Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Agricultural Fairs

by Mary Grow

Your writer is pleased that she didn’t promise a story about Hathaway shirts this week, because, considering the season, she decided to detour to write about the country fairs our ancestors enjoyed. Some of the historians cited previously in this series mentioned them; your writer will share bits of their information.

Samuel L. Boardman, in his chapter on agriculture in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, and Linwood Lowden, in his history of Windsor, summarized development of central Maine agricultural organizations, often sponsors of agricultural fairs.

Lowden’s list:

  • The short-lived Kennebec Agricultural Society, “organized in 1787 and incorporated in 1807,” was the first in New England and the second in the United States. (On-line sources say the first in the country was the 1785 Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, still active.)
  • The short-lived Maine Agricultural Society, incorporated Feb. 21, 1818, “held cattle shows in Hallowell in 1820 and 1821.” The 1820 show was Maine’s first, Boardman wrote.
  • The Winthrop Agricultural Society, incorporated Feb. 28, 1829, and reorganized in 1832 as the Kennebec County Agricultural Society, leased fairgrounds in Readfield beginning in 1856. By 1892, Boardman wrote, it had several buildings, a track and a grandstand; organizers continued “the old custom” of having a prominent Maine man deliver an annual address.
  • The North Kennebec Agricultural Society, headquartered in Waterville, began July 31, 1847. E. P. Mayo (in the agricultural chapter in Edwin Whittemore’s Waterville history) wrote that its first exhibition was in October 1847. Another early action, Mayo wrote with approval, “was to raise $75 for the purchase of standard agricultural works for a library.”
    • This organization bought land in southern Waterville and built a half-mile horse track in 1854. Its annual exhibitions continued into the 1880s, Mayo wrote, until competition from outlying towns cut too deeply into attendance. Its real estate was sold to expand Pine Grove Cemetery.
  • The South Kennebec Agricultural Society, which included Windsor, was incorporated in 1853 and in April 1857 bought three lots in Gardiner for a fairground.
  • The Kennebec Union Agricultural and Horticultural Society was incorporated on March 17, 1860, and took over “all assets” of the South Kennebec Society. Its “active career” ended in 1877, according to Boardman.
  • The Eastern Kennebec Agricultural Society, organized April 4, 1868, “built a half mile race track, and held its fairs on a sixteen acre site at China,” the China Fairgrounds or China Trotting Park, west off Dirigo Road. In 1869, Boardman said, the Society added a 40-by-60-foot exhibition hall. The last fair was in the fall of 1874; Boardman wrote that bad weather on fair days kept income below expenses, and the society gave up in December 1877 and sold its property.
  • A second South Kennebec Agricultural Society was organized March 24, 1888, in South Windsor, and incorporated by the Maine legislature a year later. This Society leased a lot with a trotting park, the earliest part of the current Windsor Fairgrounds. Lowden wrote that in 1973 the Society’s legal name became Windsor Fair.

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Albion historian Ruby Crosby Wiggin was delighted to find secretaries’ records of the Farmer’s and Mechanic’s Club of Albion (the apostrophes are as she placed them), organized Oct. 5, 1863, and sponsor of an annual October fair from Oct. 13, 1863, through at least 1891, when the records end.

The secretaries’ books answered a question that had plagued her research: local residents told her three different locations for the fairs. The records showed everyone was right.

The 1863 fair was in the Temperance Hall, on Bangor Road, with outdoor exhibits near the former Marden’s – later Drake’s – store. After what was first the Public Hall and later the Grange Hall was built in 1873, the fair moved there and used land behind Keay’s store, on Main Street. And after the town house was built in 1888, it hosted indoor displays, with outdoor events in the field behind the Besse building.

Wiggin’s list of animals at the first fair in 1863 totals more than 100 horses, oxen, cows, sheep and swine. Indoor displays featured farm produce, including locally-raised tobacco; cheeses; and buttons, “carpets, quilts, rugs, cloth, yarn” and other handicrafts.

Exhibits became more varied over the years, Wiggin wrote. She listed some she considered unusual: a “collection of stuffed birds”; a 100-year-old chair; an English table cover more than 100 years old; woolen stockings and a patchwork quilt made by women in their 90s; and a “worsted lamp mat” made by a six-year-old boy.

She found no description of baby shows, but, she said, in 1865 the “largest, fattest and best fed baby” won a prize, and in 1879 a committee named the “longest and leanest and poorest fed man.”

Old-time residents told Wiggin the Albion fair sometimes included a merry-go-round “run by two fellows turning it by a crank in the middle.” It was reportedly owned by Stevens Brothers, from Unity, and was a feature of annual Unity fairs.

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Palermo historian Milton E. Dowe, in his 1996 book of memories, included a short description of the annual Branch Mills Grange fair, where, he wrote, “A wonderful time was had by all.” His undated description refers to a time after 1909, when the Grange Hall, in Branch Mills Village, was built after the 1908 fire.

Behind the building, Dowe wrote, was a hitching rail where people left their horses for the day. On the grounds were cattle exhibits and the horse pulling competitions that were “the highlight of the Fair day.”

Inside, Dowe wrote, people admired “displays of handiwork, arts, crafts, vegetables, etc.” There was an afternoon baby show. The noon dinner included “baked beans, brown bread, biscuits, casseroles, pickles,…various kinds of pies…[and] always plenty of coffee.”

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Alice Hammond’s history of Sidney credits the Sidney Grange with starting the Sidney Agricultural Fair in 1885; it continued well into the 20th century. Kingsbury said its specialties were fruit –Sidney had many apple orchards – and “working cattle.” One year, he wrote, 75 yokes (pairs) of cattle paraded in a line.

Hammond included a report that the fair’s treasurer, Martin L. Reynolds, put in the 1890 town report “[o]wing to the inquiry of some of the townsmen” about the use of town funds.

From 1887 through 1890, taxpayers gave the fair $25 annually. In 1887, fair organizers spent $24.62. The largest expenditure was $9 to E. A. Field for “lumber and hauling same.” The two smallest were 30 cents each for two dozen hooks from O. Williamson and “Swifel Eye to machine” from J. S. Grant (Hammond wondered what a swifel eye was; your writer suggests a misspelling for swivel eye).

In 1888, A. E. Bessey chipped in $1 (he was probably, despite the spelling difference, Dr. Alden Edward Besse [Jan. 1, 1838 – June 15, 1903], born in Hebron, living in Sidney in 1880, died in Waterville, buried in Pine Grove Cemetery). Lumber was again the most costly item; total expenditures were $23.65.

The 1889 expenditure totaled $12.10. Joseph Field earned $2 for “care of lumber” – Hammond noted that the wooden animal pens were dismantled after each fair, stored and rebuilt the next year – and Badger and Manley charged $3.50 for posters (up from $2.50 in 1887).

