Reaction to announcement of possible closing of Albion Elementary School

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY

by Katrina Dumont, Kara Kugelmeyer, Billy-Jo Woods

Dear Fellow Albion Resident(s),

Our town has had its own school(s) since its founding in 1804.

Today, we are faced with the reality that the MSAD #49 School Board has decided to close the Albion Elementary School, as part of the MSAD #49 new school construction project.

Closing our only school will have many impacts (listed below) on our town both socially and economically.

Fortunately, as citizens of Albion, we have many options that we can explore and take action on in response to this decision (options below). The purpose of this letter is to inform fellow residents of our options, and invite all Albion residents to join future discussions on what option(s) the town should pursue.

After discussion with the Albion Selectboard, the residents (listed below) have started a committee that has been exploring:

  • What realistic options does the town have in response to the school closing: keep school, close school, school choice, etc. (see options below).
  • What would be the impacts (positive and negative) on the students, residents, and town with the closing of the Albion Elementary school.

An overview of the information that we have gathered to date is below. Detailed information can be found at https://albionschoolfutures.squarespace.com/ Also sometime in the next few months there will be a special public meeting to discuss our options (to be scheduled).

Below is more about the school closing and options:

On March 18, 2021, the MSAD #49 School Board accepted the recommendation of the new school building committee to close the Fairfield Primary building, consolidate the elementary schools, and close the Albion and Clinton Elementary Schools. While the purpose of the new building has not been fully envisioned, it will house some if not all of the elementary grades.

The vote on the motion passed 10-2-1, with the Albion School Board members voting against the motion. The closing of our school, which does not need or have to happen, will be tied to a vote to fund the new school. The final vote to try and close our school, which is a district wide vote (so even if Albion votes no the school can still be closed), will most likely be held in June of 2022 (next year).

It is fair to say that receiving state funding for a new school can be seen as a win for MSAD49, yet it is equally true that closing the Albion elementary school will have many harmful and long term negative impacts on our residents, young students, and our town.

While the location of the new school has not been posted on the district’s school consolidation webpage, all evidence points to that it will not be in Albion or in Clinton. Also while a large part of the cost of the new school will be paid for by the state, the towns in the district will need to pay the remaining costs to build the new school. Finally, while our current school building in Albion is older, it’s still an adequate building for our students, even by the state’s ratings and standards.

So what does closing our school mean for our town?

Sadly the vast majority of studies (educational, social, and economic) on rural school closings conducted across the U.S., including in Maine, show that when a rural town loses its only school to consolidation, especially an elementary school, even when residents have access to a new school in a nearby town, the following negative outcomes occur.

  • For young children, longer bus rides and larger class size, often negatively impacts their overall academic performance, (reading, writing, and math), and lessens their connection to the people in their local community
  • The sense of community and town identity is hugely diminished for all residents and many people stop wanting to move to the town
  • For students and families who don’t live near the school, the ability to easily participate in school related extracurricular activities, like sports, becomes much harder
  • The future of the town as a inviting place to live and raise a family is hugely diminished, and the town’s population decreases, increasing the tax burden on the remaining citizens (you still have to pay school taxes no matter what)
  • In rural towns the farther a residence is from a school, the value homes and property decreases, as does the ability to attract future buyers for homes
  • Taxes increase as home and property values decrease
  • Local school related taxes (the biggest part of tax bills) increase regardless of cost savings with a new
    building, as the major portion of the school budget is salaries
    Fortunately, as citizens of Albion, we have options that we can explore and take action on. It is fair to say that all of these
    options have some upsides and downsides. Our options include:

    • Vote NO! When the district wide vote to close the school(s) happens next year, vote against closing the school(s). *This a district wide vote so all towns in the district get to vote on closing our school, so if Albion votes no and the rest of the towns vote yes, the school still closes.
    • Withdraw from the MSAD #49 district with three different possible options:
    1. Keep our elementary school (home rule) and have school choice (children can go to any schools in the area) for middle and high school. The school would have different leadership. Children could still go to Lawrence or Benton elementary. We can afford to do this at the current tax rate.
    2. Close our elementary school but have school choice (can go to any schools in the area, including MSAD #49) for all grades. Children can still go to Lawrence or Benton elementary. We can afford to do this at the current tax rate.
    3. Join another district and negotiate to keep our elementary school and school choice.
    • Stay in the district and support the closing of our elementary school.

You can learn more details about the options, the impacts, and the new school project at https://albionschoolfutures.squarespace.com/ If you wish to join the committee looking at the options, have questions etc. please email: albionschoolfutures@gmail.com.

Community Commentary is a forum The Town Line makes available for citizens to express their opinions on subjects of interest to our readers, and is not necessarily the views of the staff or the board of directors. The Town Line welcomes, and encourages, supportive comments, differing opinions, counterpoints or opposing views. Keep the rebuttals positive, and informative. Submissions containing personal attacks will be rejected.

China to hold WindowDressers workshop this fall

Volunteers prepare window inserts at the 2019 WindowDressers workshop, two years ago, in Vassalboro. (photo courtesy of Vassalboro Historical Society)

by Eric W. Austin

The China for a Lifetime Committee is busy planning for a WindowDressers workshop that will take place this November 3 – 7. The initiative is a volunteer-led, “barn-raising” effort to construct low-cost “window inserts” to reduce residential energy bills.

The window inserts are constructed of pine wood frames, covered in thin plastic film and can usually be ordered in natural wood or painted white, however, because of pandemic-related difficulties in the lumber industry, they may not be available in white this year. (Please inquire at the time you place your order.) There is a maximum order limit of 10 frames, and no minimum. Orders are open to residents in China, Vassalboro, Palermo, Albion and Windsor.

The price of the window inserts will vary depending on the size of the frame requested, but generally range from $30-$70 per frame for natural pine, with an additional $5-$10 if painted white. There is financial help available for those who qualify.

The committee is working with the statewide WindowDressers organization, described on their website as a “volunteer-driven non-profit organization dedicated to helping Maine residents reduce heating costs, fossil fuel consumption, and CO-2 emissions by lowering the amount of heat loss through windows.” WindowDressers is based out of Rockland.

