Scout leaders complete training

Nine scouting leaders completed the Youth Protection Training on Wednesday, September 19, at the American Legion Post, on Eastern Avenue, in Augusta. As stated in The Boy Scout Handbook, “Child abuse is a serious problem in our society, and unfortunately, it can occur anywhere, even in Scouting. Youth safety is Scouting’s No. 1 concern.”

Child abusers are out there and come in all shapes and sizes, and too often are people youth know and trust. Scouting has the tools and information Scout leaders need to help them keep youth safe so they can enjoy the program. Youth Protection training is required annually for all registered volunteers of Pine Tree Council. It is valid for one year, after which you must take the training again to remain eligible to serve as an adult in Scouting.

Why does Scouting ask its adult members to retake YPT every year? Because it’s important that this topic remain top of mind for every adult registered with Scouting. Karen Norton of Harpswell, a member of the Council Training Team, led the course.

Those completing the course were: Becky Blais, Philippe Blais, Josh Demers, and Douglas Mason, who are leaders in Augusta Cub Scout Pack #603; Charles Fergusson, of Troop #609, in Windsor; Jeffrey Morton and Michael Fortin, of Augusta Troop #603; Kennebec Valley District Vice Chairman Chuck Mahaleris, of Augusta, and Kennebec Valley District Executive Michael Perry, of Livermore.

The training, which is also offered online, will be provided in person several times this Fall to ensure all leaders have an opportunity to learn how to recognize the signs of abuse, how to react, and to whom should they report. Scouting leaders are mandatory reporters in the state of Maine.

Augusta cub scouts help needy students

Cub Leader Josh Demers, Scarlett Mudie, Landon Demers, Mack Demers, Willow Mudie, Cub Leader Lynette Mudie, and Cub Leader Jeff Morton. All live in Augusta except the Demers’ family who live in Windsor. (contributed photo)

Cub Scouts from Augusta Pack #603 were at Shaw’s Supermarket over the weekend of September 17 and 18 collecting money to purchase school supplies for needy students. For each box of supplies the Scouts purchased at Staples for a needy student, the business donated a second box of school supplies. The boxes contain such items as pencils, erasers, markers, highlighters, glue sticks, etc. Cub Pack #603 serves children from Augusta, Windsor, and Chelsea.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Trotting parks

Trotting park.

by Mary Grow

Your writer intended to deliver the promised article on Charles Hathaway and his shirt company, and more information on Waterville’s historic Main Street buildings, this week. But a reader reacted to last week’s digression on agricultural fairs with a question: what is a trotting park?

Hence another digression, which led your writer to a delightfully illustrated, highly recommended website: The Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center (see box). This page will share some of the information from this and other sources.

Disclaimer: your writer is not a horse expert. Readers who are, please be kind.

A trotting park, also called a harness racing track, is an oval dirt racetrack, usually a mile long but sometimes shorter. Historically, a trotting park could be public, owned and maintained by an agricultural society of other organization, or privately owned.

On these tracks trotting or pacing horses race, each pulling a sulky with a single human occupant.

Wikipedia says most horses have four “natural” gaits, or “patterns of leg movements.” In order from slowest to fastest, they are called walk, trot, canter and gallop.

The Wikipedia writers describe the gaits in terms of two, three or four “beats.” The trot is a two-beat gait; the horse lifts left front and right rear hoofs simultaneously, then right front and left rear. Average speed is a bit over eight miles an hour.

Wikipedia’s illustrations include a photo of Thomas Eakins’ painting from 1879 or 1880 titled The Fairman Rogers Four-in-hand, or A May Morning in the Park. It shows a group of people in a coach drawn by four brown horses, the two lead horses clearly trotting.

The trot is a comfortable gait that a horse can maintain for hours, Wikipedia says. It is less comfortable for a human rider, who is bounced up and down; riders therefore learn to “post,” to raise themselves up and down in the stirrups in time with the horse’s motion.

The pace, called on another site an artificial gait, is also a two-beat gait, but the two legs on the same side of the horse’s body move together, so that the horse rocks from side to side – even less comfortable for a rider than trotting.

Harness racing could be for either trotters or pacers, Wikipedia says. In the United States, harness-racing horses must be Standardbred. Wikipedia says Standardbreds have shorter legs, longer bodies and “more placid dispositions” than Thoroughbreds.

A sulky, also called a bike, a gig or a spider, is a light-weight, single-seat horse-drawn vehicle with two large wheels.

On-line sites indicate that harness racing is common worldwide. In the United States, there are races for both pacers and trotters. A pacer or trotter who comes in top in each of three sets of races in the same year becomes a Triple Crown winner.

This year’s Windsor Fair program included harness racing. The Windsor Historical Society, headquartered on the fairgrounds, has information and photographs about past horses and races.

* * * * * *

Last week’s story mentioned trotting parks in China, Waterville and Windsor. Henry Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history that China’s, Windsor’s and one of Waterville’s were public. China’s was built in 1868 and abandoned before 1892.

Kingsbury listed six nineteenth-century private parks in the county. Four were still operating in 1892, one in Farmingdale, one in West Gardiner, and two in Waterville, C. H. Nelson’s and Appleton Webb’s.

