Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Even more high schools

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Besse family in Benton and Clinton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous.

Adrian Hoyt KVCC student of the year

Adrian Hoyt

Adrian Hoyt, of Benton, has been chosen as the 2021 Students of the Year at Kennebec Valley Com­munity College, in Fairfield.

A recording of the presentation will be available on the MCCS YouTube channel.

Seven students statewide were selected at their respective college for their academic success and their campus and community involvement. In addition to being named Student of the Year, each student received a John and Jana Lapoint Leadership Award in the amount of $1,000. The Lapoints both served as trustees of the Maine Community College System. After John’s death in 1995, Jana Lapoint helped establish the fund for the annual awards.

“Our students are well educated and have demonstrated in many ways their commitment to their college, their communities and their families,” Lapoint said.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Granges – Part 2 (Benton, China and Clinton)

Benton Grange.

by Mary Grow

Benton, China and Clinton

The 1915 hall that serves Benton Grange No. 458 is one of 16 Maine Grange halls listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and one of two individually listed in Kennebec County. It was added to the register April 28, 2004.

Starling Grange, now town-owned Starling Hall, in Fayette.

(The other Kennebec County Grange Hall on the register is the former Starling Grange, now town-owned Starling Hall, in Fayette. Friends of Starling Hall have a website and a Facebook page and welcome donations for preservation work.)

Located on a 1.7-acre lot at the intersection of River Road and School Drive, south of Route 100, Benton Grange Hall is a wooden building two stories high with a basement. The south-facing front of the building has a wide center doorway and large open porch. There are three front windows on the second floor; above them a hip-roofed dormer holds a sign, in need of repainting, identifying the building.

Architectural historian Christi A. Mitchell, of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, prepared the nomination form for the National Register (as she did for two farms described in the March 10 issue of The Town Line). She calls the Grange building’s architectural style “essentially Colonial Revival,” and the more elaborate porch “Queen Anne-esque.”

Inside, the lower floor has a dining room beyond the entrance-way. Most of the second floor is a large open room for meetings and community activities, like the Saturday-night public dances the Grange sponsored in the 1950s.

Benton Grange was organized in 1906. Mitchell found that many of the charter members switched from Clinton Grange, established in 1887 or 1888, to the new one, probably because Benton was their home town.

In 1909, she wrote, town records showed that 94 out of 298 heads of household in Benton “(including retirees and widows)” gave their occupation as “farmer.”

Members met at the Benton Station school for the first years. By 1910, with close to 200 members, they decided to build their own Grange hall.

The decision was implemented five years later. Fairfield architect Frank M. Gifford designed the building; it was completed in mid-October 1915, in time to host that fall’s Grange fair.

Mitchell quoted a description of the Dec. 3, 1915, dedication of the building from the Dec. 4 Waterville Morning Sentinel. Speaker W. J. Thompson commented that the new building was one of the most expensive Grange Halls in Maine. Building it, he said, was a credit to Grange members and to the community.

Benton Grange, like many others, declined with the decline in agriculture. Mitchell wrote that the fairs ended in the 1940s. However, she wrote, Benton town meetings were held in the Grange Hall from 1915 to 1990, and as she wrote in the spring of 2004 Grangers hoped to make the second-floor space handicapped-accessible so town meetings could again convene there.

According to its Facebook pages, Benton Grange is still active, is seeking new members and as of March 2021 resumed renting the Grange Hall for private and public events (no alcohol allowed).

The deteriorating Silver Lake Grange, in China Village, in 2021. (photo by Roland Hallee)

The first of China’s three local Granges was China Grange #295, organized in South China on Dec. 29, 1887. Henry Kingsbury, in his Kennebec County history published in 1892, called it “flourishing.” Members met the first and third Wednesday evenings of the month in the Ancient Order of United Workmen’s South China hall.

(Wikipedia says the A.O.U.W. was another post-Civil War fraternal organization, created in Pennsylvania in the late 1860s with the primary aim of providing insurance for working men. The Harlem chapter, #39, of the A.O.U.W. was organized Aug. 27, 1885, with 13 charter members, Kingsbury wrote. Their name, Harlem, was the Town of China’s name from 1796 to 1818.)

By 1902, according to the Maine State Grange “Proceedings” of that year, China Grange had 111 members.

There is no record of a South China Grange Hall. The China bicentennial history says when the consolidated school on Lakeview Drive (now China Middle School) opened in 1949, town voters let the Grange rent the no-longer-needed South China schoolhouse on the south side of Route 3, just west of the Route 32 North intersection.

The China history says the China Grange remained active “until about World War II [until at least 1949, apparently], when it merged with Silver Lake Grange in China Village.”

Silver Lake Grange #327 was founded between 1892 and 1902, according to the China history. Looking at the numbers assigned to nearby Granges founded earlier (East Vassalboro Grange #322, in 1895) and later (Branch Mills Grange #336, Jan. 1, 1897) narrows the interval to 1895, after East Vassalboro, or 1896.

(Contradictorily, the China history references a February 19, 1876, diary entry saying a Grange had been organized that afternoon at China Academy, the high school on Main Street in China Village. Kingsbury, finishing his history in 1892, made no mention of a Grange in China Village, and the number 327 would not have been assigned in 1876.)

The inventory of the Maine Historical Society’s collection of Grange documents lists under “China” an 1894 “receipt” and “receipt books” for most of the years between 1935 and 1953.

Silver Lake Grange Hall, still standing on the west side of Main Street in China Village, was designed and built in 1908 by local builder Fred S. Wallace. The China history quotes from an account in the March 4 issue of the Bangor Commercial Farmer and Villager describing the Feb. 24, 1909, dedication and praising the new building.

Silver Lake Grange Hall is a two-story, hip-roofed wooden building with an open front porch, a ground-floor dining room and kitchen and a second-floor meeting room. It has no basement.

The Commercial Farmer and Villager writer mentioned the “pleasant, sunny room for a gentlemen’s dressing room” near the entrance and the “ladies’ dressing room…, commodious and convenient” behind the dining room. Neither included toilet facilities.

The “well attended” 1909 dedication began with a 10:30 a.m. ceremony at which the State Grange Master spoke. After lunch in the new dining room, an afternoon program offered speeches and instrumental and vocal music.

A lengthy evening program included more music, recitations, a farce and two “scenic readings,” one of which had a dog in the list of participants.