The China for a Lifetime Committee, a local group which supports community initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for residents, has been meeting for several months to discuss having a WindowDressers workshop in China this fall. Vassalboro hosted a workshop two years ago, and the China for a Lifetime Committee had discussed organizing a workshop in China last year before plans were scrapped because of the pandemic.

As the workshop will take place during the first week of November, orders should be placed no later than October 1. Committee volunteers will need to visit your home to take window measurements which will then be sent to the WindowDressers organization, who will cut the wood for the frames. All volunteers doing the measuring will be vaccinated for COVID-19, and can also wear a mask if the homeowner requests. Measurers need to complete their task and submit data to WindowDressers by mid-October, so to avoid “crunch time”, please make sure to get your order in and set up a measuring appointment as soon as possible.

There is a great need for local community volunteers in order to make this a successful WindowDressers workshop. It is requested that anyone ordering frames also sign up for a four-hour shift on one of the workshop days. The committee is also looking for anyone willing to supply food to the teams working during the workshop.

To submit an order for window inserts, or to volunteer, please call the China town office at 445-2014, send an email to the China for a Lifetime Committee at chinaforalifetime@gmail.com, or visit the WindowDressers website and fill out the form located at windowdressers.org/sign-up-for-inserts.

For more information about the China for a Lifetime Committee, please visit their website at chinaforalifetime.com.

ShineOnCass event includes education and PJ party with baby animals

Mac Vandeventer gets to know the goats. (photo courtesy of Monica Charette)

by Monica Charette

Claire Slevinsky pets a two-week-old baby lamb and learns how to card sheep wool at Hart-to-Hart Farm in Albion. (photo courtesy
of Monica Charette)

It was a pajama party like no other at Hart-to-Hart Farm & Education Center in Albion on May 16, when 100 children, dressed in their pajamas, welcomed baby lambs, goats, calves, and other newborn animals – also wearing pajamas – as part of the annual ShineOnCass Animal Baby Shower.

This year’s event featured hands-on educational sessions, including teaching kids how to milk a cow, fetch eggs from a real chicken coop, spin lamb’s wool, and stretch out at goat yoga! Children were able to hold the newborn babies, learn about caring for them, and experience a working, organic farm.

Linda Hartkopf, owner of Hart-to-Hart Farm, with her husband, Doug, said she enjoys the opportunity to share her love for animals with the community.

“Many of the children who came have never been on a working farm,” said Hartkopf. “We take great pride in educating them about caring for animals, and sharing our love and pride in raising them. There’s nothing like introducing a child to a newborn animal.”

Paige Smith comes out to volunteer in honor and in memory of her former soccer teammate and friend, Cassidy Charette, at the annual ShineOnCass Animal Baby Shower & PJ Party at Hart-to-Hart Farm in Albion. (photo courtesy
of Monica Charette)

Hart-to-Hart Farm is a family-owned and operated organic dairy farm that offers a variety of summer educational programs for children, adults and families. The event is held each year in memory of Cassidy Charette, an Oakland teen who died in a hayride accident in 2014. Cassidy, known for her kindness as an active community volunteer, was also passionate about caring for animals as a long-time summer camper at Hart-to-Hart Farm.

“Every year we get further away from losing Cass, holds a special place for us all,” said Cassidy’s friend Shawna Lachance, who now serves on the foundation’s board of directors. “We knowing we are continuing the work she would have lived her life doing.”

Families attending the event made monetary gifts and donated a truckload of food and pet items, which was donated to Humane Society Waterville Area in honor and memory of Cassidy, who was also a shelter volunteer.

For information about Hart-to-Hart Farm & Education Center, visit hart2hartfarm.org. For more event images, visit the ShineOnCass Facebook page. To learn more about the ShineOnCass Foundation, please visit shineoncass.org.

 

 

 

2021 Listing of Memorial Day Services

Memorial Day Services

ALBION

No parade. Memorial service, 9 a.m., in front of Albion Christian Church at the monument.

CHINA VILLAGE

Memorial service, 10 a.m., on the top of the hill in the cemetery. Return to China Baptist Church for another memorial service, following the cemetery service.

MADISON

No Memorial Day parade. Tardiff-Belanger American Legion Post #39 observances as follows:

9 a.m., at Starks Town Office.

9:30 a.m., Anson Town Office, followed by scattering of flowers off the bridge.

10 a.m., Madison Library.

10:30 a.m., at the U.S./Canada Monument at Forest Hills Cemetery.

11 a.m., East Madison, Joseph Quirion Monument.

SOUTH CHINA

The South China American Legion Boynton-Webber Post #179 will conduct a short flower-placing ceremony at the Windsor Veterans Memorial on Rte. 32 in front of the Windsor Christian Fellowship Church at 9 a.m.

A second ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. in South China at the Veterans Memorial Park at the intersection of Old Windsor Road and Village Street.

There will be no parade this year.

WINDSOR

Memorial ceremony, 9 a.m.

Rena Harding receives Boston Post Cane

Rena Harding, 99, center, of Albion, receives the Boston Post Cane from Albion selectmen Brent Brockway, left, and Jerry Keay, right. (contributed photo)

Rena Zelia Harding, of Harding Road, Albion, was presented the Boston Post Cane Award on May 1, 2021, at her residence. She will be 99 years old on October 29 this year. Rena’s maiden name was Bailey and formerly was from Palermo. She attended Palermo School as well as studying a general course from International Correspondence Course.

She married Warren Harding on May 16, 1942. Before they married, Rena cared for Warren’s mother up to the time they moved to the Harding Road, in Albion, and there started a farm. Rena mentioned she thought
the invention of the washing machine was the most valuable machine to her, but was thankful for the invention of milking machines. Milking cows by hand and pouring the milk into the milk can was a time consuming process.

Rena had four children: Eugene, Athene, Sheldon and Neil.

Contributed photo

Albion’s parade reminds us what’s important

Colbyn’s lemonade stand. (contributed photo)

by Jeanne Marquis

When Jessica Norton felt ill late last month, her son Colbyn Cole’s inner superhero sprung into action bringing her whatever he thought would make her feel better.