In 1890 three individuals added $21.94 to the $25 appropriation. The account was nonetheless overdrawn for the first time, mostly because the Oakland Band, making its first appearance, cost $20. Because of earlier frugality, however, treasurer Reynolds reported a balance in the fair treasury of $12.91 at the end of four years.

The year 1890 was also the first year that fair organizers bought a police badge, for 75 cents. Hammond wondered if the crowd was getting rougher, or if the organizers were merely being extra careful.

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Alma Pierce Robbins focused her Vassalboro history on agricultural organizations, mentioning fairs only incidentally. The Vassalborough Agricultural Society was organized in 1820, she wrote. The town had three Granges, Oak Grove (1875, moved to Getchell’s Corner in 1883), Cushnoc at Riverside (1876) and East Vassalboro, organized in 1895 and still flourishing.

The Agricultural Society must have sponsored fairs, because Robbins wrote of spring “preparations to exhibit at the Fall fairs.” She also wrote about “premiums” for “wheat, corn, hemp, flax and silk,” and “prizes” for “cattle, sheep and swine,” and mentioned oxen-pulling and later horse-pulling.

Robbins specifically referred to Cushnoc Grange fairs “with fine exhibits of hand work, farm produce and stock.” She added memories of “the oyster stew suppers on cold snowy nights, the baked bean and brown bread dinners with great jars of home made pickles and dozens of apple pies,” where all the neighbors gathered.

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Windsor’s extensive fairgrounds are at 82 Ridge Road (Route 32), not far north of the intersection where Route 32 joins Route 17. The site includes a dozen historic buildings restored and maintained by the Windsor Historical Society, multiple exhibition halls for everything from livestock to jams and jellies, an oval racetrack and large parking areas.

Lowden wrote that the first Windsor Fair was held Oct. 3 and 4, 1888, before the South Kennebec Agricultural Society was organized and legislatively incorporated in the spring of 1889. There is some confusion about whether a formal racetrack was used that year; Lowden said “a firmly held local tradition” is that horses ran on the road that is now Route 32, across a bridge that “stood high above” Gully Brook. But he found an Oct. 5, 1888, newspaper report saying there was a race track by 1888, so he inferred the in-the-road races must have been earlier.

Lowden wrote that the horse races have always been the most popular attraction and “the financial backbone” of the fair. Other features he described included displays of and competitions among other farm animals. In 1888, the exhibition of horses and colts drew a local reporter’s praise; the reporter was even more enthusiastic about the displays of fruit, vegetables and “artistic needle and fancy work.”

The fair introduced inventions and new practices for farmers and their families, like a new parlor stove and a new kitchen stove in 1893; an automobile in 1900; a hot air balloon in 1902; and an airplane in 1917. The midday featured varied entertainers, simple games, food vendors; the first merry-go-round appeared in 1916.

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., Palermo, Maine Things That I Remember in 1996 (1997).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Upcoming fairs

Although Maine’s 2022 fall fair season is winding down, there is still time to take in some that aren’t too far from the central Kennebec Valley.

  • Windsor Fair began Aug. 28, and runs through Monday, Sept. 5. See the website windsorfair.com for daily programs.
  • The Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair, on the fairgrounds at 1450 Bangor Road (Route 100) opens at 3 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 8, and runs through 5 p.m., Sept. 11. Details are on Clintonlionsagfair207.com.
  • Litchfield Fair, at the 44 Plains Road fairground, opens Friday, Sept. 9, and runs through Sept. 11, with free admission for seniors on opening day. See litchfieldfair.com.
  • Farmington Fair runs from 10 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 18, through Saturday afternoon, Sept. 24. The fairground is at the intersection of Maple Avenue and High Street, on the northwest (right) side of Routes 2 and 27 coming from New Sharon. See farmingtonfairmaine.com.
  • The annual Common Ground Country Fair runs from Friday, Sept. 23, through Sunday, Sept. 25, in Unity, at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) education center, 294 Crosby Brook Road (off Route 139 in southeastern Unity). See mofga.org.

CORRECTION: The building in the photo in last week’s issue is the Clukey Building, located on the corner of Main and Silver streets, location of the Paragon Shop today. It was an editing error.


Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Natural resources – Part 5

From left-to-right: Gold, Pyrite and Tin Ore.

by Mary Grow

Previous articles have talked about some of the natural resources in the central Kennebec Valley, notably clay and granite. Renewables, like timber, fur-bearing and other game animals and fish, have been ignored – would an enterprising reader like to tackle one or more of those topics?

This piece will cover a varied assortment of other resources. As with those discussed before, information from local histories is scanty.

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Gold is unusual in Maine but not completely lacking. The Maine Geological Survey has on its website a list of streams, all but one in Franklin, Oxford or Somerset county, worth panning for gold. (The outlier is the St. Croix River, separating the United States and Canada; gold has been found in Baileyville, in Washington County.)

Locally, there might have been gold in the Albion-Benton area. One of the personal paragraphs in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history is about Augustine Crosby (1838 – 1898).

Born in Albion, son of Luther and Ethelinda Crosby and grandson of Robert and Abigail Crosby, Augustine spent 10 of his early years in Massachusetts; came back to Benton and went into lumbering; served in the Civil War (as did his father) and as of 1892 was in “the South” building sawmills.

While in Benton, Crosby married Asher Crosby Hinds’ daughter, Susan A. Hinds. And, Kingsbury wrote, “He invented a dredge for gold dredging and spent some time operating it.”

According to a Crosby family diary found online, Augustine fell ill in September 1898 and died Sept. 28. He was buried Sept. 30 in what the diarist wrote “was called Smiley burying ground.” The funeral was well attended, with 23 teams, the diarist believed, following the hearse. His wife survived him; the diarist mentioned several times her visits to and sympathy for Sue.

(See the website called Winslow Maine Crosby Diary for additional excerpts. The diarist was Elizabeth B. Hinds Crosby (1892-1912); the hand-written diary was transcribed by Clyde Spaulding, her great-grandson.)

(Asher Crosby Hinds [1863-1919] was a Benton native and Colby College graduate, Class of 1883. After newspaper work in Portland, in 1889 he got a position as clerk to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He served in clerkship positions until 1911, editing the Rules, Manual, and Digest of the House of Representatives [1899] and Hinds’ Precedents of the House of Representatives [1908]. In 1911 he was elected to the first of three terms as a Republican Representative from Maine. He died in Washington, D.C., and is buried in Portland’s Evergreen Cemetery.)

In China, Indian Island (previously Round Island or Birch Island) in the east basin of China Lake was reported – inaccurately, it appears — to have gold deposits. Several sources cite prominent Quaker Rufus Jones’ memoir of his boyhood, in which he wrote that people dug over the whole island and found only pyrite, an iron sulphide often called “fool’s gold” because it is yellowish.

