Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Wars – Part I

Fort Western in 1754.

by Mary Grow

For the next however many weeks, this series will discuss 19th-century wars that affected central Kennebec Valley residents. After the British gained legal control of the region by the 1763 Treat of Paris, the valley was mostly peaceful, but military actions elsewhere had local effects.

Your writer will start with the American Revolution (1775-1783), and go on to summarize some of the local connections with two more wars that finally ended quarrels over Britain’s interest in this side of the American continent, the War of 1812 (1812-1815) and the Aroostook War (1838-1839).

Next will come a very incomplete story of the all-encompassing Civil War (1861-1865). Many men and some women from the central Kennebec Valley were actively involved.

This part of the series will conclude with the Mexican War (1846-1848) and the Spanish-American War (1898). Though Kennebec Valley residents were aware of these geographically distant events, local effects were limited, with the important exception of families whose menfolk fought, and sometimes died, on the fields or seas of battle.

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The United States in the 19th century had two forms of military organization, the national army and the local militia units.

The U. S. Army, the oldest branch of the national military service, is a direct successor of the Continental Army, organized June 14, 1775. After the Revolution, mistrust of a “standing army” in the newly independent country led to temporary abandonment of a national force.

Soon, however, frontier wars made an organized armed force necessary. Wikipedia says Congress created the Legion of the United States in 1791 and in 1796 renamed it the United States Army. The United States has had a national military ever since, though a small one until the 20th century.

Wikipedia says local militias date from Sept. 16, 1565, when Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles organized the first unit in St. Augustine, Florida, leaving the men to guard supplies while he led his army to attack a French fort.

When English settlers arrived four decades later, they brought with them a tradition of organized militia units. Wikipedia says the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies (established in 1607 and 1620, respectively) started by enrolling every able-bodied man as a militia member.

“By the mid-1600s every town had at least one militia company (usually commanded by an officer with the rank of captain) and the militia companies of a county formed a regiment (usually commanded by an officer with the rank of major in the 1600s or a colonel in the 1700s),” Wikipedia summarizes.

After independence, colonies’ militia units became state militia units. Wikipedia says the federal government first began regulating them in 1792, and until the early 20th century relied on them “to supply the majority of its troops.” The militia became the National Guard in 1903.

Augusta historian Charles Nash included a chapter on the militia in his 1904 history. He described a typical local unit as enrolling able-bodied “citizens” (this writer is quite sure he meant male citizens) between 18 and 40 years old each spring.

“The organization of the militia consisted of companies of infantry in citizen’s dress (better known as ‘string-beaners’), light infantry in uniform, cavalry, artillery, and riflemen; these were organized into regiments, brigades, and divisions,” Nash wrote. Each infantry regiment normally had a company of cavalry and another of riflemen with it.

Uniformed infantry wore blue coats, artillery men “the revolutionary color [dark blue, according to Wikipedia] faced with red” and riflemen green, the better to hide in ambush in the woods. Infantry and rifle companies included fifers and drummers; the cavalry and artillery units had buglers.

Officers, Nash wrote, rode horseback. They wore the “wind-cutting” three-pointed, round-crowned black hat associated with Napoleon Bonaparte, “surmounted by lofty plumes,” and on their shoulders “glittering epaulettes.”

After organizing in May, militias drilled during the summer and in the fall held local musters that were the year’s main attraction for people of all classes, Nash said. Augusta’s muster ground for many years, well into the 1800s, was an area between Augusta and Hallowell named Hinkley’s Plains, after an early settler.

Nash described a typical muster, with demonstrations of military maneuvers, music and a final review before the mounted commander. Outside the muster area “tradesmen and peddlers and hucksters” assembled as for a fair; a great deal of liquor was consumed, inside and outside. In a footnote, Nash wrote that in 1844 the Maine Legislature banned musters because of the “gross intemperance practices.”

The 1817 muster at Hinkley’s Plains was special, Nash wrote, because Massachusetts Governor John Brooks came north to review the troops, only the second time a Massachusetts governor had visited the Kennebec Valley.

Governor Brooks had been a lieutenant colonel in the Revolutionary army and afterwards a major-general in the militia, and was known for his military appearance and skilled, graceful horsemanship. Local soldiers were eager to make their appearance before him, and, Nash wrote, people from 50 miles around made plans to attend.

Alas, early morning clouds and fog turned into a “cold and pitiless northeast rain storm.” The audience stayed home. The troops mustered anyway, with “drooping plumes, soiled uniforms and muddy boots and ruined gaiters.”

Brooks reviewed them from the back of “a fine dapple-gray clad in rich equestrian trappings.” The governor wore “a revolutionary three-cornered hat, with a large cockade on its left point, and a short black plume on its crown;…a blue military cloak, the cape of which was deeply bordered with red silk velvet, and its front and sides trimmed with gold lace; his breeches were buff and his high swarrow boots of shiny black polish, displayed silken tassels below the knees; a gold-hilted sword and gilded scabbard hung by his side.”

[“Swarrow,” or Suwarrow or Suarrow, boots are mentioned in the Askin Papers, documents relating to John Askin’s life in the northwestern United States, written between 1747 and 1820. Howard Franklin Shout, who wrote a thesis translating the papers into modern English for his Michigan State College Master of Arts degree in the 1920s, confessed that he was “not able to identify” the word.]