Colbyn’s heroic nature revved into high gear when he knew he had to call his grandma to tell her that his mom was really sick. True super heroes know when they need to call in for back ups. “Nana” Julie Norton flew in from Florida to watch the house and the rest of the family, when her daughter spent a few days in the hospital. Julie Norton explained, “I’ve never seen my daughter this sick before.”

When Jessica’s Facebook friends asked her if she needed anything once she returned home, Jessica replied back that she just needed help to make Colbyn’s 9th birthday really special this year because he didn’t have a party last year because of the Covid precautions. “Nana” Julie saw this posting and got the idea of throwing a drive-by parade in honor of Colbyn’s birthday because a party was still out of the question this year. The big question was how could this be pulled together with less than two weeks notice? Perhaps there’s a superhero within every grandmother, too? Julie began posting an event on Facebook for April 3, called Colbyn’s Beep-Beep Birthday, asking for participants to drive vehicles in the parade.

Another important part of this story is Colbyn had established a lemonade stand called Colby Cole’s Cold Lemonade, where the family had met people in town. This is where Julie met Carl Chapman, safety officer for the Albion Fire Department and an avid biker. Carl agreed to post the event on the several biker sites he follows, including Motorcycle Riders of Maine, but he wasn’t sure what response they would get, “most of the guys hadn’t gotten their bikes out of storage yet.”

Colbyn with biker Carl and “Nana” Julie.
(contributed photo)

The word of the parade touched a soft spot in people’s hearts and the posting went from area biker Facebook pages to Jeep club page to the Penobscot Valley 4-wheel drive club all the way from Hampden. Stephen Marois, from Riding Steel, shared the event on his biker page as well. The Albion Fire Chief of the Red Knights Chapter 13 and the Kennebec Sheriff Department enthusiastically agreed to participate.

Until the day of the event, Julie didn’t know how far and wide her request went out. She, Carl and another biker arrived at Dixon’s Country Market, the meeting place for the parade, a half hour before the event. No one was there.

A Kennebec Sheriff Department vehicle pulled into the parking lot, so Julie went up to ask if they were there for the parade. To her surprise, they said “yes” and were discussing the route. Then, the vehicles started rolling in, some even decorated for a birthday parade. There were motorcycles, fresh out of winter storage. There were eight to ten complete strangers in Jeeps, Colbyn’s favorite vehicle. There were Bob and Polly Matthews with Kevin Napilitano from the Penobscot Valley 4-wheel drive club. The Albion Fire Department made a dramatic appearance as they joined the parade with an engine, rescue and brush trucks. At the end of the parade, the Kennebec officers presented Colbyn with a Challenge Coin and made him an honorary deputy.

Julie Norton and the rest of her family were overwhelmed by the community support to create a birthday celebration for a nine-year-old that he will never likely forget. Julie remarked, “I’m telling you, I didn’t know what to say. It was absolutely amazing how a community pulled together on a drop of a hat.”

This unofficial, impromptu event in Albion, Maine, reminds us that good deeds are contagious and stir the inner hero within ourselves. If you are looking for more inspiration, drop by Colbyn Cole’s Cold Lemonade stand on good weather days after his school work is complete, at 192 Benton Road, Albion.

Andrew Clark presented with Spirit of America Award at Albion town meeting

Albion Fire Chief Andrew Clark, left, accepts the Spirit of America Award from the town’s selectboard chairman Beverly Bradstreet during the Albion town meeting. (photo courtesy of Beverly Bradstreet)

The town of Albion presented its 2021 Spirit of America Award to Fire Chief Andrew Clark, by Board of Selectmen Chairman Beverly Bradstreet, at the annual town meeting, held on March 22.

Andy has been the Fire Chief of the Albion Fire Department since 2012 and a member of the department for over 20 years. Due to Andy’s diligence, the department has received over $1 million in grants in the last 20 years, receiving $410,000 in 2020 alone.

He has done this along with working full time as a fire fighter and EMT in the Scarborough Fire Department and in his “spare time” he has also earned a bachelor’s degree in fire science and a master’s degree in public administration.

Along with efficiently running and improving the Albion Fire Department, he has been instrumental in helping to make improvements in the Albion Town Office and Besse Building. Andy’s dedication to the town came across again in 2020 when Andy refused to take his stipend as fire chief and a stipend as a firefighter. He did this because he wanted to use that money in the fire department budget so he would not have to ask for an increase from Albion tax payers for his budget during a year of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Albion selectmen and town office staff thank Andy for his dedication to the Albion Fire Department and for his service to the town of Albion as this is what the “Spirit of America Award” is all about.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: The Grange – Part 1

Vassalboro Grange (photo: vassalboro.net)

by Mary Grow

The mother and father of all United States agricultural organization is the Grange, formally known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. The national Grange was organized in Washington, D. C., on Dec. 2, 1867, by a seven-person group headed by Oliver Hudson Kelley (1826 – 1913), a Bostonian who moved to Minnesota in 1849 to become a farmer.

A Grange historian quoted in Ruby Crosby Wiggin’s Albion history wrote that the organization was a response to the “depressed condition” of agriculture after the Civil War. The 1873 financial panic hastened its growth.

In 1864, Kelley, working for the national Bureau of Agriculture, inspected post-war farming conditions in the southern states. He realized the need to help farmers earn their living from their land, found like-minded friends and created the Grange.

Kelley intended the organization as “an agricultural fraternal order,” not unlike Masonry, with rituals, named offices, degrees and an aura of secrecy, Maine Grange historian Stanley R. Howe wrote in a 2010 article reproduced on line.

“Fraternal” was never accurate, however; Howe credited Kelley’s niece, feminist Caroline A. Hall, with gaining women near-equality in the Grange. They had voting rights from the beginning and four of the 16 elected offices in each Grange are exclusively for women.

(Online information says in 1893 the Minnesota Grange elected a woman named Sarah Baird as the first female state Grange President [Master] in the United States. Minnesota’s current state Grange president is a woman, and so is the president of the national Grange, for the first time: Betsy Huber, of Pennsylvania, a Granger since she joined a Junior Grange at age five, has been national president since 2015.)

The name Grange comes from Great Britain, where the part of an estate used for agriculture was called the grange, Howe explained.

As the organization developed and spread, four main purposes emerged.