One more hint of local gold is found in Milton E. Dowe’s Palermo Maine Things That I Remember in 1996. Dowe wrote: “It’s known that there was a gold mine east of the Marden Hill Road [in north central Palermo]. I have been there to the site but never heard the facts of it.”

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Tin, described by Wikipedia as “a soft, silvery white metal with a bluish tinge,” that does not occur as “the native element” but has to be extracted from other ores, is another resource Kingsbury mentioned.

Mixing tin with copper creates bronze, as people discovered some 3,000 years B.C. Wikipedia does not list the United States as a source of tin. But Kings­bury related a story about tin in Win­slow, Maine.

As he told it, about 1870 Charles Chipman noticed “[i]ndications of tin ore” in the rocks along a brook on J. H. Chaffee’s property. He and others, including Thomas Lang (a prominent citizen of Vassalboro) and a doctor from Boston, concluded it might be worth mining.

They organized a company and dug more than a hundred feet down, finding more tin as the shaft went lower, but not enough to cover costs, never mind make a profit. Kingsbury wrote that they gave up around 1882.

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One rather unusual resource is a mineral spring. Mineral springs are similar to ordinary springs, areas (often hillsides) where groundwater naturally comes to the surface because the ground slopes below the water table.

Wikipedia says a mineral spring contains dissolved minerals, especially salt, lime, lithium, iron and sulfur compounds, and sometimes harmful components like arsenic.

For generations people have believed some mineral springs are healthful. “Taking the cure” or “taking the waters” was popular, especially in 18th and 19th century Europe for upper-class Europeans and Americans. Spas have been developed around mineral springs as destinations for people seeking better health; Wikipedia’s illustrations include mineral spas in Europe, India and Iran.

Major mineral springs that have been developed in Maine include Blue Hill Mineral Spring near Blue Hill, in Hancock County, and especially Poland Spring, in Poland.

The spring in Blue Hill was “well-known” before a company was organized in 1888 to exploit its supposed healing properties, according to the Maine Memory Network. Blue Hill’s mineral water was sold nation-wide, including being available on Pullman cars on many eastern railroads. The company folded after a November 1915 fire destroyed its processing buildings.

In 2014, three former University of Maine professors wrote a short article on two mineral springs in Baxter State Park that contained potassium and sodium and served as salt licks for deer and moose.

Poland Spring, in Poland, is by far the best-known Maine spring. According to Wikipedia, the spring is on the lot where Jabez Ricker opened an inn in 1797. In 1844, Jabez’s grandson, Hiram Ricker, said drinking water from the spring had cured his chronic indigestion.

The inn was enlarged, more guests heard about the alleged properties of the water and the Rickers started bottling and selling it. The elaborate Poland Spring House opened in 1886.

There is still a hotel at the spring, Poland Spring Resort. Bottled water now sold under the Poland Spring label comes from more than one part of Maine.

Locally, there are records of mineral springs in Augusta and China.

James North wrote in his Augusta history that in 1810 there were two prominent mineral springs in the area. The Togus Mineral Spring, also called the Gunpowder Spring (North did not explain why) in Chelsea had become well-known as the enthusiasm for mineral waters spread. It was in a meadow; its water had been compared to water from a similar spring in Bowdoin.

Wikipedia adds that the name “Togus” probably came from a Native American word, worromontogus, which can be translated as “place of the mineral spring.” In 1858, a granite dealer from Rockland built the Togus Spring Hotel, with “a stable, large pool, bathing house, race track, and bowling alley.” The venture was unprofitable, and in 1866 the United States government bought the building for a veterans’ home.

According to North, a newly discovered spring in downtown Augusta, close to the Kennebec, was even more popular in 1810 than the Togus spring. He described the location by naming the owner of a nearby house that was on Water Street “opposite Laurel Street,” information that puts the mineral spring in the northern end of the business district, north of the Calumet bridge.

The mineral spring in China, according to local historian Clinton Thurlow, was northwest of South China village, on the west side of China Lake’s east basin. In one of his histories of the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington narrow-gauge railroad, Thurlow provided information on the branch line from Weeks Mills to Winslow that ran trains for a few years, beginning on July 9, 1902 (the tracks were removed about 1915, he wrote).

There was a dance pavilion in South China then, on the western edge of the village, and Thurlow wrote that the railroad would run excursions from Winslow to South China, taking passengers to the pavilion early in the evening and bringing them back to Winslow around midnight.

There was another popular place on the WW&F line to Winslow, not far north of the pavilion. Thurlow wrote: “A mineral spring between the Pavilion and Clark’s Crossing provided the occasion for many an unscheduled stop while train crews and passengers alike refreshed themselves.”

Clark’s Crossing was presumably the place where the tracks crossed the still-existing Clark Road that runs toward China Lake from what is now Route 32 North (Vassalboro Road). Your writer has found no other reference to this spring, but does not doubt its existence, because Thurlow talked with several former WW&F employees.

Update on Victor Grange

Victor Grange

Victor Grange #49, in Fairfield Center, organized in 1874, first was profiled in this series on May 13, 2021. This year’s July 14 issue of The Town Line reported that Grange members were about to have the hardwood floors downstairs refinished, probably for the first time since the building opened in 1903.

Grange Lecturer Barbara Bailey reported on July 31 that the floors are done! Grange members intended to spend the first day of August cleaning up dust from the sanding and washing windows before they rehung curtains.

Wednesday, Aug. 3, is the scheduled day to move furniture – including two pianos – back in.

Bailey invites anyone interested in this building preservation and restoration work to contact her at 453-9476 or email baileybarb196@gmail.com. The Grange email address is victorgrange49@gmail.com.

Update on the July21 update on the Kennebec Arsenal

Kennebec Arsenal

Augusta’s Kennebec Arsenal, a group of eight granite buildings dating from 1828-1838 and designated a National Historic Landmark District, has been discussed in two earlier articles in this series, in the Jan. 21, 2021, and Feb. 10, 2022, issues of The Town Line. The buildings have been privately owned since 2007; when the owner bought them from the state, he agreed to keep them in repair and maintain their historic value.

This writer’s July 21 update, citing a story by Keith Edwards of the Kennebec Journal, reported that the Augusta City Council was considering declaring the property dangerous. A declaration would let councilors have repairs made and bill the owner, or have the buildings demolished.

The council postponed a decision until its July 28 meeting, Edwards wrote. In the July 29 Kennebec Journal, he reported that after almost four hours of discussion, councilors again delayed a decision. They plan to continue the hearing at their next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 4, at 5:30 p.m.

Edwards wrote that Augusta Codes Enforcement Officer Rob Overton told council members the buildings were in deplorable condition inside and out. He estimated the cost of making them usable again at around $30 million.

