ALBION: Meeting held to decide on way forward for Albion school

A group of approximately 40 Albion residents listen to a presentation by Kara Kugelmeyer (left and below). (photo by Steve Ball)

by Steve Ball

ALBION, ME — A group of Albion residents have been working to figure out what options are available to town residents in light of the recent decision by the MSAD #49 School Board to consolidate the elementary schools of Clinton, Benton and Albion. Consolidation would result in closing the Albion school. Closure of the town’s school is yet another loss for Albion and could have, as moderators said during this meeting, long term consequences for the town.

The group, led by residents Kara Kugelmeyer and Billie Jo Brown-Woods, moderated an information session for interested people in Albion following the annual town meeting on Saturday, March 19, in the town’s fire and rescue building.

The MSAD #49 School Board, the primary decision making body for the district, is made up of members from the towns of Fairfield, Clinton, Benton and Albion. Board members come from member towns with the numbers of voting members being allocated according to population. This results in the MSAD #49 board having two members from Albion and Benton, three members from Clinton and six members from Fairfield.

As explained, it has not been uncommon for small towns across the State of Maine to suffer school closures resulting from cost cutting efforts and attempts to improve administrative efficiencies in schools. These actions have generally been done to reduce the tax burden for an area or to accommodate shrinking student populations. The consequences of a school closure, Kugelmeyer explained, on small towns like Albion, can be stark and have long term impacts on the town’s economic viability and sense of community.

Kugelmeyer and Brown-Woods led the information session for over 40 interested town residents during which they laid out options for the town with possible consequences for each option. It was clear from the number of residents attending the voluntary meeting and the emotion expressed during the session that, for many, a closure of the town’s school would mark a potentially damaging inflection point in Albion’s history from which the town might not be able to recover.

The new consolidated school will be built in Benton, across from the current Benton Elementary School. Kugelmeyer and Brown-Woods stressed that not all aspects of the new school would be bad. There would be improved facilities and a greater number of school activity offerings for students, more than what Albion’s school offers.

Closing the Albion school and sending students to the new school, however, would not necessarily result in cost or tax savings to the residents of Albion, according to Kugelmeyer. Additionally, students would possibly have up to a two hour bus ride per day. Kugelmeyer cited studies looking at other small towns that have experienced school closures showing that the closer a home is to a school, the higher the home value, and the farther away, the lower home values tend to be. “Towns soon become a less desirable destination for new families looking to settle,” Kugelmeyer expressed. All of this affects the tax base for a town.

Kugelmeyer stressed the options available to the residents of Albion are few, but any action must be done soon. An option would be to vote “No” on the referendum to close the Albion and Clinton schools being put forward in November. While this is the easiest option for Albion residents, for the referendum to fail would require that a majority of voters of Fairfield, Benton, Clinton and Albion vote “No”. This would not mean, Kugelmeyer added, that the MSAD #49 board would bring this referendum up again. She commented that it is unlikely this referendum will fail as it largely benefits the towns of Fairfield and Benton, where the new school would be built.

The second option would be to withdraw from the MSAD #49 District. While this course would require more work by the town and its residents, this option, according to Kugelmeyer, would potentially be in the best long-term interest of Albion residents. The Withdrawing Option could mean saving the Albion School or establishing Albion as a “School Choice” town, allowing Albion students to attend any school in the local area, including MSAD #49 for all grades.

It was clear from the discussion by the moderators and the audience that the School Choice option appeared most appealing. But this would mean the town must form a committee to withdraw from the MSAD #49 District, hire a lawyer, draft a Withdrawal Agreement, and begin the process to withdraw within the next month.

While nothing was voted on or positively decided during this information session, it was clear the Town of Albion is quickly coming to a point of a decision that could mean the closure of the Albion school.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Wars – Part 11

Sir John Harvey

by Mary Grow

Aroostook War

Many historians don’t take the Aroostook War seriously. Several sources call it the Pork and Beans War; Wikipedia says the nickname is based on either the local lumbermen’s or the British soldiers’ staple food.

Some of the local histories cited earlier in this series don’t even mention the war. Alma Pierce Robbins gave it one dismissive sentence in her history of Vassalboro: “The ‘Aroostook War’ of 1839 made no impression upon official Vassalboro, perhaps because it proved to be ‘no war’.”

At the time, though, according to other historians, like James North and Louis Hatch, it was taken seriously by prominent people on both sides, discussed in the United States Congress and the British Parliament. Hatch wrote indignantly that the men who thought they would have to fight deserve recognition:

“Patriotic sons of the Pine Tree State left their homes and firesides in the most inclement season known to our rigorous climate and marched through the deep snows of a wilderness, two hundred miles, to defend our frontier from foreign invasion, when the Federal government was needlessly procrastinating and turning a deaf ear to the cries of suffering and oppressed pioneers in the upper St. John valley.”

The Aroostook War was a step in the boundary dispute between the northeastern United States and eastern Canada that was summarized in The Town Line, March 10, 2022, issue. At issue were about 12,000 sparsely-inhabited square miles claimed by both countries. After years of diplomatic disagreement and competing claims on the ground, both sides sent armed forces to the St. John Valley.

North and Hatch said one early precipitating action was the June 1837 arrest of Mada­waska census-taker Ebe­nezer S. Gree­l­ey, who was acting under authority of the Penob­scot County Com­mis­sioners, by New Bruns­wick Gover­nor Sir John Harvey.

In August, recently-elected President Martin Van Buren obtained Greeley’s release. Greeley finished the census.

