SKILLS, INC employee honored as Direct Support Professional of the Year at MACSP annual meeting

Front row, seated, from left to right, Kerryn Morin, DSP/Award recipient, Lori Lefferts, Director of Human Resources, Kristin Overton, executive director. Standing, Cindy Shaw, Community Support Program Manager, Jai Morin (Kerryn’s spouse), Pam Erskine, Director of Program Services, Rachel Fuller, Residential Program Manager, Patrick Bagley, LC Dill Community Support Program Team Leader. (photo by Sharyn Peavey Photography)

On December 9, 2022, Kerryn Morin, of Clinton, was honored by the Maine Association of Community Service Providers (MACSP) as a Direct Support Professional of the Year. Morin works for SKILLS, a St. Albans-based organization with programs and support services for intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals in several communities across central Maine. Morin has worked at SKILLS for 18 years.

Morin was one of 15 direct support professionals from across the state recognized during MACSP’s annual meeting for their leadership, collaborative spirit, and commitment to high-quality services for people with intellectual disabilities, autism, and brain injuries.

Several members of the SKILLS team as well as members of Morin’s family attended the event that was held at the Harraseeket Inn, in Freeport.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Christmas pre-20th century

The Christmas holiday grew in popularity after the Civil War. Certainly, the message of peace and goodwill resonated with Americans who yearned for reconciliation and unity. (photo from the book, Christmas in the 19th Century, by Bev Scott)

by Mary Grow

This article is intended to complete the survey of pre-20th-century social activities in the central Kennebec Valley and, given the current date, to report on Christmas observances.

An organization omitted last week, but covered earlier in this series (see The Town Line issues of April 8 through May 13, 2021), was the Patrons of Husbandry, the farmers’ organization commonly called the Grange. All of the dozen towns and cities covered in this series had at least one Grange; according to the Maine State Grange website, Benton, Fairfield, Palermo and Vassalboro are among 98 Maine towns that still do.

The history of Waterville’s Grange is lost. Edwin Whittemore’s 1902 Waterville history said the Waterville Grange once existed, named three members and concluded, “It is long since defunct.”

The April 8, 2021, issue of The Town Line listed 19 local Granges, including three each in China and Vassalboro and two each in Albion, Augusta, Clinton and Palermo, founded between 1874 and about 1974.

While farming remained prominent, the Grange was a center of social activity, especially in smaller towns. Meetings provided education as well as entertainment, and several Granges had stores where they sold essentials, bought in bulk, to members at discount prices.

In addition to organizational activities, residents had other types of entertainment. Windsor historian Linwood Lowden mentioned minstrel shows, put on by different groups beginning in the 1860s.

He also cited a local diary: “On Monday night, March 29, 1886, the Weeks Mills Dramatic Club performed at Windsor Four Corners. The performance was followed by a ‘sociable.'”

On the west side of the Kennebec, historian Alice Hammond found an advertising poster for the Sidney Minstrels’ Grand Concert on Thursday, Aug. 18, 1898. The location is written in; the cursive script has faded to illegibility.

Vern Woodcock, Boston’s Favorite, had the largest headline; he was described as “the Celebrated Guitarist, and Beautiful Tenor Balladist, in his Comic and Sentimental Songs and Character Impersonations.” Also to perform were Happy Charlie Simonds (“the Merry Minstrel, the Prince of Ethiopian Comedians, and the Champion Clog Dancer of the World”) and other comics and musicians.

The Fairfield history added roller skating to 19th-century local recreational activities. Citing a journal written by a local businessman named S. H. Blackwell, the writers said the roller rink was on Lawrence Avenue, where the telephone company building was in 1988. People of all ages and groups from out of town came to skate.

The China Grange, in China Village.

The China bicentennial history includes a list of available spaces for social gatherings in three of the town’s four villages. In China Village in the early 1800s were “Mr. [Japheth C.] Washburn’s hall and General [Alfred] Marshall’s inn.”

Until the major fire in 1872, there was a three-story building in South China that prominent Quaker Rufus Jones described as a meeting place. Barzillai Harrington’s school building in China’s part of Branch Mills and “the meeting room over Coombs’ store” were available “in the last half of the nineteenth century.”