The owner, accompanied by his lawyer, pointed out that he had reroofed all the buildings – Overton had exempted the roofs from his criticism – and made other repairs. He said he intends to ask for local permits to renovate five buildings by the end of August, planning to complete the work within two years.

The owner estimated the cost for that part of renovations at $1.76 million. For another $3.5 million, maximum, he said he could convert what Edwards called “the large Burleigh building” into upscale apartments.

Correction to above article

Benton historian Barbara Warren wrote to point out an error in the Hinds genealogy in the Aug. 4 piece on natural resources, the section on Augustine Crosby (1838-1898), who invented a gold dredge and married Asher Hinds’ daughter, Susan Ann Hinds (1837-1905).

This writer incorrectly identified Susan Hinds’ father as Asher Crosby Hinds, known as “the Parliamentarian.” Her father was actually Asher Hinds (1792- 1860), whom Warren calls “the builder” (he sponsored the building of the Benton Falls Meeting House in 1828 and in 1830 built the Benton Falls house in which Warren now lives). Warren describes him as “a prosperous farmer and merchant,” War of 1812 veteran and delegate to the Massachusetts General Court.

Susan Ann (Hinds) Crosby was Augustine Crosby’s third cousin and Parliamentarian Asher Crosby Hinds’ aunt. Her brother, another Asher Crosby Hinds, was born in 1840 and died in 1863 in the Civil War. The Parliamentarian’s father was Susan’s brother, Albert Dwelley Hinds (1835-1873).

The confusion is understandable, Warren wrote. For four generations, the Hinds family included an Asher; and Hinds and Crosbys often intermarried.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Thurlow, Clinton F., The WW&F Two-Footer Hail and Farewell (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

LETTERS: Albion is the best town

To the editor:

I just wanted to say, how happy I am to live in Albion. I love this beautiful town. I’m so pleased to see the village bustling again. A few years ago Main St. was desolate. Now the village is full of people, new living spaces, and several new businesses are thriving. I’m just so pleased. The village is still small, quaint, & has all the country charm that I moved from China to Albion for.

I am so grateful for the wonderful people that run this town. A few weeks ago I had an issue that (to me) was important, but truthfully could’ve waited. But me, being me, went knocking on the town office door even though it was clearly closed. I should not have been surprised, but I was, when the door opened. I was given the info I needed right then and there. I then made contact with the town road commissioner. He answered my call, even though he was actively working on a job site. Within an hour he called me back with the info I needed. The state was not as helpful, but that’s neither here nor there.

By the end of the day, when realizing what a pain I am (lol) I went to bed thanking my God for the people in and the town itself of Albion.

Thank you to every town official and every town resident who make this beautiful country town the most perfect place to live.

Danielle Foster

Maine Farmland Trust awards grants to local farms

Ironwood Farm, in Albion, owners Nell Finnigan, left, and Justin Morace. (internet photo)

Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) announced the award of six matching grants totaling $300,000 to Ironwood Farm, in Albion, and five other farms across the state upon their completion of MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program, a two-year program that offers up to 100 hours of individualized business planning and technical assistance to farmers who are seeking to grow their operations. The six farms will implement business plans focused on scaling up for wholesale by investing in equipment and infrastructure to streamline their production, improve their ability to sell to wholesale markets, and make their businesses more profitable.

The 2022 grantees are Apple Creek Farm in Bowdoinham; Bahner Farm in Belmont; Bumbleroot Organic Farm in Windham; Farmer Kev’s Organics in West Gardiner; Ironwood Farm in Albion; and Pumpkin Vine Family Farm in Somerville.

Each farm was awarded $50,000, and will match the grants with $50,000 of their own investments, introducing a total of $100,000 of new funding to grow their businesses. All six farms participated in MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program and worked with business advisors to research and define robust business plans that focused on scaling up for wholesale markets. These grants are competitive and applications undergo an extensive review process by a committee of MFT staff and industry consultants.

In their business plan, Nell Finnigan and Justin Morace of Ironwood Farm, an organic diversified vegetable farm in Albion, planned to scale up their best crops to help them grow sales to a level where they can support full-time, year round employees who are paid equitably, as well support a living wage for the farm owners. Finnigan and Morace plan to do this by using grant funds to construct new vegetable-handling facilities and cold storage.

Pumpkin Vine Family Farm, in Somerville. Anil Roopchand, center, with children Kieran, left, and Sarita. (The Town Line file photo)

Another award recipient was Anil Roopchand and Kelly Payson-Roopchand’s Pumpkin Vine Family Farm, a goat dairy and farmstead creamery, in Somerville. Their business plan identified a need to increase the size of their goat herd, as well as the capacity of their on-farm infrastructure, so their farm can sell products to diverse markets, including expanding their ability to provide wholesale goat milk to other local creameries. As a result, Roopchand and Payson-Roopchand plan to use grant funds to buy new equipment, as well as investing in an expansion of their barn and a manure pit.

Learn more about MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program here: https://www.mainefarmlandtrust.org/farm-viability/workshops/.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Natural resources – Part 1

Brick making operation in Brewer.

by Mary Grow

As the preceding articles have at least partly shown, pre-European inhabitants of the Kennebec Valley lived off the land, using natural resources to provide food, shelter, clothing, transport, decoration and other necessities and frivolities.

The first Europeans, arriving in small (by our standards) ships, had no choice but to imitate the Native Americans. They got food by hunting and fishing, built wooden shelters and grew crops suited to local conditions. However, they quickly branched out in two directions, monetizing many natural resources and adding imported and manufactured items.

Monetizing applied to wild animals, notably the sale of beaver and other furs to European traders; to fish, especially migratory species, a trade being revived in the 21st century; to forests, as land was cleared not only for houses and farms but for a lumber industry that covered much of Maine and continues today; and even to the ice that formed in the Kennebec River every winter and was exported globally (see the article on lumber driving and ice harvesting on the Kennebec in the May 14, 2020, issue of The Town Line).

The Kennebec Valley offered other natural resources that Europeans developed. Linwood Lowden, in his history of Windsor, mentions one of the most common: rocks.

After a would-be farmer in the Kennebec Valley cut down trees, hauled away the wood and dug out the stumps, he was usually left with a field full of rocks. Nuisances, yes, but, Lowden points out, useful: big ones were “drilled, split and removed to be used as foundation stones.” Smaller ones lined cellars and wells or made stone walls as field or property boundaries.

Some, Lowden wrote, were immoveable: the farmer and his friends would dig a hole and bury such problem stones. Smaller ones that continued to surface as the fields were plowed went to the “stone dump,” the otherwise unused area in some corner on every farm.

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The invaluable USM Digital Commons on line includes Mining in Maine: Past, Present, and Future, published in 1990 by Carolyn A. Lepage and others. This source considers granite, limestone, slate, feldspar and iron among Maine’s commercially important minerals.