As Brooks and his staff began the review, Nash wrote, the governor took off his hat, “and while the merciless rain poured upon his whitened locks which fell upon his shoulders, he rode slowly before the line looking upon every soldier in it.”

Smaller towns, too, had their local militias. Ruby Crosby Wiggin, in her history of Albion, mentioned an 1808 town meeting vote to buy 32 pounds of powder. Other area towns had organized militia units and were stocking up on powder around that time, she wrote, adding, “Troops practiced on the town commons and were quite well organized when the War of 1812 called them to active duty.”

Her research in town records found local expenditures for the town militia, and supplementary payments from the State of Maine, part of the time (depending on successive town treasurers’ degree of detail) from 1839 until the Civil War.

Palermo had two muster fields, Milton Dowe wrote in his 1954 history. One was at Longfellow Corner, “where the Second Baptist Church was built in 1827”; the other was on Marden Hill.

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Six of the 12 central Kennebec Valley towns covered in these articles had legal European settlers by the spring of 1775 (Vassalboro, including Sidney, and Winslow, including Waterville, were incorporated on April 26, 1771), and four more by the time the Revolution ended in 1783. The exceptions were the off-the-river towns of Albion and Windsor, where the first settlements date from the 1880s. Your writer thinks it highly probable, however, that trappers, hunters, fugitives, hermits and other solitary types had homes in the region before record-keeping started.

Fort Halifax.

According to local histories, Augusta and Winslow were occupied first. Augusta was the site of the Cushnoc trading post, which dated from the 1620s, and then of Fort Western, built in 1758. Fort Halifax, in Winslow, was built in 1754-55.

Europeans mostly moved from the coast up the Kennebec, settling the east shore at Vassalboro around 1760 and around 1763 the west shore that later separated from Vassalboro as Sidney. Winslow settlers had spilled across the river into what became Waterville before Fairfield was settled in 1771.

By April 1775 Fairfield had nine families, according to the writers of the bicentennial history. The writers surmised that it took months for news of Lexington and Concord to reach them, and that between their immediate needs and the protection of nearby Fort Halifax, they felt little personal concern.

Clinton’s and Benton’s early arrivals date from around 1775. By then people were moving inland; China’s first family arrived in 1773, Palermo’s around 1776 or 1777.

Kingsbury, considering the whole of Kennebec County, did not share the later Fairfield historians’ opinion about the lack of local reaction. He wrote that news of the fighting at Lexington and Concord led to “bands of scantly equipped men and boys…pushing their way through the forests” to the nearest place where they could enlist.

“Many farms were abandoned or left to the care of women and minors,” Kingsbury continued, and not all the minors were content to remain behind (as examples in a following article will show).

In Augusta (then Hallowell), he said, a group of patriots organized themselves in January 1775 (before Lexington and Concord). In following months they formed a pro-Revolutionary military company and a public safety committee whose responsibilities included corresponding with Revolutionary leaders around Boston.

Winslow, similarly, had a three-man committee of correspondence, created in 1776 to keep town officials in touch with other pro-independence groups, Kingsbury wrote.

The specific event during the Revolutionary War that directly involved the Kennebec Valley was the expeditionary force sent in September 1775 to capture Québec from the British. Led by Colonel Benedict Arnold, about 1,100 men left Newburyport, Massachusetts, by ship on Sept. 17, or Sept. 19 (or thereabouts; exact dates differ from one to another of the many accounts of the expedition). They began landing at Major Reuben Colburn’s shipyard in Gardinerston (now Pittston) a few days later.

Colburn, a supporter of the Revolution, had collected information and built bateaux, flat-bottomed boats the army needed to navigate the river. The boats were built of green wood and therefore heavy and leaky; food, gunpowder and soldiers’ feet were wet most of the time.

After several days of transferring supplies to the bateaux, the expedition moved upriver. Stops along the Arnold Trail to Québec, as it is named on the National Register of Historic Places, included Fort Western, in Augusta; Fort Halifax, in Winslow; and Fairfield, where the 1988 bicentennial history says an early settler named Jonathan Emery repaired some of the bateaux, and a memorial stone marks the route.

By 1775 Fort Halifax had been out of service since the peace of 1763. Much of it had been torn down, and the central building had become a tavern, according to the centennial history of Waterville. Two area residents had explored up the river to provide advance information; another went with the expedition as a guide.

Disease and accidents, and in at least one case deliberate murder, claimed soldiers’ lives as the expedition moved on. Ernest Marriner wrote that Dr. John McKechnie (1732-1782), who had surveyed Waterville in 1762 and moved there in 1771, treated sick and injured men. Others are said to have been buried in the Emery Hill Cemetery, in Fairfield.

The murder, Kingsbury wrote, occurred as a result of a quarrel between two soldiers during several days the army spent at Fort Western. The shooter was court-martialed and sentenced to hang, but Arnold stayed the execution and forwarded the case to General Washington. The victim was buried “near the Fort burying ground”; later, Kingsbury wrote, Willow Street covered his “unheeded grave.”

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed. Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Marriner, Ernest Kennebec Yesterdays (1954).
Nash, Charles Elventon, The History of Augusta (1904).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Whitney makes dean’s list at Wentworth Institute of Technology

Emma Whitney, of Augusta, has made the dean’s list at Wentworth Institute of Technology, in Boston, Massachusetts, for the Spring 2021 semester.