Palermo native and Civil War veteran Charles Horace “Hod” Nelson (1843 – 1915), of Sunnyside Farm, in Waterville, was an internationally recognized horse breeder; his champion trotter, Nelson (1882 – Dec. 4, 1909) set multiple records and in 1994 was named an Immortal in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame.

Your writer failed to find information on an Appleton Webb she is sure was a trotting park owner. Waterville lawyer and politician Edmund Webb’s son Appleton (Aug. 12, 1861 – Aug. 23, 1911) would have been about the right age; one website says he was admitted to the bar, and none links him with horses.

Other trotting parks in the central Kennebec Valley included one in Albion, three in Augusta (two private) and one in Fairfield (apparently private).

* * * * * *

Albion’s trotting park, according to Ruby Crosby Wiggin’s history, was in Puddle Dock, a locality in the southern part of town on Fifteen Mile Stream. The South Freedom Road crosses the stream there; near the bridge, a dam provided water power for various small industries for years, and Wiggin found the South Albion post office was nearby from 1857 (or maybe earlier) to about 1890.

The 1857 postmaster, she wrote, was D. B. Fuller, who lived “in Puddle Dock just opposite Maple Grove Cemetery and on the same side of the road as the trotting park.”

Maple Grove Cemetery is on the southwest side of South Freedom Road, just north of its eastward turn to cross Fifteen Mile Stream; so the trotting park would have been on the northeast side, between the road and the stream.

Wiggin continued her history of fairs in Albion, summarized last week, by saying that after the records she found ended in 1891, the fairs probably wound down, becoming “mostly horse pulling and a horse trot…held at the Trotting Park at Puddle Dock, just opposite Maple Grove Cemetery.”

To many 1960s Albion residents, she wrote, the park was “the place where they learned to drive their first car.” Not long before her history was published in 1964, the park was converted to a large plowed field (visible in an on-line aerial view).

* * * * * *

Augusta’s principal trotting park appears on old maps on the west bank of the Kennebec River, just south of Capitol Park. Newer maps show the area housing the Augusta police department and the YMCA building and grounds.

An on-line site shows a postcard with the typical oval track. Accompanying text says the trotting park was on a 22-acre lot.

Both James North, in his 1870 history of Augusta, and Kingsbury said the park opened in 1858. That year, North wrote, the State Agricultural Society chose Augusta as the site for its fourth fair. City officials and workers spent the summer getting ready.

North wrote, “A trotting park was graded and fenced at considerable expense, on the ‘Bowman lot,’ adjoining the State grounds, where the fair was opened Tuesday, September 21st.”

The 1858 fair was the Society’s most successful thus far, North said, with more and better livestock than ever before shown in Maine and a fine display of industrial and agricultural products in a 50-by-84-foot wooden addition to the State House. During “the ladies’ equestrian exhibition,” attendance was estimated at up to 15,000 people.

On Thursday evening, North wrote, the fair hosted a guest speaker on agriculture, United States Senator Jefferson Davis from Mississippi. Some auditors praised his agricultural knowledge; others detected a political message. North wrote that the Kennebec Journal called the speech “a bid for the presidency, with an agricultural collar and wristbands.”

Kingsbury wrote that up to 1892, the Augusta trotting park operated “with but few intermissions” under successive owners; in 1892, it was run by the Capital Driving Park Association. At some point, the postcard caption said, grandstands with space for 2,000 spectators were built.

In addition to racing and fairs, the park hosted circuses; and in 1911, the on-line site says, it was the landing place for the first airplane to visit Augusta, described as “St. Croix Johnstone’s Moisant monoplane.”

(Your writer could not resist exploring these names on line. She found that John Bevins Moisant [April 25, 1868 – Dec. 31, 1910] was an American aviator from Illinois who designed the Moisant biplane, which crashed on its first flight in February 1910, and the Moisant monoplane, which Wikipedia says “had difficulty staying upright on the ground and was never flown.” A different article says St. Croix Johnstone [another Illinoisan, born Jan, 2, 1887, and died Aug. 15, 1911] “flew a Moisant monoplane,” described as a United States version of the 1909 French Bleriot XI. Both aviators died in flying accidents.)

The Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center website says Augusta’s two private trotting parks were on the east side of the Kennebec. George M. Robinson’s, built in 1872, was on South Belfast Avenue (Route 105). Alan (in other sources, Allen) Lambard’s, dating from 1873, was off Route 17. Kingsbury said both were “abandoned” by 1892.

North provided a short biography of Allen Lambard (July 22, 1796 – Sept. 5, 1877). He was by 1870 “in the evening of his days,” but still vigorous and interested in agriculture. His business ventures in Augusta and in Sacramento, California, had made him “the largest individual tax-payer in Augusta.” In October 1870, North wrote, he donated the house at the intersection of Winthrop and Pleasant streets as St. Mark’s Home for Aged and Indigent Women. The institution closed in October 1914.

The on-line Find a Grave site says Allen Lambard is buried in Augusta’s Forest Grove Cemetery. Other sources say Lambard was a grandson of Hallowell midwife Martha Ballard, made famous by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s publication of her diary.

George M. Robinson might be the man found on line who was born in 1823, died in 1888, and is buried in Augusta’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery; and might also be the man who made the March 25, 1876, Portland Daily Press after a gale blew down two of his barns.

