Covers towns roughly within 50 miles of Augusta.

90-year-old veteran creates a hand-carved legacy for future generations

On Saturday, August 6, Alan Johnston, U.S. Army veteran and commander for the Maine Chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars, led the dedication of a hand-carved wood eagle to Wreaths Across America’s founder Morrill Worcester, as part of the organization’s annual Stem to Stone event in Downeast Maine.

The eagle was carved by 90-year-old Navy veteran George Gunning and painted by his wife of 70 years, Donna, both of Windsor, as a gift of thanks to Worcester and all those who carry out the Wreaths Across America mission to remember the fallen, honor those that serve, and teach the next generation the value of freedom.

Over the last 15-plus years, the Gunnings have made more than 4,000 hand-carved and painted wooden, eagle-headed canes to donate to Maine veterans as an extension of the Eagle Cane Project started in Oklahoma. They do it as a labor of love for all those who served our country. The Gunnings were moved to create this larger eagle sculpture after learning more about the Wreaths Across America program and the impact it has had on veterans and their families across the country.

As part of the dedication, Johnston presented George and Donna a $1,000 check from the Maine Chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars. A $1,000 donation was also presented by Johnston to Wreaths Across America Volunteer Location Coordinator for Togus National Cemetery, Deborah Couture, to sponsor veterans wreaths to be placed there this December as part of National Wreaths Across America Day – scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022.

Wreaths Across America is the nonprofit organization best known for placing wreaths on veterans’ headstones at Arlington National Cemetery. However, in 2021, the organization placed more than 2.4 million sponsored veterans’ wreaths at over 3,100 participating locations nationwide. Throughout the calendar year you can tune in to Wreaths Across America Internet Radio, 24/7, to learn more about the mission and those who support it across the country, as well as the hundreds of local charitable efforts nationwide that are funded through wreath sponsorships.

You can sponsor a veteran’s wreath anytime for $15 at Each sponsorship goes toward a live, balsam wreath that will be placed on the headstone of an American hero as we endeavor to honor all veterans laid to rest, at noon on Saturday, December 18, 2021, as part of National Wreaths across America Day.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Kingsbury’s people

“Nelson” and his breeder Charles Horace Nelson, in a photo that appeared in The Centennial History of Waterville, 1802-1902, by Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore. The chapter on agriculture was written by E. P. Mayo.

by Mary Grow

This article is for people who enjoy an occasional glimpse into someone else’s life – nothing scandalous or earth-shaking, just odds and ends about the ordinary lives of people in another time. The main source is Henry D. Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history.

The Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 was first published in 1892, after what editor Kingsbury described as “two years of labor.” Simeon L. Deyo is listed as co-editor and there are 18 “Resident Contributors.”

In the introduction, Kingsbury thanks “twenty writers whose names these chapters bear,” “more than twenty hundred” people who contributed through correspondence or interviews or both and “the good people of Kennebec who have so kindly and faithfully cooperated with us.”

The initial edition, by H. W. Blake & Company, 94 Reade Street, New York, was limited to 1,600 copies. The last page is number 1273, and that number does not count the introduction, illustrations or instances in which pages have the same number followed by a or b. The result is a volume that measures 11 inches high, eight inches deep and almost four inches wide – a worthy companion to the family Bible that would have been conspicuous in many Kennebec Valley homes in 1892.

Although there is no evidence of other editions until recently, there are references on line to two-volume versions. In 2018 a 956-page paperback was published.

Kingsbury divided the work into two sections. Each of the first 15 chapters covers a specific topic, like land titles, military history, courts and the law and the medical profession. The rest of the book describes individual towns, giving most a single chapter, Waterville two chapters and Augusta three chapters.

Kingsbury and his contributors were not infallible. Later historians have corrected some of his information, probably because they have more resources and more time than he had. Nonetheless, the Kennebec County history is a valuable starting point. Many on-line displays quote the same comment: “This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.”

Each chapter on a city or town ends with what Kingsbury labeled “Personal Paragraphs.” These profile an individual, or occasionally a family, who lived in the municipality in the 18th century. The number of profiles per chapter varies, depending partly on the size of the municipality.