Shakespeare group prepares for tea, Macbeth

Recycled Shakespeare Company (RSC) is holding a fundraiser, A Literary Tea, on a Sunday , January 2, 2022, at 2 p.m. Enjoy hot tea and lovely desserts while listening to winter poetry, passages of prose and music performed by Recycled Shakespeare Company and Friends, in the warm and inviting hall of the historic South Parish Congregational Church, 9 Church Street, in Augusta, ME.

Tickets are $20 and make wonderful Christmas presents for a memorable day. Seating is limited, and must be reserved by December 24, so buy early. Please text or call Lyn at 207-314-4730 for tickets or send comments on the RSC Literary Tea Facebook event page. Your purchase supports free community Shakespeare theater.

If you purchase a ticket and would like to join our readers, please contact Lyn by December 19 with your selection – or we can choose for you. Pre-approved original poetry is welcome.

Meanwhile RSC is preparing to perform Macbeth, March 24 – 27, 2022, in Augusta, Dover-Foxcroft and Fairfield. All parts large and small, as well as assistants, are open for auditions; and in RSC tradition all who want a part get a part. Ages 12 to 112 are welcome to audition. Those interested in main parts may come prepared with a monologue if you choose, and group readings will also be requested. Auditions will be held from 5 to 7 p.m., on Tuesday, December 28, at the South Parish Congregational Church, 9 Church Street, Augusta, and on Wednesday, December 29, at Fairfield House of Pizza – home of Pizza and Play, 207 Main Street, in Fairfield. For more information please text or call Lyn Rowden at 207-314-4730.

Shakespeare group to hold auditions

Recycled Shakespeare Midsummer Night’s Dream 2021 (Photo credit: Recycled Shakespeare)

Recycled Shakespeare Company (RSC) is holding a fundraiser, A Literary Tea, on a Sunday , January 2, 2022, at 2 p.m. Enjoy hot tea and lovely desserts while listening to winter poetry, passages of prose and music performed by Recycled Shakespeare Company and Friends, in the warm and inviting hall of the historic South Parish Congregational Church, 9 Church Street, in Augusta, ME.

Tickets are $20 and make wonderful Christmas presents for a memorable day. Seating is limited, and must be reserved by December 24, so buy early. Please text or call Lyn at 207-314-4730 for tickets or send comments on the RSC Literary Tea Facebook event page. Your purchase supports free community Shakespeare theater.

If you purchase a ticket and would like to join our readers, please contact Lyn by December 19 with your selection – or we can choose for you. Pre-approved original poetry is welcome.

Scouts honor veterans at local ceremonies

One of the primary goals of Scouting is to instill in young people a desire to become participating citizens and foster good citizenship. During Veterans Day, Scouts all over the area were busy working alongside veterans in several projects and events.

Youth and leaders from Augusta Cub Scout Pack #603 and Troop #603 assisted a Veterans Seminar, held at American Legion Post #205. Scouts from Jackman and Boothbay took part in U.S. Flag retirement ceremonies on Veterans Day. Winslow Scout Troop #433 (Boys), Scout Troop #433 (Girls) and Cub Pack #445 all attended the Waterville Veterans Day ceremony at Memorial Park, on the corner of Park and Elm streets, joining veteran groups and others to honor those who answered the call to duty. The ceremony had a presentation of the five branches of the military as well as the POW flag.

PHOTO: Emerging from Willow tunnel

Webelo Willow Mudie emerges from a willow tunnel at the two-mile point and moved out to complete her three-mile hike. Leading the patrol as the map reader, Willow and her mom were buddies as they completed the outer loop and a modified pond trail at the Viles Arboretum. Family engagement is a key for Scout success and Cub Pack #603, in Augusta, encourages parent participation. Willow is working to complete outdoor requirements while weather allows. (Contributed photo)

Senior Spectrum holds 3rd annual Pie Crawl 2021

from left to right, Cindy Sullivan, Regional Center Director for Spectrum Generations, and Michelle and Kyle from Traverse Coffee Co. (contributed photo)

Quarry Tap Room, Traverse Coffee Co. are winners

Spectrum Generations recently held its 3rd annual Pie Crawl in downtown Hallowell.

The Sweet Pie Award was presented to Traverse Coffee Co. and the Savory Pie Award was given to the Quarry Tap Room.

Shaina, left, of Quarry Tap Room, and Cindy Sullivan, Regional Center Director for Spectrum Generations. (contributed photo)

Scouts learn about trucks

Two Scouts, Gage Brunelle, left, and Gage McFarland, both of Windsor, happily climbed into McGee Construction trucks. (contributed photo)

Augusta Cub Scout Pack #684 held a “Touch A Truck” event on Saturday, October 23, at Mill Park. Youth from around the area climbed on, and in, large rigs and small earthmovers learning from the owners how each worked. The event also had information about Cub Scouting for those who struggle and wanted more than one day of fun. Cubmaster Shawn McFarland said, “This was our first time doing this event and it got postponed once due to weather earlier in autumn. It was great to see kids having fun and learning and exploring. We will have this again next year.” He thanked NRF, Maine X Construction, Steven A McGee Construction, New Gen Powerline, Bisson transport, and the city of Augusta for their support.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Libraries

The Lawrence Library, in Fairfield.

by Mary Grow

The differential treatment in education discussed last week did not necessarily make women less interested than men in learning and literature. Local histories mention discussion and debate groups, most by and for men, some by and for women, and early libraries.