* * * * * *

The Fairfield trotting park was located on the west side of town, west of West Street and south of the present Lawrence High School athletic fields. The Fairfield bicentennial history leaves its dates uncertain – it might have existed before 1872, while Fairfield was still called Kendall’s Mills, and it was very popular in the 1890s.

The local historians relied on two sources. One was a 1939 article by G. H. Hatch, who believed Edward Jones Lawrence (Jan. 1, 1833 – November 1918) and Amos Gerald (Sept. 12, 1841 – 1913) built the track “which was active in racing circles for years.”

Lawrence and Gerald owned and bred horses, according to Hatch. The first “really famous” Fairfield horseman, he said, was J. H. Gilbreth, whose horse named Gilbreth Knox was “a famous trotter of his day.” Gilbreth Knox is listed on line as a sire in the 1870s.

Lawrence acquired “the beautiful Knox stallion, Dr. Franklin,” listed as a sire in the 1880s.

The other mention of the trotting park in the Fairfield history tells readers that on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 1895, there was a “big event” at the trotting park that brought horses and people from miles around. The owners of the lumber mills in the downtown complex on the Kennebec River gave their employees the afternoon off to attend.

That day, for the third time, a fire started in a mill (earlier fires were in 1853 and 1882) and spread through the others. After the destruction, only one mill was partly rebuilt, and it didn’t last long. “Thus,” wrote the Fairfield historians, “the lumber industry in the Kendall’s Mills area of Fairfield, after a century of progress, came essentially to a close.”

The Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center

The Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center is a nonprofit organization in Hallowell, founded and run by Stephen Thompson. Its website describes its mission:

“to preserve the stories and images of the 19th century to present day that illustrate the history of Maine’s harness racing, lost trotting parks, fairs, agricultural societies, Granges, and the significance of the horse in society.”

A Kennebec Journal article from October 2021 says Thompson was looking for a space to turn his on-line venture into a physical museum.

Tax-deductible contributions are welcome. The website is losttrottingparks.com; the postal service address is Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center, P.O. Box 263, Hallowell, ME 04347; and Thompson’s email is listed as lifework50@gmail.com.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

EVENTS: Spectrum Generations to hold chef’s challenge

Spectrum Generations will host the 10th annual Celebrity Chef Challenge fundraiser on Monday, September 19, at the Augusta Elks, 397 Civic Center Dr., in Augusta, at 5 p.m. The event will feature three local chefs who will prepare signature dishes based on the Meals on Wheels guidelines and standards. This year’s featured chefs include Ben Ramsdell, Culinary Coordinator & Chef Educator from MaineGeneral’s Peter Alfond Prevention & Healthy Living Center, in Augusta, Shaun Killeen, head chef from The White Duck Brew Pub, in Winthrop, and Edward McGregor, head chef from The Front Room, in Portland.

Their signature dishes will be enjoyed and voted on by attendees and reviewed by a panel of judges, including Heidi Parent, previous contestant on Hell’s Kitchen, and Monica Castellanos, owner of Maine Local Market, in Hallowell.

The three courses prepared by the chefs will be served to attendees by local celebrities, including Matt and Lizzy from the morning show on 92 Moose. The event will be emceed by Connor Clement, talented TV host (MaineLife Media) and sports reporter (ESPN). The winning dish will be incorporated into Spectrum Generations’ Meals on Wheels program.

Attending guests will also enjoy a reception with appetizers and entertainment will be provided by The Pam Tyler Trio. Lori Dumont, from The Parsonage House, in Vassalboro, will be providing two of her most famous desserts. Cash bar and silent auction will also be available throughout the evening. Tickets are $75 and are required for this fundraising event. All proceeds will support the programs and services of Spectrum Generations including Meals on Wheels, which utilizes staff and volunteers to prepare and deliver approximately 5,500 meals each week to 1,100 homebound older adults and adults with disabilities in communities throughout Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Somerset, and Waldo counties, and the towns of Brunswick and Harpswell, in Cumberland County.

To purchase tickets, visit spectrumgenerations.org/events/celebrity-chef. For more information about Spectrum Generations’ Meals on Wheels program, visit spectrumgenerations.org/nutrition-services/meals-wheels.

EVENTS: Recycled Shakespeare Company to perform Much Ado About Nothing

Sarah Mayven Crocker, back left, and Justine Wiesinger, back right, play the sparring Benedict and Beatrice with the slandered lovers Claudio, played by Emily Carlton, front left, and Hero played, by Helena Page, front right, in Recycled Shakespeare Company’s presentation of Much Ado About Nothing. (photo by Vanessa Glazier)

Submitted by Lyn Rowden

Recycled Shakespeare Company (RSC) is bringing fun and romance to the end of summer with their free performances of William Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.

Come hear some of the best witty repartee by Shakespeare when a strong independent woman tries to maintain her liberty in a battle of words with a jocular aristocratic soldier. Contrasting them are another couple caught up in scandalous gossip which comes dangerously close to ruining them. Meanwhile the officers of the law try to discover the truth despite their bumbling antics.

