Covers towns roughly within 50 miles of Augusta.

Scouting continues during pandemic – with caution

China Cub Scout Pack #479 sold masks to help support scouting. (contributed photo)

by Chuck Mahaleris

Covid-19 has changed the way society has operated this year. Governments and businesses have altered operating practices and new rules have been put in place to keep everyone safe. The same is true for the programs of Scouting.

Waterville Troop #436 scout climbs the trail at Tumbledown this past August. (contributed photo)

“The Scout motto is ‘Be Prepared’,” said Kennebec Valley District Chair Kelly Pillsbury. “Scouts are prepared for hiking in bad weather. Scouts are prepared to treat someone in need of first aid. Scouts are prepared to teach others to protect nature. And Scouts are prepared to continue the programs of Scouting during a global pandemic.” Local Scout Troops and Packs have followed guidance from the State of Maine, the Center for Disease Control and from the National BSA to ensure they are doing all they can to keep Scouts and Scouters safe while delivering the values-based activities of Scouting.

“When our programs can meet indoors, we do so following the rules on masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing,” Pillsbury said. “When we can’t meet indoors, we meet outdoors and follow the Covid-19 procedures. When we can’t do either, our Scouting Packs and Troops and leaders meet virtually. The generations before us overcame a lot and we will overcome this too,” she said. Scouts have stepped up to show that they don’t quit even during national emergencies.

For example, important ceremonies look a little different but continue to be held like Augusta’s Michael J. Fortin who was awarded his Eagle Scout rank during a socially-distanced ceremony in July and Cub Scout Christopher Smith of Pack #585 who, along with his parents, wore a mask when he received his Arrow of Light award, in Farmington.

At camping trips, hikes, meetings and other events, Scout leaders communicate with parents and Scouts to be sure each participates in the most appropriate and comfortable way possible. For some it is in person, for others it may be virtual. For any in-person event, Scouts, parents and leaders should be screened for any signs or symptoms of Covid-19 including coughing, shortness of breath, chills, etc. “We’ve gotten good at finding ways to make things work,” Pillsbury said. “Some of our Scouting units have met at schools but when schools are closed, no Scout meetings happen there, so we have learned to find alternative meeting sites.

When that isn’t possible, they have developed virtual meeting plans to help Scouting leaders keep their Scouting program going. It has become so important to our youth that things remain as close to normal as possible. I have been very impressed. Not only are the Scouts continuing to meet and camp and hike but they are finding ways to help others. Scouts are collecting food for food pantries, doing neighborhood cleanups, and sending emails and video messages to residents of nursing homes to encourage them.

In Jackman, the Scouts have asked for food donations for the needy and people can leave it on their step, let them know and a Scout will pick it up. The same is true in Camden and Rockport where Pack #200 Cubs put out fliers to area homes seeking food for the needy and then collecting on November 22. All while being safe and keeping those donating safe. Some of our Scouts, like Cubs in China Pack #479, have been selling masks to help others while helping support their programs. We want all of our Scouts, during this crisis and when things return to normal, to do a good deed every day. We all want this pandemic to be over soon, but until it is, Scouting will be there just as it has been for more than 100 years.”

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Notable women

Novella Jewell Trott

by Mary Grow

As background for this piece on a small selection of women of importance from the central Kennebec Valley, some historical notes might establish a useful timeline.

1) The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution says: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” It was passed in the House of Representatives on May 21, 1919, by a generous margin, and in the Senate on June 4, 1919, by a vote of 56 to 25, two votes more than the two-thirds majority required for a Constitutional amendment. The necessary 36th state ratification was Tennessee’s on Aug. 18, 1920.

The 89th amendment to the Maine Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex or ancestry, was approved by referendum, by about a five to two margin, on Nov. 5, 1963.

2) According to an online history of the Maine Medical Association (founded in the spring of 1853 after its predecessor, the 1820 Medical Society of Maine, disbanded in 1845), in 1900 Maine had 1,206 physicians registered, of whom 67 were women. In 1982, 1,300 of 1,952 Maine practicing physicians were Association members, including 75 women.

In September 2003, the Maine Medical Association elected its first female president, Dr. Maroulla Gleaton, a Palermo resident and board-certified ophthalmologist practicing in Augusta.

3) Maine’s State Teachers Association was founded in November 1859, in Waterville. It became the Maine Education Association (MEA) in 1867 (and inherited the Teachers Association’s treasury’s assets of $1.26); in 1882 briefly merged with the 1876 Maine Teachers Association (MTA) to form the Maine Pedagogical Society; became MTA for much of the 20th century; and in 1993 became MEA again.

The initial association’s all-male founders are described on the MEA website as “superintendents, principals, college professors and teachers in large towns.” The two-thirds of Maine teachers who were women were not included until 1862. Their dues when admitted were half the men’s dues – proportional to their pay, the website comments.

In 1881, while Nelson Luce, of Vassalboro, was the State Superintendent of Schools, one of his recommendations led to state laws that for the first time allowed women to be school board members and school supervisors. The MTA’s first woman president was Helen Robinson, elected in 1927.