However, Canadian loggers continued to cut timber in American-claimed woods. An on-line DownEast magazine article by Will Grunewald lists two other of the region’s assets: the Aroostook River basin had valuable minerals and good farmland the Americans could use, and the British wanted to maintain a land connection between Halifax on the coast and Québec.

On Jan. 24, 1839, North wrote, the Maine legislature ordered 200 men under Penobscot County Sheriff Hastings Strickland to go north to “arrest the depredators and secure the cut timber.” Hatch added that the legislature allocated $10,000 for the expedition.

Some of the group were arrested and jailed in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Hatch continued. Later in the month, he wrote, Americans arrested two Canadians and brought them to Bangor, where they were not sent to jail but “held in custody in the Bangor House and fared sumptuously.”

The trespassers had prepared themselves with “arms forcibly taken from the government stores in Woodstock,” North said. But Strickland’s troops brought a brass six-pound cannon that outgunned them in an initial encounter.

An on-line New England Historical Society article gives a livelier account, crediting the Canadians’ defeat to an attack by a black bear. The Cana­dians shot the bear – another on-line site calls it the only combat fatality in the whole war. The gunshots sent the two sets of armed men fleeing in opposite directions.

The Canadians recovered, and on Feb. 12 again captured some Americans. After an impressive two days of hard riding, Strickland reported to Augusta.

Gov. John Fairfield

Maine Governor John Fairfield asked New Brunswick officials if they supported the locals. Harvey ordered the trespassers to put back the arms they’d stolen; but he also promised to resist “any hostile invasion” and put his militia on stand-by.

Harvey’s claim of territorial jurisdiction and the Americans’ arrest of a British official led to further troop mobilizations on both sides. The Maine legislature promptly appropriated $800,000 and drafted 10,343 Maine militia.

Historian Ernest Marriner wrote in Remembered Maine that the draft “was scarcely necessary because volunteers poured in from all the towns.”

North wrote that one 50-man company “marched all the way from Augusta to the Aroostook, with the exception of a short ride from Bangor to Oldtown over the railroad.”

More than 2,000 Maine troops went to Aroostook, North wrote, and “The bustle of arrival, equipment and departure of troops, at Augusta, wore a decidedly warlike aspect.” General Isaac Bangs, in Edwin Carey Whitte­more’s Water­ville history, implied that all 10,000 men went north for three months, and emphasized the snow they encountered. Several sources commented on the inadequacy of the uniforms given them.

Gen. Isaac Bangs

Public opinion was strongly with the troops. Bangs called the populace “aroused” and the legislature “indignant.” The outrage, the New England Hist­orical So­ci­­ety site says, was “led, as usual, by the press.” The writer quoted from a belligerent editorial and said war correspondents accompanied the militiamen.

On the national level, Congress appropriated $10 million and authorized 50,000 soldiers. The New England Historical Society article says both sides built frontier forts, “sometimes within sight of each other.”

United States Secretary of State, John Forsyth, and British Minister in Washington, Henry Stephen Fox, proposed a mutual stand-down, North wrote. Harvey was willing, Fairfield and the Maine legislature were not. About the same time, however, prisoners were paroled on both sides.

On March 5 or 6, 1839 (sources differ), Major-General Winfield Scott, United States Army, and his entourage arrived in Augusta. Their assignment, quoted by several writers, was “maintaining the peace and safety of the entire northern and eastern frontiers.”

Scott asked Harvey, a friend since 1812, to guarantee no more use of military force against Americans in the area, and Fairfield to guarantee the same in regard to Canadians. Harvey agreed again on March 23. Fairfield, whether tired of quarreling or overawed by Scott (one source says the general stood six and a half feet tall), accepted on March 25. The Maine troops went home, except for a few allowed to remain to repel trespassers.

The New England Historical Society article lists two human casualties of the war, neither on the battlefield. A farmer was accidentally shot during militia firing practice, and a soldier died of measles.

This section of the border between the United States and Canada was settled by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, negotiated by Secretary of State Daniel Webster and British Envoy Alexander Baring, the first Lord Ashburton. It was signed August 9, 1842, and after exchange of ratifications took effect Nov. 10, 1842.

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Ruby Crosby Wiggin named two Albion men who participated in the Aroostook War in her history of that town.

One was Rev. Joseph Cammet Lovejoy (1805 – 1871), brother of abolitionist Elijah Parish Lovejoy. A document titled “Historical Sketch and Roster of the Aristook [sic] War” said that he served as a chaplain from Feb. 23 to April 25, 1839, enrolling in Augusta and being discharged in Bangor.

Wiggin’s other story (previously summarized in the Sept. 30, 2021, issue of The Town Line) is that of Wayne (Maine) native J. Belden Besse, born Oct. 15, 1820. Wiggin said by 1839 he was “a soldier stationed in that [Aroostook] County).”

Besse caught typhoid and after he recovered came back south alone, on foot. He stopped in Albion and later married tanner Lewis Hopkins’ daughter Isabelle and founded a locally-influential family.

A Fairfield Historical Society list found on line names 17 men from Fairfield, and a possible eighteenth, who served in the Aroostook War. One was Colonel Nathan Fowler, described in the Fairfield bicentennial history as owner of the 19th-century hotel at Nye’s Corner, which was also the stage stop and home of the post office.

Bangs’ chapter in the Waterville history similarly lists 60 men from Waterville and Fairfield who went north in Captain Samuel Burrill’s company, serving from Feb. 25 to April 19, 1839.

Waterville historian and Colby College Dean Ernest C. Marriner seems to have first met the Aroostook War through the diary of William Bryant, who came to the Nye’s Corner village, in Fairfield, in 1817. In his 1954 Kennebec Yesterdays, Marriner wrote that like many other diarists, Bryant focused on family and local events, but he paid brief attention to the northern boundary in February 1839.