Bring a chair or blanket to see Much Ado About Nothing in an outdoor performance on Friday, August 19, at 6:30 p.m., in Mill Island Park, Fairfield. The theater in Central Hall Commons in Dover-Foxcroft will be the venue on Saturday, August 20, at 6:30 p.m. South Parish Congregational Church, in Augusta, welcomes all to their stage for a 2 p.m., matinee on Sunday, August 21. Concessions will be sold and donations most gratefully received at each show. Reservations for front row/best view tickets in Dover-Foxcroft and Augusta may be guaranteed with a $10 donation by calling 207-314-4730. As with all plays by RSC this show is free of charge and accessible to all. Much Ado About Nothing is a family friendly production.

The following weekend RSC travels to Aroostook County to perform outdoors at the Limestone Renaissance Faire, at Albert Michaud Memorial Park, at 1 p.m, on Saturday, August 27, and at noon on Sunday, August 28. Also on August 27, see the show at 7 p.m., at the historical Musee Culturel Du Mont Carmel, in Grand Isle.

RSC is Maine’s premier environmentally conscious, grassroots community theater. Dedicated to their motto that “all who want a part get a part,” this troupe is comprised of people of all ages and abilities from seasoned actors to first timers who come together to build Shakespearean plays from the ground up using royalty-free and primarily recycled­/repurposed materials. RSC is proudly a founding member of the international EarthShakes Alliance to promote and practice the art of green theater.

For more information on becoming part of RSC or attending an event visit Recyledshakespeare.org, like and follow them on Facebook, email recycledshakespeare@gmail.com or call 207-314-4730.

Endicott College announces local dean’s list students

Endicott College, in Beverly, Massachusetts, has announced its Spring 2022 dean’s list students. Hunter Scholz, of Augusta, a history major, is the son of Kimberly Scholz and Stephen Scholz

Hailey Hobart, of China Village, studies/education major, is the daughter of Deborah Hobart and Daniel Hobart.

Alana York, of Palermo, a business management major, is the daughter of Cheryl York and Andrew York.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Natural resources – Part 4

An 1837 wood etching of the railroad bridge crossing the Kennebec River. The bridge sat on granite pillars.

by Mary Grow

Augusta granite industry

“Augusta has been abundantly supplied…with the best of granite, easily quarried, and of convenient access,” Augusta historian James North wrote. He expressed surprise that the resource was not developed earlier; not only did the workers on the 1797 Kennebec bridge and the 1808 jail use boulders instead, but, he wrote, three gentlemen who built houses in the first decade of the 1800s brought granite for the foundations from the Boston area, “at great expense.”

One entrepreneur used Augusta granite beginning in 1825. However, North said when the State House was built in 1832 the granite came from Hallowell, in blocks “twenty-one feet long and nearly four feet square.”

In 1836, North wrote, three new granite companies were organized to develop Augusta’s deposits.

The Augusta and New York Granite Company planned to exploit the “Hamlen ledge,” about two miles out Western Avenue from the Kennebec. The Augusta and Philadelphia Granite Company focused on the “Ballard ledge,” about a mile and a half out Northern Avenue from the west end of the Kennebec bridge. The Augusta Blue Ledge Company bought “Hall’s ledge” across the river, about two and a half miles from the east end of the bridge via the North Belfast Road (today’s Routes 202 and 3).

There were also the “Thwing ledge” and the “Rowell ledge,” which North wrote were “a continuation of the Ballard ledge” that “cropped out of the neighboring hills.”

Kingsbury added later granite companies just outside Augusta, the Hallowell Granite Company (1871) and the Hallowell Granite Works (1885). Both were organized and led by Joseph Robinson Bodwell (June 18, 1818 – Dec. 15, 1887) of Hallowell, who was elected governor of Maine in 1887 and died during his first year in office.

Hallowell granite was famous for its high quality – “white, free working and soft, and can be almost as delicately chiselled as marble,” Kingsbury wrote.

In 1884, Kingsbury wrote, Joseph Archie started the Central Granite Company, in Manchester, whence came the granite for the 1891-92 “extension of the state house.”

Other central Kennebec Valley towns had deposits of granite, slate and probably other useful forms of stone, though mention in local histories is scant. Kingsbury said granite was the type of stone underlying farmland in towns as far apart as Albion and Windsor, but he did not write about quarries.

In Vassalboro, Alma Pierce Robbins wrote, the 1850 census had a summary paragraph on the town’s amenities, including pure water, timber, natural fertilizer (“swamp muck hauled into yards in summer and in one year it proves about equal to stable manure”) and “rocks, granite and slate.”

Sidney also had slate deposits that were worked, Robbins said. She quoted a source saying that in 1837, Sidney slate cost $8 a ton, versus $27 a ton for slate imported from England.

* * * * * *

Daniel Cony

Last week’s article mentioned Augusta’s first bridge across the Kennebec, built in 1797. North described the construction.

The initial project cost was $15,000, he wrote; local people contributed, but could not have started without help from Massachusetts-based landholders and others, including a man named Leonard Jarvis, “owner of lands beyond the Penobscot.”

