Clinton’s Brown Memorial Library
China’s Albert Church Brown Memorial Library
Brown Memorial Library, in Clinton, is the third of the local libraries on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1899-1900, it was added to the Register on April 28, 1975.
In their application for the listing, Earle Shettleworth, Jr., and Frank A. Beard, of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, compared the Brown Memorial Library to Fairfield’s Lawrence Library (see The Town Line, Nov. 11) and Augusta’s Lithgow Library (see The Town Line, Nov. 18).
Architecturally, all three buildings are variations on the style of Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886). Shettleworth and Beard called Clinton’s library “a purer example of the Richardsonian ideal with an exterior exhibiting warm hues and contrasting colors in stone walls and trim, as opposed to the almost monochromatic use of granite and slate,” in Fairfield and Augusta.
Also, they wrote, “The Clinton Library, though symmetry is implied, is basically an asymmetrical composition, truer to Richardson’s buildings of the same type than either the Lithgow or Lawrence libraries, which reflect contemporary Beaux Arts symmetry clothed in a Richardson-derived exterior.”
They concluded, “The Clinton Library is the most exemplary structure of its kind in Maine and is an unusually large and elegant library for a small, rural community.”
Portland architect John Calvin Stevens (1855-1940) designed Brown Memorial Library. He has been mentioned before as the architect chosen to remodel Augusta’s Blaine House in 1920. Other Maine libraries he designed include Rumford Public Library, built in 1903 and added to the National Register in 1989; and Cary Public Library, in Houlton, opened in 1904 and added to the National Register in 1987.
Clinton’s library is on Railroad Street just north of the Winn Avenue intersection. Shettleworth and Beard described a single-story stone building on a partly raised basement (with windows), with a hipped roof. Reddish sandstone trim contrasts with greyish granite walls and a grey slate roof.
The building’s rectangular shape is broken by three “projections,” small ones on the back and south side and, on the front, to the right (south) of the main entrance, “a large five-bay projection trimmed in sandstone and capped with a semi-detached conical roof.” This projection features tall windows with narrow stone dividers between them.
The entrance is approached by granite steps and recessed under an arch. Above the arch is a “dormer:” a rectangular panel with the words “Brown Memorial Library”; above it, two small rectangular windows; and above them “a steep triangular pediment topped with a ball finial.”
Entry is through two doors with glass panels topped by “a colored glass transom,” Shettleworth and Beard wrote. The “small porch” inside the arch “is floored with a marble mosaic pattern.”
The north side of the front wall has two tall windows, narrower than the ones in the south tower.
The historians noted the origin of the various building materials. The rough granite for the walls is from Conway, New Hampshire; the sandstone for trim is from Longmeadow, Massachusetts; and the slate for the roof “was quarried nearby on the banks of the Sebasticook River.”
An on-line Town of Clinton history adds that the “ledge for the foundation” came from Clinton farmer J. T. Ward’s land.
Inside, the “vestibule,” “entrance hall” and original librarian’s room were straight ahead (by 1975, Shettleworth and Beard wrote, the librarian’s room was a children’s room). The room to the left was the stacks.
The reading room on the right is “the largest room in the building.” Lighted by the bow windows on the front and a smaller one on the side, the room has “a large fireplace flanked with built-in seats” on the back wall (the library’s “Cozy Nook”) and a pine ceiling “patterned with trusses and panels.”
“The interior plan, like the exterior, exhibits Steven’s faithfulness to Richardsonian principals [sic], being designed with a logical, functional simplicity,” Shettleworth and Beard wrote.
Clinton had no public library until William Wentworth Brown (April 19, 1821 – Oct. 22, 1911), born in Clinton but by 1899 living in Portland, bought the land, paid for the building and provided a $5,000 endowment (earning an annual income of $350, according to the 1901 annual report of the state librarian). The town history article says Horace Purinton, of Waterville, was the contractor for the building.
Shettleworth and Beard wrote that Brown presided at the Aug. 29, 1899, ground-breaking. The cornerstone was laid Sept. 25, “amid elaborate ceremonies.” The building opened to the public on July 21, 1900, and was formally dedicated on Aug. 15, when Brown presented it to the residents of Clinton.
The town history article identifies the first librarian as Grace Weymouth, “a descendant of Jonathan Brown [William Brown’s father].” One of William Brown’s four older sisters is listed on line as Eliza Ann Brown Weymouth.
Shettleworth and Beard wrote that Brown also provided many of the “books, furnishings and pictures.” The state librarian wrote that the library started with 2,500 books and had space for 10,000.
In 1902, Shettleworth and Beard said, Orrin Learned added “100 volumes of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies.” Library Assistant Director Cindy Lowell says they are still stored in the building.
(Orrin Learned [June 16, 1822 – July 2, 1903] was a Burnham native who moved to Clinton in 1900. He attended Benton Academy and, like his father Joel, made his living farming and lumbering in Burnham. He served on the select board and school committee and was a state representative in 1863 and 1873 and a state senator in 1877 and 1878.
The on-line biography of Learned says nothing about military service, Civil War or other, except that he was the great-grandson of Revolutionary War General Ebenezer Learned, who was Brigadier-General under Horatio Gates at the October 1877 Battle of Saratoga, where British General John Burgoyne was defeated.)
Clinton officials dedicated the June 2012 town report to the library. They explained that the 1899 trust specified that part of the trust fund interest would be used for “maintaining the building and library,” and that the operating budget would come from local taxes.
One of Brown’s gifts was Vinton’s portrait of him, Shettleworth and Beard wrote.
(An on-line search found Frederic (or Frederick) Porter Vinton [Jan. 29, 1846 – May 19, 1911], a Bangor native who lived in Chicago and later Boston, where he studied art at the Lowell Institute and in 1878 opened his portrait studio. Vinton began painting landscapes in the 1880s, but is known primarily as a portrait painter.)
Lowell said in late November 2021 that the huge painting had been sent away to be cleaned and restored. The restorers had uncovered a fur collar that had been completely obscured over the years, she said.
Brown said at the library dedication that it was a memorial to “my dear parents who were my ideal of all that is best and purest in life….” He expressed the hope that “the good to be derived from this gift may go on forever.”
* * * * * *
The Albert Church Brown Memorial Library, on Main Street, in China Village, less than 15 road miles south of Brown Memorial Library, in Clinton, has been in existence only since 1936, and in its present building since Jan. 1, 1941. Its name honors Albert Church Brown, whose widow donated money to buy and renovate a house dating from around 1827.
Albert Church Brown (no known relation to the Clinton Browns) was born in Winslow in 1843. He grew up in China; the China bicentennial history says he left when he was 16.
After service in the Civil War, Brown prospered as a businessman in Malden, Massachusetts. He died in 1922, leaving his widow, whose family connections with former China residents led to her interest in the library.
The two-story Federal building was formerly known as the Fletcher-Main House, after the two intermarried families who owned it. The building is in the China Village Historic District, a group of mostly residential buildings added to the National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 23, 1977 (see The Town Line, July 8, 2021).
The two Brown libraries share an interesting reputation: people who worked or work in each repeat the superstition that the buildings are haunted.
In Clinton, Assistant Director Cindy Lowell said the ghost is taken to be William Wentworth Brown himself, or “WW,” as she and colleagues call him. She cited two examples of “WW is up to something again.”
Once, she said, the library director’s eyeglasses vanished. Staff and patrons searched the building in vain. Days later, a fuse blew; Lowell went to the basement to replace it, and the missing eyeglasses were on the basement floor.
Another time, Lowell had just come to work, alone, when she heard a very loud slam in the basement. She waited until a patron came in before she went down to investigate – and found no explanation, nothing out of place.
Your writer is the former librarian at China’s Brown Memorial library. Several people familiar with the building assured her there was a ghost, though no one knew who it was. More than once she heard noises as though someone were moving upstairs when she was sure no living person was there; and if the sounds were made by mice, they left no other sign of their presence.
William Wentworth Brown
Various on-line sources say that William Wentworth Brown was born in Clinton on April 19, 1821, sixth of the seven children of Jonathan Brown (1776 – 1861) and Elizabeth “Betsy (or Betsey)” Michales (or Michaels) Brown (1784-1850). His parents and sister, Eliza Ann, are buried in Clinton’s Riverview Cemetery.
Jonathan and Elizabeth Brown were donors of Clinton’s Brown Memorial Church, now Brown Memorial United Methodist Church, according to Brown Memorial Library Assistant Director Cindy Lowell.
William Brown lived in Clinton until he was 21, when he moved to Bangor to work in his brother’s grocery business (probably his older brother, Warren, born in 1811).
In 1845, Brown started making timbers, decking and other essential pieces of wooden ships. In 1857, he moved the successful business to Portland.
Brown took note of the use of ironclads in the Civil War (the battle between the “Merrimack” and the “Monitor” was on March 9, 1862), and when in 1868 he and Lewis T. Brown (no relation?) were offered a chance to buy a sawmill in Berlin, New Hampshire, he changed businesses.
The two Browns enlarged the sawmill. In the 1880s William Brown bought out Lewis Brown and became sole owner of the Berlin Mills Company, as it was known until it became the Brown Company in 1917. This mill was one of several pulp and paper mills in Berlin.
Lowell quoted a report on the History Channel saying that Brown’s home in Berlin is now a museum.
On Feb. 6, 1861, Brown married his first wife, Emily Hart (Jenkins) Brown (Jan. 23, 1836 – Apr. 4, 1879), from Falmouth, Massachusetts. His second wife was Lucy Elizabeth (Montague) Brown (Jan. 16, 1845 – May 16, 1927); no marriage date is given. Genealogical records contradict each other on how many children he and his successive wives had.
This writer has found no information about William Brown’s career after the 1880s. She assumes it was profitable. Nor has she found any explanation for his decision that a library was the appropriate memorial for his parents.
William Brown died Oct. 27, 1911. He is buried with both wives and five children in a family plot in Portland’s Evergreen Cemetery.
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Shettleworth, Earle G., Jr., and Frank A. Beard, National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form, Brown Memorial Library, April 4, 1975.
Lawrence Library, in Fairfield, described to readers last week, is one of three libraries in the central Kennebec Valley whose buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. The other two are Lithgow Public Library, in Augusta, this week’s topic, and Brown Memorial Library, in Clinton.
The cornerstone for the building housing Augusta’s Lithgow Public Library was laid in June 1894, and the library opened in February 1896. The building was added to the National Register on July 24, 1974, before the first of two twentieth and twenty-first century expansions.
As mentioned last week, in earlier years Augusta had the Cony Female Academy library, started in 1815. Henry Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history that Cony’s initiative led to the 1817 organization of a “reading room and social library association.”
This group was reorganized June 2, 1819, and incorporated June 20, 1820, as the Augusta Union Society, which “collected a large library.” When it disbanded (Kingsbury gave no date; James W. North, in his history of Augusta, described nothing later than its sixth anniversary celebration in October 1825), its books were passed on to the Female Academy.
After that institution closed in 1857, Kingsbury wrote that its library “became considerably dispersed.” Eventually, he said, some 800 of its books, including one from 1612, ended up with the Kennebec Natural History and Antiquarian Society, organized in 1891.
(The Natural History and Antiquarian Society was the direct ancestor of today’s Kennebec Historical Society, headquartered at 61 Winthrop Street in Augusta. A KHS history found on line says in 1891 the organization invited donations of “botanical collections” and “birds and animals for mounting,” as well as print materials.
In 1896, the society moved its collection to the newly-opened Lithgow Library, where it stayed for many years. Today, the historical society has no natural history collection, but its premises are full of old maps; newspaper articles; business, school and personal records; photographs; and similar information.)
Meanwhile, 50 Augusta residents organized the Augusta Literary and Library Association, chartered by the Maine legislature in 1873. Each charter member gave $50 to buy books; other residents donated more books, to a total of around 3,000 within a few years, Kingsbury wrote.
The Association and its library were first housed on the second floor of the Meonian Hall on Water Street. This building was the second Meonian Hall; James North (presumably the same man who wrote the Augusta history in 1870) built the first one in 1856 and named it after Maeonia (an ancient city at the eastern end of the Mediterranean; the area is now part of Turkey). It burned in the great fire of 1865 and was promptly rebuilt.
Association members, men and women, met in each other’s houses to discuss books. The Association “provided the city with a library, a reading room and literary and scientific lectures,” according to an on-line site.
Earle Shettleworth, Jr., the Maine Historic Preservation Commission official who nominated Lithgow Library for the National Register of Historic Places, listed James G. Blaine’s family and Maine governors Joseph Williams, Lot M. Morrill and Seldon Connor as Association supporters. Williams and Morrill governed in the 1850s, Connor in the 1870s.
Despite a promising start, Shettleworth’s research confirmed Charles Nash’s history of the Lithgow Library (quoted in an on-line site) as saying the society was soon in financial difficulty. Members voted to sell the books and close down. (The international financial panic that started in 1873 might have played a role).
However, Nash wrote dramatically, one of the leading members, James W. Bradbury, “was in possession (as counsel and attorney) of confidential knowledge of great weight in connection with the matter.” Bradbury persuaded the rest of the members to rescind their vote by offering free space for the book collection in a Water Street building.
What Bradbury knew was that another Association member, Llewellyn Lithgow, had willed $20,000 to the City of Augusta to build a public library. Lithgow was born Dec. 25, 1796, in Dresden; he moved to Augusta in 1839 and did so well in business that he was able to retire when he was 40.
Lithgow died suddenly on June 22, 1881. His will became public knowledge, and City officials accepted the funds for the intended purpose. Later, Kingsbury wrote, the City received another $15,000 as one of Lithgow’s residuary legatees.
In February 1882 the new trustees of the planned Lithgow Library and Reading Room consulted the Literary and Library Association trustees, and the two groups merged. A new library building, to be named in honor of Lithgow, was one of their first goals.
The trustees bought the Winthrop Street lot where the library stands in 1888 and adjoining land in 1892 and started raising more money. Shettleworth wrote they aimed for $40,000; by the fall of 1892 they had $22,000. They wrote to Andrew Carnegie, who was famous for supporting libraries, asking for help.
On Nov. 15, Shettleworth wrote, Carnegie promised half the remaining $18,000 if the trustees provided the rest. They did, within six months, and Carnegie fulfilled his pledge.
A nation-wide competition to design the new building attracted 65 entries (Nash) or 69 entries (Shettleworth). Review began on July 15, 1893. Trustees found that some of the plans were too elegant to be affordable, many did not meet their requirements and only a handful were worth considering.
After two months, Shettleworth wrote, they chose Neal and Hopkins, an architectural firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Joseph Ladd Neal was a Wiscasset native who worked in Boston and New York before settling in Pittsburgh around 1892. His partnership with S. Alfred Hopkins lasted only a year, according to Wikipedia, or three years, according to Shettleworth.
Neal’s preferred architectural styles included Richardsonian Romanesque (similar to Lawrence Library architect William Miller’s taste, mentioned last week). Shettleworth wrote that Lithgow Library is significant as “Maine’s purest expression of the late nineteenth century Romanesque Revival fostered by H. H. Richardson.”
When Kingsbury published his history in 1892, the new library building was still in the future. He wrote that the Water Street rooms had more than 400 patrons, who were charged a dollar a year to check out books; the reading room was “well patronized”; and Miss Julia Clapp had been librarian since 1882.
Shettleworth found that construction of the new building started in the spring of 1894. It was finished in January 1896. Total cost of the building and land was $51,850, according to an on-line site.
A history of the Augusta Masonic Lodge (the book is in the Maine State Library; this writer found it on line) describes the June 14, 1894, laying of Lithgow Library’s cornerstone, as part of a cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Masonic Hall on Water Street.
The history says 500 people participated in a parade that started on Water Street; went to the Capitol building to be reviewed by Governor Henry B. Cleaves; “countermarched” to the Augusta House for another review by Cleaves, the state’s executive council and Masonic dignitaries; went to the corner of State and Winthrop streets, where Horace H. Burbank, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Maine, laid the library cornerstone; and finally headed back down to Water Street, where Burbank and others laid the Masonic Hall cornerstone.
An open house on Feb. 3, 1896, welcomed residents to the new library. They saw a story and a half tall building – Richardson’s response to the 1870s and 1880s demand for library buildings for small communities, Shettleworth said – with exterior walls of rough gray granite (Norridgewock granite, according to an on-line history) and finished granite detailing.
The long front (south) wall had a protruding gable-roofed entranceway flanked on each side by five tall rectangular windows, their top sections stained glass. Under the first, third and fifth windows were circles of smooth stone, each with the name of an “important literary figure.”
Under the gable, finished-granite steps led to the entrance door, which was recessed in a “large Romanesque arch” of smooth granite.
The arch was flanked on each side by two vertical stained-glass windows and a “semi-detached Romanesque column,” Shettleworth wrote. Above the arch were the words “The Lithgow Library,” and above that a trio of windows “surrounded by finished Romanesque arches and semi-detached columns.”
East and west walls had six stained-glass windows on the ground floor. They were arranged in threesomes separated by Romanesque panels, with solid wall between the threesomes.
The central wall area on the west side was rough granite. The middle of the east wall, facing toward State Street, was decorated with a “large square panel containing many names of writers” and on a lower level more writers’ names in circular panels.
The half-story above each end wall was of granite “cut in a variety of decorative patterns.” A chimney topped each end; on the east, the date 1894 was added “near the peak of the gable.”
The back (north) wall resembled the front, Shettleworth wrote, except that the entrance on the front was replaced with “three bays of stained glass windows on either side of a chimney,” with “[t]hree circular author panels” in each bay.
The ground-floor layout inside was what Shettleworth considered typical of Richardson’s designs, a central room with a stack for book storage on one side and a reading room on the other (as in Fairfield’s Lawrence Library).
An on-line writer described “quartered oak pillars and elaborate woodwork” in the “interior lobby and original stack room”; fireplaces on east and west walls; stained-glass windows with old printers’ marks and “scenes from Augusta history”; and in the reading room “frescoes, stained glass and gold leaf ornamentation.”
In Shettleworth’s vocabulary, the hall and stack room “are finished in dark Colonial Revival woodwork,” and “the reading room has a lavish white and gold French Renaissance décor.” He added that the upper story included a meeting room and storage space.
His final words as he recommended the library for National Register listing were: “The beauty of its exterior Romanesque Rival design combined with the richness of its interior have made it the most important library of the Richardsonian manner in Maine.”
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Shettleworth, Earle G., Jr., National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form, Lithgow Library, July 11, 1974.
PAL Senior League champs
Cap unbeaten season
Continuing the discussion of (mostly) 19th-century high school education, this article will talk about Albion, Benton, and Clinton. In following weeks, continuing alphabetically, readers will find information on Fairfield, Palermo, Sidney (don’t expect much), Vassalboro, Windsor and Winslow.
Albion voters first appropriated school money in 1804, and endorsed building schoolhouses the same year. Town historian Ruby Crosby Wiggin said children aged from three through 21 could attend town schools.
Albion began offering education beyond the primary level in the 1860s, according to Wiggin. She referred to “subscription high schools” started in 1860. One was in the “new” (1858) District 3 schoolhouse.
In April 1873, she wrote, interested residents organized a stock company to provide a public hall in an existing building. The leaders quickly sold 90 shares at $10 a share and appointed a three-man building committee.
“It is supposed the building was finished that year  and used for the first free High School,” that started in 1874 or 1875, Wiggin wrote. Henry Kingsbury, in his 1892 Kennebec County history, dated Albion’s “first high school” to 1876.
Because of “lack of interest,” the free high school had closed by 1880. In January 1881 the stock company trustees began the process that led to Albion Grange owning the building (see The Town Line, April 8).
About 1890, Wiggin wrote, high school was reintroduced, this time alternating between the McDonald School (District 9) and the Albion Village School (District 8).
A fall 1891 10-week term in District 8 had 87 students and cost $214; a later 10 weeks at McDonald School with 33 students cost $80. The state paid half the bill, leaving the town to pay $147, Wiggin wrote.
Kingsbury’s information again differs from Wiggin’s. He wrote that the high school started again in 1884 “and has since received cordial support.” He located fall sessions in “No. 10 school house in the Shorey district,” rather than the McDonald School, and spring terms in District 8.
(Both writers could be accurate, if they were describing different years. Also, however, other town historians have disagreed with Kingsbury. Considering that his book ends on page 1,273, and that some of the page numbers double and triple – 480a and 480b come between 480 and 481, for instance – an occasional error seems unsurprising.)
Families again lost interest, Wiggin said, and by 1898 the McDonald School no longer hosted high school classes and the “average attendance at the village was only 18.”
The village school was apparently one built in 1858, after a long debate, on the village Main Street (Route 202) where the Besse Building now stands. It was revived as a high school after 1898, because later Wiggin wrote, “From this school came the first pupil to graduate from Albion High School with a diploma.” His name was Dwight Chalmers, his graduation year 1909.
Wiggin wrote that the old high school building was moved to a new site and in 1964 was a private home.
The large brick Besse Building, now home to the Albion town office, was a gift of Albion native and then Clinton resident Frank Leslie Besse. Designed by Miller and Mayo, of Portland, and built by Horace Purington, of Waterville, it was dedicated as Besse High School on Sept. 20, 1913.
Maine School Administrative District (MSAD) #49, now Regional School Unit (RSU) #49, is based in Fairfield and serves Albion, Benton and Clinton. It was organized in 1966. Besse High School closed in 1967 and Albion students began attending Fairfield’s Lawrence High School.
The Town of Benton, northwest of Albion, was part of Clinton until the Maine legislature approved a separation on March 16, 1842. First named Sebasticook, the town became Benton, honoring Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858), on June 19, 1850.
Like other area towns, Benton had multiple villages in the 19th century. Higher education appears to have been concentrated at Benton Falls (sometimes called The Falls).
Benton Falls is on the Sebasticook River just south of the existing bridge, where waterfalls powered manufacturing in the 1800s. The Falls area includes the current locations of the Benton town office, on Clinton Avenue on the west bank, and the Benton Falls Church, on Falls Road on the east bank.
A brief on-line Benton history mentions an “academy” at Benton Falls, along with a church, a library, 10 stores and six taverns, apparently in the first half of the 1800s. Kingsbury adds several mills and in 1824 the town’s only blacksmith shop.
Kingsbury wrote in 1892 that Benton had a high school in the District 5 school building at The Falls, apparently since 1860; and he wrote that Benton’s District 5 schoolhouse was “on the site of the old Clinton Academy.”
But, he wrote, in 1892 there was no local school appropriation, “the proximity of Waterville offering advantages in higher education with which it was useless for Benton to compete.”
(By 1892, Waterville had both a free high school [see the Sept. 9 issue of The Town Line] and Coburn Classical Institute [described in the July 29 issue].)
In Clinton, “the first school in town to teach the higher grades” was what a local group intended as a Female Academy, according to Major General Carleton Edward Fisher’s history of Clinton, or a female seminary, according to Kingsbury.
Fisher wrote that in September 1831 Asher Hinds gave the school trustees an eight-by-nine rod lot on the east side of the road in Benton Falls, and Johnson Lunt added more land. (One rod is 16.5 feet, so the original lot was 132 feet by 148.5 feet.) Kingsbury disagreed slightly, saying construction of the Academy building started in 1830.
The two historians agreed that the would-be founders ran out of resources and handed the incomplete building to the Methodist Society. The Methodist Society finished it and opened a coed high school that ran until around 1858.
After the area separated from Clinton in 1842, Clinton students continued to attend the Academy “for a few years,” Fisher wrote. In 1845, he found, enrollment was 49 male and 31 female students.
The school year then was two 11-week terms, beginning in September and March. Students were charged $3 for the “common branches,” $3.50 for natural sciences and $4 for languages (unspecified).
By 1853, Fisher wrote, there were no students from Clinton enrolled, but the Board of Trustees still had two Clinton members. The school closed in 1858, he said.
Kingsbury recorded that the building changed hands three times in 1858 and 1859 before being sold to School District 5 in July 1859, with the sellers “reserving the right to hold a high school in it for two terms each year.”
This building burned (in 1870, Kingsbury said) and was rebuilt the next year. In 1883 “an attractive hall was finished off in the upper story.” Whether it was still a high school in 1883 Kingsbury did not say.
There was, however, a free high school in Clinton, started in 1874 and still open in 1892. Kingsbury wrote that the initial funding was $500. The “well attended” high school operated two terms a year, spring and fall, moving among the 13 school districts.
This school was superseded early in the 20th century. On-line Facebook pages feature graduates of the 20th-century Clinton High School that opened in 1902 or, according to a Clinton Historical Society on-line source, was approved by voters in 1902, started classes in February 1903 and had its first graduation in 1906.
A current Clinton resident locates the 1902 high school building on the Baker Street lot where the town office now stands.
The Facebook source says the yellow three-story building was 68-by-40-feet; an accompanying photo shows basement windows. The Historical Society writer specified three classrooms each on the first and second floors and one on the third floor.
This writer said the building housed 12 grades until 1960 (another source said until the 1940s), though it was called a high school. The privy was a separate building out back, until Clinton resident Frank L. Besse paid to have “indoor plumbing and central heating” added in 1917. The next year, Besse funded electricity.
In 1922, the on-line writer said, a second-floor classroom for business classes was divided into two, because “the sound of the new typewriters was annoying to the other students.”
Clinton High School, like Besse High School, in Albion, closed after graduation in 1966, when Clinton joined MSAD #49 and students went to Lawrence High School, in Fairfield. The school building on Baker Street housed middle-school classes either for a “couple of years” (Maine Memory Network) or until June 1975 (Clinton Historical Society), when it was no longer needed and was closed.
After a month of vandalism, the second Clinton Historical Society writer reported, the building burned July 25, 1975. The writer quoted a newspaper article mentioning the “suspicious origin” of the fire.
In 2016, alumni placed a memorial stone by the main door to the town office.
The Besse family in Benton and Clinton
There are 11 Besses in the index to Ruby Crosby Wiggin’s Albion history (plus three Besseys), and an on-line genealogy of Besses in Albion lists 105 names.
Kingsbury traced the Albion/Clinton family to Jonathan Besse, born in 1775, “the first male child born in Wayne,” Maine. His son, Jonathan Belden Besse (Oct. 15, 1820 – March 5, 1892), became a tanner and married an Albion girl. Wiggin explained how that happened:
Jonathan Belden Besse was a soldier in the 1839 Aroostook War. Typhoid fever delayed his return home, but when he recovered, he headed back to Wayne on foot, “gun over his shoulder.”
He stopped in Albion for a drink from Lewis Hopkins’ well; Hopkins came outside and they talked; Hopkins said he needed help in the tannery. Besse decided to try it. He “went in, hung his gun on the pegs over the door, and went to work.”
Wiggin suggested maybe “Hopkins’ daughter had something to do with his staying.” An online Albion genealogy says Jonathan married Isabelle Hopkins (c. 1833 – Aug. 8, 1870) on July 29, 1852, in Albion. In 1859, he took over the tanning business; in 1890, he moved it to Clinton, “on account of better facilities for transportation.”
Kingsbury lists the Besse tannery as one of the three important industries in Clinton in 1892 (along with the creamery on Weymouth Hill and the shoe factory under construction in Clinton Village, which was expected to provide 100 jobs). The steam-powered tannery “near the railroad station” had 14 workers.
“Russet linings only are manufactured, the weekly production being 1,000 dozen skins,” Kingsbury wrote.
(An on-line leather supplier’s website describes a Russet lining as “a traditional bespoke shoe lining,” also used for “handtooling/carving, falconry and a host of leather goods.” It “is produced on a mellow dressed calf side tanned in vegetable extracts.”)
Jonathan and Isabelle Besse had five sons and two daughters between 1853 and 1868. Frank Leslie (April 15, 1859 – March 26, 1926) was their fourth child and second son. On Sept. 17, 1881, he and Mary Alberta Proctor, of Clinton, were married in Albion. Kingsbury wrote that he became a partner in his father’s business when he was 25 (therefore about 1884), and by 1892 had taken over.
Wiggin, however, wrote that Frank Besse “joined” his father’s business around 1878. She quoted from his speech at the dedication of Besse High School: he said that “when he joined his father in the ‘sheep skin business’ he had a cash capital of just $94.”
After Jonathan died in 1892, Wiggin wrote, Frank bought out Everett and his sister Hannah (Besse) Trask and became sole owner of the Clinton business. In 1906 he joined two Boston merchants to create Besse, Osborn and Ordell, Inc., a company “buying and selling sheepskins” that Wiggin said still existed in 1964.
(On-line sites today identify Besse, Osborn and Odell as a foreign-owned business headquartered in New York City, incorporated Nov. 11, 1910.)
The on-line genealogy lists no children born to Frank and Mary. It says in the 1900 census of Clinton, Frank’s occupation was listed as “tanner sheep skins.” It adds that the tannery “at one time tanned 3,000 skins a day.”
The Maine Memory Network has a September 1913 photo of Frank Besse seated in a Cadillac convertible, a long dark-colored vehicle with running boards and white-wall tires, in front of the Besse building. The caption says he was still running a tannery in Albion at the time.
According to the on-line genealogy, Frank Besse died March 26, 1926, in Ontario, California. Mary died July 10, 1945, probably in Clinton.
Kingsbury mentioned another of Jonathan and Isabelle’s sons, Frank’s younger brother Everett Belden Besse, who in 1892 was living “on the old homestead.” The genealogy says he was born Jan. 23, 1861, in Albion. On Jan. 24, 1889, he married Jessie Ida Rowe, born Nov. 20, 1868, in Palermo; they had four sons and two daughters between 1890 and 1906.
Wiggin wrote that when Jonathan Besse transferred his tanning business to Clinton in 1890, he left Everett in charge of the Albion branch.
In 1905, she continued, the Albion tannery was moved, after town voters offered a tax abatement if it were rebuilt along the line of the new Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington narrow-gauge railroad. Everett Besse ran the tannery at its new location “on the outlet to Lovejoy Pond above Chalmers’ mills” – and on a railroad siding – until it burned down in 1924.
Albion’s first telephone line, in the fall of 1905, was installed by the Half Moon Telephone Company, of Thorndike (then a rival of Unity Telephone Company), to connect Everett Besse’s house to his tannery, Wiggin wrote.
The genealogy says Jessie died May 29, 1940, and Everett died the same year – no month or day is given.
Frank and Mary Besse and Everett and Jessie Besse are among family members buried in at least four Besse plots in Clinton’s Greenlawn Rest Cemetery, on the west side of Route 100 just south of downtown.
Fisher, Major General Carleton Edward, History of Clinton Maine (1970).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).
Benton, China and Clinton
The 1915 hall that serves Benton Grange No. 458 is one of 16 Maine Grange halls listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and one of two individually listed in Kennebec County. It was added to the register April 28, 2004.
(The other Kennebec County Grange Hall on the register is the former Starling Grange, now town-owned Starling Hall, in Fayette. Friends of Starling Hall have a website and a Facebook page and welcome donations for preservation work.)
Located on a 1.7-acre lot at the intersection of River Road and School Drive, south of Route 100, Benton Grange Hall is a wooden building two stories high with a basement. The south-facing front of the building has a wide center doorway and large open porch. There are three front windows on the second floor; above them a hip-roofed dormer holds a sign, in need of repainting, identifying the building.
Architectural historian Christi A. Mitchell, of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, prepared the nomination form for the National Register (as she did for two farms described in the March 10 issue of The Town Line). She calls the Grange building’s architectural style “essentially Colonial Revival,” and the more elaborate porch “Queen Anne-esque.”
Inside, the lower floor has a dining room beyond the entrance-way. Most of the second floor is a large open room for meetings and community activities, like the Saturday-night public dances the Grange sponsored in the 1950s.
Benton Grange was organized in 1906. Mitchell found that many of the charter members switched from Clinton Grange, established in 1887 or 1888, to the new one, probably because Benton was their home town.
In 1909, she wrote, town records showed that 94 out of 298 heads of household in Benton “(including retirees and widows)” gave their occupation as “farmer.”
Members met at the Benton Station school for the first years. By 1910, with close to 200 members, they decided to build their own Grange hall.
The decision was implemented five years later. Fairfield architect Frank M. Gifford designed the building; it was completed in mid-October 1915, in time to host that fall’s Grange fair.
Mitchell quoted a description of the Dec. 3, 1915, dedication of the building from the Dec. 4 Waterville Morning Sentinel. Speaker W. J. Thompson commented that the new building was one of the most expensive Grange Halls in Maine. Building it, he said, was a credit to Grange members and to the community.
Benton Grange, like many others, declined with the decline in agriculture. Mitchell wrote that the fairs ended in the 1940s. However, she wrote, Benton town meetings were held in the Grange Hall from 1915 to 1990, and as she wrote in the spring of 2004 Grangers hoped to make the second-floor space handicapped-accessible so town meetings could again convene there.
According to its Facebook pages, Benton Grange is still active, is seeking new members and as of March 2021 resumed renting the Grange Hall for private and public events (no alcohol allowed).
The first of China’s three local Granges was China Grange #295, organized in South China on Dec. 29, 1887. Henry Kingsbury, in his Kennebec County history published in 1892, called it “flourishing.” Members met the first and third Wednesday evenings of the month in the Ancient Order of United Workmen’s South China hall.
(Wikipedia says the A.O.U.W. was another post-Civil War fraternal organization, created in Pennsylvania in the late 1860s with the primary aim of providing insurance for working men. The Harlem chapter, #39, of the A.O.U.W. was organized Aug. 27, 1885, with 13 charter members, Kingsbury wrote. Their name, Harlem, was the Town of China’s name from 1796 to 1818.)
By 1902, according to the Maine State Grange “Proceedings” of that year, China Grange had 111 members.
There is no record of a South China Grange Hall. The China bicentennial history says when the consolidated school on Lakeview Drive (now China Middle School) opened in 1949, town voters let the Grange rent the no-longer-needed South China schoolhouse on the south side of Route 3, just west of the Route 32 North intersection.
The China history says the China Grange remained active “until about World War II [until at least 1949, apparently], when it merged with Silver Lake Grange in China Village.”
Silver Lake Grange #327 was founded between 1892 and 1902, according to the China history. Looking at the numbers assigned to nearby Granges founded earlier (East Vassalboro Grange #322, in 1895) and later (Branch Mills Grange #336, Jan. 1, 1897) narrows the interval to 1895, after East Vassalboro, or 1896.
(Contradictorily, the China history references a February 19, 1876, diary entry saying a Grange had been organized that afternoon at China Academy, the high school on Main Street in China Village. Kingsbury, finishing his history in 1892, made no mention of a Grange in China Village, and the number 327 would not have been assigned in 1876.)
The inventory of the Maine Historical Society’s collection of Grange documents lists under “China” an 1894 “receipt” and “receipt books” for most of the years between 1935 and 1953.
Silver Lake Grange Hall, still standing on the west side of Main Street in China Village, was designed and built in 1908 by local builder Fred S. Wallace. The China history quotes from an account in the March 4 issue of the Bangor Commercial Farmer and Villager describing the Feb. 24, 1909, dedication and praising the new building.
Silver Lake Grange Hall is a two-story, hip-roofed wooden building with an open front porch, a ground-floor dining room and kitchen and a second-floor meeting room. It has no basement.
The Commercial Farmer and Villager writer mentioned the “pleasant, sunny room for a gentlemen’s dressing room” near the entrance and the “ladies’ dressing room…, commodious and convenient” behind the dining room. Neither included toilet facilities.
The “well attended” 1909 dedication began with a 10:30 a.m. ceremony at which the State Grange Master spoke. After lunch in the new dining room, an afternoon program offered speeches and instrumental and vocal music.
A lengthy evening program included more music, recitations, a farce and two “scenic readings,” one of which had a dog in the list of participants.
Silver Lake Grange had a stable in 1909, because the China history says the local Masons appropriated $91.67 for one-third of it, probably for rental, not purchase. (In 1824 the two Masonic Chapters built their own stable beside the Masonic Hall, which was at the south end of Main Street.)
Silver Lake Grange “dissolved in the late 1960s,” according to the China history.
China’s short-lived third Grange, called China Grange #578 (or occasionally China Lake Grange, depending on the source), was organized in the fall of 1974 and took over the Silver Lake Grange Hall. Dennis Harding was the first Master.
The new organization lasted two years or less. The China history quotes Harding as saying one reason for its failure to take hold was that “the young people did not like to use the outhouse.”
Sometime after 1977, ownership of the hall reverted to the Maine State Grange. (The 1977 application for the China Village Historic District lists the China Grange as the owner.) The state organization sold it in the fall of 1983 to two local residents who hoped to create senior citizen apartments.
Their plan was never realized. The present owner of Silver Lake Grange Hall has had it on the market for several years.
Clinton Grange #287 was established in March 1888, according to Kingsbury, although its number implies it was founded in the last half of 1886 or in 1887. Kingsbury wrote there were 70 charter members, and by 1892 about 100 members. The Maine State Grange records show 231 members in 1902.
Kingsbury says in 1890, the Grange bought Centennial Hall, on Church Street, in Clinton. In 1892, he wrote, the second floor was for exhibitions and the organization used the ground floor for its other activities.
(John P. Billings built Centennial Hall in 1876, Kingsbury wrote. Billings was a Clinton native, born in 1828. In 1843, Kingsbury says, he was learning to make edge tools – knives, hatchets and the like – in Waterville.
In 1851 Billings joined the California Gold Rush that had started in 1848 and, Wikipedia says, attracted 300,000 hopeful gold-seekers by the mid-1850s. After 14 years as a miner, Billings returned to Clinton in 1865, apparently wealthy enough to build the hall, and resumed the “manufacture of edge and stone tools.”)
Maine State Grange records include a receipt book from Clinton Grange for the years 1933 through 1935.
One of a set of antique postcards on line shows an undated photo of a Clinton Grange hall, set on flat land, with newly-planted trees beside the building and across the street. The building is a three-story wooden rectangle with a high peaked roof and a flat-roofed open porch across the entire front.
The double front door has a window on each side, three windows above it and one more full-sized window under the roof. On the visible side of the building there are five windows on the ground floor (perhaps because the stairs go up the inside wall where the front one would otherwise be) and six on the second floor.
The building is painted white. The shutters on the second- and third-story front windows appear to be a yellow-green (probably because the postcard is discolored by time).
This writer does not know whether the building on the postcard is Centennial Hall or a later replacement.
Clinton’s 2006 town comprehensive plan lists the Grange hall as one of the town’s significant buildings, and says the Historical Society’s records are kept at the Brown Memorial Library (the library is the only Clinton building that is on the National Register of Historic Places).
A long-time resident says the former Grange Hall is now an apartment building.
The second Clinton Grange #287, according to state corporate records, was organized July 15, 1949, and dissolved Sept. 6, 2006, for failure to file state-required annual reports. An on-line history refers to a Grange and 4-H exhibition hall built in 1994, giving no details.
Grow, Mary M., China, Maine, Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Web sites, miscellaneous.
The mother and father of all United States agricultural organization is the Grange, formally known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. The national Grange was organized in Washington, D. C., on Dec. 2, 1867, by a seven-person group headed by Oliver Hudson Kelley (1826 – 1913), a Bostonian who moved to Minnesota in 1849 to become a farmer.
A Grange historian quoted in Ruby Crosby Wiggin’s Albion history wrote that the organization was a response to the “depressed condition” of agriculture after the Civil War. The 1873 financial panic hastened its growth.
In 1864, Kelley, working for the national Bureau of Agriculture, inspected post-war farming conditions in the southern states. He realized the need to help farmers earn their living from their land, found like-minded friends and created the Grange.
Kelley intended the organization as “an agricultural fraternal order,” not unlike Masonry, with rituals, named offices, degrees and an aura of secrecy, Maine Grange historian Stanley R. Howe wrote in a 2010 article reproduced on line.
“Fraternal” was never accurate, however; Howe credited Kelley’s niece, feminist Caroline A. Hall, with gaining women near-equality in the Grange. They had voting rights from the beginning and four of the 16 elected offices in each Grange are exclusively for women.
(Online information says in 1893 the Minnesota Grange elected a woman named Sarah Baird as the first female state Grange President [Master] in the United States. Minnesota’s current state Grange president is a woman, and so is the president of the national Grange, for the first time: Betsy Huber, of Pennsylvania, a Granger since she joined a Junior Grange at age five, has been national president since 2015.)
The name Grange comes from Great Britain, where the part of an estate used for agriculture was called the grange, Howe explained.
As the organization developed and spread, four main purposes emerged.
Economic improvement remained central. Means included cooperative stores, where the organization bought in bulk and sold to members at cost; discounts on things like life and health insurance; and spreading information about improved agricultural techniques, new machinery or seeds and other benefits to farmers.
Education, agricultural and general, was important. Granges published reports, newspapers and bulletins; many Grange halls had libraries; most Granges sponsored educational presentations on topics important to local farmers and the community; many hosted classes and workshops.
Having an organization that operated locally, state-wide and nationally gave Grangers political clout. One of the first national efforts was to pressure Congress to lower railroads’ shipping rates so that farm products could be sent to market more cheaply. Grangers also wanted grain elevators’ charges controlled.
The Grange lobbied for the postal service’s Rural Free Delivery system, so that isolated farmers would not have to choose between driving miles to the post office or paying a commercial carrier to pick up their mail. Grangers supported a variety of national cooperative farmers’ institutions; one source says they were instrumental in making the head of the United States Department of Agriculture a member of the President’s Cabinet in 1889.
Grange members lobbied for the Prohibition movement (implemented by the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, in effect Jan. 16, 1919, and repealed by the 21st Amendment, in effect Dec. 5, 1933). They helped implement progressive political ideas, like direct election of Senators (the 17th Amendment, in effect April 8, 1913) and voting rights for women (the 19th Amendment, in effect Aug. 18, 1920). Current national President Huber advocates expanding access to broadband service, especially in rural areas.
Complementing these economic, educational and political goals, at the local level the Grange became the social center for rural towns across the country, providing a community meeting hall and sponsoring suppers, dances and local and imported entertainments. One historian called this function especially important to rural women, who were more isolated than the men.
The Maine State Grange was organized in Lewiston on April 21, 1874, a year after the first Grange in the state was established in Hampden. Grange and state websites say there were 64 Maine Granges with about 2,000 members by the end of 1874; within two years, 228 Granges and 12,000 members; in 1907, 419 Granges and more than 55,000 members; and in 1918, 450 Granges and 60,000 members. Membership peaked at around 62,000 in the 1950s and has declined in recent years.
In 1918, according to that year’s Maine Register, W. J. Thompson, of South China, was Master of the state Grange. His wife held the position of Flora (one of three ritual stations, with Ceres and Pomona, Howe explained) and D. E. Foster, of Augusta, was Steward.
(Wikipedia says Ceres was “the Roman goddess of agriculture”; Flora was “the Roman goddess of flowers” and of spring; and Pomona was “the Roman goddess of fruit and nut trees.”)
Political positions the Maine State Grange took included supporting funding for local schools and the University of Maine and opposing the repeated efforts to move the state capital from Augusta. Augusta’s Maine Farmer newspaper, published from 1823 to at least 1900 (see The Town Line, Nov. 26, 2020), was a Grange publication.
The organization promoted causes that benefited not only farmers, but other segments of society. Howe mentioned sending care packages to soldiers overseas during World War II and building and supporting Grange Cottage to house orphans at Goodwill-Hinckley School, in Fairfield.
Since 1945, the Maine State Grange has been headquartered on State Street, in Augusta.
In the 1880s the state organization added county Granges, called Pomonas. Juvenile Granges started in 1944; Palermo’s Sheepscot Lake Juvenile Grange #106 and Augusta’s Capital Junior Grange #274 were active in the 1950s and 1960s.
A current on-line list from the Maine State Grange says there are 103 active Granges in Maine, counting both local and county Granges. Local ones listed are Benton Grange, Fairfield Center’s Victor Grange and Branch Mills Grange, in Palermo; Vassalboro Grange, in East Vassalboro, should also be on the list, according to its Facebook page.
Albion Grange #181 was one of the earlier local Granges, past and present. Maine State Grange Master Nelson Ham oversaw its organizational meeting on July 6, 1875, historian Ruby Crosby Wiggin wrote. There were 36 charter members: 34 couples, the son of one couple and an unmarried woman.
Wiggin said in 1875, only farmers and their families were eligible to join the Grange. Doctors, storekeepers and all other non-farmers were excluded.
In 1873, Albion residents had organized a local stock company to build a community hall. The hall was finished in 1874, and the first Grange meeting was held there.
Until January 1881 Grangers rented the hall only for meetings. In January 1881, the Stock Company leased it to the Grange at $35 a year, and in 1886 the Grange bought the building.
Beginning in October 1875 Grangers ran a cooperative store, buying a variety of items – coffee, salted fish, cloth, raisins, rock salt, cheese, sugar, chewing tobacco, grass seed – in bulk and selling them to members. Meetings included panel discussions, suppers and other forms of entertainment.
On Oct. 4, 1879, Albion Grange held its first fair, in conjunction with Freedom Grange. Independent Albion Grange fairs were held annually into the early 1950s, Wiggin wrote.
By 1892, Henry Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history, Albion Grange had 150 members. In 1902, the Maine State Grange Proceedings says there were 252 members.
In 1903 Grangers added a dining room to their building, which they still used when Wiggin published her Albion history in 1964. On-line sources suggest the Grange had been re-established in 1957, probably after an interval of inactivity.
In Augusta, records show two Granges. The earlier, Capital Grange #248, was organized April 7, 1883, according to Capt. Charles E. Nash’s chapter on Augusta in Kingsbury’s history. The second Capital Grange Master was Samuel L. Boardman, who wrote the chapter on agriculture in the same book.
On Nov. 12, 1901, according to records of the national Grange, Brother Obadiah Gardner carried an invitation to those attending the national convention to visit Augusta on Nov. 19, traveling by train. The flowery letter was signed by Capital Grange Master G. M. Twitchell and Augusta Board of Trade President C. B. Burleigh.
Attractions included touring the city and the State House; meeting Governor Hill and his wife at “the mansion of the late Hon. J. G. Blaine, which remains as it was when he did his great work”; and visiting “the national home at Togus,” then caring for 2,600 Civil War veterans.
The Grange records say that Brother W. K. Thompson, of South Carolina, moved to accept the invitation. Discussion was postponed from the morning to the afternoon session, when Brother Thompson’s motion was “considered at considerable length and unanimously adopted.”
(Obadiah Gardner [1852-1938], a Michigan native who moved to Maine in 1864, graduated from Coburn Classical Institute, in Waterville, and farmed in the Rockland area, was Master of the Maine Grange from 1897 to 1907. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1908; was appointed to the United States Senate in September 1911, after William P. Frye died in office; and lost his re-election bid in 1912, leaving the Senate March 3, 1913. He was then appointed to the International Joint Commission to deal with boundary-water issues between the United States and Canada, on which he served until 1923.)
In 1902, M. F. Norcross, the Deputy of West Kennebec County, reported on his Nov. 21 visit to Capital Grange, which then had 60 members. He found there were “[n]ew rituals and badges,” and the members were much interested in “working the third and fourth degrees” under a capable Master. “Bound to succeed,” he summarized.
Later references to Capital Grange are hard to find. The on-line index to the University of Maine’s Raymond L. Fogler special collections library says the library has 110 years of Capital Grange treasurers’ records, from 1883 to 1993.
Capital Junior Grange seems to have been created in or before 1955 and to have lasted until at least 1961.
North Augusta Grange #348 was founded in or before 1899 and existed until at least 1973. In the 1902 Proceedings of the Maine State Grange, Norcross, reporting as Deputy for Kennebec County, said North Augusta Grange had 126 members and a Degree Team and appeared to be doing well.
Nineteen pages later in the same book, Norcross, listing himself as Deputy for West Kennebec County, reported on his Nov. 4 visit to the North Augusta Grange. The Master told him meetings had been suspended temporarily “on account of a drama.” Norcross gave no details, but commented, “It is hoped that the work that the Grange is designed to do is not made a secondary matter.”
19 Granges in the central Kennebec River valley, in the order in which they were founded (as nearly as this writer can determine)
Victor Grange #49, Fairfield Center; established 1874, still active.
Oak Grove Grange #167, North Vassalboro; May 11, 1875.
Albion Grange #181; July 6, 1875.
Albion Grange #181, Oct. 28, 1957; suspended Aug. 26, 1998, for failure to file state corporate reports (according to an on-line source).
Sidney Grange #194; November 24, 1875.
Cushnoc Grange #204, Riverside (Vassalboro); January 13, 1876.
Capital Grange #248, Augusta; Apr. 7, 1883.
Windsor Grange #284; June 2, 1886.
China Grange #295, South China; December 29, 1887.
Clinton Grange #287; March 1888 (according to Kingsbury; this date is out of sequence).
Clinton Grange #287, July 15, 1949; dissolved Sept. 6, 2006, for failure to file state corporate reports (according to an on-line source).
Winslow Grange #320; in existence by 1894.
East Vassalboro Grange #322, 1895; still active.
Silver Lake Grange #327, China Village; 1895 or 1896.
Branch Mills Grange #336, Jan. 1, 1897 (organized in China, most of its life in Palermo); still active.
North Augusta Grange #348, in existence by 1899.
Sheepscot Lake Grange #445, in existence by 1905.
Benton Grange #458, 1906; still active.
China Lake Grange #578, also called China Grange; fall 1974-1976?, China Village.
19 Granges in the central Kennebec River valley, alphabetical by municipality
Albion (two) Albion Grange #181, 1875; Albion Grange #181, 1957.
Augusta (two) Capital Grange #248; North Augusta Grange #348.
Benton Grange #458.
China (three) China Grange #295; Silver Lake Grange #327; China (Lake) Grange #578.
Clinton (two) Clinton Grange #287, 1888; Clinton Grange #287, 1949.
Fairfield Center Victor Grange #49.
Palermo (two) Branch Mills Grange #336; Sheepscot Lake Grange #445.
Sidney Grange #194.
Vassalboro (three) Oak Grove Grange #167; Cushnoc Grange #204; East Vassalboro Grange #322.
Waterville had none, apparently.
Windsor Grange #284.
Winslow Grange #320.
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).
On October 24, 2020, Anne, 86, Jerry Fortin, 85, celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. They received many congratulations and well wishes from friends and relatives as far away as Connor Township, Maine, to Riverside, California, with many in between. The Fortins have three children, Joan Chaffee, of Clinton, Audey Fortin, of South China, and Neal Fortin, of Riverside, California. They also have two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Jada Boggs, of Clinton, graduated from Ithaca College, in Ithaca, New York, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Studies.
Founded in 1892, Ithaca College is a residential college dedicated to building knowledge and confidence through a continuous cycle of theory, practice and performance. Home to some 6,200 students, the college offers more than 100 degree programs in its schools of Business, Communications, Humanities and Sciences, Health Sciences and Human Performance, and Music.
Winslow is the next town north of Vassalboro along the east shore of the Kennebec River. According to Henry Kingsbury’s History of Kennebec County, its location was determined by the junction of the Kennebec with the smaller Sebasticook River, as a river junction was a convenient meeting place for groups from different areas.
When the first white settlers reached the area is unclear. Kingsbury cites a 1719 survey showing a building on the south side of the Sebasticook and east shore of the Kennebec that is identified as a trading post built in 1653.
By 1675, despite the earlier resumption of fighting between Natives and settlers, there were two trading posts at the rivers’ junction. Kingsbury surmises they did not survive a 1676 Native attack, although he found evidence suggesting at least one building was still standing in 1692.
In 1754, the Massachusetts General Court ordered a fort to be built at the Sebasticook-Kennebec junction for protection against the French and the Natives. Massachusetts Governor William Shirley personally chose the site, which commanded both rivers and could interrupt water traffic between tribes and with Québec.
General John Winslow, described in Wikipedia as a major-general of militia, was sent from Massachusetts with 800 men to build the fort. He superintended such a speedy job that early in September, a 100-man garrison under Captain William Lithgow moved in. Winslow’s plan did not suit Lithgow, Kingsbury says, and was substantially amended.
The main building was supported by two separate two-story blockhouses, each equipped with cannon. One later became a house for a man named Ezekiel Pattee and was moved down the river. In 1791, the list of resident taxpayers in Winslow, per Kingsbury, included four Pattees, Ezekiel, Benjamin, William and Daniel.
(Ezekiel Pattee is probably the man found on line who was born Sept. 3, 1732, in Gloucester, Massachusetts; on May 24, 1760, married Margaret Harwood, born at Fort Halifax in 1740; had a son, also named Ezekiel, born on Feb. 26, 1775; and died Nov. 24, 1813, in Winslow, Maine.)
Kingsbury commends the Town of Winslow for its efforts to preserve the remaining Fort Halifax blockhouse.
Winslow, like Augusta and Vassalboro, was originally laid out on both sides of the Kennebec. Originally called Ticonic (there are various spellings), the Native word for the river junction and the rapids just upstream, and then Kingsfield Plantation, it was incorporated on April 26, 1771, as Winslow, one of the first four towns in Kennebec County (the others were Hallowell, Vassalboro and Winthrop).
The name of the new town honored General John Winslow.
As in other Kennebec River towns, the early survey by John McKechnie (who was also a doctor) laid out some long narrow lots, but the majority are only about three times as long as they are wide.
The east-side (Winslow) plan reproduced in the History of Kennebec County shows lots along the east shores of the Kennebec and Sebasticook and out to the 15-mile east boundary, but none in the northeastern triangle between the two rivers.
The 1771 Winslow included what is now Waterville and Oakland. Kingsbury believes the settlement on the west side of the Kennebec, now Waterville, grew faster than the east side. His evidence includes E. A. Paine’s 1791 population count of 779, of whom Paine believed only about 300 were on the east side of the river.
One of those Winslow-side inhabitants, according to Ernest Marriner’s Kennebec Yesterdays, was the town’s first lawyer, George Warren. In 1791 Warren went to Boston, where he petitioned the Massachusetts General Court, unsuccessfully, for approval to hold a lottery to raise money to build a bridge across the Sebasticook. Because he had business in southern Maine as well, he chose to make the Portland to Boston leg of his trip by land, Marriner says.
Massachusetts law, in the 1700s and as late as 1815, required every town to raise taxes to support religion (meaning the Congregational church, usually). Marriner says many Maine towns could not afford to comply, and lists Winslow as one of the more recalcitrant.
Twice, he says, the town was threatened with legal action if its officials continued to ignore the law. In 1772, they voted to pay for one month’s worth of services; in 1773, they agreed to pay a man named Deliverance Smith for 12 Sundays. That year, too, Rev. John Murray came inland from Boothbay for a service at Fort Halifax, where the children he baptized included three of John McKechnie’s.
In 1774, Rev. Jacob Bailey, of Pownalborough (now Dresden), preached at Fort Halifax. (When the Revolution broke out, Bailey remained loyal to the British monarchy and eventually had to leave the country for Nova Scotia.) The next year, Marriner says, Winslow voted not to pay for any preaching.
In 1794, Marriner says, Winslow hired a clergyman named Joshua Cushing to settle as the town’s minister. Marriner describes Cushing as a Revolutionary War veteran and a Harvard classmate of John Quincy Adams who became a community leader and served in the Massachusetts legislature and in Congress.
Maine towns had trouble complying with another Massachusetts law that required an elementary school for a town with 60 families and a grammar school if there were 200 families. In 1784, 1788 and 1789, Winslow voted no public funding for schools, Marriner says.
By 1795, there was discussion at town meeting of creating two towns divided by the river. A June 23, 1802, legislative act incorporated the Town of Waterville and defined it as the part of Winslow on the west side of the Kennebec.
Benton, Winslow’s northern neighbor along the river, was the southern part of Clinton until 1842. Kingsbury mentions two deeds from the Plymouth Company in the 1760s, but he dates the first settlement inside the present town boundaries to 1775 or thereabouts, when two Irish emigrants named George Fitzgerald and David Gray cleared land about a mile north of the present Benton Station (the cluster of buildings at the end of the bridge across the Kennebec.
Later settlers moved farther north along the Kennebec and took up land on the west side of the Sebasticook.
In 1790 or earlier, Kingsbury said, the area that is now Benton and Clinton became Hancock Plantation. There were then 278 residents, the majority in the southern end that is now Benton. The first town meeting was held on April 20, 1795; Kingsbury lists the town officials then elected.
By the 1797 town meeting, Kingsbury wrote, there were eight school districts, again mostly in the Benton area, and 166 students; the town voted a $300 tax for education.
After four decades of growth, on March 16, 1842, the by-then-Maine, rather than Massachusetts, legislature approved an act dividing Clinton and creating a new town named Sebasticook. Kingsbury provides no information on who wanted the separation or why.
On March 4, 1850, town meeting voters told selectmen to choose a new name – again, Kingsbury offers no reason. The selectmen chose Benton, in honor of Missouri Democratic U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton. In September 1850 the Town of Benton first appeared in town meeting records.
The history of Clinton, the northernmost Kennebec County town, overlaps with the history of Benton until the two were separated in 1842.
Settlement along the Kennebec that began in the southern (Benton) area spread north up the river. Kingsbury lists Pishon’s Ferry (or Pishon Ferry, shown on 20th-century maps opposite the Hinckley section of Fairfield) as the east end of the ferry owned by Charles Pishon, who moved there before 1800. At least three other families began farming in the area, the first before 1790.
Clinton developed an early second center along the Sebasticook, an area that became the present downtown. Kingsbury names six families settled in the area before 1800.
Several sources say Clinton was named after DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828), a United States Senator, mayor of New York City and the sixth governor of New York, largely responsible for the building of the Erie Canal. However, the Wikipedia entry on Clinton, Maine, says that information is false: the town was named after DeWitt Clinton’s uncle, George Clinton (1739-1812), the first governor of New York and the fourth vice-president of the United States, serving under both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed. Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 1892
Marriner, Ernest Kennebec Yesterdays 1954.
Web sites, miscellaneous
NEXT: Moving upstream from Augusta on the west bank of the Kennebec, earliest history of Sidney, Waterville and Fairfield.
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