Silver Lake Grange had a stable in 1909, because the China history says the local Masons appropriated $91.67 for one-third of it, probably for rental, not purchase. (In 1824 the two Masonic Chapters built their own stable beside the Masonic Hall, which was at the south end of Main Street.)

Silver Lake Grange “dissolved in the late 1960s,” according to the China history.

China’s short-lived third Grange, called China Grange #578 (or occasionally China Lake Grange, depending on the source), was organized in the fall of 1974 and took over the Silver Lake Grange Hall. Dennis Harding was the first Master.

The new organization lasted two years or less. The China history quotes Harding as saying one reason for its failure to take hold was that “the young people did not like to use the outhouse.”

Sometime after 1977, ownership of the hall reverted to the Maine State Grange. (The 1977 application for the China Village Historic District lists the China Grange as the owner.) The state organization sold it in the fall of 1983 to two local residents who hoped to create senior citizen apartments.

Their plan was never realized. The present owner of Silver Lake Grange Hall has had it on the market for several years.

Clinton Grange #287 was established in March 1888, according to Kingsbury, although its number implies it was founded in the last half of 1886 or in 1887. Kingsbury wrote there were 70 charter members, and by 1892 about 100 members. The Maine State Grange records show 231 members in 1902.

Kingsbury says in 1890, the Grange bought Centennial Hall, on Church Street, in Clinton. In 1892, he wrote, the second floor was for exhibitions and the organization used the ground floor for its other activities.

(John P. Billings built Centennial Hall in 1876, Kingsbury wrote. Billings was a Clinton native, born in 1828. In 1843, Kingsbury says, he was learning to make edge tools – knives, hatchets and the like – in Waterville.

In 1851 Billings joined the California Gold Rush that had started in 1848 and, Wikipedia says, attracted 300,000 hopeful gold-seekers by the mid-1850s. After 14 years as a miner, Billings returned to Clinton in 1865, apparently wealthy enough to build the hall, and resumed the “manufacture of edge and stone tools.”)

Maine State Grange records include a receipt book from Clinton Grange for the years 1933 through 1935.

One of a set of antique postcards on line shows an undated photo of a Clinton Grange hall, set on flat land, with newly-planted trees beside the building and across the street. The building is a three-story wooden rectangle with a high peaked roof and a flat-roofed open porch across the entire front.

The double front door has a window on each side, three windows above it and one more full-sized window under the roof. On the visible side of the building there are five windows on the ground floor (perhaps because the stairs go up the inside wall where the front one would otherwise be) and six on the second floor.

The building is painted white. The shutters on the second- and third-story front windows appear to be a yellow-green (probably because the postcard is discolored by time).

This writer does not know whether the building on the postcard is Centennial Hall or a later replacement.
Clinton’s 2006 town comprehensive plan lists the Grange hall as one of the town’s significant buildings, and says the Historical Society’s records are kept at the Brown Memorial Library (the library is the only Clinton building that is on the National Register of Historic Places).

A long-time resident says the former Grange Hall is now an apartment building.

The second Clinton Grange #287, according to state corporate records, was organized July 15, 1949, and dissolved Sept. 6, 2006, for failure to file state-required annual reports. An on-line history refers to a Grange and 4-H exhibition hall built in 1994, giving no details.

Main sources

Grow, Mary M., China, Maine, Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Web sites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Agriculture history – Part 1

Longmeadows Farm, 2018.

by Mary Grow

Two historic farms, Albion and Benton

Your writer hopes readers are ready for a change from Romanesque Revival and Hallowell granite, because the coming weeks of Kennebec Valley history will not focus on buildings, though they will continue to appear.

The Register of Historic Places for the central Kennebec Valley includes a farm and two farmsteads – a small number, considering the importance of agriculture in residents’ lives since the earliest settlement. They are the Hussey-Littlefield Farm, in Albion, the Colcord Farmstead, in Benton, and the Edmund and Rachel Clark Homestead, in China.

Please note that all three are privately owned. The owners’ rights and privacy are to be respected.

The application for National Register status for the Hussey-Littlefield farm was prepared in October 2015 by Architectural Historian Christi A. Mitchell, of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. Mitchell says Silas Hussey, one of several Husseys prominent in the early history of Albion, settled at what became 63 Hussey Road, on the west side of the road that runs from Route 202, in Albion village, south into Palermo.

Hussey occupied the property in 1838 and acquired ownership in 1844. In or soon after 1838, he built a two-and-a-half story house facing the road, with a rear ell. The style is described as late Greek Revival and Italianate. South of the house he built a separate barn.

In the 1850s or early 1860s, Silas Hussey’s son, Burt, built another ell on the south side; Mitchell wrote it made space for “a summer kitchen and woodshed.” Later, Burt Hussey added a wagon shed that he attached to the barn.

The result is what Wikipedia calls a “connected homestead [that] exhibits the evolutionary changes of rural agricultural architecture in 19th-century Maine.” Mitchell calls it “an excellent example of a New England farm complex.” In an earlier application for the Colcord Farmstead in Benton (see below), she had written in more detail about the development of interconnected farm buildings in the second half of the 19th century.

The Hussey buildings are wooden, with clapboards or shingles on the outside. Mitchell wrote that the house foundations are granite except for fieldstone on the west. The rear ell has a fieldstone and brick foundation.

The house originally had two chimneys. The wide front door, its sidelights covered by 2015, is centered between two pairs of windows. It is sheltered by what Mitchell calls a Queen Anne style porch, open, wooden-floored, with “delicate, scroll-cut bracketed…supports” protecting it.

The side ell has a basement, entered from the west (back) side. The wagon shed’s early doors were also on the west, according to a 1936 photograph Mitchell describes; by 2015 it had garage doors on the road side.

The barn is two-and-a-half stories plus a cupola. Mitchell calls it a bank barn; the front is at ground level on a fieldstone foundation, but as the ground slopes downward to the west, most of the building is supported on cement piers. In 2015 Mitchell took interior photographs showing wooden stalls with a hayloft above.

Mitchell found records showing how the size and use of the farm changed through the years. It is listed on the Historic Register as including 6.8 acres of land in 2015; town records showed 114 acres in 1857 and 1858. Mitchell wrote that part of the land was on the east side of Hussey Road.

Her summary of farm products shows that apples dominated for many years. In 1880, the farm had 215 apple trees. She mentions in 2015 remains of an old orchard with Wolf River and Northern Spy varieties, plus a newer orchard with Northern Spies and semi-dwarf Cortlands.