(This Leonard Jarvis would have been too young to be the Leonard Jarvis [1781-1854] of Surry, Maine, Harvard Class of 1800, Hancock County sheriff, representative to Congress 1829-1837. However, bridge investor Jarvis might have been the Leonard Jarvis [your writer found no dates] who, with Samuel Phillips and John Read, sold the Bingham Purchase, two million acres of Maine land bought by William Bingham, of Philadelphia, in early 1793. This Leonard Jarvis was in correspondence with Daniel Cony, a prominent Augusta resident, in the 1790s.)

Captain Paul Boynton

An architect North called Captain Boynton designed the bridge. Work started on May 5, 1797, only two months after Augusta separated from Hallowell. The wooden foundation, forty feet square, supported on its timber floor the bridge pier, described as “stone walls [North said “granite” in the next sentence] nine feet thick, forming on the inside an oval or egg-shaped opening.”

This stage of construction was finished Sept. 9, 1797, and followed by a public celebration. Next, the abutments were built, also of stone, and then the superstructure. North observed that, “The granite used for the masonry was obtained from boulders, the stratified granite so abundantly quarried at the present day being them unknown.”

The whole “very graceful and elegant” bridge was finished Nov. 21, and there was another celebration, a dinner shared by the incorporators, the workmen and residents. Citing midwife Martha Ballard’s diary, North wrote that “Cannon were fired responsive to toasts given, and David Wall, James Savage and Asa Fletcher who were managing the gun were injured by some of the cartridges taking fire.”

(If your writer found the right James Savage on line, his injuries were not fatal. Born June 5, 1775, in Augusta, he married Eliza Bickford on Feb. 21, 1822, in New Hampshire; on Nov. 11, 1826, became father of a son, also named James; and died Jan. 27, 1865, in an unknown location.)

The bridge was a covered bridge, as were almost all 19th-century bridges crossing the Kennebec. In his Kennebec Yesterdays, Ernest Marriner explained that covering was “to protect the timbers from weather,” so they wouldn’t rot so fast.

North wrote that the final cost of the bridge was $27,000. The stockholders paid off the debt with income from tolls; not until eight years later did they get their first dividend.

Because the 1797 Augusta bridge was the first bridge across the Kennebec (and “the greatest enterprise of the kind yet undertaken in the District of Maine”), nearby towns on both sides of the river laid out roads to lead to it, promoting Augusta’s growth.

This bridge collapsed, noisily but without killing anyone, the afternoon of Sunday, June 23, 1816. North wrote that a ferry, pulled on a rope, ran back and forth until a new bridge opened two years later.

The new bridge, opened in August 1818, served until it burned in 1827. North, amply quoting from a source he did not list, gave one of his more dramatic descriptions.

The fire started a little after 11 p.m., Monday, April 2, he said. First seen “bursting through the roof,” soon “the flames were fanned into the wildest fury, and with a ‘tremendous roaring,’ in a dense and waving mass high above the water, spanned the river from shore to shore, capped by rolling clouds of black smoke.”

After the flammable covering over the bridge burned away, “a magnificent spectacle appeared of a bridge with a framework of fire,” each piece of the structure outlined in flames. The debris fell into the Kennebec, in two pieces, and floated downriver, still burning.

North wrote that the tollkeeper’s wife was badly burned as she tried to run away. Stores on both banks of the river were damaged; residents on the east bank, including “ladies who worked with great coolness and energy” passing buckets of water up from the river, saved two stores there.

Hallowell sent two fire engines, but “owing to the bad state of the roads” the worst was over by the time they arrived. North estimated losses at $16,000, with almost nothing insured.

Arson was first suspected, because a man had been seen “lurking around the bridge” shortly before the fire. The final consensus was the cause was accidental, “probably from a lighted cigar thrown upon the flooring.”

Reconstruction began promptly, supervised by Ephraim Ballard, Martha Ballard’s husband. North wrote that the first people on foot crossed the successor bridge on Aug. 3 and the first carriages on Aug. 18, 138 days after the fire. The 1827 bridge was still in use in 1870.

This Kennebec bridge was a toll bridge, bringing income to its owners but annoying residents. The first attempt at a free river crossing was a legislative act March 23, 1838, authorizing a group of citizens (one was named James Bridge) to build another bridge within 10 rods north of the Kennebec Bridge and to buy the Kennebec Bridge. The group failed to raise enough money.

Voters at the 1847 town meeting appointed a committee of town officials to ask the Kennebec Bridge owners about renting or buying the bridge and to get a cost estimate for free ferry service from the town landing. Talks failed, as did renewed discussion the next year, and a seasonal subscription-supported ferry “was too expensive to be long continued.”

New bridges at Gardiner and then Hallowell kept discussion going, and on April 15, 1857, the legislature approved a charter for the Augusta Free Bridge Company. It was authorized to try to buy the Kennebec Bridge and, if no agreement could be reached, to build a new bridge.

Company stockholders could use the new bridge for free; the first plan was that everyone else would pay tolls until the cost of the new bridge was recouped and a $15,000 maintenance fund built up. North summarized a great deal more discussion, with Augusta city officials getting involved. With municipal financial backing, on July 1, 1867, the bridge across the Kennebec at Augusta became a free bridge.

* * * * * *

An unusual resource found in some Kennebec Valley towns was bog ore or bog iron, a naturally occurring material that can be transformed into useable iron.