Economic improvement remained central. Means included cooperative stores, where the organization bought in bulk and sold to members at cost; discounts on things like life and health insurance; and spreading information about improved agricultural techniques, new machinery or seeds and other benefits to farmers.

Education, agricultural and general, was important. Granges published reports, newspapers and bulletins; many Grange halls had libraries; most Granges sponsored educational presentations on topics important to local farmers and the community; many hosted classes and workshops.

Having an organization that operated locally, state-wide and nationally gave Grangers political clout. One of the first national efforts was to pressure Congress to lower railroads’ shipping rates so that farm products could be sent to market more cheaply. Grangers also wanted grain elevators’ charges controlled.

The Grange lobbied for the postal service’s Rural Free Delivery system, so that isolated farmers would not have to choose between driving miles to the post office or paying a commercial carrier to pick up their mail. Grangers supported a variety of national cooperative farmers’ institutions; one source says they were instrumental in making the head of the United States Department of Agriculture a member of the President’s Cabinet in 1889.

Grange members lobbied for the Prohibition movement (implemented by the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, in effect Jan. 16, 1919, and repealed by the 21st Amendment, in effect Dec. 5, 1933). They helped implement progressive political ideas, like direct election of Senators (the 17th Amendment, in effect April 8, 1913) and voting rights for women (the 19th Amendment, in effect Aug. 18, 1920). Current national President Huber advocates expanding access to broadband service, especially in rural areas.

Complementing these economic, educational and political goals, at the local level the Grange became the social center for rural towns across the country, providing a community meeting hall and sponsoring suppers, dances and local and imported entertainments. One historian called this function especially important to rural women, who were more isolated than the men.

The Maine State Grange was organized in Lewiston on April 21, 1874, a year after the first Grange in the state was established in Hampden. Grange and state websites say there were 64 Maine Granges with about 2,000 members by the end of 1874; within two years, 228 Granges and 12,000 members; in 1907, 419 Granges and more than 55,000 members; and in 1918, 450 Granges and 60,000 members. Membership peaked at around 62,000 in the 1950s and has declined in recent years.

In 1918, according to that year’s Maine Register, W. J. Thompson, of South China, was Master of the state Grange. His wife held the position of Flora (one of three ritual stations, with Ceres and Pomona, Howe explained) and D. E. Foster, of Augusta, was Steward.

(Wikipedia says Ceres was “the Roman goddess of agriculture”; Flora was “the Roman goddess of flowers” and of spring; and Pomona was “the Roman goddess of fruit and nut trees.”)

Political positions the Maine State Grange took included supporting funding for local schools and the University of Maine and opposing the repeated efforts to move the state capital from Augusta. Augusta’s Maine Farmer newspaper, published from 1823 to at least 1900 (see The Town Line, Nov. 26, 2020), was a Grange publication.

The organization promoted causes that benefited not only farmers, but other segments of society. Howe mentioned sending care packages to soldiers overseas during World War II and building and supporting Grange Cottage to house orphans at Goodwill-Hinckley School, in Fairfield.

Since 1945, the Maine State Grange has been headquartered on State Street, in Augusta.

In the 1880s the state organization added county Granges, called Pomonas. Juvenile Granges started in 1944; Palermo’s Sheepscot Lake Juvenile Grange #106 and Augusta’s Capital Junior Grange #274 were active in the 1950s and 1960s.

A current on-line list from the Maine State Grange says there are 103 active Granges in Maine, counting both local and county Granges. Local ones listed are Benton Grange, Fairfield Center’s Victor Grange and Branch Mills Grange, in Palermo; Vassalboro Grange, in East Vassalboro, should also be on the list, according to its Facebook page.

Albion Grange #181 was one of the earlier local Granges, past and present. Maine State Grange Master Nelson Ham oversaw its organizational meeting on July 6, 1875, historian Ruby Crosby Wiggin wrote. There were 36 charter members: 34 couples, the son of one couple and an unmarried woman.

Wiggin said in 1875, only farmers and their families were eligible to join the Grange. Doctors, storekeepers and all other non-farmers were excluded.

In 1873, Albion residents had organized a local stock company to build a community hall. The hall was finished in 1874, and the first Grange meeting was held there.

Until January 1881 Grangers rented the hall only for meetings. In January 1881, the Stock Company leased it to the Grange at $35 a year, and in 1886 the Grange bought the building.

Beginning in October 1875 Grangers ran a cooperative store, buying a variety of items – coffee, salted fish, cloth, raisins, rock salt, cheese, sugar, chewing tobacco, grass seed – in bulk and selling them to members. Meetings included panel discussions, suppers and other forms of entertainment.

On Oct. 4, 1879, Albion Grange held its first fair, in conjunction with Freedom Grange. Independent Albion Grange fairs were held annually into the early 1950s, Wiggin wrote.

By 1892, Henry Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history, Albion Grange had 150 members. In 1902, the Maine State Grange Proceedings says there were 252 members.

In 1903 Grangers added a dining room to their building, which they still used when Wiggin published her Albion history in 1964. On-line sources suggest the Grange had been re-established in 1957, probably after an interval of inactivity.

In Augusta, records show two Granges. The earlier, Capital Grange #248, was organized April 7, 1883, according to Capt. Charles E. Nash’s chapter on Augusta in Kingsbury’s history. The second Capital Grange Master was Samuel L. Boardman, who wrote the chapter on agriculture in the same book.

On Nov. 12, 1901, according to records of the national Grange, Brother Obadiah Gardner carried an invitation to those attending the national convention to visit Augusta on Nov. 19, traveling by train. The flowery letter was signed by Capital Grange Master G. M. Twitchell and Augusta Board of Trade President C. B. Burleigh.

Attractions included touring the city and the State House; meeting Governor Hill and his wife at “the mansion of the late Hon. J. G. Blaine, which remains as it was when he did his great work”; and visiting “the national home at Togus,” then caring for 2,600 Civil War veterans.

The Grange records say that Brother W. K. Thompson, of South Carolina, moved to accept the invitation. Discussion was postponed from the morning to the afternoon session, when Brother Thompson’s motion was “considered at considerable length and unanimously adopted.”

(Obadiah Gardner [1852-1938], a Michigan native who moved to Maine in 1864, graduated from Coburn Classical Institute, in Waterville, and farmed in the Rockland area, was Master of the Maine Grange from 1897 to 1907. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1908; was appointed to the United States Senate in September 1911, after William P. Frye died in office; and lost his re-election bid in 1912, leaving the Senate March 3, 1913. He was then appointed to the International Joint Commission to deal with boundary-water issues between the United States and Canada, on which he served until 1923.)

In 1902, M. F. Norcross, the Deputy of West Kennebec County, reported on his Nov. 21 visit to Capital Grange, which then had 60 members. He found there were “[n]ew rituals and badges,” and the members were much interested in “working the third and fourth degrees” under a capable Master. “Bound to succeed,” he summarized.

Later references to Capital Grange are hard to find. The on-line index to the University of Maine’s Raymond L. Fogler special collections library says the library has 110 years of Capital Grange treasurers’ records, from 1883 to 1993.

Capital Junior Grange seems to have been created in or before 1955 and to have lasted until at least 1961.

North Augusta Grange #348 was founded in or before 1899 and existed until at least 1973. In the 1902 Proceedings of the Maine State Grange, Norcross, reporting as Deputy for Kennebec County, said North Augusta Grange had 126 members and a Degree Team and appeared to be doing well.

Nineteen pages later in the same book, Norcross, listing himself as Deputy for West Kennebec County, reported on his Nov. 4 visit to the North Augusta Grange. The Master told him meetings had been suspended temporarily “on account of a drama.” Norcross gave no details, but commented, “It is hoped that the work that the Grange is designed to do is not made a secondary matter.”

19 Granges in the central Kennebec River valley, in the order in which they were founded (as nearly as this writer can determine)

Victor Grange #49, Fairfield Center; established 1874, still active.

Oak Grove Grange #167, North Vassalboro; May 11, 1875.

Albion Grange #181; July 6, 1875.

Albion Grange #181, Oct. 28, 1957; suspended Aug. 26, 1998, for failure to file state corporate reports (according to an on-line source).

Sidney Grange #194; November 24, 1875.

Cushnoc Grange #204, Riverside (Vassalboro); January 13, 1876.

Capital Grange #248, Augusta; Apr. 7, 1883.

Windsor Grange #284; June 2, 1886.

China Grange #295, South China; December 29, 1887.

Clinton Grange #287; March 1888 (according to Kingsbury; this date is out of sequence).

Clinton Grange #287, July 15, 1949; dissolved Sept. 6, 2006, for failure to file state corporate reports (according to an on-line source).

Winslow Grange #320; in existence by 1894.

East Vassalboro Grange #322, 1895; still active.

Silver Lake Grange #327, China Village; 1895 or 1896.

Branch Mills Grange #336, Jan. 1, 1897 (organized in China, most of its life in Palermo); still active.

North Augusta Grange #348, in existence by 1899.

Sheepscot Lake Grange #445, in existence by 1905.

Benton Grange #458, 1906; still active.

China Lake Grange #578, also called China Grange; fall 1974-1976?, China Village.

19 Granges in the central Kennebec River valley, alphabetical by municipality

Albion (two) Albion Grange #181, 1875; Albion Grange #181, 1957.

Augusta (two) Capital Grange #248; North Augusta Grange #348.

Benton Grange #458.

China (three) China Grange #295; Silver Lake Grange #327; China (Lake) Grange #578.

Clinton (two) Clinton Grange #287, 1888; Clinton Grange #287, 1949.

Fairfield Center Victor Grange #49.

Palermo (two) Branch Mills Grange #336; Sheepscot Lake Grange #445.

Sidney Grange #194.

Vassalboro (three) Oak Grove Grange #167; Cushnoc Grange #204; East Vassalboro Grange #322.

Waterville had none, apparently.

Windsor Grange #284.

Winslow Grange #320.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Agriculture

19th century threshing machine.

by Mary Grow

By the 19th century, Maine farmers realized the benefits of organizing. Samuel L. Boardman, author of the agriculture chapter in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, wrote that the Waterville-based Kennebec Agricultural Society, founded in 1787, was the first such group in New England and the second in what would become the United States ((Pennsylvania had the first one). This organization’s goals were to share knowledge and resources – “trees, seeds, tools, books, etc.”

The Kennebec Agricultural Society was succeeded by the Maine Agricultural Society, incorporated Feb. 21, 1818. In 1820 this group sponsored, at Hallowell, the first cattle show in Maine, Boardman wrote.

On Feb. 28, 1820, he continued, the Winthrop Agricultural Society came into existence, expanded April 23, 1832, to include all of Kennebec County and renamed the Kennebec County Agricultural Society. The Kennebec County Society still existed when the Kennebec County history was published in 1892.

Boardman described some of the society’s actions, as recorded in meeting reports. In 1818, members collected information about a newly-invented threshing machine, prepared to buy one if it seemed desirable. In 1822, they voted to spend $30 for Spanish summer wheat seed from Malaga or Gibraltar.

In 1825 they investigated Smith Island Sheep, planning to buy a pair if expedient. In 1834 they voted “that this society decidedly disapprove the sale of ardent spirits on the grounds on the days of their cattle show.”

The Kennebec County society established a fairground in Readfield in 1856, Boardman wrote.

E. P. Mayo’s chapter on agriculture in the Waterville centennial history begins discussion of organizations with the North Kennebec Agricultural Society, incorporated by the state legislature July 31, 1847.

The Society enrolled farmers from Waterville and 10 nearby towns, including Benton, Fairfield, Winslow, Sebasticook (later Benton), Clinton, Albion and China. Members made an early decision to “raise $75 for the purchase of standard agricultural works for a library.” They sponsored their first agricultural show in October 1847.

The author of an on-line list of some of the prize-winners at the North Kennebec Society’s 1863 fair commented on the high-quality cattle displayed, including five from Thomas S. Lang’s beef herd that, in the writer’s opinion, were alone worth the time a farmer spent attending the fair. Lang also won first place in the breeding category with a cow named Bianca.

The cow who placed second to Bianca was raised by Edwin Spring, of Winslow; William Nowell, of Fairfield, owned the third-place cow. The judges commended Mrs. Spring’s tomato ketchup, and 11-year-old Marcia Spring got a special award for her cheese.