Daniel Cony

Augusta had two men’s literary groups, one formed in 1817 and a successor in 1829. Kingsbury credits Daniel Cony’s example for “a reading room and social library organization” started on Oct. 1, 1817.

It was reorganized June 2, 1819, and chartered June 20, 1820, as the Augusta Union Society. The Society’s incorporation was “the first act passed by the legislature of Maine” after the separation from Massachusetts, according to James North’s Augusta history.

North wrote that the Union Society’s goal was “improvement in useful knowledge by means of a library of choicely selected books, magazines and public newspapers.” By 1825, the Society had outgrown its first headquarters and moved to the Kennebec Journal building on Winthrop Street. The Union Society had disbanded by October 1829, Kingsbury said.

In the 1820s, North said, Cony’s Female Academy had the largest library in Augusta. There was also William Dewey’s circulating library.

By then, North wrote, debating societies were common. He mentioned the Nucleus, organized in 1825, and the Franklin Debating Club.

Both Kingsbury and North offered information on the Augusta Lyceum, which Kingsbury said replaced the Union Society in 1829, “as the organized exponent of the intelligence of the town.” North explained that lyceums succeeded debating societies as “a form better calculated to impart instruction, and at the same time afford equal amusement.”

North said the Augusta Lyceum’s October 1829 constitution established dues at 50 cents a quarter-year (25 cents for members under 18), and life memberships were $20. Meetings were weekly, with monthly debates that Kingsbury said “were sometimes brilliant and exciting.”

North offered as an example the debate over the treatment of Indians by Puritans. Discussion continued for weeks, with clergymen on one side and “a vigorous attacking party” on the other. The eventual decision was “against the Puritans, more from a spirit of victory in debate than any intention to defame that noble but austere race of men.”

Another interesting evening North described was April 18, 1830, when John A. Vaughn, of Hallowell, delivered an illustrated talk on railroads, which were not to reach Augusta until 1851.

Vaughn brought a model railroad, with two cars attached to each other. One held two 56-pound weights, the other a grey squirrel running on a treadmill. The squirrel’s motion pulled the heavier car, illustrating the minimal energy needed for a great effect.

Vaughn also had a picture and explanation of a British “Novelty Steam Carriage,” which provided 30-mile-an-hour passenger service. He concluded by predicting the expansion of railways throughout the United States, North said with impressive accuracy.

The Lyceum movement was national, at the state, county and town level, North wrote. The institutions became “a prominent educational means by developing a spirit of inquiry and creating a fondness for reading and a pleasure in receiving and imparting knowledge heretofore unexperienced by the mass of the community.”

State and county lyceums did not last long; local ones continued into the 1850s. North blamed their decline and disappearance on “a plethoric feeling which constantly demanded, from year to year, a higher grade of talent in lectures and new sources of excitement.”

In the adjoining town of Vassalboro, Alma Pierce Robbins’ history mentions, but provides too few details about, groups whose members might have been interested in reading, as well as sociability and needlework. Three appear to have been women’s organizations.

Local organizations on Webber Pond Road included a Christmas Club, apparently primarily a women’s needlework group, and a Browning Club, a Vassalboro branch of the international group organized in 1895 to expand women’s literary and cultural knowledge and named for English poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

(At a 2017 meeting reported on line, a Browning Club historian said the organization “served as an outlet for its members to educate each other during a time when attitudes toward women did not include higher education.”

She continued, “[T]hese women strived to provide each other with the opportunity to read, explore, and learn from one another.”)

Robbins said Vassalboro’s Christmas and Browning clubs met year-round at members’ houses. She did not date either organization.

In Riverside, she continued, there was a Riverside Corporation and later a Community Club, about which she provided no information beyond the names; and a “Riverside Study Club.” Vassalboro Historical Society President Janice Clowes says the Study Club was organized in 1947 and disbanded in 2001; Robbins wrote that it “became an affiliate of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1949.”

Waterville, according to Whittemore’s history, was home to a series of debating clubs, exclusively for men. The earliest he mentioned was the Ticonick Debating Society, started Sept. 18, 1824, with “the leading men in the town” as founding members.

It was succeeded in 1837 by the Waterville Lyceum, which Whittemore said lasted only two years. Its 1841 successor, the Waterville Debating Society, apparently lasted a year. The Mechanics’ Debating Club Whittemore dates in the mid-1850s.

The Woman’s Association in Waterville was organized in 1887 and was still going strong, with 50 members, when Kingsbury published his history in 1892. He said its purpose was to provide women and girls with “useful information” and “special instruction.”

The organization had a 400-volume library. It sponsored evening classes “through the cold seasons,” where attendees could learn “needlework, penmanship, music and a variety of useful arts.”

Contemporary Facebook pages on the web list a Waterville Woman’s Association, founded in 1887, and a Waterville Area Women’s Club, founded in 1893.

The only similar organization Linwood Lowden mentioned in his history of Windsor was not organized until 1913, and was primarily a social group. The Unity Club, organized Dec. 17, 1913, apparently lasted into the 1930s, Lowden wrote.

Lowden said the “short literary program” that was initially part of each twice-a-month meeting was frequently replaced by a social service type activity, like making baby clothes for a needy family or knitting for the Red Cross.

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It is tempting to consider literary groups as precursors to public libraries, and one women’s group clearly was.

According to the Fairfield bicentennial history and an on-line source, a group of 24 women, led by Addie M. Lawrence, Mary Newhall and Frances Kenrick, organized a circulating library called the Ladies Book Club in 1895 or 1896. The club started with 48 books, kept in two bookcases in a small room above C. E. Holt’s candy store on Main Street.