In Clinton, Kingsbury said, John P. Billings built Centennial Hall, on Church Street, in 1876, apparently as a public hall. He sold it to the Grange in 1890; in 1892, the Grangers used the ground floor and the second floor was “used for exhibition purposes.”

Milton Dowe wrote that Palermo’s “first known building for recreation” was on Amon Bradstreet’s farm, described as between Donald Brown’s land (in 1954) and Sheepscot Lake. Dances were held there until the hall and farm buildings burned about 1890.

In Branch Mills Village, Dowe said, the large hotel east of the Sheepscot and north of Main Street (where the Grange Hall now stands) had a dance hall on the second floor of the ell. Behind the hotel was a dance pavilion. Both were destroyed in the 1908 fire that leveled the entire downtown.

In her Vassalboro history, Alma Pierce Robbins mentioned that the big schoolhouse on Main Street, in North Vassalboro, was used for “‘benefit’ gatherings of many kinds” from the time it was built in 1873, though she gave no specifics before the 1960s.

Sometimes the weather – or a person’s mood – forbade socializing. Lowden’s history has a paragraph titled “B.T.V. (Before Television),” in which he talked about books people could read and reread during long evenings, based on inventories he reviewed.

Some families had no books, he wrote. If there was only one, it was a Bible.

A relatively well-off resident named Reuben Libby, who died around 1814, had four books plus a pamphlet (subject not given). The books were a Bible; a dictionary; Young Man’s Best Companion (also called The American Instructor, described on line as first published in 1792 and offering an easy way to teach spelling writing, reading and arithmetic); and a book described as a “selection” – Lowden did not know whether it was poetry or prose.

Benjamin Duren’s 1814 inventory listed a Bible and a dictionary, two geography books, an arithmetic book and two unnamed others.

A former sea captain’s 1831 inventory listed two nautical books, the American Coast Pilot (first published in 1796) and Bowditch’s American Practical Navigator (first published in 1802, though there were earlier versions from 1799), plus The Poets of Great Britain Complete from Chaucer to Churchill (the work is described by Wikipedia as 109 volumes, published by John Bell between 1777 and 1783; Lowden did not say whether the set was complete).

* * * * *

Christmas was not much of a holiday in the 19th century, according to the few local accounts your writer found.

In Lowden’s history of Windsor, he used diary entries from the 1870s and 1880s to support his claim that “Mostly it was a quiet day at home.”

The longest account is from the diary of Roger Reeves, a farmer and carpenter. In 1874, Lowden learned, Dec. 24 was a cloudy day with rain that turned to snow; nonetheless, Reeves traveled to Augusta and spent $1.50 on Christmas presents.

Christmas day Reeves “spent the day making picture frames in his shop, doing his regular chores, and otherwise busying himself about the place.” That evening, he joined people gathered around a Christmas tree at Tyler’s Hall to exchange presents, enjoy an “antiquarian supper,” sing and socialize.

(Albion historian Ruby Crosby Wiggin also came across such a supper, though it was planned at a Feb. 8, 1878, Grange meeting, not associated with Christmas, and was in the meeting report spelled “antignarian” – to Wiggins’ delight.

Wiggin consulted her Webster’s dictionary and found that “gnar” meant [and still means, though the web offers additional meanings] “to snarl.” “Anti” means against; so she concluded approvingly that “antignarian” had to mean “not snarling but friendly or smiling.”)

Orren Choate (June 20, 1868-1948), another Windsor diarist, spent Christmas 1885 “at home with his parents,” identified on line as Abram and Adeline (Moody) Choate. They had company in the afternoon.

Christmas evening, Choate skipped a Christmas dance in South Windsor because he didn’t want to drive that far in the cold. Instead, he and his father spent the evening playing cards at the home of his father’s younger brother, Ira Choate.

In Vassalboro, one of the women’s clubs Alma Pierce Robbins mentioned in her town history was the Christmas Club on Webber Pond Road, “where the women met for sociability and sewing for Christmas.” These meetings were held all year at members’ houses, she said; but she gave no indication of when the club was founded or how long it lasted.

Another source of Christmas information was Revolutionary War veteran and Augusta civic leader Henry Sewall’s diary, as excerpted in Charles Nash’s Augusta history for the years 1830 to 1843.

Sewall was a Congregationalist who attended church regularly. He often participated in religious exercises on other days, like the four-day meeting in May 1831 that began daily with a 5:30 a.m. prayer meeting and ended around 9 p.m. after the evening lecture.

Nash was selective in his choice of entries. Between 1830 and 1843, he included only seven Dec. 25 entries (of 14).

Sewall’s 1830 diary entry for Dec. 25 identified the day as Christmas and reported on the warm rain that broke up the ice in the Kennebec. Dec. 25, 1834, had another weather report; the temperature was eight below that Christmas.

In 1832 Dec. 25 was a Tuesday (according to on-line sources). Sewall called the day Christmas and wrote that he listened to Rev. Mr. Shepherd’s “discourse” proving the divinity of Christ.

Four of the entries strike an odd note, and are not explained in Nash’s book. On Dec. 25, 1838, and again in 1839, Sewall wrote merely, “Christmas (so-called).” He expanded on the theme in 1841, writing, “Christmas, so-called, which was employed here in consecrating St. Mark’s church, for their future worship.”

(St. Mark’s Episcopal congregation organized in 1840; Wikipedia says the first church was a wooden building just north of the present Lithgow Library. James North wrote in his Augusta history that the cornerstone was laid July 4, 1841, and the building was first used for worship that Christmas. Construction cost was $6,248; the church was 46 by 85 feet with a 110-foot tall “tower and spire.”)

On Dec. 25, 1843, Sewall, who had noted that he turned 91 on Nov. 24 (and on Nov. 28 recorded that he had finished “sawing a cord of wood, with my own hands”) wrote: “Christmas, as held by Episcopalians, is a misnomer.”

North, in a biographical sketch, commented that Sewall was “pious and rigidly orthodox in his religious views. Towards the close of his life his religious rigor was much softened.”

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Fairfield Historical Society Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984.)
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993).
Nash, Charles Elventon, The History of Augusta (1904).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Wars – Part 13

Capt. James Parnell Jones (left), Capt. Charles W. Billings (right)

by Mary Grow

Civil War

Henry Kingsbury lists four men who served in “the late war” in the personal paragraphs in his chapter on Benton in the 1892 Kennebec County history.

Stephen H. Abbott enlisted from Winslow and served six months with the 19th Maine; he moved to Benton in 1872 and served as postmaster from 1890 and for three years as a selectman.

Gershom Tarbell was in the 19th Maine for three years. Albion native Augustine Crosby was in the 3rd Maine, credited to Benton. Hiram B. Robinson was in Pennsylvania when the war started and enlisted from there not once but twice; he fought in 37 battles and returned to Benton in 1865.

Kingsbury does not mention Benton-born Frank H. Haskell (1843-1903), described in on-line sources as enlisting in Waterville June 4, 1861, when he was 18. Sergeant-Major Haskell was promoted to first lieutenant in the 3rd Maine Infantry after being cited for heroism during the June 1, 1862, Battle of Fair Oaks (also called the Battle of Seven Pines) in Virginia. His action, for which he received a Medal of Honor, is summarized as taking command of part of his regiment after all senior officers were killed or wounded and leading it “gallantly” in a significant stream crossing.

Another Civil War soldier from the central Kennebec Valley who was awarded the Medal of Honor was Private John F. Chase, from Chelsea, who enlisted in Augusta and served in the 5th Battery, Maine Light Artillery. As the May 3, 1863, battle at Chancellorsville, Virginia, wound down, Chase and one other survivor continued firing their gun after other batteries stopped and, since the horses were dead, dragged the gun away by themselves to keep it from the Confederates.