In 1859, she wrote, Silas Hussey had two oxen, six milk cows, three “other cattle” and two pigs. In the 1860s and 1870s he raised sheep. Mitchell found in census records lists of the farm’s “most valuable products:” butter and potatoes in 1850; “sheep, wool, and butter” in 1860, but only half as much butter as in 1850; cattle and corn in 1870; and in order in 1880, cattle, apples, butter, oats, potatoes and corn.

Burt Hussey inherited the farm when his father died in 1894. Burt sold it in 1900 to his brother, John W., who died in 1910. John’s widow, Fannie, and son, Clarence, kept the farm until 1935, when they sold to brothers George and Harold Littlefield, who grew up on an adjoining farm. The Littlefields ran a dairy operation until about 1950, Mitchell wrote. George Littlefield’s son was the owner in 2015.

Of the three farms, the Hussey-Littlefield farm is the newest addition to the National Register of Historic Places, listed on Jan. 12, 2016.

The earliest listed of the three, and the subject of another of Mitchell’s applications, is the Colcord Farmstead, now Longmeadows Farm, at 184 Unity Road (Route 139) in Benton. It was added on Dec. 29, 2005, recognized as “a resource that provides an excellent source for understanding over 100 years of architectural and landscape design within an agricultural context.”

The Colcord Farmstead history goes back to 1786, when Captain Andrew Richardson, Esquire, bought from the Kennebec Proprietors a piece of land on the east side of the Sebasticook River. The property has been farmed ever since, under at least 13 different owners; the Colcord Farmstead has been called the Richardson Homestead; the Moses Stacy Farm; and now Longmeadows Farm.

Moses Stacy bought the property in the 1840s and moved there from Waterville in 1851, Mitchell wrote. In 1860, she found he owned “two oxen, ten cows, three horses, 25 sheep, and several pigs.” In that year, the farm produced “30 bushels of corn, 80 bushels of potatoes, 150 bushels of oats,…400 pounds of butter and 75 pounds of wool.”

After Moses Stacy died in 1867, his widow, Olive Pratt Stacy, hired men to run the farm, including Fairfield native John B. Colcord. In 1870, Colcord bought the farm from her for less than $1,100. He is responsible for most of the buildings that add to its historic value.

The farm remained in the Colcord family until 1926, when Colcord’s widowed daughter-in-law, Dorothy Burgess Colcord, sold it to Mary Louise Shink, who went bankrupt in 1937. Her creditors sold it to businessman Charles Orman Brown. Charles Orman Brown chose the name Longmeadows Farm; the fourth generation of his family now owns and operates it.

The Colcord Farmstead historic preservation listing covers 194 acres, about 20 acres between the river and the road and the rest, including a managed woodlot, on the east side of the road.

The L-shaped two-story farmhouse, with its one-and-a-half story ell with an open porch across the front, is on the west side of the road, with its back to the river. Mitchell quotes the Browns as saying it is the third house on the site; John Colcord built it in 1882. Mitchell describes the style as Italianate.

Attached to the ell on the north is what Mitchell calls a shed. She says the single-story building was built before the house; Colcord incorporated it. In 2005 there was a privy in one corner.

Attached to the shed is what Mitchell calls a shop, in Colcord’s day a stable and, Mitchell wrote, originally a center-chimney house. Two stories high, it was built around 1800-1810; Colcord apparently moved it about 60 feet and took out the chimney and the partitions between rooms.

The final attached building on the north is an equipment shed that Mitchell dates to 1899, after a previous shed burned.

The Kennebec County history includes a picture of the farm as it was in 1892. There were then two large detached barns north of the other buildings. Mitchell surmises they were there when Colcord bought the property, and says they burned with the first equipment shed, sometime before 1896.

About three feet north of the newer equipment shed, and set slightly farther back from the road, is a large three-and-a-half story bank barn, also built in 1899, with an exterior feed rack for cattle on the west (back) side. The open area under the barn, where it is supported on posts, provided shelter for cattle, Mitchell wrote. The Browns added a milk house east of and connected to the barn in 1937.

South of the house and its attached outbuildings, a seasonal stream runs into the Sebasticook River. The 2005 application lists a steel windmill on the river at the mouth of the stream, built early in the 20th century to pump water into the water tank on the second floor of the 1899 barn; and a sawmill, built around 1950, just south of the stream, to help manage the farm’s forestland and provide building materials.

Owners of the Hussey-Littlefield Farm

Hussey-Littlefield Farm on Hussey Road in Albion

Silas Taber Hussey was born Oct. 31, 1811, son of Daniel Hussey (born in Dover, New Hampshire, in 1783) and Fannie Crosby Hussey (born in Vassalboro in 1788), and died July 17, 1894. He married Jane Z. Wellington on Jan. 2, 1838, and they had three daughters and four sons.

Silas and Jane Hussey’s oldest son, John W. Hussey, was born Aug. 26, 1842, and died Dec. 3, 1910. Their third son, Burt Silas Hussey, was born Oct. 12, 1851, and died July 23, 1920, in Bangor.

John W. Hussey married twice. He had two daughters by his first wife, Mary Keay Crosby, of Albion, who died Feb. 28, 1888. Around 1889 he married Francena “Fanny” (or Fannie) Goodspeed; their only child was Clarence Wellington Hussey, born Oct. 28, 1892. The genealogical record says Francena and Clarence lived until after 1930.

Significant owners of the Colcord Farmstead

Colcord Farmstead

Andrew Richardson was born in Townsend, Massachusetts, on Aug. 25, 1760. In April 1775, when he was not yet 15 years old, he and three older brothers joined the Revolutionary Army, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and fought in the June 17, 1775, battle of Bunker Hill.

After two years in the army, Richardson moved to the part of Maine that was then Hancock Plantation and became in 1850 Benton (see The Town Line, April 2, 2020, for a brief history). In 1781 he married Hannah Grant of Frankfort; she died in January 1811.

Richardson is described as a “leading citizen” who captained the local militia, served as a selectman for many years and in 1809 and 1810 represented what was then Clinton in the Massachusetts General Court. He died Jan. 10, 1818.