Marriner said Bryant wrote of 200 men already gone north “to fight off trespassers,” another 1,500 started on the way and 8,000 more to be drafted to follow.

The diarist then reported that his wife was mending their oldest son Cyrus’s stockings “and washing them with tears. But Cyrus has returned home and got clear of the draft this time.”

This account seems to have piqued Marriner’s interest, because his 1957 Remembered Maine gives the Aroostook War a full chapter. He began semi-seriously:

“Maine once fought a war in which no one was killed and no battery fired a shot, although snipers took pot shots at the enemy without inflicting serious damage. Today it seems unthinkable that a single state of the Federal Union should make war against a foreign nation, but that is just what the State of Maine did….”

After recapping the history of the events in northern Maine, Marriner turned to General Scott’s initial discussion with Governor Fairfield. According to Marriner, Scott assured Fairfield that if he wanted a war, Maine people would give him one “fast and hot enough”; if Fairfield wanted peace, Scott would try, with “no assurance of success.”

Fairfield opted for “peace with honor” or “peace without dishonor.” In Marriner’s opinion, Scott got it for him.

Marriner then asked whether Fairfield’s political opponents, who blamed the governor for the war and labeled it “Fairfield’s Farce,” had a valid point. In hindsight, he concluded, they did not. He quoted another Maine historian who credited Fairfield with “forethought,” “wisdom” and “statesmanship.”

General Winfield Scott

Winfield Scott (June 13, 1786 – May 29, 1866) was born on a plantation near Petersburg, Virginia, and began a career as a lawyer. By 1807, he was a cavalry corporal in the Virginia militia. When President Thomas Jefferson expanded the national army, Scott used a friend’s influence to become a light artillery captain in May 1808.

Gen. Winfield Scott

Wikipedia describes his first four years as rocky, to say the least. He quarreled with his commander, was court-martialed for that and for a discrepancy in his recruiting allowance (blamed on careless record-keeping, not theft) and in 1810 was suspended for a year and fought a duel.

He used his suspension to practice law and study “military tactics and strategy,” and rejoined the army in time to become lieutenant-colonel of an artillery unit sent to Canada in the War of 1812.

Briefly a British prisoner in the fall of 1812 (when he and then Colonel John Harvey became friends), Scott served with distinction through the rest of the war. He was promoted to major general and awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor.

After varied assignments, including the 1839 peace-making mission to Maine, in 1841 Scott was made a major general and commander-in-chief of the United States Army. He led the successful invasion of Mexico in the Mexican-American War.

By the time Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated March 4, 1861, several Southern states had already seceded from the United States. Lincoln sent a messenger to ask if the Virginia-born general would ensure his safety during the inauguration.

Wikipedia quotes Scott’s reply proposing to put cannons at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue if necessary and “if any of the Maryland or Virginia gentlemen who have become so threatening and troublesome show their heads or even venture to raise a finger, I shall blow them to hell.”

Scott was by then in his seventies, too old for active command, and Lincoln did not always heed his advice. He resigned his command in October 1861 and died four and a half years later in West Point, New York, where he is buried.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Hatch, Louis Clinton, ed., Maine: A History 1919 ((facsimile, 1974).
Marriner, Ernest, Kennebec Yesterdays (1954).
Marriner, Ernest, Remembered Maine (1957).
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.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Wars – Part 10

Brigadier General John Chandler

by Mary Grow

Brigadier General John Chandler, profiled in the February 24 issue of The Town Line, was not the only area resident to have served in the Revolutionary army and again in 1812. Nor were these two wars the end of disagreements between the United States, and specifically the State of Maine, and Britain and British-controlled Canada.

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According to an on-line genealogy, Thaddeus Bailey (Nov. 28, 1759 – March 4, 1849) was born in Newbury, Massachusetts, served in the Revolutionary War from Lincoln County, lived in Palermo for some years and served in the War of 1812 while living in Albion.

In 1778, he was part of a Lincoln County troop sent to Providence. On June 30, 1779, he officially enlisted as a private in Capt. Timothy Heald’s company, Col. Samuel McCobb’s regiment.

(McCobb [Nov. 20, 1744 – July 30, 1791], who later became a brigadier general, was born and died in Georgetown. He had served at Bunker Hill, and led the Lincoln County militia in the unsuccessful July-August 1779 Penobscot expedition, in which Bailey participated for two months and 27 days, according to the on-line source.)

Bailey was discharged Sept. 25, 1779. The genealogy says he received a Revolutionary veteran’s pension in the amount of $30.65 annually, starting May 3, 1831.

In 1783, Bailey married Mary Knowlton, of Wiscasset. The couple moved inland to the north part of Pownalbourough, which an on-line source says is now Alna, where the first three of their 11 children were born.

In 1795 they moved inland again; Millard Howard’s Palermo history cites an 1809 record confirming on-line reports that Bailey bought (for $110) 100 acres in Sheepscot Great Pond Settlement, now Palermo.

In 1801, Bailey was among a large number of residents who signed a two-part petition to the Massachusetts General Court. The petition asked to have the settlement incorporated as a town to be named Lisbon, bounded by Harlem (later China), the Sheepscot River and Davistown (later Montville, from which Liberty was separated in 1827).

Further, the petitioners wrote, “from the new and unsettled state of their country they have a great proportion of roads to make and maintain within their aforesaid bounds and also at least ten miles of road to maintain outside of their aforesaid limits which road leads to the head of navigation on Sheepscot river, their nearest market. Wherefore, your petitioners pray that they may be exempted from paying State taxes during the term of five years next ensuing….”

