brother Charles Vaughan (June 30, 1759 – May 15, 1839), of Hallowell. (The Vaughn brothers were featured, with their brother-in-law John Merrick, as patrons of music in the Aug. 31 issue of The Town Line.)

Boardman wrote that the brothers’ inherited land in Hallowell ran for a mile along the Kennebec and extended west five miles to Cobbosseecontee Lake.

He continued: “They had extensive gardens, established nurseries, planted orchards, imported stock, seeds, plants, cuttings and implements from England, and carried on model farming on a large scale.” (Some of the imported stock was “selected by a skillful English farmer from the herds of England,” James W. North added in his Augusta history.)

They built “miles” of walls on the farms, and built public roads. They sold trees and plants they raised (sometimes as much as $1,000 worth a year); “they also freely gave to all who were unable to buy.” They shared information and their “stock, plants and seeds” with farmers in other towns.

The potato harvest in 1888.

The Vaughans raised “apples, pears, peaches, cherries, and many kinds of nut-bearing trees.” They brought a mechanic from England to set up “the largest and most perfect cider mill and press in New England.”

Charles was more the hands-on manager, Boardman and North agreed, while Benjamin pursued “studies and investigations” (Boardman). Charles’ responsibilities included making sure each “breed of stock or variety of fruit, vegetable or seed” was “carefully tested and found to be valuable and well adjusted to this country” before it was shared. The farms provided year-round employment for “a large number of workmen.”

Benjamin, Boardman wrote, was active in the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, founded in 1792. Many of his articles were published in the society’s reports, usually signed “A Kennebec Farmer.”

North included background information on Charles Vaughan, writing that he was heavily involved in business development in Hallowell and farther south on the Kennebec in the 1790s. By 1802, he was bankrupt, whereupon he devoted his attention to the family farmland “with his wanted vigor and activity.”

Here are North’s summaries:

Benjamin Vaughan “was benevolent and kind; and was greatly beloved and respected by all classes of citizens for his great usefulness, exalted worth and many virtues.”

Of Charles Vaughan, North wrote: “It was his greatest pleasure to do good, and never was he more happy than when he conferred happiness upon others.”

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While this series of articles has detoured south to Hallowell, from which Augusta separated in 1797, it seems appropriate to mention one more contribution the Vaughan family made to that town (now a city).

According to the chapter on Hallowell by Dr. William B. Lapham, in Kingsbury’s history, the first library in Hallowell was organized Feb. 5, 1842, with a total of 519 volumes. In 1859, the library received donations from John Merrick’s heirs and from George Merrick’s library (George was one of John and Rebecca [Vaughan] Merrick’s sons).

About the same time, Lapham wrote, Charles Vaughan (the first Hallowell Charles Vaughan named his second son Charles) gave the library “a brick store.” The tenants’ rent was to be spent to buy books, and when the store was sold, the money was to be used to create a permanent fund to support the library.

Lapham continued the story after the Merrick/Vaughan involvement: a new granite library building was dedicated March 9, 1880, and by 1892 the collection was almost 6,000 volumes, “many of them rare and valuable.”

Hallowell’s library is now the Hubbard Free Library. Its website calls the 1880 building “the oldest library building in Maine built for that purpose,” and says architect Alexander C. Currier designed it “to resemble an English country church.” The building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since Oct. 28, 1970.

Vaughan Woods in Hallowell

Vaughan Woods and Historic Homestead, in the southern part of Hallowell, preserves the Vaughan family house and some of the family land. Bounded on the north by Litchfield Road and the south by Maple Street, the property combines a house/museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since Oct. 6, 1970, and a nature preserve protected by the Kennebec Land Trust.

The main part of the large two-story white house, with its generous windows and broad, tall brick chimneys, dates from 1794, when, Wikipedia says, Charles Vaughan built it as a summer home. In 1797, Benjamin Vaughan made it year-round.

By the late 1800s, the article continues, much of the Vaughan property had been sold off and cleared. In 1890, William and Benjamin Vaughan started buying back and reforesting the land. The present area is almost 200 acres, with Vaughan Brook (also called Bombahook Brook) winding through them from Cascade Pond to the Kennebec.

Information on programs and public access is on line.

Contributors to Kingsbury’s history

More than a dozen of the 47 chapters in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history were written by people other than Kingsbury. The authors include Samuel L. Boardman, who wrote the chapter on agriculture, and Dr. William Berry Lapham, who wrote the history of Hallowell.

Boardman had apparently published his own Kennebec County history years earlier and had been involved with at least two local agricultural newspapers.

In the chapter on the newspaper press in Kingsbury (written by Howard Owen), Boardman is named as agricultural editor of The Maine Farmer, founded in January 1833, for 10 years, from March 1869 to March 1879. Owen added that as of 1892, Boardman was “now employed on the editorial force of the Kennebec Journal.

In Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore’s history of Waterville, S. L. Boardman is mentioned twice: as the author, in 1867, of a history of Kennebec County; and 20 years later as editor of an agricultural newspaper called The Eastern Farmer.

Henry C. Prince, author of Whittemore’s chapter on the Waterville press, wrote that The Eastern Farmer began life in Augusta and in 1887 moved to Waterville under the auspices of Charles O. and Daniel F. Wing, of Waterville, and Hall Burleigh, of Vassalboro. “The paper lost money steadily,” Prince wrote, and after 30 issues the owners sold its subscription list in April 1888 to The Lewiston Journal.

The on-line text of The Maine Genealogist and Biographer lists Boardman as a member of the standing committee of the Maine Genealogical and Biographical Society in 1875 and 1876.

Lapham (Aug. 27, 1828 – Feb. 22, 1894), who authored Kingsbury’s chapter on Hallowell, is described in an article provided by the Bethel Historical Society to the on-line Maine Memory Network as “[o]ne of Maine’s most prolific 19th century historians.”

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Agriculture – Part 1

by Mary Grow

Early days

Families who settled the central Kennebec Valley in the 1700s were, of necessity, farmers: one of the first actions was to clear enough land to raise food crops, for both people and livestock.

Alice Hammond wrote in her history of Sidney, “In the late 18th century, almost every Sidney home would have been a self-sufficient farm, with oxen, dairy cows, sheep, chickens, and steadily expanding fields that provided food for people and livestock.”

The Fairfield bicentennial history quoted from an 1848 letter in which Elihu Bowerman recollected his first years in North Fairfield, in 1783 and 1784. As he remembered, the log cabin came first. He raised potatoes on the farm of a fellow Quaker, in Vassalboro, Remington Hobby (or Hobbie; Hobbes in Bowerman’s account), but they froze early in the fall; his winter diet was corn (bought on credit), frozen potatoes and “pork and smoked herring.”

The next spring, Bowerman wrote, he and his brother cleared enough more land to plant “corn, potatoes, beans and some other things, but no wheat.”

Clearing land was no simple job; several historians talk about the immense trees the first settlers found. In what became the Town of Palermo, Milton Dowe wrote, trees were up to 250 feet tall, “and some of the stumps, when cut, were large enough for a team of oxen to turn on.”

And, Windsor historian Linwood Lowden reminded his 20th-century readers, those stumps “must be pried, pulled, dug and/or burned out, and the war against recurring saplings must be joined.”

Ruby Crosby Wiggin, in her Albion history, mentioned using “oxen-power” in later years to pull gigantic pine stumps and use them for fences – very effective fences, she assured her readers.

Lowden added large rocks to the farmers’ problems. Really big ones, he wrote, might be drilled, split and used for building foundations or lining wells; others could become stone fences.

As the cleared land was cultivated, smaller stones kept surfacing. These, Lowden said, were loaded onto a stone drag pulled by oxen and taken to the stone dump that every farm had, “either at a place where the woodlot met an open field, or in a corner of two stone fences, or perhaps atop an outcrop of ledge.”

Lowden wrote that at least one Windsor farmer was growing rye by the summer of 1783. He cited an 1807 letter from a farmer named John Linn, who was raising “corn, wheat, rye, and hay,” and quoted Linn’s praise of the potato as “the pioneer’s main stay.”

Wiggin wrote that by 1809, people in the future Town of Albion were raising wheat, rye, corn, oats and peas, among other crops. She listed them because that year, voters agreed to accept those produce items in payment of taxes, provided they were less than a year old.

Dowe generalized that early settlers’ gardens produced “corn, wheat, potatoes, onions and beets.” His fellow Palermo historian, Millard Howard, added by 1820 oats, barley, peas and beans.

Quoting a South Freedom farmer’s report at the end of 1851, Howard said potatoes were raised for animal feed until an 1845 crop failure. The farmer wrote that in 1851 the potatoes rotted less than in any of the preceding five years.

A New England rock fence.

A typical late-1700s or early-1800s farm would have livestock: horses, cows, oxen, swine, sheep. Some agricultural statistics broke down the “cow” category, for example listing separately steers (neutered males).

Vassalboro historian Alma Pierce Robbins quoted a 1792 census report: within the town, there were “96 cows, 114 oxen, 37 horses, 104 steers, and 124 swine.” The town had a tannery and a slaughterhouse by then. Robbins did not mention the human population that year; an on-line source says 1,253 as of the 1790 census.

(The 1790 number would have counted residents of what is now Sidney, on the west side of the Kennebec. Sidney became a separate town from Vassalboro on Jan. 30, 1792, so the 1792 report probably covered only the east side of the river. The 1800 census recorded 1,188 inhabitants in Vassalboro and 1,011 in Sidney.)

Cows and steers provided milk, cream, butter and meat. Horses and oxen were main means of transportation for goods and people. Dowe, again generalizing, described a couple on their way to church: “The man rode in the saddle with his wife behind him.”

Though farming families were self-sufficient, Lowden wrote that self-sufficiency did not exclude cooperation. He gave examples from an “account book” Gideon Barton kept beginning in 1808, recording “debits of work and the loan of animals and farm equipment against similar credits among his neighbors.”

Some Windsor residents could and did pay in cash, but, Lowden wrote, “At a time when currency was scarce, the bartering of work was a convenient and necessary way of life.”

Thus, in the fall of 1811, Elisha Pike “helped Barton butcher a hog and a cow. Another time Barton helped Pike butcher an ox, and the next year they butchered a cow together.”

Records showed Barton hauling rocks and pasturing cows and horses for one neighbor and helping another build a new barn.

A typical town pound.

Town government in the Kennebec Valley in the early days of European settlement was tailored to an agricultural economy. Town officials included some elected specifically to deal with livestock; early records list appointments of hog-reeves, field-drivers and pound-keepers.

In 1805, Ephraim Clark was elected pound-keeper in China (then Jones Plantation), Henry Kingsbury said in his Kennebec County history, “and he is reported as holding the office for life.” Clark, born July 15, 1751, and one of China’s first settlers in the summer of 1774, died Oct. 20, 1829, at the age of 78.

Farm animals were not infrequently a topic on a town meeting agenda.

In August 1771, according to Kingsbury, Vassalboro voters authorized two town pounds to contain stray animals. They directed male residents to build them that December; any man who did not come to help was to be fined.

While Palermo was the plantation named Great Settlement, from 1801 through 1804, Dowe wrote that plantation voters decided that “Hogs should run at large, provided they be yoked and ringed.”

A yoke was a wooden neck-collar, similar to yokes used to hitch a pair of oxen or occasionally put on one ox. A ring was a nose-ring; its purpose was to keep a wandering hog from rooting and digging on other people’s and the public’s land. A hog-reeve’s responsibility was to catch and impound any stray hog not properly accountered.

That same year, 1804, according to Wiggin’s Albion history, voters at an April 16 town meeting decreed that “swine shall not go ‘at large.'” They also banned horses on “the common” and elected a pound-keeper, apparently the town’s first.

(By then, what is now Albion had changed from Freetown Plantation, incorporated in 1802, to Fairfax, as of March 9, 1804. The reference to “the common” is a puzzlement, because Wiggin wrote that in July 1806 voters chose a committee to buy land for a central town common, but she could find no record of such a purchase.)

China must have had a common by 1803, because Kingsbury recorded a town meeting vote that year prohibiting geese from running on it.

Wiggin recorded another interesting vote in April 1805: voters decided that “hogs and sheep ‘shall not run at large, but that Phineas Farnham’s sheep shall have the privilege of the road the width of his lot.'”

(Phineas Farnham was born April 1, 1767, in Woolwich, and died Dec. 14, 1837, in Albion. Early in 1791 he married Elizabeth “Betsey” Stinson, of Woolwich; she died there in May 1824. Their daughter Joanna, born in 1790, married James Chalmers, of Albion, in 1811; they had eight children.

(Wiggin had mentioned Farnham once before in her history, as one of two bondsmen for the tax collector elected at the first Freetown Plantation meeting on Oct. 30, 1802. She did not say what road he lived on.)

Farms produced not only food, but household items. Dowe mentioned mattresses filled with corn husks, hay or feathers.

Wool from a farm’s sheep could be taken to a fulling mill to be made into cloth. Samuel Boardman, in the chapter on agriculture in Kingsbury’s history, added cultivation of flax to provide rough tow cloth (for sacks, for example) and smoother linen.

Boardman was enthusiastic about the suitability of the central Kennebec Valley for farming. The whole county, he wrote, is far enough inland to escape salt air and coastal fog, far enough from mountains to stay warmer and “one of the best watered sections of Maine.”

Although Kennebec County soils vary from place to place, Boardman wrote that overall, the county “is a rich grazing section, excellent for the production of grass, the hill farms among the best orchard lands in the state, the lands in the river valleys and in the lower portions between the hills and ridges, splendid for cultivation.”

Boardman named Albion, Benton, Clinton and Windsor “excellent grazing towns.” China, Sidney and Vassalboro he listed (with Manchester, Monmouth, Readfield and Winthrop) as “without question the garden towns of the county.” He mentioned the “fine, deep, rich, productive loam” in the parts of Winslow along the Kennebec and Sebasticook rivers.

He credited Kennebec County’s early farmers with initiating agricultural development for the whole state. He described these farmers as “men of intelligence, anxious for improvement,” eager to promote new types of plants and animals and new tools and machinery and to share knowledge through organizations, “books and journals” and popular education.

A story about a New England stump fence

Ruby Crosby Wiggin told a pleasant story about a stump fence that ran along George Hanscom’s line to the shore of Albion’s Lovejoy Pond, where, in the early 1900s, her father and other boys often skated late into the evening. For several nights in a row, she said, the boys took a stump from the fence, dragged it onto the ice and built a bonfire to warm themselves.

When Hanscom checked his fence the next spring, he was so angry he asked a town official named Charles Abbott if he could have the vandals prosecuted.

Abbott had a good idea who was to blame, and he knew the families involved were his and Hanscom’s friends. So he proposed to Hanscom that the culprits buy and install enough wire fencing to replace the missing stumps.

Hanscom calmed down and consented; the boys bought enough wire to fill the gap they’d made and continue beyond it; and Hanscom, satisfied, offered them the stumps they’d supplemented with wire for the next winter’s bonfires.

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Fairfield Historical Society Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Howard, Millard, An Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine (second edition, December 2015).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Music in the Kennebec Valley – Part 5

by Mary Grow

Two musical Hallowell families

In the course of reading about the history of music in the central Kennebec Valley, specifically George Thornton Edwards’ 1928 Music and Musicians of Maine, your writer came across two intertwined musical families who lived in Hallowell, before and after Augusta became a separate town in 1897.

Both were from England. Edwards, James W. North (in his 1870 Augusta history) and Henry Kingsbury (in his 1892 Kennebec County history) paid attention to:

  • Benjamin Vaughan, M.D., LL.D. (April 19, 1751 – Dec. 8, 1835), son of Samuel and Sarah (Hallowell) Vaughan;
  • His younger brother, Charles Vaughan (June 30, 1759 – May 15, 1839); and
  • John Merrick (April 27, 1766 – Oct. 22, 1861; or 1862), husband of Benjamin and Charles’ sister Rebecca (1766 – July 1851).

Benjamin Vaughan

Benjamin Vaughan was born in Jamaica, educated in Britain (including Trinity Hall, one of the Cambridge colleges, from which he did not graduate) and earned his medical degree at the University of Edinburgh.

He was interested in science and politics, a combination, Wikipedia says, led to his friendship with Benjamin Franklin. He and his wife, Sarah (Manning) Vaughan (April 29, 1754 – 1834), whom he married in 1781, also knew other leading families in the new United States, including the Washingtons, Adamses and Jays.

Vaughan was a participant in the negotiations to end the American Revolution. In 1786, he was elected a member of the Philadelphia-based American Philosophical Society.

In 1792 Vaughan was elected a member of the British Parliament. But his politics were out of step – he had supported both the American Revolution and the 1789 French Revolution – and he left Britain for France in 1794. He moved on to Switzerland; in 1795 (probably; other sources say 1796 or 1797) to Boston; and a year or two later to the family property in Hallowell – Hallowell because the Vaughan brothers inherited land there from their mother’s family.

Here, according to the on-line Maine An Encyclopedia, Vaughan practiced medicine for the first time, serving the poor and “usually supplying medicines as well as advice without charge.” He helped manage the family land and advised other landowners.

Maine An Encyclopedia says that in Hallowell, “he built houses, mills, stores, a distillery, a brewery, and a printing-office, and established a seaport at Jones’s Eddy, near the mouth of the Kennebec.”

He brought with him a library, the same source says, almost as big as Harvard’s (2,000 books smaller, an on-line source says), and spent much time researching and writing articles on politics and science. Harvard gave him an honorary LL.D in 1807, Bowdoin in 1812.

In addition to Benjamin Vaughan’s many business activities, an on-line source says in 1820, the Maine legislature asked him to design a seal for the new state. He recommended the farmer and the mariner, symbols of work; the moose, for nature; the pine tree, for timber resources; and the north star overhead.

Charles Vaughan came to the family property in Hallowell a few years earlier than Benjamin, according to Edwards and others (but Kingsbury said a few years after Benjamin, whose arrival he put in 1796). One on-line source dates Charles’ arrival 1790, another “around 1791.” Sources call him a merchant instrumental in Hallowell’s economic development.

Benjamin and Sarah Vaughan had at least seven children. Charles and his wife, Frances Western Apworth or Apthorp (1766 – 1818, or Aug. 10, 1836, or May 15, 1839), had three or four children.

John Merrick (who often has “Esquire” after his name) was born in London; Edwards said he was “of Welsh origin.” North said he studied for the ministry, but did not pursue it. At some point he “became a tutor” in Benjamin Vaughan’s family, and when the Vaughans moved to America in the 1790s, he came with them.

In 1797, North wrote, he went back to London, where in April 1798 he married Rebecca Vaughan, bringing her to Hallowell in May. North listed six Merrick children.

North, who had known Merrick at least casually, and Edwards both speak highly of him as a man and a civic leader. North wrote that Merrick “was a gentleman of thorough education, refined tastes, high intellectual and social culture, benevolent, public spirited, kind, courteous, and gentle…just in all his dealings, of excellent judgment and practical good sense, a good citizen highly esteemed and beloved by his neighbors and friends….”

Describing Merrick in his 90s, showing a companion where a recent Kennebec River flood had cut around the Augusta dam, North wrote: “His form…was erect, his step elastic, and his flowing long locks of a snowy whiteness resting upon his shoulders gave him an imposing and venerable appearance.”

Edwards added that Merrick was well-informed about “astronomy, navigation, mathematics, and surveying.”

Among Merrick’s civic roles the two authors listed were trustee of Hallowell Academy (from 1802) and board president in 1829; member of Bowdoin College’s Board of Overseers (1805); Hallowell first selectman “for many years” (North) and overseer of the poor for 10 years; and cashier of the second Hallowell and Augusta Bank from 1812 until it failed in 1821.

In 1810, North wrote, Massachusetts Governor Christopher Gore appointed Merrick a member of an expedition charged with exploring a possible road from the Kennebec to Québec. During the six-week expedition, “he camped out twenty-one nights, seventeen of which it rained.”

Edwards devoted considerable attention to the musical side of the Vaughan and Merrick families. He summarized: “The Vaughans, the acknowledged leaders of all social events in Hallowell, were liberal patrons of the arts, and they and the Merricks were responsible in no small degree for the prestige which Hallowell was destined for nearly a century to enjoy as a musical center, and for the musical advancement of the towns along the Kennebec River.”

Music was important in both families, Edwards continued. Both sets of parents provided for their children the best available “instructors in piano, violin and flute.”

Merrick was one of the tutors in the Benjamin Vaughan family; their French teacher was a violinist. Charles and Frances Vaughan’s son, Charles, born in 1804, became a flutist and cellist; their daughter, Harriet, was a pianist and singer.

(Benjamin and Sarah Vaughan also had a daughter they named Harriet, the first-born of their seven children. Born in 1782, she died in 1798.)

Charles and Frances Vaughan’s daughter Harriet, born April 15, 1802, married children’s book author Jacob Abbott (Nov. 14, 1803 – Oct. 31, 1879) on May 18, 1829. Harriet Vaughan Abbott died Sept. 12, 1843.

Jacob and Harriet had several children. Another on-line source provides a brief biography of their oldest son, one of Charles Vaughan’s grandsons. He was Benjamin Vaughan Abbott, born in Boston June 4, 1830, a Harvard Law School graduate (1852). He is recognized primarily for his many collections and digests of court rulings and other legal records, work with which his brother, Austin Abbott, helped.

Merrick, in addition to tutoring Vaughan children, was a talented musician and leader. Edwards wrote that his musical taste was “exquisite.” He was known as a cellist, singer (Edwards quoted a description of his voice as “a very sweet and highly cultivated tenor”) and music critic. Linda Davenport, in her Divine Song on the Northeast Frontier, included a quotation saying Merrick “could play on any instrument.”

Locally, he led outstanding choirs at Hallowell’s Old South Church (called the best in New England in his time) and the Gardiner church, Edwards said. He also sang in the old South Church choir, as did Jacob Abbott.

When the Handel Society of Maine was formed in Portland in February 1814, Merrick was its first president. Edwards described the group as an ambitious state-wide effort that probably lasted only a few years, holding twice-yearly meetings at Bowdoin College. Its short life he attributed to the many other demands on members’ time, their limited resources and the difficulty of travel in Maine in the early 1800s.

Handel Society of Maine program from 1883.

Edwards listed one more of Merrick’s musical accomplishments: he wrote that when Samuel Tenney published The Hallowell Collection of Sacred Music in 1817 (second edition 1824), Merrick and (future) Chief Justice Prentiss Mellen, from Biddeford, “two of the ablest men in the state,” assisted.

Davenport analyzed the history of The Hallowell Collection in more detail, pointing out that although it is attributed to Samuel Tenney, he is not named “on the title page, in the notice about the copyright deposit, or in the introductory advertisement.”

Merrick and Mellen did endorse the collection, Davenport said, in their capacities as president and vice-president of the Handel Society. She disagreed with the suggestion that the Society published the book.

In Davenport’s opinion, “A more likely possibility is that Merrick and possibly Mellen may have served as musical advisors to the book’s publisher, Ezekiel Goodale, a Hallowell printer who was not known to have been musical.”

Merrick, because of his education and his experience leading choirs, she believed probably guided the choice of mostly-European music and wrote the “theoretical introduction, portions of which are more detailed and erudite” than in other contemporary collections.

Mellen could have contributed from Biddeford. Tenney might have helped, Davenport wrote, and almost certainly used the book when he opened his singing school for sacred music late in 1817.

Main sources

Davenport, Linda, Divine Song on the Northeast Frontier Maine’s Sacred Tunebooks, 1800-1830 (1996).
Edwards, George Thornton, Music and Musicians of Maine (1928).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).

Abel Jones house returns to his descendants

The Abel Jones House. (photo by Roberta Barnes)

by Roberta Barnes

Old houses/buildings can appear to be of no interest other than to be torn down and replaced with modern structures.

When you take a moment and think of old buildings in need of more than a coat of paint the building can look quite different. These old buildings, such as the Jones house on the Jones Road, in China, Maine, are part of the journey that led to today’s communities, states, and our country.

The craftsmanship put into not just the interior woodwork, but such things as an organ. (photo by Roberta Barnes)

If the owners allow you to look inside of old buildings, you can see the hand-made beauty that is a reminder of our past. The historical appreciation of the craftsmanship that went into the building of these old houses and even the small wood stoves and fireplaces that heated each room are treasures that go beyond monetary value.

This summer on Saturday, August 26, Jen Jones, a China Historical Society member, offered a brief tour of her newly-acquired Rufus Jones homestead. The tour included a few downstairs rooms inside the Jones House built by Abel Jones in 1815. Jen and her younger brother were on site to talk with those on the tour and answer questions about their ancestral home where they, children, and grandchildren will occasionally stay throughout the year.

The tour began inside the new China library still under construction. History of the Jones family was given by speakers’ Quaker historian Joann Austin, South China Library head Jean Dempster, and Jen Jones great-great-granddaughter. Outside in the library’s parking lot on our way to tour inside the Jones house, a side of the house not seen in most photographs, is visible. From this distance it looks as it will once the restoration has been completed.

Many stories were told about the Jones ancestors. One of the stories told was of a horse being attached/hitched to the sleigh and then going across China Lake to visit people on the other side. All those stories showed the long journey that led the Abel Jones homestead to no longer being seen as an old house, but one of historical value.

In the small dining room, hanging over the mantle of the fireplace, is a painting of the husband and wife of the early owners. (photo by Roberta Barnes)

Once at the Jones house, walking through the small rooms transformed an old rundown house into treasures of the past. The craftsmanship put into not just the interior woodwork, but such things as an organ, cast iron wood stove, sofa and highly-polished pumpkin pine wide floorboards made the outside peeling paint and slanted floors unimportant.

Entering through the back door of what looked to be part of the barn attached to the house, many old tools were visible. From there a small kitchen was dominated by a multifunction red brick wood stove; an old model electrical stove suggested that it had not been used for years. Cupboards seen in today’s kitchens were absent. However, a large cupboard door covering multiple shelves and a butler’s pantry, common in the past, erased the need for today’s cupboards.

In the small dining room, hanging over the mantle of the fireplace, is a painting of the husband and wife of the early owners. To the right is a framed hand-drawn map that is another reminder of past treasures.

While the peeling paint and slanting floors might not rate high on a realtor’s appraisal value, the historical value of the Jones house is another story. The two ladder-back chairs stopping visitors from going upstairs because of unsafe floors were examples of furniture beginning in the mid-17th century.

Outside on the side of the house facing the street is the metal plaque designating the Jones house as the birthplace of Rufus M. Jones. Many people associate the house with the important Quaker writer and historian Rufus Matthew Jones 1, as this was his birthplace and childhood home. His history and accomplishments are extensive.

This Jones house on the side of China Rd., built in 1815 by Abel Jones, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 by Gregory K. Clancey Ar­chi­tectural Historian of the Me His­toric Pre­ser­vation Comm.

Clancey writes that at that time in 1983 the Jones House is still owned by members of the Jones family. In The Town Line article written by Mary Grow in July 2021, she states that “The South China Library Association is the present owner.” Nevertheless, today the Jones house owners are members of the Jones family, ancestors of Abel Jones the original owner.

In Clancey’s application to have the Jones house put on the national registry he described some of the house in this way. “The Jones homestead is a typical Maine Federal farmhouse – two-and-one-half stories with pitched roof, five bays long, two bays deep, with a long one-and-one-half story ell projecting from the rear wall. The main section is perpendicular to the road. Sometime in the late 19th century the house was re-oriented toward the dooryard and road. The new door was given a simple Queen Anne canopy. All rooms are very simply decorated, with wallpaper applied over plaster. A few rooms retain simple Federal mantlepieces. One of the mantels is an exact copy of the original, which was somehow destroyed. A large barn and small shed of late 19th – early 20th century construction stand behind and to one side of the ell.”

If you were not able to attend the tour, you can find some of the Jones family history in books and copies of old newspapers at those places of recorded stored knowledge we call libraries. Some history can also be found online. Jen Jones suggested such resources as Wikipedia – the Abel Jones House, china.goveoffice.com, The Town Line articles such the 1997 South China Inn Community, and books such as Friend of Life – Biography of Rufus M. Jones and A Small Town Boy, by Rufus M. Jones.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Music in the Kennebec Valley – Part 4

R. B. Hall Band, in Richmond, circa 1878.

by Mary Grow

R. B. Hall Band & Cecilia Club

Kennebec County historian Henry Kingsbury provided a minor exception to the general lack of interest in music in local histories when he included a section headed “MUSIC” in his history of Waterville and wrote two whole paragraphs.

The first was about “the earliest instrumental or band music” in town, “produced by Abel Wheeler, a music teacher, and his two sons, Erastus O. and Sumner A., with fifes and drums.” The Wheelers provided music at the first Waterville College commencement on Aug. 21, 1822, Kingsbury said.

Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore, in his Waterville history, added that between commencements and military exercises, a brass band was “a necessity” for Waterville. That first commencement parade, he wrote, was led by the Waterville Artillery and “a band of music,” “and bands have existed here from that time on.”

Kingsbury wrote that “a few years later,” (your writer has been unable to find a precise date), “the first Waterville Band was formed.” Waterville College officials promised its members $100 a year for playing at commencements.

Kingsbury listed the eight original band members, most of whom he said were from the Ten Lots section of western Waterville that later became part of Fairfield, and four of the Waterville Band’s successive directors over “many years.” Except for Stephen Jewett (violist and fifer Stephen Jewett from Augusta? – see the July 27 and Aug. 10 issues of The Town Line), none of those named is mentioned in George Edwards’ Music and Musicians of Maine, nor is the Waterville Band listed.

Three of the Waterville Band’s original members were Reward Sturtevant, Anson Bates and Asa B. Bates (1794-1878). The last-named is the man in whose honor the Asa Bates Memorial Chapel in southwestern Fairfield is named (see the Aug. 5, 2021, issue of The Town Line).

An on-line genealogy identifies Asa Bates as a musician and a veteran of the War of 1812. Isaac Bangs’ chapter in Whittemore lists him as one of the three musicians in William Pullen’s militia company, which was stationed in Augusta in September 1814.

An organization called the Waterville band appears occasionally in later years in Waterville’s history. The July 1-3, 1879, Waterville Classical Institute commencement included a procession “escorted by the Waterville band.”

In William Mathews’ memoir of growing up in Waterville in Whittemore’s history, Mathews wrote that in the period between 1825 and 1850 Waterville had three “fine military companies:” the Light Infantry; an artillery company that kept two brass cannons in the small Temple Street house that was its headquarters; and the militia. He implied that each company had its own band.

Waterville’s best-known musical organizations in the late 1900s and early 2000s were the R. B. Hall Military Band and Hall’s Orchestra. Both were organized and led by Robert Brown (or Browne) Hall, who was born in Bowdoinham on June 30, 1858, and died in Portland on June 8, 1907.

The on-line Maine An Encyclopedia says Hall was an outstanding cornetist – his father was his first teacher – and bandmaster. He composed 62 marches that were published while he was alive, and according to Frances Turgeon Wiggin’s Maine Composers and Their Music, “at least 100” altogether.

John Philip Sousa played a Hall march at the 1900 Paris Exposition, Maine An Encyclopedia says. The United States Navy Band played his Funeral March at President John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession in 1963, according to a 2019 Central Maine Morning Sentinel story.

Hall’s musical abilities were displayed in many municipalities, including Boston, Massachusetts, and Albany, New York, and in Maine Richmond, where as a 19-year-old he directed the Richmond Cornet Band; Bangor (1883-1890); Portland; Augusta; Cherryfield; and Waterville.

He is credited with reviving the Bangor band. In 1884 residents held a week-long celebration during which they showed their appreciation by giving him a “gold Boston Three Star Ne-Plus cornet,” reportedly now owned by the Waterville Historical Society.

Hall began his work in Waterville in 1890, Whittemore said, organizing the “carefully trained” and well-received band and orchestra. In the 1890s, the band not only played at “school and college commencements,” but was hired by the city for summer concerts in Monument Park. Wiggin added that he brought members of the Boston Symphony to join local musicians at Colby commencements.

Wiggin named two local men associated with Hall. Clinton native Herbert C. Hunter (Dec. 18, 1867 – Dec. 11, 1931) was a violinist and cornetist who studied under Hall. Arthur F. Roundy, of Fairfield (Oct. 12, 1881 – ??), music director at Lawrence High School for many years, was a student of Hall’s (according to an on-line source) and played clarinet in the R. B. Hall Band (according to Wiggin).

In 1899, prominent citizens organized a corporation to support the band and orchestra, naming Hall the corporation manager. The corporation paid Hall and band members from collected earnings.

The point, Whittemore wrote, was not to make money, but to support “a band that will be a credit to the city, as Hall’s Military Band and orchestra certainly are.”

Hall was the music director of Waterville’s 1901 centennial celebration. Whittemore’s history says he conducted his orchestra at the Sunday evening, June 22, “religious mass meeting” at City Hall and again at the Monday morning dedication of the new City Hall; conducted his military band at Monday afternoon’s “literary exercise” at Monument Park; and presumably was in charge again as the band led off the first division of Tuesday morning’s parade.

The Bridgton Community Band website says Hall was so lame he habitually used a cane or crutch; he would march carrying his cane. Several sites comment that when playing the cornet, he often played the music an octave higher than it was written.

* * * * * *

The St. Cecilia Society established one of the earliest traditions of musical patronage. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music. In November 1766, prestigious local gentlemen, in Charleston, South Carolina, created the first private musical society in America.

The Cecilia Club was another late-19th-century Waterville musical group. It is described in Edwards’ history and the description is plagiarized in Whittemore’s, listing officers, conductors and pianists.

(Your writer found on-line references to the St. Cecelia Society, organized in 1766 in Charleston, South Carolina, named after the patron saint of music and described in Wikipedia as “the earliest known private subscription concert organization in North America”; and New York’s Cecilia Chorus, founded in 1906. The latter was a women’s group until 1965; it is now co-ed. A Dec. 16, 2023, concert at Carnegie Hall will include Vaughn-Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and the world premiere of a piece by American composer Daron Hagen.

(Edwards described an Augusta Cecilia Club, organized in the early 1880s by Mrs. Pauline Myrick and active into the late 1920s. Little information is available, he wrote, because records have been lost.

(In the Aug. 17 issue of The Town Line, on p. 14, is a notice of Damariscotta’s St. Cecilia Chamber Choir auditions, as the group prepares for its December pre-Christmas concert. Information is available at ceceliachoir.org.)

Waterville’s Cecilia Club was organized Oct. 15, 1896, through the “persistent labors of Mrs. George F. Davies and Mrs. Frank B. Hubbard.” Initially 19 members, there were 80 by October 1897, when they sang in a festival in Bangor, and about that number in 1902.

Whittemore and Edwards wrote that Waterville’s Cecilia Club sang in Maine Music Festivals as well as locally, including during the centennial celebration. Both credited Fairfield members’ contributions.

The last sentence of this section of Whittemore’s history reads: “The Cecelia club holds high place in the esteem of the people [Edwards wrote “held a high place in the esteem of the people of the State] though perhaps it never will attain the popularity possessed by ‘The singing school kept at Col. Hayden’s’ in 1795.”

Your writer found no other reference to this singing school.

Among the several Haydens who were early residents of Winslow and Waterville, Whittemore and other contributors to his history gave the title of Colonel to the senior Charles Hayden. He was identified as an east-side (Winslow rather than Waterville) resident who was a school agent in 1798; moderator of a First Universalist Society meeting Nov. 17, 1831; and member of the building committee for the west-side church that meeting attendees voted to build.

(This 1832 church at the intersection of Elm and Silver streets has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978. See the June 24, 2021, issue of The Town Line)

An on-line genealogy lists a Charles Hayden, born in Massachusetts in 1767, who came to Winslow with his parents in (according to Kingsbury) 1789. Charles’ father, Josiah Hayden, was a Revolutionary veteran, active in town affairs into the early 1800s. His mother was Silence Hayward or Howard Hayden; Waterville’s Silence Howard Hayden DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) chapter was organized Jan. 3, 1898.

Dedication to R.B. Hall

R. B. Hall

According to the Maine An Encyclo­pedia website, on Aug. 14, 1936, Waterville officials held a tribute to R. B. Hall during which a Memorial Band Stand was dedicated; and on May 11, 1981, Governor Joseph Brennan signed a bill making the last Saturday in June R. B. Hall Day.

The bandstand was in what is now Veterans Memorial Park, at the intersection of Park and Elm streets. Your writer was unable to find it.

An on-line program for Waterville’s June 29, 2018, observance of R. B. Hall Day at the Opera House lists performances by town and state bands from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., including the R. B. Hall Memorial Band and the Hallowell Community Band playing together for half an hour and massed bands for another half-hour.

Governor Janet Mills proclaimed June 24, 2023, as R. B. Hall Day. On-line sites note celebrations in Richmond and Rockland.

Main sources:

Edwards, George Thornton, Music and musicians of Maine: being a history of the progress of music in the territory which has come to be known as the State of Maine, from 1604 to 1928 (1970 reprint).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).
Wiggin, Frances Turgeon, Maine Composers and Their Music, 1959.

Websites, miscellaneous.

Windsor’s Elwin Hussey reaches the century mark

Elwin Hussey with his great-granddaughter, Olivia, amongst his record collections.

by Norman Kalloch, in collaboration with Kristen Ballantyne

Elwin Frank Hussey turns 100 years old on August 25, 2023. A lifelong resident of Windsor, Elwin is often associated with Hussey’s General Store, which opened in 1923, the same year Elwin was born.

Elwin Hussey in his military uniform.

Elwin graduated from Erskine Academy, in South China, in 1940 and went to Colby College, in Waterville, majoring in Chemistry. He completed his degree in three years and still holds the record of being the youngest graduate of Colby College.

Upon graduation in 1943, he entered the military, serving two and one-half years in the U.S. Navy. During the World War II, Elwin worked on radio maintenance and radar which included testing advanced communication systems. Armed with a degree in chemistry, Elwin had numerous opportunities to work for large corporations. Instead, he returned to Windsor and set up shop across from the store, repairing radios until 1956. He also served two sessions in the Maine Legislature representing the towns of China, Windsor, Pittston and Randolph.

As he became more involved in the family business, the store sold several lines of appliances. Elwin first went to Hawaii with his now late wife, Shirley, through promotional trips sponsored by several appliance companies. Soon after, he bought his first home on The Big Island and continues to spend time in Windsor and Hawaii. It’s not unusual for Elwin to fly back to Maine to work at the store and then return to his Hawaiian home.

Elwin is a man with broad interests. He oversees a collection of old and rare books at Hussey’s Store. He also has a massive record collection, including titles from Hoagie Carmichael to Joan Baez and about every other artist. This summer, his great-granddaughter, Oliva, is assisting him in cataloging the record collection. Elwin has maintained a sharp eye for making a deal at nearly 100 years old.

Elwin Hussey turns 100 years old on August 25, 2023.

Elwin is also a historian, especially about the town of Windsor’s history. He has kept up years of genealogies and put together books about Windsor. He edits and adds to them to this day still, has copies made up and sells them at the store, and shares them with the historical society.

Elwin and the Hussey family have also been generous with donations over the years to the church, schools, and other organizations in the community and he has received a lot of satisfaction from helping his hometown over his lifetime.

Elwin leaves the day-to-day running of Hussey’s Store to his son Jay and granddaughter Kristen. However, managing the old book department remains his responsibility. Hussey’s Store has been a family endeavor for three generations, and Elwin hopes its legacy for a long time. Elwin says for a family business to survive for a hundred years is nothing short of amazing. The Hussey family knows the work it takes to survive in the big box store culture of modern today.

When asked what words of wisdom he’d like to pass on, Elwin replied, “Don’t let others make decisions for you.”

Elwin plans to celebrate his hundredth birthday at home, in Windsor, with his immediate family and dear friends.

(See also: Hussey’s: The History of a humble country business)

Hussey’s General Store was opened in 1923, the year Elwin Hussey was born.

CORRECTIONS: In the August 24, 2023, issue of The Town Line, the cover story (Windsor’s Elwin Hussey reaches the century mark), the author of the story is Norman Kalloch, in collaboration with Kristen Ballantyne. He wrote the core of the article after having interviewed Elwin Hussey. Ballantyne edited and made additions. It was an editing error.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Slave trade in Vassalboro

Captives being brought on board a slave ship on the west coast of Africa, circa 1850.

by Mary Grow

The story of Ebenezer Farwell

Maine, including to some extent small inland towns like Vassalboro, was more heavily involved in the international slave trade than many residents realize, both before and after slave-trading was made illegal in the United States in 1808.

Dr. Kate McMahon, Museum Specialist at the Center for the Study of Global Slavery, in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, gave more than four dozen local residents a history lesson Aug. 13 at the Vassalboro Historical Society’s museum in East Vassalboro.

Slavery has existed for centuries, McMahon said. In the 15th century, two developments converged to create a new, primarily race-based system: bigger ships and better navigational tools let European sailors reach Africa, and Europeans began colonizing the Americas.

In the Americas, first south and then north, indigenous inhabitants were eliminated and Europeans began plantation economies that needed labor. From the 1600s on, McMahon said, an estimated 12.5 million Africans, two-thirds of them men, were loaded onto slave ships for the Middle Passage, the voyage to the Americas. An estimated 10.7 million survived the trip.

Maine’s share in the slave trade McMahon described as small, but as brutal as anywhere else in the United States. It was concentrated in the earliest-settled areas, southern coastal Maine and Portland.

A painting of a Liverpool based ship believed to be involved in the slave trade. It bears strong similarities to the same artist’s image, ‘Liverpool Slave Ship’, painted circa 1780, and now at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. There are a number of figures visible on deck, some are thought to be slaves and others slave masters and sailors. The precise circumstances of this painting are not clear, and it may have been commissioned for the Liverpool offices of a bank or merchant involved in slavery to present an acceptable view of the trade. This coincides with the moment when the abolitionist movement was beginning to pose a serious threat to such traffic.

There is little information about the topic, because, McMahon said, there has not been a lot of interest in research; and many records, like ships’ logs, remain hidden in local museums and other repositories. There is also a misbelief that a merchant ship and a slave ship were two different vessels. McMahon said often the same ship would carry merchandise and slaves.

In 1787 and 1788, within half a decade after the United States became independent, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut banned slave-trading. Because different state regulations led to confusion, their officials pushed for a national law. In 1808 Congress made slave-trading illegal nationally.

McMahon explained that the ban applied to transporting slaves among countries abroad and into the United States. The internal slave trade remained legal until the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

In 1820, the ban was strengthened by defining transporting slaves as piracy, punishable by hanging. McMahon said alleged slave-traders were seldom punished. (An on-line source says in 74 trials between 1837 and 1860, there were many acquittals and some light sentences. One man was sentenced to death; he was pardoned by President James Buchanan in 1857).

The only man hanged for slave-trading, McMahon said, was Nathaniel Gordon, of Portland, Maine, in 1862. She said President Abraham Lincoln, fighting the Civil War and preparing for the Emancipation Proclamation, was “grandstanding” when he refused to pardon Gordon.

After 1807, fewer slaves were brought to the United States, but many United States citizens continued to transport slaves from Africa to other places in the Americas, like Cuba. One such ship captain was Ebenezer Farwell, of Vassalboro.

This Ebenezer Farwell was one of four sons of Ebenezer Farwell (1740 – 1807) and Jane Howard Farwell (1742 – 1806), according to an on-line source that lists the three youngest by date of birth – 1783, 1785 and 1787 – but does not include their first names.

McMahon did not give Ebenezer’s dates. She said in 1838, he was captain of the ship Transit, and in it picked up four male Africans from a place near the border between Liberia and Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Three he brought to New York; one he brought home to Vassalboro and left with his father at their River House as an indentured servant.

New York abolitionists got on Farwell’s case. Farwell was not punished, but a judge ordered the Africans, including the young man in Vassalboro, be sent home to Africa.

Dr. Sylvester Gardiner, of Pittston, was a wealthy Maine slave owner.

By now, McMahon said, Farwell was wealthy enough to start building the Riverside Drive house known as the Farwell Mansion. When funds ran out, he went back to the same part of Africa, this time in a schooner named the Mary Carver.

What happened next is unclear, McMahon said, but Farwell and his crew were killed by Africans. She believes it was “a slave-trading deal gone bad.”

The United States government retaliated by sending the sloop of war USS Saratoga, under Commodore Matthew Perry, for what McMahon called “swift and brutal retribution.” United States sailors razed between 50 and 100 villages and killed King Ben Krako, who may have been responsible for Farwell’s death.

McMahon said Farwell’s wife and sons never lived in the mansion. She and audience members talked about the local story that the house became a stop on the underground railroad that helped escaped Southern slaves to freedom before the Civil War.

On-line sites repeat the story, crediting a man named Israel Weeks.

The USS Saratoga was built at the Portsmouth shipyard in 1842, McMahon said, the first of a number of government ships built specifically to look for slave traders. Because of their illegal business, the traders had fast ships; the Navy needed to match them.

Maine, with its good wood supply and its well-developed techniques, built some of the fastest ships available. Between 1850 and 1865, McMahon said, Maine ships brought some 25,000 slaves from Africa to sell them in Cuba.

Profits were immense; and often owners and captains could increase them by bringing Cuban products, like sugar and mahogany, to the United States.

To maximize profits, McMahon added, these later slave ships were often even more overcrowded than earlier, legal ones, and mortality rates were higher.

Because so many Maine-built ships and Maine captains were involved, the state’s economy was tied to the illegal slave trade. McMahon cited two figures: in 1852 (according to state records), the timber industry was worth $2.5 million; that same year (according to an 1857 New York Times report), the slave ship fleet brought in $11 million.

Mike Lokuta, current owner of the Farwell Mansion, told Sunday’s gathering he is restoring the house. He started by replacing footings under the tall columns across the front; four are done and the fifth soon will be.

Twentieth-century renovations he is undoing include removing two layers of sheetrock.

In a later email, Lokuta said the Farwell Mansion is not the same as Seven Oaks, an earlier Farwell house that Lokuta understands burned in the 1790s.

(In her 1971 Vassalboro history, Alma Pierce Robbins wrote that Isaac Farwell built Seven Oaks for his son Eben (1740 -1807), and said, apparently in error, that it was the columned house still standing.)

Lokuta said Seven Oaks’ foundation and a nearby well casing remain behind the mansion. They might have given rise to the story, which Lokuta says is untrue, that in Underground Railroad times a tunnel ran from the Kennebec River to the house. Many sources mention a tunnel into the cellar of the house, without further explanation.

Maine native Dr. Kate McMahon

Dr. Kate McMahon

Dr. Kate McMahon is a Maine native who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Southern Maine and her doctorate in history from Howard University, in Washington, D.C. Her field of concentration is slavery in the United States and related topics.

Some years before her Aug. 13 presentation, she had visited the Vassalboro Historical Society museum to look for information on Farwell, where she met members Simone Antworth, who introduced her to Sunday’s audience, and Russell Smith. That visit led to Sunday’s talk.

Asked if the VHS records had been helpful, McMahon said yes, and added that she is likely to return for more research as she works on a book.

For those interested in more information on New England’s role in the global slave trade, she mentioned two websites, atlanticblackbox.com and slavevoyages.org

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Music in the Kennebec Valley – Part 3

Typical 19th century brass band.

by Mary Grow

Band music

Another type of music in the central Kennebec Valley from early days of European settlement was band music. It was often, but especially in later years not inevitably, associated with military organizations; and like other forms of music, got limited attention in most local histories.

* * * * * *

James North, in his Augusta history, sometimes mentioned parade music, presumably provided by a band, as in his description of former president George Washington’s funeral procession in Augusta on Feb. 22, 1800.

North wrote that the procession was headed by a military escort. It included an infantry company, followed by musicians with “drums muffled, instruments in mourning,” followed by an artillery company.

By 1805, North wrote, Augusta had two military companies, and a group of young men persuaded the legislature (still in 1805 the Massachusetts General Court) to authorize a light infantry company.

The Augusta Light Infantry, which appears frequently in North’s history, was organized in the spring of 1806. North listed its officers and its musicians: fifer Stephen Jewett (the same Stephen Jewett who played the bass viol in church beginning in 1802? – see the July 27 issue of The Town Line) and drummer Lorain Judkins.

Some of the women connected with infantry members created and presented a company standard, with the motto “Victory or Death.” North described the Sept. 11, 1806, presentation as followed by a parade and a ball (presumably at least the ball and probably the parade included musicians).

By the time the Light Infantry was part of the local Federalist party’s July 4 parade in 1810, there was definitely a band. North wrote that its members politely stopped playing as the parade passed the house where Judge Nathan Weston was addressing the rival Democratic party celebration.

Another association between music and the military is the lists of men who fought in the War of 1812. Kennebec County historian Henry Kingsbury and many local historians listed soldiers (in 1812 and later wars) by name and rank, including musicians.

Most 1812 companies had either two or three musicians, though Kingsbury listed only one apiece for two of Vassalboro’s companies. The majority are described unspecifically as “musicians,” but Kingsbury mentioned a drum major and a fife major from Augusta.

By July 4, 1832, North again described two separate parades by two political parties, with multiple bands and military units. The National Republicans’ parade included “the Hallowell Artillery and Sidney Rifles, each with a band of music,” and the Hallowell and Augusta band, which he said was “one of the best in the State.” The Democrats’ parade included some of the Augusta Light Infantry and a band from Waterville.

There was an Augusta band in 1854, when Augusta city officials (the town became a city in 1849) decided the annual July 4 celebration should include recognition of the 100th anniversary of the building of Fort Western. Events included an extremely elaborate parade, with the Augusta Band providing the music.

And on April 18, 1861, as the Civil War began, North wrote that “the Augusta Band, playing patriotic airs” (including Yankee Doodle), led Augusta’s Pacific Fire Engine Company as members marched to the homes of leading citizens to ask their reactions to the rebellion.

(Their visits started with Governor Israel Washburn, Jr., and included his predecessor, former Governor Lot M. Morrill. North commented that Republicans and Democrats alike expressed support for the federal government.)

By August 1863, either there was another band or the Augusta Band had a second name. North described the return of two volunteer regiments whose members’ nine-months enlistments were up.

The 24th Regiment got to Augusta at 10:30 p.m. Aug. 6, by train; a large number of dignitaries and ordinary citizens and the Citizens’ Band escorted the soldiers to the State House for a welcome and a banquet (after which they slept on the State House floor, too exhausted to continue to Camp Keyes). The 28th arrived around noon Aug. 18; their welcoming parade included the Citizens’ Band and the Gardiner Brass Band, and their refreshments were served on the lawn south of the State House.

In 1864, according to North, it was the Augusta Band that on June 3 escorted the first trainload of wounded men to the new military hospital at Camp Keyes, in Augusta.

* * * * * *

In the village of Weeks Mills, in the southern part of the town of China, there was in the latter half of the 19th century an all-male brass band that the China history says “was more a marching band than a dance band,” because its concerts were mostly outdoors.

Sometimes there were concerts in “a town public hall” that was the second floor of a building on the east side of the Sheepscot, north of Main Street (which is called Tyler Road on the contemporary Google map). There was also a bandstand, “with a flagpole,” that band members built at the junction of North Road (now Dirigo Road, perhaps?).

Quoting a former resident named Eleon Shuman, some of whose family were in the band, the history adds, “Few of the band members could read music, and the band director transcribed their pieces into a simpler notation called the tonic sol fa method which they could follow.”

Oakland also had a town band by the late 1880s. In her history of Sidney, Alice Hammond wrote that the organizers of the 1890 Sidney fair spent most of their money to hire the Oakland Band.

She explained that in the absence of television and Walkmans (never mind smartphones), “To hear the band playing as you strolled around the fair grounds, or went into the hall and sat down to take a break was a treat.”

There were also dances some afternoons – “Anyone who wished to dance paid for one dance at a time.” In 1890, the fair was not lighted, so there was no evening music or dancing.

Hammond’s history included reproductions of two posters.

One advertised a Feb. 5, 1892, exhibition of “The marvels of the modern phonograph,” which would “Talk, Laugh, Sing, Whistle, Play on all sorts Instruments including Full Brass Band.” After Professor R. B. Capen, of Augusta, finished his demonstration, there would be a Grand Ball, with music by Dennis’ Orchestra, Augusta, for dancing until 2 a.m.

The second poster announced an Aug. 15, 1898, Grand Concert by the Sidney Minstrels. The program included vocal and instrumental (guitar, banjo and tamborine solos); it was followed by a “social dance” with music by Crowell’s Orchestra.

John Philip Sousa’s inaugural playing of The Stars and Stripes Forever, in Augusta

John Philip Sousa

An on-line site called Military Music says John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever was played for the very first time by Sousa’s Band in the new (opened in 1896) city hall, in Augusta, Maine, on May 1, 1897. Because at that time the march had no title, some historians inaccurately date the first performance to a May 14 concert in Philadelphia.

Contributor Jack Kop­stein wrote that Sousa composed the march as he was returning from Europe late in 1896. His original version called for “Piccolo in D-flat, Two Oboes, Two Bassoons, Clarinet in E-flat, Two Clarinets in B-flat (1-2), Alto saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Three Cornets (1-3), 4 Horns in E-flat (1-4), Three Trombones (1-3), Euphonium, Tuba, Percussion.”

Augusta’s Museum in the Streets (on line) says by May 1, 1897, Sousa’s Band was “the most famous in the land,” and Sousa was “America’s ‘March King.'” The afternoon concert presented some of his earlier compositions; “Sousa’s band enthralled the Augusta audience with spirited music, and his first encore was a new untitled march” – the one that became The Stars and Stripes Forever.

On-line sites give different versions of the words for the march. The one attributed to Sousa begins, “Let martial note in triumph float / And liberty extend its mighty hand….”

Your writer’s personal favorite begins “Be kind to your web-footed friends / For a duck may be somebody’s mother.” (The web attributes these words to radio comedian Fred Allen [1894-1956].)

Augusta’s 1896 city hall was designed by John Calvin Spofford (Nov. 25, 1854 – Aug. 19, 1936), a Maine-born, Boston-based architect well-known for designing public buildings in New England. In addition to municipal offices, the building included a city auditorium.

Kopstein, writing in 2011, said the building served its municipal function until 1987; it then became an assisted living facility. An on-line description of the Inn at City Hall says it now has “31 apartments with its historic decor preserved throughout the complex.”

Main sources

Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984)
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992)
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892)
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870)

Websites, miscellaneous.