The bookcases could accommodate 200 books, the history says, and were filled in three years. In July 1899, the club moved to two rooms in a Fairfield bank (the history is inconsistent in naming the bank), where residents continued to donate books and magazines.

Addie Lawrence was Edward Jones Lawrence’s daughter, and she “persuaded her father to offer the town a public library.” (Edward Jones Lawrence also established Fairfield’s Lawrence High School; see The Town Line, Oct. 7, 2021.)

At the March 1900 town meeting, voters accepted the offer. In May 1900, the renamed Fairfield Book Club held a meeting at which Lawrence promised to build a library when a site was found. Louise E. Newhall donated a lot between her house and Lawrence’s house, on the south side of Lawrence Avenue, facing the town park.

The result was Lawrence Library, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since Dec. 31, 1974.

It had one precursor, according to the Fairfield history. The writers quote from the Jan. 29, 1867, issue of the Fairfield Woodpecker the statement that “The Ladies Library had been very active prior to the Civil War but was not used much at this time.”

(The Woodpecker was published in Kendall’s Mills, the name for what is now downtown Fairfield, from 1867 to at least 1874. The Fairfield Historical Society has copies on film; the Lawrence Library also has copies, according to an on-line site.)

William R. Miller

Maine architect William R. Miller designed the new library. In the application for National Register listing, Earle Shettle­worth, of the Maine Historic Preservation Com­mission, described the architecture as Romanesque Revival modified by H. H. Richardson.

Miller (1866-1929) was born in Durham, Maine, and worked mostly in Maine throughout his career, based first in Lewiston and later in Portland. Wikipedia says his projects included “schools, libraries, hotels and churches as well as private residences.”

Other local buildings Miller designed include the original Lawrence High School, the Gerald Hotel and two Goodwill-Hinckley buildings in Fairfield, and Water­ville’s Carnegie Library.

Henry H. Richardson

Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886) developed the form called Richardson Romanesque. Wikipedia says he is considered one of the titans of American architecture, with Louis Henry Sullivan (1856-1924) and Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959).

The Lawrence Library building is made of “slate rock with granite trim,” Shettleworth wrote. It is two stories high with a hip roof. The rock is of different colors, mostly variations on light reddish-brown, with darker browns and greys interspersed.

The main entrance door on the north side, facing the park, is set under a large granite arch. Above the arch, a sign identifies the building. An elaborate edifice above the sign includes three stained-glass windows inside granite-topped arches flanked by small towers. Still higher is a shield labeled “1900” (the year construction started) below a peaked roof.

Beside the entrance is an octagonal tower with more arched windows. On either side of the door and tower, the main floor rooms have large triple-arched windows. Granite above the windows and on the building’s corners and “cornice level granite strong courses” contrast with the vari-colored stone.

Shettleworth wrote that the same themes – stone, granite and arched windows – were continued around the building, with the back (south) side the least elaborate.

Lawrence Library was dedicated July 25, 1901. Shettleworth quoted physical descriptions, but nothing about the ceremony, from the July 26, 1901, issue of the Waterville Sentinel.

The newspaper writer said the stacks in the west room could hold 5,000 books and were almost full. The books were “arranged according to the Dewey system and a glance over the titles will delight the soul of any book lover,” he wrote.

The east room was the reading room. The “pastel portrait” of Edward Lawrence was done by Flora Gross Clark; the Fairfield Book Club donated it. Also mentioned were the oil painting of the Moor of Venice by local artist F. E. McFadden (who was also a lawyer and in the 1880s town clerk for at least two years); and the “splendid globe,” “18 inches in diameter… on a bronze pedestal 43 inches high” given by Mrs. E. P. Kenrick.

The Clark and McFadden portraits still hang in the east room. Portraits of Addie and Alice Jones, set in stained glass rectangles, decorate the wall behind the librarian’s desk. Overhead, the inside rim of an off-white dome lists well-known New England writers.

Above the front door, a large bronze plaque says Jones donated the building and 2,000 books, and Newhall donated the land and another 2,000 books. Librarian Louella Bickford says the plaque is identified on the back as made by Tiffany, the New York studio led by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933).

Commenting on Edward Jones Lawrence, the 1901 Sentinel writer observed that many towns owed their libraries to “the Scotland born and American made millionaire” [Andrew Carnegie], others to a native son who made his fortune elsewhere.

But, he wrote, “Fairfield rejoices in the gift of a man who was born within her borders, educated in her public schools and whose position of wealth and influence among the foremost business men in the State has been won in his native town. … He is one also who has worked his way up from the bottom of the ladder by his hard work and who has shown that success is possible for any man in Maine and in Fairfield. The gift is therefore especially prized.”

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Six-masted schooner Addie M. Lawrence was launched on December 17, 1902. It carried military supplies in World War I and ran aground in a gale off the coast of Brittany on July 9, 1917.

Three of the schooners that Lawrence helped finance in Bath were named the Addie M. Lawrence, the Alice M. Lawrence and the Edward J. Lawrence.

The Dec. 23, 1902, Fairfield Journal reported that the “Addie M.” was launched at 12:45 p.m. on Dec. 17, “a date that will long be remembered by many as one of great pleasure.”