(Howard went on to explain that while the Massachusetts legislators considered the request, another Maine town was incorporated as Lisbon. Sheepscot Great Pond’s clerk was Dr. Enoch Palermo Huntoon; and given the popularity of using famous cities’ names – like Lisbon — for new Maine towns, the petitioners chose Palermo as the fall-back name.

Palermo was incorporated June 23, 1804. Howard did not say how the tax exemption request was received.)

Mary Bailey’s on-line genealogy says the Baileys “were early members of the Baptist Church of Palermo, founded in 1804.”

The family soon moved again, and again inland. Census records from 1810 and 1820 show Bailey living in Fairfax (Mary died in January 1816).

Bailey served briefly and uneventfully in the War of 1812, going to Belfast Sept. 3, 1814, and coming back Sept. 14. Howard listed him among the privates in the Palermo militia (apparently he enrolled or re-enrolled there rather than in Fairfax). By then he would have been coming up on his 55th birthday.

In the 1830 and 1840 censuses, Bailey is still in the town that had become Albion in 1824. The Roll of Pensioners mentioned on line says in 1841, he was 80 years old and had returned to Palermo.

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Dean Bangs’ (May 31, 1756 – Dec. 6, 1845) Revolutionary service was summarized in the Jan. 20 issue of The Town Line. By 1812, Bangs was living in Sidney and doing business in Waterville.

In Whittemore’s history of Waterville, Bangs’ grandson, Isaac Sparrow Bangs, wrote in the military chapter that in the War of 1812 Bangs raised a company of men from Waterville and Vassalboro to serve in Major Joseph Chandler’s Artillery Company. The company was held at Augusta from Sept. 12 to Sept. 24, 1814, the period during which other Kennebec Valley units went to the coast to meet a British landing that never occurred.

(Your writer has spent a great deal of time trying to find the relationship, if any, between General John [Feb. 1, 1762 – Sept. 25, 1841] and Major Joseph Chandler. One of several on-line Chandler genealogies lists the 12 children of Joseph Chandler III and Lydia [Eastman] Chandler as including Joseph IV [1755-1785] and John [1762 – 1840]; and 1840 is as close as genealogies sometimes get to the 1841 found in on-line sources. However, if this Joseph Chandler died young in 1785, he cannot have led an artillery unit in the War of 1812.)

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Michael McNally (about 1752 – July 16, 1848) must have been among the oldest Revolutionary War veterans to fight in the War of 1812. An on-line family history calls him “a man of superior education and strong intellectual powers.”

The history says he was born in Ireland and emigrated with his parents to Pennsylvania, where his father was wealthy enough to provide for his son’s education. On May 13, 1777, he is recorded as enlisting as a gunner in the state’s artillery regiment.

On Jan. 1, 1781, McNally received “depreciation pay,” described online as negotiable, interest-bearing certificates given to military personnel to compensate for the decreased value of United States currency during their wartime service. Family stories say he left the army and served on some kind of armed ship, “whether a man-of-war or a privateer is unknown.” Later, he received a pension as a Revolutionary veteran.

Around 1784, he moved to the Kennebec Valley. In 1785, he married his first wife, Susan Pushaw (1768-1811), of Fairfield. The couple settled in the part of Winslow that became Clinton in 1795; McNally built a log cabin on the Sebasticook, the family history says.

The McNallys had nine children between 1786 and 1809. Susan Pushaw’s on-line genealogy spells her father’s name Pochard and says he was born in France. Michael and Susan’s children’s names are variously spelled Mcnally, Mcnelly, Mcnellie and Mcknelly).

Despite being a single father, when the War of 1812 was declared, the family history says: “Michael’s martial spirit was aroused, and although a man of sixty years he enlisted at Clinton, May 17, 1813, in Capt. Crossman’s company of the Thirty-fourth Regiment, U.S. Infantry, and marched to the frontier. He received a severe wound in the collarbone at Armstrong, Lower Canada, in Sept., 1813, while serving in detachment under the command of Lieut.-Col. Storrs. He was mustered out in July, 1815. For this service he received a pension.”

McNally married for the second time about 1830, to a Pittsfield widow, Jane Varnum Harriman. Her death date is unknown, but the family history says McNally spent his last years with his sons Arthur (1796-1879) and William (1798 or 1799-1886).

William McNally was a farmer in Benton. His wife, Martha Roundy (Sept 13, 1803 – summer of 1903) was the daughter of Job and Elizabeth or Betsey (Pushaw or Pushard) Roundy and the source of much of the information in the family history.

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Louis Hatch’s 1919 history of Maine includes a summary of the final settlement of the boundary between the eastern United States and adjoining Canadian provinces, an issue that troubled relations between the two countries from 1783 until 1842.

The St. Croix River had been defined as the boundary line by the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolution. But the St, Croix has three branches, and the two countries disagreed over which was the “real” St. Croix.

The Jay Treaty of 1794 (properly, the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, Between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America) created a three-man commission whose members unanimously and permanently defined the St. Croix River boundary on Oct. 25, 1798, Hatch wrote.

The boundary north and west from the head of the St. Croix still remained undefined. The United States claimed an area reaching north almost to the St. Lawrence River; Britain, on behalf of Canada, claimed a good part of what is now northern Maine.

The Dec. 24, 1814, Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812 included a clause establishing a commission to define this part of the boundary, from the source of the St. Croix River around the “northwest angle of Nova Scotia,” and south and west along the highlands that separated the watersheds of the St. Lawrence from the watersheds of rivers that ran into the Atlantic, all the way to the headwaters of the Connecticut River.