Wikipedia calls bog iron “a form of impure iron deposit that develops in bogs or swamps by the chemical or biochemical oxidation of iron.” The iron is unearthed by groundwater, oxidized in the atmosphere and carried into the swamp; “bog ores consist primarily of iron oxyhydroxides, commonly goethite (FeO(OH)).”

Conditions making iron bogs possible include “local geology, parent rock mineralogy, ground-water composition, and geochemically active microbes & plants,” Wikipedia says. Bog iron is considered a renewable resource; a bog “can be harvested about once each generation.”

Bog iron can be purified without melting it, Wikipedia says, and humans have been using it since pre-Roman times. Vikings are mentioned as major users, and the article says the presence of bog iron seems to have been one factor that influenced Vikings’ choice of settlements in North America. Bog iron was turned into iron ore at the well-known Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland.

Later European settlers developed the resource extensively in Virginia, beginning in 1608; Massachusetts, from the 1630s; and New Jersey before the Revolution – Wikipedia says New Jersey made bog-iron cannonballs for the American army.

Again, local histories are not filled with information on bog iron. Two sources, however, document two different workings in Clinton.

The earlier of the two was “at the mouth of the fifteen mile stream, on the Kennebec,” according to North. He wrote that because the 1807 embargo cut off iron imports, by 1808 Jonathan B. Cobb was making iron from bog ore at his forge there. North mentioned it in his Augusta history because Cobb advertised in the Feb. 16, 1808, Kennebec Gazette offering bar iron, mill cranks and plough and crowbar moulds.

Kingsbury wrote that sometime before 1824 a Mr. Peavy set up a forge near Carrabassett Stream, which flows into the Kennebec at Pishon’s Ferry, opposite Hinckley, in Fairfield. There he “made iron out of bog ore obtained on the spot.” The forge was closed by 1826, Kingsbury wrote, but its remains could still be seen in 1892.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).

Website, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Natural resources – Part 3

Augusta House

by Mary Grow

Three brick and granite buildings in Augusta

Attentive readers will have noted that the previous discussions of brickyards and brick-making have omitted the two cities in the central Kennebec Valley, Augusta and Waterville. Your writer deliberately saved them for last, because they have so many buildings of brick and granite as to deserve extra space.

In James North’s detailed history of Augusta, the first mention of a brickyard is in a list of businesses active in August 1792 in what was then Hallowell. There were no brickyards in the northern part of town, which after February 1797 became a separate town named Augusta.

In the southern area called the Hook, which remained Hallowell, Samuel and Phillip Norcross owned buildings, two quarter-acre house lots and “brickyard, lime kiln and earthen ware kiln.” Their total property was valued at 50 pounds, one of the town’s smaller businesses.

Samuel Norcross (Oct. 18, 1729 – Dec. 1, 1800) was the oldest of five sons of Philip and Sarah (Jackson) Norcross); his brother Phillip (1732 -?) was next oldest.

An on-line genealogy says Samuel was born in Newton, Massachusetts, where in 1752 he married Mary Wiswall. The first seven of their “at least 14” children, starting with Samuel II and Philip, were born in Massachusetts.

The family evidently came to Maine in 1762 or 1763, because the genealogy lists the seven youngest children as Mary, born in 1763 in Hallowell; Hannah, born in 1764 in Lincoln; Nathaniel, born in June 1764 in Gardiner; Sarah, born in 1766 (no place of birth listed, but in 1786 she married in Pittston); Thankful, born in 1767, in Gardiner; Susannah, born May 10, 1769, in Gardiner; and Elizabeth, born in Lincoln in 1769.

(Hannah and Elizabeth do not fit, biologically or geographically. Perhaps Hannah and Elizabeth are listed in this family in error; or perhaps Samuel kept a second family?)

The same on-line genealogy has no information about Phillip except that he remained in Newton for “about 18 years.” Another on-line source is an 1803 court record of the Kennebec Proprietors (the inheritors of British land grants who continued to claim land rights for generations) filing an action of ejectment against Phillip Norcross and others of Hallowell, in Kennebec County Supreme Judicial Court in September 1803. The Phillip Norcross born in 1732 would have been 71 by then.

North wrote that the Norcross’ house, brickyard and kilns were “at the north end of Water street” in Hallowell, “just south of the present railroad crossing.” The family also ran a nearby ferry across the Kennebec “for many years.”

There must have been other brick-making businesses in the northern part of Hallowell, because North recorded that at the first town meeting in Augusta, on March 13, 1797, voters chose among their town officials two “Inspectors of Lime and Brick,” Henry Sewall and Daniel Foster.

About 1804, North wrote, Lombardy poplars were planted on both sides of State Street from Bridge Street “to the brickyard at the southerly end of Grove street.” (Your writer found one map that identifies Grove Street as the roadway between the rotary at the west end of Kennebec Memorial Bridge and the south end of Water Street; other maps call this stretch Water Street.)

Augusta’s first brick schoolhouse went up in the spring of 1804, according to North (and to Captain Charles E. Nash, who “borrowed” North’s information for his chapters on Augusta in Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history), on the northwest side of the intersection of State and Bridge streets. It was also Augusta’s first grammar school (offering classes more advanced than primary schools); the building burned down March 16, 1807.

Readers with unusually good memories will remember that most of the commercial buildings on Water Street, in Augusta, are on the National Register of Historic Places (see the February 2021 issues of The Town Line). Some are listed individually; some are part of the Water Street Historic District. Almost all are brick; and they are not the buildings described in the following paragraphs, but their successors, built after the great fire of Sept. 17, 1865.

Merchants whom North identified as “Robinson & Crosby” built the first brick stores in 1806, two together in a block on the north corner of Market Square on the river side. In 1811, Joshua Gage, Bartholomew Nason and Benjamin Whitwell built a second block of three stores nearby.

North added that all five stores were closed temporarily in 1813, as a result of the economic slump caused by the dispute between Britain and the United States that led first to a United States embargo on trade and then to the War of 1812.

These brick store buildings had what North called “old-fashioned brick fronts,” featuring “heavy wooden door and window shutters,” hinged and locked with diagonal iron bars. By 1833, the new fashion was “granite posts and lintels.”

Seven new brick stores were added on Water Street in 1835, five at the north end and two farther south. None survived the 1865 fire.

Brick was also used, along with stone, in the Augusta jail that was built after an inmate burned down the wooden one on March 16, 1808. North wrote that prisoners were held in a very insecure temporary jail while a two-story building was built “of large blocks of rough hammered stone fastened together with iron dowels.”

This building, finished in December 1808, “was connected, by a brick ell, with a two story square brick jail house” at the intersection of State and Winthrop streets. The brick building was standing when North finished his history in 1870, but had been supplanted as a jail by a larger stone building, completed in 1859.

In 1812, owners of the newly-chartered Kennebec Bank had a brick building put up on Court Street. This building served as a bank for four years, then as a house; North wrote that it was torn down when the county courthouse was enlarged in 1851.

In 1813, Kennebec County officials, concerned about keeping paper records in the wooden county courthouse, had a brick building with “four fire proof vaults” built nearby. With brick floors, brick partitions and iron doors on the vaults, it was assumed safe; but, North wrote, when it was replaced years later, county officials were surprised to find wooden floors under the vaults, so that “the building could not have burned without consuming the contents of the vaults.”

The Augusta House on State Street, a leading hotel for many years, was built of brick and opened Jan. 31, 1831. Among its guests, according to Nash, were General Winfield Scott, who stayed about three weeks in the spring of 1839 during the Aroostook War (see The Town Line, March 17, 2022); and President Ulysses S. Grant, who visited with his family on Aug. 3, 1865, and was entertained at a state dinner at the hotel.

The Augusta House was enlarged substantially during the Civil War. On-line postcards from 1912 and 1938 show a six-story building on an above-ground granite foundation. The main door in the center of the front veranda is protected by a two-story portico supported by columns. Another on-line source says the hotel was closed and torn down in 1973.

On June 7, 1833, the Citizens’ Bank opened in its new brick building at the intersection of Oak and Water streets, in the middle of downtown. This was a three-story building, North said; the bank had the back rooms on the second floor, jeweler Benjamin Swan and dry-goods merchant G. G. Wilder shared the street floor, and the Kennebec Journal newspaper, founded in 1825, had its office on the top floor.

Another brick schoolhouse was erected in the summer of 1835 to house Augusta’s first high school. Located at the intersection of State and Bridge streets, not far from the site of the earlier brick grammar school, the building cost $7,000. North (and Nash) wrote that it was two stories high, 65-by-50-feet, with four Doric columns supporting the front pediment.

Owned by a group of corporators, the school briefly did well; but after the first head teacher moved on, it began to fail and after 1848 the building served as a public high school for the surrounding school district.

Residents must have approved of two-story brick schoolhouses, because North and Nash recorded several more built in Augusta school districts in the 1840s and 1850s, and Nash added a “large four-room” one, Cushnoc Heights Grammar School, built in 1890 at the intersection of Franklin and Oxford streets, partway up Sand Hill at the north end of the city.

The Winthrop Street Universalist Church, started with a June 19, 1867, cornerstone laying and dedicated March 5, 1868, was “built of brick laid in colored mortar,” North wrote. The building was 80-by-61-feet, with 33-foot-high walls; on the southwest corner was a 55-foot tower enclosing a 1, 500-pound bell and topped by a 135-foot (from the ground) spire.

Other brick buildings in Augusta that have not been described in earlier articles in this series and that are on the National Register of Historic Places include:

  • The Lot Morrill House on the north side of Winthrop Street at the Prospect Street intersection, built about 1830;
  • The Governor Samuel Cony House, also known as the William Payson Viles House, on the east side of Stone Street (Route 9 on the east side of the Kennebec), built in 1846;
  • The former Augusta City Hall, at 1 Cony Street, on the east bank of the Kennebec, and the north side of Bridge Street, built in 1895-96; and
  • The Governor John F. Hill Mansion, on State Street at the Green Street intersection, built in 1901.

The old city hall is now an assisted living facility. The Hill mansion is an events center welcoming area residents to rent its facilities. The Morrill and Cony houses appear to be privately owned.

* * * * * *

As previous articles (see 2021 indexes to The Town Line) have shown, another major building material was granite, used in Augusta especially for religious and public buildings, and for a minority of the commercial buildings in the Water Street Historic District.