The six-masted schooner was built at Percy & Small’s shipyard at a cost of $130,000. The reporter wrote that she was 2923 feet long and 483 feet wide, a patent absurdity; another on-line source gives the dimensions as 292 feet, four inches by 48 feet, three inches. Each mast was 118 feet tall; topmasts were 56 feet long, and the sails totaled “about 8700 yards of canvas.”

Wikipedia says the largest sailing ship ever built was another Percy & Small six-masted schooner, the Wyoming. Launched in 1909, she had an overall length of 450 feet, counting her 86-foot jib boom and “protruding spanker boom”; her deck length was 334 feet. (The jib boom is an extension of the bowsprit; the spanker boom supports a sail over the stern.)

(For more comparisons, the RMS Titanic was 882 feet, nine inches long. The future USS Daniel Inouye, the U. S. Navy’s newest guided missile destroyer, launched from Bath Iron Works Oct. 4, 2021, is 513 feet long. The Daniel Inouye is scheduled to be commissioned at her home port, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December.)

The 1902 Journal reporter said the “Addie M.” had three cabins, the aft (stern) one “a thing of beauty being of quartered oak, mahogany and cypress with furniture of leather trimmings.” Sternward rooms were gold and black, forward rooms aluminum and black; the captain had an office “and a stateroom prettily furnished and very light and pleasant.”

For the launching, the ship was decorated with flags and bunting. Addie Lawrence smashed the traditional bottle of champagne against the bow as the ship started down the ways.

The reporter was one of a “large crowd,” including many Fairfield residents. He wrote, “[W]hen the giant craft had left her cradle and made a mighty leap into the river a mighty cheer went up from the bystanders, while all the neighboring craft and manufacturing establishments along the river saluted by blowing three long whistles, to which the Lawrence responded.”

The South Portland Historical Society has a history of the Addie M. Lawrence that says she carried military supplies in World War I and ended her career off the coast of Brittany on July 9, 1917, when she ran aground in a gale.

Another on-line site says six-masted schooners were too big to be practical. Fewer than a dozen were built; the Edward J. Lawrence, built in 1908 and burned in 1925, was the last in use.

Edward Jones Lawrence

Edward Jones Lawrence (Jan. 1, 1833 – Nov. 27, 1918) was educated through sixth grade and first worked as a farm hand in Fairfield Center, his birthplace. A job in a Norridgewock store gave him bookkeeping experience, which led to an accounting position with the Gardiner-based lumber business Wing and Bates.

In 1860 he bought a one-third ownership in Wing and Bates. After another decade, he and his brother, George W. Lawrence, had money enough to buy the company’s Shawmut building and replace it with their own mill.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, the Fairfield history says, Lawrence and Benton native Amos Gerald “invested extensively in street railroads.” An on-line source lists him as president of two street railway companies, the Waterville and Oakland and the Portland and Brunswick, in 1909.

The Lombard log hauler, which used to be on exhibit near the Waterville-Winslow Bridge, is now on display at the Redington Museum, on Silver St., in Waterville.

Other ventures included supporting Alvin Lombard’s Lombard hauler; supporting Martin Keyes’ pulp-wood plate business, ancestor of today’s Keyes Fibre* (“Keyes’ first machinery was set up at the Lawrence mill” in Shawmut); and investing in ship-building in Bath.

After Lawrence’s first wife died in 1865, in 1868 (or 1870; sources differ) he married Hannah Miller Shaw, who became the mother of Annie (born in 1870, died in 1886), Addie (born in 1873) and Alice (born in 1879).

The bicentennial history says Lawrence moved from Shawmut to Fairfield, where he built “the grand house at the corner of High Street and Lawrence Avenue,” because he wanted his daughters educated and Fairfield had better schools. He represented Fairfield in the state legislature for one term, in 1877, as a member of the Greenback Party.

A history of Lawrence Library says Representative Jones fought for two causes, safe working conditions and fair pay for workers and legislation “allowing only the federal government to print paper money.”

After Annie’s death in 1886, Hannah had a nervous breakdown, and the two younger girls went to a Massachusetts boarding school.

Both were artistically talented. Addie was on the verge of becoming a portrait painter, but returned to Fairfield because of her mother’s health and family finances. Alice studied piano with pianist and composer John Carver Alden (1852-1935). She married Walter Daub and had two daughters; and after a divorce in 1919 returned to Fairfield.

Alice’s older daughter, Mary Lawrence (Daub) Halkyard (Sept. 25, 1910 – Nov. 15, 2013), and her husband Neil were teachers; they founded the Shepherd Knapp School, in Boylston, Massachusetts. The school no longer exists, but its building, which dates from 1848, is a National Historic Landmark.

After retiring from teaching, the Halkyards lived in China (Maine) when they were not traveling. Mary Halkyard remained fond of, and like her grandfather generous to, the Town of Fairfield.

* Today’s Huhtamaki plant.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
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).
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).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Women in education

Mary Low Carver (left), Amy Morris Bradley (center), Louise Helen Coburn (right)

by Mary Grow

Readers of recent articles in this series on the history of central Kennebec Valley towns will have noticed differences between education for men and education for women from the late 1700s into the 20th century.

The primary schools, for the most part, taught boys and girls similarly. After about eighth grade, boys were more likely to continue their education, and to have more varied opportunities.

These articles have named several women who aspired to open schools of their own, or actually did so, but there has been little or no follow-up information in written histories or on line. Most high-school founders, principals and teachers who left records of achievement were men.