The treaty further provided that if the two commissioners disagreed or failed to act, the boundary question should be submitted to “a friendly sovereign or State.”

The commission was activated in the spring of 1816. Hatch wrote that after five years, its members had not even agreed on a map showing what areas each country claimed. The commission dissolved.

On Sept. 29, 1827, the United States and Great Britain agreed to submit the dispute to the King William I of the Netherlands. Hatch summarized the king’s responsibility: to interpret the 1783 treaty provisions by fitting them to the geography. The king needed to locate for the disputants the headwaters of the St. Croix, the “northwest angle of Nova Scotia,” the significant highlands and the “Northwesternmost head of the Connecticut River.”

King William issued his judgment on Jan. 10, 1831. Hatch called it “a compromise, pure and simple.”

Between the 1816 commission’s creation and King William’s 1831 report, Maine had become a state, with its own legislature and representation in the United States Congress. An increasing number of United States citizens were expanding settlements in Maine, as far north as the St. John River valley.

The 1831 Maine legislature established a committee to review King William’s judgment; the ensuing resolutions strongly condemned it. In June 1832, the United States Senate refused to ratify it.

The 1831 Maine legislature also incorporated the Town of Madawaska on the St. John River, including, Hatch wrote, the present Madawaska south of the river and some land north of the river. The area north of the river is now Upper Madawaska, New Brunswick, he said.

Hatch quoted part of Governor Samuel Smith’s 1832 annual message summarizing what happened next. The governor said Madawaska residents had organized their town, apparently acting before the state’s approval, and had elected town officials and a legislative representative. New Brunswick officials, “accompanied with a military force,” had arrested and imprisoned many residents.

Smith had appealed to the United States government. Though neither he nor federal authorities were sure the Madawaska residents had acted legally, President Andrew Jackson promptly intervened, and the prisoners were freed.

In following years, Maine governors and legislatures continued to push for a resolution of the boundary issue that would get the British out of the state. Hatch quotes from an 1837 Maine legislative resolution that referred to “British usurpations and encroachments” and said:

“Resolved, that [British] pretensions so groundless and extravagant indicate a spirit of hostility which we had no reason to expect from a nation with whom we are at peace.”

How that peace turned into a war, or at least a pseudo war, will be next week’s topic.

Main sources

Hatch, Louis Clinton, ed., Maine: A History 1919 (facsimile, 1974).
Howard, Millard, An Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine (second edition, December 2015).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902)

Website, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Wars – Part 4

The frigate Warren.

by Mary Grow

Revolutionary War veterans from Albion, China, Clinton, Fairfield

Note One: this article and next week’s will be about a few of the Revolutionary War veterans who lived in the central Kennebec Valley. Selection is based on two criteria: how much information your writer could find easily, and how interesting she thought the information would be to readers. There is no intent to disparage veterans who are omitted.

Note Two: Alert readers will have noticed in last week’s piece that artist Gilbert Stuart was misnamed Stuart Gilbert. Your writer accepts blame for carelessness; she also assigns blame to Mr. and Mrs. Stuart, for giving their son two last names, or two first names, depending on your perspective.

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Ruby Crosby Wiggin wrote that town and state records and cemetery headstones identify more than a dozen Albion residents who were Revolutionary War veterans. Two, Francis Lovejoy and John Leonard, were among early settlers.

Rev. Francis Lovejoy, grandfather of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, was in Albion by 1790. Wiggin found that he served initially in “Colonel Baldwin’s regiment” and later re-enlisted to fill the quota from his then home town, Amherst, Massachusetts.

(Colonel Baldwin was probably Loammi Baldwin [Jan. 10, 1744 – Oct. 20, 1807], who fought at Lexington and Concord in the Woburn [Massachusetts] militia. He later enlisted in the 26th Continental Regiment, quickly became its colonel and commanded it around Boston and New York City until health issues forced him to resign in 1777. Wikipedia identifies him as the “Father of American Civil Engineering” and the man for whom the Baldwin apple is named.)

Wiggin gave no information on John Leonard’s military service. By Oct. 30, 1802, he owned the house in which Albion (then Freetown) voters held their first town meeting. Wiggin wrote that he held several town offices between then and 1811, when his name disappeared from town records.

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A veteran who settled in what is now China, and whose story has been increasingly revealed in recent years, was Abraham Talbot (May 27, 1756 – June 11, 1840). In various on-line sources, his first name is also spelled Abram, and his last name Talbart, Tallbet, Tarbett, Tolbot and other variations.

Talbot was a free black man. He was an ancestor of Gerald Talbot, the first black man elected to the Maine legislature. Gerald Talbot’s daughter, Rachel Talbot Ross, is assistant majority leader in the current Maine House of Representatives.

Born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, to Toby (or Tobey) Talbot, also a Revolutionary War veteran, Abraham Talbot enlisted in the Massachusetts Line in July 1778 and served his nine months’ term at Fishkill and West Point, New York, until March 1779. He married Mary Dunbar in his home town on Sept. 3, 1787.

When he applied for his pension in 1818, he owned an acre of land in China with a small house on it. He and Mary were the only ones living there, although they had had eight children, born between December 21, 1787, and Feb. 16, 1805, in Freetown (now Albion).

William Farris (1755 – Oct. 19, 1841) was another veteran who in 1832 applied for his pension from China, having previously lived in Vassalboro from either 1796 or 1802 (sources differ). He was a native of Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and on Oct. 5 1775, married Elizabeth Burgess of that town.

An on-line history says he enlisted three times in three regiments: Nov. 1, 1775, for two months in Colonel Putnam’s regiment; February 1775 (a misprint for 1776, as the writer says he enlisted “again”) for two months in Colonel Carey’s regiment; and April or May 1776 for four months in Colonel Berckiah Bassett’s regiment.