In 1836, the Maine legislature hired a Bostonian named Charles Jackson to survey the state’s mineral resources. Lepage wrote that he inspected mostly coastal areas and “major river and overland routes.” From this sample, he concluded Maine minerals were worth developing.

By 1836, Lepage wrote, Maine was already an international granite exporter. Hallowell was one of five granite centers (plus Biddeford, Blue Hill, Penobscot Bay and Washington County).

The rest of the 19th century featured continued exploitation of resources, especially along the coast, and a brief period of excitement about gold, silver and other metals after the Civil War (with no indication that the Kennebec Valley was involved). Granite remained important; in 1901, Lepage wrote, the value of granite produced in Maine exceeded that from any other state. Maine’s granite industry slowly declined in the 20th century, especially during and after the Great Depression of 1929-1939.

A Maine Geological Survey website emphasizes slate, used especially for roofing tiles, as another important mineral. This site mentions the “Central Maine Slate Belt” that runs from the Waterville area more than 70 miles northeast to Brownville Junction.

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Another natural resource common enough to be mentioned in many town histories is clay.

Clay, Wikipedia says, is a fine-grained soil that contains clay minerals. Clay minerals, according to the same source, are “hydrous aluminium phyllosilicate minerals, composed of aluminium and silicon ions bonded into tiny, thin plates by interconnecting oxygen and hydroxide ions.”

These minerals are plastic – they stick together and are flexible – when they’re wet, but become rigid when they dry. The material can thus be made into many things, from bricks for walls to dishes for the people inside the walls to eat from.

Wikipedia provides more scientific information, including noting that clay is commonly found where water bodies, like glacial lakes, let the soil settle to the bottom. Since much of Maine was once under a glacier, the prevalence of clay is to be expected.

An on-line source says Maine clay is not particularly suitable for ceramics, but is excellent for brick-making. Residents exploited clay deposits for building materials, for houses and for larger structures like mills and public buildings.

The all-brick Besse Building, in Albion.

In Albion, Ruby Crosby Wiggin’s history described a brickyard on the shore of Fifteen-Mile Stream, across from the Crosby sawmill (built in 1810 and operated into the 1880s). When George Crosby built the Crosby mansion in 1886 (see the June 11, 2020, issue of The Town Line for more on the stream and the Crosbys), he used bricks from the brickyard.

Wiggin listed specific uses: three chimneys, “a large brick oven and water heater in the kitchen,” “a large tank in the cellar which was used for the liming of eggs” and brick paving for the section of the cellar floor used to store potatoes. (Storing fresh eggs in a mixture of water and lime in a cool place was one of several ways to keep them edible before refrigeration.)

The front wall of the wooden ell added to the mansion in 1832 had a brick facing, Wiggin wrote. After part of it collapsed into the driveway some 50 years later, the remaining bricks were replaced with clapboards.

Wiggin mentioned another brickyard at Puddle Dock, in southern Albion, and yet another “along the clay flat beside Alder brook.” From the later, allegedly, came bricks used to build a brick schoolhouse.

This building was the town’s District 4 schoolhouse, shown on the 1856 Kennebec County map on the north side of what is now Route 202, opposite the north end of Quaker Hill Road. Wiggin quoted Henry Taylor’s memory of his father’s description of the building as “a brick schoolhouse with a wooden clock on the outside denoting the time, quarter to nine.”

No one seemed to know what significance, if any, that particular time held. A new District 4 schoolhouse off Quaker Hill Road was built around 1858, Wiggin wrote. She did not say whether any others of Albion’s 20 or so school buildings were brick, nor did she list owners of any of the brickyards.

The 1913 brick Besse building was originally Albion’s high school and now houses its town office (it is briefly mentioned in the Sept. 30, 2021, issue of The Town Line).

In China, various sources say there were at least three brickyards, along the north end of the east basin of China Lake; there might have been seven in the town, according to the bicentennial history.

The history describes how clay was turned into bricks. It was “shoveled into a circular pond; water was added; and the mixture was stirred with a long sweep propelled by a horse walking around the pond.” The resulting goop was put into a “hand-operated moulding machine” that could make six bricks simultaneously. The bricks were sun-dried and then kiln-baked.

Captain Nathaniel Spratt started his brickyard on the stream then called Wiggin Brook, which runs into the west side of China Lake’s east basin a short distance south of China Village, in the 1820s or early 1830s, according to Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history. He ran it for 25 years; the bicentennial history says that in October 1834 he advertised in the China Village newspaper, the Orb, that he had 230,000 bricks for sale. Later owners were Samuel Benson and Zalmuna Washburn. The brickyard went out of business in 1865.

(The bicentennial history explains that two early Wiggin Brooks were named for the Wiggin [or Wiggins] family of early settlers, which included two Nathaniels, father and son, one of whom fathered 25 children. The west-side Wiggin Brook, later Broad’s Brook, flows under Neck Road; Kingsbury associates “Hollis Broad’s widow” with the Spratt brickyard. The other Wiggin Brook, now commonly Meadow Brook [or Hunter Brook or Starkey Brook] is larger and flows into the east side of the muldoon [swamp] at the head of the lake.)

There are numerous handsome brick houses along Neck Road, including one just north of the former Wiggin/Broad’s Brook.

On the east side of the head of the lake, the bicentennial history says Abraham Talbot, a former slave, operated a brickyard. The town comprehensive plan dates it tentatively to the 1790s (see the June 23, 2022, issue of The Town Line for more information on the Talbot family).

Neither Kingsbury nor the bicentennial history gives a name or location for a third brickyard.

One significant brick building in China Village was the double store on the west side of the south end of Main Street, facing east down Causeway Street toward the end of the lake. Built around 1825 by two residents, Alfred Marshall (the northern two-thirds) and Benjamin Libby (the southern third), it housed various stores and intermittently the local Masonic chapter, with the two sections changing ownership separately.

The Masons briefly owned the whole building in 1866, but they promptly sold the north section. In 1919 they reacquired that part; the entire building was the China Village Masonic Hall until 2006, when the organization finished building a new hall on the east side of Main Street and had the old building demolished.

The Fairfield Historical Society’s 1988 bicentennial history says nothing about brickyards, but it and other sources describe many significant buildings made of brick.

One of the earliest was William and Abigail (Chase) Kendall’s house, built in the 1790s at the intersection of Lawrence Avenue and Newhall Street, a block west of the downtown area that was for years called Kendall’s Mills. The history says the building later housed Bunker’s Seminary, founded about 1857 (see the Oct. 21, 2021, issue of “The Town Line); it served “as a Masonic Lodge and as a boarding house” before it was demolished in the 1890s.