One exception to this generalization was Daniel Cony’s Female Academy in Augusta (1816-1857). The academy had a woman as its first principal; its students included boys as well as girls (see The Town Line, Sept. 2, 2021).

The Augusta Classical School had several women as teachers in the 1830s (see The Town Line, Sept. 9, 2021). And, as mentioned last week, Naomi Bunker ran a seminary in Fairfield in the mid-nineteenth century.

In high schools reviewed in previous articles, boys out-numbered girls most of the time. Nineteenth-century high-school boys were being prepared for college or careers; high-school girls were getting “an elevated course of female education” (Vassalboro Academy, 1856).

Hallowell Classical Academy offered three separate courses in 1876. The first provided preparation for college. The second was “especially for young ladies” and promised more education than the public schools provided. The third was a shorter course for both boys and girls.

Despite fewer educational opportunities, some women from the central Kennebec Valley “made good” in different ways, with or without education. They included Martha Ballard (Hallowell), Amy Morris Bradley (Vassalboro) and Mary Caffrey (Low) Carver (Waterville).

The best-known to Maine readers, and therefore the one who will receive the least attention here, was Martha Ballard (1735-1812), who moved from Massachusetts to Hallowell in 1777 and has become famous since Laurel Thatcher Ulrich published A Midwife’s Tale: the Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785-1812 in 1990.

Ballard was a successful midwife, as well as a diarist whose writings described daily life in the Kennebec Valley between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. In an article published on line by the University of Houston College of Engineering, John Lienhard wrote, “Martha was literate but not educated. Her spelling was – well – highly creative.”

In Bernhardt and Schad’s Anthology of Vassalboro Tales, Simone Antworth of East Vassalboro wrote that her late husband, Howard, was an indirect descendant of Martha and Ephraim Ballard. According to her research, Howard’s mother’s mother, Nellie Martha (Coombs) Earle (1887-1976), was the daughter of Archie Coombs and Elvira Goddard Ballard. Elvira Ballard was the great-great-granddaughter of Ephraim Ballard’s brother Jonathan and his wife Hannah (Kidder) Ballard.

Simone Antworth added that Nellie Earle “was a pillar in the Vassalboro community,” active in the Grange, the Methodist Church and other groups and “always ready to help anyone.”

Nellie’s younger brother, Roy Coombs (1889-1985) lived in China, where in 1933 he and George Wayland Jones started the Jones and Coombs Bean Cleaning Plant in China Village. Roy and his wife Mabel (Ward) Coombs (1888-1978) were parents of Hazel Ward Coombs (1913-2001), remembered as the assistant librarian at the Albert Church Brown Memorial Library in the village.

An earlier Vassalboro resident, Amy Morris Bradley (1823-1904), earned a national reputation for her service during and after the Civil War. She was a teacher, a nurse and an advocate for soldiers and children.

Born in East Vasssalboro, youngest of eight children, Bradley lost her mother when she was six and was raised by her father and siblings. Esther Bernhardt wrote in the Vasssalboro anthology that Bradley started teaching when she was 15 (Wikipedia says two years later) and saved her money to enter Vassalboro Academy.

The Academy qualified her for a teaching principalship in Gardiner in 1844. By 1846, Wikipedia says, she was teaching in Massachusetts.

Pneumonia compelled her to move south in 1849. When neither South Carolina nor a return to Maine restored her health, in 1853 she went to San Jose, capital of Costa Rica, where she taught herself Spanish and, Wikipedia says, “established the first English school in Central America.”

After a brief stay in East Vassalboro in 1857 and 1858, Bradley took a job in Massachusetts translating letters for the New England Glass Company. From there, in August 1861, she volunteered as an army nurse, beginning her service Sept. 1 in the Third Maine Regiment’s hospital near Alexandria, Virginia.

Bradley held important nursing positions throughout the war, including, Bernhardt said, as superintendent on the Ocean Queen, the ship that brought wounded soldiers from battlefields to Washington, D. C., hospitals. In Washington, she helped “establish a home for discharged soldiers” and helped many of them collect their back pay.

An on-line women’s history points out the low regard for female nurses in the 1860s, referring to drunken surgeons and contemptuous generals. The author credits Bradley, as a Special Relief Agent for the United States Sanitary Commission, with transforming dirty, unsanitary, poorly supplied army medical facilities into “clean, efficiently-run hospitals.”

In 1866, the Boston-based Unitarian philanthropy called the Soldiers’ Memorial Society asked Bradley to carry out its mission of establishing free schools for poor white children in Wilmington, North Carolina. Her first school opened in January 1867, in a building that had housed a similar school before the war, with three students. By 1869 she was in charge of three separate schools with 435 students.

Alma Pierce Robbins wrote in her Vassalboro history that Bradley’s niece, Amy Morris Bradley Homans (1848-1943) was a teacher in North Carolina and an early promoter of physical education for women. Her work led to the 1909 creation of Wellesley College’s Department of Hygiene and Physical Education, Robbins said.

Waterville native Mary Caffrey Low Carver (1850-1926) was still Mary Low when she entered Colby College in 1871. In July 1875 she became the first woman to graduate from Colby, and one of the first women in New England to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Low was class valedictorian. One on-line source says she gave the valedictory address at graduation. Wikipedia says she did not, because that role was traditionally for a man; but she did offer the prayer, in Latin.

Soon after graduation, Low married fellow Colby graduate Leonard D. Carver, who became Maine State Librarian. After teaching for a few years, his wife also became a librarian and worked as a cataloger for the state library. Wikipedia says she started the library’s card catalog.

Leonard Carver was co-founder, with Bowdoin College Librarian George Little, of the Maine Library Association, organized in March 1891.

Low continued to support Sigma Kappa and women’s education at Colby for the rest of her life. She spent her last years in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her daughter, Ruby (Carver) Emerson.

Colby gave Low an honorary doctorate in 1916 and named a building after her. Mary Low Hall is a residence hall on the Mayflower Hill campus; a Colby website says it houses the Mary Low Coffee House, “a venue for concerts, international coffee hours, and informal gatherings.”

In 1873, four more women joined Mary Low at Colby: Louise Helen Coburn, Ida Mabel (Fuller) Pierce, Elizabeth Gorham Hoag and Frances Elliott Mann Hall. The five founded Sigma Kappa sorority, authorized on Nov. 9, 1874. Ruby Emerson was a member of the Sigma Kappa chapter at Colby and in 1935-36 president of the national Sigma Kappa sorority.

The second woman to graduate from Colby was Louise Helen Coburn (1856-1949) of Skowhegan, daughter of Stephen Coburn, Colby ’39. She graduated in 1877 and for the rest of her life helped promote women’s education at the college; she and Mary Low Carver led the unsuccessful protest against the 1890 division into men’s and women’s colleges.

A botanist, Coburn edited Maine Naturalist and was president of the Josselyn Botanical Society. She published a book of her poetry titled Kennebec and Other Poems (1916) and a two-volume history, Skowhegan on the Kennebec (1941). The Skowhegan History House Museum and Research Center is her legacy to her home town.

(Maine Naturalist was published in the 1920s in Thomaston. Its subtitle was Journal of the Knox Academy of Arts and Sciences on the Fauna, Flora and Geology of Maine.)

Frances Mann (1853-1935) was from Yarmouth and had taught high school in Rockport, Massachusetts, before coming to Colby. She met her husband, George Washington Hall, in college; she left Colby after her junior year because of health problems, and she and her husband both had careers as teachers, at least part of their lives in Washington, D.C.

When Albion native Ida May “Mabel” Fuller (1854-1930) decided to enter Colby, still primarily a men’s college, her older brother, David Blin Fuller (1853-1915) was reportedly so angry that he refused to follow the Colby family tradition and went to Bowdoin instead. His sister left college in her junior year and moved to Kansas, where she married a Dr. Pierce and after his death, Wikipedia reports, “became a successful businesswoman, founded a hotel for girls in Kansas City, and was vice-president of a bank.”

Elizabeth Hoag (1857-1875), who designed the Sigma Kappa emblem, died of tuberculosis in her graduation year, at the age of 18. Like her four friends, she was from Maine; this writer has been unable to find which town in Maine.

Adeline Weymouth (1817-1896), of Clinton, has a weaker, and more unusual, claim to notice than the women previously described.

Readers familiar with Henry Kingsbury’s History of Kennebec County, to which this writer often refers, know that the chapter on each town or city ends with a list of “personal paragraphs.” For the 10 Kennebec County municipalities on which this series has focused (Fairfield is in Somerset County, Palermo is in Waldo County), Kingsbury listed almost 600 names.

Some were nationally known people like James G. Blaine, of Augusta, who got eight pages. Others were local farmers or merchants whose single paragraphs totaled about eight lines. Kingsbury did not say how they were chosen; this writer wonders if subscribing to buy a copy of the book was a factor.

Of the almost 600 names from 10 towns and cities, only one was a woman, Mrs. Adeline (Goodwin) Weymouth. Kingsbury gave her a long paragraph, about a third of a page, mostly about her husband and children.

Adeline Goodwin was the only daughter of Jediah (according to his gravestone) or Jedediah (according to Kingsbury) Goodwin (1786-1870), born in Berwick, and Mercy (Wing) Goodwin (1783-1873), born in Massachusetts. Adeline married Sargent (or Sergeant) Weymouth (1812-1890), probably in 1833 or 1834.

Kingsbury wrote that the Weymouths had seven sons and three daughters, although he refers to them as “His [Sergeant’s] children.” Four of the six oldest boys, Jacob, John, Alonzo and Warren, born between 1835 and 1846, joined the army in 1861 and after their three years were up re-enlisted for another three years.

Jacob “died in the army July 7, 1864,” and Alonzo died Nov. 1, 1868, at the age of 26 or 27 (Kingsbury gave no cause for his death).

The youngest of the three Weymouth daughters, Addie Justina (Kingsbury called her Justana), was born Sept. 22, 1857. When Kingsbury finished his book in 1892, Sergeant Weymouth had been dead for two years and Adeline and Addie were living “on the old homestead, where they settled in 1863,…carrying on the farm.”

An on-line genealogy says Adeline Weymouth died Aug. 16, 1896, and is buried in Clinton’s Town House Hill Cemetery (also her parents’ and her husband’s burial place). On Oct. 11, 1896, Addie married Abner P. True in Clinton.

Abner was born in 1849 and died in 1916; Addie died in 1940. They, too, are buried in Town House Hill Cemetery. The genealogy lists no children.

Main sources

Bernhardt, Esther, and Vicki Schad, compilers/editors Anthology of Vassalboro Tales (2017).
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 – 1971 n.d. (1971).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).

Websites, miscellaneous.