Jack’s: Where everybody knows your name

Jack, right, and Ann Sylvester at their home in 2019. (Photo by Eric Austin)

by Eric W. Austin

Growing up near China Village in the latter half of the last century, there was one place everyone visited at least once a week. Officially named China General Store, Incorporated, most of us knew it simply as “Jack’s.” It was the center of life in China Village for more than 50 years.

This is the story of Jack’s General Store, and the man who ran it.

Jack Sylvester was born to a family from Eustis, Maine, on Friday, October 13, 1938. From this inauspicious beginning, young Jack would grow up to have a profound influence on another community far to the south of the place of his birth.

Jack’s father and grandfather operated a livestock business in Eustis, providing horses to businesses all over the state of Maine, especially those involved in the logging and farming industries, which at the time still relied on horsepower to get the job done.

By the early 1940s, however, the horse business in Eustis was flagging, and the Sylvester family moved south to Albion when Jack was only six. Jack’s maternal grandparents had a residence in Albion, and the Sylvesters hoped the busier metro-area of Waterville and Augusta would keep the horse business going for a few more years.

A fire at Besse High School, in Albion, in 1958.

In Albion, Jack Sylvester attended Besse High School, which was located in the brick building that now houses the Albion Town Office. Jack vividly remembers the day in 1957 when, during his senior year, the school burned down.

“I was on the fire department at that time, and I can tell you exactly where I was,” he says. “I was cleaning out the horses of manure.” The Sylvesters’ livestock farm was located not far from the school. He continues: “I heard the fire alarm go off, and I turned ‘round to look and that old black smoke was just roaring.”

Teenage Jack dropped his shovel and rushed to the scene of the fire. He wasn’t happy. “You’d think I’d feel good that the school burned down — you don’t have to go to school no more,” he says, flashing a characteristic Jack-grin. “But I felt terrible ‘cause the school was burning down. I set there with a hose, puttin’ water on it, and cryin’ like crazy!”

The cause of the fire was never discovered. The superintendent at the time, who will go unnamed, was the only one in the building, in his office on the upper floor. The superintendent wanted Albion to join the local School Administrative District (SAD), and there was talk around town that he had started the fire in an effort to force a decision on the matter. Nothing was ever proven, however, but after the fire, Jack tells me, “He moved out of town right off quick.”

After high school, Jack worked as a grease monkey for Yeaton’s Garage for a couple of years, and then got hired by Lee Brothers’ Construction, work that sent him all over the state of Maine. That’s where he met Roy Dow.

At this point, we need to pause for a bit of backstory. The tale of how Jack Sylvester came to own China General Store is the story of another fire, this time in China.

Main Street in China Village used to be quite a bit more commercial than it is now. The Masonic Lodge was on the north side of Main Street, opposite where it is now; and next to that, heading east, was the post office; a small house that is no longer there; then a bean factory (”Most every small town around had a bean factory,” says Alene Smiley, Jack’s older sister); a printing shop; a mechanics garage operated by Roy Coombs, who got his start fixing wagon wheels, and then transitioned to transmissions; and finally the old China General store, owned by the Bailey family, but later sold to the Fenlasons. The Village’s one-room schoolhouse was also located here, directly across the street from where the China library is currently.

Then on Sunday, August 20, 1961, the old China General Store caught fire and burned down. The blaze also claimed the garage and the bean factory next door, both owned by Roy Coombs. Flames from the fire leapt more than 100 feet into the air and could be seen up to 10 miles away. In a single night, nearly the entire commercial district in China Village was destroyed. Coombs, who was also serving as fire chief at the time, suspected arson as “three or four fires of suspicious nature have occurred in the town within recent months,” according to an article published the next day in the Morning Sentinel.

Photo of the aftermath of the fire at the old China General Store in 1961. (submitted by Susan Natalie Dow White)

Since the current owners, the Fenlasons, weren’t interested in rebuilding, Roy Dow and his father-in-law, Tommy James, who both worked in construction, decided to take on the job of building a new one themselves. They enlisted the help of Ben Avery, of Windsor, and chose as the location for the new establishment a spot on the eastern end of Main Street. It would turn out to be a propitious choice of location when the 202 throughway was built a decade later.

“I’d always loved the store business,” says Jack. “So, one day I was down there [at the new store], visiting Roy. He was sittin’ in front of the cash register in an old recliner. He said, ‘What’re you doin’? Why don’t you come work for me? I need a meat cutter.’ I said, ‘For God’s sake, Roy, I’m a truck driver; I ain’t a meat cutter!’ He said, ‘I’ll teach you.’”

And Roy did, and much else besides. Jack learned how to cut meat, how to manage a store, and how to select the best cuts of beef for the store freezer. He also got to know the store’s customers, and there was one customer in particular he was interested in. Her name was Ann Gaunce.

Ann’s family lived just down the road from the store, and she frequently passed by on her way to the post office. “Oh, she was beautiful!” Jack says, his eyes a little glassy at the memory. “Ann was walking by one day, and I was filling a car full of gas. I hollered at her and I said, ‘How ya doin’? Why don’t you come over here,’ I says, ‘I wanna talk to ya.’ So, she came over and I talked to her for a while. I got a date for that night.”

They went to see the movie “Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!”, a flick from 1948, at the old Haines Theater, which used to exist on Main Street, in Waterville, across from where Maine-ly Brews is now. Jack and Ann’s was a romance destined to last a lifetime.

“I don’t call her Ann anymore,” Jack tells me, a twinkle in his eye. “It’s Saint Ann now. She’s put up with me for 54 years!”

Jack worked at the general store for Roy Dow until 1974. “He came in one day,” Jack recalls, “and says, ‘Wanna buy this place?’ I said, ‘I’d like to.’”

And he did. Together with his wife, Ann, and his son Chris, who became his right-hand man in later years, they took over management of China General Store, Incorporated. Jack Sylvester was 36 years old.

I ask Jack if owning a business in a small town like China had been a struggle. “No, sir,” he says. “I had a business that was wicked good. The last year I owned that business, I did over a million dollars.”

And Jack didn’t just manage one of the most successful businesses in China, he also served as selectman from 1965-67, belonged to the Masons since the age of 21, and joined the Volunteer Fire Department, first in Albion and then in China, where he served as fire chief for a number of years in the 1970s and ‘80s.

“Jack was always really good about his employees volunteering for the fire department and the rescue,” says Ron Morrell, who pastors the China Baptist Church and has lived across the street from Jack’s store since the early 1980s. “You’d go in sometimes and Ann might be the only one in the store, because all the guys were gone on a fire call. It left him short-handed sometimes.”

Jack Sylvester, right, and son Chris, during Halloween one year. (Contributed photo)

Jack’s favorite time of the year was Halloween, when he dressed up in a variety of creative costumes and hosted upwards of 350 neighborhood kids at his store, who came for the free chocolate milk and the bag of chips that he gave out every year.

That wasn’t the only interaction Jack had with the kids of China Village. He would, on occasion, catch a child shoplifting from his store. Pastor Ron relates one such incident that he witnessed firsthand. “One day, I came across the street for an afternoon cup of coffee,” he tells me. “Jack had some kid in the back, talking to him. I could tell something serious was going on.”

Totally coincidentally, a few minutes later a Kennebec County sheriff’s deputy also came into the store. Without missing a beat, Jack exclaimed, “See, here he is!”

Apparently, Jack had faked a call to the sheriff in an attempt to scare the kid straight. The sudden appearance of the deputy was a complete surprise to everyone, excepting, perhaps, the poor kid being interrogated.

“The sheriff’s deputy caught on real quick as to what was going on,” Pastor Ron recalls. “They had not worked this out ahead of time. The cop was really good about it, and they scared the kid good. And more than one kid, when they were an adult, came back and thanked Jack for what he’d done to set them straight, and for not getting the authorities involved. He could put the fear of God into them though,” Pastor Ron finishes with a hearty chuckle.

In April 2002, at the age of 64, Jack Sylvester finally hung up his apron and sold the general store. The new owners kept the store open for a few more years, but eventually closed it.

“It was never the same after Jack left,” Pastor Ron remembers. “People came because of Jack.”

The tragic story of Father Rasle at Kennebec Historical Society

“Go and set the world on fire,” was St. Ignatius of Loyola’s famous call to the Jesuits to preach the gospel to the far corners of the world. Fr. Sebastian Rasle followed the call of his order’s founder and left France in 1689 to give his life to caring for the souls of native Americans. This he did for 30 years in a small mission village amidst the Abenaki people far up the Kennebec River. The village was called Narantsouack (i.e. Norridgewock.)

Death of Father Sebastian Rale of the Society of Jesus, an 1856 lithograph

But this peaceful mission was not to last. In those few decades, Fr. Rasle’s little village got caught in a blaze of controversy that ended in the mission being burned by a Massachusetts militia and its pastor being shot. Joseph Moreshead, a seminarian for the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland, will discuss the origins of this conflict between Fr. Rasle, the New England colonists, and the Abenaki people and how competing interests among the three parties led to such a tragic end.

Joseph Moreshead is a native of South Portland, and a current student at the Catholic University of America, studying to be a Catholic priest in Maine. A graduate of Cheverus High School and Fordham University, Moreshead was educated for eight years by Jesuits like Fr. Rasle. After extensive research on the Jesuit Relations, he led a pilgrimage to Fr. Rasle’s grave last August. He holds a bachelor of arts in philosophy and classical language.

The Kennebec Historical Society’s May Presentation is free to the public (donations gladly accepted) and will take place on Wednesday, May 16, at 6:30 p.m., at St. Mary’s Church located at 41 Western Avenue in Augusta.

The Town Line: 30 years of serving area towns

by Roland D. Hallee

The first issue of The Town Line was published on March 15, 1989.

The founders of The Town Line, Gary and Trish Newcomb. (File photo)

The brain child of China residents Gary and Trish Newcomb, the newspaper’s goal was to bring neighbors and their respective towns closer together through better communications.

Area towns and their residents had gone through some turbulent times during the mid-’80s when much animosity had grown to epidemic proportions. Gary and Trish figured that if people really knew what their neighbors were doing, they would better understand each other.

Although the original mission statement for The Town Line has been lost, its general meaning is how the newspaper got its name. Gary and Trish believed that if everyone was more open in their communications, they could all become better neighbors, and asked people to take their discussions, differences and ideas, and meet at “the town line.”

Preparing that first issue was a monumental task. First there was equipment to purchase, acquaint themselves with computers and their programs, find a printing company, and then arrange a distribution system.

Once the first issue hit the streets, Gary said, “How will we ever put out another issue?” He thought he had used up all possible material in that first issue. Well, miracles happen, and now, 30 years later, The Town Line newspaper celebrates the publication of 1,450 issues to date.

Gary and Trish nurtured the newspaper for the first nine years, until, thinking they had taken the paper as far as they could, put it up for sale in 1997. The final issue under the guidance of the Newcombs came on December 20, 1997.

The original staff consisted of three people. The first issue denotes the Newcombs as both publishers and editors. Trish was advertising director and Gary took care of the graphic designs. Julie Dermott was administrative assistant.

In the early days, the staff of The Town Line included, seated, from left to right, Trish Newcomb, Gary Newcomb, Lea Davis and Susan Walter. Back, Susan Boody, Fred Davis and Susan Cottle. (File photo)

As time passed, and the newspaper grew, additional staff members were needed to accomplish the work. On May 16, 1990, Susan Cottle became the first editor other than the Newcombs. She would continue in that capacity until the end of 1991. Joe Lupsha and Fred Davis each served as assistant editor during this period.

On January 6, 1992, Lea Davis was named the second editor in the paper’s brief history. Lea would continue as editor and eventually as managing editor until May 14, 2004, the longest tenured editor in the history of the paper at the time.

During her time, the paper went through a series of setbacks due to changes in ownership. After the Newcombs closed the paper at the end of 1997 for a lack of a buyer, Dennis Keller came on the scene and purchased the assets. The paper reopened its doors on January 31, 1998.

The paper would continue on its normal path until July 3, 1998, when it became a bi-weekly (once every two weeks) due to economic hardships. Keller would eventually close the doors on October 10, 1998.

That’s when the paper’s future took an unexpected turn for the better. A small group of former staff and some interested community members worked through the winter of 1999, formed a new plan and incorporated the publication as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit private foundation.

Spearheaded by Joann Austin, Faith Ames, the late John Robie, staff members Lea Davis, Sandy Keller and Roland Hallee, all of whom donated their time, the groundwork was ready to continue towards re-opening the paper. At this point, a great amount of gratitude is bestowed upon the late Faith Ames, who personally financed the initial few issues upon the return of the publication, until sufficient revenues enabled The Town Line to sustain itself.

On March 6, 1999, The Town Line re-emerged as the voice of these small central Maine towns. Through great community support, both from businesses and small grants from the towns, The Town Line firmly planted itself back on the path to recovery.

The Town Line is now a nonprofit organization with a board of directors as overseers. Forever striving to improve the quality of its offerings, The Town Line is constantly seeking new, tax deductible, memberships to the organization. Similar to public radio and television, The Town Line accepts memberships and monetary contributions and donations.

The current members of the board of directors are Joann Austin, Eric Austin, Neil Farrington, Gladys Hewett and Emily Cates. Others to have served on the board in the past have included Joe Pinette, Walter Wilson, Mike Mara, Faith Ames, Dick Kelley, Joe Suga, and Marge Roy, among others.

The staff under the regime of Dennis Keller included, seated, from left to right, Sandy Keller, Roland Hallee, Lea Davis and Martha Holzwarth. Back, Natalie Lyon, Nancy Heath, Ed Heath, Paulie Heath, Mike Heath, Dennis Keller, Miriam Keller and Dustin Heath. (File photo)

On June 1, 2004, Susan Varney became the third editor in the newspaper’s history. She would continue in that position until February 2005, when upon her departure, Roland Hallee became the fourth editor of The Town Line. He continues today as the managing editor and is now the longest tenured staff member (25 years of service), and the longest serving editor (13 years) in the history of the paper, having begun his career at The Town Line in May 1993. With nearly 55 years of newspaper work, and editor of two other weekly newspapers in Pittsfield and Skowhegan, he has used his experience to guide The Town Line through some dark days.

Over the past 30 years, The Town Line has occupied six different locations. The original site was at the old fire station, next to the old post office off Rte. 3, now occupied by Whitt’s Garments.

From that location, they moved in January 1994 to a building on Rte. 3, across from the South China Post Office (now occupied by Legacy Home Improvement). They would remain there only a short period of time before relocating in June 1995, to the 202 Plaza on Rte. 202, in South China.

Upon its reopening as a nonprofit in 1999, they were located in the lower level at 16 Jonesbrook Crossing, in South China. They would remain at that site until November 2008, when they moved upstairs in the same building in the space formerly occupied by Fernald Family Chiropractic. All of the locations were in South China. The newspaper is now located in the lower level of the old China Town Hall, next to the China Town Office, at 575 Lakevidw Drive.

Through the years, others were instrumental in the success of the paper. Susan Boody, Adam Hansen, Troy Henderson, Carl Mercier, Paul Basham, Diane Bickford, Michelle Shores and Kathy Duhnoski (the present ad director) have all served as advertising directors. Advertising salesmen over the years have included Ken Nawfel, Betsy Murphy, Martha Holzwarth, Aileen Wescott, Marlene Myers, Bill Zinck, George Chappell, among others. Office managers have included Heide Hotham, Sandy Keller, Sylvia Martin, Marilyn Boyle, Angela Brunette, and Joan Hallee. Claire Breton has been business manager since 2000. Prior to that, business managers have included Ed Heath, Natalie Lyon and Adam Hansen. Others to contribute as graphic artists have been Fran Vitolo, Susan Walter, Dirk Rose, Roland Hallee and Kareno Stansbury. Lyn Rowden was the senior staff writer and assistant editor from 2009 until 2013, when layoffs were needed in order to cut expenses as revenues began to diminish.

Included with all these people is an endless list of regular contributors and volunteers.

March 15, 2018 marked the beginning of the 30th year of publishing The Town Line, a feat that, in 1989, seemed way out of reach to its founders.

The staff and board of directors at The Town Line newspaper thank all the advertisers, businesses and supporters of the past 30 years that has made it a success, and will push forward into the future to continue its mission set forth by Gary and Trish Newcomb in 1989. The Newcombs now reside in Ohio.

Save the Mill fundraiser reaches preliminary goal

The Olde Mill Place in North Vassalboro

More needs to be done to achieve $250,000 estimate for repairs to the roof damaged in October storm

Vassalboro’s “SAVE THE MILL” Campaign and Ray Breton thank all of who were involved in hard work and donations towards repair of the roof of the Olde Mill in downtown North Vassalboro! The $7,000 mark has been reached, and they still have a long way to go!

As many of you know, The Olde Mill, in downtown North Vassalboro, sustained significant roof damage as a result of the storm of October 28 – 29, 2017. The estimate for repairs is $250,000.