4) The Maine legislature created the Maine State Bar Association on March 6, 1891, to promote the legal profession and propose legal reforms. Wikipedia calls Maine’s a “relatively progressive bar,” having admitted the first recognized black lawyer in the United States, Macon Allen (who practiced briefly in Portland) in 1844. The Bar Association accepted its first woman member, Eva Bean from Old Orchard Beach, in 1911.

Against this background, it is easier to understand the importance of women who succeeded in traditionally male professions and activities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

One of the employees in the Augusta-based E. C. Allen Publishing Company (see The Town Line, Nov. 12) was Woolwich native and former teacher Novella Jewell Trott (1846-1929). Joining Allen’s firm in 1881, she became an editor within two years, in charge of magazines called Practical Housekeeper and Daughters of America. An online site says she was responsible for all editing work, including reading submissions, choosing and improving material and composing her own articles. By 1894, Trott was an assistant editor for William Howard Gannett.

In 1893, Trott was one of seven women “of national reputation” who represented the Queen Isabella Association’s press department at the World’s Columbian Exposition, in Chicago, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America. A group of professional women organized the association in 1889 to honor Queen Isabella, of Spain, who financed Columbus, by commissioning a statue of her by an association member, sculptor Harriet Hosmer.

Florence Whitehouse

Florence Brooks Whitehouse (1869-1945) was born in Augusta and later lived in Portland. Her mother, Mary Caroline Wadsworth, was related to the family of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; her father, Samuel Spencer Brooks, was a wealthy shipbuilder and businessman, a hardware store owner with a reputation for integrity.

Educated in Augusta schools and at a private Episcopal finishing school called St. Catherine’s Hall, Whitehouse was unusually independent for her time. Online sources say she skipped college to study fine arts in Boston for several years; visited Europe and the Middle East; and spent the winter of 1892 on a sailing barge on the Nile River with members of the McCormick family (descendants of mid-Westerners Robert and Cyrus McCormick, inventors of the McCormick reaper). While in Egypt, Kingsbury wrote, she was a newspaper correspondent.

On June 21, 1894, Florence Brooks married Robert Treat Whitehouse, also Augusta-born, son of Vassalboro native William Penn Whitehouse, who was an Associate Justice (later Chief Justice) of the Maine Supreme Court. Robert Whitehouse was a Harvard-educated lawyer who wrote several law books early in the 20th century.

The Whitehouses lived in Portland and had three sons, born between 1895 and 1904. An online source describes the marriage as “egalitarian.” Florence Whitehouse wrote two romance novels with Middle Eastern settings, The God of Things: A Novel of Modern Egypt (published in 1902) and The Effendi: A Romance of the Soudan (1904), as well as short stories and plays.

According to an online biography by historian Anne Gass and Loyola University student Robert Pirages, Whitehouse’s activity in Portland’s Civic Club showed her that if women and children were to be treated justly, women needed a greater voice in public affairs.

In 1914, Whitehouse joined the Maine Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA), whose main goal was a state equal rights amendment. She soon became a leading speaker, debater and writer for the group. Gass and Pirages wrote that she had significant family support: her father-in-law had been advocating for women’s suffrage since 1874, and in 1914 her husband helped found and chaired the Men’s Equal Suffrage League.

In 1915, frustrated by state legislators’ inaction, Whitehouse founded and, for five years, chaired the Maine branch of the Congressional Union (CU), a national organization fighting for a federal equal rights amendment. CU was considered a radical group because of its tactics, which included picketing President Woodrow Wilson’s office. Whitehouse joined out-of-state protests; in Maine, not all her fellow suffragists could support CU. In 1917 she resigned from MWSA.

Whitehouse lobbied hard to persuade Maine’s national legislators to approve and state legislators to ratify the 19th amendment. When Governor Carl Milliken called a special session of the Maine legislature on Nov. 4, 1919, to act on ratification, Whitehouse and national suffragist Alice Paul were leaders in bringing about its passage, by a four-vote margin.

The CU became the National Women’s Party in 1916, and Whitehouse remained involved. She was also active in the Portland Chamber of Commerce and increasingly in state and national anti-war movements. Supporting the League of Nations and international disarmament, she chaired international cooperation committees for the Maine League of Women Voters and the Maine Federation of Churches, represented Maine’s Peace commission on the World Unity Council and was a member of the National Council on the Prevention of War.

Whitehouse was chosen a member of the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame in 2008.

Ninetta Runnals

Ninetta May Runnals (1885-1980) was born in Dover-Foxcroft, but earned both her bachelor’s degree and her professional reputation at Colby College in Waterville. Graduating in Colby’s Class of 1908 with a mathematics major, she taught at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft for three years and was Maine Central Institute’s Dean of Girls for another five years.

When Colby trustees decided in 1916 the college needed a dean of women, President Arthur Roberts invited Runnals to apply for the job. Two sources quote from his letter: the invitation was for “the coming year and the rest of your life.”

Runnals refused, because she wanted to complete her master’s degree in mathematics at Columbia University. After she received it in 1920, she told Roberts she would accept his still-open offer, provided that the position included a professorship and that the trustees gave the dean broader responsibilities. Her conditions were approved, and in 1920 she became Colby’s Dean of Women and an Assistant Professor of Mathematics.

