Silver Beaver award presented to area scout leaders

by Chuck Mahaleris

The Silver Beaver is the highest award a local council can bestow upon a volunteer Scout leader. Two local scouters from across the Kennebec Valley District of Pine Tree Council received this award, Kelly Pillsbury, of Benton, and Joseph Poulin, of Oakland. Kennebec Valley District delivers Scouting in Kennebec, Lincoln, Knox, Somerset, and Franklin Counties.

Poulin has been active in scouting since 1990 when he was a Webelos Cub Scout and then crossed into Oakland Troop #454. He earned his Eagle Scout award in 1997. Since 2002, he has served as a volunteer leader in scouting at the local, district and council levels. He is currently serving as the vice chairman of Kennebec Valley District, training chairman for Pine Tree Council and a member of the Pine Tree Council Executive Board. Additionally, he has served as program director for Day Camp and Fun Pack Weekends. “I enjoy seeing youth succeed and grow,” Poulin said.

Kelly Pillsbury is a former district chairman for Kennebec Valley District and currently serving on the district committee and as a committee member for Troop #479, based in China. Both have received the District Award of Merit which is the highest award a local scouting district can bestow upon a volunteer. Pillsbury is a past Exalted Ruler of Waterville Elks Lodge #905 during which time she formed the “Antler Lodge” to bring the Elks program to youth. She joined scouting in 1995 as a Tiger Cub parent and has been active since. “Kelly has been active in Scouting for more than twenty-five years,” said district member Ron Emery, of China. “Kelly always has had goals to advocate that training was important for Cub leaders, scout leaders as well as scouts, and the troop committee should always support and encourage that training.”

The awards were presented in Raymond, at Camp Hinds, on January 18, by Pine Tree Council Vice Chairman Scott Valcourt.

EVENTS: Understanding land surveying

A landscape painting by Uliana Fournier, Winslow High School, grade 10. (contributed photo)

An Understanding Land Surveying workshop will be held at the Benton Grange Hall, 29 River Rd., Benton, on Wednesday, April 17, 6:30 – 8 p.m.

The sight of land surveyors peering into tripod-mounted equipment by the roadside is common enough, but what are they actually doing? Frank Siviski, a professional land surveyor with more than 30 years of experience, will shed light on the seemingly mysterious world of boundary determinations. Siviski has taught survey-related courses at Unity College, and is formerly an instructor at Kennebec Valley Community College, in Fairfield. His talk will help landowners understand how surveys are created, standards that are applied, and how landowners’ goals shape the outcome. If you have questions about boundary surveys, this is an opportunity to have those questions answered.

Local students named to dean’s honor list

Zachary Craig, of Benton, Catherine Estes, of Sidney, and Rebecca Riley, of Chelsea, were named to the dean’s honor list at Cedarville University, in Cedarville, Ohio, for Fall 2023.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Some early Maine poets

by Mary Grow

As promised last week, no more ponds for a while. Instead, your writer turned to Thomas Addison’s chapter on Literature and Literary People, in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history. She hopes you will enjoy meeting a few of the writers mentioned.

Addison’s definition of literature covers almost anyone who wrote: newspaper people, historians, educators and sundry others. Your writer has chosen arbitrarily to begin with selected poets.

Many of the names Addison mentioned have no on-line references. Others are listed only as contributors to a book titled The Poets of Maine: A Collection of Specimen Poems from over Four Hundred Verse-makers of the Pine-tree State, compiled by George Bancroft Griffith and published in 1888.

Your writer found excerpts from this book on line. The samples she read have brief biographies and selected poems.

* * * * * *

Amos Lunt Hinds’ book,
Uncle Stephens

A large number of writers came from Augusta, Gardiner and Hallowell. Addison listed surprisingly few from Waterville or towns farther north, and not many from smaller towns.

An exception was the Town of Benton, identified as the home of poets Amos Lunt Hinds and Hannah Augusta Moore.

Amos Lunt Hinds (born in Benton Nov. 12, 1833, or sometime in 1834; died in Benton, April 24, 1908) was the son of Asher Hinds (born in Benton May 2, 1792; died in Benton April 23, 1860) and Lucy Harding (Turner) Hinds (1801 – July 2, 1883), who was either the first or second of his two wives (sources disagree).