The mill is owned by Raymond J. Breton. Ray shares the mill with the town.

Vassalboro Days events are held there. Halloween at the Olde Mill is an annual event.

The Community Christmas Tree and lighting ceremony are held there.

The mill houses 2,000 rubber ducks and then hosts the Double Dam Ducky Derby.

The mill serves as storage for the 100 flags that fly along Maine Street each summer.

The Vassalboro Fishing Derby is held there, as are many of theVassalboro Business Association’s Scholarship Fundraisers.
Baseball and softball training occurs upstairs all winter long.

The Girl Scout’s Annual Cookies Storage and Distribution is all at the mill.

There is a clothing closet for the local food pantry to store clothing for those in need.

These and many other community events are hosted by Ray at the mill for no charge.

Ray has created a picnic park, a brookside gazebo, and a swimming hole with life vests, canoes, a float, and slide for the town to use for free. He has created a children’s playground on the property as well as several areas for playing basketball.

Ray’s properties are noted for their psychic richness. He leads many tours through his buildings and donates those proceeds to the Vassalboro Food Pantry.

Downtown North Vassalboro has undergone a huge and beautiful transformation in the last eight years because of Ray.

Now he needs our help. There is no insurance on the mill. Ray and his friends and crew work very diligently to maintain the building, but this storm was too much. In order to save the mill, the roof will need to be repaired or else ice and rain will ruin the mill structure. Right now, after many hours of patching, the roof is rigged with tarps and tar to hopefully keep as much of the weather out as possible. But by spring, real repairs need to happen.

Many have donated anonymously at the Vassalboro branch of Maine Savings Federal Credit Union to the “Save The Mill” account. They should know their gifts are truly appreciated.

Heartfelt thanks go out to Nate Gray, Bill and Deb Johnson, Harriet Stamler, William and Betty Branch, AgMatters LLC, Dawn Cates, Tim and Debbie Giroux, Luc Beaulieu, Evan Shorey, Rocky Gravel, Margaret Dowdy, James Ashton, Jacquelyn Murphy, Frank Reynolds, Peter and Jackie Reny, Kaitlin Hosea, Robert Nixon, Judith Davidson, Kelsey Houston, James Breslin, Laura, William Whitman, Vassalboro Retired Teachers and Friends, Leonard Poulin, Lucille Roy, Richard Desmond, Juliette Akins, Carol Axtell, Chris and Amy French, the Watson Family, Kimberly Kimball and friends, and In Memory of Thelma Rancourt, and The Town Line newspaper.

Extra-special thanks also go out to the movers and shakers behind the scenes, including Don, Lisa, and Jessica Breton, Linda Ellis, Mike Vashon, Darrell Gagnon, Tiffany Luczko, Meridith Cain, Therese Burns Barnett, Victor Esposito, Stacy Thorndike, the Titus family, April Stitham-Woodbury, Johnny and Becky Goodrich, and Mr. and Mrs. Dan Rodrigue.

Vassalboro is a small town of 4,320 and so many are involved with this campaign. If we have accidently omitted your name, we are sorry. Your help is so important and needed.

We cannot forget the thousands of dollars of items donated for the raffles going on to benefit the work!

The fundraising continues! Please mark your calendar for the following events, all of which will benefit the mill:

  • Saturday, Dec. 30, from 6 p.m. on, the Taylor Road Band Benefit. Tickets are $15/person. It is a concert and potluck at the mill! Call Darrell Gagnon at 649-3626 for more information.
  • Sunday, January 21, from 4 – 6:30 p.m.. spaghetti supper and huge raffle at Vassalboro Community School. Supper Tickets are $5. Contact Meridith Cain at 458-2075
  • Sunday, February 11, from 10 a.m., the American Woolen Mill Urban Mountain Bike Fundraiser at the Mill. https://www.bikereg.com/vassalboro-mill-fundracer for more information.
  • Sunday, February 11, from 1 – 5 p.m., Vassalboro’s Annual Fishing Derby and Huge Raffle at the mill! Tickets are on sale now! Contact Linda Titus at 631-3303.
  • Saturday, April 7, from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., at the mill participate in Vassalboro’s First Indoor Yard Sale! Contact Stacy Thorndike at 446-2690 to reserve your space!
  • Saturday, April 21, from 6 to 11 p.m., a Public Paranormal Investigation by G.R.I.M. Tickets are $35 each and available from https://ghost-research-and-investigations-of-maine.ticketleap. com/save-the-mill-public-paranormal-investigation/

To keep up with all the fun-raising, please check out our “SAVE THE MILL” page on Facebook! Thank you. https://www.facebook.com/groups/787714818075573/.

KHS to hear about Explosion in Halifax

On December 7, 1917, two war ships collided in the harbor at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Following the collision and subsequent fire, a massive explosion occurred, killing about 2,000 people and wounding countless more. At the time, it was the largest man-made explosion in history. With the city devastated, help was needed. Boston is still remembered for responding quickly and sending up a train with supplies and people the following day. They are still celebrating this day with a Christmas tree that is sent from Halifax to Boston each year.

However, Maine also played a role in the relief effort. Mainers joined the Boston relief train and we sent up supplies and a National Guard troop of our own. This talk will discuss the overall history of the event and the relief effort, but will also aim to focus more on Maine’s role in the relief effort.

The speaker, Sam Howes, is an archivist at the Maine State Archives, where he has been for three years developing exhibits and preserving the state’s historical records. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History with a mix of American Labor, Canadian History, and Medieval Studies at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. While living in Nova Scotia, he became very interested in the relationship between the Maritime Provinces and the New England States. That interest is what led him to research the Halifax Explosion and the response from New England, and Maine in particular.

The Kennebec Historical Society December Presentation is free to the public (donations gladly accepted) and will take place on Wednesday, December 13, 2017, at 6:30 p.m., at the Maine State Library, located at 230 State Street, in Augusta. ​

China Days Local History Quiz 2017

China Days 2017

LOCAL HISTORY QUIZ (answers at the bottom)

  1. What word did Rufus say that made his father angry?
  2. What is the official name of the memorial park in South China village?
  3. Who bought the China poor farm?
  4. What did the first causeway bridge cost?
  5. Other than Erskine, what other high schools were built in China?
  6. Eli Jones was elected to State House. What did he refused to do?
  7. Who was the first Master of Masonic lodge in Weeks Mills?
  8. How deep is the water under the Clarks brook peat bog?
  9. In what year did the town property tax almost triple?
  10. What was the cost of school lunch in 1950?
  11. How much did an issue of “The China Egg” cost?
  12. Who wrote a poem for Eli and Sybil?
  13. Who was William Crane?
  14. What was the nickname given to the WW&F?
  15. What did the first Erskine Academy building cost?
  16. What year did the last GAR veteran die in South China?
  17. Where is the word “Loupcorvirs” found?
  18. Who was Eli Jones foster father?
  19. What killed James Parnell Jones?
  20. How long of a walk did Rufus take to attend high school?
  21. How long did it take the stage coach to go from Augusta to Bangor?
  22. When did Miss Doris Young start teaching?
  23. What was her weekly salary?
  24. In 1945 how may children went to the one room school house in Weeks Mills?
  25. Where was General Marshalls House?
  26. How old is the Weeks Mills water district?
  27. What did the Quakers pay to the Baptist for the South China church?
  28. Where was district 21 school house located?
  29. How old was James Parnell Jones when he joined the Union army?
  30. What year did China selectmen change from 3 to 5 members?
  31. How many chickens were commercial raised in 1960?
  32. How did Yorktown road get its name?
  33. What year was our population larger than Waterville?
  34. What year was Harlem incorporated and where did the name come from?
  35. Where was the boundary set between Harlem and China?
  36. Where did Mr. Shuman get his cider barrels?
  37. What year did Weeks Mills have it worse record flood?
  38. What year did the gore move to China?
  39. What mountain range was called The Kennebago mountain range?
  40. Which island had a dining hall and bowling alley?
  41. In 1960’s which two business men built stores on the Rt 3 bypass?
  42. Where was the town dump prior to its current location?
  43. What did Eli do when he was selected to become the state’s Major General?
  44. What was the only year that the town meeting was held at Erskine?
  45. What was the current building used for prior to becoming China Village fire department?
  46. Where can you find a picture of a 3 dollar note?
  47. What 2 building survived the great fire in South China in 1872?
  48. Who did the Weeks Mills fire department buy their first truck from?
  49. Who was the towns first manager?
  50. Where was the Pond road?

 

Answers

(referenced page numbers are from the History of China, available on the China Town Office website)

  1. pg 26 stb Devil
  2. pg 188 bic Stuart Park
  3. pg 85 bic Carroll Jones
  4. pg 30 bic $375
  5. pg 141 bic Branch Mills Dirigo China Academy
  6. pg 151 eli Would not take the oath of office
  7. pg 182 bic James Parnell Jones
  8. pg 9 stb 40 feet
  9. pg 57 bic 1877
  10. pg 139 bic 15 cents
  11. pg 140 bic 10 cents
  12. pg 190 eli John G Whitter
  13. pg 137 stb Oldest man in China (shingled his barn at 92)
  14. pg 39 bic little wiggler
  15. pg 146 bic 50 dollars
  16. pg 188 bic 1941
  17. pg 20 stb
  18. pg 20 eli Moses Brown
  19. pg 171 eli bullet from a sniper ricocheted of a tree
  20. pg 85 stb 3 miles each way
  21. pg 37 bic 12 hours
  22. pg 123 bic 1920
  23. pg 123 bic 11 dollars
  24. pg 127 bic 39
  25. pg 202 bic corner of village street and causeway
  26. pg 224 bic 101 years
  27. pg 150 bic 1 dollar
  28. pg 113 bic corner of Hanson and Cross road
  29. pg 257 bic 23
  30. pg 53 bic 1966
  31. pg 244 bic 214,567
  32. pg 244 bic From the non-farming families of York
  33. pg 174 bic 1920’s
  34. pg 14 bic 1796
  35. pg 26 bic split the lake in half east to west
  36. pg 215 bic Togus VA hospital
  37. pg 219 bic 1901
  38. pg map 4 bic 1830
  39. pg 4 stb White mountains
  40. pg 31 bic Bradley’s
  41. pg 208 & 211 Reed’s Store and Dowe’s diner
  42. pg 97 bic rt 3 next to fairpoint building
  43. pg 163 eli He refused because of Quaker religion
  44. pg 83 bic 1963
  45. bic pg 205 bic Adams gas station
  46. plate 15
  47. pg 206 bic The brick house and the Rufus Jones house
  48. pg 225 bic China Fire department
  49. pg 54 bic Earl A. White
  50. pg 32 bic Lakeview drive

 

Historic presence of alewives in China Lake’s Outlet Stream reconfirmed

Original letters written by Stacy Blish and others, of Vassalborough, in 1799, submitted to the Massachusetts legislature. The decision of the governing body sealed the fate of the stream for more than 200 years, as numerous mills and factories were located along the banks of Mile Stream and little attention paid to its ecological health or fisheries. Photo of the letters from the State Archives, in Boston.

Submitted by Landis Hudson, executive director Maine Rivers.

Documents recently found in Massachusetts Archives have shed light on the early history of China Lake’s Outlet Stream, reconfirming the historic presence of native alewives. Petitions and letters, signed and dated from 1798 and 1799, state that alewives were known to make their way up the stream to China Lake, but the presence of sawmills and grist mills prevented the migratory fish from completing their journey to spawning areas. The letters and petitions were written requesting that the Outlet Stream be exempted from fish passage laws to allow water-powered industries to flourish.

As was typical for the colonial period, smaller waterways like Outlet Stream were harnessed for power first because their flows were easier to control. Later, as the technology advanced, dams were built on larger rivers, like the former Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River, first built in 1837.

Letters and petitions from residents along the Outlet Stream were submitted in response to fish passage laws enacted in Massachusetts requiring dam owners to provide fish passage, due to local concerns about the declining populations of migratory fish, notably salmon, shad and alewives. In 1797, just one year before the residents along Outlet Stream sent in their letters and petitions, a law was passed requiring fish passage in Cumberland and Lincoln Counties. Maine was then a part of Massachusetts; records from this period can be found in Massachusetts State Archives, in Boston.

One letter written by Stacy Blish in January 1799 states:

“Stacy Blish, of Vassalborough, in the County of Lincoln, of lawfull age testify and say that I have lived near a Stream called Mile brook which empties itself into Sebasticook river for eighteen years last past that before any mills were built on said Stream Alewives used to pass up said Stream into a pond out of which it flows but no Salmon or Shad ever frequented it and for fifteen years last past since mills have been erected on it no alewives have been known to pass up into the pond.”

Another petition signed by 40 individuals noted, “the carrying on and Improvements of those Mills Are the principle if not the only means upon which a large number of respectable and industrious citizens depend on for acquiring property… That formerly the fish called Alewives (only) used to pass up said stream but for more than ten years None have been seen to pass up said stream…”

The letters and petitions were successful and resulted in the passage of a law titled, “An Act Exempting Mile Stream in the Towns of Vassalborough, Winslow and Harlem from the Operations of All Laws Regulating the Salmon Shad and Alewife Fisheries in Said Towns.” This act sealed the fate of the stream for more than 200 years, as numerous mills and factories were located along its banks and little attention paid to its ecological health or fisheries.

With bicentennial nearing, China remembers Sybil Jones

Excerpts from the book Eli and Sybil Jones: Their life and work, written by Rufus M. Jones, in 1889. Submitted by Neil Farrington.

Sybil Jones

Sybil Jones during one of her missions in Europe. Internet photo

Sybil Jones was at work in the southern states during a part of the year 1860, and returned to her northern home only a few weeks before the attack on Fort Sumter. The sound of war carried sorrow to the hearts of herself and her husband. They were loyal to their country and the great cause of human freedom, but they were loyal also to the Prince of peace.

For years they had longed to see the light of freedom break in on the south, but they had hoped no less for the day “when the war-drum should throb no longer” and universal peace should gladden the long watchers for its dawn. Now they saw the oncoming of a most terrible civil war, threatening the life of the nation. They mourned for mothers and fathers who must see their boys go to the field; they thought of the homes shattered for ever; but they did not yet realize that their eldest son was to go forth to return only on this shield – that the son who had urged them to go forward in the work of love in Liberia, their noble son, was to be demanded as a sacrifice.
The war was hardly begun when James Parnel Jones resolved to volunteer. President Lincoln’s call seemed to call to him. He had been a logical reader of Summer, and had closely watched the development of slavery, and to his mind the war to save our nationality would necessarily free the slaves. He wrote from the South: “Did I not think this war would loose the slave’s chains I would break my sword and go home.”

That it was hard for him to go when his parents were praying for peace, there can be no doubt, but his mind was filled with the thought of saving the life of a nation, and he certainly felt that the path of duty was in that direction.

The members of the Society of Friends felt almost universally that they owed allegiance to two fatherlands. “There was a patriotism of the soul whose claim absolved them from the other and terrene fealty,” and there was a manifest inconsistency between being members of “Christ’s invisible kingdom” and taking arms in support of a dominion measured by acres.

James Parnel came home wounded, but returned to his command before his furlough had expired. He went back with the feeling that the days left him were few: he indistinctly saw what awaited him. In an engagement to carry a strong point held by the enemy at Crystal Springs, near Washington, he was struck by a ball from a sharpshooter. The ball had glanced from a tree and brought him a mortal wound. The two hearts deeply wrung to have their son go into the war at all were pierced at the news of his death.

Henceforth whoever wore a soldier’s uniform had a place in Sybil Jones’ heart. Her unspent love went out to all who were suffering on the field and in the hospitals, and she could not rest at home. Obtaining the needful credentials, she took up in a new form the arduous service of her active and consecrated life, bearing the gospel cheer to the wounded and dying in Philadelphia and Washington. She could tell the soldiers of her own son, and so touch their hearts and her sympathy and love brought joy to many a poor sufferer. The aggregate of her visits shows that she preached and talked to 30,000 soldiers. To and from the field of her labor, at the depots, wherever she saw a uniform, she went to speak gentle words and to bear good news; and only those to whom the balm came can tell the good accomplished.

Soldiers and prisoners welcomed her and those high in power listened with respect to her messages. She comforted the widow of President Lincoln, and twice stood before his successor, President Johnson, and faithfully warned him to rely on the Ruler of the universe for counsel in guiding the helm of state.

She left home in the first month 1865, with a certificate for service. On her way to the field in which she felt called to labor she visited her children in Philadelphia, and attended meeting at Germantown, where she was favored with a gospel message.

She then proceeded to Baltimore accompanied by Lydia Hawkes, of Manchester, Maine. In this city she met her dear husband, who had been separated from her for three months. He was much worn by his labors as distributing agent of the New England Friends. He had distributed to the necessities of the freedman food, clothing, beds, etc., according to the quantity sent to the mission.

Sybil Jones rested a few days, and then commenced the labors for which she was liberated. Her first service was in Judiciary Square. She, with her companion, was taken there in an ambulance, and they were preceded and introduced by their dear friend Jane James, who often gave them like aid. They were pleasantly received, and permission was granted them to perform any religious service. They visited nine wards and had service in the chapel, speaking words of comfort to those confined to their beds. They also went to the hospital at Armory Square, visited all the wards of the sick and wounded, and had chapel service.

Eli Jones went for a short time to Philadelphia to try and gain a little strength, being very weary with his labors among the colored people. The mud was very deep and the work of distributing very hard.

Sybil Jones great earnestness in prayer for the bereaved ones in the far away homes as she was called upon to attend the funerals of the soldiers. Often more than one coffin stood on a form before them.

Columbia Hospital was visited. They were obliged to move from their lodgings on account of sickness in the family, and were most kindly received by their good friends William and Jane James. They found it a great privilege to be so cared for.

They then went to Lincoln Hospital, where there were 5,000 men. At a later visit they found 400 more wounded soldiers from City Point. The afflicted men were all broken down with suffering and were ready for the consolation of the gospel. The field indeed seemed white unto the harvest. A lad told them that he had been in the Crimean War, and had served two years in this. He was an Englishman. He showed them a silver medal gained by valor in the former war Sybil Jones said, “I hope thou art seeking a crown in that higher warfare?” He quickly replied, “I am pressing after it with all my might. I am looking to Jesus as my captain.”

She sighed for “universal peace to reign” as she witnessed the untold miseries of cruel war. Many were passing away. No one could bear to tell one poor dying youth that he could not live, and in all tenderness Sybil Jones said to him, “I think you cannot get well; what is they hope?” He replied, In Jesus I believe; he has forgiven my sins. Tell my father and mother I have gone to heaven.”

Sybil Jones grave

Sybil Jones, who died in 1879, is buried behind the Jones House at Dirigo Corner, the intersection of the Dirigo Road and Rte. 3.

Sybil Jones was presented to General Auger, the military commander of the District of Columbia. He said that he was much pleased with her mission. He was spoken to concerning the interests of eternity.On 4th mo. 1st, 1865, great excitement was felt in the capital city, as the President was personally directing affairs at Richmond, and the fall of the rebellious city was hourly anticipated. On the morning of the 4rd came the joyful intelligence that the Confederate capital had been evacuated, and a great tide of rejoicing swept over the loyal states. Sybil Jones describes the scene in Washington as follows:

“I was very fearful the inhabitants would be too full of joy to remember their great Deliverer and give thanks unto His name. We went to Camp Fry, and had to press our way through the throng, often pausing to note the variety of emotions exhibited – all joyful, but neither ridiculous nor profane. A subdued awe seemed to hold in check the lawless and dissipated, and tears of joy suffused the eyes of passers-by. The whistles of the engines, the roar of cannon, the music of the various bands, and the shouts of the multitude, mingled with the prayers, praises and hallelujahs of the colored people, some down on their knees in the dust of the street, others dancing like David before the ark of the covenant on its return to its place – all commingled in one mighty jubilant song which I trust was not devoid of the grateful tribute of praise to the great God of heaven and earth.”

Later, a sad scene presented itself in Douglas Hospital. There had just arrived 300 terribly mangled soldiers, some passing away, some in agony with lost limbs. It was an indescribably paintful scene, and the one “Physician of value” was recommended to the poor sufferers.

On a visit to Stanton Hospital, Sybil Jones met a young man from Maine named Eben Dinsmore. He told her that her son, James Parnel Jones, had been his captain when he first enlisted, and afterward his major. He spoke in the highest terms of his kindness to the men and his unspotted name, and said he heard a soldier of the same regiment say that he was with him from the time he was wounded until his death, and never saw a person die so happy, singing as he passed away.

Sybil Jones went once more to Washington, holding meetings and doing all she could to “lift the skirts of darkness.” She felt that she had another message to bear to the White House, where now, at the head of affairs of state, was the late President’s successor, Andrew Johnson. She had a most touching interview with the President’s daughter, the wife of Senator Patterson. While waiting for audience, the president’s little granddaughter offered to her a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and, drawing her close, Sybil Jones spoke to her of the infinitely more beautiful flowers of heaven.

After this, Sybil Jones returned to Maine, but she was not permitted long to enjoy the sweet associations in the home so dear to her.

Before engaging in the work in Europe, Sybil Jones obtained a certificate from the monthly meeting to visit the prisons and penitentiaries of some of the southern states. She went to the White House on a reception day for the president’s daughter, and passed in with the throng. Her whole soul was rejoiced to see the great change that had swept over the South since the shackles of slavery had been removed. Those who had been slaves now stood up men. She felt that there is indeed “a God who judgeth in the earth, and He only worketh wonders.”

The Town Line’s 1,000th Issue!

The founders of The Town Line

The founders of The Town Line, Gary and Trish Newcomb.

The first issue of The Town Line was published on March 15, 1989.

The brain child of Gary and Trish Newcomb, the news-paper’s goal was to bring neighbors and their respective towns closer together through better communications.

Area towns and their residents had gone through some turbulent times during the mid-’80s when much animosity had grown to epidemic proportions. Gary and Trish figured that if people really knew what their neighbors were doing, they would better understand each other.

Although the original mission statement for The Town Line can’t be found, its general meaning is how the newspaper got its name. Gary and Trish believed that if everyone was more open in their communications, they could all become better neighbors, and asked people to take their discussions, differences and ideas, and meet at “the town line.”

Preparing that first issue was a monumental task. First there was equipment to purchase, acquaint themselves with computers and their programs, find a printer, and then arrange a distribution system.

Once the first issue hit the streets, Gary said, “How will be ever put out another issue?” He thought he had used up all possible material in that first issue. Well, miracles happen, and now, 21 years later, The Town Line newspaper celebrates the publication of its 1,000th issue.

 the early days

In the early days, the staff of The Town Line included, seated, from left to right, Trish Newcomb, Gary Newcomb, Lea Davis and Susan Walter. Back, Susan Boody, Fred Davis and Susan Cottle.

Gary and Trish nurtured the newspaper for the first nine years, until, thinking they had taken the paper as far as they could, put it up for sale in 1997. The final issue under the guidance of the Newcombs came on December 20, 1997.

The original staff consisted of three people. The first issue denotes the Newcombs as both publishers and editors. Trish was advertising director and Gary took care of the graphic designs. Julie Dermott was administrative assistant.

As time passed, and the newspaper grew, additional staff members were needed to accomplish the work. On May 16, 1990, Susan Cottle became the first editor other than the Newcombs. She would continue in that capacity until the end of 1991. Joe Lupsha and Fred Davis each served as assistant editor during this period.

On January 6, 1992, Lea Davis was named the second editor in the paper’s brief history. Lea would continue as editor and eventually as managing editor until May 14, 2004, the longest tenured editor in the history of the paper.

During her time, the paper went through a series of set-backs due to changes in ownership. After the Newcombs closed the paper at the end of 1997 for a lack of a buyer, Dennis Keller came on the scene and purchased the assets. The paper reopened its doors on January 31, 1998.

The staff under the regime of Dennis Keller

The staff under the regime of Dennis Keller included, seated, from left to right, Sandy Keller, Roland Hallee, Lea Davis and Martha Holzwarth. Back, Natalie Lyon, Nancy Heath, Ed Heath, Paulie Heath, Mike Heath, Dennis Keller and Miriam Keller.

The paper would continue on its normal path until July 3, 1998, when it became a bi-weekly (once every two weeks) due to economic hardships. Keller would eventually close the doors on October 10, 1998.

That’s when the paper’s future took an unexpected turn for the better. A small group of former staff and some interested community members worked through the winter of 1999, formed a new plan and incorporated the publication as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Spearheaded by Joann Austin, Faith Ames, the late John Robie, staff members Lea Davis, Sandy Keller and Roland Hallee, all of whom donated their time, the groundwork was ready to continue towards re-opening the paper.

On March 6, 1999, The Town Line re-emerged as the voice of these small central Maine towns. Through great community support, both from businesses and small grants from the towns, The Town Line firmly planted itself back on the path to recovery.

The Town Line is now a non-profit organization with a board of directors as overseers. Forever striving to improve the quality of its offerings, The Town Line is constantly seeking new, tax deductible, member-ships to the organization. Similar to public radio and television, The Town Line accepts memberships and monetary contributions.

The current members of the board of directors are Joann Austin, Lee Austin, Neil Farrington, Margie Roy, Gladys Hewett and Sam Birch. Others to have served on the board in the past have included the late Joe Pinette, Walter Wilson, Mike Mara, Faith Ames, Dick Kelley and Joe Suga, among others.

the staff, board of directors and interest-ed community members

This photo, taken in January 2004, was the staff, board of directors and interest-ed community members at the time. Seated, from left to right, Joann Austin, Carleen Cote, Neil Farrington, Lea Davis, Claire Breton and Marilyn Boyle. Standing, Faith Ames, Dick Kelley, Joe Pinette, Lee Austin, Gladys Hewett, Walter Wilson, Kareno Stansbury, Aileen Wescott, Carl Mercier and Roland Hallee.

On June 1, 2004, Susan Varney became the third editor in the newspaper’s history. She would continue in that position until February 2005, when upon her departure, Roland Hallee became the fourth editor of The Town Line. He continues today as the managing editor and is now the longest tenured staff member of The Town Line, having begun his career in May 1993 – a span of 16 years. With 45 years of newspaper work, and editor of two other newspapers in Pittsfield and Skowhegan, he has used his experience to guide The Town Line through some dark days.

Over the 21 years, The Town Line has occupied five different locations. The original site was at the old fire station, next to the old post office off Rte. 3, now occupied by Whitt’s Garments.

From that location, they moved in January 1994 to a building on Rte. 3, across from the new South China Post Office. They would remain there only a short period of time before relocating in June 1995, to the 202 Plaza on Rte. 202.

Upon its reopening as a nonprofit in 1999, they were located in the lower level at Jonesbrook Crossing. They would remain at that site until November 2008, when they moved to their present location, upstairs in the same building in the space formerly occupied by Fernald Family Chiropractic. All of the locations were in South China.

Through the years, others were instrumental in the success of the paper. Susan Boody, Adam Hansen, Troy Henderson, Carl Mercier, Paul Basham and Diane Bickford have all served as advertising directors. Advertising salesmen over the years have included Ken Nawfel, Betsy Murphy, Martha Holzwarth, Aileen Wescott, Marlene Myers and Bill Zinck among others. Office managers have included Heide Hotham, Sandy Keller, Sylvia Martin, Marilyn Boyle and Angela Brunette. Claire Breton has been business manager since 2000. Prior to that, business managers have included Ed Heath, Natalie Lyon and Adam Hansen. Others to con-tribute as graphic artists have been Fran Vitolo, Susan Walter, Dirk Rose, Roland Hallee and Kareno Stansbury. Lyn Rowden presently serves as copy editor and senior staff writer.

Intertwined with all of these people is an endless list of regular contributors and volunteers.

May 21, 2009, marks the 1,000th issue published by The Town Line, a feat that, in 1989, seemed way out of reach to its founders.

The Newcombs now reside in Granville, Ohio, where they are nearby to their daughter Becky and son-in-law Dan Homan, and grandchild.