An on-line history says that “The United Boxboard and Paper Company, a three story brick mill complex, was established in 1882 at the northern tip of Mill Island.” (Mill Island is the largest and westernmost of the islands in the Kennebec between Fairfield and Benton.)

This mill provided pulp for paper-making at “the company’s other paper mill at Benton Falls and the Hollingsworth and Whitney Company (later Scott Paper) in Winslow.” The northern end of the island is now the town-owned Mill Island Park, designed by Waterville dentist Steve Kierstead, with walking trails built by the town public works crew and remains of the mill foundations visible here and there.

On Aug. 21, 1883, the bicentennial history says, some of wooden commercial buildings on Main Street burned down. The writers surmise that the fire probably “stimulated the building of the first of the brick blocks” on the street.

The most elaborate downtown brick building is the former Gerald Hotel, opened on June 4, 1900. Designed by Lewiston architect William R. Miller (1866-1929) for Fairfield business magnate Amos Gerald (1841-1913), it is described as “a striking Renaissance Revival structure, with a sophistication of design and decoration not normally found in rural Maine.” The building served as a hotel until 1937, according to the history, and was considered “the most elegant, if not the largest” in New England.

After 1937 the building was for many years home to Northern Mattress and Furniture Company. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2013.

The original Lawrence High School, on High Street, opened in September 1907, is yet another significant brick building in Fairfield (see the Oct. 7, 2021, issue of The Town Line). It is now Fairfield Primary School.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988.)
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Lepage, Carolyn A., Michael E. Foley and Woodrow B. Thompson, Mining in Maine: Past, Present, and Future (1990) found on line.
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Area residents named to University of New England dean’s list

The following students have been named to the dean’s list for the 2021 fall semester at the University of New England, in Biddeford. Dean’s list students have attained a grade point average of 3.3 or better out of a possible 4.0 at the end of the semester.

Olivia McPherson, of Albion; Valerie Capeless, Zinaida Gregor, Jessica Guerrette, Brooklynn Merrill and Julia White, all of Augusta; Sidney Knox, of Benton; Alden Balboni, Kierra Bumford and Tyler Pellerin, all of Oakland: Sarah Kohl and Olivia Roy, both of Sidney; Julia Steeves and Dawson Turcotte, both of Skowhegan; Lauren Boatright, Noelle Cote and Richard Winn, all of South China; Libby Breznyak and Lauren Pinnette, both of Waterville; and Juliann Lapierre and Justice Picard, both of Winslow.

Area residents named to dean’s list at University of New England

The following students have been named to the dean’s list for the 2021 fall semester at the University of New England, in Biddeford. Dean’s list students have attained a grade point average of 3.3 or better out of a possible 4.0 at the end of the semester.

Olivia McPherson, of Albion; Valerie Capeless, Zinaida Gregor, Jessica Guerrette, Brooklynn Merrill and Julia White, all of Augusta; Sidney Knox, of Benton; Alden Balboni, Kierra Bumford and Tyler Pellerin, all of Oakland: Sarah Kohl and Olivia Roy, both of Sidney; Julia Steeves and Dawson Turcotte, both of Skowhegan; Lauren Boatright, Noelle Cote and Richard Winn, all of South China; Libby Breznyak and Lauren Pinnette, both of Waterville; and Juliann Lapierre and Justice Picard, both of Winslow.

The University of New England is Maine’s largest private university, with two beautiful coastal campuses in Maine, a one-of-a-kind study-abroad campus in Tangier, Morocco, and an array of flexible online offerings. In an uncommonly welcoming and supportive community, we offer hands-on learning, empowering students to make a positive impact in a world full of challenges. We are the state’s top provider of health professionals and home to Maine’s only medical and dental colleges, a variety of other interprofessionally aligned health care programs, and nationally recognized degree paths in the marine sciences, the natural and social sciences, business, the humanities, and the arts. Visit une.edu

Albion, Palermo, Windsor, China talk merger (2022 April Fool’s story)

by Mary Grow

By 2024, central Maine might have a new town named Alpawich, combining the present towns of Albion, Palermo, Windsor and China.

The new town would have an area of 179.41 square miles, Maine’s largest town by far. Its population will be less than Augusta’s or Waterville’s, however.

The impetus for combining the four towns came from Palermo, as a proposal to merge with China to form a town to be named Chipal. Palermo officials had two motives:

  • The two towns share the village of Branch Mills, the West Branch of the Sheepscot River that runs through the village and Branch Pond north of the village (although China has only a small piece of the west shore); by contract, Palermo residents use China’s transfer station; combination into a single town government would simplify life; and
  • China, coming well before Palermo in the alphabet, beats Palermo in all kinds of lists, from apple sales through grant applications to zoos (neither town has one).

Windsor selectmen then expressed interest. Windsor too shares the Sheepscot, and alphabetically is more disadvantaged than Palermo.

A tri-town Combo Committee formed in the fall considered the issue alphabetically and recommended talking with Albion town officials. When the response was positive, the proposed town became Albchipalwin.

Too long, the members of the now-quadri-town ComboComm said. They proposed, and all four towns’ select boards accepted, Alpawich.

“We don’t mind being on the end,” China’s town manager said. “After all, we’re the largest town, in both area and population. You’ve heard of the tail that wags the dog, right?”

A Palermo Select Board member replied, “Hey, no problem if China thinks they run the show. We’ve shared their transfer station for years without throwing garbage at each other.”

Rather than submit the proposed merger to town meetings on different dates, the ComboComm recommended a referendum vote on state primary election day, June 14, 2022. The ballot question in each town will ask voters to approve the concept of combining with the other three towns and to appropriate a soon-to-be-determined amount to let the ComboComm hire a merger consultant.

The members of the four select boards have agreed that a simple majority in each town will determine whether the town becomes part of Alpawich; and that a membership of two out of four will create the new town (with an appropriately adjusted name).

ComboComm members and the consultant will design the new local government, deciding how many select board members will run Alpawich; how departments will be combined; and how costs of new signs, stationery and similar essentials will be divided.

As the internet replaces in-person interaction, committee members envision a single, central municipal building. The site remains undetermined.

Alpawich Hall would have municipal offices in the center. The educational side wing would be the k-8 school, plus a public library, historical society quarters and a museum, if local organizations express interest in consolidating. So far, they have not.

The medical side wing would house a clinic, a pharmacy, a veterinarian and insurance offices. The rear wing would be home to Alpawich Public Works and the Alpawich Solid Waste Disposal Facility.

For now, the existing transfer stations in China and Windsor would serve Alpawich residents. Fire and rescue units would be left as they are, to avoid increasing response time.

Proponents cite many advantages of consolidation. Combined contracting – with town attorneys and auditors, for example — and purchasing should save money. Their combined road mileage should attract lower bids from paving companies.

Some members of each select board also anticipate a larger town having more clout with state regulators, like the Departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation, according to a source who wished to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak on the matter.

County commissioners in Kennebec and Waldo counties have no idea what to do if Alpawich becomes reality. Albion, China and Windsor are in Kennebec County; Palermo is in Waldo County.

“Mostly the county lines run with town lines, like through Branch Mills,” one Kennebec County commissioner said. “Don’t know’s I’ve heard of a town that was in two counties.”

School administrators see many potential complications in the proposed change. Albion is in School Administrative District #49, based in Fairfield; China is in Regional School Unit #18, based in Oakland; Palermo and Windsor are in Regional School Unit #12, based in Somerville.

The RSU #18 superintendent is the least upset. “If there’s no more China, then there’s no more China in RSU #18,” he said. “They’re the geographic outlier. Talk about dogs and tails – they’re a detached tail.”

Assuming voter approval, the legislature would need to create the new town. Legislatively, since redistricting, China, Palermo and Windsor are in House District #62 and Albion is in District #63. The four towns are in four different state senate districts. “So if our reps pay attention to their voters, that’s four proponents in each house right from the get-go,” a committee member observed.

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Albion voters pass most of 57 articles: Reject marijuana licensing ordinance

Albion town office. Photo source: Town of Albion Facebook page

by Steve Ball

ALBION, ME — On Saturday, March 19, in the Albion Fire and Rescue Building, the town government held its annual town meeting. There were 76 voting residents attending the meeting. Fifty-Seven Articles were decided. At the front of the meeting were the Selectmen; Brent Brockway, Board of Selectmen Chairman; Michael Gardner, 3-year term, and recently appointed Scott Cyrway, 2-year term. The moderator, Richard Thompson, called the meeting to order at ten o’clock.

Nearly all of the articles passed with little discussion or debate. The town’s budget was approved at $1,507,939.21, an increase of roughly $300, 000 from the previous year. Attendees voted in three members to the town’s planning board; Dennis McKeen, 5-year term, and Jana Atwood and Norman Lawrence as alternates to a one-year term. Also, attendees voted in four members to the budget committee; Sonia Nelson and Julie McKenzie were elected to three-year terms and Matthew Dow and William McKenzie III were elected as alternates for a one-year term.

The article concerning funding for town roads and bridges received much discussion. It was agreed by a majority to appropriate $100,000 from taxation, $280,000 from the Albion General Fund, and $50,000 from the State of Maine Local Road Assistance Program toward roads and bridges.

The one article voted down was to enact the Town of Albion Marijuana Establishments Licensing Ordinance. After discussion it was decided to use a written ballot for this article. This article received the most discussion during the annual meeting. The Albion Planning Board had spent several months drafting this ordinance to regulate the licensing of marijuana establishments within the town, but it was clear after discussion that there was a desire for more information. The article was voted down, 51 – against, and 20 – in favor.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Wars – Part 12

The Civil War left China, like Albion and other towns, deeply in debt, paying to outfit the soldiers and compensate their families.

by Mary Grow

Civil War

The United States Civil War, which began when the Confederates shelled Fort Sumter, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861, and ended with General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, on April 9, 1865, had the most impact on Maine, including the central Kennebec Valley, of any 17th or 18th century war.

Nonetheless, your writer’s original plan was to write only a single article about the Civil War. As usual, she found an oversupply of material that she hopes will interest readers as it interested her; but she still limits coverage to two articles, for three reasons.

The first and most important reason to downplay Civil War history is that unlike, say, the War of 1812, the Civil War is already familiar. Citizens who know nothing about the Sept. 13, 1814, bombardment of Fort McHenry (which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became the national anthem) recognize at least the names of battles like Bull Run and Gettysburg. Many people can name at least one Civil War general; few can name one from the War of 1812.

A second point is that numerous excellent histories of the Civil War are readily available, including books specifically about Maine’s role.

And the third reason is that this war is recent enough that some readers undoubtedly have memories of their grandparents telling stories of the generation before them who fought in the Civil War.

Any reader who would like to share a family Civil War story is invited to write it, attach photographs if available and email to townline@townline.org., Att. Roland Hallee. Maximum length is 1,000 words. Submissions will be printed as space permits; the editor reserves the right to reject any article and/or photograph.

* * * * * *

Maine historians agree that the majority of state residents supported President Abraham Lincoln’s decision to fight to preserve the Union. Those who initially disagreed, James W. North wrote in his history of Augusta, found themselves a small enough minority so they either changed their views or moderated their expression.

By 1860, the telegraph was widely used. News of Fort Sumter reached Augusta the same day, followed two days later by Lincoln’s call for 75,000 three-months volunteers, including one regiment from Maine.

On April 22, North wrote, the Maine legislature, in a hastily-called special session, approved enrolling 10,000 soldiers in ten regiments for three years, plus “a State loan of one million dollars.”

Augusta had filled two companies by the end of April. Other Kennebec Valley companies joined them; they camped and drilled on the State House lawn. The Third Regiment started south June 5, 1861; those soldiers were promptly replaced by others from other parts of Maine, volunteers succeeded by men paid bounties and in 1863 by draftees.

North wrote that the first draft in Augusta was held July 14 through 21, 1863, starting two days after the New York City draft riots began, with news arriving hourly. In Augusta’s Meonian Hall, eligible men’s names were drawn from a wheel by a blindfolded man named James M. Meserve, “a democrat of known integrity and fairness, who possessed the general confidence.”

The process began with selection of 40 men from Albion. Augusta followed, and, North wrote, the initial nervousness gave way to “a general feeling of merriment,” with draftees being applauded and congratulated.

Being drafted did not mean serving, North pointed out. Physical standards were strict; out of 3,540 draftees, 1,050 were “rejected by surgeon for physical disability or defects.” It was also legal to pay a substitute or to pay the government to be let off.

Augusta remained a military hub and a supply depot through the war, centered around the State House and Camp Keyes, on Winthrop Hill, at the top of Winthrop Street. There were large hospital buildings on Western Avenue, North wrote, which were so crowded by 1863 that the Camp Keyes barracks were also fitted up as hospital wards. The trotting park between the State House and the river was named Camp Coburn and hosted infantry and cavalry barracks and enlarged stables.

North described the celebratory homecomings for soldiers returning to Augusta when their enlistments were up, like the one in August 1863 for the 24th Regiment. The “bronzed and war-worn” men had come from Port Hudson, Louisiana, up the Mississippi to Cairo and by train to Augusta, a two-week trip. Greeted by cannon-fire, bells, torch-carrying fire companies, a band, state and city officials and “a multitude” of cheering citizens, they marched straight to the State House, enjoyed a meal in the rotunda and “dropped to sleep on the floor around the tables, being too weary to proceed to Camp Keyes.”

Historians describing the effects of the Civil War on smaller Kennebec Valley towns tend to emphasize two points: the human cost and the financial cost.