The on-line description of Forgotten Books’ 2018 reprint of Amos Hinds’ 1905 Uncle Stephen and Other Verses includes Hinds’ introduction. The poet said the poems were written over 40 years; some had been published in newspapers and magazines, locally and out of state. Hinds collected them into a book “at the suggestion and request of old friends, to whom they are submitted with affectionate greeting.”

An article in the Jan. 10, 1906, issue of the Colby Echo (found on line) republishes a Dec. 27, 1905, Waterville Evening Mail article on the publication of Uncle Stephen. Hinds is described as a Colby graduate, Class of 1858, and a resident of Benton Falls.

The unnamed writer of the article mentioned several poems with local connections.

The one titled The Soldiers ‘ Monument was “read at the unveiling of the monument in this city on May 30, 1876.” The newspaper quoted one verse:

Long let this musing soldier stand,
‘Neath free New England skies,
To all that love the fatherland,
Type of self-sacrifice.

General Isaac Sparrow Bangs, in his military history included in Edwin Carey Whittemore’s Waterville history, describes the founding of the Waterville Soldiers’ Monument Association in March 1864, before the Civil War ended. Its purpose was to provide a memorial to honor Waterville residents who died in the war.

The first fund-raising events were that month. After a Nov. 29, 1865, event, Bangs wrote, the association apparently went dormant until June 1875. By then, donations and interest totaled $1,000, and the town gave a matching sum.

Association committees were formed to design the monument and find a site. Two more fundraisers May 16 and 17, 1876, added $350, and the Waterville Soldiers’ Monument, in what is now Veterans Memorial Park, at the corner of Elm and Park streets, was dedicated on Tuesday, May 30, 1876, Memorial Day.

Another of Hinds’ poems, Old Block House, was about Fort Halifax, in Winslow, the 1906 newspaper writer said.

Uncle Stephen, “the first and longest poem in the volume,” honored Stephen Crosby, whom the writer called “one of the early settlers of that portion of Winslow which lies adjacent to Benton Falls.”

Crosby owned a grist mill, and during 1816, the Year without a Summer, he “endeared himself to his generation and his memory to other generations, by refusing to profit by the distress of his neighbors, continuing to sell corn, of which he had a store, at the ordinary price.”

On-line genealogies say Amos Lunt Hinds married Lettice Orr Reed (1834 – Jan. 26, 1910), and name only one child, Lucy Turner Hinds (1866-1966). The “Colby Echo” article says Amos was the father of Asher C. Hinds, Colby 1883 (but see box on the Hinds family).

* * * * * *

Poets of Maine says Hannah Augusta Moore was born in Wiscasset on March 15 of either 1827 or 1828. Her grandfather was Colonel Herbert Moore, of Waterville; her father, Herbert Thorndike Moore, is identified as “of New York City.”

Her mother, who is not named, and her father were both poets, the biography says. The family moved to Philadelphia when Hannah was “a small child” and she started writing there. Then she lived in New York (City?) “for many years.” In 1886, she “came back” to Benton, which she called “dear native land.”

The biography does not say when Hannah had previously lived in Benton, and the following text is not helpful. It says that after her mother died (no date given), she “attended school at Waterville, Me.”

As soon as Moore settled in Benton, Ephraim Maxwell, publisher of the Waterville Mail newspaper, began publishing her work.

Moore wrote under pseudonyms, including Helen Bruce and Wanona Wandering. The biography explains that she avoided “Hannah” “from a dread that she might be supposed to consider herself a second ‘Hannah More.'”

(Hannah More [Feb. 2, 1745 – Sept. 7, 1833] was a British writer whose works included plays and poetry, mostly religious.)

The biography says it was Moore’s own choice to live “like a hidden singer in a hedge.” Her poems were available in the United States and in Europe, and many were set to music. One collection, titled “Plymouth Notes,” sold 40,000 copies in Europe in its first year.