His first terms were spent building fortifications in Cambridge and Dorchester, outside Boston. His third enlistment ended in the fall of 1776 on Martha’s Vineyard, “guarding the shore.”

Col. Rufus Putnam

(Colonel Putnam was probably Rufus Putnam [later a Brigadier General], a French and Indian War veteran who was instrumental in building the fortifications that forced British troops to evacuate Boston in mid-March 1776. Colonel Carey was probably Colonel Simeon Cary, commander of “the Plymouth and Barnstable County regiment of the Massachusetts militia,” which was at the siege of Boston. This writer failed to find Colonel Bassett on line.)

William and Elizabeth Farris had “at least eight children.” After she died around 1805, on March 18, 1806, he married a 22-year-old Vassalboro woman, Martha “Patty” Long. He bought a piece of land in Vassalboro in 1816, but was a China resident by 1832. His annual pension amounted to $33.33.

The China bicentennial history lists seven other early residents who were Revolutionary War veterans, including Joseph Evans. Evans, for whom Evans Pond is named, arrived in 1773 or 1774 and left his wife and children in the wilderness when he enlisted.

* * * * * *

Michael McNally (about 1752 – 1848), sometimes spelled McNully, was a veteran who ended his life in Clinton. He served in the Pennsylvania Line up to 1781. An 1896 on-line source says his descendants claimed that his role was driving the horses that pulled cannons.

Family stories reproduced on line give two accounts of his arrival in Pennsylvania: one says he was born as his family emigrated from Ireland, the other that as a youngster he ran away from home and crossed the Atlantic alone. He settled in Clinton around 1785 and “raised a large family.”

* * * * * *

The Fairfield Historical Society writers who produced the town’s bicentennial history in 1988 listed four early settlers who served in the Revolutionary army and 10 veterans who moved in after the war (eight from Massachusetts, one from New Hampshire and one from Georgetown, Maine).

The most prominent was William Kendall (1759 – 1827), referred to in one section as General William Kendall. The history says he enlisted from Winslow in March 1777 and obtained an honorable discharge in 1780. An on-line source says he was a drummer “in various New England regiments.”

Having bought most of the area that is now downtown Fairfield, including an unfinished dam and mill building, Kendall completed that project and added saw and grist mills in 1781. The village center was called Kendall’s Mills until 1872.

On Christmas Day 1782, Kendall paddled up the Kennebec to Noble’s Ferry (Hinckley) in his birchbark canoe and came back with his new wife, Abigail Chase. The couple lived first in a log house by the river at the foot of present Western Avenue, then in Fairfield’s first frame house and later in a large brick house at the corner of Newhall Street and Lawrence Avenue. The last housed Bunker’s Seminary (briefly mentioned in the Oct. 21, 2021, issue of The Town Line); it was torn down in the 1890s.

The Fairfield history says Kendall served eight years as a selectman. An on-line source adds that he was Kendall’s Mills postmaster in 1816, Somerset County Sheriff and a member of the first Maine Senate. He and Abigail had eight sons and three daughters. Kendall is buried in Fairfield’s Emery Hill Cemetery.

The cemetery, on the river side of Route 201 at the foot of Emery Hill, is near the site of the log house built by Jonathan Emery in 1771 that is called the first house built in Fairfield. Jonathan’s son David (born in Massachusetts Sept. 24, 1754) was one of the four Revolutionary soldiers who enlisted from Fairfield. The historians doubt the story that he enlisted in September 1775, inspired by Colonel Benedict Arnold’s troops marching up the Kennebec on the way to Québec, because dates don’t match.

They did find records showing that David Emery joined the Second Lincoln County Regiment on Mach 12, 1777. On Feb. 2, 1778, he transferred to the Continental Army, where he became part of General George Washington’s personal guard. After being mustered out Jan. 23, 1779, he came back to Fairfield and on April 5, 1782, married Abigail Goodwin. He died in Fairfield; one on-line source gives his date of death as Nov. 18, 1830, another as Nov. 18, 1834.

The other three early settlers who fought in the war were Josiah Burgess (1736 – 1828), a lieutenant from March 1776 to March 1779 in the First Barnstable Company from his home town of Sandwich, Massachusetts; his younger brother Thomas (1741 – 1820), who served in Josiah’s company for a week; and Daniel Wyman (1752 – 1829), who moved up the river from Dresden to Fairfield in 1774 and served three years in the Second Massachusetts Line. After independence, each Burgess brother served as a Fairfield selectman and Thomas was town treasurer for two years.

Jonathan Nye (November 1757 – September 1854) was born in Sandwich, Massachusetts, and is identified on line as serving as a private in 1775 and 1776 at Elizabeth Islands, first in Captain John Grannis’s company and later in Captain Elisha Nye’s company.

(The Elizabeth Islands are an island chain south of Cape Cod and west of Martha’s Vineyard; they compose the town of Gosnold, Massachusetts, named after the British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold, the first European to visit them, in 1602.

(John Grannis was a captain of marines, identified in several on-line sources as spokesman for America’s first whistle-blowers. In February 1777, nine shipmates aboard the frigate “Warren” chose him to jump ship and carry to the government in Philadelphia their charge that Esek Hopkins, in charge of the Continental Navy, was “unfit to lead.” The Continental Congress fired Hopkins.)

The Fairfield history says after Nye’s first one-year enlistment, he enlisted again from Sandwich in the spring of 1777. He was at Saratoga when Burgoyne surrendered and at Valley Forge during the winter of 1778. At some point he became a sergeant. He was honorably discharged at West Point March 7, 1780. After that, the history says, he enlisted yet again for short terms and served on privateers.

The on-line source names his first wife as Mercy Ellis from Sandwich. The bicentennial history calls her Mary Ellis, and says Nye married her “soon after his discharge [in the early1780s, then] and settled in Fairfield.” The history also says that in the spring of 1835, when Nye applied for one of the land grants Congress had just authorized, he said he had lived in Fairfield for 35 years, indicating he moved there in 1800. And in an account of the Nye family in another section of the book, Jonathan Nye is said to have moved from Sandwich to Fairfield in 1788, with his cousins Bartlett (August 1759 – 1822), Bryant and Elisha (Nov. 2, 1757 – 1845) Nye.

On March 18, 1820, Jonathan Nye married again, to Abigail Fish, who died in 1850. When he applied for a military pension in 1820, he said she was not strong enough to help with their farm, and he could not do much because of “blindness caused by small pox while in the army and a lameness in both knees.”

Col. Nathaniell Freeman

Jonathan Nye’s cousins Bartlett and Elisha were also Revolutionary veterans. Bartlett Nye, according to an on-line family history, served from July 2 to Dec. 12, 1777, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and again for four days, Sept. 11 through Sept. 14, 1779, as a corporal in Colonel Freeman’s regiment responding to “an alarm at Falmouth [Massachusetts].”

(Colonel Freeman was probably Nathaniel Freeman (March 28, 1741 – Sept. 20, 1827) from Sandwich. He had a medical practice, became active in the Revolutionary movement as early as 1773, was a militia colonel from 1775 and a militia brigadier general from 1781 to 1791.)

Elisha Nye was also in Colonel Freeman’s regiment. He is listed on line as serving for several very brief periods in 1778 and 1779.

After the war, each of the brothers held political office. In 1812, Bartlett Nye was in the Massachusetts General Court, where he supported making Maine a separate state; his term had ended before the decision was taken in June 1819. Elisha, the Fairfield history says, “served as Representative from the County” in 1816, presumably also to the Massachusetts General Court.

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).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Albion, South China libraries

Albion Public Library

by Mary Grow

The majority of the central Maine towns and cities this series is covering have public libraries. Previous articles have talked about the three whose buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places – Lawrence Library, in Fairfield (the Nov. 11 issue of The Town Line), Lithgow Library, in Augusta (Nov. 18) and Brown Memorial Library, in Clinton (Dec. 2).

This piece will describe other local libraries your writer finds interesting, mostly arranged alphabetically by town.

A digression is in order here to explain different concepts of “public library.”

The clearest version of “public” is a library that is owned by the municipality, run by a staff who are municipal employees and funded (mostly) by taxpayers. Augusta’s Lithgow Library is in this category; its website calls it “A Bureau of the City of Augusta, Maine.”

Lawrence Library, in Fairfield, is similarly described as “a department of the town of Fairfield.” It has a five-person advisory board (if the website is up to date, there are two vacancies).

Clinton’s Brown Memorial Library is one of the departments listed on the town website. The website lists three trustees.

Each of these libraries has a separate Friends group whose mission is to seek donations.

Another type of “public” library is a library that lets everyone borrow its books and other resources, free of charge, and is owned and run by a private association, normally headed by a board of trustees or other similarly-named group. The Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, in China Village, and the South China Public Library are examples of this organizational type.

Little Free Library is a 21st-century organizational form that will be described in the next article in this series, with local examples.

Albion, the town immediately north of China, seems to have used two other forms of library organization for two successive institutions, one started in 1864 and the other in 1981.

Albion’s 19th-century library represented the type of library that is not truly public, but is at least partly financed by, and its services offered only to, dues-paying members. For the Albion Division Library, organized April 19, 1864, the dues were nominal; some member-supported libraries have charged significant fees.

Ruby Crosby Wiggin wrote in her Albion town history that a share in Library of Albion Div. 55 cost a man 50 cents a year, and required him to sign the library’s constitution and bylaws. Women, identified as “Lady Visitors” rather than members, also had to sign the documents, Wiggin wrote; they were charged 10 cents every three months.

The Division apparently met at least monthly, because Wiggin wrote that books “could be taken out or returned only at regular meetings.” Rules limited each member to one book at a time, with a four-week maximum borrowing time before a fine was incurred. But, she wrote, books could be renewed, and librarians’ records showed members keeping a book “for nearly a year by returning it each month and then taking it out again.”

Wiggin’s history includes the names of the first 17 men who joined the library in 1864 and 1865, and the five women who took out books at the first Division meeting. She also listed the 46 books in the original collection, a mixture of fiction and non-fiction that included a few names familiar to 21st-century readers, like Longfellow’s Tales of a Wayside Inn, Robert Burns’ poems, Francis Bacon’s Essays and George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss.

The library’s non-fiction collection included travel books by Peter Sutherland and Bayard Taylor; both volumes of Joel Tyler Headley’s 1847 Washington and His Generals; and a three-volume history of Turkey. Fiction included Ten Nights in a Bar Room and What I Saw There and several other novels by Timothy Shay Arthur.

Wiggin talked about the library’s first two years, but said nothing about when or why it closed.

The present Albion Public Library, dating from 1981, is an organizational hybrid. The town website says it is “a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, an Agency of the Town of Albion, Maine.”

Organization Treasurer Richard “Rick” Lawrence explained that Flora Wing Champlin created the public library in 1981 in a corner of the Albion School library, with permission from the School Administrative District #49 directors. What was initially “a brave band of informal trustees” organized in 2001 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit trust.

Between August 2001 and February 2002, Lawrence said, the trustees raised money to build a single-story library building at 18 Main Street (Routes 202 and 9), on a lot “cheerfully” donated by Roddy and Hattie Robinson. They then signed an agreement with town officials giving the Town of Albion ownership of the land and building, with the trustees to run the library.

In the last two years the trustees have expanded the library by adding a connector building between the main library and a storage room to the south. Lawrence said the project cost about $234,000, of which less than 10 percent came from town meeting voters’ approval of special requests.

The Town of Benton currently has no public library, and neither on-line sources nor Kingsbury’s 1892 Kennebec County history record one in the past. Kingsbury, however, would not take this lack as a criticism of the town. He wrote, “The intellectual status of a community may be generally premised from its educational facilities, and in this respect Benton compares favorably with her sister towns.”

Benton Elementary School library has its own cheerful website. Town residents are eligible for the Maine State Library’s Books by Mail program.

The Town of China has two libraries. The story of the South China library follows; the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, in China Village, was described in the Dec. 2 issue of The Town Line.

photo courtesy of South China Library

The South China Library, founded in 1830, justifiably calls itself “Maine’s oldest continuously operating public library.” It was mentioned in the July 1 issue of The Town Line for its 20th-century connection with Rufus Jones.

According to the China bicentennial history, a group of South China men met in January 1830 “at the Chadwick schoolhouse” (near the present Erskine Academy, south of South China Village) and created the South China Social Library Society. (Kingsbury gives the year as 1832.)

The history quotes the organization’s goals: “improving our leisure hours to advantage; cultivating science in the community at large; and encouraging the present and rising generation in the same worthy pursuits.” Membership was sold in shares at a dollar each, and more shares could be “bought” by donating books. Borrowers were limited to one book at a time, unless they owned more than one share.

The bylaws allowed members to gather whenever they chose to discuss literature “not inconsistent with virtue and decorum.” For at least the first four decades the library reportedly accepted only non-fiction; the history mentions a paper presented to an 1870 meeting “commenting on the increasing public taste for ‘worthless’ fiction.”

Kingsbury wrote that the library did well. A $96 25th-anniversary gift from “Samuel Gurney, of London” (Kingsbury did not explain how a Londoner knew there was a library in South China, Maine), “gave fresh impetus,” he wrote.

(Wikipedia profiles a British philanthropist named Samuel Gurney [1786-1856] and mentions his son, also Samuel Gurney [1816-1882], but does not associate either with libraries or Maine. The younger Samuel Gurney, also a philanthropist, was co-founder of the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association, created in 1859 to give London people free, safe drinking water. In 1867 it was extended to animals and renamed the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association.)

The South China library’s books were housed in second-floor rooms above Ambrose H. Abbott’s store (he was the second librarian, from 1836 to 1866, succeeding Constant R. Abbott [almost certainly a relation, but on-line genealogies were not helpful]). In April 1872 a major fire destroyed most of South China Village, including Abbott’s store and the library’s 500 or so “choice” (Kingsbury’s word) books.

When the library reopened the next year, the China history says Eli Jones was president of the association. The library re-started with 80 books “and $6.58 in the treasury.”

Kingsbury wrote that the reopened library was free to all, supported by “subscriptions and donations.” In 1892, it was housed in the South China Friends’ meeting house and open on Sundays and Thursdays.

In 1900 Wilmot R. Jones donated the small lot on the south side of Main Street where the library has lived since, and the association had the building put up. Wilmot Jones was library association president from 1899 to 1919, and Rufus Jones from 1919 to 1948, according to the China history.

In the summer of 2016, library trustees bought the 1815 Abel Jones house on Jones Road, within half a mile of the original library building. The house has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1983 (see The Town Line, July 8).

The Jones lot is large enough to accommodate a new library building, now under construction.

The China bicentennial history counts the former Dinsmore Library, in Branch Mills Village, as a third library in China. Geographically it is on the China side of the town (and county) line that runs through the village. Nonetheless, in this series it will be treated as a Palermo library, and will be described in the next article.

Other Maine towns with two separate libraries

A superficial on-line search has found China is not the only Maine town with two separate libraries.

The Town of Harrison has the Harrison Village Library and the Bolsters Mills Village Library; the latter also serves Otisfield. The Harrison Village Library opened in 1908 in a stone building partly funded by Daniel H. Caswell, Sr.; it was renamed after Caswell in 1947. In 2004, the library moved into the former town office and resumed its first name. The stone building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

The Town of Kennebunkport has the Cape Porpoise Library and the Louis T. Graves Memorial Public Library (originally the Kennebunkport Library, renamed to honor donors in 1921). The Graves library’s two-story brick Federal-style building dates from 1813; it was the United States Customhouse from 1831 into the 20th century, with the town library on the second floor after 1898, and has been on the National Register since 1974.

The Town of Standish has the Richville Library and the Steep Falls Library. The latter, opened in 1917, was for many years the Pierce Memorial Library, in honor of donor Henry Pierce. Its brick Colonial Revival building, designed by Edward F. Fassett (son of Francis H. Fassett; see The Town Line, Feb. 4), has been on the National Register since 2004.

Main sources

Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Personal interview.
Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Even more high schools

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Besse family in Benton and Clinton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous.

Reaction to announcement of possible closing of Albion Elementary School


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 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 If you wish to join the committee looking at the options, have questions etc. please email:

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, or visit the WindowDressers website and fill out the form located at

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

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 For more event images, visit the ShineOnCass Facebook page. To learn more about the ShineOnCass Foundation, please visit




2021 Listing of Memorial Day Services

Memorial Day Services


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


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.


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.


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.


Memorial ceremony, 9 a.m.