Ruby Crosby Wiggin found as she researched the history of Albion a record saying that “out of 100 men who went to war from the town of Albion, 45 didn’t come back.” She listed the names of more than 150 Albion soldiers, six identified as lieutenants.

By 1862, Wiggin wrote, the state and many towns offered enlistment bonuses. In addition, towns paid to equip each soldier. Total Albion expenditures, she wrote, were $21,265; the state reimbursed the town $8,033.33.

Wiggin concluded, “No wonder the town was heavily in debt at the close of the Civil War.”

The China bicentennial history says almost 300 men from that town served in Civil War units. The author quoted from the 1863 school report that said attendance in one district school was unusually low, “the large boys having gone to the war.”

The Civil War left China, like Albion and other towns, deeply in debt. The China history says when the State of Maine began tallying municipal costs and offering compensation in 1868, China had paid $47,735.34 to provide soldiers. The state repayment was $12,708.33, and town meetings were still dealing with interest payments and debt repayments into the latter half of the 1870s.

China town meetings during the war were mostly about meeting enlistment quotas, and, the history writer implied, by 1864 voters were tired of the topic. In July and again in December 1864, they delegated filling the quota to their select board.

When the late-1864 quota had not been filled by February 1865, voters were explicit; the history writer said they agreed to “sustain the Selectmen in any measures they may take in filling the quota of this town.”

The Fairfield historians who wrote the town’s 1988 bicentennial history found the list of Civil War soldiers too long to include in their book and noted that the names are on the monument in the Veterans Memorial Park and in the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) record books in the public library across Lawrence Avenue from the park.

Of Larone, the northernmost and likely the smallest of the seven villages that made up the Town of Fairfield for part of the 19th century, the history says, “Larone furnished her full quota of ‘boys in blue’. These averaged one for every family, three-fifths were destined never to see their homes again.”

Millard Howard, in his Palermo history, wrote that “The Civil War was by far the most traumatic experience this town ever experienced.” Of an 1860 population of 1,372, 46 men, “or one out of every 30 inhabitants,” died between 1861 and 1865.

Looking back from the year 2015, Howard wrote somberly, “No other war can remotely compare with it.”

He listed the names of the dead, with ages and causes of death where known. The youngest were 18, the oldest 44. More than half, 26, died of disease rather than wounds; Augustus Worthing, age 31, starved to death in Salisbury prison, in North Carolina.

Sidney voters spent a lot of town meetings in the 1860s talking about the war, according to Alice Hammond’s town history. As early as 1861, they approved abating taxes for volunteers.

As the war went on, voters authorized aid for volunteers’ families and monetary inducements to enlist for residents and non-residents, with preference given to residents. At an 1863 special meeting, they authorized selectmen to borrow money as needed “to aid families of volunteers.”

Hammond noted that Sidney was debt-free before the war, “but in 1865 it issued bonds for $24,000, a debt from which it recovered very slowly.”

Alma Pierce Robbins found from military records that 410 men from Vassalboro enlisted for Civil War service. From census records, she listed the 1860 population as 3,181.

As in other municipalities, voters approved wartime expenses. Robbins wrote that $7,900 was appropriated for bounties and aid to soldiers’ families in 1861. The comparable 1863 figure was $16,900. Perhaps for contrast, she added the 1864 cost of the new bridge at North Vassalboro (presumably over Outlet Stream): $1,057.82 (plus an 1867 appropriation of $418.62).

In Waterville, General Isaac Sparrow Bangs wrote in his chapter on military history in Reverend Edwin Carey Whittemore’s 1902 centennial history, recruiting offices opened soon after the news of Fort Sumter. A Waterville College student named Charles A. Henrickson was the first to enroll, and, Bangs wrote, his example “proved so irresistibly contagious at the college that the classes and recitations were broken up” and the college temporarily closed.

Henrickson was captured at the Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861. He survived the war; later in the Waterville history, Chas. A. Henrickson is listed among charter members of the Waterville Savings Bank, organized in 1869.

These Waterville soldiers became companies G and H in the 3rd Maine Infantry, Bangs wrote. After drilling in Waterville, they went to Augusta and were put under the command of regimental Colonel Oliver O. Howard. On June 5, Howard was ordered to Washington, “carrying with him, as Waterville’s first contingent, seventy-four of her boys into the maelstrom of war.”

Bangs spent years verifying the names of 421 men who either enlisted from Waterville or were Waterville natives who enlisted elsewhere. The names are included in Whittemore’s history.

Bangs added that the Maine Adjutant-General’s report says Waterville provided 525 soldiers. He offered several explanations for the discrepancy, pointing out the difficulties of accurate record-keeping.

Waterville paid $67,715 in enlistment bounties, Bangs wrote. Henry Kingsbury, in his history of Kennebec County, put the figure at $68,016 and said the state reimbursement was $19,888.33.

Linwood Lowden wrote in the history of Windsor that more than one-third of Windsor men aged 17 to 50 fought in the Civil War, most of them in the19th and 21st Maine infantry regiments.

Like other towns, Windsor paid bonuses to enlistees and, Lowden wrote, $2,663.87 “in aid to soldiers’ families…from 1862 through 1866.” He added that Windsor first went into debt during these years.

Camp Keyes, Augusta

A history of Camp Keyes found on-line says that the 70-acre site on top of Winthrop Hill, on the west side of Augusta, had been used as, and called, “the muster field” since before Maine became a state in 1820. It was still available, although the militia had become less significant, when the Civil War broke out.

On Aug. 20, 1862, Maine Adjutant General John L. Hodsdon designated the field one of Maine’s three official “rendezvous areas” for militia and volunteers and named it Camp E. D. Keyes, in honor of Major-General Erasmus D. Keyes, a Massachusetts native who moved to Kennebec County (town unspecified on line) as a young man. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1832 and fought in the Civil War until 1863, when a superior removed him from command, claiming he lacked aggressiveness.

(The other two Maine rendezvous areas were Camp Abraham Lincoln, in Portland, and Camp John Pope [honoring General John Pope from Kentucky], in Bangor.)

Thousands of Civil War soldiers from Maine passed through Camp Keyes. It also housed Maine’s only federal military hospital, named Cony Hospital in honor of Governor Samuel Cony.

After the war, the site remained a militia training ground. The State of Maine bought it in 1888. In 1893 the militia became the National Guard and continued to use the training ground, with Guard headquarters in the Capitol building until 1938.

The on-line site gives an undated description: “Small buildings were constructed of plywood for mess halls, kitchens, latrines, store houses, and lodging for senior military officers. Companies pitched their tents on pads that had been built.”

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Howard, Millard, An Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine (second edition, December 2015).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993).
Marriner, Ernest, Kennebec Yesterdays (1954).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
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.