The biography ends by quoting “June in Maine,” one of Moore’s best-known poems. The first stanza reads:

Beautiful, beautiful summer!
Odorous, exquisite June!
All the sweet roses in blossom,
All the sweet birdies in tune.

The poem urges readers to go outside and enjoy

All the dim aisles of the forest
Ringing and thrilling with song;
Music—a flood-tide of music—
Poured the green valleys along.

And

Buttercups, daisies, and clover,
Roses, sweet-briar, and fern,
Mingle their breath on the breezes—
Who from such wooing could turn?

* * * * * *

Frances Parker Mace

Frances Parker (Laughton) Mace is another Maine poet, who was a friend of Moore’s. Wikipedia says she was born in Orono, Jan. 15, 1836 (or, one source says, 1834, citing her tombstone), daughter of Dr. Sumner Laughton and Mary Ann (Parker) Laughton.

The family moved to Foxcroft in 1837. Mace’s education included Latin “and other advanced subjects” at Foxcroft Academy when she was only 10 years old. Her first poems were published when she was 12, some in The New York Journal of Commerce, Wikipedia says.

The Laughtons moved to Bangor, and Mace graduated from Bangor High School in 1852. Wikipedia says her most famous poem was published in the “Waterville Mail” when she was 18, suggesting a Waterville connection by 1854 – did she and Moore meet then? Your writer found no evidence.

This poem is titled Only Waiting. It was inspired by a friend who asked an elderly man in a poor-house what he was doing and received the reply, “Only waiting.”

The poem begins:

  Only waiting till the
shadows
  Are a little longer grown,
  Only waiting till the
glimmer
  Of the day’s last beam
is flown;
  Till the night of earth
is faded
  From the heart, once full
of day;
  Till the stars of heaven
are breaking
  Through the twilight
soft and gray.

It goes on to describe the man’s readiness to leave his weary life for the company of angels.

The poem was published in the Waterville Mail under the pseudonym “Inez.” Later, a hymn-writer named Mrs. F. A. F. Wood-White, from Iowa (according to one on-line source), claimed she had composed it, creating a dispute that was eventually resolved in Mace’s favor.

Mace married a lawyer named Benjamin Mace in 1855, and for the next 20 years was busy with eight children, four of whom died young. She began writing again when their eighth child was two years old, with a poem published in Harper’s Magazine.

Her collected poems were published in the 1880s, before and after the family moved to San Jose, California, in 1885. She died in Los Gatos, California, on July 20, 1899.

NOTE: For those interested in seeking out poems mentioned in this article, your writer found on line:

Two recent reprints of Amos Lunt Hinds’ Uncle Stephen and Other Verses: a 2016 hardcover edition by Palala Press, and a 2018 paperback by London-based Forgotten Books.

Three reprints of The Poets of Maine: in 2008 by Kessinger Publishing (Vol. 2 only); a 2017 paperback by Forgotten Books; and a 2023 paperback by Creative Media Partners, LLC.

Listed as available on amazon.com, in January 2024: copies of Frances Laughton Mace’s two poetry collections, Legends, Lyr­ics and Son­nets, originally published in Boston, Mas­sa­chu­setts, by Cupples, Upham, in 1883; and Under Pine and Palm, originally published in Bos­ton by Tick­nor, in 1888. No publisher is given.

More about the Hinds family

On-line sources say poet Amos Lunt Hinds had three younger brothers and a younger sister. The brothers are listed as Albert D. Hinds (1835-1873); Asher Crosby Hinds (1840-1863); and Roswell S. Hinds (1844-1864). The sister was Susan A. Hinds (1837-1905).

Find a Grave website says the Asher Crosby Hinds who was born Jan. 7, 1840, in Clinton, served in Company G of the Third Maine Infantry during the Civil War. He started as a corporal and mustered out as a sergeant. The website quotes the beginning of his obituary from the April 2, 1863, Piscataquis Observer, which says he died in Benton at the age of 23.

Amos and Asher’s brother Albert and his wife Charlotte (Flagg) named their first son, born in 1863, Asher Crosby Hinds.

Wikipedia says Asher Crosby Hinds, born Feb. 6, 1863, and died May 1, 1919, represented Maine’s First District in the U. S. House of Representatives for three terms, from 1911 to 1917.

The article says he attended Coburn Classical Institute and graduated from Colby College in 1883; worked for a Portland newspaper beginning in 1884; and from 1889 to 1911 held clerical positions in the Maine House of Representatives, working for the Speaker.

Hinds edited two procedural manuals, Wikipedia says, an 1899 edition of the Rules, Manual, and Digest of the House of Representatives and in 1908 Hinds’ Precedents of the House of Representatives.

The article cites a 2013 study showing the Precedents “successfully altered the behavior of House representatives, as they became less willing to appeal decisions of the chair.”

This information leads your writer to conclude that Rep. Asher C. Hinds was Amos and Lettice Hinds’ nephew, not their son.

Amos Lunt Hinds and a dozen other family members are buried in Barton-Hinds Cemetery on Eames Road in Winslow, according to Find a Grave.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Benton native named 2023 Senior Sailor of the Year

Petty Officer 1st Class Maegan Findley, a native of Benton, was named 2023 Senior Sailor of the Year for Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Ports­mouth, during a ceremony at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, in Virginia, on October 3.

Findley is a graduate of Lawrence High School, in Fairfield. Findley also earned a degree in medical laboratory sciences in 2010 from Thomas Nelson Community College, in Virginia.

Findley joined the Navy 19 years ago.

The Good Trail: Tall Nancy is coming tomorrow

by Lisa Lichterfeld

“Tall Nancy is coming tomorrow.” Selwyn gives one of his world weary sighs, signaling resignation, since his default stance towards visitors is generally averse. This gets me going with a quick retort. “You are incredibly lucky that tall Nancy chooses to come here and spend time with you.” Selwyn is equally quick to make eye contact and state “You’re right. Tall Nancy is an angel.”

When I took a seasonal farm position at Johnny’s Seeds, some of my friends – fellow parents of young athletes who are part of the Unified Champion Club – asked how they could be supportive. I was concerned about leaving my husband home alone for that length of time. Selwyn is physically frail and has growing memory loss and confusion. He had become increasingly dependent, needing support for many daily life activities. Nancy offered to come one day a week and stay for four hours. She developed her own routine into which she incorporated sweeping and cleaning the kitchen, bringing in the recycling barrel from the road, making and eating lunch with Selwyn, and rubbing Selwyn’s feet. Now everyone reading this understands why the term “angel” can be applied to Nancy. The tall part is because – well, she is tall, and that is how Selwyn distinguishes her from the other Nancys in our circle of friends.

Three weeks after I started working at the farm, I quit. It just wasn’t working out. Making sure the needs of my husband and my daughter were being met through coordinating daily support from my friends and family became too stressful. And Selwyn had deteriorated further due to his anxiety with all of the arrangements.

Tall Nancy said “Can I still come over on Tuesdays?” And so we established a pattern and a growing friendship and camaraderie as Nancy volunteered her time so that I could take a physical and mental breather from the demands of home life.

One day as Nancy was leaving our home I said “you are our hero Nancy”. That afternoon Nancy was walking the trail in Benton with her son Jonathan and his direct support person Kevin.

Chet started working at New Balance 23 years ago, right out of high school. New Balance, as a workplace, encourages its employees to embrace a culture of giving. This aligns with Chet’s own values and temperament. “I’m not going to drive by someone on the road with a flat tire, and not stop.” He hopes that this ethos continues to live on in his sons Christian 21, and Trenton 11.

On the first of July, Chet was driving around looking for a local ball game to watch. It was his first day of vacation. He sat on the bleachers at the Wrigley field, in Waterville, and watched a not so typical game.

All the batters hit the ball – either from multiple pitches or a T. Every hit, catch and run was cheered by the spectators. There was a great deal of elation, and rarely any sense of defeat. Chet was watching the Unified Champion Club. In the UCC team, some players are more skilled and they are able to play more competitively with one another. Others are beginners, or less skilled, and even the most competitive in the field will stop, wait, fumble the ball, and otherwise take steps to make sure that person makes it to first base.

While eating ice cream and observing this unusual ball game, Chet couldn’t help overhearing a conversation taking place a few rows down on the bleachers. Our very own tall Nancy was telling her other mom friends about her dream to have a swing built at her home that was large enough for her six-foot three-inch, 30-year-old son Jonathan. Jonathan is largely non-verbal, and does not participate in team sports, but comes to many of our team events. At the ball field he usually spends his time on the swings. He so loves to swing that he will endure the discomfort of having the too small swings (designed for children) cut into his hips, leaving open areas that have to heal.

This conversation percolated in Chet’s mind, and he decided that he wanted to build that swing. He talked to his friend and co-worker Maggie and she immediately wanted to finance the project. “Word got around and pretty soon everybody was saying ‘I want to help’.”

Now it was up to Chet to find the woman with the son who needed a swing. He went back to the ball field for the next two weeks on the same day at the same time, only to be disappointed. Determined to find them, he called the AYCC, spoke to Patrick Guerette and was informed that the one time that he had watched our game was on an alternate night due to bad weather. The next week he would finally be able to find us on the correct evening.

But he did not have to wait that long. Running on the river trail in Benton, he saw one of the people who he remembered from the game. It was Kevin, one of the partners in the UCC.

Once you have seen Kevin, you will remember him. Noticeably short with a very long, full, dark beard, Kevin is one of the most approachable people I know. Always up for a bit of fun, and frequently a bit of mischief. Chet stopped his run and began rapidly explaining how he recognized Kevin, and how much he wanted to build a swing for “that woman and her son”.

At some point, tall Nancy who was patiently watching this conversation unfold, leaned towards Kevin and whispered “well, shall we tell him?”.

And that is how Chet met Nancy and Jonathan.

Money was pooled from all of those involved with the major portion coming from Maggie.

When the materials were purchased, Dan from Hammond Lumber contributed funds to the project as well. Justin, Jimmy, and Chet built the swing with Chet’s son Trenton and Justin’s son Nick, assisting. Chet’s wife Renee beautified the landscape around the swing, planting flowers that continued to bloom right through the summer.

It all happened in a single day when Jonathan was out with Kevin and his partner Jill. Jonathan doesn’t like having people in his home and can sometimes become quite upset. But upon returning to the house at the end of the day, the smile and immediate adoption of the swing could not be mistaken for anything less than Joy. No matter how many people stood by and watched!

On the same day that I called Nancy “our hero”, she met Chet on the trail. As though synchronized by a writer’s pen, the trail of good deeds made itself visible. The service Nancy so graciously gave to us, and the very tangible and large swing that brought joy to Jonathan (and some respite for Nancy), seemed to be linked. At least in Nancy’s mind. Because the next time she came over, she said “You see, I better keep coming, because good things are happening!”

Love to my good friends Nancy Moore, Jonathan Tingley, Kevin Taft and Jill Currier. And love to those helpers I have not met – Chet, Renee and Trenton Hanscom, Maggie Diagle, Justin and Nick Cote, Jimmy Lucas, and Dan Doray.

The Unified Champion Club is a non-profit that operates out of the AYCC providing sporting events and memberships to adults with special needs and their partners. It brings people together whose destiny it is to assist one another in celebrating our beautiful lives. All donations towards this endeavor are welcome.

Lisa Lichterfeld is also the author of the book “My Name is Kwayah” written from the perspective of her daughter with Down Syndrome, and available on Amazon.

PHOTO: Multiple winner

Club Naha student Matthew Christen, 12, of Benton, captured two first place wins and second place in the grand championship at the Amerikick International Martial Arts Championships, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (photo by Mark Huard, Central Maine Photography)

Local student graduates from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

On May 20, 2023, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), in Troy, New York,  awarded a bachelor of science degree in business and management to Drake Zimba, of Benton.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: How towns cared for their poor (conclusion)

In many areas, poor families were auctioned off to the lowest bidder.

by Mary Grow

Benton, Clinton, Fairfield, Waterville, Winslow

This fourth and final article on the ways central Kennebec Valley towns carried out their responsibility to care for their poorest residents will provide bits of information about half a dozen towns not already discussed.

* * * * * *

For Benton (which was part of Clinton until March 16, 1842, when it became a new town named Sebasticook, changed to Benton on March 4, 1850), Henry Kingsbury had only one sentence about paupers: “The poor of the town have never been numerous, and are cared for [in 1892] by individual contract.”

In his Kennebec County history, he related an informal example. In the early 1800s, he wrote, a family named Piper proposed moving from Anson, Maine, to Ohio. As they were canoeing down the Kennebec, the canoe upset at Ticonic Falls, in Waterville, and the father drowned.

A second-generation Benton resident named Isaac Spencer rescued the Piper son, Joseph, “snugly wrapped in a blanket,” and brought him to his house. Joseph’s mother also survived, but she could not support her son, so he stayed with Spencer.

Kingsbury wrote that Joseph Piper “became a successful farmer.” He died in the 1850s, leaving a large estate on part of which a grandson named Charles was living in 1892.

* * * * * *

Kingsbury wrote that Clinton’s first poor farm, which existed before Benton and Clinton were separated in 1842, was “about half a mile west of Morrison’s Corner.”

Morrison’s Corner was, and as Morrison Corner still is, the four corners where Hinckley Road, running roughly north to south, meets Battle Ridge Road, which runs northeast to connect to Upper Bellsqueeze Road, and Ferry Road, which runs southwest to the former Noble’s Ferry on the Kennebec River.

By 1879, according to that year’s Kennebec County atlas, Clinton had a new town farm east of the original one, on the east side of Hill Road (which runs north-northwest out of downtown Clinton toward Canaan).

* * * * * *

Crossing back to the west side of the Kennebec, the 1988 Fairfield bicentennial history has no reference to a town farm, poor house or almshouse or any other town-funded method of caring for paupers. The first town meeting after the town was incorporated was on Aug. 19, 1788; the first reference to appropriations says that in 1793 “The Town first raised money for schools,” but lists no amount and mentions no other expenditures.

The history gives a short paragraph to what became the Goodwill-Hinckley School (described in the May 20 and June 3, 2021, issues of The Town Line). Rev. George W. Hinckley founded what started as Good Will Farm in June 1889, in the part of Fairfield now called Hinckley, “as a home for boys.”

In November 1889, the history continues, “the Good Will Home Association was organized as a home for needy boys with funds Rev. Hinckley had been collecting for some time.” The writers go on to describe 20th-century changes.

At the end of the bicentennial history is a reproduction of a 1909 map of Fairfield that shows a building labeled “Town Farm.” It is on the south side of a road running east from Green Road to Nye’s Corner, which is south – downriver, toward the Fairfield business district – of the Goodwill School.

A map from the mid-1980s shows the former road as a trail. It does not appear in any form on a contemporary on-line map.

(According to the 1909 map, the town farm was a short distance east of a four-way intersection where at least two families named Green lived. There was a schoolhouse on the east side of the intersection.)

* * * * * *

Waterville was part of Winslow from 1771 to 1802, and Oakland was part of Waterville until 1873, when it became a separate town called West Waterville (changed to Oakland in 1883).

Kingsbury explained that the growth of water-powered manufacturing on Messalonskee Stream, the outlet of Messalonskee Lake, led to the development of an industrial center separate from Waterville’s, which was based on and near the Kennebec.

Kingsbury’s accounts of poor farms in Winslow, Waterville and Oakland are frustratingly incomplete. As he often did, he assumed future readers would have access to the same documents he had, and would recognize the names of families, roads and localities that were part of his daily experience in the 1890s.

In his chapter on Winslow, he wrote that until 1859, paupers were bid off. That year, “the town voted $3,200, and bought the Blanchard farm.”

If the former Blanchard farm was still the town farm when the 1879 Kennebec County atlas was created, it was in a part of town more settled than officials usually chose for an almshouse.

The map shows the Town Farm on the west side of what is now Clinton Avenue (Route 100) running northeast along the Sebasticook River to Benton. The farm is marked about halfway between the top of the hill in Winslow and the Hayward Road intersection. Along this stretch, the map shows a dozen houses (occupied by, among others, several Getchell and Fuller families and two whose last name was Town) and a schoolhouse diagonally north of the town farm.

Kingsbury was slightly more informative on Waterville (unlike the Waterville centennial history; the summary of the 100 years from 1802 to 1902 doesn’t mention the poor, and since the book has a names-only index, finding any other reference is time-consuming).

In Waterville, Kingsbury found, the poor were bid off from 1811 (or earlier) until about 1842. In 1811, five paupers cost the town from 35 to 65 cents a week, for a weekly total of $2.59. In 1812, the town supported a dozen people and the cost went up to $3.48 a week.

(Ruby Crosby Wiggin’s comments about doctors’ fees, cited in last week’s article, suggest there might have been occasional additional charges.)

From 1837 records Kingsbury quoted a decision that the poor as a group “be sold at auction for one year.” Samuel H. Batchelder was the successful bidder, charging $865.

Around 1842, Waterville officials bought from Joseph Mitchell and George Bessey a 90-acre farm to use as a town farm. At an unspecified later date, the town also acquired a woodlot in Sidney, apparently intended to complement the farm.

The 1879 Kennebec County map shows Waterville’s town farm a short distance south of downtown, on the south side of Webb Road. It was just west of the intersection with Mitchell Road, which current maps show coming south from the back of LaFleur Airport to Webb Road.

In March 1890 the house on the town farm burned down. Officials then bought seven acres from George Boutelle and “built the present excellent city alms house at a total expense at $6,444.”

(George Keely Boutelle was a prominent Waterville lawyer and businessman who helped organize and lead several banks and was active in civic organizations.)

By 1892, Waterville’s “poor department” was costing more than $9,000 a year, Kingsbury added.

The 1873 separation of West Waterville (which became Oakland) from Waterville would have required the new town to assume the care of its indigent residents. The 1879 map of the new town shows a town farm not far west of downtown, on the north side of what is now High Street (Route 137 heading west toward Smithfield). Comparison with a contemporary on-line map puts the farm site about half-way between the Oak Street intersection and the Gage Road intersection.

Kingsbury provided evidence that in the early 1890s Oakland was both running a town farm and caring for paupers off the farm. Appropriations listed in a town report for the fiscal year that ended Feb. 28, 1892, included “support of poor,” $1,100 and “town farm,” $500.

A current on-line map labels the road along the east shore of McGrath Pond that connects Route 137 with Route 11 (the Oakland-Belgrade road) as Town Farm Road. A town farm on this road, if there were one, would have been west of the one in use in 1879.

Story of the Bray sisters

Did local methods of caring for the poor lead to those who were bid off to local families being turned into unpaid and mistreated farm and household help? Linwood Lowden said “without doubt” the system led to abuses; an on-line source says there is no evidence of abuse.

Your writer found one piece of writing that looks at bidding out from the paupers’ viewpoint: a short story by Sarah Orne Jewett called The Town Poor.

Two prosperous women in a small Maine town detour on their way home from a church event to visit two elderly sisters, Ann and Mandana Bray, who ran out of money and saw their house and possessions sold at auction and themselves bid out.

They live in a dingy upstairs room in a shabby farmhouse on a run-down farm. The couple with whom they live, named Janes, are not their social equals, and the complaining wife is not enthusiastic about sharing her house with two more adults. The sisters admit to their friends that they haven’t been to meeting because they lack outdoor shoes that their caretakers never remember to buy for them, nor do they have enough stovewood to keep their room warm.

But they bring out the four china teacups saved from the auction, the last of the homemade peach jam from the peaches that grew by their former house, tea and cheese and crackers. The friends have a warm reunion; and Ann says next time, she’ll invite Mrs. Janes, too; the woman means well and deserves cheering up, because she has a hard life and none of the happy memories the Bray sisters have.

See part 1 here.
See part 2 here.
See part 3 here.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Halfpenny, H. E., Atlas of Kennebec County Maine 1879 (1879).
Jewett, Sarah Orne, A White Heron and Other Stories (1999 edition).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Local student graduates from RPI

Drake Zimba, of Benton, recently graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnnic Institute, in Troy, New York, with bachelor of science degrees in business and management.