Runnals held the deanship for 27 years, with a break (1926-28) to work at Hillsdale College, in Hillsdale, Michigan. In 1923 she became a full professor at Colby, and after 1928 she taught education courses as well as mathematics.

Colby had begun in 1813 as a Baptist institution, but shed its religious affiliation after Maine separated from Massachusetts. The college was originally located on College Avenue, in Waterville. The present Mayflower Hill campus was acquired in 1931.

Students were all men until 1871, when Mary Caffrey Low, of Waterville, became the first and for two years only woman enrolled. She was valedictorian of the Class of 1875, which by then included five female students.

Male and female students were “resegregated” in 1890, Wikipedia says, and when Runnals became Dean of Women the trustees had plans to create a separate women’s college. Knowing the men’s college would get the bulk of resources if the separation occurred, Runnals successfully fought the proposal.

In following years she brought about other changes that improved Colby and especially enhanced women’s education. Her causes included upgrading the women’s physical education program, fighting for equal salaries for women faculty members, leading a 1930s fund drive for the women’s union building on the Mayflower Hill campus (renamed Runnals Union in 1959) and helping plan women’s dormitories in the early 1940s. In 1938, she was the first female faculty member to be honored by the senior class dedicating the college yearbook, the Colby Oracle to her “[i]n hearty appreciation of her enthusiastic participation in and cooperation with the academic, administrative, and social life of Colby.”

Runnals retired on Sept. 1, 1949. She served on the Colby Board of Trustees for six years, and remained active in college business the rest of her life, especially supporting equity for women. Colby awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1929. In 1992 she became a member of the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame.

Runnals was a founder of the Waterville branch of the American Association of University Women. In 1973 a citation from the national AAUW recognized her promotion of women’s education.

Jean Gannett Hawley (1924-1994) became executive vice-president of Guy Gannett Publishing Company in 1953 (see The Town Line, Nov. 12). An online source says it was she who changed the company name to the more inclusive Guy Gannett Communications.

Hawley was educated at Bradford Junior College (since 1971, Bradford College), in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where an online biography says she was a music major and harpist. Another website lists her four honorary doctorates, including a 1959 Doctorate of Humane Letters awarded by Colby College, on whose Board of Trustees she served from 1960 to 1972.

Her online biographer commented that her job overseeing Gannett’s newspaper chain was “made more difficult by the absence of other women in similar positions.” Nonetheless, from her base in Portland she expanded Gannett’s business in television and computers, including adding television stations in other states.

Hawley was chairman of the Gannett Board of Directors from 1959 until her death Sept. 4, 1994. Her niece, Madeleine G. Corson, who had been the board’s vice-chairman since 1990, succeeded to the chairmanship on Sept. 27, 1994.

There is no photo of Jean Gannett Hawley available.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, miscellaneous.

The written word in business to be presented at chamber breakfast

Ted Helberg

Ted Helberg, retired business executive and former English instructor will deliver a presentation sharing the importance of good writing in business communications. This is a facilitated discussion on using effective and accurate word choice, grammar, and organization in business writing.
Ted will interject a little humor, discuss common errors, and offer methods to correct them.

This informative presentation will be the focus at Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce’s December Business Breakfast. December’s breakfast will be held on Thursday, December 3, from 7:15 to 9:00 a.m. at the Best Western Plus, 375 Main Street, Waterville.

Ted Helberg is a recently retired business executive. He worked in Human Resources for almost forty years in several industries. He also served as an adjunct instructor of English at several colleges.

During graduate school, Ted was a teaching assistant in English, tutor for law students, and helped create a national grammar hotline.

Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce holds monthly informative presentations on a variety of educational business topics. Cost of the Business Breakfast is $20 for members, $27 at the door and for non-members. Breakfast is included with the reservation.
To register, e-mail Cindy@midmainechamber.com or call 207-873-3315.

The major sponsors for the Business Breakfasts are: AT&T; Cross Employee Benefits; New Dimensions Federal Credit Union; Nicholson, Michaud & Company; O’Donnell, Lee, McCowan & Phillips, LLC; Sheridan Corporation. The print media sponsor is Morning Sentinel, a division of Masthead Maine; radio sponsor is MIX107.9; video sponsor is Kennebec Savings Bank.

Some items regarding CDC guidelines for attendance: out of concern for the safety of attendees, registrations at this indoor event will be limited to a maximum of 50 persons. Tables and seating will be spaced out, and a plated breakfast will be provided, as opposed to the buffet offered in the past. Masks are requested to be worn for registration, and until seated. Separate entrance and exits are offered to minimize passage of attendees, upon arrival and departure, and hand sanitizer will be provided.

About Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce: Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and advocating for business prosperity and regional economic improvement.  Its region includes the towns of Albion, Belgrade, Benton, Branch Mills, Burnham, China, Clinton, Fairfield, Hinckley, Oakland, Rome, Shawmut, Sidney, South China, Thorndike, Unity, Vassalboro, Waterville, Weeks Mills and Winslow.  For more information on the Chamber, including how to become a member, call (207) 873-3315 or visit www.midmainechamber.com.

Sabrina Jandreau joins Central Maine Growth Council as Development Coordinator

Sabrina Jandreau

Central Maine Growth Council, a public-private collaborative regional economic development partnership, has hired Sabrina Jandreau as its next Development Coordinator.