Two major granite building complexes on the east side of the Kennebec River were the Kennebec Arsenal, built between 1828 and 1838 (see box), and the original building at what was in 1838 the Augusta Insane Hospital, plus the wing added in 1848.

Granite buildings on the west side of the Kennebec included:

  • the Kennebec County Court House, on State Street (1829);
  • the State House, on State Street (1832);
  • the Kennebec jail (1859);
  • South Parish Congregational Church, on Church Street (1865);
  • St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, on Summer Street (1886);
  • Lithgow Library, on Winthrop Street (completed in 1896); and
  • St Mary’s Catholic Church, on Western Avenue (1926).

Because of space limitations, discussion of the development of the granite industry in the Kennebec River valley will be postponed to next week.

Update on Augusta’s Kennebec Arsenal

Kennebec Arsenal

The Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta is a collection of eight granite buildings built between 1828 and 1838 and designated a National Historic Landmark District in 2000 (see the Jan. 21, 2021, and Feb. 10, 2022, issues of The Town Line). It is now privately owned.

A June 24 Kennebec Journal article by Keith Edwards said the owner has failed to maintain the buildings. City council members discussed declaring the Arsenal a dangerous site, but decided at their June 23 meeting to postpone action until July 28.

Edwards explained that if the property were declared dangerous, councilors could set a deadline for action, at minimum presentation of a repair plan. Failure to meet the deadline would let the city have the work done and bill the owner, or have the buildings demolished. If the owner didn’t pay the bill, the city could lien the property; if the lien were not paid, the buildings would eventually become the city’s.

The current owner bought the property 15 years ago, Edwards wrote, accepting an obligation to maintain its historic value. A local group has been formed named Concerned Citizens for Augusta Historical Preservation of the Kennebec Arsenal.

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous.

St. Michael Parish donates over 5,000 Diapers

St. Augustine Church in Augusta (photo by Eric Austin)

As part of an initiative for parishioners to learn, act, and pray on the life and dignity of the human person, St. Michael Parish, in Augusta, held a collection for items and financial assistance for the Open Arms Pregnancy Center, in Augusta, which offers encouragement and support to pregnant women and young families.

In total, the donation drive led to 5,381 diapers, nearly 300 large packages of wipes, an assortment of outfits and clothes, toys, new and slightly used pack n’ plays, bibs, rash ointments, and over $500 in cash. All of the proceeds have been delivered to Open Arms.

“This is almost a year’s worth of diapers and wipes,” said Pat Bonney, director of Open Arms. “I am so grateful to the parishioners. This is just a tremendous blessing to me and our clients.”

The initiative at St. Michael Parish also included a virtual session exploring the topic of upholding the dignity of human life from conception to natural death and will feature a special prayer service focused on the theme on Tuesday, June 28, at 7 p.m., at St. Mary Church, on 41 Western Avenue, in Augusta. All are welcome to gather at the service. For more information, contact the parish at (207) 623-8823.

For more details about the services and opportunities at Open Arms, visit www.openarmspc.org.

Lions Clubs hold serving kindness celebration

Lions Club members from around the state came together on Sunday, June 12, at the Buker Community Center, in Augusta, to celebrate their clubs and members’ achievements.

Lions Clubs International (LCI) was formed in 1917 by Melvin Jones, a businessman who believed that by developing clubs with caring people they could serve the needs of their communities. LCIF has expanded to over 200 countries and territories and 1.4 M members serving their communities and world needs.

LCI formed a 501C3 Foundation (LCIF) in 1968 and has awarded over $1.1 billion in grants to Disaster Relief, Vision, Diabetes, Hunger, Childhood Cancer, Youth, Humanitarian Causes, and the Environment.

International Director John Youney and Past International Director (PID) Rod Wright recognized the new Melvin Jones Fellows (MJF). When a Lions Club or member donates $1,000 to LCIF for Disaster Relief or Empowering Services. 1,000 credits are issued for each $1,000 donated and may be used to recognize an individual with a MJF plaque. This recognition is the highest recognition LCIF gives out. This year 31 new MJF have or will be recognized.

The above recognitions could have impacted the lives of more than 12,700 people in need.

Three Lions Clubs qualified to receive a Community Impact Grant (value $750+). Falmouth, Jay/Livermore Falls, and Skowhegan.

Lion Michelle Shores, Waterville Lions Club, presented Stories That Warm the Heart, and introduced the first place winner, Lion Louise Neuts, and told by Lion Dawn Connelly.

The Lion members who were involved in singing songs are, Paula Beach, Skowhegan Lions Club, Regal Naseef and Gwen Bassinger, Falmouth Lions Club, and Jeff Woolston, Winthrop Lions Club. Back-up music, Mike Mahoney of M&M Entertainment.

Lions Clubs involved in the Celebration are as follows; Bridgton, Camden, Clinton, Cumberland/North Yarmouth, Falmouth, Farmington, Freeport Lioness, Gardiner/Augusta, Jay/Livermore Falls, Manchester, Massabesic, New Portland, Oakland, Searsport, Searsport Bay Area, Skowhegan, Stratton-Eustis, Waterville, Westbrook, Winthrop, and Yarmouth.