Rumor has it… America will be 401 years old on November 11

That’s right. On November 11, 1620, 401 years ago the Pilgrims from Holland landed in America and signed the “Compact” which many consider “America’s First Constitution.” This document laid the foundation for the Freedom we cherish to this day.

Those who signed the document, called the Mayflower Compact, made a commitment to govern themselves. For the first time in history, they united “together into a civil body politic …to enact…such just and equal laws…unto which” they promised “all due…obedience .”

During the time period leading up to the American Revolution, a stately Elm tree on the Boston Commons served as a place to demonstrate dissatisfaction with British rule.

As we approach the celebration of the 401st anniversary of America, the Liberty Tree Society, Walpole, New Hampshire, is offering, at no cost, a Mayflower Compact Certificate to any all-male descendant of the Mayflower Compact signer. To get your Certificate, send the list of your ancestors and their birth year to LTS will send you a Certificate (photo available upon request), on parchment, suitable for framing in 8 1/2″ x 14″ frame available from local framery.

Those interested in history but, are not Mayflower descendants, may request a Mayflower Certificate without the lineage panel.

The Liberty Tree Society seeks to celebrate the Liberty Tree of Boston where Freedom was born there 150 years after landing in Plymouth, descendants of the Compact signers rallied around the Liberty Tree and organized the Revolution which set them free. More information about the society is available at their website

Call (603)209-2434 if you have questions or would like more information.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Women in education

Mary Low Carver (left), Amy Morris Bradley (center), Louise Helen Coburn (right)

by Mary Grow

Readers of recent articles in this series on the history of central Kennebec Valley towns will have noticed differences between education for men and education for women from the late 1700s into the 20th century.

The primary schools, for the most part, taught boys and girls similarly. After about eighth grade, boys were more likely to continue their education, and to have more varied opportunities.

These articles have named several women who aspired to open schools of their own, or actually did so, but there has been little or no follow-up information in written histories or on line. Most high-school founders, principals and teachers who left records of achievement were men.

One exception to this generalization was Daniel Cony’s Female Academy in Augusta (1816-1857). The academy had a woman as its first principal; its students included boys as well as girls (see The Town Line, Sept. 2, 2021).

The Augusta Classical School had several women as teachers in the 1830s (see The Town Line, Sept. 9, 2021). And, as mentioned last week, Naomi Bunker ran a seminary in Fairfield in the mid-nineteenth century.

In high schools reviewed in previous articles, boys out-numbered girls most of the time. Nineteenth-century high-school boys were being prepared for college or careers; high-school girls were getting “an elevated course of female education” (Vassalboro Academy, 1856).

Hallowell Classical Academy offered three separate courses in 1876. The first provided preparation for college. The second was “especially for young ladies” and promised more education than the public schools provided. The third was a shorter course for both boys and girls.

Despite fewer educational opportunities, some women from the central Kennebec Valley “made good” in different ways, with or without education. They included Martha Ballard (Hallowell), Amy Morris Bradley (Vassalboro) and Mary Caffrey (Low) Carver (Waterville).

The best-known to Maine readers, and therefore the one who will receive the least attention here, was Martha Ballard (1735-1812), who moved from Massachusetts to Hallowell in 1777 and has become famous since Laurel Thatcher Ulrich published A Midwife’s Tale: the Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785-1812 in 1990.

Ballard was a successful midwife, as well as a diarist whose writings described daily life in the Kennebec Valley between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. In an article published on line by the University of Houston College of Engineering, John Lienhard wrote, “Martha was literate but not educated. Her spelling was – well – highly creative.”

In Bernhardt and Schad’s Anthology of Vassalboro Tales, Simone Antworth of East Vassalboro wrote that her late husband, Howard, was an indirect descendant of Martha and Ephraim Ballard. According to her research, Howard’s mother’s mother, Nellie Martha (Coombs) Earle (1887-1976), was the daughter of Archie Coombs and Elvira Goddard Ballard. Elvira Ballard was the great-great-granddaughter of Ephraim Ballard’s brother Jonathan and his wife Hannah (Kidder) Ballard.

Simone Antworth added that Nellie Earle “was a pillar in the Vassalboro community,” active in the Grange, the Methodist Church and other groups and “always ready to help anyone.”

Nellie’s younger brother, Roy Coombs (1889-1985) lived in China, where in 1933 he and George Wayland Jones started the Jones and Coombs Bean Cleaning Plant in China Village. Roy and his wife Mabel (Ward) Coombs (1888-1978) were parents of Hazel Ward Coombs (1913-2001), remembered as the assistant librarian at the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library in the village.

An earlier Vassalboro resident, Amy Morris Bradley (1823-1904), earned a national reputation for her service during and after the Civil War. She was a teacher, a nurse and an advocate for soldiers and children.

Born in East Vasssalboro, youngest of eight children, Bradley lost her mother when she was six and was raised by her father and siblings. Esther Bernhardt wrote in the Vasssalboro anthology that Bradley started teaching when she was 15 (Wikipedia says two years later) and saved her money to enter Vassalboro Academy.

The Academy qualified her for a teaching principalship in Gardiner in 1844. By 1846, Wikipedia says, she was teaching in Massachusetts.

Pneumonia compelled her to move south in 1849. When neither South Carolina nor a return to Maine restored her health, in 1853 she went to San Jose, capital of Costa Rica, where she taught herself Spanish and, Wikipedia says, “established the first English school in Central America.”

After a brief stay in East Vassalboro in 1857 and 1858, Bradley took a job in Massachusetts translating letters for the New England Glass Company. From there, in August 1861, she volunteered as an army nurse, beginning her service Sept. 1 in the Third Maine Regiment’s hospital near Alexandria, Virginia.

Bradley held important nursing positions throughout the war, including, Bernhardt said, as superintendent on the Ocean Queen, the ship that brought wounded soldiers from battlefields to Washington, D. C., hospitals. In Washington, she helped “establish a home for discharged soldiers” and helped many of them collect their back pay.

An on-line women’s history points out the low regard for female nurses in the 1860s, referring to drunken surgeons and contemptuous generals. The author credits Bradley, as a Special Relief Agent for the United States Sanitary Commission, with transforming dirty, unsanitary, poorly supplied army medical facilities into “clean, efficiently-run hospitals.”

In 1866, the Boston-based Unitarian philanthropy called the Soldiers’ Memorial Society asked Bradley to carry out its mission of establishing free schools for poor white children in Wilmington, North Carolina. Her first school opened in January 1867, in a building that had housed a similar school before the war, with three students. By 1869 she was in charge of three separate schools with 435 students.

Alma Pierce Robbins wrote in her Vassalboro history that Bradley’s niece, Amy Morris Bradley Homans (1848-1943) was a teacher in North Carolina and an early promoter of physical education for women. Her work led to the 1909 creation of Wellesley College’s Department of Hygiene and Physical Education, Robbins said.

Waterville native Mary Caffrey Low Carver (1850-1926) was still Mary Low when she entered Colby College in 1871. In July 1875 she became the first woman to graduate from Colby, and one of the first women in New England to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Low was class valedictorian. One on-line source says she gave the valedictory address at graduation. Wikipedia says she did not, because that role was traditionally for a man; but she did offer the prayer, in Latin.

Soon after graduation, Low married fellow Colby graduate Leonard D. Carver, who became Maine State Librarian. After teaching for a few years, his wife also became a librarian and worked as a cataloger for the state library. Wikipedia says she started the library’s card catalog.

Leonard Carver was co-founder, with Bowdoin College Librarian George Little, of the Maine Library Association, organized in March 1891.

Low continued to support Sigma Kappa and women’s education at Colby for the rest of her life. She spent her last years in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her daughter, Ruby (Carver) Emerson.

Colby gave Low an honorary doctorate in 1916 and named a building after her. Mary Low Hall is a residence hall on the Mayflower Hill campus; a Colby website says it houses the Mary Low Coffee House, “a venue for concerts, international coffee hours, and informal gatherings.”

In 1873, four more women joined Mary Low at Colby: Louise Helen Coburn, Ida Mabel (Fuller) Pierce, Elizabeth Gorham Hoag and Frances Elliott Mann Hall. The five founded Sigma Kappa sorority, authorized on Nov. 9, 1874. Ruby Emerson was a member of the Sigma Kappa chapter at Colby and in 1935-36 president of the national Sigma Kappa sorority.

The second woman to graduate from Colby was Louise Helen Coburn (1856-1949) of Skowhegan, daughter of Stephen Coburn, Colby ’39. She graduated in 1877 and for the rest of her life helped promote women’s education at the college; she and Mary Low Carver led the unsuccessful protest against the 1890 division into men’s and women’s colleges.

A botanist, Coburn edited Maine Naturalist and was president of the Josselyn Botanical Society. She published a book of her poetry titled Kennebec and Other Poems (1916) and a two-volume history, Skowhegan on the Kennebec (1941). The Skowhegan History House Museum and Research Center is her legacy to her home town.

(Maine Naturalist was published in the 1920s in Thomaston. Its subtitle was Journal of the Knox Academy of Arts and Sciences on the Fauna, Flora and Geology of Maine.)

Frances Mann (1853-1935) was from Yarmouth and had taught high school in Rockport, Massachusetts, before coming to Colby. She met her husband, George Washington Hall, in college; she left Colby after her junior year because of health problems, and she and her husband both had careers as teachers, at least part of their lives in Washington, D.C.

When Albion native Ida May “Mabel” Fuller (1854-1930) decided to enter Colby, still primarily a men’s college, her older brother, David Blin Fuller (1853-1915) was reportedly so angry that he refused to follow the Colby family tradition and went to Bowdoin instead. His sister left college in her junior year and moved to Kansas, where she married a Dr. Pierce and after his death, Wikipedia reports, “became a successful businesswoman, founded a hotel for girls in Kansas City, and was vice-president of a bank.”

Elizabeth Hoag (1857-1875), who designed the Sigma Kappa emblem, died of tuberculosis in her graduation year, at the age of 18. Like her four friends, she was from Maine; this writer has been unable to find which town in Maine.

Adeline Weymouth (1817-1896), of Clinton, has a weaker, and more unusual, claim to notice than the women previously described.

Readers familiar with Henry Kingsbury’s History of Kennebec County, to which this writer often refers, know that the chapter on each town or city ends with a list of “personal paragraphs.” For the 10 Kennebec County municipalities on which this series has focused (Fairfield is in Somerset County, Palermo is in Waldo County), Kingsbury listed almost 600 names.

Some were nationally known people like James G. Blaine, of Augusta, who got eight pages. Others were local farmers or merchants whose single paragraphs totaled about eight lines. Kingsbury did not say how they were chosen; this writer wonders if subscribing to buy a copy of the book was a factor.

Of the almost 600 names from 10 towns and cities, only one was a woman, Mrs. Adeline (Goodwin) Weymouth. Kingsbury gave her a long paragraph, about a third of a page, mostly about her husband and children.

Adeline Goodwin was the only daughter of Jediah (according to his gravestone) or Jedediah (according to Kingsbury) Goodwin (1786-1870), born in Berwick, and Mercy (Wing) Goodwin (1783-1873), born in Massachusetts. Adeline married Sargent (or Sergeant) Weymouth (1812-1890), probably in 1833 or 1834.

Kingsbury wrote that the Weymouths had seven sons and three daughters, although he refers to them as “His [Sergeant’s] children.” Four of the six oldest boys, Jacob, John, Alonzo and Warren, born between 1835 and 1846, joined the army in 1861 and after their three years were up re-enlisted for another three years.

Jacob “died in the army July 7, 1864,” and Alonzo died Nov. 1, 1868, at the age of 26 or 27 (Kingsbury gave no cause for his death).

The youngest of the three Weymouth daughters, Addie Justina (Kingsbury called her Justana), was born Sept. 22, 1857. When Kingsbury finished his book in 1892, Sergeant Weymouth had been dead for two years and Adeline and Addie were living “on the old homestead, where they settled in 1863,…carrying on the farm.”

An on-line genealogy says Adeline Weymouth died Aug. 16, 1896, and is buried in Clinton’s Town House Hill Cemetery (also her parents’ and her husband’s burial place). On Oct. 11, 1896, Addie married Abner P. True in Clinton.

Abner was born in 1849 and died in 1916; Addie died in 1940. They, too, are buried in Town House Hill Cemetery. The genealogy lists no children.

Main sources

Bernhardt, Esther, and Vicki Schad, compilers/editors Anthology of Vassalboro Tales (2017).
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 – 1971 n.d. (1971).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Windsor & Winslow schools

The second Fort School in Winslow was constructed on the east side of Lithgow Street during the summer of 1909 to replace the one-room original Fort School across from the church. The school had two very large rooms. In this image, the school is facing Lithgow Street. The school, the school lot, and land for a playground cost $4,500.00. It was part of the Winslow Public School system through 1937-38. In 1963, Waterville Window Company purchased the school and renovated it to serve their purposes.

by Mary Grow

Windsor residents are fortunate to have a well-researched town history by Linwood H. Lowden, published in 1993, that includes an equally well-researched chapter on schools by C. Arlene Barton Gilbert.

From this book, we learn that Windsor, like many other nearby towns, began funding primary schools early in the 1800s.

Windsor’s first teacher, and first resident preacher, was Rev. Job Chadwick, who had previously taught in China. In 1804, Lowden wrote, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel sought a teacher for two small settlements, Hunts Meadow (later included in Whitefield) and Pinhook (in the southern part of what became Windsor).

The Wiscasset minister who recommended Chadwick explained that he had experience and a good reputation, and added, “Through a variety of misfortunes he has lately been stripped of all his worldly property, & I imagine would keep school at as easy a rate as any.”

Chadwick, once he met the residents of the two settlements, commented on the difference between the two jobs. Windsor residents, he wrote, “appear fond of the gift of a school if they might have it separate from the Gospel which they discover an uncommon aversion to…& treat it with entire neglect & a degree of contempt.”

Gilbert wrote that Chadwick’s first term of school was two month long, with an average attendance of 15 to 20 youngsters.

The earliest record of a Windsor town meeting that Lowden found was on April 3, 1809, at Chadwick’s house. Voters approved a $50 appropriation for education – and $700 “to be wrought upon the road or highways.” The latter was supplemented by approval of paying $1 a day for a man’s work on the roads and 66 cents a day for oxen.

A year later, voters approved five school districts and appropriated $150. Gilbert copied from the town records: “this money for schooling be paid in lumber and produce.”

Another year later, in April 1811, Gilbert wrote that the appropriation went up to $200, and voters started rearranging the districts. Later in the century, Windsor had at least 16 school districts, and possibly 18. When Henry Kingsbury finished his Kennebec County history in 1892, there were 12.

The first free high school of which Gilbert found a record started in 1867. According to Kingsbury, town officials bought “seats and desks” for the second floor of the town house to open the school, with Horace Colburn the teacher.

(Kingsbury said that Colburn [1812-1885], left three sons. Two of them taught school, starting in their teens; and each of those two served as Windsor’s supervisor of schools, Joseph from 1871 to 1886 and Frank in 1888 and 1889.)

Gilbert wrote that after offering two high-school terms for each of five years, in March 1873 town meeting voters appropriated $200 to continue it, but rescinded the vote in April.

Nonetheless, she quoted from the 1877 school report that the prior year’s free high school terms, eight weeks in the spring and 10 weeks in the fall, were “very profitable to the district [District 1] and vicinity, giving the scholars who attended an opportunity for improvement that they could not otherwise have had.” The state subsidy amounted to $85.50, the report added.

The 1878 school supervisor’s report was equally enthusiastic. By then the free high school had 34 students, he wrote, “most of them being well advanced and quite a good number having had experience as teachers.”

Windsor’s free high school operated until 1902, Gilbert wrote. It was usually, but not always, in District 1. In 1902, there was a spring term, but the town was also paying tuition for students attending an out-of-town four-year high school (she did not say where the school was).

Winslow’s schools, at all levels, were of little interest to Kingsbury. He devoted one paragraph to the topic, talking about the situation in 1892. Fortunately, local historian Jack Nivison has approached the subject with more enthusiasm.

Nivison emailed that through his research, “particularly of very old Town Reports,” he found Winslow’s earliest schoolhouse for students up to eighth grade was the Fort School, built in 1819 on the west (river) side of Lithgow Street. Lithgow Street roughly parallels the Augusta Road (also Routes 100 and 201) along the Kennebec River, for a short distance south of the Sebasticook-Kennebec junction.

The 1819 school was named the Village School (and the area is designated on an 1879 map as Winslow Village). Nivison wrote the schoolhouse was diagonally across from and a little south of the Congregational Church, which was on the east side of Lithgow Street.

George Jones Varney’s 1881 Gazetteer of the State of Maine said Winslow had 15 schoolhouses by then. He valued them at $3,500.

In 1892, Kingsbury wrote, there were 16 school districts, but still only 15 schoolhouses, and only 11 districts held classes.

There were two free high schools in 1892, Kingsbury wrote. One was “at the village of Winslow”; the other was “in the eastern part of the town, near the Baptist church.” The Baptist Church had been built in 1850, he said, but he gave no more specific location.

In 1892, Kingsbury wrote, the town paid $250 to support the free high schools, which enrolled 80 students. There might have been additional state funding for the high schools; he said that the $250 was in addition to $1,400 “public money” and $1,500 from local taxes for 604 pre-high-school students.

Nivison says there were “attempts to formalize some post 8th grade courses in a couple of the existing schools,” perhaps the “high schools” Kingsbury mentioned.

Winslow’s Sand Hill School

The first Winslow High School, Nivison says, was in a disused Methodist Chapel on Birch (now Monument) Street, which runs between Clinton Avenue and Halifax Street (Route 100), along the top of the hill east of the Kennebec, parallel to Bay Street.

In 1899, he said, the Town of Winslow signed a lease with the Waterville Methodist Church “to renovate their unused Chapel” into a high school. He has a copy of the lease; as further evidence, he points out that Winslow High School graduation programs and the wall display in the present high school building date the school to 1899.

Nivison says the first freshman class had 18 students. By graduation in 2003, at the Congregational Church, the class was down to three students.

The original Fort School closed in 1909 or 1910, Nivison said, because more space was needed and because spring floods on the Kennebec had become a problem. A second Fort School, “built across the street on a higher level,” served as an elementary school well into the 1930s.

In 1904, Nivison continued, town officials had a three-story wooden school built on Halifax Street. The lower grades were on the first floor and the upper grades on the second and third floors.

“During the winter break in 1915 this school burned flat to the ground,” he wrote. It was replaced by a brick building that opened for classes in February 1916, again with lower grades on the first floor and upper grades upstairs.

The “new” Winslow High School, was built in 1928. It has since been replaced with a new building.

Winslow’s student population continued to grow, and in the spring of 1928, Nivison wrote, a new Winslow High School opened on Danielson Street. This school was about half a mile north of the previous ones; Danielson Street runs east off Benton Avenue, roughly parallel to Clinton Avenue.

Initially for grades seven through 12, the new high school quickly changed to grades eight through 12, Nivison wrote. The Halifax Street School became one of Winslow’s two brick elementary-school buildings (the other was the Boston Avenue School, built in 1921).

The Danielson Street site now hosts a complex that includes the current Winslow high and junior high schools and sports fields. Winslow Elementary School is adjacent, on the east side of Benton Avenue a short distance north of the other two schools.

Nivison says the Boston Avenue and Halifax Street schools were both demolished in the early 1990s. The Halifax Street School was considered as a new public library after the 1987 flood destroyed the Lithgow Street library building, but voters defeated the proposal.

Instead, town officials acquired the former roller-skating rink, also on Halifax Street, and converted it into the present library.

Rev. Job Chadwick

According to the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia, found on line, Rev. Job Chadwick was born about 1770, in Maine. An on-line Chadwick genealogy gives his birthdate as Dec. 4, 1756, “the fourth child of James and Ruth (Hatch) Chadwick.” The latter date matches his marriage date, also in the genealogy.

That source says James and Ruth brought their family to what would become China in the spring of 1782, establishing a farm at Chadwick’s Corner (near present-day Erskine Academy).

In 1796, according to the Biblical Cyclopedia, Chadwick “was ordained an evangelist” in Vassalboro, and a year later began eight years as pastor of China’s Second Baptist Church (once called the First Harlem Baptist Church), in South China Village at the south end of China Lake.

Another website, quoting Joshua Millet’s 1845 “History of the Baptists in Maine”, says this newly organized church was an offshoot of the Vassalboro Baptists. Starting with 19 initial members, who worshipped in a “neat and commodious brick edifice,” it grew slowly over the years, with Chadwick occasionally filling in as its preacher after he left in 1804.

Yet another on-line source records one of Chadwick’s actions: on Feb. 24, 1799, he “Joined in Marriage” Joseph Eveans or Evens (the Harlem clerk’s records have one spelling for the marriage intentions in January and the second for the actual marriage in February; your writer suspects the correct spelling is Evans) of Harlem and Jean Johnson of Ballston. (Ballston Plantation became the towns of Jefferson and Whitefield.)

The Biblical Cyclopedia says that after about 11 years as a missionary “under the direction of the Massachusetts Home Mission Society, in the destitute regions of Maine and on Cape Cod,” Chadwick took a pastorate in Gouldsborough, where he served from 1816 to 1831.

The genealogy says Chadwick married another emigree from Falmouth, Mercy Weeks (born Dec. 5, 1757), in Harlem (later China) on Sept. 13, 1784. They had a daughter and three sons. Mercy died in March 1826.

Chadwick died on Dec. 25, 1831, in Windsor, according to the Biblical Cyclopedia, or in January 1832, with no town specified, according to the genealogy. The latter claims he lived in China, saying nothing of missionary work or Gouldsboro. However, it also says he was the first and only teacher in town and was for years “the only spiritual guide the people of the town had of their own number,” making it clear all sources are describing the same man.

Main sources

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)
Nivison, Jack, personal communications.

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Waterville Liberal Institute

Waterville College, 1909. College Ave.

by Mary Grow

In Waterville, in addition to the private and public schools already described, there was Waterville Liberal Institute.

An on-line list of Universalists’ “higher institutions of learning” says Waterville Liberal Institute opened in 1835. It was the second such school in Maine; Westbrook Seminary opened in 1831 and ran until 1925, when the website says it became a non-sectarian school. These are the only two Maine Universalist high schools on the list.

Another on-line site has the Institute’s Feb. 28, 1835, legislative charter (and its 1851 catalog). Legislators said they were approving “an Institution for the purpose of instructing youth in the several branches usually taught in High Schools and Academies.” The charter listed the initial 10 trustees and said the board should in the future have at least seven and not more than 15 members.

Waterville Liberal Institute Trustees: Rev. Calvin Gardner, Waterville; Hon. Alpheus Lyon, Sec., Waterville; Silas Redington, Treas., Waterville; Jediah Morrill, Waterville; Erastus O. Wheeler, Waterville; Hon. Isaac Redington, Waterville; John R. Philbrick, Waterville; Thomas G. Kimball, Waterville; P. L. Chandler, Waterville; Joseph Percival, Waterville; Rev. William A. Drew, Augusta; Hon. Joseph Eaton, Winslow; Josiah Prescott, M.D., Waterford; Hon. G. M. Burleigh, M.D., Dexter; Hon. Wyman B. S. Moor, Bangor.

Ernest Marriner, in his history of Colby College, said that the Liberal Institute attracted so many students that there were too few left for Waterville Academy, established in 1829 as Colby’s preparatory high school and later Coburn Classical Institute (see The Town Line, July 29), so that the Academy closed from mid-1839 to the fall of 1841.

The 1851 Liberal Institute catalog lists the maximum 15 trustees. Ten were from Waterville, with one each from Augusta, Bangor, Dexter, Waterford and Winslow.

The Principal in 1851 was Rev. James P. Weston, A.M. Seven other faculty members were listed, although two apparently were job-sharing; Miss C. L. Fullam is listed as preceptress and Mrs. H. C. Henry as preceptress for the fall term.

That year there were of 174 students, 91 boys and 83 girls. The majority came from Waterville. Nearby towns that were represented included Albion, Canaan, Clinton, Fairfield, Gardiner, Readfield, Sidney, Skowhegan, Smithfield, Winslow.

Other students came from more distant Maine towns, including Bangor, Bingham, Calais, Cape Elizabeth, Dexter, Hiram, Plymouth and Waldoboro. One girl was from Holliston, Massachusetts. A boy and four girls, three of the girls named Hill and presumably sisters or otherwise related, came from St. Stephen, New Brunswick; another boy’s home was listed merely as Canada.

Not all the students attended all year. The spring term had the smallest enrollment, with 51 students. Only in the winter term did the woman outnumber the men, 41 to 38; in the popular fall term, the 112 students were evenly divided, 56 men and 56 women.

The catalog says the Institute was “situated in a convenient and retired part of the healthy and delightful village of Waterville.”

In 1851, the Institute’s leaders listed four goals: to give both men and women “a good English education”; “to prepare young men for College”; “to communicate a critical knowledge of the modern languages”; and “especially to qualify teachers for their calling.” The teachers’ classes were described as getting the Principal’s personal attention.

Facilities had been improved since the Institute opened 15 years earlier, including by making the “Female Department” permanent and providing “superior accommodations” for women.

Students could board with “good families” at prices that ranged from $1 to $1.75 a week for men and were a flat $1.00 a week for woman. Board included “room, washing, lodging, and lights.” (The difference between “room” and “lodgings” was not explained; the catalog explained that fewer “accommodations” lowered the price and advised that “clubbing” could make board very inexpensive.)

The school offered “Prep­aratory Studies,” a mélange of subjects featuring English language plus introductory mathematics, history and geography. This introduction was followed by three years – Junior, Middle and Senior – with four terms each year, during which the preparatory courses were extended and science and philosophy added.

The English department was considered central, and students were expected to take three years of English. Most courses were open to all. A few were considered not suitable for women and others were substituted; and apparently women seeking “a good Academic education” were expected to take courses in order, while men could drop in and out as their qualifications or schedules allowed.

The department of languages offered Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Foreign language tuition was most expensive, at $5 a term. “High English” was $4 and “Common Studies” $3. Two extras were offered, music for $6 a term and drawing for only $1 a term.

Each day began with reading from the Scriptures, with all students expected to attend. The catalog said all students were also expected to go to the church of their family’s choice on Sundays.

Here is the paragraph on “Government” from the 1851 catalog:

“The Government of the school, though strict, is designed to be kind; and obedience is secured, if possible, by awakening the scholar to a sense of his moral obligations and by appeals to his better feelings. Those who cannot be induced by such means to correct their perverse habits and to submit to wholesome discipline, will be removed from the Institution as unworthy of its privileges and hurtful in their influence upon others.”

The previously-referenced list of Universalist high schools says the Institute closed in 1857.

In or about that same year, 1857, according to the Fairfield bicentennial history, a former public-school teacher named Naomi Bunker opened Bunker’s Seminary.

Bunker’s Seminary was a boarding school “in the old brick house on the corner of Newhall Street and Lawrence Avenue.” The main building had two wings, a gymnasium and the boarding house.

The history does not say whether the seminary was coed. It calls it a college preparatory school that offered music and painting in addition to academics, and that enrolled out-of-town students as well as local ones. No date is given for the closing of the seminary.

James Partelow Weston

In the fall of 1939, a 24-year-old Universalist paster from New Hampshire, Rev. Giles Bailey, visited central Maine and became friends with James Partelow Weston, a Bowdoin College senior taking time off to teach “at a private school in South Montville” to earn money to return to college. Bailey was impressed enough with Weston to follow his career, and to write an essay on his accomplishments for the January 1869 issue of the Ladies’ Repository.

Bailey said Weston was born in the section of Bristol that later became Bremen, on July 14, 1815. On-line genealogies add that he was one of 11 children of Eliphas or Eliphaz and Elizabeth Betsey (Longfellow) Weston.

(For readers who collect unusual names, the genealogies say his siblings included Arannah Weston, Arunah Weston and Greene Longfellow Weston.)

A farmer’s son, Weston grew up with little formal schooling, but in a community that valued education and supported a library. Bailey called him a devout Universalist who preferred teaching to the ministry, and said he started teaching when he was 16.

In 1832, Bailey continued, Weston entered Lincoln Academy, in Newcastle. In 1834 he switched to Maine Wesleyan Seminary (a Methodist school), in Kents Hill, to finish his college preparation. After two years at Waterville College, starting in August 1836, he transferred to Bowdoin, earning degrees in August 1840 and in 1843.

Bailey wrote that after Weston taught a fall term in 1840 in Readfield, he “took charge of” the Waterville Liberal Institute until April 1843, preaching his first sermons there. He also preached in West Waterville (later Oakland), Sidney and other nearby towns. He was ordained at the June 1842 session of the Maine Universalists’ Convention, in Augusta.

Meanwhile, one genealogy says, on June 9, 1841, at an unknown (to the genealogist) location, he married Eliza Elden Woodman (1816-1892). Bailey gave the wedding date as Jan. 9, 1841, and wrote that Eliza was one of Weston’s students in Readfield.

On April 15, 1843, Weston became Augusta’s Universalist pastor, Bailey wrote. He served there until May 1850, when he returned to Waterville Liberal Institute until the winter of 1853.

He next became head of Westbrook Seminary, which Bailey said he restored from near collapse. His work there “attracted the attention of the Trustees” of Lombard University, in Galesburg, Illinois, which also needed rescuing. He started work there Oct. 17, 1859, and was “formally inducted” as president on Jan. 11, 1860.

(Lombard University began life in 1851 as Illinois Liberal Institute. It became Lombard University in 1857 and operated until 1900. A series of 20th-century changes and mergers created what is now the Meadville Lombard Theological School, in Chicago, described as a “Unitarian Universalist Seminary.”)

Weston was still alive when Bailey finished his article, although he had almost died of smallpox in the winter of 1866. Bailey had high praise for his work to improve Lombard, and called him the “respected and honored President” of the school.

The genealogies say the Westons had two daughters, Caroline Eliza Weston, born in 1844, and Mary Emeline Weston Woodman, born in1849. Bailey wrote in 1869 that Mary Emeline was the only surviving child; he believed she had graduated from Lombard University.

Weston died Dec. 31, 1888, probably in Portland, Maine. His burial site is listed as Pine Grove Cemetery, in Portland.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Marriner, Ernest Cummings, The History of Colby College (1963).

Website, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: More high schools (Vassalboro)

Original Oak Grove School

by Mary Grow


In Vassalboro, which until 1792 included Sidney on the west side of the Kennebec River, voters first discussed schools in 1771, the year the town was incorporated. According to Alma Pierce Robbins’ Vassalboro history, voters at a September town meeting approved “Thirty Pounds Lawful money” to support a minister – and refused to appropriate anything to support a schoolmaster.

School districts existed by 1785, in varying numbers and with varying boundaries. After 1806 there was a separate district for members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), at least part of the time.

Oak Grove School, founded by Vassalboro Quakers in 1848 (see The Town Line, July 22), was the third high school established in Vassalboro in the 1800s. The first two were at Getchell’s Corner, a far more important village in the 19th century than it is now.

The earlier, according to Raymond Manson’s research, was Vassalborough Academy.

In his paper on the school, now in the Vassalboro Historical Society’s library, Manson lists the 18 men who, at the beginning of 1835, decided to open a high school. On Feb. 28, 1835, the Maine legislature approved incorporation of The Vassalborough Academy.

Academy trustees commissioned one of their group, Moses Rollins, to build a home for the Academy. Manson wrote that Rollins put the building on the west side of the road through Getchell’s Corner, almost across the street from what was in 1967 Adams Memorial Chapel.

(Rollins, born in 1786, died June 2, 1863, and is buried in Vassalboro’s Union Cemetery. An on-line history says he was a sergeant in one of the Vassalboro companies raised for the War of 1812; this writer found no information on his occupation.)

Nathan Longfellow was the Academy’s first “preceptor,” or teaching principal, serving until the spring of 1837, Manson wrote.

Robbins found an 1837 advertisement in The Kennebec Journal for the Academy’s spring term. Levi Higgins Jr. had succeeded Longfellow; he stayed only one term, Manson said.

The advertisement said quarterly tuition was from $3 to $4.50 (depending on the subjects chosen, as at other high schools). Board was $1.50 to $1.75 a week. Manson wrote that students boarded with neighborhood families in the Academy’s early days, and later arrangements were made to let them room in groups.

In September 1837, Benjamin F. Shaw, who held a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth, became principal. The trustees were pleased. Shaw left in the spring of 1839, but returned sometime in 1840.

Robbins’ first mention of the second high school is for the year 1837. She quotes a long advertisement from The Kennebec Journal for the School for Young Ladies that “Miss A. Howard” planned to open about April 10.

Miss Howard intended to teach “Reading, Writing, Grammar, and Composition”; “the Rudiments of French and Latin Languages”; “Arithmetic, Geography, with the use of Globes, Intellectual Philosophy and such branches of Natural Science as are usually taught in High Schools”; and “useful and ornamental needlework, Painting and Drawing.”

The School for Young Ladies was across the street from the Academy, and, according to Manson, was so successful that after three years of running the Academy for boys only, the trustees decided they should admit girls. For the spring 1838 term, they added to the one-man faculty an “instructress,” whom they described as “eminently qualified.”

This writer has been unable to find any record of Miss Howard or her school later than 1838.

Vasssalborough Academy apparently adapted to co-ed education promptly. In August 1839 the new principal, Ashiel Moore, added “Chinese Painting and Linear Drawing” (for an extra fee), and in the spring of 1840 he introduced “Wax and Needlework,” specifically for the female students.

Manson found lists of Vassalboro Academy principals, course changes and occasionally tuition fees through the 1840s. There was a new principal about every 12 months, including three Bowdoin men in a row (it is unclear whether they were graduates or still students).

The new principal in the fall of 1848 was Josiah Hayden Drummond, Waterville College Class of 1846 (the first of several Waterville College men to head the school in the 1840s and 1850s). Manson wrote that when Drummond was 14 years old, he had been Vassalborough Academy’s assistant math teacher under Principal Shaw.

Science courses were added, physiology in the spring of 1841, chemistry “and other sciences” in 1842. Manson’s first mention of a music course (type unspecified) was in the fall of 1841.

French and German were the foreign languages taught in 1846. In that year’s fall term, Italian replaced French. In 1856, Latin, Greek, French and German were offered.

By the 1850s and 1860s Vassalborough Academy was publishing catalogs, giving Manson additional information.

For example, in 1856 Principal Reuben Foster had four assistants, one a woman. They taught 78 students in the spring term and 88 in the fall term.

The majority of students lived in Vassalboro. Others were from nearby towns – Augusta, China, Windsor and Winslow. The enrollment also included three students from Hanover (west of Rumford) and one each from Buxton (west of Portland), Olney (neither the web nor Chadbourne’s Maine Place Names lists a Maine town named Olney), Palmyra (north of Pittsfield), South Leeds (southwest of Winthrop) and Topsham (north of Brunswick).

The Academy’s purpose was always to prepare male students for college or for teaching. The 1856 catalog repeated these goals and added preparation for business. For girls, the catalog offered “an elevated course of female education.”

By 1861, Manson said, Oak Grove Seminary was providing serious competition for Vassalborough Academy. The 1860s were probably when, according to Kingsbury, the Academy building was used for “religious as well as secular instruction.”

William Penn Whitehouse, Colby 1863, became Academy principal in the fall of 1863 – perhaps the last principal, Manson wrote. (Whitehouse later became a Justice of the Maine Supreme Court [see The Town Line, Dec. 10, 2020].)

The Methodist Society bought the Academy building in 1868. Manson added an item from the April 29, 1870, Waterville Mail saying the work to convert the building to a Methodist church should be finished by July 1870.

The Getchell’s Corner Methodists merged with the North Vassalboro church in 1890, Manson continued. After the merger, he wrote, the building “became a general store and was destroyed by fire about 1917. All that remains of the old academy are the foundation walls.”

There might have been a successor to Vassalborough Academy. Robbins mentioned in 1869, in quotation marks, ” ‘the upper school’ at North Vassalboro,” where Lewis Mowers was the teacher. She provided no further information.

After the Maine legislature required town high schools in 1873, Robbins wrote, Vassalboro opened two, in East Vassalboro and at Riverside.

According to Vassalboro Historical Society President Janice Clowes and information in the Historical Society library, the East Vassalboro High School was on the west side of Main Street, approximately opposite the present Grange Hall. Kingsbury said voters appropriated $500 for the building in 1873, but by 1892 “the continued success of Oak Grove Seminary has superseded the necessity for the high school.”

Undated postcards the Society owns show a two-story wooden building with an attic. Two doors with a window between them face east, toward the street; the second floor has a single front window above the ground-floor one, and above that is a semi-circular attic window.

Accompanying information calls the school a primary or grammar school. It was discontinued in the latter half of the 1920s, and students moved to the “new” East Vassalboro School. That building now houses the Historical Society museum.

Neighbor Harold Taylor bought the old schoolhouse in the 1930s, and his daughter, Betty Taylor, had the building torn down in 1981, according to Historical Society records.

The 1873 Riverside School, Clowes says, is the building on the north side of Webber Pond Road, a short distance east of Riverside Drive (Route 201). She commented that it has been “very changed.”

In 1873, too, North Vassalboro residents spent more than $6,000 for a new school building there. Kingsbury called it the “best school building in the town,” with “three departments, and a large public hall on the second floor.”

Neither Kingsbury nor Robbins said what grades it housed. After serving as a school and then as the town office building, it is now the office of Mid-Maine Internal Medicine.

Robbins cited an 1889 state law that required each public school teacher to “devote ten minutes of each day to the principle of kindness to birds and animals.”

After the 1903 state law telling the town to pay $30 tuition to “any high school of standard grade,” Robbins wrote that from Vassalboro, 33 students went to Oak Grove Seminary, 10 chose Coburn Classical Institute, in Waterville, four attended Erskine Academy, in China, and one each went to high schools in Hallowell and Yarmouth.

Vassalboro historians Alma Pierce Robbins and Raymond Russell Manson

Alma Pierce Robbins was born Oct. 4, 1898, in Vassalboro, youngest of five children of Ira James Robbins (1855-1929) and Lucy Alma (Smiley) Robbins (1862-1930). She died Nov. 29, 1997, aged 99 years and almost two months, according to an on-line genealogy.

The three girls in the family were travelers. Older sister Elsie Marion (1886-1960) died in California; second sister Edna Mildred (1888-1987, another long-lived family member) lived in Massachusetts and Illinois; and Alma Pierce worked in Massachusetts and died in Florida.

Their brother Wendell Ira (1891-1983) spent his life in Augusta. Brother Maurice Smiley (1893-1970) got as far away as Mechanic Falls, but died in Waterville and is buried in China’s Chadwick Hill Cemetery.

Robbins’ obituary, published in Nantucket County, Massachusetts, says that after elementary schooling in Vassalboro, she graduated from Brewster Academy, in Wolfboro, New Hampshire, in 1917 and attended colleges in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

For more than 30 years she was a social worker in Boston. She lived on Nantucket and edited the Nantucket Historical Association newsletter.

The genealogy, but not the obituary, says that from January to December 1928 Robbins was married to Herman Schwartz. In 1930, the genealogy says, she was described as an osteopath in Brunswick, where she lived for about two years.

On-line military records show Robbins enlisting in the Women’s Army Corps on Aug. 14, 1944, from Boston. Army records describe her as unmarried and without dependents. She had had four years of college; her occupation was in the category “Social and welfare workers.” She was discharged Sept. 2, 1945.

The obituary says after retirement, “she lived in Vassalboro, Clearwater [Florida], and Arcata [California],” moving to Florida permanently in 1985. Her “numerous published writings” include the 1971 Vassalboro history.

With permission of her great-nephew Stephen Robbins, between 1990 and 2003 The Town Line published several of Robbins’ articles describing early 20th-century life on the family farm on Webber Pond Road.

Raymond Russell Manson, another Vassalboro historian, wrote a short autobiographical piece for the Maine State Library’s Special Collections compilation of correspondence from Maine writers. The library has made his 1967 information available on line.

Manson wrote that he was born Oct. 6, 1899 (almost exactly a year later than Robbins), in North Vassalboro, George Thomas and Mary Jewett Manson’s fifth child.

He went to Vassalboro elementary schools and graduated from Oak Grove Seminary, Class of 1918. He entered Colby College in the Class of 1922, apparently after army service in World War I. On June 1, 1919, while still in college, he became a post office employee in Waterville, rising to the rank of Assistant Postmaster before he retired on Dec. 31, 1960.

He married Vivian Crafts (born Nov. 19, 1904), from Watertown, Massachusetts, on Sept. 3, 1930. They lived on Burleigh Street in Waterville; both were Christian Scientists.

Manson was a member of the Vassalboro Masons and the Vassalboro Historical Society. He wrote numerous historical pieces about his native town, including the history of Oak Grove that he and Elsia Holway Burleigh wrote in 1965 (previously cited in this series; see The Town Line, July 22, issue).

Manson died Jan. 11, 1980. In 1989 his widow married Clarence Merryfield; the couple lived in Belfast until 1993, when they returned to Waterville. She died there Dec. 5, 2006.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Manson, Raymond M., Vassalboro Academy (June 15, 1967; manuscript, Vassalboro Historical Society).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).

Websites, miscellaneous.

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

The Lawrence Library, in Fairfield.

by Mary Grow

Fairfield, Palermo, Sidney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The elusive Barzillai Harrington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News from Victor Grange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Even more high schools

by Mary Grow

Continuing the discussion of (mostly) 19th-century high school education, this article will talk about Albion, Benton, and Clinton. In following weeks, continuing alphabetically, readers will find information on Fairfield, Palermo, Sidney (don’t expect much), Vassalboro, Windsor and Winslow.

Albion voters first appropriated school money in 1804, and endorsed building schoolhouses the same year. Town historian Ruby Crosby Wiggin said children aged from three through 21 could attend town schools.

Albion began offering education beyond the primary level in the 1860s, according to Wiggin. She referred to “subscription high schools” started in 1860. One was in the “new” (1858) District 3 schoolhouse.

In April 1873, she wrote, interested residents organized a stock company to provide a public hall in an existing building. The leaders quickly sold 90 shares at $10 a share and appointed a three-man building committee.

“It is supposed the building was finished that year [1873] and used for the first free High School,” that started in 1874 or 1875, Wiggin wrote. Henry Kingsbury, in his 1892 Kennebec County history, dated Albion’s “first high school” to 1876.

Because of “lack of interest,” the free high school had closed by 1880. In January 1881 the stock company trustees began the process that led to Albion Grange owning the building (see The Town Line, April 8).

About 1890, Wiggin wrote, high school was reintroduced, this time alternating between the McDonald School (District 9) and the Albion Village School (District 8).

A fall 1891 10-week term in District 8 had 87 students and cost $214; a later 10 weeks at McDonald School with 33 students cost $80. The state paid half the bill, leaving the town to pay $147, Wiggin wrote.

Kingsbury’s information again differs from Wiggin’s. He wrote that the high school started again in 1884 “and has since received cordial support.” He located fall sessions in “No. 10 school house in the Shorey district,” rather than the McDonald School, and spring terms in District 8.

(Both writers could be accurate, if they were describing different years. Also, however, other town historians have disagreed with Kingsbury. Considering that his book ends on page 1,273, and that some of the page numbers double and triple – 480a and 480b come between 480 and 481, for instance – an occasional error seems unsurprising.)

Families again lost interest, Wiggin said, and by 1898 the McDonald School no longer hosted high school classes and the “average attendance at the village was only 18.”

The village school was apparently one built in 1858, after a long debate, on the village Main Street (Route 202) where the Besse Building now stands. It was revived as a high school after 1898, because later Wiggin wrote, “From this school came the first pupil to graduate from Albion High School with a diploma.” His name was Dwight Chalmers, his graduation year 1909.

Wiggin wrote that the old high school building was moved to a new site and in 1964 was a private home.

The large brick Besse Building, now home to the Albion town office, was a gift of Albion native and then Clinton resident Frank Leslie Besse. Designed by Miller and Mayo, of Portland, and built by Horace Purington, of Waterville, it was dedicated as Besse High School on Sept. 20, 1913.

Maine School Administrative District (MSAD) #49, now Regional School Unit (RSU) #49, is based in Fairfield and serves Albion, Benton and Clinton. It was organized in 1966. Besse High School closed in 1967 and Albion students began attending Fairfield’s Lawrence High School.

The Town of Benton, northwest of Albion, was part of Clinton until the Maine legislature approved a separation on March 16, 1842. First named Sebasticook, the town became Benton, honoring Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858), on June 19, 1850.

Like other area towns, Benton had multiple villages in the 19th century. Higher education appears to have been concentrated at Benton Falls (sometimes called The Falls).

Benton Falls is on the Sebasticook River just south of the existing bridge, where waterfalls powered manufacturing in the 1800s. The Falls area includes the current locations of the Benton town office, on Clinton Avenue on the west bank, and the Benton Falls Church, on Falls Road on the east bank.

A brief on-line Benton history mentions an “academy” at Benton Falls, along with a church, a library, 10 stores and six taverns, apparently in the first half of the 1800s. Kingsbury adds several mills and in 1824 the town’s only blacksmith shop.

Kingsbury wrote in 1892 that Benton had a high school in the District 5 school building at The Falls, apparently since 1860; and he wrote that Benton’s District 5 schoolhouse was “on the site of the old Clinton Academy.”

But, he wrote, in 1892 there was no local school appropriation, “the proximity of Waterville offering advantages in higher education with which it was useless for Benton to compete.”

(By 1892, Waterville had both a free high school [see the Sept. 9 issue of The Town Line] and Coburn Classical Institute [described in the July 29 issue].)

In Clinton, “the first school in town to teach the higher grades” was what a local group intended as a Female Academy, according to Major General Carleton Edward Fisher’s history of Clinton, or a female seminary, according to Kingsbury.

Fisher wrote that in September 1831 Asher Hinds gave the school trustees an eight-by-nine rod lot on the east side of the road in Benton Falls, and Johnson Lunt added more land. (One rod is 16.5 feet, so the original lot was 132 feet by 148.5 feet.) Kingsbury disagreed slightly, saying construction of the Academy building started in 1830.

The two historians agreed that the would-be founders ran out of resources and handed the incomplete building to the Methodist Society. The Methodist Society finished it and opened a coed high school that ran until around 1858.

After the area separated from Clinton in 1842, Clinton students continued to attend the Academy “for a few years,” Fisher wrote. In 1845, he found, enrollment was 49 male and 31 female students.

The school year then was two 11-week terms, beginning in September and March. Students were charged $3 for the “common branches,” $3.50 for natural sciences and $4 for languages (unspecified).

By 1853, Fisher wrote, there were no students from Clinton enrolled, but the Board of Trustees still had two Clinton members. The school closed in 1858, he said.

Kingsbury recorded that the building changed hands three times in 1858 and 1859 before being sold to School District 5 in July 1859, with the sellers “reserving the right to hold a high school in it for two terms each year.”

This building burned (in 1870, Kingsbury said) and was rebuilt the next year. In 1883 “an attractive hall was finished off in the upper story.” Whether it was still a high school in 1883 Kingsbury did not say.

There was, however, a free high school in Clinton, started in 1874 and still open in 1892. Kingsbury wrote that the initial funding was $500. The “well attended” high school operated two terms a year, spring and fall, moving among the 13 school districts.

This school was superseded early in the 20th century. On-line Facebook pages feature graduates of the 20th-century Clinton High School that opened in 1902 or, according to a Clinton Historical Society on-line source, was approved by voters in 1902, started classes in February 1903 and had its first graduation in 1906.

A current Clinton resident locates the 1902 high school building on the Baker Street lot where the town office now stands.

The Facebook source says the yellow three-story building was 68-by-40-feet; an accompanying photo shows basement windows. The Historical Society writer specified three classrooms each on the first and second floors and one on the third floor.

This writer said the building housed 12 grades until 1960 (another source said until the 1940s), though it was called a high school. The privy was a separate building out back, until Clinton resident Frank L. Besse paid to have “indoor plumbing and central heating” added in 1917. The next year, Besse funded electricity.

In 1922, the on-line writer said, a second-floor classroom for business classes was divided into two, because “the sound of the new typewriters was annoying to the other students.”

Clinton High School, like Besse High School, in Albion, closed after graduation in 1966, when Clinton joined MSAD #49 and students went to Lawrence High School, in Fairfield. The school building on Baker Street housed middle-school classes either for a “couple of years” (Maine Memory Network) or until June 1975 (Clinton Historical Society), when it was no longer needed and was closed.

After a month of vandalism, the second Clinton Historical Society writer reported, the building burned July 25, 1975. The writer quoted a newspaper article mentioning the “suspicious origin” of the fire.

In 2016, alumni placed a memorial stone by the main door to the town office.

The Besse family in Benton and Clinton

1913 photo of Frank Besse seated in a Cadillac convertible, in front of Besse High School.

There are 11 Besses in the index to Ruby Crosby Wiggin’s Albion history (plus three Besseys), and an on-line genealogy of Besses in Albion lists 105 names.

Kingsbury traced the Albion/Clinton family to Jonathan Besse, born in 1775, “the first male child born in Wayne,” Maine. His son, Jonathan Belden Besse (Oct. 15, 1820 – March 5, 1892), became a tanner and married an Albion girl. Wiggin explained how that happened:

Jonathan Belden Besse was a soldier in the 1839 Aroostook War. Typhoid fever delayed his return home, but when he recovered, he headed back to Wayne on foot, “gun over his shoulder.”

He stopped in Albion for a drink from Lewis Hopkins’ well; Hopkins came outside and they talked; Hopkins said he needed help in the tannery. Besse decided to try it. He “went in, hung his gun on the pegs over the door, and went to work.”

Wiggin suggested maybe “Hopkins’ daughter had something to do with his staying.” An online Albion genealogy says Jonathan married Isabelle Hopkins (c. 1833 – Aug. 8, 1870) on July 29, 1852, in Albion. In 1859, he took over the tanning business; in 1890, he moved it to Clinton, “on account of better facilities for transportation.”

Kingsbury lists the Besse tannery as one of the three important industries in Clinton in 1892 (along with the creamery on Weymouth Hill and the shoe factory under construction in Clinton Village, which was expected to provide 100 jobs). The steam-powered tannery “near the railroad station” had 14 workers.

“Russet linings only are manufactured, the weekly production being 1,000 dozen skins,” Kingsbury wrote.

(An on-line leather supplier’s website describes a Russet lining as “a traditional bespoke shoe lining,” also used for “handtooling/carving, falconry and a host of leather goods.” It “is produced on a mellow dressed calf side tanned in vegetable extracts.”)

Jonathan and Isabelle Besse had five sons and two daughters between 1853 and 1868. Frank Leslie (April 15, 1859 – March 26, 1926) was their fourth child and second son. On Sept. 17, 1881, he and Mary Alberta Proctor, of Clinton, were married in Albion. Kingsbury wrote that he became a partner in his father’s business when he was 25 (therefore about 1884), and by 1892 had taken over.

Wiggin, however, wrote that Frank Besse “joined” his father’s business around 1878. She quoted from his speech at the dedication of Besse High School: he said that “when he joined his father in the ‘sheep skin business’ he had a cash capital of just $94.”

After Jonathan died in 1892, Wiggin wrote, Frank bought out Everett and his sister Hannah (Besse) Trask and became sole owner of the Clinton business. In 1906 he joined two Boston merchants to create Besse, Osborn and Ordell, Inc., a company “buying and selling sheepskins” that Wiggin said still existed in 1964.

(On-line sites today identify Besse, Osborn and Odell as a foreign-owned business headquartered in New York City, incorporated Nov. 11, 1910.)

The on-line genealogy lists no children born to Frank and Mary. It says in the 1900 census of Clinton, Frank’s occupation was listed as “tanner sheep skins.” It adds that the tannery “at one time tanned 3,000 skins a day.”

The Maine Memory Network has a September 1913 photo of Frank Besse seated in a Cadillac convertible, a long dark-colored vehicle with running boards and white-wall tires, in front of the Besse building. The caption says he was still running a tannery in Albion at the time.

According to the on-line genealogy, Frank Besse died March 26, 1926, in Ontario, California. Mary died July 10, 1945, probably in Clinton.

Kingsbury mentioned another of Jonathan and Isabelle’s sons, Frank’s younger brother Everett Belden Besse, who in 1892 was living “on the old homestead.” The genealogy says he was born Jan. 23, 1861, in Albion. On Jan. 24, 1889, he married Jessie Ida Rowe, born Nov. 20, 1868, in Palermo; they had four sons and two daughters between 1890 and 1906.

Wiggin wrote that when Jonathan Besse transferred his tanning business to Clinton in 1890, he left Everett in charge of the Albion branch.

In 1905, she continued, the Albion tannery was moved, after town voters offered a tax abatement if it were rebuilt along the line of the new Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington narrow-gauge railroad. Everett Besse ran the tannery at its new location “on the outlet to Lovejoy Pond above Chalmers’ mills” – and on a railroad siding – until it burned down in 1924.

Albion’s first telephone line, in the fall of 1905, was installed by the Half Moon Telephone Company, of Thorndike (then a rival of Unity Telephone Company), to connect Everett Besse’s house to his tannery, Wiggin wrote.

The genealogy says Jessie died May 29, 1940, and Everett died the same year – no month or day is given.

Frank and Mary Besse and Everett and Jessie Besse are among family members buried in at least four Besse plots in Clinton’s Greenlawn Rest Cemetery, on the west side of Route 100 just south of downtown.

Main sources

Fisher, Major General Carleton Edward, History of Clinton Maine (1970).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: More high schools

Old Erskine Academy

by Mary Grow

China Academy, China misc, Erskine Academy

The Massachusetts legislature chartered China Academy in June 1818. Charter language quoted in the China bicentennial history is almost identical to the language used 50 or so years later for Hallowell Classical and Scientific Academy: purposes are to promote “piety, and virtue,” and to provide instruction “in such languages and in such of the liberal arts and sciences” as the trustees prescribe.

The school initially had five trustees, four China Village residents and Rev. Daniel Lovejoy, from Albion, father of Elijah Parish and Owen Lovejoy. Elijah and Owen attended China Academy, and Elijah taught there in 1827, after he graduated from Waterville (later Colby) College. In 1819, the Academy charter was changed to allow 15 trustees.

The first China Academy building was on the shore of China Lake, across from the present site of the China Baptist Church (built in 1814, relocated in 1822). John Brackett donated the land, “in consideration of the love and good will” he had for the trustees; the only condition was that they keep the fence around the lot in repair.

The trustees had a wooden building constructed; the bicentennial history says classes began in or before September 1823. The first two principals were Colby graduates.

In 1825 the Maine legislature approved a land grant for China Academy. In November 1829, the trustees sold the lot in what is now Carroll Plantation (on Route 6, in Penobscot County, east of Lincoln and Lee) for $3,400 (about 30 cents an acre, the bicentennial history says).

With legislative support and “an encouraging student enrollment,” the trustees put up a two-story brick building on Main Street, in China Village, across from the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library (that former house dates from about 1827 and has been a library since 1941). First classes were in November 1828, with 89 students.

From 1835 to 1844 China Academy did well, under Principal Henry Paine, the bicentennial history says. There were 221 students in 1835 and again in 1844, most from China but some from other Maine towns. Teachers included a Colby senior, a Colby graduate and at least one woman, Sarah A. Shearman, in charge of “instruction in the ornamental branches.”

School was held for four 12-week terms, beginning “the first Mondays of March, June, September, and December.” The history quotes advertisements in the weekly China Orb newspaper that said quarterly tuition was $3 for basic English reading and writing; $4 for advanced English courses; and $5 for “Latin, Greek, and French.”

The Academy had no dormitory. The history says it (trustees, teachers or both?) helped students find nearby places to board, at rates ranging from $1.33 to $1.50 a week.

After Waterville Academy was chartered in 1842 and organized successfully by James Hanson (graduate of China Academy and Colby College – see The Town Line, July 29) and Paine left China in 1844, China Academy enrollment dropped. By 1850, average enrollment was around 50 students. The Civil War caused a temporary closure.

After the war, the Academy reopened and, the history says, in 1872, “had a staff of five who were teaching 40 to 60 students a term.” Terms were “shortened to ten weeks,” and tuition increased to $3.50 a term for basic English, $4.50 for advanced English and $5.50 for foreign languages or bookkeeping. Music was added, 20 lessons for $10; the history does not specify vocal, instrumental or both.

The history says that students’ records “included the number of words misspelled, the number of times tardy, and the number of days they were caught whispering in class.”

After state law required free high schools in 1880, China Academy apparently became a hybrid – the history says the brick Academy building was used to teach free high school classes, but “This institution still called itself China Academy and was supervised by a board of trustees.”

Enrollment rose – “54 students in the spring of 1883, 70 in the fall of 1884, and 88 in the spring of 1885.” The history notes that more girls than boys enrolled in each of those terms, after years when male students had been more numerous.

The history lists courses offered, in a “four-year course sequence” in 1884-85: “English, math, geography, history, bookkeeping, sciences, and philosophy,” plus Greek and Latin “if requested.” There were two or three terms a year, and financial support came from the local school district, other nearby China districts and one district in Albion.

In 1887 the brick building was deemed unsafe and was blown up, scattering fragments of brick onto adjoining properties. The trustees sold the lot to the local school district. “Willis R. Ward built a wooden schoolhouse at a cost of $1,000 which served as both high school and elementary school from 1888 to 1909.”

In 1897, China voters appropriated no money for high schools, so the bicentennial history says China Village residents funded one anyway, with state aid. By 1899 village residents also relied on “contributions and subscriptions” to keep high school classes going.

Courses included “advanced English, mathematics,…science… and a five-student Latin class.”

The China Village free high school gradually lost students early in the 20th century and closed in 1908. Many students transferred to China’s other private high school, Erskine Academy (see below).

The wooden building remained an elementary school until the consolidated China Elementary School opened in 1949. It was sold and became a two-story chicken house. The building was demolished in 1969 and replaced by a house.

A China Village high school was re-established from the fall of 1914 through the spring of 1916 – the bicentennial history gives no reason. Classes met in the second floor of a building (later the American Legion Hall) on the southeast corner of the intersection of Main Street, Neck Road and what is now Causeway Road.

The China bicentennial history provides partial information on three other nineteenth-century high schools in China, in Branch Mills Village, in South China Village and at Dirigo.

The earliest, the East China high school in Branch Mills, “was established about 1851 in a building constructed for that purpose by Mr. Barzillai Harrington.” The building was on the south side of the village main street, west of the bridge across the West Branch of the Sheepscot River. It appears as a large rectangle on the town map in the 1856 Maine atlas, labeled “B. H. Academy.”

In 1852, the history says, elementary classes met in “Mr. Harrington’s high school building” because the district schoolhouse was “in such poor condition.”

An 1856 advertisement for the school listed Claudius B. Grant as the principal for an 11-week term beginning Sept. 1. Tuition was $3 per term for basic English, $3.50 for advanced English and $4 for “languages,” unspecified.

The bicentennial history cites China town reports saying high school classes were provided in Branch Mills in 1857 for one term; in 1865 for one term, taught by Stephen A. Jones, of China; in 1882, for two terms, taught by Thomas W. Bridgham, of Palermo; and in 1883 for one term, taught by J. A. Jones. The writer found no evidence of continuous classes, and locations were not specified.

Though classes were listed in 1882 and 1883, the Branch Mills map in the 1879 Maine atlas identifies the building by a name, indicating it was a private home. The China history says the Academy building was sold in the 1880s. Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history says it was in 1892 the Good Templars Hall.

A footnote in the bicentennial history adds: “In 1894 the school committee recommended a term of high school at Branch Mills, but the town records provide no evidence that it was held.”

The high school in South China Village started in the 1860s and ran at least intermittently through the spring of 1881, according to the bicentennial history.

In 1865, former primary school teacher T. W. Bridgham taught a spring high school term. In 1877-78, A. W. Warren was teacher for a seven-week term. F. E. Jones taught 51 students in the fall of 1880. The next spring, J. E. Jones taught what was apparently the final term, “with the expenses being borne by three adjacent school districts.”

The writer of the bicentennial history found only a single reference to the high school at Dirigo (or Dirigo Corner), where Alder Park and Dirigo Road meet what is now Route 3 (Belfast Road). In 1877 and 1878, the town report described two China free high schools, South China “and a 20-week term at Dirigo.”

Fred D. Jones was the teacher at Dirigo, “and the supervisor of schools commended the residents of this quite small school district for supporting so long a term.”

(Attentive readers will have noticed numerous teachers named Jones. They were probably related, at least distantly, and were probably members of the Society of Friends. The genealogical section of the China history has 25 pages of Joneses, several identified as teachers.)

Yet another private high school, Erskine Academy, opened in September 1883 and is thriving today. The China history gives a detailed account of its origins: it became a private academy because China voters at the beginning of the 1880s refused to accept donated money for a public high school.

As the history tells the story, Mary Erskine inherited her husband Sullivan’s considerable wealth when he died in 1880. Having no children, she consulted John K. Erskine, her late husband’s nephew and executor, about ways to use the money.

John Erskine, who regretted his own lack of educational opportunity, suggested endowing a high school in the Chadwick Hill school district, south of South China Village. Mary Erskine agreed, and at a Nov. 13, 1880, special town meeting, voters accepted a $1,500 trust fund for a free high school.

At the annual meeting in March 1881, voters reversed the decision and told the town treasurer to return the money. In March 1882, school supporters presented an article again offering the $1,500 and “specifying that the town would not pay for providing the school building.” Voters passed over it, that is, did not act.

A month later, a group of supporters asked the Erskines to let them establish a private high school. Mary Erskine approved and helped organize a board of trustees headed by renowned Quaker Eli Jones (see the July 8 issue of The Town Line). John Erskine was vice-president and Samuel Starrett treasurer.

The trustees “bought the seven-acre Chadwick common from A. F. Trask for $100.” (Wikipedia says the campus is now about 25 acres.) Mary Erskine donated $500 for a building.

Starrett encouraged the owners of a disused Methodist church on the lot to sell it at auction. They did, and he got it for $50.

The trustees had the building moved to the middle of the lot and turned into a schoolhouse. “A bell tower and other necessary buildings” were added, and Mary Erskine donated a bell and furnishings in the spring of 1883.

The trustees organized a “tree-planting picnic:” area residents were invited to bring a picnic dinner and a tree. The China history says the grounds gained about 250 trees.

Mary Erskine attended Erskine High School’s opening day in September 1883. There were two teachers and “more than 50 students.”

The school ran two 11-week terms a year, and in some years “a shorter summer term.” The history lists 16 courses: “reading, grammar, elocution, arithmetic, algebra, history, geography, natural philosophy, bookkeeping, ancient languages (Latin and Greek), botany, geology, astronomy, and anatomy and physiology.”

By 1887, increased enrollment required a third teacher. The building “was raised ten feet to make room for more classrooms underneath.”

Students from Chadwick Hill and other school districts came and went by the term, not the year. Therefore, the history says, it was not until 1892 “that four students finished four years apiece so that the first formal graduation could be held.”

Trustees had a dormitory for girls built in 1900 and “later” (the history gives no date) another for boys. In 1901 the Maine legislature incorporated the school as Erskine Academy and approved an annual $300 appropriation.

Erskine’s original school building was destroyed in a fire on Nov. 5, 1926. Fortunately, Ford gymnasium had opened in November 1925; the bicentennial history says classes were held there until a new classroom building was ready in 1936.

The history also said that Mary Erskine’s bell was saved from the fire and “mounted on campus.” In the fall of 1971, someone stole it.

Main source

Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Hallowell academies

Hallowell Classical and Scientific Academy, Hallowell, ca. 1882. Contributed by Frank Trask through Hubbard Free Library.

by Mary Grow

In preceding articles, readers have learned a bit about three private high schools, Cony Female Academy, Coburn Classical Institute and Oak Grove Seminary (see the issues of The Town Line for Sept. 2, July 29 and July 22, respectively) and about some of the public high schools in Augusta and Waterville (in the Aug. 26 and Sept. 2, The Town Line issues, respectively).

Remaining to be described are numerous other 19th-century public and private schools in central Kennebec Valley towns. A few are well documented; for most, local histories offer only tantalizing glimpses.

For example, Whittemore wrote in his history of Waterville that “private and corporation schools” played important roles, starting in 1823 when “Miss Pettengill” ran “a school for the education of young ladies.”

In 1824, John Butler and “Miss Lewis” opened another school “which with its modern methods and apparatus won enthusiastic approval.” A successor, before or in 1902 when Whittemore’s history appeared, was Miss Julia Stackpole.

Two private academies mentioned previously are Hallowell Academy, in Hallowell, and China Academy, in China Village. The latter will be described in a future article.

There were two 19th-century academies in Hallowell. Their histories are intertwined with each other and with the public high school; your writer wishes her readers luck trying to untangle them.

The first, Hallowell Academy (in one source called Hallowell Academy for Boys), was chartered in 1791. (Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history that Hallowell and Berwick academies, chartered the same day, were the first in what later became the State of Maine.)

Hallowell’s second, Hallowell Classical and Scientific Academy, opened in 1868 (online source); or was incorporated Feb. 8, 1872 (Maine Congregational Church annual meeting minutes, 1872-1874); or as of 1873 was the new name for the earlier Hallowell Academy (Kingsbury); or, most definitively, was scheduled to open Jan. 1, 1874 (online The Maine Journal of Education for 1873). Bob Briggs, in his 1996 history Around Hallowell (found online, delightfully illustrated with old photographs), called it on one page Hallowell Classical and Scientific Institute.

The Academy chartered in 1791 opened for classes in a newly-built schoolhouse in 1795. Briggs wrote that the first two academy buildings burned down; Kingsbury mentioned only one destructive fire, in 1804, after which, he said, the building was replaced a year later.

In 1807, Kingsbury said, the school trustees bought a Paul Revere bell for the belfry. Briggs wrote that in 1841, a brick building was put up. The Academy and (public?) high school were “united” from 1868 until the Classical Academy opened in 1873, he said.

In 1888, Briggs wrote, the Academy building “became Hallowell High School.” Remodeled in 1890, when he wrote in 1996 it was a private home.

The photo illustrating these words, dated about 1880, shows a group of students, the women in skirts from ankle-length to floor-length, in front of what must be the main entrance. Four two-story Doric columns are spaced across the width of the brick building, with two large doors on either side of a window behind them.

Briggs wrote of the 1795 Hallowell Academy that “students received their secondary education under some of the ablest and best educated men in the state.”

Kingsbury listed the first 28 teachers, up to 1838, and their years of service. One, surnamed Moody, stayed for eight years, and Curtis taught for three years. Six others were there for two years; the remaining 20, Kingsbury said, stayed only one year each.

After the 1795 Academy closed, high school age students attended the Hallowell Classical Academy, the Maine Memory Network says. As noted above, the Classical Academy almost certainly opened at the beginning of 1874.

The Classical Academy was on Central Street at the intersection with Warren Street. The Memory Network describes it as a co-ed college preparatory boarding and day school. It was established to promote Christian education and to train young people “in such languages and in such of the arts and sciences” as the school trustees chose.

The school was “affiliated” with the Congregational Church in Maine and, Kingsbury added, “a feeder for Bowdoin College.”

The 1873 Journal of Education, which this writer accepts as an authoritative, contemporary source, says the Maine Conference of Congregational Churches established the Classical Academy. A Congregational minister, Rev. H. F. Harding, was the academy’s first secretary and treasurer; his report to the statewide church meeting in 1874 mentioned connections with Bowdoin and with Bangor Seminary.

The Classical Academy was intended to be Hallowell’s high school and also a state institution to prepare “the sons of Maine” (daughters were not excluded – see below) “for her Colleges and Theological Seminary, without the necessity of going out of the State.”

The Academy was on an 11-acre lot, with views up and down the Kennebec. It started with three buildings, the article continues: “the old Hallowell Academy, which is to be used for recitation rooms” plus a new boarding-house that would accommodate 40 boys in double rooms and a new girls’ boarding house.

The latter is described as three stories with a Mansard roof, 160-feet long with two 40-foot-wide wings, “containing 76 rooms.” The rooms were arranged with two double bedrooms and a “parlor” for each four students.

Gas lighting was planned for the new buildings. The girls’ dormitory had steam heat, “bathing rooms” and a generous supply of “pure spring water,” according to the report in the 1872-74 minutes of the state Congregational Church meetings.

The Journal article said Classical Academy leaders intended to build “a much larger and much better edifice” as soon as they had the money. As of 1873, they had raised about $70,000, mostly from the City of Hallowell, and gotten a $4,000 bequest (the Memory Network, too, mentions a will). Additionally, the Journal article said, “Mrs. Eastman,” a former resident now living in Italy, had donated a $1,000 scholarship and “is also making a fine collection of paintings for the school.”

Classical Academy students came from Hallowell and from other parts of Maine, Illinois, California and New Brunswick, the Memory Network says.

The Congregational meeting minutes mentioned above describe the success of the Classical Academy in its first almost-two years. By 1874, James G. Blaine (then Representative in the U. S. Congress) was President of the Board of Trustees; Harding was still secretary and Joshua Nye, of Augusta, had succeeded him as treasurer.

The next term was to start Thursday, Sept. 2, 1875. A calendar for the next two years said a 12-week fall term would run from Tuesday, Sept. 2, through Nov. 28, 1876; after a week off, a 14-week winter term from Dec. 5, 1876, to March 13, 1877; after a two-week spring break, a 13-week spring term from March 27 through June 21, 1877.

There were 108 students and a staff of seven teachers and two matrons. Each dormitory had a matron; two teachers also lived in the dormitories and had supervisory responsibilities. Three were women; the teacher in the boys’ dormitory was a man.

Subjects taught were English (both English Studies and English Literature), French, German, Latin, Greek, history, natural sciences, mathematics, “Mental, and Moral Science,” bookkeeping, penmanship (these two subjects were on one list, not on a second), piano and vocal music and drawing and painting.

There were three departments, which the report described as follows:

The Classical Course offered “thorough and ample preparation for the most advanced Colleges.”

The Seminary Course was “especially for young ladies,” “to carry their training and culture considerably beyond that given in our public schools.”

The English and Scientific Course gave students of both sexes “the most valuable studies for a shorter course.”

Memory Network photos of the Classical Academy from the early 1880s show two large squarish three-story buildings connected by a three-story rectangular building. The lower stories are white, probably clapboard (possibly brick). The upper story, with a pediment above and below it, appears to be a shingled mansard roof, with four single flat-topped windows in one end and three across the front.

(This description is similar to the Journal of Education’s 1873 description of the new girls’ dormitory.)

Briggs’ book includes a photograph of a quite different building, dated about 1885 and identified as the Classical Academy. This building is rectangular, clearly brick, three stories with no mansard roof. The windows are paired under arches. There appear to be no connected buildings, although at one end is a “strange invention” (Briggs’ words) that looks like a windmill atop a two-story tower.

(Perhaps this is the building the Journal said Academy trustees were in 1873 waiting for money to build?)

Hallowell High School opened in 1887, and the Classical Academy closed in 1888, the Memory Network says. Briggs said lack of money forced the Classical Academy to close, and “its buildings were razed in the early 1900s.”

The Memory Network has a photograph, dated “circa 1900,” of the 1887 high school, a two-story brick building with towers on both ends, one three stories tall, and a triple-arched front entrance. Accompanying information says it was on a lot “used exclusively for education since Hallowell Academy opened in 1795.”

Briggs’ version is that in 1887 the Hallowell school committee agreed to establish a high school separate from the Classical Academy. In 1890, he continued, the “City fathers” renovated “the old Hallowell Academy building,” implying that the 1887 building was not constructed from scratch.

The Maine Memory site says the 1887 high school was converted to a primary school after a 1920 high school building opened “on the site of the old Classical Academy,” that is, at the intersection of Central and Warren streets.

Hallowell might have had a third private high school. Yet another on-line site, called Maine Roots, includes an undated reference to “a female academy” started by John A. Vaughan “where the granite offices now are, which continued a number of years.”

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.

CORRECTION: A correction to the story on the Asa Bates Memorial Chapel, or Ten Lots Chapel, in Fairfield that ran in the Aug. 5 issue of The Town Line: the people responsible for repairing the large windows were Pastor Gene McDaniel and his father, Gary McDaniel, who did the reglazing. Kay Marsh did the painting, and Howard Hardy offered encouragement.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Central Maine high schools

Old Cony High School – Flat Iron building.

by Mary Grow

According to Millard Howard’s history of Palermo, an 1817 Massachusetts law that apparently carried over into Maine in 1820 required each town with 50 families to provide a primary school and each town with 200 families to have a grammar school whose teacher was able to teach Latin and Greek.

Alice Hammond’s history of Sidney has a slightly different version, perhaps referring to a different law: she wrote that when the population reached 100 families, “the authorities should set up a grammar school to instruct youth for the university.”

Over the years, central Kennebec Valley towns have complied with the law by supporting a local public high school, contracting to send students to a larger town’s public high school or contracting with a private high school.

This essay and its successor will not attempt to follow all the convolutions in every town and city, nor will they extend much later than 1900. The twentieth century saw a continuation of all three methods, with state law establishing various consolidated programs (Maine School Administrative Districts, Regional School Unions, Alternative Organizational Structures) and with the foundation of new private schools, secular and religious.

This series has already partly discussed the public high schools in the cities of Augusta and Waterville, in connection with their former homes in historic buildings that are now Cony Flatiron Residence and Gilman Place (see the issues of The Town Line for Sept. 2 and Aug. 26, respectively). This week’s article will summarize some earlier high-school buildings in the two cities, as described in local histories.

Public high schools in Augusta

According to Kingsbury, Augusta’s first high school opened in 1803. It seems to have been a private corporation – he wrote that “a group of citizens” put up a brick grammar school building where Bridge Street then ended at State Street (Bridge Street has since then continued west another six-plus blocks). Shareholders could send one student for each share owned.

School started in the spring of 1804, with “a Mr. Cheney” teaching courses that included the “dead languages.” (Wikipedia says there are at least 673 dead languages, defined as those “that no longer have a native speaking community.” Kingsbury probably meant Ancient Greek and Latin.)

The building burned in 1807, Kingsbury said. Until 1835, Augusta students wanting more than a primary education could attend Hallowell Academy.

On Feb. 19, 1835, Kingsbury wrote, the Maine legislature approved incorporation of the Augusta Classical School Association. This group, headed by seven directors, raised money by selling shares.

The Association bought the lot where the earlier school building stood and built an east-facing, two-story, 65-by-50-foot brick building “with pediment front, supported by four Doric columns of wood.” The first classes started April 18, 1836.

William H. Allen was the preceptor, assisted by his sister, identified as “Miss Allen,” Joseph Baker and Hannah Lambard, whose brother Thomas was one of the directors. Allen was succeeded by two “English ladies” named Taylor, presumably sisters, and then by “Mr. Woodbury.”

Classical School tuition was $6 per term and, Kingsbury wrote, was supposed to support the school. It did for only a few years before the “worthy promoters suffered its doors to be finally closed.”

Meanwhile, an 1833 state law allowed Augusta school districts to combine, and early in 1842 two of them did, forming the Village School District. The new district had 974 students, and the directors decided they needed six primary schools, two grammar schools and one high school.

This district included the site of the earlier high schools, and the Village School District first rented and in 1848 bought, for $3,000, the Classical School building. It was succeeded in 1869 by a building that, Kirk Mohney found in his 1988 research for the National Register of Historic Places listing for the Cony Flatiron, was designed by Francis Fassett (1823-1908). Readers have met Fassett before as the architect of many buildings throughout Maine, including in downtown Augusta (see The Town Line, Feb. 4).

In 1881, Kingsbury wrote, the Village District high school was superseded by Cony Free High School.

Public high schools in Waterville

Waterville High School from 1912 – 1963.

According to Elwood T. Wyman’s chapter in the Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore’s 1902 bicentennial history of Waterville, primary schools opened before 1802, when Waterville separated from Winslow, and continued afterwards, with the usual fluidity of school district boundaries. Originally designated by names – Ticonic, Ten-lot, Almond Soule’s, Asa Soule’s, for example – the districts were quickly numbered for official reports.

Beginning in 1846, Carey wrote, “more advanced pupils” attended Waterville Academy (later Coburn Classical Institute), founded in 1823. It is puzzling that a page later he wrote of Latin and French being “authorized” as high-school courses in 1855; and of teachers “of high and grammar grades” being asked in 1859 to report weekly to parents on their children’s “conduct and scholarship,” as though Waterville officials were in charge.

In and after 1864, Carey continued, “pupils of high school rank” were sent to Waterville Academy, and Waterville paid the Academy $4.50 a term for tuition. The agreement continued until Waterville Free High School opened in 1876.

Carey listed nine “masters” (principals) of Waterville Free High School, all Colby graduates. The ninth had just resigned, and in 1902 was to be succeeded by Richard W. Sprague, Colby 1901, Carey wrote.

(Graduating from Colby and immediately becoming Waterville High principal was a recurring pattern, according to Arthur Roberts’ paragraphs on teachers in Whittemore’s history. Lincoln Owen, Colby 1889, was, on Carey’s list, the school’s fourth head, from 1889 to 1893. Next came Dennis Bowman, of Sidney, Colby 1893, who served until 1898. The principal who was departing in 1902, John Edward Nelson, of China, Colby 1898, took over in September 1898, according to Roberts. Carey, who included no dates, listed three other men between Bowman and Nelson.)

So where was Waterville Free High School between 1876 and its move to Gilman Street in 1912?

In 1853, after long debate, Waterville school officials had two brick primary schools constructed. The one on the 1902 site of North Grammar School (dedicated Feb. 28, 1888) was moved to a College Avenue location and in 1902 was a tenement.

The other 1853 school, presumably the south one, was in 1902 “the main part of the present high school building.”

This 1853 building that was by 1902 incorporated into the high school appears to have been close to the site of the 1920 Albert S. Hall School. The Hall School, at 27 Pleasant Street, housed students in kindergarten through grade six in 1970, according to someone who taught there; it now serves students in fourth and fifth grades, according to its website.

An on-line chronology says in 1922 (10 years after the high school moved to Gilman Street, two years after the Hall School was finished), “Old High School on Pleasant Street was demolished to make room for the new Junior High school construction.”

A brief on-line history of the Hall School says it “has served as Waterville High School” and Waterville Junior High School before becoming an elementary school. But sources cited in the earlier story about Gilman Street School say the high school was there from 1912 until 1963.

(The original Pleasant Street School was renamed in honor of Albert Sedgley Hall, who started his 35-year career in education in Waterville as a sixth-grade teacher and ended it after 11 years as the city’s Superintendent of Schools.)

Backing up to 1902, Carey further noted that in the last 15 years of the 18th century, Waterville officials had overseen construction of four new (primary) schools and remodeling of two older ones; and there was a need for another new primary school “and for a new high school building.”

The new high school was probably the Gilman Street School; readers will remember that construction began in 1912. An on-line chronology adds that in 1914, the “New Senior High School” was damaged by fire.

William H. Allen
and two of his fellow teachers

William Henry Allen (March 27, 1808 – Aug. 29, 1882) had a varied career in education and educational administration.

He was born in Readfield, son of Jonathan and Thankful (Longley) Allen. He went from Kents Hill Seminary to Bowdoin, graduating in 1833, and, the Prabook on-line site says, “received a degree of Doctor of Laws from Union College as well as from Emory and Henry College.”

(Union College, founded in 1795, is a private liberal arts college in Schenectady, New York. Emory and Henry College is in Emory, Virginia; campus construction began in 1836, and the first students were admitted in 1838. It was founded by the Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and is now affiliated with the United Methodist Church.)

From 1833 to 1836 Allen was a Latin and Greek teacher at Oneida Methodist Conference Seminary, Cazenovia, New York. In 1836 he came to Augusta to head the Classical School; he left after six months for Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. There he taught chemistry and natural history for 10 years, then philosophy and English literature, and at some point spent most of a year as acting president.

Chosen as president of Girard College, identified on line as a 12-grade college preparatory school in Philadelphia, in 1849, he took over in 1850. He resigned in 1862, but after three years “lecturing and writing” and two years as president of Pennsylvania Agricultural College, now part of Penn State University, in University Park, he returned to Girard for 15 more years described as “most gratifying to him and most valuable to those for whom he labored.”

The Prabook article says nothing about Allen’s sister or other siblings, but it lists his four wives: Martha Ann Richardson (d. 1839); Ellen Honora Curtin (sister of Pennsylvania Governor Andrew G. Curtin); Mary Frances Quincy (daughter of Samuel Quincy, of Boston); and Anna (Dunton) Gamwill (married Allen in 1858 and survived him).

Joseph Baker was born June 23, 1812, in Bloomfield (now Skowhegan). His father, Amos, was a Revolutionary War veteran who farmed in the summer and taught in the winter.

Joseph attended China Academy and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1836. Like his father, he taught in the winter. The on-line Biographical Encyclopedia of Maine of the Nineteenth Century, says when he boarded in rural school districts, he would breakfast at 3 or 4 a.m. with the farm family and spend the hours until school began “reading nearly the whole of the British Poets.”

After graduation, Baker studied under local lawyers during two years as assistant teacher at the Augusta high school. Admitted to the bar in 1839, he promptly set up a practice in Augusta that continued, with partners, all his life. His later career included terms as Augusta City Solicitor and Kennebec County Attorney and service in the Maine House and Senate. He died Nov. 29, Thanksgiving Day, 1883.

Sarah and Hannah [Lambard] Walcott were daughters of Dolly Lambard, who acquired Martha Ballard’s diary after the now-famous Hallowell midwife died in May 1812. After Dolly Lambard died in 1861, her daughters kept the diary until 1884, when they gave it to Ballard’s great-great-granddaughter, Mary Hobart, a doctor.

Main sources

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).

Websites, miscellaneous.