Jandreau, a graduate of Gordon College, in Wenham, Massachusetts, will be responsible for supporting the execution of economic and community development projects and programs put forth by the Growth Council.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to work for the Growth Council. As a life-long resident of central Maine, having the ability to return home and work for an organization that supports the betterment of small businesses and overall community development is humbling.”

Sabrina brings previous experience as a Strategic Planning and Business Development intern for Northern Light Health’s home office, in Brewer. Throughout her Gordon College career, she served as the NCAA Commonwealth Coast Conference SAAC president from 2018-2020 and served as the Vice President of Finance for Gordon’s student government. In this role, Sabrina was responsible for organizing the fiscal budget for the 2020-2021 school year, totaling more than $250,000, respectively.

Sabrina graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Economics, and Law. Her background in studying economic development and public policy will support the Growth Council’s economic development plan, which facilitates the implementation of both public and private investments and projects.

“Central Maine Growth Council is excited to have Sabrina join our dynamic team during a time in which we’re scaling our organization and will be launching a regional accelerator initiative,” said Garvan Donegan, director of planning, innovation, and economic development. “Sabrina’s work will be critically important to continuing to advance our development pipeline, fuel our organizations growth, and deliver on our mission of cultivating a robust local and regional economy.”

Central Maine Growth Council is committed to fostering a robust regional economy. Its belief is that the standard of living and quality of life of our citizens is best served by a vibrant, healthy economy. To find out more about how CMGC can help your business succeed, give us a call at (207) 680-7300.

All Things Irish virtual show planned

The Best of All Things Irish in Maine 2020, a live virtual show featuring a delightful mix of all things Irish in Maine, will be held on Sunday, November 22, from 4 – 6 p.m. on YouTube.

Enjoy some of the best Irish talent from across the state of Maine. Music, dance, theater and more. Go to maineirish.com/best to register for the event. Help celebrate Maine’s bicentennial by honoring the Irish culture and history of the state.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Electricity and telephones

An Edison light bulb.

by Mary Grow

Many local histories find the arrival and expansion of electricity and telephone service noteworthy, especially in Maine’s smaller communities.

As most of us learned in grammar school, Benjamin Franklin is credited with discovering electricity in 1752, by flying a kite into a thunderstorm with a metal key attached to the wet string. His recognition that lightning caused sparks from the key was expanded and put to practical use by, among others, 19th-century British physicist Michael Faraday, whom a Wikipedia article calls one of the fathers of electricity (Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison share the title).

Faraday invented the electric motor in 1821, beginning a long series of practical developments that made electrical engineering, in Wikipedia’s view, “an essential tool for modern life.” Two early applications were the electric telegraph, which dates from the 1830s and expanded globally in the 1860s, and the first electric lights, in use by the 1870s.

The Fairfield bicentennial history gives 1886 as the year Amos Gerald created the Electric Light Company. (This was the same Amos Gerald who developed and electrified street railways; see The Town Line, Sept. 10.) In 1891, the company built a generating station on Mill Island. The William Connor house, on Summit Street, built in 1858, was the first to have electric lights.

The history further claims that Fairfield was the first Maine town to have electric lights; whether the reference is to private or public lighting is unspecified. Another note records a 1921 town vote to install streetlights in Shawmut; there is no indication whether other villages already had them.

Ruby Crosby Wiggin barely mentioned electricity in her Albion on the Narrow Gauge. The first lights were in 1920, she wrote, starting on the Unity Road and at Albion Corner and spreading town-wide in following years.

Alice Hammond, in her Sidney history, focused on the value of electricity to farm families. She wrote that Central Maine Power Company (CMP) extended its line from Augusta along Pond Road in 1925. Power reached Bartlett Road by 1927, part of River Road by 1933 and Middle Road by 1937.

The first night after the Wendell Bragg family on River Road got their house connected to the power line and lights installed, Hammond wrote, they turned on all the lights and went outdoors to admire the effect.

Electricity expanded Sidney’s dairy industry, as electric milking machines and milk coolers made large-scale production possible. Hammond wrote that Ernest Wyman was among the first farmers to buy a milking machine, and Dean Bailey had the first milking parlor, leading his cows to the machine instead of moving the machine from cow to cow.

Electricity was even more essential to the broiler industry, important in Sidney and much of the rest of central Maine from the 1950s into the 1970s. Multi-story chicken houses with thousands of chickens required lights, heat, and automatic feeding and watering devices.

Hammond paid special attention to electric radios, a new connection to the outside world after World War I. Six Sidney households had radios in 1925, she wrote, and neighbors would visit just to listen. There were 37 radios in town in 1928 and 65 by 1933.

In China, the bicentennial history says China Telephone Company manager E. J. Thompson asked Central Maine Power Company in 1920 to provide service to South China village. CMP agreed if residents would pay and would put up the necessary poles. They did, and in 1921 and 1922 houses acquired electric lights, water pumps and other amenities.

The Ladies’ Aid Society raised funds for the initial project and, the history says, supported South China streetlights for a few years. Town voters appropriated $100 for streetlights in 1923; skipped funding in 1924 and 1925; in 1926 and 1927 gave South China $100 and in 1927 added $75 for China Village street lights. Since 1928, when streetlights for the whole town cost $420, town meeting voters have routinely approved annual expenditures; the figure for 2020, included in the public works budget, is $10,000.

In Branch Mills, the village that is partly in China and partly in Palermo, the Village Improvement Society first explored replacing kerosene street lamps with electric lights in May 1919, Milton Dowe wrote. A four-man committee was appointed and apparently got in touch with CMP, without success.

By the spring of 1927, an enlarged committee negotiated an agreement with the company to run a line from South China, if Palermo would guarantee to pay $1,500 annually for five years. Committee member Harold Kitchen persuaded enough residents to sign up, some for $50 a year and some for less, to raise $1,200.

CMP offered to lower the guarantee if it could save money by using local materials and labor for the poles, Dowe wrote. The town bought poles and found a local contractor to put them up. CMP credited the final $100 when Palermo residents did the clearing needed to bring the line from Dirigo Corner to the village.

It was Aug. 8, 1928, that the electric lights were turned on in Branch Mills, Dowe wrote, and on Aug. 10 residents celebrated at the Grange Hall in the village.

Weeks Mills village had electricity by or soon after 1922, according to town records of pole permits. China Village, at the north end of town, acquired Central Maine Power service about 1927, the bicentennial history says. Earlier, local residents Everett Farnsworth and E. C. Ward shared power with neighbors from their noisy generators at opposite ends of Main Street.

Left, an 1878 Coffin phone. Right, a rotary dial phone.

Many of us also learned in school that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Actually, Wikipedia says, several other men could be credited as well, depending on definitions and whose story is believed; but Bell was the first to patent it, in 1876.

At first used primarily by businesspeople, the telephone began to appear in private homes (usually wealthy people’s) before 1880. Widespread household telephone service developed in central Maine in the first two decades of the 20th-century.

For example, Sidney historian Hammond, citing a 1976 book published by the Independent Telephone Pioneer Association’s New England Chapter, wrote that Sidney’s service started in 1901, when the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company set up a switchboard in Silas Waite’s house. The headquarters moved from house to house, ownership changed and lines and services were added over the years.

In 1908, John Field and Clyde Blake bought the business from New England T and T and made it the Sidney Telephone Company, a name it kept until 1965. There were 18 subscribers in 1908, 100 in 1941 and 250 by the late 1940s.

Hammond wrote that in addition to letting people talk with friends, the telephone system was a public address system and a fire alarm. To announce a town meeting, Grange supper or other event or to report a fire, the operator had a special ring that would let everyone on the service pick up.

In 1950, when Lewis Johnson bought the company and moved the switchboard to his Middle Road home and his wife Thelma became the operator, Hammond wrote that service became all day every day. Until then, only emergency calls were allowed at night and Sunday and holiday service was limited to an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Hammond’s history of Sidney has a photo of the Johnsons and their equipment.

In the winter of 1959-1960, Hammond wrote, Johnson converted from the crank phones to a dial system, building a separate building for the additional equipment. In 1965, Continental Telephone Company of Maine bought and incorporated the former Sidney Telephone Company.

Hammond added that Sidney had a second, smaller telephone company called the Farmers Line; she gives no dates. Some families started with Farmers and switched to Sidney Telephone; others used both services, she wrote.

In Vassalboro, the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company was operating by 1903; historian Alma Pierce Robbins found in town meeting records the company’s request to “change poles” on private land at Riverside in the southern end of town and to install a new line along the road from North Vassalboro to the Kennebec.

W. J. Thompson organized the China Telephone Company in South China in 1904 and was its general manager, president and head employee until illness forced him to retire in 1947. The company started with 29 subscribers, mostly businesses. Three public pay phones were available, in stores in South China and Weeks Mills and a private home at Dirigo Corner.

Thompson had two assistants. Howard L. Fuller was with him from 1904 and succeeded him as general manager in 1948, and R. C. Maxwell joined in 1906 and stayed with the company until he died in 1948. The bicentennial history says the three men and their families did everything from managing inventory and billing to repairing lines. Thompson was also president of the Maine Telephone Association in the 1920s.

According to the history, Maxwell used to collect bills door-to-door. When he was paid in produce, like apples or potatoes, he would substitute cash from his personal salary, $2.50 a day. The company’s first motorized vehicle was a motorcycle that did not survive Thompson’s handling; it was followed by a Model T and a Dodge touring car, both second-hand.

Starting with two lines, in South China and China Village, China Telephone connected more and more area residents. By 1923, according to a Maine Public Utilities Commission report, the company served people in all or parts of China, Palermo, Vassalboro and Windsor. The bicentennial history says long distance service was added– no date is given – via New England Telephone Company, in North Vassalboro.

The history says the company introduced dial telephones between 1959 and 1962 and in 1967 provided the first touch-tone telephones in New England.

Albion got its early telephone service from two competing companies, one based in Unity, which adjoins Albion on the northeast, and the other in Thorndike, which adjoins Unity on the northeast (both are in Waldo County). Wiggin told the story in detail in her history of Albion.

On May 31, 1905, she wrote, the Unity Telephone Company asked a special Albion committee for permission to put up poles and string lines throughout the town. The committee approved the request on June 21. On July 29, the Half Moon Telephone Company, in Thorndike, made a similar request, which was approved Aug. 15.

The Albion committee prescribed pole distances from each other and from roads, wire height and other specifications for both companies. Wiggin wrote that Half Moon got a head start, connecting three families’ businesses and houses in the fall of 1905, and charging them nothing. In 1906 Half Moon continued expansion and connected Albion with the exchange in Thorndike.

Unity Telephone started its construction in 1907 or 1908, Wiggin wrote. For some years the two companies competed; Wiggin wrote that in some places, Half Moon lines ran along one side of the road and Unity lines along the other.

People served by one line could not talk directly with people on the other. Some storekeepers signed up with both companies; if the two lines’ telephones were close enough to each other, someone in the store could allow cross-communication by holding them together.

Wiggin did not give the date at which Unity Telephone Company became Albion’s only telephone-service provider.

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Maine: the fifth most supportive state for veteran-owned businesses

by Amanda Postma

Some veterans have a hard time getting into the workforce after having served. That’s why so many of them start their own business.

With more than 2.4 million of all American businesses being veteran-owned, it goes without saying that some states are definitely more supportive than others.

So we looked into it. By finding how many veteran-owned businesses were in each state and how many state-based sales go toward veterans, we were able to determine the states that provide the most support.

Most Supportive States

1. New Hampshire, 2. South Carolina, 3. Mississippi, 4. Alabama, 5. Maine, 6. Tennessee, 7. West Virginia, 8. South Dakota, 9. North Carolina, 10. Virginia.

These states are great places of support for veterans who are looking to start their own company. Make sure you keep reading to find out which states are the least supportive.

How we determined the most supportive states for veteran-owned business:

There are many ways to measure support. Ultimately, we decided to see where veteran-owned businesses are thriving to determine which states are creating an environment where veterans have all the tools they need to succeed.

We looked at two factors to determine the best states for veteran business owners:

  • The percent of all businesses owned by a veteran;
  • The percent of state-based sales that go towards veterans;

Our data came from the US Government’s Small Business Administration, and used the most recent numbers available.

New Hampshire is the most supportive state for veteran-owned businesses. In fact, the state is so supportive that veteran-owned businesses occupy 12 percent of all businesses there. But what may be even more impressive is that 6 percent of state-based sales go toward veterans, which is the highest percentage in the U.S.

Maine found its spot on this list at No. 5. From 4 percent of the state sales supporting veterans to 11 percent of all businesses being veteran-owned, it’s easy to see why.

Course offered on active shooter response for businesses

Shawn O’Leary

Shawn O’Leary, retired Winslow chief of police, and executive vice president of Dirigo Safety will deliver a presentation discussing the importance of preparation of your business for an active shooter threat or incident. He will cover requirements under OSHA and important safety training tips to include in emergency action planning.

O’Leary adds: “Active shooter training is one of several proactive steps organizations can take to prepare employees and managers to respond appropriately to an active shooter incident. While the likelihood of an active shooter event is rare, all employees should know how to recognize the signs of potential violence and what their role is during an active shooter situation. Active shooter training strengthens and reinforces an organization’s emergency action plan and can help reduce the risk of an incident occurring.”

This informative presentation will be the focus at Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce’s November Business Breakfast. This month’s breakfast will be held on Thursday, November 12, from 7:15 to 9 a.m. in the Waterville Country Club Banquet Room, at 39 Country Club Road, in Oakland.

Shawn O’Leary’s career has included time with the Brunswick Police Department, where he eventually retired as a patrol lieutenant; the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, and as leader of the Criminal Investigations Division that handles all major criminal cases. O’Leary served as the Chief of Police for the Town of Winslow from 2014 until his retirement from full time law enforcement in July 2020.

Shawn is now the executive vice president of Dirigo Safety, where he oversees daily operations of law enforcement training and executive services and manages all workplace safety components, including training, onsite security assessments, and security consulting.

Shawn holds an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor’s Degree with honors in Business Management with a minor in Human Resource Management, and is a graduate of the prestigious Senior Executive School of the FBI National Academy.

Some items regarding CDC guidelines for attendance: out of concern for the safety of attendees, registrations at this indoor event will be limited to a maximum of 50 persons. Tables and seating will be spaced out, and a plated breakfast will be provided, as opposed to the buffet offered in the past. Masks are requested to be worn for registration, and until seated. Separate entrance and exits are offered to minimize passage of attendees, upon arrival and departure, and hand sanitizer will be provided.

Kennebec County retired educators support the classroom

The Kennebec Retired Educators Association (KREA) awards two $150 grants to two educators in Kennebec County for classroom use. The grants will supplement expenses for student-centered, inter-disciplinary projects and may be expended for materials used in the classroom, speakers’ fees, project development expenses, etc.

Grant description and applications have been disseminated to every principal in all 60 elementary, middle, and high schools in 31 cities and towns in Kennebec County. The principals have made them available to the classroom teachers.

“Students and teachers remain our primary focus long after we leave our classrooms,” says George Davis, of Skowhegan, chairman of the Innovative Classroom Grant Committee and retired principal of Winslow High School.

Grant applications are to be submitted by October 31. The winning applicants will be notified in early November and will receive the grant money at that time.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Mail delivery – Part 1

Rural delivery in the early years.

by Mary Grow

Intercolonial mail started in the early 1700s in the major cities on the east coast of the future United States, and had reached Maine’s coastal towns before the Revolution. The national postal service was organized during the Revolution, with Benjamin Franklin the first Postmaster General. Alma Pierce Robbins wrote in her history of Vassalboro that mail service reached the central Kennebec Valley in the 1790s.

Mail carriers, employees of, or contractors with the federal government, delivered mail to local post offices by boat; on foot; on horseback; by wagon, stagecoach, sleigh or other conveyance; later by railroad; and later still by truck or car. Spread-out towns with multiple population centers had multiple post offices. Most were in stores, some in private homes.

The early Pony Express.

Alice Hammond, in her history of Sidney, described two methods of mail delivery by stagecoach: if a post office were on a stagecoach route, the coach dropped off the mail, but for post offices not on a coach route, the federal government hired a responsible person to meet the coach and bring the mail to the post office.

Vassalboro had six post office in the early 1800s, Robbins wrote. Hammond found Sidney also had six, the first opened in 1813 and the sixth in 1891. The latter remained open for only 11 years. The Fairfield bicentennial history says Fairfield had seven.

Milton Dowe’s Palermo history says there were post offices in North Palermo, East Palermo and Center Palermo, in addition to the one in Branch Mills, the village shared by Palermo and China. Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history lists four post offices in Benton, four in Windsor, three in Clinton and two in Albion. Until recently, Augusta and Waterville apparently had only one post office each.

Postal charges were initially determined by weight plus distance, according to the China bicentennial history. The 1799 charge for a one-page letter was eight cents within 40 miles; the fee increased progressively to 25 cents beyond 500 miles. New rates in 1845 were five cents for one page within 300 miles, doubled to 10 cents beyond 300 miles. At first the recipient paid the postage. In 1851 the U. S. Congress set up a two-tier system, charging less if the sender prepaid, and beginning in 1856 everyone was expected to pay in advance.

Initially the postal service was a government department (since 1970, it has been an independent agency of the federal executive department). Until postal service employees came under the civil service system, positions were political patronage jobs; consequently, a change in Washington, D. C., often had local consequences.

The presidency changed from one party to another in 1840 (Whig John Tyler succeeded Democrat Martin Van Buren), 1844 (Democrat James Polk), 1848 (Whig Zachary Taylor), 1852 (Democrat Franklin Pierce), 1860 (Republican Abraham Lincoln), 1884 (Democrat Grover Cleveland), 1888 (Republican Benjamin Harrison) and 1892 (Democrat Cleveland again).

A review of Kingsbury’s lists of postmasters in central Kennebec Valley towns shows no clear correlation between elections and changes in postmasters. At least eight new postmasters were appointed in the spring of 1885, after Cleveland took office, and more than a dozen in the spring of 1889, high but not excessive numbers. By the time Cleveland was re-elected and had time to undo Harrison’s appointments, if he wanted to, Kingsbury had published his history.

Ruby Crosby Wiggin, in her history of Albion, confirmed the political influence. From the time the Albion post office was established, probably in March 1825, until after 1914, a Republican national administration meant Republican local postmasters and a Democratic administration meant Democratic postmasters, she wrote.

The China bicentennial history says that in South China in the late 1800s, storekeeper Wilson Hawes was postmaster during Republican administrations, but when the Democrats were in power the post office moved westward to Tim Farrington’s store.

The list of South China postmasters in the history’s appendix correlates the postmastership with the presidential election, but it shows no switching back and forth. It says Farrington was appointed April 17, 1893, and Hawes April 12, 1897 (Hawes served until 1919). Democrat Grover Cleveland’s second term as president was from 1893 to 1897; Republican William McKinley succeeded him in 1897.

Augusta had one of the first post offices in the central Kennebec Valley, started in 1789 or 1794 (depending on the source). Charles Nash, author of the Augusta chapters in Kingsbury’s history, wrote that Postmaster James Burton was appointed Aug. 12, 1794, and that his house was where Meonian Hall stood in 1792.

(Augusta’s current Museum in the Streets website says Meonian Hall replaced the Burton House where the first post office opened in 1789. The Hall was an Italianate structure built by James North in 1856 and used for public events – Civil War rallies, plays and more. Frederick Douglass spoke there on April 1, 1864.)

Burton served as postmaster until Jan. 1, 1806, when he was “removed for party reasons,” Nash wrote. Among his successors was his son Joseph.

The Museum in the Streets includes a description of Augusta’s 1890 “Castle,” at 295 Water Street, one of the earliest buildings this writer has found built specifically as a post office. The website calls it “Richardsonian Romanesque” in style, 32,000 square feet, made of Hallowell granite, “with a corner tower, Roman arches, [and] a winding staircase.”

The “Castle” was the city’s main post office until the 1960s, the website says. Now called the Olde Federal Building, it has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974.

In Vassalboro, Robbins surmised that the first mail deliveries were probably by boat up the river. Stagecoaches took over early in the 1800s. In 1825, Robbins said, there were two mail deliveries a week from Augusta to Waterville. By 1897, a postmaster’s report said there were six deliveries a week.

The first post office in Vassalboro was at Getchell’s Corner, also called Vassalboro Corners (an important village from the town’s early days until the 20th century). Kingsbury wrote that the office opened April 1, 1796. Brown’s Corner, now Riverside, opened Jan. 18, 1817; in September 1856 it was moved from Brown’s store to where it stood when Kingsbury finished his history in 1892; and in January 1866 it was renamed Riverside. East Vassalboro’s post office opened March 26, 1827, and North Vassalboro’s March 22, 1828.

The village at Cross Hill in southern Vassalboro was first served by a Mudgett Hill post office established Feb. 2, 1827, near Three Mile Pond and from May 3, 1860, by the Cross Hill post office, located in a store. Nearby Seward’s Mills (as Kingsbury spelled it) had the Seward’s Mills post office from October 1853 until Oct. 30, 1889. The Mudgett Hill office was renamed South Vassalboro in or before 1859. The first postmaster, Kingsbury noted, had married Hannah Whitehouse, and his successors until 1892 all had the surname Whitehouse.

Benjamin Franklin
one-cent stamp of 1895.

Kingsbury wrote that Winslow’s first post office opened July 1, 1796, with Asa Redington postmaster. Kingsbury gave no specific location. The second post office opened April 18, 1891, at Lamb’s Corner; Lizzie Lamb was appointed postmistress May 20. (The contemporary Google map identifies Lamb’s Corner as the intersection of Route 137 [China Road] with Maple Ridge and Nowell roads, in southeastern Winslow.)

Kingsbury added that Lizzie (Furber) Lamb was the widow of Charles Lamb (1829-1883), whose parents settled in Winslow in 1821. Writing in 1892, he described her as running “the homestead farm.”

Whittemore’s Waterville centennial history says in the 1700s the town, part of Winslow until June 23, 1802, had sporadic mail service, with carriers traveling by snowshoe in the winter. Kingsbury wrote that when the Waterville post office was established Oct. 3, 1796, Asa Redington was the first postmaster there, as well as in Winslow. The two were evidently not the same establishment, because Kingsbury’s lists of successive postmasters are not duplicates. Winslow’s second postmaster was Nathaniel B. Dingley, installed in 1803; Waterville’s was Asa Dalton, installed in 1816.

Whittemore’s history says in 1806, Peter Gilman established a stage line between Hallowell and Norridgewock with a stop in Waterville, ensuring regular two-day-a-week delivery.

The history includes a reminiscence by William Mathews, born in 1818, whose family lived on Silver Street for at least part of his childhood. By the 1820s, the mail stage from Augusta arrived daily about 11 a.m., he wrote, announced by the driver’s blowing his horn. The mail stop was at Levi Dow’s Main Street tavern.

Palermo’s earliest residents had to get their mail in Wiscasset, Millard Howard wrote. Palermo’s first postmaster, John Marden, was ap­pointed in 1816. Later, Hiram Worthing served as Branch Mills postmaster for 47 years (except for two years during James Buchanan’s 1857-1861 administration); his son Pembroke succeeded him, and the job remained in the Worthing family well into the 20th century.

In Harlem, later China, the bicentennial history says Japheth C. Washburn was in charge of the mail early in the 19th century. Before 1810, his 10-year-old daughter Abra and eight-year-old son Oliver Wendell rode horseback through the woods to bring mail from Getchell’s Corner, in Vassalboro.

Around 1812, the history continues, the post office began contracting with adult mail carriers. That year the Vassalboro service was supplemented by a weekly Augusta to Bangor run, still extant in 1827 after the Town of China was created. In 1816, the history says, a mail route from Augusta to Palermo went through Brown’s Corner (location unspecified) and Harlem (later China). In 1820, two new routes were established, from Hallowell and from Vassalboro.

In 1837, the history says, three mail routes crossed the town: the driver of the daily coach from Portland to Bangor and the weekly horseman from Waterville to Palermo stopped in China Village, and three times a week the man driving a wagon or sulky delivered mail in South China on his way from Augusta to Belfast.

The China Village post office was established in 1818 in Washburn’s store, with Washburn the first postmaster.

South China had a post office from 1828, according to Kingsbury, first located in Silas Piper’s store with Piper the postmaster. Kingsbury wrote that Piper collected 13 cents worth of postage and earned 30 cents for his work during the first three months of his post
mastership.

The Weeks Mills post office was started in 1838, and was served by stagecoach for most of the 19th century.

Windsor’s first post office probably opened in 1822 at Windsor Corner, according to Kingsbury. He wrote that Postmaster Robert Williams’ commission dated from July 17 that year. South Windsor acquired a post office May 5, 1838; West Windsor, Sept. 8, 1873; and North Windsor, June 3, 1884.

While the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington railroad served Windsor, Palermo, China, Albion, Vassalboro and Winslow in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (see The Town Line, Sept. 17, and Sept. 24), the government mail contract was an important source of income. Local histories give few details of mail service; there are occasional references to revenue, and Clinton Thurlow wrote that at one point, Weeks Mills got two daily mail deliveries by train, at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Next week: more about mail service.

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous.