Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Jefferson Medical College – Part 1

Augusta House

by Mary Grow

Kennebec Valley graduates

Your writer recognized a question, probably unanswerable, left over from last week’s mention of Dr. James Tuell, of Augusta. Why had he chosen to attend Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, when Maine had a medical school at Bowdoin, founded in 1820, and there was one at Dartmouth, and numerous others closer than Philadelphia?

A review of Henry Kingsbury’s chapter on the medical profession, in his Kennebec County history, found that among area doctors to whom he devoted at least a paragraph (many others were merely listed), half a dozen were identified as Jefferson Medical School graduates. Dr. Frederick Charles Thayer’s chapter on the medical profession in Edwin Carey Whittemore’s Waterville history added two more, plus two who did post-graduate work at Jefferson.

Therefore this week’s article will be the first of two about these doctors (and some of their family members). It is unlikely to explain why any of them chose Jefferson Medical College.

The school, according to on-line sites, was founded in 1824 by a surgeon named George McLellan (Dec. 22, 1796 – May 9, 1847). It is now listed on line as Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

(Kingsbury and other sources also refer to other doctors trained at the [unnamed] “medical school at Philadelphia”; some of the references could be to Jefferson. An on-line source lists six “Extinct Philadelphia Medical Schools” that operated between 1838 and 1881, none of them Jefferson.)

In chronological order, as best your writer can determine, the first Jefferson graduate Kingsbury knew about was Samuel Louis (or Lewis) Clarke (or Clark).

Clark(e) earned a mention in David Thurston’s 1855 history of Winthrop, as well as in Kingsbury’s history. Both described him as a Winthrop native, son of Captain Samuel Clark(e) (and Samuel’s wife Susannah, Thurston added).

Thurston wrote that Dr. Clark “had acquired a very respectable degree of skill in the healing art.” He practiced in Winthrop for a while and then in Bangor.

The only date either historian gave was Thurston’s statement that Clark died in August 1851 at the age of 45. From this information your author deduced that he was born in 1806 or 1807, and estimated that he graduated from Jefferson in the 1830s.

Charles Bunker Cates (Sept. 19, 1820 – Jan. 10, 1888), of Vassalboro, was the next Jefferson graduate Kingsbury listed, a member of the Class of 1845. Kingsbury and on-line sources give this picture of his life.

Dr. Cates was the first of four children of Edmund Cates (1796-1872) and Anna Bunker Cates (1799-1865), who moved to Vassalboro from Gorham. After graduating from Vassalboro Academy, he “studied medicine” (Kingsbury gives no specifics) and then went to Jefferson.

For two years he practiced in Fall River, Massachusetts, where he met and in 1846 married Margaret Buffum Barker (April 9, 1829 – March 17, 1909). They had two sons, David Buffum Cates (1850-1923) and Abraham Barker Cates (1854-1915).

From Fall River, Dr. Cates returned to Vassalboro and, Kingsbury wrote, practiced medicine there until he moved to California in 1886, where he died less than two years later.

The Find a Grave on-line site says Margaret was born in Rhode Island and died and is buried in Whittier, California. She apparently remarried after Dr. Cates’ death, as a photo shows the plaque on her grave identifying her as Margaret B. Dorland.

A Dec. 20, 1952, Waterville Morning Sentinel piece by Fred D. McAlary, copied in the summer 2021 issue of the Vassalboro Historical Society’s newsletter, says Charles Cates was a farmer as well as a doctor; in 1858, McAlary wrote, he built a house in East Vassalboro and ran a farm there.

McAlary’s article is about Charles Cates’ grandson, Samuel C. Cates (David’s son), also a doctor and a farmer, born in 1890 and in practice in Vassalboro since 1925. The Cates house off South Stanley Hill Road was partly a hospital; one room, McAlary said, used to be Dr. Charles Cates’ office.

Charles Cates is buried in Vassalboro’s Friends Cemetery, as are his son David and David’s wife Anabel. Son Abraham died in Minnesota and is buried in Lakewood Cemetery, in Minneapolis.

For the next four Jefferson graduates, your writer found precise dates: Dr. J. F. Noyes, of Waterville, was Class of 1846, Nathaniel R. Boutelle, of Waterville, was Class of 1847, James M. Bates, of Augusta was, Class of 1851, Albert F. Plimpton, of Litchfield, and other Gardiner-area towns was Class of 1859.

Dr. James Fanning Noyes (Aug. 2, 1817 – Feb. 16, 1896), according to Thayer and an 1812 edition of American Medical Biographies (found on line), had an unusually well-traveled life that included brief periods in Waterville. His specialty was ear and eye medicine (otology and ophthalmology), including eye surgery.

He was born in South Kingston, Rhode Island. He attended nearby schools and in 1842, for unexplained reasons, began studying medicine in Waterville with Dr. Joseph F. Potter. He went on to Harvard Medical School and then to Jefferson.

After his 1846 graduation, he did post-graduate work in New York City until he became assistant physician at the United States Marine Hospital, in Massachusetts. He came back to Waterville in 1849 and, the biography says, “soon secured a large practice” – which he abandoned in 1851 (1852, Thayer wrote) to go into partnership with Dr. Potter, in Cincinnati.

The biography says in 1855 he studied in Berlin and in 1859 in Paris, implying he was in Ohio between trips. Thayer, however, wrote that after two years in Europe beginning in 1854, he came back to Waterville “where he entered upon a large practice.” After another year in Europe, mostly in Paris, he practiced successfully in Waterville from 1859 to 1863, doing major surgery and serving as a consultant.

In 1863 he moved to Detroit, Michigan, and had an active practice there. The medical biography includes a long list of papers Noyes wrote for medical publications, with titles like Temporary Blindness from Lead Poisoning, An Improved Iridectomy Forceps, New Operation for Strabismus and The Ophthalmoscope’s Contributions to General Medicine.

Both sources listed medical organizations to which he belonged; and both mentioned his interest in the Oak Grove Insane Asylum in Flint, Michigan, where he donated money to provide an amusement venue for the inmates, which was named Noyes’ Hall.

Thayer added that in his will, Noyes stipulated that his body should be cremated “for sanitary reasons and as an example in the interest of humanity.” His instructions were followed, Thayer wrote; the ashes are in Riverside Cemetery, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Dr. Nathaniel Rogers Boutelle (June 13, 1821 – Nov. 23, 1890), Jefferson 1847, was the sixth child and fourth son of Timothy and Helen (Rogers) Boutelle. Thayer described Timothy Boutelle as one of Maine’s most eminent lawyers in the early 1800s. Dr. Boutelle graduated from Waterville College and then Jefferson, and did a year of post-graduate work in Pennsylvania.

He established his practice and his family in Waterville, marrying Mary Keely (April 6, 1833 – Feb. 14, 1920), daughter of Waterville College professor G. W. Keely, on Oct. 14 or Nov. 8, 1852 (sources differ), and fathering two sons. In the 1890 census, Nathaniel and Mary Boutelle were living on College Avenue, an on-line genealogy says; another source gives the exact address, 33 College Avenue.

Son Timothy was born in 1853 and died in 1864, according to his gravestone. An on-line genealogy gives a birth date in September 1852, before his parents’ wedding, and a death date of Sept. 3, 1864; the pre-marriage birth date seems doubtful in a prominent family. Son George Keely, born March 15, 1857, became a lawyer like his grandfather, was still in practice in Waterville in 1904 and died June 18, 1938.

Thayer wrote that Dr. Boutelle left Waterville at least twice. In 1857, he did unspecified post graduate work in an unspecified country in Europe. In 1864, he volunteered in the Civil War and “performed very efficient service” in a Fredericksburg hospital.

Thayer said Dr. Boutelle was among the founders of the Maine Medical Association and was considered “one of the most skilled and learned physicians of the State.” The on-line genealogy adds that Colby College awarded him an honorary degree in 1860.

His obituary in the Jan. 15, 1891, “Masonic Post” called him one of the earliest Maine residents to breed Jersey cattle, developing a widely recognized high-quality herd. The writer said he was “an earnest and influential mason, although not fond of working offices.”

Nathaniel and Mary Boutelle and their two sons are buried in Waterville’s Pine Grove Cemetery.

James M. Bates (May 31, 1827 – July 9, 1911), Jefferson 1851, was the son of a doctor and father of another doctor (neither of whom attended Jefferson). His father was also James M. Bates ((Sept. 24, 1789 – Feb. 25, 1882); most sources identify both by a middle initial only, but your writer found two that gave the middle name Macomber, one to the father and one to the son.

On-line sites Wikipedia, Find a Grave and American Medical Biographies say the senior James M. Bates was born in Greene. He attended Harvard Medical School; served in the War of 1812 as a surgeon; and after the war was briefly in charge of the Buffalo, New York, “general military hospital.”

Resigning that job, he came back to Maine and practiced medicine in Hallowell from 1815 to 1819 and in Norridgewock until 1830. In March 1831 he was elected to Congress.