The vast majority of those Kingsbury chose were men – your writer has not reviewed towns outside the central Kennebec Valley, but within the area has found only two women who deserved mention. Some were prominent citizens; at the end of the chapters on Augusta, publisher Edward Charles Allen (1849 – 1891) was described as “the wealthiest man of Augusta…[who] paid the largest personal tax.” (See the Nov. 12, 2020, issue of The Town Line for information on Allen’s publishing empire and its impact on Augusta’s growth in the 1870s and 1880s.)

James G. Blaine (1830-1893; United States Representative and Senator, Secretary of State, unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1884, called the Plumed Knight by his friends and the Continental Liar from the State of Maine by his opponents) got eight and a half pages of fine print, contributed in April 1892 by “his townsman and former business partner, Hon. John L. Stevens, United States Minister Resident, Honolulu, Hawaii.” (Blaine was profiled in the Aug. 20, 2020, issue of The Town Line.)

The majority of people to whom Kingsbury gave a few sentences or a few paragraphs were less exalted. Many were farmers, blacksmiths, small businessmen and the like. As a city, Augusta offered a choice of educated professional people, some of whose stories he told.

* * * * * *

Sidney native Henry Pishon, born in 1833, attended Vassalboro and Waterville academies and served as an acting ensign in the Navy for two years of the Civil War. In the 1860s and 1870s he served two short stints as chief clerk in the Maine secretary of state’s office.

When the Augusta post office and courthouse were built on Water Street between 1886 and 1889, Kingsbury wrote, Pishon was the “clerk of construction.” A United States treasury disbursement list for July 1889 found on line lists four local men involved in the project: Thomas Lambard clerk, Pishon foreman, Herbert G. Foster disbursing agent and Melvin S. Holway superintendent of construction.

If “p.d.” in treasury records means per diem, Lambard earned $6 a day, Pishon and Foster earned $4 and Holway was paid some (illegible) fraction, perhaps one-half “of 1 p. ct.” of an unknown amount.

Sereno Sewall Webster (1805 – 1893) was the descendant of four Nathan Websters and two John Websters. The first John Webster was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1605. The second, Sereno’s father, was born in 1777 or 1778 and died in 1828.

(Kingsbury’s source called the 1605 John Webster a “free-man,” leading your writer to wonder if he was a former Black slave. Not necessarily; in colonial Massachusetts, a free man was anyone who had full civil rights. Some colonies, not all, required membership in the established church; land ownership was not necessary.)

Sereno was born in Gardiner, according to an on-line genealogy on the Find a Grave website. John Webster moved his family to Vassalboro in 1806, according to Kingsbury. Sereno held a “clerkship” in Washington, D. C., for nine years; in 1845, he married Mary A. Hayes (1821 – 1893) from Dover, New Hampshire. Kingsbury said the couple had three children; the on-line genealogy lists four, born between 1846 and 1857, Helen, Emeline, Sereno and Otis.

Sereno Clifford Webster, Sereno number three, was born in 1850 and died in 1919, according to the genealogy. He married Alice Etta Tracy; they named their first son Sereno Sewall Webster (1889 – 1980). Most members of the family are buried in Augusta’s Wall Cemetery, at 422 Riverside Drive.

The on-line search for Sereno Webster turned up yet another man with the same name: an obituary for Sereno Sewall Webster, Bowdoin Class of 1943, who died April 12, 2006, in Brunswick. The obituary says he was born in Augusta Aug. 9, 1920, graduated from Cony High School and after World War II service had a career as an engineer and surveyor. His wife, Eula Willetta (“Billy”) German, died in 1999; he was survived by a daughter Anne and a son Clifford Sewall Webster, Bowdoin Class of 1972.

A sad story: J. Albert Bolton, of Augusta, was born in 1820 and was still alive in 1892. He and his wife Priscilla (Merrill) had only two children. Their daughter “died in infancy” and their son, William A. Bolton, a Cony High School and Boston Commercial College graduate and “a young man of great promise,” died at 21.

J. Albert was the grandson of Savage Bolton, first settler on Augusta’s Bolton Hill. Charles Nash, in his Augusta history, quoted from Martha Ballard’s diary for Oct. 21, 1789: “Savage Bolton and his wife were taken with a warrant for breaking the Sabath.”

* * * * * *

Moving up-river to Sidney, Kingsbury profiled many farmers. Some were descendants of first settlers still occupying family homesteads, others more recent incomers. Quite a few had second occupations. Examples follow.

Frank Abbott, who was born in 1853, was the great-grandson of Joseph Abbott (1743-1833), who in 1804 came from Massachusetts and bought 1,000 acres on the Pond Road. Kingsbury did not specify whether Frank still farmed the original family land.

James H. Bean (1833 -??) combined farming with wagon-making and blacksmithing. He was probably an ancestor of the James H. Bean for whom Sidney’s elementary school, opened Sept. 6, 1957, on Middle Road, is named.

(Sidney historian Alice Hammond wrote that the Bean for whom the school is named was honored for his many contributions to education in Sidney “and is still remembered [in 1992] with love and respect.”)

Civil War veteran Thomas S. Benson moved from Augusta to Sidney in 1876 and was a farmer and deputy sheriff.

Albert Black was the grandson of a former Palermo, Maine, resident who moved to New York State in 1820. Black came back to Maine in 1863, at the age of 23. His agricultural specialty was apples, Kingsbury wrote – he grew them and bought other farmers’ and for 16 years had been making cider vinegar, 10,000 gallons in 1891.

James D. Bragg, a third-generation Sidney farmer born in 1821, and Charles H. Burgess, born in 1861, served as postmasters in two different Sidney post offices beginning in the late 1880s. Hammond wrote that Bragg served for only one month, in 1887. Burgess, whose farm Hammond located on Middle Road, was also a harness maker, Kingsbury said.

Atwood F. Jones, who moved from Mercer to Sidney in 1849 at the age of 27, was a teacher as well as a farmer until 1872, when he became “a dealer in nursery stock.”

Charles H. Lovejoy, the fourth generation of his family in Sidney, “has been messenger in the state senate since 1878.” He had also been a Sidney selectman for 12 years. (Charles’ great-grandfather, Abial Lovejoy [1731-1810], came to Sidney in 1778; see the Feb. 3, 2022, issue of The Town Line for more information on this prominent citizen.)

Stilman S. Reynolds, born in 1818, farmer and mechanic, “has worked on the river twenty years and carried the mail eight years from Sidney to Riverside” (presumably by ferry across the Kennebec).

Oliver C. Robbins (1817-1891) was a butcher and lumberman as well as a farmer. Kingsbury wrote that his widow, Mary (Weeks), and younger son Edwin were continuing the farm after Oliver’s death.

De Merrit L. Sawtelle was the third generation of his family on the same farm, previously owned by his father, Asa, and grandfather, Nathan. His specialty was “breeding and training horses.”

In addition to long family histories in Sidney and multiple occupations, many Sidney farmers had two other things in common. They were Civil War veterans; and, not surprisingly, they tended to marry neighbors and relatives, creating a town full of interrelated families.

For the most part the families were not large. Kingsbury often lists four or five children, but seldom more – with two exceptions your writer thought worthy of note.

Flint Barton (1749-1833; moved to Sidney from Massachusetts in 1773) and his wife Lydia (Crosby) Barton had 12 sons. The 10th, whom they named Anson, was born in 1799; he married Rhoda Sisson and they had 13 more Bartons.

Another man who started a large clan was Thomas Bowman, the second of that name, who moved from Massachusetts to Sidney. Kingsbury did not give dates nor mention Thomas’s wife’s name, but he said Thomas had eight sons, including a third-generation Thomas, and two daughters.

Kingsbury gave brief biographies of five male descendants, all farmers in Sidney. Grandson Isaac had farmed the land formerly his grandfather’s, where “the family burying lot is,” until he died on May 16, 1890, leaving his widow, Phebe (Richards), and oldest son, Isaac N., running the farm.

Correction to August 4 article

Benton historian Barbara Warren wrote to point out an error in the Hinds genealogy in the Aug. 4 piece on natural resources, the section on Augustine Crosby (1838-1898), who invented a gold dredge and married Asher Hinds’ daughter, Susan Ann Hinds (1837-1905).

This writer incorrectly identified Susan Hinds’ father as Asher Crosby Hinds, known as “the Parliamentarian.” Her father was actually Asher Hinds (1792- 1860), whom Warren calls “the builder” (he sponsored the building of the Benton Falls Meeting House in 1828 and in 1830 built the Benton Falls house in which Warren now lives). Warren describes him as “a prosperous farmer and merchant,” War of 1812 veteran and delegate to the Massachusetts General Court.

Susan Ann (Hinds) Crosby was Augustine Crosby’s third cousin and Parliamentarian Asher Crosby Hinds’ aunt. Her brother, another Asher Crosby Hinds, was born in 1840 and died in 1863 in the Civil War. The Parliamentarian’s father was Susan’s brother, Albert Dwelley Hinds (1835-1873).

The confusion is understandable, Warren wrote. For four generations, the Hinds family included an Asher; and Hinds and Crosbys often intermarried.

Update on the Aug. 4 update on the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta

Kennebec Journal reporter Keith Edwards wrote in the paper’s Aug. 7 edition that Augusta City Councilors voted at their Aug. 4 meeting to declare the historic Arsenal property dangerous. They gave the private owner another 90 days to “address concerns,” and authorized the city codes officer to extend the time to 150 days.

Main sources

Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, miscellaneous

PHOTO: Central Maine 2022 Youth Football Senior Camp

The Central Maine Football Senior Camp for ages 10-13 was directed by Lawrence H.S. head football coach John Hersom, with the help of Lawrence players, on July 25-27, at the Fairfield PAL field. (photo by Cameron Dyer, Central Maine Photography staff

Local novelist launches “Read a story, feed a child” effort

David M. Carew, author of the new murder mystery/love story Lucy’s in the Neighborhood — set in contemporary Waterville — has launched the “Read a Story, Feed a Child” effort to benefit Winslow Comm­unity Cupboard food pantry.

Dave Carew

“For every copy of Lucy’s in the Neigh­borhood purchased online throughout August, I will make a donation to Winslow Community Cupboard food pantry,” said Carew. “And for every order specifically placed from Monday, August 22, through Wednesday, August 24, I will donate 100 percent of my author royalties to the food pantry.” He noted that the food pantry now serves more than 200 families from Winslow, Waterville (30 percent of clientele), Clinton, and Benton.

Hailed as “a stellar story … engaging, entertaining, and intelligent”, by Roy E. Perry, Book Reviewer (retired) for The Tennessean, Lucy’s in the Neighborhood, set in Waterville, is available online from Maine Authors Publishing.

David M. Carew, of Waterville, is the author of the novels Voice from the Gutter and Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville, which The Tennessean hailed as “haunting, beautiful, powerful.” He worked for more than 20 years as a publicist in Nashville before returning to Maine in 2016.

For more information, please visit Maine Authors Publishing online or call (207) 594-0091.

Kennebec Valley Tourism Council announces election of officers

From left-to-right: Mike Guarino, Kim Lindlof, Kristina Cannon

Kennebec Valley Tourism Council (KVTC) has elected the following officers to its board of directors for a one-year term from July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023: Mike Guarino, owner of Maine Wilderness Tours, as chairman; Cheryl Nadeau, town manager of Jackman, as vice chairman; Kimberly N. Lindlof, president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and executive director of Central Maine Growth Council, as treasurer. Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, will remain as chairman of its marketing committee.

Maine’s Kennebec Valley is one of the eight Maine tourism regions. Named for the Kennebec River which runs down the center of the region, The Kennebec Valley includes the cities and towns contained in both Kennebec and Somerset counties. The region contains Maine’s capital city of Augusta as well as Gardiner, Hallowell, Waterville, Skowhegan and Jackman and the recreational resort communities near Monmouth, Belgrade, and The Forks. It also contains a few outlying towns including Rockwood-on-Moosehead, China, and Pittsfield.

Red Cross needs more blood donors to avoid shortage

In recent weeks, a decline in donations has caused the American Red Cross blood supply to shrink nearly 20 percent. This drop in donations could lead to a seasonal blood shortage, which can negatively impact patient care at hospitals across the country.

The Red Cross needs donors to make an appointment now to give in August. As a thank-you for helping, all who come to give Aug. 1-31 will be entered to win gas for a year and will also receive a $10 e-gift card to a merchant of choice. Details are available at

Just as most cars need to be refueled constantly, so does the nation’s blood supply. The American Red Cross has faced a concerning drop in blood and platelet donations this summer. Donors are needed to make an appointment to give in August to help prevent a blood shortage.

The decline in donations has caused the Red Cross blood supply to shrink nearly 20 percent in recent weeks. The availability of blood products will continue to decline if donations do not increase. People should not wait until they hear there is a blood shortage to give. Type O negative blood donors and platelet donors are especially needed now.

“This is a concerning trend that may soon make it tougher to keep blood products stocked on hospital shelves,” said Paul Sullivan, Red Cross senior vice president of donor services. “By choosing a time to give now, donors can help pump up the blood supply for those in immediate need of lifesaving care and those who rely on transfusions for treatment.”

Donors can schedule an appointment to donate using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, by visiting or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

As blood and platelet donations drop, gas prices have reached all-time highs in the U.S. As a thank-you, all who come to give Aug. 1-31 will be automatically entered for a chance to win gas for a year, a $6,000 value. There will be three lucky winners. Everyone who comes to give blood or platelets in August will also receive a $10 e-gift card to a merchant of choice.*

The Red Cross follows a high standard of safety and infection control. The Red Cross will continue to socially distance wherever possible at blood drives, donation centers and facilities. While donors are no longer required to wear a face mask, individuals may choose to continue to wear a mask for any reason. The Red Cross will also adhere to more stringent face mask requirements per state and/or local guidance, or at the request of blood drive sponsors. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at a drive.

How to donate blood

Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at or use the Blood Donor App.

Property tax stabilization program guides provided to Maine municipalities

Property Tax Stabilization for Senior Citizens, also known as the Property Tax Stabilization Program (the “Program”), is a State program that allows certain senior-citizen residents to stabilize, or freeze, the property taxes on their homestead. An applicant must be at least 65 years old, a permanent resident of the State, and must have owned a Maine homestead for at least ten years. As long as the individual files an application and qualifies each year, the tax billed to them for their homestead will continue to be fixed at the amount they were billed in the prior tax year. Eligible residents who move may transfer the fixed tax amount to a new homestead, even if that new homestead is in a different Maine municipality.

For example, if an individual applies by December 1, 2022, and qualifies for the Program, the amount of tax billed to the individual for the April 1, 2023, tax year will be the same as the amount billed to them for the April 1, 2022, tax year. As long as the individual continues to qualify and to file timely annual renewal applications, the amount they are billed will be frozen at the amount billed for the April 1, 2022 tax year. The State will reimburse the municipalities for the difference between the amount billed the participating individual and the tax that would otherwise be due.

The law goes into effect on August 8, 2022, and applies to property tax years beginning April 1, 2023. Interested taxpayers will need to first apply with the municipality where their homestead is located on or before December 1, and then reapply each year by December 1.

Program Administration

Maine Revenue Services (“MRS”):

  • Provides applications, instructions, and guidance for participants and municipal officials.
  • Annually reviews all claims for reimbursement filed by affected municipalities and
    reimburses qualifying municipalities by January 15 for 100% of the difference between the amount billed the participating individual and the tax that would otherwise be due.
  • Accepts applications to the Program.
  • Verifies eligibility and notifies applicants whether approved or denied.
  • Tracks properties in the Program, the stabilized amounts, and the tax that would
    otherwise have been assessed.
  • Retains applications for reference and for state valuation audit purposes.
  • Annually applies with MRS for reimbursement by November 1.

Eligible Individuals

To be eligible for the Program, an individual must meet all of the following as of April 1 of the property tax year for which they are requesting stabilization (so for applications due December 1, 2022, qualifications must be met as of April 1, 2023):

  • Be 65 years old or older.
  • Be a permanent resident of Maine.
  • Have owned a homestead in Maine for at least ten years. The ten-year period does not
    have to be consecutive.
  • Be eligible for a homestead exemption under 36 M.R.S. §§ 681 – 689 on the property which they are requesting stabilization.

If a homestead is owned by more than one individual as joint tenants, only one owner needs to qualify for the Program. There is no payback amount if a property is removed from the Program and there is no income or asset limits to qualify.

Eligible Property

  • Must be a “homestead,” as defined in the homestead exemption statue, 36 M.R.S. § 681(2):
    • “Homestead” means any residential property, including cooperative property, in this State assessed as real property owned by an applicant or held in a revocable living trust for the benefit of the applicant and occupied by the applicant as the applicant’s permanent residence or owned by a cooperative housing corporation and occupied as a permanent residence by a resident who is a qualifying shareholder. A “homestead” does not include any real property used solely for commercial purposes.
  • Must be owned by an eligible individual. Application Process
  • An individual must file a completed application, including any requested proof of qualification, with their local assessor by December 1.
  • The assessor will determine if the applicant qualifies for the program and will notify the applicant whether they have been approved or denied.
  • Participants must file a new application with the municipality each year in order to maintain their stabilized tax amount.
  • As long as a participant continues to qualify and apply every year, their tax bill will remain the same as it was in the year an application was first submitted.
    Program Maintenance
  • Participants must reapply with the municipality every year by December 1. 2
  • If a participant changes their homestead, they must request that the municipality of their former homestead notify the new municipality of their previous eligibility and the stabilized amount, and file a new application with the new municipality.
  • If a participant fails to timely file an application one year, the bill for that year would revert to the “normal” amount of tax. They could apply again the next year, but it would then be stabilized at the missed year’s normal tax level.
  • Participants must meet all qualifications to continue in the Program, including maintaining Maine residency and maintaining the homestead as their permanent residence.
    The text of the new law is available on the Maine Legislature’s website:

For more information on the Property Tax Stabilization Program, contact the Property Tax Division of Maine Revenue Services at:

P.O. BOX 9106,
AUGUSTA, ME 04332-9106,

Tel: (207) 624-5600,

Waldo County GOP selects McLaughlin for House District #40

Waldo County Republicans have announced that Joseph McLaughlin, of Lincolnville, was selected as candidate for Maine House District #40 at a special replacement caucus held July 20 at the Searsmont Town Hall. A note of thanks to all who came out to participate in the caucus. FMI: contact Joe at 207-838-6695.

Maine Farmland Trust awards grants to local farms

Ironwood Farm, in Albion, owners Nell Finnigan, left, and Justin Morace. (internet photo)

Maine Farmland Trust (MFT) announced the award of six matching grants totaling $300,000 to Ironwood Farm, in Albion, and five other farms across the state upon their completion of MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program, a two-year program that offers up to 100 hours of individualized business planning and technical assistance to farmers who are seeking to grow their operations. The six farms will implement business plans focused on scaling up for wholesale by investing in equipment and infrastructure to streamline their production, improve their ability to sell to wholesale markets, and make their businesses more profitable.

The 2022 grantees are Apple Creek Farm in Bowdoinham; Bahner Farm in Belmont; Bumbleroot Organic Farm in Windham; Farmer Kev’s Organics in West Gardiner; Ironwood Farm in Albion; and Pumpkin Vine Family Farm in Somerville.

Each farm was awarded $50,000, and will match the grants with $50,000 of their own investments, introducing a total of $100,000 of new funding to grow their businesses. All six farms participated in MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program and worked with business advisors to research and define robust business plans that focused on scaling up for wholesale markets. These grants are competitive and applications undergo an extensive review process by a committee of MFT staff and industry consultants.

In their business plan, Nell Finnigan and Justin Morace of Ironwood Farm, an organic diversified vegetable farm in Albion, planned to scale up their best crops to help them grow sales to a level where they can support full-time, year round employees who are paid equitably, as well support a living wage for the farm owners. Finnigan and Morace plan to do this by using grant funds to construct new vegetable-handling facilities and cold storage.

Pumpkin Vine Family Farm, in Somerville. Anil Roopchand, center, with children Kieran, left, and Sarita. (The Town Line file photo)

Another award recipient was Anil Roopchand and Kelly Payson-Roopchand’s Pumpkin Vine Family Farm, a goat dairy and farmstead creamery, in Somerville. Their business plan identified a need to increase the size of their goat herd, as well as the capacity of their on-farm infrastructure, so their farm can sell products to diverse markets, including expanding their ability to provide wholesale goat milk to other local creameries. As a result, Roopchand and Payson-Roopchand plan to use grant funds to buy new equipment, as well as investing in an expansion of their barn and a manure pit.

Learn more about MFT’s Farming for Wholesale program here:

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

Augusta House

by Mary Grow

Three brick and granite buildings in Augusta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Granite buildings on the west side of the Kennebec included:

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

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

Update on Augusta’s Kennebec Arsenal

Kennebec Arsenal

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

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

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

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

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous.