With the annual China Community Days approaching (Aug. 5-7), we thought we’d take a look back to the “olden’” days of the town of China.
Looking at a copy of the 1880-81 annual town report, it was interesting to see how much things have changed in the last 135 years.
The selectmen’s financial report began with the balance in the treasury as of March 3, 1880: $9,274.54. With revenues from the year, the treasury balance stood at $23,582.22.
Miscellaneous expenditures saw some interesting entries:
Cost of printing – $18; obtaining divorce for Ellen A. Turner – $31; school books for the poor children – $2.05; E. O. Taylor damage to plow – $3; J. G. Hall taking care of town houe for two past years – $6; J. H. Potter legal fees – $25; expense of looking up evidence and going before the valuation commissioners – $16; J. W. Robinson damage to plow – $3; E. P. Tobey, damage by flowage – $50; P. L. Hunton, expense to New Hampshire – $18; E. B. Hanson, survey of road – $2.
Expenditures for highways and bridges was $3,176.77; Bill for the Insane for Asenath McCurdy, $32.31; Pauper Bills off town farm, $194.29; Pauper bills on town farm, $420.11; town officers’ bills, $369; Expenses for the year equalled $12,909.76, leaving the town with a balance of $10,672.46.
Remarks in the 1883-84 town report stated: “It will be remembered that at our last annual meeting the town authorized the selectmen to enforce its claims upon such property as the town held tax deeds, granting the selectmen unlimited power in the settlement of the same. Immediately after entering upon our official duties, we began the settlement of these deeds, and with the efficient help of Mr. Woodman, town treasurer, (to whom much credit is due), we have succeeded in the settlement of 72 deeds.”
Later in the report: “The bill which was incurred last year against Benton or Waterville for the support of the Fitzgerald family remains unpaid. The prospects are now that Benton and Waterville will refer the case without expense to China. If they should not refer or settle, we would advise an action to be brought at once.”
The town poor farm was an entity of much activity. In the 1880-81 report, it was stated, “the present number of poor on the farm is nine, and the average number has been 12. George Lord and the wife of Melville Moore (editor’s note: notice how her name was not used) are sick with a fever, in the city of Augusta, and chargeable to this town. We contracted with Mrs. Edwards, of Jackson, for the support of Ellen A. Turner and child (remember how the town had paid for her divorce earlier), and we are to pay Mrs. Edwards $26 for their support for one year.”
They also seemed to struggle with valuations back then, also. “The state valuation of our town, for the past 20 years, has exceeded its proportion with other towns in the state. Last year, we secured a hearing before the State Valuation Commissioners, and were granted a reduction of nearly $80,000. Although this amount was not as much as we asked for, yet, when we consider that the total valuation of the state has been largely increased, the relative reduction will considerably exceed the above amount.”
The report of the superintendent of schools took up nearly half of the 18 pages of the town reports.
Selectmen did school-by-school, teacher-by-teacher evaluations using an agent. China at the time had 22 schools.
From the 1881-82 report, they had nice things to say about most of the teachers, for example: District No. 12. “Miss Carrie Worthing, of Palermo. Miss W is a very fine scholar and a thoroughly practical teacher. She has a love for the work and an unflagging determination to succeed. Although this school is small, it has among its numbers some excellent scholars.”
From District No. 11 of that same year: “ Nantie L. Marden, of China, who labored under many difficulties; there being trouble in the district, which showed itself in the schoolroom. Althouth the school was very disagreeable, Miss Marden showed a strong determination to teach the term through. which she did, much to her credit.”
One report that praised one teacher while scolding others was from the 1881-82 report, in District No. 9: “Summer term by Olive A. Wiggin, of Albion. Miss Wiggin has order, system and thoroughness combined in her schools. The closing examination showed that rules were not used so much as principles; if more of our teachers would follow her example in this respect, much more would be accomplished.”
And then, there were the not-so-flowery reports, such as this one from the 1881-82 report: “ From 1883-84 report, District No. 3: “Miss M. Stella Fall, of Albion: Miss Fall was well qualified to teach all of the branches to be taught in this school. At our first visit the school was a little noisy, and we were somewhat anxious about what the discipline would be. At last visit we found the teacher laboring faithfully to keep her pupils interested and busy, and that the reins of government were being drawn more closely. The reading classes received good instruction, being taught correct pronunciation by the sounds of the letters. We predict for Miss Fall a successful future as a teacher, providing she pays a little more attention to the discipline of her pupils.”
In the 1880-81 report: District No. 16: “Miss Mary W. Clark, of China, who has been known for many years as one of our best teachers, and she needs no encomium of ours. We learned last year that there has been for a long time ‘a bone of contention’ existing in this district, the cause of which is unknown to us. The trouble (if we may be allowed the comparison), appears to be like a volcano, which sends forth its fire and smoke at intervals. During the summer term the volcanic fire smouldered, and the term was a success. We hoped the fire would continue to smoulder, and eventually die out. But an eruption took place, the flames burst forth at the commencement of the winter term, thereby rendering it profitable only to a few. Will the good people of this district try and settle these troubles once and forever?”
A summary of the schools in the 1880-81 report showed this: “For many years we have thought that our schools were not attaining proficiency in writing they should. We believe one great hinderance to their progress was in following no regular system. A new impetus has been given this year to writing by the introduction of the Spencerian system, and we hope that this long neglected, though important branch will receive in future careful attention from those who have the care of our schools.”
The summary of 1881-82: “The schools through town during the past year have been geranally successful: a deeper interest on the part of the parents would have made them more so.”
And from 1883-84: “As a whole, your schools have enjoyed another year of prosperity. In endeavoring to give a faithful sketch of the work of your respective school, there has been no inconsiderable successful work to commend. The partial failure of any school is cause for deep regret while complete failure becomes a matter of grave import. In many of your schools…marked advancement in the majority of the studies has been noticeable. This has been due, in great measure, to the earnest efforts of the active, hard-working and conscientious teachers whose efforts have been appreciated and seconded by their respective pupils.”
Editor’s note: Spencerian Script is a script style, developed by Platt Rogers Spencer, that was used in the United States from approximately 1850 to 1925, and was considered the American de facto standard writing style for business correspondence prior to the widespread adoption of the typewriter.
With this look into the past, have things really changed in the last 135 years?
The town of China has granted permission to Ken and Maureen Grady, owners of the Cottages at China Lake, to install 23 separate boat slips on their property on China Lake, in China.
The boat slips will be available to the owners of the condominium cottages. The docks are seasonal and will be removed for the winter after the vacation season ends.
The Gradys have spent the past two years renovating the existing cottages which were built in the 1930s and 1940s. The Cottages at China Lake and the Candlewood Inn were a favorite get-away for vacationers during that time. The cottages are all refurbished and offer modern conveniences such as dishwashers and microwave ovens, but retain their original rustic charm.
Of the 23 condominium units on the lake, 14 remain available.
The Gradys have undertaken numerous restoration projects in Maine and Massachusetts, and have brought their considerable experience and expertise to the China Lake cottages.
Following months of development, The Town Line is ready to unveil its new web portal, www.townline.org.
Though The Town Line has offered .pdf downloads of the print edition at its website for several years, it has long been a goal of the board of directors to offer a true online version of the popular local newspaper in addition to the print edition.
The initiative was made possible by the generous support of local residents Doug and Rita Sukeforth, which also allowed The Town Line to upgrade a severely outdated computer system and the software suite it uses to produce the weekly paper.
Experienced technical consultant, Eric Austin, eldest son of longtime China residents Ann and Lee Austin, has led the development of The Town Line’s new web portal.
“The goal was always to leverage the awesome content that The Town Line already generates on a weekly basis, while also taking advantage of the unique flexibility and power of the web,” Austin explained. “Readers who wanted to read The Town Line on their phones or tablets or PCs, didn’t have that option. Now they do.”
The new site has been developed using the popular web platform, WordPress, used by many news sites on the web, including the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal website, www.centralmaine.com. This technology offers a responsive web design that adjusts automatically to provide a comfortable reading experience on a variety of devices and screens.
“The website is something we’ve been wanting to do for a while,” says Roland Hallee, managing editor of The Town Line. “Thanks to the Sukeforth’s generous grant, we’ve been able to modernize The Town Line by upgrading equipment and expanding into the web space. We’re positioning The Town Line to continue meeting the needs of our communities in the 21st century.”
Eric Austin will continue to support the web site going forward. “We’re just getting started,” says Austin. “The web offers us so much potential, and so many opportunities for The Town Line to grow in new directions. We want to add a discussion board to the site, and bring classified advertising online as well.”
Banner advertising is already available on the new website, and those interested are encouraged to call Kathy Duhnoski at 691-2332 to discuss pricing.
Web content will be updated on the site by end of the day on the Friday following the release of the print edition of The Town Line. Please come visit us at townline.org, the new web portal for Central Maine communities!
Although I am a Baltimore native, Maine’s mosquitos have dined on my blood since I was born, and the cove of Fire Road 51 has always been my donation center. Those pesky insects have infected me with the “itch” for doing things out-of-the-ordinary, usually with others doubting my success, and thus was the theme while building this boat.
While Maine is home to concrete canoe and cardboard boat building competitions, and many have seen Mythbusters use truck loads of duct tape to create many things including a two-passenger boat, it seems my scaled down, one-person creation brought much skepticism from everyone around me. To my surprise, I received the likes of “you won’t last 20 seconds,” and “it will sink as soon as you get in,” as if I was building a five-foot long lead weight. This made my “itch” flare to a rash, and I began my build.
I started by laying out two aluminum tubes from an adult-sized crutch, with a few other shorter tubes to create a frame. A thick aluminum strip from the button panel of a flat screen TV, combined with a piece of steel all-thread became the keel. I then added various sized plastic panels to create the basic hull shape, and attached two Macintosh G5 desktop computer side panels for floor boards.
It took the next three days to get it all taped together with multiple layers for rigidity and a good water-tight seal.
I then turned to mounting the “FisherPrice” style kids boat motor to it. I taped a small two-prong coat hook to the shaft of the motor, allowing it to hang from the boat, while still being able to steer.
After six days and multiple trips to the Rte.3 Family Dollar Store, Hussey’s General Store, and the Augusta Walmart, for the 17 rolls of duct tape, a coat hook, and a small wood paddle, I was ready and eager to finally scratch my “itch,” and put the boat into the water.
The next morning I slowly lowered my creation into a calm clear China Lake, as the rash of criticisms and doubts echoed in my head, almost making me believe that it would indeed just sink to the bottom. However, as I released my grasp, it floated. I put the motor on, it floated. Then, slowly and carefully, I stepped off the dock, gradually allowing the boat to take my weight. It floated!
My success was then truly measured as I was off to the China town office, where, after some explaining, a very nice lady was eager to help me get it legally registered, and even came out to the parking lot to take pictures with me holding the boat!
Although it will certainly never make it to the Head of the Lake for ice cream, if you happen to be on the lake near the narrows, you may just see my “Lucky Duct” floating by! Andrew is the grandson of Irma W. Simon, of China.
People who did not attend the China Planning Board’s July 26 public hearing on proposed ordinance changes have seven days to submit written comments if they want to, Chairman Frank Soares said.
Soares said board members will consider public comments as they prepare a final draft of the ordinance. Current plans are that the final draft will be the subject of another public hearing to explain – but not amend – it before it is submitted to voters on Nov. 5.
In addition to board members, the board secretary and Codes Officer Paul Mitnik, 10 people attended the hearing: four selectmen; two newspaper people, representing the Central Maine newspapers and The Town Line; a non-resident needing a community meeting for her graduate work; Harry Fraser, a summer resident primarily interested in ordinance provisions about seasonal conversions; Noah Whitt, a year-round resident concerned about lighted signs; and China Lake Association president and former codes officer Scott Pierz.
The half-hour-long hearing was preceded by Mitnik’s presentation summarizing some of the major proposed changes. Most involve adopting the state Department of Environmental Protection’s 2015 guidelines, either in place of or in addition to current language.
Pierz commented in detail on some of the proposed changes. Many he believes will be beneficial, making enforcement easier and not damaging the environment. In some cases, he pointed out, there appear to be inconsistencies or lack of clarity.
Whitt objects to the proposed provision that would allow digital signs to remain lighted from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., even if business hours are shorter. He argued that signs should go dark when the business closes for the day, as a courtesy to neighbors.
Under the ordinance, businesses open 24 hours a day would be allowed lighted signs at all times.
Selectman Joann Austin was also concerned about sign requirements. Fraser supported the state’s standards for converting a property from seasonal to year-round use. Selectman Ronald Breton, seconded by Pierz, asked planning board members to add amended wording for conditional use criteria, an ordinance section previous planning boards have worked on.
Soares asked those who spoke to submit the gist of their remarks in writing for the board’s review.
The draft amendments are available on the town’s website, and there should be paper copies left over from the hearing.
The next China Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Aug. 9, at the town office.
The 2016 annual China Lake Association meeting, held on July 23, was another great meeting, attended by over 70 people. What a fantastic turnout….
Frank Richards, of Vassalboro, was the guest speaker. Frank is a retiree who has served as the president of the Webber Pond Association
since 2001, and he has dedicated many years toward the improvement of water quality on Webber Pond. He is a steadfast supporter of the Alewife Restoration Initiative (ARI), and has written two books: A Guide to Wilderness Canoe Fishing and An Introduction to Ice Fishing. Frank spoke to the assembly and provided a general education on lake water quality, with specifics on Webber Pond and the introduction of alewives and improved water quality experienced by that water body. He eloquently energized the attendees and gave encouragement about the potential positive effects of the introduction of alewives into China Lake through the Alewife Restoration Initiative (ARI). Both Nate Gray (Maine Department of Marine Resources) and Landis Hudson (Maine Rivers) also spoke on behalf of the ARI and answered questions raised by the audience.
Marie Michaud reported on the winners of the annual poster contest; prizes were awarded. Elaine Philbrook, the newest China Lake Association board of directors member, assisted her in the presentation of awards.
Bob O’Connor gave his annual loon count, reporting that the loon counters observed 38 adult loons and three chicks this year. On behalf of the association, Bob was awarded with a gold watch for over 25 years of service, involvement, and dedication as the longest-standing association member and loon count coordinator.
Maggie Shannon, Maine Lakes Society’s LakeSmart director, spoke on the benefits of LakeSmart and presented a video on the LakeSmart Program. She also recognized and applauded our local LakeSmart program coordinator Marie Michaud for Marie’s high-energy and commitment to LakeSmart. Marie and her LakeSmart team have had a successful summer, and she reported on specific LakeSmart awards (including Ray and Joanne Kelsey’s recent award seen in The Town Line’s edition of July 21, 2016). For a peek at the Maine Lakes Society’s great video please go to this link: http://mainelakessociety.org/lakesmart-2/lakesmart-video-2/.
Also, Jim Hart, president of the China Region Lakes Alliance (CRLA), spoke about the CRLA’s Courtesy Boat Inspection and Youth Conservation Programs operating here in China and in the region.
Thanks go to all those who contributed to the annual newsletter, including Nate Gray (Maine Department of Marine Resources), Landis Hudson (Maine Rivers), Jennifer Irving (Sebasticook Regional Land Trust), Marie Michaud and Maggie Shannon (LakeSmart), Jim Hart (China Region Lakes Alliance), Matt Zetterman (Kennebec Water District), Bob O’Connor (Loon Count Coordinator), and especially Frank Richards (Webber Pond Association). Appreciation also goes to Tim Axelson for his financial report and to Jamie Pitney for conducting the election of directors and the association’s officers. Special thanks to Tom Michaud for all his help along the way….
The China Lake Association will continue to advocate for the Alewife Restoration Initiative; promote environmental education in our school system; and seek an increase to the association’s membership through awareness and involvement of the community and our constituents. For additional info go to our website (http://chinalakeassociation.org/) and check out our Facebook by typing: China Lake Association Facebook into your favorite browser.
Finally thanks also to the board of directors, RSU #18 for the venue at the China Primary School, the Green Bean Cafe for refreshments, the town of China for its support, along with all who attended and our general membership.
Have a great summer and I hope to see you next year….
Submitted by Scott Pierz, President China Lake Association
Dry conditions throughout the state have brought on low water levels in central Maine lakes.
Webber Pond, in Vassalboro, has experienced water levels twice as low as is normal for this time of year. The water remains four inches below the spillway at the dam off the Webber Pond Road, when normally, it is kept at two inches during summer months.
Similar conditions exist on China Lake, according to lake association president Scott Pierz. He deferred to Matt Zetterman, of the Kennebec Water District, which monitors water quality on China Lake and maintains the water levels based on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s lake level order. It is all part of KWD’s mission of improving water quality for China Lake.
Zetterman said that China Lake is experiencing a similar situation as Webber Pond.
“We started the year with a low amount of snowfall which led to a low volume of spring runoff,” he said. Continuing, Zetterman emphasized, “we had planned for it so we actually started the summer with a surplus of water in the lake.
“Fast forward to today, and we’re now an inch or so below our summer target, and without rain, the lake will continue to drop.”
Zetterman went on to point out the lake experienced a similar situation last summer and ended up six inches below the target by Labor Day.
Zetterman concluded with, “As much as rain ruins plans for the summer time, we desperately could use the rain to help build up the lake level.”
China selectmen spent more time on items not on their July 25 agenda than on agenda items.
The major non-agenda topic was discussion with David Allen of the state Department of Transportation and two sets of concerned residents about perceived dangerous areas in China, the intersection of Alder Park and Dirigo roads with Route 3, in the southern part of town, and Main Street and Causeway Road in China Village. The most hotly disputed item on the agenda was the Transfer Station Committee’s recommendation on relocating the swap shop.
The major agenda item not discussed was proposed November ballot questions, although selectmen did decide to present to voters one question listed on the agenda. In preparation for the China meeting, Allen had a state report showing only four collisions in three years, 2013 through 2015, at the controversial Route 3 intersection – not enough, he said, to justify major expenditures. The number of accidents has declined since changes several years ago, he said.
Area residents said sight distance is not adequate, especially with Route 3 drivers exceeding the 55-mile-an-hour speed limit. Allen agreed the majority of drivers probably do 60 mph or more through the area. The speed sign before the intersection is advisory, not legally binding, he said.
After discussing alternatives, selectmen agreed to have Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux request more conspicuous warning lights. Allen said the request would go into the department’s pool of projects; he said it might take three years to get to it.
He agreed to add to the stop signs on Dirigo and Alder Park roads a sign saying Route 3 traffic does not stop, something that could be done this year.
Speed is also a major issue for China Village residents, who repeated their arguments from July 11 that drivers routinely ignore the 25-mile-an-hour limits on Main Street and Causeway Road and the stop sign at the end of Neck Road, endangering children and other pedestrians.
They claimed the increased law enforcement promised after the July 11 meeting has been minimal.
Again, Allen said the area has had too few accidents to justify major state expenditures. He and residents discussed traffic calming measures, like speed humps, and Allen promised to send L’Heureux a copy of the department’s traffic calming policy.
Although Allen said explicitly that safety and efficiency are his two main responsibilities, with safety first, several residents said unhappily they fear someone will have to get killed before anything effective is done.
When discussion returned to the perennial topic of solid waste disposal, selectmen had before them a transfer station committee recommendation to move the swap shop slightly farther from the waste hopper, providing more space on a new foundation and requiring additional paving. L’Heureux estimated the cost at around $10,000, including wages for transfer station employees who would be asked to build the new building.
The plan was endorsed by board members Joann Austin and Irene Belanger, who have long promoted the swap shop as a way to increase recycling and help town residents. It was opposed by board Chairman Robert MacFarland and members Ronald Breton and Neil Farrington.
MacFarland said it is not a budgeted project and he will not spend $10,000 on a non-budgeted item. Breton asked where the money would come from, and was not satisfied with the answer “the transfer station budget.”
Farrington proposed instead of a new building using the electronics building near the office for the swap shop, claiming it is almost empty. He said he had not presented the idea to the transfer station committee, of which he and Belanger are members. None of the committee’s non-selectman members were present.
After the motion to approve the committee recommendation was defeated 2-3, Belanger walked out of the meeting in frustration.
The list of possible November ballot questions on the July 25 agenda included asking voters about use of the Town of Palermo’s annual $18,000 contribution for sharing China’s transfer station; buying land owned by the Ortega family behind the town office; buying land owned by Susan Bailey at the head of China Lake, on the north side of Causeway Road; and pending planning board recommendations on China’s sign ordinance, seasonal dwellings requirements, shoreland zoning amendments and possible “causeway initiative items.”
Selectmen voted 3-0-1, with Belanger absent and Austin abstaining, to recommend to voters that Palermo’s contribution go into a transfer station capital reserve fund.
In other business July 25:
• L’Heureux and selectmen reported they bought the portable classroom beside China Primary School from Regional School Unit #18 for $1. L’Heureux said in an email July 26 that since board members have not decided where to use it, they have not sought cost estimates for a foundation, well or other related expenditures.
• Board members had two new bids on replacement handicapped access ramps at the old town house and the former portable classroom behind it, the lower $17,975 from L. N. Violette Company, of Fairfield. Again there was discussion of where the money would come from, with neither the old town house appropriation nor the selectmen’s contingency fund considered acceptable. On another 3-0-1 vote, selectmen authorized L’Heureux to ask if the company would replace one ramp for no more than $9,000, from an undetermined source.
• Board members appointed Amy Gartley to the Tax Increment Financing Committee and Kristina To to the Thurston Park Committee. With two candidates for one open seat on the recreation committee, they postponed a decision.
• They approved a pawnbroker’s license for Craig Taylor to open Wildwood Pawn Inc.
• Assessor William Van Tuinen talked with the board about the effect of the increased homestead exemption on 2016 taxes, state law regarding abatements and his plans for better collection of personal property taxes. Selectmen supported the last item by consensus.
• Selectman Farrington, who is organizing China’s 2018 bicentennial celebration of the incorporation of the town, said David Thurlow has donated to the town the copyright for the bicentennial history published during the 1975 commemoration of the first settlements around what is now China Lake. Selectmen voted to send Thurlow a letter of appreciation.
The next regular China selectmen’s meeting will be Monday evening, Aug. 8.