Covers towns roughly within 50 miles of Augusta.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Wars – Part 2

by Mary Grow

As readers know, major wars have major effects, beginning before the battles, continuing for the duration and lasting years afterwards. Early historians tended to focus on economics and politics: whether development was slowed or speeded or both, who replaced whom in leadership. Later came interest in social effects, especially significant in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Individual psychological effects of war, now commonly labeled PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), have been recognized for centuries, but did not receive a lot of attention until the present century. A 2017 Smithsonian magazine article found on line discusses psychological effects suffered by Civil War soldiers, though not under the modern name.

Some of these young men, far from home and family and witnessing the horrors of face-to-face war, developed “what Civil War doctors called ‘nostalgia,’ a centuries-old term for despair and homesickness so severe that soldiers became listless and emaciated and sometimes died,” according to the article. Others had physical symptoms, like “soldier’s heart” (chest pain, difficult breathing, palpitations), or mental breakdowns.

After World War I, PTSD was called “shell shock.” “Combat fatigue” was the best-known of several terms used after World War II.

It is unlikely that 18th and 19th century soldiers from the Kennebec Valley avoided psychological stress, but finding records demonstrating the condition would be even more unlikely. There are, however, numerous reports on and analyses of economic consequences, and social and political consequences are sometimes obvious.

Many of the central Kennebec Valley towns, especially the larger ones, suffered economic distress during the Revolution. The level of distress in Augusta (then Hallowell) is recorded by historians Henry Kingsbury and Charles Nash.

Kingsbury summarized: “A town of so few inhabitants, however willing, could not give much aid to the continental cause, and its part in the war was necessarily small and inconspicuous. It suffered much during the period of the revolution – its growth was retarded and well-nigh suspended….So great was the depression that even the Fourth of July Declaration [of Independence] was not publicly read to the people.”

Nash wrote that by 1777, British warships so “infested” the Maine coast as to practically stop overseas trade, a blow to the shipbuilders and shipmasters of Hallowell (and downriver towns). A year later, though, he wrote that a Hallowell shipbuilder sold the government hundreds of pounds worth of ships’ masts, spars and bowsprits for the budding Continental navy.

According to Kingsbury, only about 100 heads of families lived in Hallowell in 1779, presumably after many Tories had left. When the new national government started assessing towns individually for soldiers and supplies, townspeople could not easily meet the demands.

By the 1780s, according to information Nash compiled from town meeting records, Hallowell voters were raising money to pay soldiers. In October, for example, they raised 12,000 pounds to pay $500 each to soldiers who served eight months in Camden. Many were paid in lumber or shingles instead of money.

Another series of votes in January 1781 raised 90 guineas (Wikipedia says a guinea was about the same value as a pound) for six men to “go into the service of Massachusetts” (Kingsbury added that they were required to enlist for three years); directed that “the selectmen and commissioned officers shall do their endeavors to procure said men”; and for that purpose directed them to “hire money upon the town’s credit.”

That the effort was not fully successful can be inferred from the February vote to “petition the General Court [of Massachusetts] for relief of the beef tax, and our quota of soldiers sent for from this town.”

In March, annual meeting voters gave town leaders “discretionary power to get the continental men in the best way and manner they can be procured.”

Nash found a September 6, 1781, vote (three weeks before Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown) that sounded even more desperate. Voters directed selectmen to “endeavor to procure this town’s quota of shirts, stockings and shoes and blankets required of this town, upon the town’s credit if they can be procured.” Kingsbury detailed the requisition: “2,580 pounds of beef, 11 shirts, 11 pairs of shoes and stockings, and 5 blankets,” and said the Massachusetts legislature threatened to fine the town if it did not produce.

From what little Whittemore wrote in his history of Waterville, the townspeople in what was until 1802 Winslow on both sides of the Kennebec also had trouble meeting quotas. Town officials had neither money for supplies nor willing volunteers for soldiers. The price of beef rose to five dollars a pound, indicating, Whittemore said wryly, “either a depreciated currency or that some primordial beef trust already had taken possession of the country.”

He was serious about the depreciated currency. Nash gave examples through the 1770s of a steady decline in the value of the paper money issued by the new government.

By 1781, he wrote, currency was worth so little that the government made a “new emission.” Defined as legal tender and valid for paying taxes, Nash wrote that it held its value briefly, but within a few months it lost almost half its value, a dollar becoming the equivalent of a half-dollar in silver.

Ernest Marriner picked up the theme in his Kennebec Yesterdays. Money, either paper currency or coins, was scarce in the valley anyway, he wrote; people often paid for things they could not make at home with things they could, especially crops, like wheat, corn, peas, potatoes and apples, and also butter, cheese, wool, flax and similar products.

The naval supplies Nash described were paid for partly in dollars (presumably Continental paper currency), with 100 dollars equal to 30 pounds, but also in corn, “New England rum,” sugar and glass.

Marriner found that by 1789, a Continental paper dollar was worth one-fortieth of a silver coin. By then, he wrote, hay, previously costing a maximum of $10 a ton, was $200 a ton. Butter cost $1.50 a pound; by 1802, it was down to 15 cents a pound.

Many Kennebec Valley families were left in precarious circumstances by the combination of limited access to outside supplies; heavy taxes to support local, Massachusetts and federal military and civilian needs; depreciated currency; and breadwinners off fighting, home recovering, in a British military prison or dead.

Rev. Jacob Bailey

Nash quoted from the journals and letters of Rev. Jacob Bailey, a Tory who lived in Pownalborough (now Dresden) for most of the war years. Bailey referred to “nakedness and famine” among his neighbors.

Some had no bread for months, he wrote. It was impossible to find grain, potatoes or other vegetables; meat, butter or milk; tea, sugar or molasses. People lived on “a little coffee, with boiled alewives or a repast of clams,” and not enough of that diet to forestall hunger, Bailey wrote.

* * * * * *

Tories, especially outspoken ones like Bailey, were a minority in the Kennebec Valley, and became a smaller minority as the war went on. When it became clear that the rebellion was succeeding, fence-sitters joined the winning side; opponents of independence went away, usually to eastern Canada.

In the Hallowell area, many of the big landowners, like the Gardiner, Hallowell and Vassall families for whom towns were named, were British sympathizers. During or after the war, they emigrated to Canada or Britain; post-war local governments confiscated their lands.

A notorious Tory in the Augusta area was John “Black” Jones (c. 1743 – Aug. 18, 1823).

Nash wrote a great deal about “Black” Jones in his Augusta history, distinguishing him from three other men named John Jones who were in the area earlier or simultaneously. The Tory Jones’ primary work was surveying for the Plymouth Proprietors, laying out lots on both sides of the Kennebec River, including the future towns of Hallowell/Augusta, Vassalboro, China, Unity and Skowhegan. Kingsbury added that he built the first mill on the west side of the Kennebec at Hallowell.

“Black” is said to have referred to his dark complexion, not his character. Indeed, Nash wrote that he was “a skillful surveyor and a man of good character,” who was repeatedly elected to local office in 1773 and 1775, despite being stubbornly pro-British in a divided community.

In April 1777, Nash found, town meeting voters chose Lieutenant John Shaw “the man to inspect the tories, and make information thereof.” At another meeting in July, they implemented a Massachusetts law intended to protect the country from “internal enemies” by instructing Shaw to collect evidence against Jones, “who they suppose to be of a disposition inimical to the liberties and privileges of the said States.” In Oct. 1777 they again voted Jones “inimical to the liberties and privileges of the United States.”

After a brief imprisonment in Boston, Jones escaped and went to Canada, where he enlisted on the British side. Assigned to Fort George, in Castine, he led a band of soldiers who raided local rebel towns. An on-line Canadian biography says he worked as a surveyor in New Brunswick, Canada, after the war.

Returning to Hallowell, according to Nash as early as November 1785, Jones was met by antagonists who escorted him out of town. He came back, and, Nash wrote, “by his many good qualities and an exemplary life he largely overcame, long before his death, the bitter prejudice which his attitude and acts during the revolution had aroused in his fellow-citizens.” Kingsbury wrote that in 1794 it was Jones who surveyed the division of Hallowell into three parishes.

Another mention of Tory sentiment is in Alma Pierce Robbins’ history of Vassalboro. She gave the Revolutionary War only a few sentences, mostly focused on Congress’s approval of aid and pensions to soldiers and their dependents.

Robbins said records indicated that Vassalboro residents were “somewhat lukewarm” patriots who “did their share in a dilatory manner.”

She added, however, that town officials fined “those who spoke too openly against the Revolution,” that the town’s beef quota was “finally” paid “under strong pressure” and that “many” did fight on the Revolutionary side.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Marriner, Ernest, Kennebec Yesterdays (1954).
Nash, Charles Elventon, The History of Augusta (1904).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).

Websites, miscellaneous.

CNA training offered by Northern Light

Looking to start a healthcare career? MSAD #53 Adult and Community Education in partnership with Northern Light Sebasticook Valley Hospital is offering a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) training course starting January 17.

The eight-week training classes run Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. The classes will be held at Sebasticook Valley Hospital, in Pittsfield, and will offer classroom, clinical, and lab experience. The cost is $300.

Becoming a CNA is a great start to a rewarding career that offers competitive pay, the ability to help others and the ability to work in a hospital setting or many other settings, including nursing homes, residential care facilities, assisted living facilities, Home Health Aid agencies, and clinics.

Fore more information about a CNA course and what’s involved, contact Tracy Wing, RN, clinical educator at Sebasticook Valley Hospital, at 207-487-4065.

NFPA urges prompt removal of Christmas trees

Nearly one-third (30 percent) of U.S. home fires involving Christmas trees occur in January. With this post-holiday fire hazard in mind, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) strongly encourages everyone to keep the festive memories and remove the hazards by disposing of Christmas trees promptly after the holiday season.

“As much as we all enjoy the look and feel of Christmas trees in our homes, they’re large combustible items that have the potential to result in serious fires,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “The longer Christmas trees remain in homes, the longer they present a risk.”

Carli notes that fresh Christmas trees, which continue to dry out and become more flammable over time, are involved in a much larger share of reported Christmas tree fires than artificial trees.

According to the latest NFPA winter holiday fire data, 160 home structure fires began with Christmas trees, resulting in two civilian deaths, 12 civilian injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage, on average each year between 2015 and 2019. Overall, fires that begin with Christmas trees represent a very small but notable part of the U.S. fire problem, considering that they are generally in use for a short time each year.

To safely dispose of a Christmas tree, NFPA recommends using the local community’s recycling program, if possible; trees should not be put in the garage or left outside. NFPA also offers these tips for safely removing lighting and decorations to ensure that they remain in good condition:

Use the gripping area on the plug when unplugging electrical decorations. Never pull the cord to unplug any device from an electrical outlet, as this can harm the wire and insulation of the cord, increasing the risk for shock or electrical fire.

As you pack up light strings, inspect each line for damage, throwing out any sets that have loose connections, broken sockets or cracked or bare wires.

Wrap each set of lights and put them in individual plastic bags or wrap them around a piece of cardboard.

Store electrical decorations in a dry place away from children and pets where they will not be damaged by water or dampness.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Wars – Part I

Fort Western in 1754.

by Mary Grow

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

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

Fort Halifax.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous.

Healthy Living for ME awarded grant to expand programs

A recently awarded grant will allow Healthy Living for ME and its statewide Area Agency on Aging partners to expand the reach of two popular programs, Bingocize and Building Better Caregivers. The grant to fund the program expansion was awarded to Healthy Living for ME by the University of New England’s Aging ME: Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP).

“This award is an exciting opportunity to bring two important workshops to all regions of Maine. It is also a recognition of the work our partners have already been doing to provide falls prevention and caregiver education to communities,” said Maija Dyke, Contract and Business Manager of Healthy Living for ME. “Both Building Better Caregivers and Bingocize address important health and wellness issues for Mainers.”

NESN regional sports network removed from DISH-TV

New England Sports Network (NESN) was removed from DISH TV tonight, affecting access in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Connecticut. With this removal, DISH TV customers no longer have access to NESN.

“The current Regional Sports Network (RSN) model is fundamentally broken,” said Brian Neylon, group president, DISH TV. “This model requires nearly all customers to pay for RSNs when only a small percentage of customers actually watch them. As the cost of these channels continues to escalate and a la carte viewing options become ever more accessible, we no longer think it makes sense to include them in our TV lineup.”

“We have offered multiple solutions to keep NESN on DISH TV while providing the best value to all our customers,” added Neylon. “We made an offer for NESN to be a separate stand alone package, similar to premium channels like HBO or Showtime — they refused. We also offered NESN to be part of select DISH programming packages, but they refused this as well.”

DISH has offered these consumer-friendly alternatives to NESN, but they have been unwilling to accept them and insist on continuing with the old, broken model. DISH remains open to working with NESN to offer sports content in a way that provides choice and value to all customers.

DISH customers can visit DISHPromise.com for more information.

Don Plourde named CMGC’s 2021 Developer of the Year

Don Plourde

Central Maine Growth Council is pleased to present its annual 2021 Developer of the Year award to Don Plourde, broker and co-owner of Coldwell Banker Plourde Real Estate, in Waterville. The award was presented at Central Maine Growth Council’s Annual Meeting, sponsored by Central Maine Motors, Kennebec Savings Bank, MaineGeneral Health, New Dimensions Federal Credit Union, and Huhtamaki.

Don’s passion for developing central Maine through commercial real estate has been exemplified by his commitment to growing businesses and supporting economic and community development throughout the region. Beyond Don’s day-to-day real estate operations, his investments within the region, along Robert LaFleur Airport Business Park, and, most recently, acquiring two flagship buildings in downtown Waterville – 36 Main Street and 70 Main Street – have all made significant contributions to the local economy and will support further investment and new business development opportunities during an exciting period of redevelopment within the municipality.

“The city of Waterville is poised to continue its trend of revitalization and renaissance due to key private sector stakeholders like Don. Similarly, his commitment to regional betterment extends beyond development and associated business expansion and growth initiatives, but is equally reflected in community projects and the innumerable volume of new families and young professionals that have been welcomed into the area housing market, including throughout COVID-19, where Don has transitioned new rural remote workers and Maine ‘boomerangers’ across the country into our local economy,” stated Garvan Donegan, director of planning, innovation, and economic development for Central Maine Growth Council. “Don is a champion of the region and has pursued his projects in a dedicated fashion, encouraging a bright future for central Maine and its residents.”

The Winslow native opened Coldwell Banker Plourde in 1989, growing from a staff of two to more than 20 and counting in its 30 years of operation. Don serves on the Maine Real Estate Commission, where he previously served as the organization’s board chairman. His work in real estate development has laid the groundwork for welcoming new businesses and families to central Maine while contributing to a renewed quality of place throughout mid-Maine and beyond.

Don has served on several boards throughout central Maine, including Waterville Development Corp., Maine State Housing, Winslow Capital Planning Committee, and Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, where he served as the organization’s chairman in 1998. Acknowledging Plourde’s many years of community betterment and service, Don and Irene were recognized as the 2016 Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Community Service winners.

“I am humbled to receive such an honor from the Growth Council,” said Don. “Having the ability to contribute to the vitality and success of the region has been my life’s work, and I could not have done it without the support from the community and my family.”

Katie Brann named emerging leader of the year by CM Growth Council

Katie Brann

Central Maine Growth Council and KV Connect are pleased to present their 2021 Emerging Leader of the Year Award to Katie Brann, chairman of KV Connect, the young professionals’ group of mid-Maine, and Financial Advisor at Golden Pond Wealth Management, in Waterville. The award was presented at Central Maine Growth Council’s Annual Meeting celebration, sponsored by Central Maine Motors, Kennebec Savings Bank, MaineGeneral Health, New Dimensions Federal Credit Union, and Huhtamaki.

Katie has been involved with KV Connect since February of 2020, previously serving as the organization’s treasurer and marketing committee chairman, currently serving as chairman of the organization. A 2016 graduate of Boston University, Katie returned to her home state of Maine to pursue a career in financial services where she supports clients in comprehensive financial planning and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing. Katie received her Certified Financial Planning (CFP) designation in March of 2021. In addition to her leadership of KV Connect, Katie also serves on the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce’s Marketing and Membership committee and serves as the varsity field hockey coach at Messalonskee High School in Oakland.

“Katie embodies outstanding leadership, impact, and performance within the region’s emerging youth workforce and is continually working to create an environment to facilitate responsible investing, creativity, and innovation of young people to excel, develop, and grow. Working closely with Katie through KV Connect, her passion for the Kennebec Valley region shines through her organization of several community initiatives, including our Yoga in the Park and Pints with a Purpose series”, states Sabrina Jandreau, vice-chairman of KV Connect and development coordinator at Central Maine Growth Council. “Her drive and commitment to celebrating the region’s young professionals are a testament to her dedication for making mid-Maine an attractive location to live and work in.”

During a time of robust growth and development in central Maine, Katie’s stewardship has spotlighted KV Connect as an organization that champion’s connectivity through relationship building, community service, social media marketing, and placemaking initiatives, encouraging the continued retention and recruitment of young professionals to the region. At the forefront of KV Connect’s continued growth, Katie’s passion for cultivating opportunities for networking and development will sustain further expansion of the organization’s membership and encourage greater participation by young professionals throughout mid-Maine.

“Waterville is an incredible community and provides a compelling site profile for those who wish to enjoy the area’s eateries, diverse recreational opportunities, or start a business”, said Katie. “Having the opportunity to bridge the gap between young professionals and networking has provided KV Connect with the tools to showcase and celebrate all the region has to offer with those who are new to the area or are just starting out in their careers.”

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Libraries

The Lawrence Library, in Fairfield.

by Mary Grow

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

Daniel Cony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William R. Miller

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

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

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

Henry H. Richardson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edward Jones Lawrence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Today’s Huhtamaki plant.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed. , Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).

Websites, miscellaneous.

China’s treasured community leader retires

Irene Belanger upon receiving a plaque of appreciation from the town of China. (contributed photo)

42 years service to town; 22 years as select board member

by Deborah Belanger-Warnke

Whether in the public eye or behind the scenes, over the past 22 years China residents have placed their trust and confidence in Irene Lydia Belanger. Serving as an elected member on the China Select Board, she has been steadfast in representing the people’s best interests and moving the community forward.

While many of us may struggle to find time to volunteer for basic community endeavors, there are those individuals who strive to make a difference for the community at large on a frequent basis. We are fortunate that one of those individuals came to reside in China, Maine, in 1969. Since then, Irene has been serving China in many capacities; wearing many hats over the last 42 years. In today’s standards it is a rarity to find such enduring dedication and strong sense of duty to one’s community.

Irene’s service to China started when she literally wore the hat of a Cub Scout leader in 1970. Her interest in community work sprung from the leadership and teaching of a young pack of cub scouts that included several of her sons. This initial volunteer work planted the seeds of a community leader who went forward to impact China in so many ways.

No matter the roles she served in, it was Irene’s moral compass and compassion for community that became her guiding light throughout a life-time of community service in China. If you talk with Irene, it becomes quite evident that serving her community in multiple capacities over 42 years has left her feeling extremely proud and satisfied.

Irene was never one to say “no” to a request for her assistance. She volunteered to drive community members to medical appointments or shopping, Trunk or Treat, Transfer Station drug drop off and many other town events. Her community outreach left a footprint on the following local committees: Comprehensive Planning Board, China Days, Economic & Community Development, Transfer Station, Recreation, Lake Access, Thurston Park and Roadside Clean-up.

In representing the town of China, Irene’s work led to travel to many areas of Maine, working alongside politicians, community business leaders, RSU #18 teachers and superintendents, along with many municipal leaders. Over the years, Irene’s hard work and esteemed dedication to duty led to her selection on the Board of Directors for the following organizations: the Municipal Review Committee (MRC), the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments (KVCOG), the Maine Resource Recovery Association (MRRA), and Spirit of America. Irene also served as the president of KVCOG and worked on various committees for the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce (MMCC).

It is no wonder Irene has been recognized for outstanding achievement from the Maine Real Estate Commission, the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, Spirit of America, the Messalonskee High School Eagle Award from the Alumni Association, and the Maine Resource Recovery Association. She most recently received an award from the Town of China on Monday, October 25, honoring her service.

Irene wishes to thank her spouse Joseph V. Belanger, her family, the China Town Manager Becky Hapgood, state wide committee and board members, fellow China select board members, the transfer station staff, the China community and many others for their caring and support over the past 42 years.

“My service to the China Community has been important work and very satisfying to me,” Belanger said. “I’m honored to have done my very best for others and to have represented the Town of China. My love of community has served me well over the years, I feel so grateful to have done this valuable and rewarding work”.

Irene was quick to say, “I will so miss being a China select board member, however, I’m still here to serve, and will continue to be active in my community anyway I can.” With a twinkle in her eyes she laughed saying, “Don’t worry, Becky Hapgood has my number! Besides, my interest in the Transfer Station Committee, recycling and Free for Taking building will keep me busy.”

Irene graciously passed the torch to current and newly-elected China Select Board members on November 2. Thank you, Irene, for a “Job Well Done” and your selfless service to the citizens of China, Maine, and beyond for over 42 years! Enjoy your retirement!