Moses Stacy was born Sept. 5, 1807, in Acton, Maine. He married twice, first to Helena Rogers Prescott Stacy (1806-1946) and second to Olive Pratt Stacy (1816-1910). He died suddenly of heart problems Jan. 16, 1867, in Benton and is buried in Waterville’s Pine Grove Cemetery

John B. Colcord was born March 11, 1842. He and his wife Anna (they married in April 1867) were parents of Everett Stacy Colcord, born July 26, 1876. After John and Anna sold the farm in 1911, Everett bought it back in 1919, and John and Anna lived there until Everett died in 1925.

Charles Orman Brown (Jan. 9, 1887- Jan. 23, 1962) married Bertha Mabel Small (1881-1968) about 1910. Their great-grandson, Alexander Brown, says they had two children, daughter Ruth and son Robert Orman Brown (1915-2002). Robert married Katharine Rollins Brown (1913 – 2004).

Robert and Katharine Brown had a son, Mark. The Longmeadows Farm website says Mark and Connie Brown lived there for more than 40 years and Mark Brown and his son Alexander, “Xandy”, Brown run the farm, specializing in beef cattle.

Main sources

Websites, various

Next: the Edmund and Rachel Clark Homestead in China and other agricultural information.

Benton resident celebrates 102nd birthday

Charlie Kent, of Benton, at his 102nd birthday. (contributed photo)

Born during a pandemic, Charlie Kent has witnessed the evolution of modern America

Submitted by daughter Ellie Peavey

“Fifteen two, fifteen four, fifteen six, a double run for sixteen and right jack for seventeen.” What is this you ask? It’s how Charles Kent, of Benton, celebrated his 102nd birthday—winning many cribbage games against various family members.

According to Ellie, his eldest daughter from Syracuse, New York, he’s a master at pegging points throughout every game he plays. Charlie, as he is fondly known by his friends, has passed along his love of cribbage, not only to his children, but his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, several who were honored to play with him over his recent birthday weekend.

Charlie enjoying a dance with his beloved Nina, who shared 65 years of marriage. (contributed photo)

Another talent he has shared with his children is his love of dancing. He met Nina Bailey, the love of his life, on a dance floor and they danced throughout their 65-plus years of marriage. They could really “cut up the rug” dancing the Charleston, a popular dance during the roaring ‘20s. As master and Ceres, respectively, of Benton Grange for years, Charlie and Nina ran public Saturday night dances. Line dances like the Boston Fancy and Haymakers Gig were favorites, but none could take front and center when Charlie and Nina floated across the floor dancing the elegant Viennese waltz.

Charlie was born during a pandemic, has lived through major agricultural, industrial and societal changes and is now enduring another pandemic. The pop-up toaster, short wave radios, and arc welders were invented in 1919 and Woodrow Wilson was his president. From tilling the land with horses to the use of GPS systems on tractors to plant and harvest huge crops, Charlie has witnessed how technology has changed the efficiency and economics of farming.

Charlie still enjoying his tractor. (contributed photos)

Charlie never really retired from 25 years of dairy farming 100 acres of land and milking 80 head of cattle, as he continued selling hay for another ten years and now assists his youngest son, Dennis, with his hay business by baling every summer, including last summer, and repairing machinery. This is all after working 14 years as a diesel locomotive mechanic in the piping department for the Central Maine Railroad (CMR). When laid off from the CMR in the 1940s he worked in the Fairfield Woolen Mill.

Early in his work career he was a butcher and ran a meat cart, drove a milk truck for $2/day, pumped 10 gallons gas/$1, worked in the woods and for a man with a portable saw mill, and sold wood for $6/cord, worked in a candy factory, picked potatoes and served as Benton Methodist Church janitor, among other odd jobs.

Few towns have had the good fortune of having such a dedicated servant as Charles is to his beloved town of Benton. One of his many contributions to the town include serving as its first selectman for 28 years (assuming the role of overseer of the poor and road commissioner many of these years). During this tenure he established and chaired the town planning board and was a member of the town budget committee.

Among his major accomplishments include initiating construction of the eight-room elementary school with gymnasium in 1957, for $95,000, including donations of land, time, equipment and money; replacing 14 wells in 1973 by hooking up a public water line from China Lake to the town with $28,000 of state funding; securing a $100,000 grant and a $100,000 FHA loan when needed to install secondary lines to the main sewer connector lines to complete secondary sewer lines enabling Benton to join the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District; constructing a salt and sand shed; building a new town hall.

His representation on the Farm Bureau and Maine Municipal Association legislative committees while serving two years in the 101st Maine Legislature as the welfare committee chairman benefitted the townships of Albion, Benton, Clinton, Sidney and Unity greatly. He is proud to have received the Boston Post Gold Cane as the oldest resident in the town of Benton in 2011, and was presented an honorary Lawrence High School diploma in 2015. Other awards include 1995 Ethel Kelly Memorial Committee Award and the 1971 Maine State Grange Farm Family of the Year. Not bad for a young fella with an eighth grade education.

His civic involvement is extensive with memberships in the Fairfield Lodge of Odd Fellows; Benton and Clinton Methodist Churches; Waterville Elks B.P.O.E No. 905; Siloam Lodge No. 92; Scottish Rite Bodies, Augusta; Maine Consistory 32nd Degree, Portland; Shriners, Lewiston; Benton Grange, master for three years and conductor of the fourth degree; Kennebec Water District Water trustee, serving several times as its president.

Yeah, Charlie is still living quite the life with his youngest son, Dennis and daughter-in-law, JoAnna giving him top notch daily TLC, while enjoying the technology of occasional FaceTime with his four children, ten grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren from Maine to California.

If anyone has a little time on their hands, stop by and challenge Charlie in a friendly game of cribbage. Hint, hint — better check your counting skills before you come. :-) If cribbage is not your game, he’ll challenge you to a game of horseshoes or shuffleboard. (Don’t plan on winning those, either. Ha! Ha!)

Charlie’s extended family on the occasion of his 100th birthday. (contributed photos)

Revere Bell to ring for veterans, ring for peace

The Paul Revere bell from the belfry of the Benton Falls Congregational Church has been silent this past year. It sits on the ground beside the church awaiting repair of the belfry timbers to support its 798-pound weight. (contributed photo)

by Marion Foster

The Paul Revere bell from the belfry of the Benton Falls Congregational Church has been silent this past year. It sits on the ground beside the church awaiting repair of the belfry timbers to support its 798-pound weight. The cradle in which it swings is now intact. While work and fundraising continues so the bell can resume its proper place in the church belfry, its service to the community continues:

On Veterans Day, November 11, at 11 a.m., the bell will ring eleven times.

The bell will be one of many in churches, towns, cities, and even individuals who join Veterans for Peace in the ringing of bells; as they have done for the last 25 years in remembrance of all those killed in warfare. In 1918 bells rang out joyously throughout the world to celebrate the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. Armistice Day is now known as Veterans Day to honor all those who have fought in all wars. World War I was considered to be so horrendous that people prayed and promised that it must never happen again. Yet wars continue and peace remains fragile and elusive in the world we live in.

The following remembrance from Veterans for Peace is meant to be shared down through the ages:

“The Armistice of 1918 ended the terrible slaughter of World War I. The U.S. alone had experienced the death of over 116,000 soldiers, plus many more who were physically and mentally disabled. For one moment, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the world agreed World War I must be considered the “The war to end all wars.” There was exuberant joy everywhere, and many churches rang their bells, some 11 times at 11 a.m., November 11, when the Armistice was signed. For many years this practice endured, and then slowly, it faded away. Now we do it again.

“We ring the bells 11 times, with a moment of silence, to remember the many soldiers and civilians killed and injured by warfare, and to make our own commitment to work for peace, in our family, our church, our community, our nation, and our world.”

Remember, the Paul Revere Bell that rings forth on November 11, 2020, was cast in 1828. It has seen war and famine, plagues and epidemics. It has been pulled from the bottom of the Sebasticook River and rung from the tower of the Benton Falls Church.

It is quieter now, as are we, while a viral pandemic assaults our community, our nation and our world. As an enduring symbol, with caution and care, it will once again rise to the tower and ring forth joyously! As will we.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Mail delivery – Conclusion

Augusta Post Office, built in 1886, depicted on a post card.

by Mary Grow

The previous article talked about postal service in the southern part of the central Kennebec Valley. This article completes the story with summary postal histories of Sidney, Fairfield, Benton, and Clinton, plus miscellaneous notes.

As mentioned in last week’s article (see The Town Line, Oct. 15), Henry Kingsbury found Sidney had six post offices at various times. Alice Hammond built on his information in her history of Sidney to provide additional information on several of them.

The earliest Sidney post office dated from 1813, when Stephen Springer became postmaster on March 13. It was on River Road, location unspecified.

The Sidney post office was probably toward the southern end of town, because Hammond wrote that the North Sidney post office opened in January 1854 toward the north end of River Road. According to Kingsbury, first Postmaster John Merrill served until August 1867, when Stephen Springer took over and served for almost 16 years. (With a 41-year interval between appointments, it was probably not the same Stephen Springer.)

Meanwhile, the Sidney Centre post office opened at Bacon’s Corner, on Middle Road, in 1827. (Google locates Bacon’s Corner at the intersection of Middle Road with Dinsmore and Shepherd roads, not far south of the James H. Bean School.)

Four years later, in 1831, the West Sidney post office opened for the first time. Hammond wrote that it had the distinction of being discontinued four times “for want of a proper person to run” such an undistinguished and unprofitable operation. (A contemporary map on line identifies West Sidney as the intersection of the south end of Pond Road with Route 127.)

Sidney’s fifth post office was named Eureka – Hammond gave no explanation — and was on the north end of Middle Road, toward the Oakland line. Opened in 1879, closed in 1886 and reopened in 1887, it closed for good in 1902.

The final Sidney post office, which operated only from 1891 to 1902, was named Lakeshore. Neither Hammond nor Kingsbury suggested a location; presumably the lake referred to was Snow Pond (Messalonskee Lake).

Hammond wrote that Martha C. Bacon was the first Lakeshore postmaster; Moses Sawtelle followed her, but she had the job back when the office closed permanently in 1902. Hammond’s history has a photo of former post office “pigeon holes” – rows of open-front wooden boxes that appear to be four or five inches square – in the Bacon house.

The Fairfield bicentennial history lists seven post offices serving seven villages: Fairfield, Fairfield Corners, Kendall’s Mills (now downtown Fairfield), East Fairfield, North Fairfield, Larone and Somerset Mills (now Shawmut). The Fairfield post office was established in 1807; in 1872, the name was changed to Fairfield Center.

The Fairfield Corners post office (1822 to 1882) was at what is now Nye’s Corner, on the Kennebec between Shawmut and East Fairfield.

The Kendall’s Mills post office is undated; the history says its name was changed to Fairfield in 1872. It was relocated at least twice before 1938, when the current building, which the history says cost $50,000, came into use in January.

East Fairfield is now Hinckley. The Fairfield history has an undated photo of a large three-story building with two-story and one-story annexes, identified as Palmer’s Store and the Hinckley post office.

The history gives no date for the establishment of the post office in the mostly Quaker North Fairfield settlement. It closed in 1908; a 1913 photo of the village shows the building and adjacent store.

Waterville Post Office, built in 1911, as seen in this 1960s photo.

There are no dates for the Larone post office, either. The history says after the village grew enough to rate mail service, two residents of nearby Norridgewock helped villagers petition successfully to get mail delivered by the stagecoach that ran from Waterville to Norridgewock.

The Shawmut post office was called Somerset Mills from 1853 to 1889, when it became Shawmut.

Clinton’s mail was carried after 1816 by a horseback rider going from Winslow to Bangor, Kingsbury wrote. The earliest of Clinton’s three post offices was established June 13, 1836, at East Clinton (after July 2, 1842, simply Clinton), and the rider began coming twice a week. About 1850, the stagecoach driver going from Augusta to Bangor became the mail carrier.

On June 10, 1825, the Pishon’s Ferry or North Clinton post office opened on the east bank of the Kennebec River opposite Hinckley. The third post office, at Morrison Corner, was established Nov. 10, 1891, Kingsbury wrote. (The contemporary Google map shows Morrison Corner as the intersection of Battle Ridge, Peavey and Hinckley roads.)

Benton separated from Clinton in March 1842, was Sebasticook for eight years and in March 1850 became Benton. According to Kingsbury, the first two of its four post offices also had a habit of changing their names.

Post office number one was established July 29, 1811, as Clinton; became Sebasticook May 11, 1842; and became Benton June 1, 1852. Post office number two opened Aug. 5, 1858, as East Benton; became Preston Corner on Dec. 28, 1887 (Daniel Preston was postmaster); and was changed back to East Benton May 29, 1891.

The other two post offices were at Benton Falls, opened May 31, 1878, and Benton Station, opened Jan. 27, 1888.

*  *  *  *  *

The rural free delivery (RFD) system began operating in Sidney and Vassalboro in 1901, Hammond and Alma Pierce Robbins wrote. Mail from Augusta was distributed to roadside boxes in those two towns. In 1902, Oakland and Waterville also began RFD service, with the north end of Sidney getting mail from both. As Hammond describes the expansion of the service in Sidney, service from Augusta replaced the Sidney and Sidney Centre post offices in 1901 and the West Sidney post office in 1902; Waterville replaced North Sidney in 1902; and Oakland took over Eureka and Lakeshore in 1902.

Ruby Crosby Wiggin wrote that RFD started in Albion July 1, 1903, with three mailmen, Charles Byther, Arthur Skillin and Elmer Wiggin. Each mailman was directed to ask residents on his route to buy and put up a mailbox. Historian Wiggin quotes mailman Wiggin’s account of the resident who scoffed at this new idea and promised to buy a mailbox after he saw Wiggin delivering the mail.

In Palermo, Milton Dowe wrote, a petition to institute RFD was circulated early in the 20th century; there was a lot of opposition, but the system was inaugurated on Nov. 15, 1904. The East and Center Palermo post offices were discontinued immediately; the one at North Palermo stayed open a few years longer.

*  *  *  *  *

Waterville, like Augusta, has a historic post office building, located at 1 Post Office Square, in the southern triangle of the X-shaped intersection of Main Street, Elm Street, Upper Main Street and College Avenue. The elaborate one-story masonry building, now housing commercial establishments, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 18, 1977.

Wikipedia says the Greek Revival building was built in 911; the architect was James Knox Taylor. Taylor was the supervising architect for the U. S. Treasury Department from 1897 to 1912, giving him credit for hundreds of federal buildings all over the country.

Waterville’s current post office at 33 College Avenue was officially named the George J. Mitchell Post Office Building by an act of Congress approved Sept. 6, 1995. (See The Town Line, July 23, for information on the former Senator.)

*  *  *  *  *

Current post offices in the central Kennebec valley in 2020, alphabetical by town or city, from U. S. Postal Service websites:

Albion: 36 Main Street. ZIP 04910

Augusta:

Augusta: 40 Western Avenue. ZIP 04330
Water Street: 295 Water Street. ZIP 04330

Benton apparently does not have a post office within town boundaries. ZIP 04901.

China:

China Village, 19 Main Street. ZIP 04926.
South China, 382 Route 3. ZIP 04358.

Clinton: 15 Railroad Street. ZIP 04937.

Fairfield:

Fairfield: 130 or 132 (sources disagree) Main Street. ZIP 04937.

Hinckley: 753 Skowhegan Road. ZIP 04944.

Shawmut: 117 Bray Avenue. ZIP 04975.

Palermo: 111 Branch Mills Road. 04354.

Sidney apparently does not have a post office within town boundaries. ZIP 04330.

Vassalboro:

East Vassalboro: 361 Main Street. ZIP 04935.

Vassalboro: 25 Alpine Street. ZIP 04989.

North Vassalboro: 847 Main Street. ZIP 04962.

Waterville: 33 College Avenue. ZIP 04901 (P.O. Boxes 04903.).

Windsor: 519 Ridge Road. ZIP 04363.

Winslow: 107 Clinton Avenue (in The 107 convenience store, by contract). ZIP 04901.

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., Palermo, Maine Things That I Remember in 1996 (1997).
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988)
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Howard, Millard, An Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine (second edition, December 2015).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971)
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge. (1964)

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Trolleys

The Waterville, Fairfield & Oakland Railway trolley on Main St., in Fairfield.

by Mary Grow

Not long after finishing the piece about street railways that appeared in The Town Line, Sept. 10, this writer came across a small paperback book published in 1955. Written by O. R. (Osmond Richard) Cummings, it is titled Toonervilles of Maine, the Pine Tree State.

(The title refers to Fontaine Fox’s comic strip called Toonerville Folks that Wikipedia says first appeared in the Chicago Post in 1908 and last appeared in 1955. Toonerville was a suburban community with an assortment of oddball characters. One was Terrible-Tempered Mister Bang, who drove the Toonerville Trolley that met all the trains, Wikipedia explains.)

Additionally, the Connecticut Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society’s April-December 1965 Transportation Bulletin, available on line, includes a well-illustrated article Cummings wrote about the Waterville & Fairfield and other area street railways. Cummings and the Fairfield history both have information on trolleys in Fairfield, but they do not always agree. Cummings’ work is much more detailed, with information from multiple historical records.

The Waterville & Fairfield Railroad, which was initially powered by horses, is described in both books. Cummings wrote that it was incorporated on Feb. 24, 1887, and authorized to run horse-drawn cars the three and a third miles from Waterville to Fairfield. With $20,000 in bond sales and $20,000 borrowed, Amos F. Gerald, of Fairfield, and the other organizers acquired four cars and six horses. They oversaw the laying of tracks along the west side of the Kennebec roughly where College Avenue now runs and construction of a wooden carhouse for the cars and stable for the horses in Fairfield.

One online photo shows an elaborate open passenger car, rather precariously balanced on two sets of small wheels under its middle third, drawn by two white horses. Two women in floor-length skirts stand on the sidewalk in front of a row of large-windowed two-story brick buildings on Main Street, in Fairfield. The car is identified as Horse Car No. 1, and the estimated date is opening day, June 23, 1888 (the Fairfield historians wrote that service began June 24, 1888).

Car #1, in 1902.

Cummings said the open cars had eight benches and could accommodate 40 passengers. Another photo shows a closed car outside the Fairfield carhouse; the closed cars had space for 20 passengers, according to the text.

The railway soon had 24 horses. The Railroad Commissioners’ 1889 report, quoted by Cummings, said the horses “are well fed and kindly treated.”

The Waterville & Fairfield was well-patronized, Cummings wrote, carrying almost 95,000 passengers between its June 1888 opening and Sept. 30 that year. In its first full year, Sept. 30, 1888, to Sept. 30, 1889, there were 232,684 passengers, and despite having to buy snow-moving equipment and repair tracks in the spring, the line made a profit: $657, of which stockholders got $600 as dividends.

The next two years saw deficits almost $1,400. Nonetheless, early in 1891 two things happened indicating the railway was considered a going concern.

First, Cummings wrote, Gerald and other local men organized the Waterville & Fairfield Railway & Light Company, chartered by the Maine legislature on Feb. 12 and approved to buy the Waterville & Fairfield and two electric companies, in Waterville and Fairfield. The two railway companies became one on July 1, 1891.

The second event was that on March 4, the legislature authorized the Waterville & Fairfield to build a line through Winslow to North Vassalboro and to become an electric railroad.

The next year, horses were replaced by electricity, a conversion that involved adding poles and overhead wires, large generators at both ends of the line and new equipment in the cars. The first electric cars ran July 20, 1892. Cummings wrote that residents were excited and every car was full on opening day.

13-bench open car #11 of the Waterville, Fairfield & Oakland Railway, with conductor William McAuley, standing left, and motorman John Carl, on Grove St., in Waterville, near Pine Grove Cemetery.

The Waterville & Fairfield was the first of several street railways serving the area from the late 19th century well into the 20th century. Another that the Fairfield history describes was the Benton & Benton Falls Electric Railroad. It opened Dec. 7, 1898, and extended its tracks to Fairfield in July 1900. Cummings wrote about the Benton & Fairfield Railway, which had been operating a shorter line before it connected Benton to Fairfield in 1901. (The writer suspects the two were the same, perhaps going by slightly different names and owners’ names at different times.)

The Benton & Fairfield, Cummings wrote, was owned by Kennebec Fibre Company and served primarily to carry pulpwood delivered on Maine Central freight cars to Benton and Fairfield paper mills. Its first three miles of track, all in Benton, opened Dec. 7, 1898. Extensions in 1899 and 1900 brought the line across the Kennebec to Fairfield and increased mileage to a little over four miles.

Cummings wrote that the railroad made a profit in only nine of its 32 or so years, and state railway commissioners were frequently dissatisfied with its maintenance. What little passenger service was offered ended in 1928, and the railroad went out of business around 1930, Cummings found.

The Fairfield & Shawmut connected those two villages in 1906 (Fairfield history) or October 1907 (Cummings). Amos Gerald was among its founders. It was primarily intended to serve passengers; Cummings wrote that its schedules were designed to let people transfer to the Waterville & Fairfield. The fare was five cents; the three-mile trip took 15 minutes, and cars ran every half hour.

The line, a little more than three miles long, served Keyes Fibre Company near Shawmut and Central Maine Sanatorium on Mountain Avenue between downtown Fairfield and Shawmut. There was a waiting room for sanatorium visitors at the foot of the avenue, Cummings wrote.

Like the other electric railroads Cummings described, the Fairfield & Shawmut was partly built with borrowed money — $30,000, in this case. Cum—mings wrote that when the 20-year bonds came due July 1, 1927, there wasn’t enough money to redeem them. The bondholders chose a receiver who got approval to abandon the railroad; the last trolleys ran July 23, 1927.

The Waterville & Fairfield met the lines from Benton and from Shawmut in Fairfield, and provided electricity for both.

As the Waterville & Fairfield grew, local businessmen formed the Waterville & Oakland Street Railway. (Yes, one was Amos F. Gerald, and Cummings lists him as the railway’s first general manager.) It was chartered in 1902, despite opposition from the Maine Central Railroad that also connected the two towns. Construction began in April 1903; the line from downtown Waterville to Snow Pond opened July 2, 1903, Cummings wrote.

High trestle over the Messalonskee Stream, in Oakland, with one of the Duplex convertibles crossing at the Cascade Woolen Mill.

The new line required two bridges across Messalonskee Stream, one in Oakland and one off Western Avenue in Waterville. The railway and the city split the cost of the Waterville bridge, which Cummings said was 53 feet long and 28 feet wide.

The Waterville & Fairfield and Waterville & Oakland met in Waterville. Thence passengers could travel to Fairfield and connect for Benton or Shawmut.

By 1910, the Waterville & Fairfield tracks had been extended into the southern part of Waterville, out Grove Street to Pine Grove Cemetery and out Silver Street. There might have been a plan to connect the two lines at the foot of what is now Kennedy Memorial Drive; if so, it was never achieved.

The Waterville & Fairfield and Waterville & Oakland consolidated in 1911 under the auspices of Central Maine Power Company (which owned two other street railways in Maine). As of December of that year, Cummings wrote, the new Waterville, Fairfield & Oakland had 10.5 miles of track plus sidings.

A postcard showing Main St., in Waterville, after an ice storm with iced lines and plowed Waterville, Fairfield & Oakland trolley tracks running the middle of the street, on March 10, 1906.

The line through Winslow and Vassalboro was eventually built by the Lewiston, Augusta & Waterville Street Railway. This company opened a railway from Winslow to East Vassalboro on June 27, 1908, and continued it from East Vassalboro to Augusta by November 1908.

The Lewiston and Waterville lines were connected by an arched concrete bridge across the Kennebec between Winslow and Waterville that opened Dec. 15, 1909, Cummings found. He wrote that after the 1936 flood took out the highway bridge, the trolley bridge was temporarily the only local way to cross the Kennebec (except by the footbridge).

The trolley bridge had survived its builders. The Lewiston, Augusta & Waterville became the Androscoggin & Kennebec in 1919 and stopped running July 31, 1932.

Cummings described in some detail routes, equipment, power sources and facilities. Fairfield’s two carhouses were on High Street (plus a smaller one on Main Street for the Fairfield & Shawmut); Benton had one, at Benton Falls; Waterville had one, at the Waterville Fairgrounds; and Oakland had elegant Messalonskee Hall, on Summer Street at the foot of Church Street near the lake. Cummings wrote that the Hall’s ground level accommodated three trolley tracks; the basement had a restaurant and a boathouse; and on the second floor were a dance hall and dining room.

The trolley fare remained a nickel until 1918, rose to seven cents that year and later to 10 cents, Cummings wrote; but regular riders could buy tickets in bulk and get a discount. Children rode for half price.

Schedules called for a trolley-car every half hour on each of the various routes. Cummings commented that as more and more automobiles and trucks competed for space on the streets, staying on schedule became increasingly challenging.

The Waterville, Fairfield & Oakland surrendered on Oct. 10, 1937. On its final day, passengers again filled the cars, as when the first electric cars ran more than 45 years earlier. Cummings wrote that the last trip over the Waterville to Oakland line began at 10:35 p.m. on Oct. 10; the last run to Fairfield began at 12:40 a.m. on Oct. 11. Bus service began at 5:15 that same morning.

Main sources

Cummings, O. R. , Toonervilles of Maine The Pine Tree State (1955)
Fairfield Historical Society Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).

Websites, miscellaneous.

School year 2020: Difficult choices for parents

by Jeanne Marquis

This month, parents are making a difficult decision: how to educate their children in the era of Covid-19. Do they opt to send their kids to public schools? If so, do they choose in-person or remote learning, or possibly a hybrid of the two? Do they choose a smaller private school if they have funds. Or, do they homeschool their children themselves, choosing from a variety of online programs available? The answers are personal and the reasons why the families select which method of education they choose is as varied as each individual family.

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) published a Framework for Returning to Classroom Instruction which includes the six requirements for protecting health and safety:

  1. Daily symptom self-check for students and staff before coming to school.
  2. Physical distancing.
  3. Masks.
  4. Proper hand hygiene.
  5. Personal protective equipment.
  6. An isolation plan if staff or student becomes ill.

Public schools in the area have been planning since July to follow the guidelines and have surveyed area families on their intentions and preferences between in-person or remote learning. Every step of the day has to be thought through carefully by the administrators and staff to keep in compliance with the DOE framework.

The buses, according to the RSU #18 website, will have assigned seating, fewer passengers and frequent cleanings. Parents will be asked to drive students if possible to free up the bus seats for social distancing.

Facilities at the schools will be adapted to help students and staff practice illness prevention. Drinking fountains will be replaced at some schools with bottle refill stations and students will be allowed to bring individual water bottles. Where possible, waste baskets will be replaced with touchless versions to keep clean hands sanitary after washing.

Even lunch time at school will be adapted by the nutrition workers adding appropriate protocol. Additional time will be allowed for hand washing prior to meals. Single-serve packets will be provided instead of sharing condiments. More room will be added for seating and serving lines will be socially distanced.

For specific changes at your students’ schools, check the school websites frequently:

https://www.msad49.org/
Albion, Benton, Fairfield, Clinton Lawrence High School and Junior High.

https://rsu18.org/
Atwood Primary, China Primary and Middle Schools, Belgrade Central, James H. Bean Messalonskee Middle and High School, Williams Elementary.

https://www.svrsu.org/o/whes
Chelsea Elementary,Sheepscot Valley, Palermo Consolidated School, Somerville Elementary, Whitefield Elementary, Windsor Elementary.

https://www.vcsvikings.org/
Vassalboro Community School.

For those families who have chosen to homeschool, Homeschoolers of Maine at homeschoolersofmaine.org is an excellent resource to get you started. According to their website, a letter of your intention to homeschool is due to your superintendent of schools by September 1, 2020. This organization provides information on record keeping and assessment of your students progress.

Kelly Pillsbury to lead local scouting district

Priscilla and Scott Adams, of China, of Troop #479, and Kelly Pillsbury. Scott Adams presented the report of the nominating committee during the annual meeting. (contributed photos)

Kelly Pillsbury, of Benton, was elected to serve as the Kennebec Valley District chairman on June 10 during the annual meeting of the Scouting District Committee. The meeting was held virtually and at the Viles Arboretum where social distancing was in effect.

The Kennebec Valley District Committee is comprised of volunteer Scouting leaders tasked with growing and delivering quality Scouting programs in Lincoln, Knox, Kennebec, Somerset and Franklin counties. Pillsbury is the top volunteer Scouting leader of the district and her job is to motivate a talented team of people. District chairs preside at district committee meetings and represent the district on the council executive board. The district committee includes subcommittees for Scouting Activities and Program, Advancement and Recognition, Camping, Fundraising including Friends of Scouting and Popcorn sales, Health and Safety, Marketing, Membership for new Scouting units and membership growth, Nominating Committee, Training, etc.

“Kelly brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to the job,” said Ryan Poulin, of Sidney, who served on the nominating committee that made the selection. “I am anxious to see the great mountain tops she will lead Kennebec Valley District Scouts to during her term.”

Pillsbury has a BS from the University of Maine in business management and an MBA from Thomas College, in Waterville. She is employed by Maine Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency, in Augusta. Pillsbury joined Scouting in 1995 as a Tiger Cub parent in Pack #471, Fairfield, and has held several positions including Advancement Chairman, Den Leader, Pack Committee Chairman and Assistant Cubmaster. Kelly joined the Kennebec Valley District Committee in 2004, serving on several committees and as committee chairman in 2009-2010. She also served as the Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner 2011-2012.

She earned the Commissioner Key and was awarded the District Award of Merit- the highest award Scouting can bestow at the district-level to a volunteer. Kelly also had the honor of serving as an Assistant Scoutmaster for the Pine Tree Council contingent troop that attended the National Scout Jamboree in 2005. She has also served on the council’s national jamboree committee in 2010 as well as Maine Jam program staff in 2007 and 2013. Pllsbury has also completed the Greenwood Ranger training, University of Scouting and Wood Badge. She has taught several University of Scouting courses and served on Wood Badge staff as Troop guide, quartermaster, course director and mentor. Kelly, who is also a Vigil Honor member of the Brotherhood of Honor Campers, also serves as Troop Committee chairman for Troop #479 in China.

Outside of Scouting, Kelly is active with the Waterville Elks Lodge #905 where she currently serves as chairman of the Antler Youth Committee and served as Exalted Ruler in 2018-2019. She was awarded Officer of the Year 2016-17, Making a Difference Special Citation 2018-19 and Mother of the Year in 2019. She is married to Bob Pillsbury and is proud mother of two sons, Richard and Connor, a daughter-in-law, Lindsey and a grandson, Silas.

The members of the District Committee also selected Bruce Rueger, of Waterville, and Charles Matthews, of Fairfield, to serve as vice chairmen. Both are former district cheirmen. “Kelly is an outgoing, gregarious, knowledgeable Scouter,” Rueger said. “She has a wealth of experience in Scouting and the community. I have worked with her in the past and look forward to doing so in the future.” Matthews echoed those sentiments. “I have known Kelly for many years. She was a committee member in my troop. I asked Kelly to take on the District chairman when I gave up the position in 2008,” Matthews said. He had served as district chairman since 2003. “Kelly is a very dedicated Scouter and I feel that she will do a great job as district chairman.”

Pillsbury’s term begins immediately. She thanked her predecessors Butch Dawbin, of West Gardiner, and Travis Robins, of Augusta, who had served as interim chairman each for several months while the nominating committee did its work.