From 1845 to 1851 he was “superintendent of the Maine State Hospital for the insane.” He practiced until he died, at age 92, in Yarmouth; he is buried in Old Oak Cemetery, in Norridgewock.

The James M. Bates who graduated from Jefferson, Kingsbury wrote, was born in Norridgewock and started studying medicine in Augusta in 1848 before attending Jefferson. He practiced in South China from May of 1851 to 1854 and in Sidney for another five years before moving to Yarmouth.

(Wikipedia’s story of his life sends him from Jefferson directly to Yarmouth to work with his physician father. But Alice Hammond, in her history of Sidney, confirmed Kingsbury’s account, as she talked about the Rufus Davenport house near Bacon’s Corner, on Middle Road.

(The house “was the home of Sidney’s resident doctors for many years,” Hammond wrote, after Dr. Bates bought it in 1855. He sold it in 1858, to Dr. John Cushing; and Hammond named the other doctors who owned it in succession into the 20th century.)

Dr. Bates enlisted in the 13th Maine Infantry as a surgeon on Dec. 5, 1861, the Find a Grave site says. He was honorably discharged June 6, 1865. Civilian positions included president of the Maine Medical Society and, per Wikipedia, “a trustee of the State Reform School” and of Yarmouth Academy and a member of the Yarmouth school board for over 30 years.

Wikipedia says Dr. Bates and his wife, Hester Ann Sawtelle (March 31, 1829 – July 21, 1913), had at least five children, including a daughter named Hester, who became a physician. An on-line genealogy and the Find a Grave on-line site list four children; the daughters are named Charlotte Maria, who died before her 12th birthday, and Harriette.

One of the sons, George Fred Bates (1860-1944) was the third generation to become a doctor. He trained at Bowdoin and Long Island College Hospital, in Brooklyn, and was described in an obituary as “one of the leading practitioners in the Red River Valley” in Traill County, Minnesota. He returned from Minnesota to the Portland area before the 1940 census.

Dr. James Bates, his wife and four children are buried in Riverside Cemetery, in Yarmouth

Albert Franklin Plimpton (May 5, 1832 – Aug 10, 1892), Jefferson 1859, was the son of Elias and Nancy (Billings) Plimpton, of Litchfield.

Kingsbury said he attended Litchfield Academy and “read medicine in Gardiner and Boston” before going to Jefferson and graduating in 1859. He opened a practice in Pittston and in 1862 moved to Gardiner, where he also ran a drug store from 1867 until he died. On May 26, 1865, he married Carlista Colby.

The author of an 1895 history of Litchfield and account of its centennial, found on line, called him “one of the leading physicians in Gardiner.

Another on-line site says Dr. Plimpton appeared as a Gardiner physician in the 1870 and 1880 census records; in the 1880 census, he is listed as a cripple.

Read other articles in this series here.

Main sources

Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Augusta fires, fire departments – Part 4

Hook and ladder firetruck late 19th century.

by Mary Grow

James North’s history of Augusta ends in the year 1870; 19th-century Augusta fires did not. Your writer has relied for later firefighting information on the University of Maine’s on-line DigitalCommons collection, mentioned last week, and on-line Augusta histories.

* * * * * *

Charles W. Ricker was Augusta’s chief engineer for more than a decade, starting in 1893. In the city’s annual report for the fiscal years that ended March 1, 1894, Mayor Charles A. Milliken wrote: “I think politics should be eliminated from this department. The present chief engineer is a competent man and I think should be retained.”

Ricker, in his first report (March 21, 1893, to March 1, 1894), wrote that, “in the history of the Department we have never answered so many alarms [43, he wrote in the next paragraph] with so little loss of property, and at no time have we been in such a flourishing condition as regards membership and efficiency.”

One of the fires caused a death: early in the morning of Oct. 1, 1893, “matches in bed clothes” started a fire that killed Mary Scanlan, wife of James Scanlan, living in John Welch’s house, on Court Street.

Multiple fires were in Water Street businesses.

  • On June 12, 1893, crossed electrical wires burned George E. Macomber’s building, containing C. H. O’Brien’s telegraph office, Harry Rand’s music store and Mrs. Whitney’s glove store. Losses totaled $1,625.
  • On Sept. 30, the Lombard heirs’ building on the west side of Water Street caught fire from “benzine from lighted pipe.” Storekeeper J. C. Little lost $338 worth of stock, and the building damage came to $25.
  • On Oct. 16, a fire of unknown origin in William Moody’s Water Street livery stable caused $1,000 worth of damage to the building and burned Dr. LeClair’s $75 sleigh.
  • On Dec. 27, “spontaneous combustion” occurred in Bianchi Bros. fruit store in Vickery and Hill’s Water Street building. Damage to the building came to $200, to “stock and fixtures” $1,500.
  • On Jan. 13, 1894, a “kerosene lamp in the cellar” started a fire in a multi-tenant building. Ricker listed losses as damage to the North Brothers’ store $501.58; to contents of Hotel North, $222; to A. M. Wight’s jewelry store, $1,400; to Hill and Locke’s groceries, $300; to druggist E. P. Smart, $200; and to L. K. Smith, “plate glass in front,” $75.
  • On Jan. 23, early in the morning, “an oil mop in stair-way heated” in Macomber and Hill’s Water Street building where Miss Hebert had her millinery store. She lost $120 worth of stock, and the “loss on store” came to $80.
  • On Jan. 30, a “lamp in cellar” ignited an early-morning fire in Oscar Holway’s store where J. M. Nevens had his boot and shoe business; it did $200 damage to building and stock.

The damage from these seven fires was completely covered by insurance, except Smith’s plate glass.

An article in the March 8, 1894, edition of the Daily Kennebec Journal referred to and expanded on Ricker’s report. It began, “This city has one of the best fire departments in the State. Only a few minutes after the alarm sounds the firemen are always to be found where the fire is.”

The 75 men were divided into six companies, based on Bridge Street (Cushnoc No. 1 engine), Cony Street (Atlantic No. 2), Cushnoc Heights (Volunteer No. 3), Pettingill’s (sometimes spelled Pettengill’s) Corner (Pine Tree No. 4), State Street (Capital No. 5) and “foot of Cony Street” (Hook and Ladder No. 1).

The hook and ladder company had “one Bangor extension ladder, several roof ladders, and others for general climbing.”

Considered volunteers, the 15 hook and ladder men got $20 a year apiece. Everyone else got $25, apparently, except that each company’s officers – foreman, assistant foreman and clerk – were paid from $35 to $45, depending on rank. And, “Any company called from its district is paid 40 cents extra per hour.”

The writer commented that the pay was small for the work and risk involved. He wrote of Ricker that after more than 12 years with the department, he “is not only experienced in fighting fires, but possesses good judgment.”

The department had nine hose carriages with about 6,300 feet of hose. There were 89 fire hydrants in Augusta.

In his second annual report in March 1895, Ricker listed 30 alarms since April 1894, with descriptions and damage estimates. This and future reports listed the department’s equipment, buildings and manpower; the city’s reservoirs; the fire hydrants and fire alarm boxes; and recommended improvements. The 1894-95 report included commendations to firefighters for “the utmost goodwill and harmony” and cooperation among different companies.

The P.O. Vickery Building today.

Augusta had two serious fires in December 1894. On Dec. 2, starting at 10:45 p.m., a fire of unknown origin burned down two frame buildings on Water Street. R. W. Soule’s furniture store was in P.O. Vickery’s building, and Knowlton and Young’s fish market was in Mrs. M. S. Moulton’s building.

Each building was valued at $2,000. Soule lost $2,000 worth of furniture, and for unexplained reasons C. M. Sturgis lost more than $2,800 worth of furniture; Knowlton and Young’s losses were $1,200. They had only $800 worth of insurance; everyone else was fully insured.

The second major fire was reported at 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 11 at “City Farm,” via the fire alarm box at the corner of Bridge and Spring streets. Ricker reported, “Two stables burned with contents,” which included “two cows, one bull, six hogs, fifty tons of hay and straw, farming tools.” The cause was listed as “boy setting fire to hay in the stable.”

The report listed one fire death. On Feb. 2, 1895, a lamp exploded in A. O. Bailey’s house on Patterson Street; the resulting fire killed Mrs. Bailey.

Ricker mentioned his two assistant engineers and “steamer engineer.” The latter, he explained, took care of Cushnoc No. 1, the steam fire engine, and also “repairs all the damaged hose.”

In March 1897 Mayor W. S. Choate’s end-of-fiscal-year report for 1896-1897 included this comment: “Promptness and efficiency have characterized the work of this [fire] department during the past year. The burning of the Opera House on the night of July 3-4 being the only serious fire during the year, and the extent of this cannot in any way be attributed to any lack of good service on the part of this department.”

The Opera House stood at 296 Water Street. It was the second building at that address to burn in the 1890s, according to on-line sites.

James North wrote in his Augusta history that the earlier building, called Granite Block, was built starting in the summer of 1865. Granite Block had stores on the ground floor and offices on the second floor. The third floor was a large auditorium with a stage and galleries, named Granite Hall.

A gala opening was held March 7, 1866. The building burned in the winter of 1890, “leaving only the four granite walls standing.”

An on-line site, referencing the July 4, 1896, issue of the Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, says the Honorable J. Manchester Haynes built the first Opera House on the lot in 1891, “at a cost of $40,000.”

According to this source, the July 3, 1896, fire was started by firecrackers, “in the rear of a sub-passageway” in the building. In addition to the “fine Opera House,” the fire destroyed second-floor “city government and city treasurer’s rooms and offices” (with more than $8,000 worth of furniture, insured, the city report added), and on the ground floor “the store of E. W. Church, grocer; Augusta Deposit and Trust Company, café, and Charles K. Partridge, druggist.”

Another source adds damage to Bertha Holmes’ confectionary store, the Conys’ livery stable and “Dr. Tuell’s office, loss, about 8200 [dollars]”. Total loss was estimated at $60,000, partly covered by insurance; Dr. Tuell was not insured.

Volume 16, Issue 4, of the Vermont Medical Monthly includes notice of the death of Dr. James E. Tuell, of Augusta, on Feb. 11, 1910, at the age of 55. The article says he graduated from Jefferson Medical College (now Sidney Kimmel Medical Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia) in 1884 and was a member of “the Kennebec County Medical Society, the Maine State Association and the American Medical Association.”

(The same journal article listed deaths of six other doctors with Vermont connections. Tuell lived the longest; the others died at ages ranging from 35 to 53.)

The second Opera House opened Sept. 7, 1900, “again using the original granite walls.” The building was used intermittently for movies and for live theater, until it closed in 1974. In 1983, the building was torn down –“following a fire.”

Ricker’s annual reports continued into the 20th century. In the year ending March 1, 1900, he said there were 35 alarms, including eight major fires and one false alarm. The earliest major fire was March 12, 1899, at a stable on Sewall Street: it killed three horses and did an estimated $941 worth of damage.

In April 1899 firefighters responded to four events Ricker thought worth mentioning. April 7, at 2:05 p.m., they went to a fire at the dump on Capitol Street; the same day, at 4:55 p.m., “rats and matches” started a fire on Bridge Street.

On April 20, “tramps” allegedly started a fire at the Augusta Driving Park stables. On April 22, at 9:25 p.m., two men were caught “pulling the alarm” at the box numbered 48; they were fined $26.29.

The most costly fire started at 11 p.m. on Aug. 31, at the Broom Handle Manufacturing Company. Damage was estimated at $1,000.

At the beginning of 1900, Ricker wrote, the department had five active engines at five stations, in addition to an old ladder truck and the Cushnoc Steamer. Numbers had replaced names for the engines; city horses pulled Hose and Ladder Combination 1, and L. G. Haskell was charging $1,100 a year for his team that pulled Hose #2.

A January 1904 article in Fire Engineering magazine, found on line, describes a Jan. 7, 1904, fire that destroyed two “large brick blocks” containing stores and a bank. The Whitman and Adams store sustained the largest loss, estimated at $60,000.

The Augusta department was assisted by men and equipment from Waterville, Gardiner and Hallowell; it took five hours to stop the fire. Ricker was “overcome by smoke, and several firemen were hurt by falling glass.”

The writer castigated the City of Augusta for inadequate attention to fire prevention. He described the city’s “fire area” as 1,290 acres, filled with wooden houses and commercial buildings up to seven stories tall.

The volunteer fire department had 69 members; it owned 11 pieces of mobile equipment (including one “hook and ladder truck—not aerial”) and 10 “hand chemical extinguishers.” Of the 9,000 feet of hose, 7,000 were rated “good.”

However, there were only six horses, and no equipment in reserve.

The water source was the Kennebec River, whence water was pumped into reservoirs. The writer pointed out that the fire department was dependent on water pressure being maintained, which he said could not be guaranteed; and he reminded readers that hydrants freeze in cold weather.

“It is obvious, therefore, that for a city of the size of Augusta, with such an extensive fire area to cover and so many wooden buildings to protect, the fire department is very poorly equipped – that it is starved, in fact, and that, however efficient its members, it was out of the question for them to be expected to handle a fire of any magnitude, unless they had apparatus enough to do the work,” he wrote.

Recommendations included additional modern equipment and a few paid firefighters who would be constantly available. Augusta can afford a paid department, he opined, “under such an experienced firefighter as Chief C. W. Ricker, whose continued terms of office prove that he enjoys the confidence of his fellow citizens and the fire committee of the city council.”

Ricker’s 12th (and final) submission was for the annual report for the year that ended March 1, 1905. The city report for the year ending March 1, 1906, included no fire department report, nor did Mayor Frederick W. Plaisted name the chief engineer, by then paid $600. The mayor’s report included this sentence: “We have a loyal and efficient volunteer fire department; let us cordially support it and increase its efficiency.”

Main sources

North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Augusta fires, fire departments, Part 3

Augusta Great Fire of 1865.

by Mary Grow

Your writer hopes her readers are not tired of fires and firefighting, because there will be one more article on the theme after this one. As usual, the topic has expanded because of more information than expected from easily available sources.

One invaluable source is the University of Maine’s on-line DigitalCommons collection. It includes various City of Augusta reports for many years.

* * * * * *

After the April 12, 1861, southern attack on Fort Sumter started the Civil War, James North’s Augusta history focused on the local contribution to and effects of the war. He did not neglect other events, however, including fires and firefighting. Early on, he combined the two topics, describing the patriotic parade on Thursday, April 18, 1861, that was led by the Augusta Band, with the Pacific Fire Engine Company next in line.

The first fire North mentioned during the Civil War years was the February 1862 destruction of the Phenix Block on Water Street. Daniel Williams built these three connected three-story stores in 1839; North called them “superior in finish to any yet erected.”

The initial tenants included the post office, with Reuel Williams’ law office above it (Daniel and Reuel Williams were brothers; the family was prominent in Augusta’s history); a shoe store; and H. A. Kittredge’s store selling “West India goods and groceries.” The printing shop for The Age newspaper had the whole third floor.

By February 1862, a hardware store had replaced the grocery; the shoe shop had a different owner; and in the basement below the post office were the press rooms for both The Age and the Kennebec Journal, with The Age print shop still filling the top floor.

On the cold Saturday evening of Feb. 22, a fire started in the shoe store, under the stairs. A fire engine responded, hose was run up the stairs and the fire “nearly extinguished” – when the water stopped running.

The problem was a broken joint (in the hose, or on the engine? North did not specify). While it was being replaced, the fire flared up; but renewed water quickly had it “nearly extinguished” – when the water stopped running again.

This time, the hose had been cut. North wrote that the suspects were “some unruly soldiers of the Fifteenth Regiment,” but nothing was proved.

While the hose was being repaired (and placed under guard), a valve on the fire engine froze. By the time the valve was thawed with hot water, the fire was out of control. Residents who had gone home after responding to the initial alarm were called back, and Hallowell sent two additional engines. No other buildings were affected, but the Phenix Block was gone.

Another major fire began Monday evening, March 31, 1862. Starting in a wharf storehouse, it spread to a second storehouse and then inland to burn down four wooden buildings on the river side of Water Street. North identified them as a store, a carpenter’s shop, Pumpkin Tavern (“a dwelling occupied by a number of families”) and the pre-1800 building known as the Titcomb house, after an early settler named Samuel Titcomb.

North commented that the burned buildings were “of little value,” and losing them was a step toward widening Water Street, accomplished in 1867. (The remaining east-side wooden buildings were moved back.)

A third major fire in 1862 started in the Kennebec Hotel’s stable about 10 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13. Flammable hay spread the fire through the stable and to the hotel; both buildings, two adjoining stores and a brick house were destroyed and a brick store damaged. Two horses were lost.

Augusta firefighters got help from Hallowell’s Torrent engine, which arrived about 11:30 “and did good service.” Residents salvaged hotel furnishings. This third substantial fire within a year led “thoughtful men” to recommend city officials buy a steam fire engine, North said.

The next fire North noted was the burning of the South Parish Congregational Church, which he called the South Parish meeting-house, the night of Monday, July 11, 1864. The church, dedicated on Sept. 20, 1809, was a large, two-story building with a steeple that was 125 feet tall, counting the weathervane.

During a bad thunderstorm, lightning struck the steeple and set the building alight “instantaneously, from top to bottom.” It burned completely in an hour; “only the curtains behind the pulpit, the communion service and bible with a few cushions were saved.”

North wrote that the steeple had always had a protective lightning rod. This time, he said, the “volume of the electric fluid was too great for the rod to carry, and it passed into the building.”

He emphasized the sense of loss, using phrases like “time-honored edifice,” “hallowed associations” and “landmark.” And, he wrote, parishioners met the next evening and decided to rebuild. The cornerstone of a new church, built of granite, was laid on May 26, 1865, and the church “was dedicated Thursday evening, July 5, 1866.”

Another fire in 1864 burned down the Portland and Kennebec Railroad’s depot on Christmas Eve. A strong north wind spread the fire quickly from the northeast corner throughout the building, but snow on the ground and on nearby roofs protected the neighborhood.

Lost were a freight train headed for Skowhegan, stopped by snow-covered tracks, and “the dummy engine and car, and six passenger cars.”

Augusta Cushnoc Hose Company.

On Aug. 24, 1865, North reported a celebration in honor of Augusta’s new steam fire engine Cushnoc. It had its first test in the great downtown fire that was reported about 5 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17, 1865 (and was described in the Feb. 4, 2021, issue of The Town Line).

North wrote that the Cushnoc was placed on a wharf right behind the new block of wooden buildings on Water Street, where the fire started, “in full confidence that, with its powerful aid, the fire would be easily subdued.”

The combination of wooden buildings, wooden sidewalks and a “hot and dry” southeast wind was too much. The Cushnoc was almost lost as the wooden wharf and the lumber piled on it caught fire. Eri Wills, the chief engineer, saved it by cutting the hose and turning the engine’s water on itself.

Another engine on another wharf contained the fire headed south for Winthrop Street. With Augusta’s Pacific, Hallowell’s Tiger, the “United States Arsenal steamer,” the rescued Cushnoc and, North wrote, Wills’ ingenuity, firefighters finally controlled the fire.

What Wills did, North said, was remember a particularly strong wall that might be a firebreak. To protect it, he broke through an attic roof so that a hose could be run from the Cushnoc 60 feet up to drench the fire from above. North gave a dramatic description, apparently as an observer, of the men’s danger, as buildings collapsed around them and the street side of the one they were standing on repeatedly caught fire.

By 11 a.m. the worst seemed over. Around noon “a train despatched for assistance” brought two Gardiner fire engines and one from Pittston, which helped finish the job. North’s history includes a list and map of 81 buildings lost; damage amounted to $500,000. There is no record that any lives were lost.

(A Sept. 14, 2015, Kennebec Journal article announcing the observance of the 150th anniversary of the Great Fire reported that Augusta’s Atlantic and Pacific and Hallowell’s Tiger would be on display. Reporter Craig Crosby wrote that Hallowell still owned the Tiger, the Town of Oakland owned the Atlantic, and the Pacific was privately owned.)

The next major fire North described cost one life. It was at what was in 1868 the Eastern Branch of the National Military Asylum, precursor of today’s Togus VA Medical Center, in Chelsea, about four miles east of Augusta.

The asylum opened in the fall of 1866 on property that included a mineral spring (supposed to promote health) and a hotel and associated buildings. North wrote that the military added a 5,000-square-foot brick hospital.

On Sunday, Jan. 7, 1868, a cold, windy night, a fire that started about 9:30 p.m. in the heating system burned most of the old buildings. The 270 inmates were forced “into the open air of a severe winter’s night”; those too sick to move “were brought out on mattresses and laid, for want of shelter, upon the snow.”

To add to the disaster, North wrote, “the soldiers” – presumably he meant men responsible for the patients – broached a barrel of medicinal whiskey and got drunk. “Disgusting scenes of disorder and violence ensued.”

Augusta firefighters and ordinary citizens brought the patients to safety, the sick in private homes and the rest in municipal buildings. One man, “weak from disease, and suffering from exposure,” did not survive.

North wrote that the fire consumed almost everyone’s personal belongings. The new hospital was damaged; the steam fire engine named General Butler saved it from destruction.

In the aftermath, some patients were transferred to other branch asylums and some accommodated in surviving buildings. After hesitation, the “board of managers” decided to rebuild more appropriately. North wrote that in the spring of 1868, “four large brick buildings were commenced, each one hundred feet long by fifty feet wide [the dimensions of the brick hospital], placed in the form of a square with a courtyard in the center.”

Fire department expenses

The report of Augusta’s 1858 Committee of Finance for the fiscal year that ended March 19, 1859 (a DigitalCommons document), said that Eri Wills was the “chief engineer” (apparently the equivalent of a modern fire chief) in 1858 and was paid $50. The annual appropriation for the fire department was $700; almost $800 was “undrawn” from the prior year.

The committee listed the value of Augusta’s fire apparatus as follows: Atlantic and Pacific fire engines, $2,000 plus $1,500 for “Engine house and lot”; the Deluge engine “and apparatus,” $400 plus $50 for its engine house; and another $50 worth of “[h]ooks, ladders and carriages.”

In 1865, according to the March 17, 1866, end of fiscal year report of the finance committee and the treasurer, Augusta appropriated $8,000 for the fire department. Wills was still paid $50; he had two assistant engineers, paid $25 apiece.

Expenses totaled $10,731.64, including $4,325 for the “new Steam Fire Engine,” $2,700 for 1,500 feet of new hose and $1,457.36 for “sundry bills on account of new Engine House.” Firefighters balanced the budget by selling the Deluge engine for $66, charging (other towns, presumably) $16.50 for “use of Steamer” and taking more than $1,300 for their contingency account.

China man arrested for Augusta fires

A China resident named George W. Jones was arrested, tried and convicted for setting Augusta’s 1865 Great Fire, and was in the state prison when North finished his history in 1870.

As North tells it, Jones had a lobster business in Portland and sold lobsters from a “cart” in Augusta. Over the summer, soldiers had taken lobsters without paying. City police had not responded to Jones’ satisfaction and he had “threatened vengeance upon the city.”

Saturday night Jones was in China, and a barn “belonging to a person he had an antipathy against” burned. Sunday morning he walked to Augusta, arriving before 4 a.m., and stayed during the fire. Monday he took the train to Portland. Tuesday as he sold lobsters there his cart was “run against and damaged” and the offender refused to pay.

That night a woman saw a man setting fire to shavings outside the offender’s house. She called in an alarm, the fire was put out and examination showed the knife that made the shavings had “two gaps in the blade.” Jones was arrested in a neighboring town; the knife in his pocket had matching gaps in its blade.

Main sources

North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Augusta fires & fire departments – Part 2

The Hydraulion suction fire engines, produced by Sellers & Pennock, of Philadelphia, in 1822. With the introduction of suctions, the general efficiency of the engines was greatly increased.

by Mary Grow

Another fire Augusta historian James North described was the one that destroyed Augusta’s bridge across the Kennebec River the night of April 2, 1827. (See the July 28, 2022, issue of The Town Line.) It was spotted a little after 11 p.m. and spread so fast that the “citizens [who] rushed to the scene of conflagration with fire engine and buckets” could do nothing. The building still called the Craig store (see last week’s article) at the northwest end of the bridge was destroyed and other buildings damaged.

Hallowell firefighters responded “with two engines, one of them ‘a new hydraulion, with suction hose’ [apparently a quotation from the April 7, 1827, Kennebec Journal].” But, North wrote, the roads were so bad that they were too late to be much help.

(Wikipedia explains that the earliest engines were the hand tubs, with water dumped by a bucket brigade into a cistern and pumped out. In 1822 a Philadelphia fire engine maker invented a machine, named the Hydraulion, that could suck water from a source, eliminating the hand-filling.)

Henry Kingsbury, in his Kennebec County history, wrote that an early step toward changing Augusta from a town to a city (accomplished in 1849) was the Maine legislature’s March 1835 authorization for the Augusta village corporation “to raise money to maintain a fire department.” The corporation governed an area a mile wide on each side of the Kennebec from the Hallowell line north (presumably to the Vassalboro line).

The first “board of officers” included seven fire wardens. Kingsbury included a long list of men who made up the “engine company” appointed by the selectmen in January 1836.

The early 1850s saw numerous fires in Augusta. Early in his record of the year 1850, North mentioned, without much detail, the “disastrous conflagration at the dam,” which destroyed half a dozen sawmills, a flouring mill and other businesses and damaged the dam itself.

Another fire burned a row of wooden stores on March 9, 1850. Starting about 10 p.m. in a tailor’s shop, it burned out another tailor, a barbershop, a confectionery, a grocery and an unspecified “store.” To limit the fire’s spread, one adjoining building was “pulled down” and two others “damaged by an attempt to pull them down.”

Five fire engines fought this fire, two “old fashioned” Augusta ones, two from Hallowell and “Uncle Sam” from the Kennebec Arsenal, brought across the Kennebec on the ice by First Lieutenant R. A. Wainwright (see box two).

On Wednesday, Dec. 4, 1850, a disastrous fire burned part of Augusta’s insane asylum (opened in October 1840) and killed 28 people. North gave a dramatic (and unsourced) description.

The asylum consisted of a main building, a north wing, an old three-story south wing and a new south wing, according to North. The fire started in the old south wing and destroyed or damaged both south wings and the main building. The north wing, where the women were housed, escaped, and the women were unhurt.

By North’s account, an attendant in the old south wing, then housing 42 male patients, spotted smoke in the hot air flues about 3 a.m. and found a fire in the basement. When he and the doctor on duty couldn’t put it out with buckets of water, they began rescuing patients, who were in danger of suffocating as heavy smoke spread.

Staff first moved patients into the new south wing, though, North wrote, some were too excited or confused to stay there. Ladders were raised to the old wing’s third floor, barred windows broken and frightened patients evacuated. Then the new wing, too, filled with smoke and flames; 27 patients and one attendant died, and others were hurt.

The first fire engine on the scene was “Uncle Sam” from the nearby Arsenal. Augusta’s engine was out of order. Hallowell sent its “Tiger” and “Lion.”

“Uncle Sam” quickly emptied a cistern in the new south wing and the well outside, and the fire blocked access to another cistern. The remaining water source was the Kennebec River, 1,500 feet away and 70 feet below the burning building.

Quick-thinking firefighters parked the “Tiger” on the river bank with 700 feet of hose running uphill to the “Lion.” From the “Lion,” another 600 feet connected to “Uncle Sam.” From “Uncle Sam,” water could reach the top of the building: “the flames were checked, and the north wing and a part of the main building were saved.”

A Dec. 5 inquest found that the fire was caused by an incorrectly reconstructed heating system (dating from the summer of 1849), which put a hot furnace pipe too close to wooden timbers.

The trustees arranged temporary quarters for the patients and repairs to the building; the north wing was open again by the end of December, North wrote. The whole complex was rebuilt, with improvements, by late November 1852.

Yet another fire that North described as “more destructive than any that had occurred before” was spotted about 2 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, 1853, in the basement of a spool factory at the west end of a dam across the Kennebec. It destroyed most of the mills rebuilt after the 1850 fire – six sawmills, a flouring mill, and others – plus “a large dwelling-house.”

Augusta’s “Atlantic” and “Pacific” fire engines fought the fire from the nearby bridge until the heat drove them off. The “Pacific” ended up on the south end of the fire, joined by the Arsenal’s “Uncle Sam” and the “Deluge” (whose home town North did not name); they saved several buildings. On the north end, the “Atlantic” extinguished repeated fires on the roof of the Williams sawmill.

North described the building in which the fire started – and which was leveled – as a three-story wooden structure 160-by-60-feet, divided into a dozen “tenements” (apparently shops and businesses, not dwellings). The total loss he put at $75,000, mostly uninsured; 200 men lost their jobs, and most lost their tools as well.

Again, rebuilding was fast, partly because the Williams sawmill was still operating. North said a new machine shop was finished in December, this time with a stone foundation and “brick partitions dividing the tenements passing from the foundation through the roof.” Replacement sawmills went up the next summer.

Inmate blamed for jail fire

When the Kennebec County jail burned on March 16, 1808 (see last week’s issue), one of the inmates was a man named Henry McCausland. His story is told in James North’s 1870 history of Augusta and in Charles Nash’s footnotes to the excerpts from Martha Ballard’s diary included in his 1904 Augusta history.

North wrote that McCausland was the youngest son of another Henry McCausland, who came to the Kennebec Valley in 1760. The younger Henry was born in 1759, “served three years in the army, during the revolution; married in 1783, and had five children.”

“In 1793,” North continued, “he became insane on religious subjects, and imagined that his sins could only be pardoned by a burnt offering and human sacrifice, which he fancied the Lord had directed him to make.”

Nash wrote that the designated “burnt offering” was the then-unfinished Episcopal Church, in Gardiner, and the “human sacrifice” its pastor, Rev. Joseph Warren.

On Aug. 22, 1793, McCausland “filled a child’s shoe with live coals from his own fire-place” and carried the shoe to Gardiner. After leaving the coals in heaped shavings hidden under a door, “he took the pulpit Bible and carefully carried it into the woods and laid it tenderly on a stump.” The church was destroyed.

McCausland couldn’t find Rev. Warren, so he decided anyone named Warren would do. On Oct. 18, 1794, he found his victim: Mrs. Pelatiah (Abigail Tibbetts) Warren came home to be with her sick mother. McCausland came into the sickroom, talked for a bit with the two women and suddenly grabbed a butcher knife and killed Abigail.

Soon after, Nash said, McCausland “appeared voluntarily at a public meeting” and confessed. Arrested and brought to court, he insisted on pleading guilty to murder, claiming he was telling the truth.

North wrote that because he was insane, McCausland was not formally sentenced, but stayed in jail for 36 years. He attempted at least one more sacrifice; North wrote that he became friends with the nine-year-old daughter of a jailer, until without warning he almost killed her.

A big man with a “grave and thoughtful manner” and a long white beard, McCausland became a public attraction; “he was visited by thousands, from whom he collected a small fee” for describing his crimes.

During the 1808 fire, North wrote, McCausland not only “made no attempt to escape, but assisted in preventing the escape of others.”

McCausland got a pension as a Revolutionary veteran; county officials kept part of it to pay for his room and board. North wrote that in his old age he learned to read from a jailer’s family and “became a diligent reader of the Bible.” He died Aug. 24, 1829, aged 70, and was buried in Gardiner.

Kennebec Arsenal commander Robert Moncrief Auchmuty Wainwright

Kennebec Arsenal commander Robert Moncrief Auchmuty Wainwright was born in Newport, Rhode Island, on June 19, 1815, the oldest of eight children of Robert Dewar Wainwright and Maria Montresor Auchmuty (1789-1861), according to an online site.

(The Find a Grave site says Robert Dewar Wainwright, born June 14, 1781, in Charleston, South Carolina, was a colonel in the U. S. Marines; took as his first wife Juliana B. Scott, daughter of Gustavus Scott of Maryland; was married to Maria Auchmuty when he died; and is buried in the Congressional Cemetery, in Washington, D.C. However, this site says he died Oct. 5, 1811, and shows an inscribed gravestone to prove it.

(Another source says Colonel Robert D. Wainwright died in the fall of 1841, and cites as evidence an article on consequent Marine Corps promotions, effective Oct. 6, 1841, from the Oct. 16, 1841, issue of the New-York tribune.)

An online military history site says Robert Moncrief Auchmuty Wainwright graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (opened in 1802) in the Class of 1835 and joined the Army as a brevet second lieutenant. He served in multiple posts, mostly at arsenals, including the Kennebec Arsenal from 1842 to 1847 and from 1848 to 1851, with service in Mexico intervening.

(Wikipedia explains that brevet means a higher title given “as a reward for gallantry or meritorious conduct but [which] may not confer the authority, precedence, or pay of real rank.”)

North wrote that Wainwright was commander at the Kennebec Arsenal from May 1841 until December 1846. He served in the Mexican War until December 1848, when he again took charge of the Arsenal until Sept. 5, 1851.

Either set of dates matches online information that Wainwright married Ann Eliza Child (1825-1897) on Aug. 6, 1843, in Augusta. The couple had at least one son, another Robert Dewar Wainwright (1849-1920), and one daughter, Isabella Montresor Wainwright (1850-1871).

Wainwright was Chief of Ordnance in the Department of New Mexico when the Civil War broke out in the spring of 1861. He was promoted to major early in the war and ended as a brevet colonel. Service included “arming the fortifications at New York harbor” from August 1861 to October 1862 and commanding the New York Ordnance Depot through the end of March 1864.

After the war, Wainwright commanded Benicia Arsenal, in California, until Dec. 2, 1866; he died there Dec. 22, 1866, and is buried in the Congressional Cemetery.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Nash, Charles Elventon, The History of Augusta (1904).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Augusta fires & fire departments – Part 1

The 9-ton steam powered fire engine was a revolution in its day, they were built by the Amoskeag Steam Fire Engine Company, of New Hampshire, late 18th century, and cost $7,000.

by Mary Grow

A consequence of building buildings, like those described in Augusta’s downtown historic district (see the February 2021 issues of The Town Line) and the ones described recently in Waterville’s downtown historic district (see the August and September 2022 issues, ignoring the two irrelevant articles) is that they catch fire.

The next three articles in this series will talk about fires and the development of fire-fighting in Augusta. See also the issue of Aug. 27, 2020, where fires in China, Fairfield and Palermo were described; and the issue of Feb. 4, 2021, for Augusta’s great fire of September 1865.

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James North’s year by year history of Augusta, published in 1870, records several fires before the 1865 disaster. The first he knew of was in 1785 (when Augusta was still the northern part of Hallowell): “Elias Craig’s Hatter’s shop” burned on Dec. 1.

Craig (Sept. 27, 1756 – May 6, 1837) had been an army private during the Revolution; he was 23 years old when he moved from Massachusetts to Fort Western in 1779. North called him “the first hatter in this region of country.”

His house and shop were on the west side of the Kennebec at the intersection of Bridge and Water streets. Charles Nash, in his 1904 history of Augusta, listed the places Hallowell town meetings were held between 1771 and 1792. The majority were at Fort Western in 1771 and 1772 and in the town meeting house after 1783; in between, voters assembled in three different inns, a barn and several houses, including in 1782 three times in Elias Craig’s house.

The house was of so little value that the assessors did not count it in 1784, North wrote. Indeed, he said, they counted only 38 “dwelling houses” for a population of 682 white people and 10 black people. Realizing the disparity, they explained that many families still lived in the “log cabins or camps which they first built,” which weren’t worth listing as taxable.

The 1784 assessors’ report listed 21 varied commercial holdings. Craig’s was one of five shops, and his stock in trade was valued at 50 pounds.

Craig rebuilt the shop after the fire, and enlarged the house at intervals. When that corner was rebuilt as a commercial block, the house was moved to Jefferson Street.

North wrote that Craig “possessed the confidence of the settlers, many of whom were welcomed to his house upon their arrival” before they moved to their new homes.

In 1792 one of his house guests was James Johnson. On May 31, he and his brother Samuel were firing celebratory cannons “probably on account of some recent news from France,” and one cannon exploded, injuring the two men. They were brought to Craig’s house, where midwife Martha Ballard attended to them. Apparently both survived.

Craig’s first wife was Hannah McKecknie (Sept. 28, 1766 – April 12, 1790), daughter of an early settler, Dr. John McKecknie. They were married in December 1788, and had a daughter, also named Hannah. On November 28, 1793, Craig married again, to Olive Hamlin or Hamlen (Nov. 2, 1770 – Sept. 25, 1848); they had three or four children.

Craig was a selectman in Hallowell, first elected in March 1795. He was among the 161 residents petitioning the Massachusetts legislature to create the separate town of Augusta in May 1791. The request was approved in February 1797, and a town named Harrington was organized; in June of the year, its name became Augusta.

Criag was elected selectman again at the first meeting in Harrington, in April 1797, and later was an Augusta selectman. North wrote that he served a total of seven years in the three successive towns. In 1806 he was the local coroner, according to Nash’s history. He moved to Fayette before his death on May 6 or May 7, 1837.

Leathern fire bucket.

North recorded the earliest fire department in the central Kennebec Valley, a “private fire company” formed in the 1790s in Augusta (then still Hallowell). The “principal citizens” who started the company wrote a charter requiring each to have on hand “two leathern fire buckets, and a canvas bag for the removal of goods at fire.” An on-line fire department history says insurance companies formed such associations to protect their members’ property.

The buckets, North explained, had been in use in the American colonies since the 1600s. They were oblong with leather handles, “very durable and convenient to pass water.” Association members put their names on their buckets.

On March 11, 1799, North wrote, two years after Augusta separated from Hallowell, town meeting voters appointed six fire wardens (Elias Craig was one of them). Later in the year town officials bought a fire engine and appointed firefighters (North said 13, Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history names 12, the online site names 14). The firefighters were called “engine men”; they were instructed to create an organization and make regulations “not repugnant to the constitution of the Commonwealth [of Massachusetts]).”

North did not mention the firefighters when he reported briefly on the Feb. 11, 1804, fire that burned a building whose tenants included Peter Edes’ printing office, where the Kennebec Gazette was published (the paper resumed publication March 23).

Nor did he describe any suppression efforts when the Hallowell Academy building burned on Jan. 29, 1805. Opened in 1795, it was in the area that remained Hallowell after the 1797 division. (See the Sept. 16, 2021, issue of The Town Line for more information on the two Hallowell academies.)

More than once North credited Hallowell with helping put out Augusta fires. He wrote that on Jan. 8, 1808, an old and a new blacksmith shop on Water Street burned down, and Nathan Weston’s old building beside them was “pulled down to prevent the flames from spreading.”

He continued, “The Hallowell engine arrived early and afforded great assistance in subduing the fire.” Total damage was $900; residents contributed $600 “to the relief of the sufferers.”

Hallowell came to the rescue again during a more serious incident a little more than three months later. The spring of 1808 was the period of the uprising of squatters against local government sometimes called the Malta War (Malta was an early name for Windsor, Maine). Public officials were attacked, and there was concern that public buildings, like the Kennebec County jail in Augusta, would be next.

A chaotic scene in early America when a house caught on fire. Bucket brigades were usually the main method of fighting fires. The whole community would pitch in, or risk the spread of fire.

Around sunset on March 16, 1808, North wrote, “a sudden alarm was given that the jail was on fire. The fire was discovered in the upper story. It rapidly spread, enveloping the building.”

The jailhouse was destroyed. The prisoners were evacuated, and North recorded that because of the unstable times, the jailer had already moved out essential records.

North wrote and quoted (probably from the March 18, 1808, issue of the Kennebec Gazette): “The citizens of Hallowell attended in great numbers ‘with both their engines,’ and were entitled to ‘much credit’ for their ‘prompt and spirited exertions.'”

The same evening, incendiary devices started a fire upstairs in the courthouse, but it was noticed in time to be put out before there was much damage. At 10 p.m., two local judges asked Major-General Henry Sewall to call out the militia, and Sewall immediately ordered the Augusta Light Infantry to guard the courthouse and the prisoners’ temporary accommodation.

Later, it was determined that the jailhouse fire was started by one of the prisoners, a tavern-keeper named Edward Jones, jailed for stealing. The courthouse fire probably was set by some of the rebellious settlers; North gave no names.

Jones, according to the Oct. 21, 1808, Kennebec Gazette (cited by North), was sent to the state prison to serve two months in solitary followed by nine years’ hard labor for arson. He was also convicted of stealing; that sentence (whether concurrent, North did not say) was 15 days’ solitary confinement and a year at hard labor.

And what, readers may wonder, did Kennebec County do with no jail? The answer is that county officials had a new one built; and North recorded its progress.

Right after the fire, he wrote, the county sheriff had a temporary wooden building put up near the county courthouse, and in April 1808 the Court of Sessions accepted it.

Court officials appointed a local man as superintendent of the interim jail and also charged him with cleaning up the old site, where they directed a new stone jail be built as soon as possible. Meanwhile, they paid good money to keep prisoners guarded in the “insecure” temporary quarters.

The court levied an $8,000 county tax for the new jail. North wrote that Massachusetts legislators cut it to $5,000; and in April 1809, they added back $3,000 to finish paying for the work. The building was in use by December 1808.

North described the new jail as a two-story building with walls of “large blocks of rough hammered stone fastened together with iron dowels.” Each floor had two blocks of cells separated by a central hall.

The ground-floor cells were for “the worst criminals,” and “were lighted and ventilated by openings in the walls six inches wide and two feet long.” The second-floor cells were for debtors and minor criminals; each cell had a grated window.

North wrote that the new jail “was much in advance of the prison accommodations of that day, and was considered a very expensive and secure structure.”

However, by 1857 the county commissioners were ready to replace it. North quoted their justification: the building was “wholly unfit for the purposes for which it was intended and used; more especially on account of the want of sufficient warmth, light, ventilation and cleanliness; it was inhuman, dangerous to life, and detrimental to health and good morals to imprison persons therein.”

The new Kennebec jail was built close to the courthouse and the old jail, at a cost of about $60,000, with preliminary study beginning in the spring of 1857 and the building ready for a well-attended public inspection on Feb. 1, 1859. A four-story stone and brick building, it had 54 regular cells and eight “privilege rooms.”

The regular cells were eight feet square, except for a dozen tiny ones, three feet 10 inches wide, on the second floor. The privilege rooms, which North also classed as cells, were eight feet by 19 feet.

The building evidently accommodated jail staff, as North listed eight “sleeping rooms,” a kitchen, eating and bathing rooms and “a parlor, sitting-room and office.”

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Nash, Charles Elventon, The History of Augusta (1904).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870)

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Waterville historic district – Part 8

North Grammar School, that was located on the corner of Pleasant and North streets, which later was the site of the YMCA, and now is an apartment complex.

by Mary Grow

Haines Redington Whittemore

This concluding article on prominent Waterville residents features William Thomas Haines, mentioned briefly in several August and September articles and last week; Frank Redington, mentioned almost weekly; and a minister, none other than Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore, chief editor of the 1902 Waterville centennial history. All were born in the 1850s and lived into the 20th century.

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William Thomas Haines

William Thomas Haines (Aug. 7, 1854 – June 4, 1919) is mentioned frequently in Whittemore’s chapters, and more information is available on line. Born in Levant, he graduated from the University of Maine as valedictorian, class of 1876, and earned an LL.B (bachelor of law) from Albany Law School in 1878. After less than two years in Oakland, he moved his law practice to Waterville in 1880.

Haines was mentioned last week as an incorporator of the Oakland Water Company in 1889. He was associated with several Waterville financial institutions.

Various sources list him as a long-time trustee for the institution that became the University of Maine; on the building committee for Waterville’s “beautiful” 1888 North Grammar School; one of the first trustees of Coburn Classical Institute in 1901; a principal donor of “both time and money” to the public library, located in the Haines building from 1898 or 1899 until after 1902; and one of the 1899 incorporators of the group that supported Waterville’s R. B. Hall Band.

He was Kennebec County Attorney from 1882 to 1887; state senator from 1888 to 1892; state representative in 1895; state attorney general from 1896 to 1901; member of the Governor’s Council from 1901 to 1905; and governor of Maine from 1913 to 1915.

An on-line site quotes from Haines’ Jan. 2, 1913, inaugural speech: “The introduction of the automobile, or the carriage moved by the power of gasoline, has made the question of highways of still more importance to the people of the State.” Wikipedia says during his two-year term the Maine legislature approved a bond issue for road improvements.

Haines and his wife, Edith S. Hemenway (Nov. 9, 1858 – Nov. 17, 1935) are buried in Waterville’s Pine Grove Cemetery.

Hains building

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Frank Redington

Frank Redington (Dec. 11 or Dec. 19, 1858 – Feb. 4, 1923) has been mentioned repeatedly in this series as author of the chapter on businesses in Whittemore’s history. His wife, Carrie Mae Foster, and in-laws were featured in the Sept. 15 issue of The Town Line. Both Whittemore and Henry Kingsbury, in his Kennebec County history, considered him worthy of attention.

Kingsbury started with Frank’s great-grandfather, Asa Redington (Dec. 22, 1761 — March 31, 1845). Aaron Appleton Plaisted, in his chapter on Waterville’s early settlers, profiled Asa Redington; he and Kingsbury disagreed on several points.

Both said Asa Redington was a Revolutionary soldier – he joined a New Hampshire regiment in 1778, wintered at Valley Forge and was at Yorktown, Plaisted added. He came to Maine in 1784 with his brother Thomas (according to Plaisted) or Samuel (Kingsbury). Kingsbury wrote that Samuel settled in Vassalboro and Asa in Waterville; Plaisted put both Redingtons in Vassalboro until Asa moved to Winslow in 1792.

Plaisted had Redington married on Sept. 2, 1787, to Mary Getchell, daughter of his Vassalboro landlord, Captain Nehemiah Getchell, with whom he partnered in a company that helped build a 1787 dam close to the later Lockwood dam and “a large double saw mill” on the dam. After the partnership dissolved in 1799, Redington stayed in the lumber and sawmill business until 1830.

In Kingsbury’s version, in Waterville “a Miss Getchell” became Redington’s second wife.

Kingsbury, writing in 1892, listed five sons and three daughters. Plaisted, in 1902, listed six sons and three daughters, with the order differing.

Both historians said the two oldest sons were Asa Jr., and Samuel. Kingsbury listed Emily first of the three daughters, implying she was the oldest; Plaisted listed her last of all the children.

Emily, Plaisted added, married Solymon Heath, the banker, and one of their daughters was Mrs. A. A. Plaisted. (The daughter’s name was also Emily; see last week’s article on Aaron Appleton Plaisted.)

Asa Redington’s second son, Samuel, was also “in the lumber business until about 1850,” Kingsbury wrote. He married Nancy Parker; their only son, Charles Harris Redington, was born in 1838 (Kingsbury) or Jan. 21 or 24, 1830 (Plaisted, on-line sources) and died in 1906.

Charles Harris Redington married Saphronia (Kingsbury) or Sophronia (Plaisted, on-line genealogy) Day in December 1854. She was born Sept. 1, 1831, and died Oct. 8, 1912.

Plaisted wrote that Charles Harris Redington’s businesses included groceries, furniture and undertaking, with various partners. He served in local government before and after Waterville became a city in 1888, including being mayor for a year around 1897.

The second (or third) of Charles and Sophronia’s six (or seven) children was Frank Redington, who was born in 1858, attended Waterville Academy (by 1902 Coburn Institute) and married M. C. Foster’s daughter Carrie Mae (1862 – 1953) in 1890.

In 1875, Frank started clerking in Charles Redington’s furniture store. In 1880 he and a partner bought the business; a year later he bought out the partner, and by 1902, Plaisted wrote, Redington and Company was “one of the largest in its line in the State.”

The business was in a “fine block” Redington built in 1893 on Silver Street, and by 1902 had “overflowed into an adjoining block.”

Redington home on Silver St., now the Redington Museum.

Like his father, Frank Redington was active in civic affairs. Plaisted wrote that he headed the Waterville Board of Trade from 1895 to 1901; on-line sources say he was mayor of Waterville in 1909.

William Abbott Smith described the centennial celebration for Whittemore’s history, including the June 23, 1902, dedication of the new city hall, at which Redington presided. He wrote: “Probably no man in Waterville has been more industrious and influential in arousing the citizens to the need and advantages of a new City Hall than Mr. Frank Redington, ex-president of the Waterville Board of Trade, and every one recognized the appropriateness of the selection of him as presiding officer at the dedication of the building which he had labored so faithfully to procure.”

Plaisted credited Redington with a role in the “building of the Waterville, Wiscasset and Farmington Railroad” (in 1895; or its extension northwest to Winslow in 1898 or 1899?) He was the WW&F’s president for two years, Plaisted wrote.

(See the Sept. 17, 2020, issue of The Town Line and the WW&F museum’s website, wwfry.org, for more information on the railroad, though not on Redington’s alleged connection with it.)

Wikipedia says Redington was instrumental in construction of two other major buildings, the federal post office at Main and Elm streets in 1911 and Gilman Street high school in 1912.

He was also a public library trustee; vice-president of the corporation organized in 1899 to support the R. B. Hall Band; and, Plaisted wrote, after 1885 on the committee that managed Pine Grove Cemetery. He is buried there with his parents, his widow and her parents and other Redington family members.

According to Wikipedia, Frank Redington was in poor health for a long time before he was found dead in his Silver Street furniture store on Feb. 14, 1923, “by a gun wound to his head, reported as self-inflicted.”

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And finally a few words about Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore (April 29, 1858 – Nov. 1, 1932), chairman of the editorial board of the Waterville history. Rev. George Dana Boardman Pepper’s chapter on “The pulpit of Waterville” – a chapter Whittemore must surely have proofread and approved – says he was born in Dexter, son of Isaac and Elizabeth (Hatch) Whittemore.

Pepper wrote that Whittemore went from Dexter High School to Coburn Classical Institute, in Waterville, graduating in 1875; to Colby College, class of 1879; and to Newton Theological Institution in Massachusetts, graduating in 1882. He served in Baptist churches in New Boston, New Hampshire, and Auburn and Damariscotta, Maine, before coming to Waterville’s First Baptist Church in 1899.

On July 25, 1879, Whittemore and Ida Macomber, born May 14, 1856, in Abbott, Maine, were married.

On an on-line list of Waterville Baptist pastors, Whittemore is the only one between 1829 and 1920 for whom the list does not give the date he left the pulpit. His predecessor, Isaac B. LeClaire, served from 1887 to 1892, leaving a seven-year gap (with no permanent pastor?) before Whittemore took over in 1899; his successor, Frank Sherman Hartley, served from 1909 to 1912.

In addition to editing the Waterville bicentennial history, Whittemore wrote books on the history of Maine Baptists (at both state and local levels), Coburn Classical Institute and Colby College. From 1905 through 1909, he was on the executive committee of the Interdenominational Commission of Maine (created in 1890 and made a permanent organization in 1892).

The 1919 American Baptist Year-Book lists E. C. Whittemore, of Waterville, as the education secretary for the United Baptist Convention of Maine. For his ability in the pulpit and his activities at the state level, Pepper called him “among the foremost Baptist ministers of Maine.”

A 1929 newspaper clipping describes Skowhegan Baptist pastor Dr. George Merriam being honored for 25 years of service at Bethany Baptist Church. One of the speakers paying tribute was Dr. E. C. Whittemore of Waterville, identified as “a college class-mate at Colby and a friend of more than 50 years standing.”

An on-line family history says Edwin Whittemore died Nov. 1, 1932, probably in Waterville, and Ida died Sept. 14, 1946, also probably in Waterville.

Their daughter, Bertha Carey Whittemore, born in April 1882 in Newton Center, Massachusetts, graduated from Colby with the class of 1904. She married New Sharon native Earle Ovando Whittier, born about 1891, on Aug. 25, 1913, in Dexter. She died in 1963, and he died in Boston Sept. 30, 1970; both are buried in Farmington.

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Waterville historic district – Part 7

Postcard of “new” Thayer Hospital, circa 1950.

by Mary Grow

The subseries on 19th-century Waterville businessmen continues in this article, beginning with Aaron Plaisted, born in 1831, and his family, and ending with Luther Soper, born in 1852. For variety, your writer added a medical professional (who was also a businessman).

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Aaron Appleton Plaisted (March 25, 1831 – Nov. 27, 1908) was a third-generation Watervillian. His mother’s father was Dr. Moses Appleton (1783 – 1849), who moved to Waterville (then Winslow) in 1796, where he practiced medicine for years and opened the first drug store. Dr. Appleton’s daughter, Mary Jane, married Dr. Samuel Plaisted. Aaron was the older of their two sons; they had one daughter.

Aaron Plaisted was educated at Waterville Academy and Waterville College (Class of 1851, member of Phi Beta Kappa). He taught for a couple years, then went to Harvard Law School and practiced briefly in Portland and from 1856 to 1858 in Dubuque, Iowa.

On Sept. 23, 1856, he married Emily Carlton (or Carleton) Heath (Nov. 15, 1835 – June 19, 1916), daughter of Waterville banker Solymon Heath. The first of their three sons and two daughters, Appleton Heath Plaisted, was born Oct. 10, 1857.

Returning to Waterville, Aaron Plaisted served as cashier of Ticonic Bank and its successor, Ticonic National Bank, for 38 years, from 1858 to June 1896. During most of that time, according to Bates’ chapter in Edwin Carey Whittemore’s 1902 Waterville history, “he performed all the duties of cashier without help and had no vacations.” His successor until the end of 1900 was his oldest son, Appleton Heath Plaisted (who did have an assistant from early 1898, Hascall S. Hall).

Plaisted’s grandfather, the physician Moses Appleton, was among the Ticonic Bank’s founders in 1831. His father-in-law, Solymon Heath, became its president in 1865, after the bank converted from a state to a national bank, and served until 1875.

In addition to his banking career, Plaisted was involved, with Dennis Milliken (profiled last week) and others, in early water-power development in Waterville. He was an assistant internal revenue collector during part of the Civil War and served on various Waterville/Colby College boards.

Whittemore identified him as one of the two men – the other was Baptist pastor Henry S. Burrage – who “organized the Waterville Public Library Association” and opened the library in 1873. Estelle Foster Eaton wrote in her chapter on the library in Whittemore’s book that Solymon Heath was the first president, and the Ticonic Bank housed the library for 26 years, “during which time Mr. A. A. Plaisted acted as librarian and secretary.” Daughters Helen and Emily were among his assistants. (See the Dec. 23, 2021, issue of The Town Line for more on the Waterville Library Association).

Plaisted was on the Committee of One Hundred that planned the 1902 centennial celebration, and also on its invitation subcommittee. He wrote the chapter on early settlers in Whittemore’s history; Whittemore said his long acquaintance with Waterville’s old families made him a source of “very valuable aid to the editors of this volume.”

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Dr. Frederick Charles Thayer (Sept. 30, 1844 – Sept. 26, 1926) headed the Committee of One Hundred. Whittemore credited much of the success of the centennial celebration “to his faithful attention and to his efficient generalship.”

Thayer was a Waterville native, the third generation of his family in the area. His parents were Charles Hamilton Thayer and Susan E. (Tobey) Thayer, both from Fairfield. Charles Thayer was a businessman; his father, Stephen (1783 -1852), and his older brother, Albert (1808 -1833), Frederick’s grandfather and uncle, respectively, were doctors.

Frederick Thayer’s educational background was varied, according to Whittemore and to Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history. (Thayer wrote the chapter on Waterville medical people in Whittemore’s history, but a footnote says Whittemore wrote the “sketch of Dr. Thayer.”)

Thayer attended Waterville Academy and “Franklin Family School,” a boys’ school in Topsham, and Waterville (aka Colby) College for two years. An on-line list of Waterville families says he graduated from Colby in 1865; Kingsbury wrote that he was a member of Colby’s class of 1865 “but did not graduate.”

After 18 months at Union College, in Schenectady, New York, in 1865 and 1866, Thayer studied medicine with a doctor in Albany, New York, and went to lectures at Albany Medical College. In 1867 he graduated from the Medical School of Maine, established in 1820 on the Bowdoin College campus.

Colby gave him an honorary master’s degree in 1884. In 1884-85 he was a trustee of the Bowdoin-based medical school.

On-line sources say Thayer practiced medicine and ran a hospital at his 214 Main Street home from 1867 until his death in 1926. After he died, the house continued to be Thayer Hospital for another two decades. The present Thayer, at 149 North Street, opened in 1951.

Kingsbury, writing in 1892, said since 1867 Thayer had “risen to a celebrity unconfined by local bounds.” He continued: “He has been a pioneer in this community in difficult surgical operations, calling for cool, conservative judgment, and requiring at the same time the most delicate touch; yet has for the most part been content to follow cautiously where the world’s most eminent surgeons have successfully led, and in consequence his consultation practice has grown to extensive proportions.”

Whittemore, 20 years later, agreed, writing: “By his skill and success in capital surgical cases Dr. Thayer early gained an eminent position in his profession, which position he has ever since maintained.”

On Dec. 2, 1871, Thayer married Leonora L. Snell (1852 – July 27, 1930), of Washington, D.C., in Waterville. She was the daughter of William Bradford Snell, a distinguished jurist born in Winthrop, Maine, and in 1870 appointed by President Ulysses Grant as the District of Columbia’s first police court judge.

Thayer held many offices in local and state medical groups. In addition, Whittemore wrote, he was in the Maine militia, starting as assistant surgeon and later surgeon in the second regiment. He became “medical director of the 1st Brigade” and then Maine’s surgeon-general under Governor Henry Bradstreet Cleaves (whose term ran from January 1893 to January 1897).

Thayer “has been prominently identified with all movements of the development and progress of the city for many years,” Whittemore said. He represented Waterville in the Maine legislature in 1885-86 and was a Waterville alderman in 1889.

Whittemore wrote that he was the first president of Waterville Trust Company. In 1902 he was a director of that bank, “president of the Sawyer Publishing Company and the Riverview Worsted Mills and a director” of the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railroad.

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The important men in the Gallert family were brothers Mark and David. David (mentioned in the Sept. 22 article on the Main Street Historic District) came to Waterville first; Mark (born Oct. 27, 1847) came from Prussia in 1862. Kingsbury’s history says he was David’s partner until 1870, and after the “business was divided” ran a shoe business. Whittemore’s history says Mark “entered” his brother’s store in 1872.

David is described in a sentence as “for many years…a prominent and much respected merchant of this city.”

Colby’s 2011 Jewish history project, in an on-line document, provides an excerpt from the 1890 census. It said David Gallert was 49 years old and living on Pleasant Street, with “Mrs. Rosalia,” age 46, and Solomon, 22; Sigismond, 20; Fannie, 18; Benno, 16; Minnie, 13; Ernest, 10; and Daisy, 7.

Mark Gallert was 42 and living on Silver Street, in the “fine residence” Whittemore’s contributors said he built in 1883. His family consisted of Rebecca (Jacob Peavey’s daughter, whom Mark married on his 25th birthday), age 35; Jacob, 17; Sigbert, 15; Miriam, 13; and Aimee, 10. Kingsbury’s 1892 history named the children “Jacie D., Sidney, Miriam, Amy and Gordon.” Whittemore’s chapter listed the children in 1902 as “D. J., Sidney M., Miriam F., Aimer P., and Gordon.”

In the census, a marginal note beside each Gallert says there is “no independent evidence” they were Jewish.

Whittemore’s contributors wrote of Mark that he had been in the “boot and shoe business” since 1872, successfully “as in other business ventures.” He was a Waterville selectman in 1877, and in 1902″ has large holdings in city real estate.”

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The Soper Building, on Main St., with current ground floor occupant Carbon Copy.

Luther H. Soper, also mentioned in the Sept. 22 article, was born May 25, 1852, in Old Town. A cemetery record found on line might indicate that he lost his father early: Luther H. Soper, born in 1823, died in 1854 at the age of 31 and is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, in Old Town.

Waterville’s Luther H. Soper attended an unnamed “commercial college”; married Carrie Ellen Wiggin (born in Milton, New Hampshire, in 1858) on Sept. 26, 1887, and as of 1902 was the father of four daughters.

Kingsbury wrote that he clerked in a dry goods store from the age of 16 until he moved to Waterville in 1877. Waterville was lucky to have enterprising merchants whose stocks were larger and more varied than in other municipalities, Kingsbury commented; and “in the various departments of a dry goods store L. H. Soper & Co. enjoy the distinction of having the largest and most complete establishment in the city.”

Soper built the 1890 Soper Block because his business urgently needed more space, Kingsbury said. It cost $26,000, of which $12,000 was for the lot on Main Street. Between 1890 and 1902, according to Whittemore’s history, the business “has steadily increased to its present large proportions.” Soper also had “a large branch house” in Madison.

Soper’s other business interests included lumbering and banking. He was on the board of directors and vice-president of Merchants’ Bank. A Feb. 10, 1889, legislative act found on line incorporated the Oakland Water Company, listing its corporate members as “George H. Bryant, Frank E. Dustin, W. T. Haines and Luther H. Soper, their associates, successors and assigns.”

The company’s purpose was to supply Oakland with water “for industrial, manufacturing, domestic, sanitary and municipal purposes, including the extinguishment of fires and the sprinkling of streets.”

In the lead-up to Waterville’s 1902 centennial observance, Soper was a member of the Committee of One Hundred and the trades display committee.

Luther Soper died in 1914; Carrie died in 1939.

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.