Boardman wrote that between 1855 and 1875 the North Kennebec Agricultural Society’s fairs were among the best and best-attended in Maine. He said the Society still held annual exhibitions in 1892; Mayo said after the 1880s, the increase in competing fairs and fairgrounds let to its (undated) dissolution.

In January 1854, Mayo wrote, Society members appointed a committee to find a place for a horse track. They bought land in southern Waterville and built a half-mile track, but apparently used it for their contests for less than a decade before leasing it in 1863 to a short-lived Waterville Horse Association.

The Oct. 10, 1865, New York Times announced that on Oct. 12 the Waterville Horse Association fair would feature a trotting race between two “noted Eastern stallions,” General Knox and General McLellan. This race would have been two years after the race mentioned in last week’s issue of The Town Line in which General Knox beat J. L. Seavey’s Hiram Drew; this writer could not find out whether he won again in 1865. General Knox was one of Thomas Lang’s horses.

(While searching on line for a stallion named General McLellan, this writer learned that after a European tour in 1855, then-Captain George B. McLellan designed the McLellan saddle, which the United States Cavalry adopted in 1859 and used until World War II.)

“Nelson” and his breeder Charles Horace Nelson, in a photo that appeared in The Centennial History of Waterville, 1802-1902, by Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore. The chapter on agriculture was written by E. P. Mayo.

Charles Horace “Hod” Nelson, of Sunnyside Farm, breeder and owner of the horse Nelson (also mentioned last week) rented the North Kennebec Society’s track to train his horses, and from 1887 to 1897 owned the former Society’s Central Maine Fairgrounds. The Lost Trotting Parks website says Nelson sold the property in 1897 to the City of Waterville; Mayo wrote that it was sold “for the enlargement of our present beautiful cemetery.”

In 1904 and 1905, and perhaps later, on-line sites mention the fairs at the Central Maine Fairgrounds, located where Seton Hospital was built in 1965. The fairgrounds had a large two-story exhibition hall, and tents were set up on the grounds.

In addition to palmists, “Honest Bill’s Wonder Show” and a photographer who offered “old fashioned tintypes made ‘while you wait,'” the Maine Memory Network website says the fair included “horse racing, livestock competitions and shows, and other entertainments.” This writer found no record of who owned the fairgrounds or sponsored the fairs.

Two other organizations Boardman listed were the South Kennebec Agricultural Society, incorporated in 1853, and its successor in1860, the Kennebec Union Agricultural and Horticultural Society. Both included Augusta and towns south and west.

The Eastern Kennebec Agricultural Society was organized in the spring of 1868. Members immediately bought 16 acres off the west side of Dirigo Road, in China, and built a half-mile track, completed in time for an inaugural three-day exhibition to open Oct. 20. In 1869 a 40-by-60-foot exhibition hall was constructed.

Boardman wrote that the Society held seven fairs, the last in 1874. The majority of exhibitors were from Albion, China, Vassalboro and Windsor. Boardman explained that bad October weather reduced fair receipts to the point that the Society ran out of money. It was disbanded in December 1877 and the land sold.

Windsor later joined Chelsea, Pittston and Whitefield to form the South Kennebec Agricultural Society. Boardman wrote that it was organized in March 1888, leased land and built a half-mile track at South Windsor Corner and held its first fair Oct. 3 and 4, 1888.

The legislature chartered the new Society in February 1889, adding the Lincoln County towns of Jefferson, Somerville and Whitefield. Boardman wrote an exhibition hall was added that summer, and up to 1892, “the annual fairs have been successful in the highest degree.”

The South Kennebec Society survived, but less successfully and renamed an association, well into the 20th century. In the spring of 1973 the Maine legislature passed an emergency bill deleting the requirement that members be from the towns listed in the 1889 charter.

The bill’s preamble explained that it was passed as emergency legislation, effective immediately rather than 90 days after the session ended, because agricultural societies are economically important “since they encourage one of Maine’s basic industries”; legislative action is “vitally necessary” to increase the South Kennebec Agricultural Association’s membership; and expanding membership is “essential” before 1973 Association meetings.

Albion, China, Sidney and Vassalboro also organized local fairs in the 19th century, Boardman wrote. In 1869, the Maine Board of Agriculture suggested that agricultural societies help organize and support local farmers’ clubs; Boardman wrote that many such clubs were organized, but gives no specifics.

Well before then, a Vassalboro Agricultural Society was organized in 1820, according to Alma Pierce Robbins’ history of the town. She wrote that it awarded premiums and prizes for “wheat, corn, hemp, flax and silk” and “cattle, sheep and swine.”

Albion’s first agricultural society, according to Ruby Crosby’s Wiggin’s town history, was the Farmer’s and Mechanic’s Club of Albion. Organized Oct. 5, 1863, it held annual fairs, the first on Oct. 13, 1863. (This writer suspects the fair was organized before the club.)

Wiggin wrote that fair displays included varied livestock, mostly horses, oxen and cows, “a large display of farm produce and vegetables” and miscellaneous foodstuffs and home-made items. She listed 16 different kinds of potatoes named in fair reports over the years.

The reports on annual fairs end in 1991, Wiggin found; she believed the fairs did not end then. Gradually, she wrote, horses took over, and the fairs moved to the trotting park near Puddle Dock, in southern Albion. The trotting park became a plowed field a few years before she published her history in 1964.

Augusta probably had only one trotting park, although on-line and written information might be describing two different ones. According to The Lost Trotting Parks website, the trotting park was built in 1858 on the west bank of the Kennebec River, just south of Capitol Park. The website shows an excerpt from an 1892 publication, Agriculture of Kennebec County, Maine, and an aerial view of the park, an oval track with what looks like a grandstand on one side.

The website says the aerial view is a postcard, property of the Kennebec Historical Society. In 1892, according to this site’s information, the Capital Driving Park Association managed the park.

When Kingsbury’s history was published in 1892, Capt. Charles E. Nash wrote in his chapters on Augusta that the Augusta Park Association, organized in 1888, owned and operated the trotting park “adjacent to the state house grounds.” He is probably referring to the 1858 park; some 19th-century city maps show Capitol Park and the grounds around the State House as a single unit. However, the river is not visible in the aerial view.

In 1920, the Lost Trotting Parks website says, city and state changed the trotting park to a recreational field on which an Augusta semi-pro baseball team played for years. (Confusingly, this information seems to come from the 1892 book.)

The Fairfield bicentennial history includes a brief and frustratingly undated history of the Fairfield trotting park, which was located on the west side of West Street, about where Lawrence High School and Keyes Field are in 2021. Two local civic-minded entrepreneurs, Amos Gerald (1841–1913) and Edward Jones Lawrence (1833–1918), are credited with building it.

Other names the Fairfield historians associate with the park are John Hiram Gilbreth (1833-1871), described in an excerpt from a 1939 memoir as “[a]bout the first of the really famous horsemen of Fairfield”; and in later years Ralph Jewell (1883-1960). (An on-line Cornish [Maine] Agricultural Society race card reveals that Jewell’s brown gelding, McKinney Volo, placed fifth of five and fourth of five in two races at Cornish on Aug. 5, 1936.)

The Fairfield history reproduces an undated September 29 and 30 race program for Fairfield Park, with five trotting events and one pacing event and winners’ purses from $100 to $250.

The trotting park is shown on an 1891 map in the Fairfield history, and it was active on Aug. 21, 1895. The races hosted that day attracted participants and spectators from miles around, and the town lumber mills closed at noon so interested employees could join the crowd. As a result, no one noticed the fire that started in the boiler room of a lumber mill on the river until it had a good hold. Despite efforts by firefighters from all around the area, the connected mills that made up Fairfield’s lumber industry burned.

Dedication to Nelson

Photo by Roiland Hallee

An inscribed granite marker at the Sterling Street Playground, in Waterville, honoring the life of the horse Nelson. The playground is part of what was once Sunnyside Farm, the home to Nelson, a champion trotting stallion. The marker was placed almost 100 years to the day of the death of the horse on December 3, 2009.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge. (1964)

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Agriculture history – Part 1

Longmeadows Farm, 2018.

by Mary Grow

Two historic farms, Albion and Benton

Your writer hopes readers are ready for a change from Romanesque Revival and Hallowell granite, because the coming weeks of Kennebec Valley history will not focus on buildings, though they will continue to appear.

The Register of Historic Places for the central Kennebec Valley includes a farm and two farmsteads – a small number, considering the importance of agriculture in residents’ lives since the earliest settlement. They are the Hussey-Littlefield Farm, in Albion, the Colcord Farmstead, in Benton, and the Edmund and Rachel Clark Homestead, in China.

Please note that all three are privately owned. The owners’ rights and privacy are to be respected.

The application for National Register status for the Hussey-Littlefield farm was prepared in October 2015 by Architectural Historian Christi A. Mitchell, of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. Mitchell says Silas Hussey, one of several Husseys prominent in the early history of Albion, settled at what became 63 Hussey Road, on the west side of the road that runs from Route 202, in Albion village, south into Palermo.

Hussey occupied the property in 1838 and acquired ownership in 1844. In or soon after 1838, he built a two-and-a-half story house facing the road, with a rear ell. The style is described as late Greek Revival and Italianate. South of the house he built a separate barn.

In the 1850s or early 1860s, Silas Hussey’s son, Burt, built another ell on the south side; Mitchell wrote it made space for “a summer kitchen and woodshed.” Later, Burt Hussey added a wagon shed that he attached to the barn.

The result is what Wikipedia calls a “connected homestead [that] exhibits the evolutionary changes of rural agricultural architecture in 19th-century Maine.” Mitchell calls it “an excellent example of a New England farm complex.” In an earlier application for the Colcord Farmstead in Benton (see below), she had written in more detail about the development of interconnected farm buildings in the second half of the 19th century.

The Hussey buildings are wooden, with clapboards or shingles on the outside. Mitchell wrote that the house foundations are granite except for fieldstone on the west. The rear ell has a fieldstone and brick foundation.

The house originally had two chimneys. The wide front door, its sidelights covered by 2015, is centered between two pairs of windows. It is sheltered by what Mitchell calls a Queen Anne style porch, open, wooden-floored, with “delicate, scroll-cut bracketed…supports” protecting it.

The side ell has a basement, entered from the west (back) side. The wagon shed’s early doors were also on the west, according to a 1936 photograph Mitchell describes; by 2015 it had garage doors on the road side.

The barn is two-and-a-half stories plus a cupola. Mitchell calls it a bank barn; the front is at ground level on a fieldstone foundation, but as the ground slopes downward to the west, most of the building is supported on cement piers. In 2015 Mitchell took interior photographs showing wooden stalls with a hayloft above.

Mitchell found records showing how the size and use of the farm changed through the years. It is listed on the Historic Register as including 6.8 acres of land in 2015; town records showed 114 acres in 1857 and 1858. Mitchell wrote that part of the land was on the east side of Hussey Road.

Her summary of farm products shows that apples dominated for many years. In 1880, the farm had 215 apple trees. She mentions in 2015 remains of an old orchard with Wolf River and Northern Spy varieties, plus a newer orchard with Northern Spies and semi-dwarf Cortlands.

In 1859, she wrote, Silas Hussey had two oxen, six milk cows, three “other cattle” and two pigs. In the 1860s and 1870s he raised sheep. Mitchell found in census records lists of the farm’s “most valuable products:” butter and potatoes in 1850; “sheep, wool, and butter” in 1860, but only half as much butter as in 1850; cattle and corn in 1870; and in order in 1880, cattle, apples, butter, oats, potatoes and corn.

Burt Hussey inherited the farm when his father died in 1894. Burt sold it in 1900 to his brother, John W., who died in 1910. John’s widow, Fannie, and son, Clarence, kept the farm until 1935, when they sold to brothers George and Harold Littlefield, who grew up on an adjoining farm. The Littlefields ran a dairy operation until about 1950, Mitchell wrote. George Littlefield’s son was the owner in 2015.

Of the three farms, the Hussey-Littlefield farm is the newest addition to the National Register of Historic Places, listed on Jan. 12, 2016.

The earliest listed of the three, and the subject of another of Mitchell’s applications, is the Colcord Farmstead, now Longmeadows Farm, at 184 Unity Road (Route 139) in Benton. It was added on Dec. 29, 2005, recognized as “a resource that provides an excellent source for understanding over 100 years of architectural and landscape design within an agricultural context.”

The Colcord Farmstead history goes back to 1786, when Captain Andrew Richardson, Esquire, bought from the Kennebec Proprietors a piece of land on the east side of the Sebasticook River. The property has been farmed ever since, under at least 13 different owners; the Colcord Farmstead has been called the Richardson Homestead; the Moses Stacy Farm; and now Longmeadows Farm.

Moses Stacy bought the property in the 1840s and moved there from Waterville in 1851, Mitchell wrote. In 1860, she found he owned “two oxen, ten cows, three horses, 25 sheep, and several pigs.” In that year, the farm produced “30 bushels of corn, 80 bushels of potatoes, 150 bushels of oats,…400 pounds of butter and 75 pounds of wool.”

After Moses Stacy died in 1867, his widow, Olive Pratt Stacy, hired men to run the farm, including Fairfield native John B. Colcord. In 1870, Colcord bought the farm from her for less than $1,100. He is responsible for most of the buildings that add to its historic value.

The farm remained in the Colcord family until 1926, when Colcord’s widowed daughter-in-law, Dorothy Burgess Colcord, sold it to Mary Louise Shink, who went bankrupt in 1937. Her creditors sold it to businessman Charles Orman Brown. Charles Orman Brown chose the name Longmeadows Farm; the fourth generation of his family now owns and operates it.

The Colcord Farmstead historic preservation listing covers 194 acres, about 20 acres between the river and the road and the rest, including a managed woodlot, on the east side of the road.

The L-shaped two-story farmhouse, with its one-and-a-half story ell with an open porch across the front, is on the west side of the road, with its back to the river. Mitchell quotes the Browns as saying it is the third house on the site; John Colcord built it in 1882. Mitchell describes the style as Italianate.

Attached to the ell on the north is what Mitchell calls a shed. She says the single-story building was built before the house; Colcord incorporated it. In 2005 there was a privy in one corner.

Attached to the shed is what Mitchell calls a shop, in Colcord’s day a stable and, Mitchell wrote, originally a center-chimney house. Two stories high, it was built around 1800-1810; Colcord apparently moved it about 60 feet and took out the chimney and the partitions between rooms.

The final attached building on the north is an equipment shed that Mitchell dates to 1899, after a previous shed burned.

The Kennebec County history includes a picture of the farm as it was in 1892. There were then two large detached barns north of the other buildings. Mitchell surmises they were there when Colcord bought the property, and says they burned with the first equipment shed, sometime before 1896.

About three feet north of the newer equipment shed, and set slightly farther back from the road, is a large three-and-a-half story bank barn, also built in 1899, with an exterior feed rack for cattle on the west (back) side. The open area under the barn, where it is supported on posts, provided shelter for cattle, Mitchell wrote. The Browns added a milk house east of and connected to the barn in 1937.

South of the house and its attached outbuildings, a seasonal stream runs into the Sebasticook River. The 2005 application lists a steel windmill on the river at the mouth of the stream, built early in the 20th century to pump water into the water tank on the second floor of the 1899 barn; and a sawmill, built around 1950, just south of the stream, to help manage the farm’s forestland and provide building materials.

Owners of the Hussey-Littlefield Farm

Hussey-Littlefield Farm on Hussey Road in Albion

Silas Taber Hussey was born Oct. 31, 1811, son of Daniel Hussey (born in Dover, New Hampshire, in 1783) and Fannie Crosby Hussey (born in Vassalboro in 1788), and died July 17, 1894. He married Jane Z. Wellington on Jan. 2, 1838, and they had three daughters and four sons.

Silas and Jane Hussey’s oldest son, John W. Hussey, was born Aug. 26, 1842, and died Dec. 3, 1910. Their third son, Burt Silas Hussey, was born Oct. 12, 1851, and died July 23, 1920, in Bangor.

John W. Hussey married twice. He had two daughters by his first wife, Mary Keay Crosby, of Albion, who died Feb. 28, 1888. Around 1889 he married Francena “Fanny” (or Fannie) Goodspeed; their only child was Clarence Wellington Hussey, born Oct. 28, 1892. The genealogical record says Francena and Clarence lived until after 1930.

Significant owners of the Colcord Farmstead

Colcord Farmstead

Andrew Richardson was born in Townsend, Massachusetts, on Aug. 25, 1760. In April 1775, when he was not yet 15 years old, he and three older brothers joined the Revolutionary Army, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and fought in the June 17, 1775, battle of Bunker Hill.

After two years in the army, Richardson moved to the part of Maine that was then Hancock Plantation and became in 1850 Benton (see The Town Line, April 2, 2020, for a brief history). In 1781 he married Hannah Grant of Frankfort; she died in January 1811.

Richardson is described as a “leading citizen” who captained the local militia, served as a selectman for many years and in 1809 and 1810 represented what was then Clinton in the Massachusetts General Court. He died Jan. 10, 1818.

Moses Stacy was born Sept. 5, 1807, in Acton, Maine. He married twice, first to Helena Rogers Prescott Stacy (1806-1946) and second to Olive Pratt Stacy (1816-1910). He died suddenly of heart problems Jan. 16, 1867, in Benton and is buried in Waterville’s Pine Grove Cemetery

John B. Colcord was born March 11, 1842. He and his wife Anna (they married in April 1867) were parents of Everett Stacy Colcord, born July 26, 1876. After John and Anna sold the farm in 1911, Everett bought it back in 1919, and John and Anna lived there until Everett died in 1925.

Charles Orman Brown (Jan. 9, 1887- Jan. 23, 1962) married Bertha Mabel Small (1881-1968) about 1910. Their great-grandson, Alexander Brown, says they had two children, daughter Ruth and son Robert Orman Brown (1915-2002). Robert married Katharine Rollins Brown (1913 – 2004).

Robert and Katharine Brown had a son, Mark. The Longmeadows Farm website says Mark and Connie Brown lived there for more than 40 years and Mark Brown and his son Alexander, “Xandy”, Brown run the farm, specializing in beef cattle.

Main sources

Websites, various

Next: the Edmund and Rachel Clark Homestead in China and other agricultural information.