Grave of Horatio Farrington

At least 40 China residents died of wounds or disease, including, the China bicentennial history says, the five oldest of Mary and Ezekiel Farrington’s seven sons. Horatio, age 27, Charles, 25, Reuben, 20, Byron, 19 and Gustavus, 18, died between June 1, 1861, and Oct. 30, 1864.

Records do not show how many Civil War veterans were permanently disabled, the author commented. She retold the story told to her by Eleon M. Shuman of Weeks Mills about Jesse Hatch, from Deer Hill in southeastern China, who (for an unknown reason) fought for the South and came home so disfigured from a powder magazine explosion “that his appearance frightened the neighborhood children, but his friendly words and gifts of apples made him less terrifying.”

One of China’s best-known Civil War soldiers was Eli and Sybil Jones’ oldest son, Captain James Parnell Jones. As the author of the China history pointed out, pacificism is a central Quaker tenet, but in 1861 some Quakers decided ending slavery and maintaining the Union outweighed religious upbringing.

She quoted from the Jones genealogy an account of James Jones (who was 23, married with one son) and his 18-year-old unmarried brother Richard at a troop-raising event.

“Richard immediately raised his hand when the call came but James walked over to his brother, pulled down the raised arm and slowly raised his own. ‘Thee’s too young, Richard.’ ”

Jones was in the 7th Maine, first a company captain and from December 1863 a regimental major, as the troops fought in Virginia and at Gettysburg. In 1864, in the Battle of the Wilderness, he allegedly replied to a demand to surrender his embattled regiment with, “All others may go back, but the Seventh Maine, never!”

Jones was killed in the fighting around Fort Stevens July 11 and 12, 1864, as the 7th Maine helped defend Washington.

From Clinton, Kingsbury listed Daniel B. Abbott, born in Winslow, who served in the 19th Maine until June 1865 and after the war bought a farm in Clinton and became commander and grand master of Billings Post, G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic, the Civil War veterans’ organization that was disbanded in 1956 after the last member died).

The post was named to honor Captain Charles Wheeler Billings (Dec. 13, 1824 – July 15, 1863), Company C, 20th Maine, who was wounded in the left knee July 2, 1863, at the Battle of Little Round Top and died in a field hospital.

Clinton’s Brown Memorial Library website and a “Central Maine Morning Sentinel” article found on line describe the June 6, 2015, rededication of Clinton’s Civil War monument and the monument at Billings’ gravesite in Riverview Cemetery. The newspaper quotes speaker Bruce Keezer, then President of the Friends of Brown Memorial Library, as saying Clinton had a total population of 1,600 in the early 1860s; 252 men enlisted and 32 died.

The website says Billings was the highest-ranking 20th Maine officer to die at Little Round Top.

Billings left a widow, Ellen (Hunter) Billings, whose 30th birthday was July 1, 1863, and two daughters: Isadore Margaret, born in 1850, and Elizabeth W., or Lizzie, born in 1860. Another daughter, Alice, born in 1856, had died in 1860; and Elizabeth died Dec. 7, 1863. Isadore died in 1897, the day after her 47th birthday. Ellen lived until 1924.

Also from Clinton, according to Kingsbury, were Isaac Bingham, Rev. Francis P. Furber, Joseph Frank Rolfe and Laforest Prescott True.

Bingham had gone to California in 1852; he came home in 1861 and served two years with the 1st Maine Cavalry. After the war he moved back and forth between his Clinton farm and California.

Furber, a Winslow native who moved to Clinton in 1845, served in the 19th Maine for three years. A wound received May 6, 1864, “destroyed the use of one arm,” Kingsbury wrote. He was ordained a Freewill Baptist minister Sept. 27, 1885, after serving as a minister in Clinton and nearby towns since 1875.

Rolfe, born in Fairfield of parents who moved to Clinton when he was about three, served in the 2nd Maine Cavalry from 1863 to the end of the war. True was in the 20th Maine from 1862 to 1865 and was wounded twice.

Fairfield’s Civil War monument is one of the oldest in Maine, according to the town’s bicentennial history. The writers noted that its dedication day, July 4, 1868, was a scorching Saturday: the temperature reached 105 degrees in the shade.

Soldiers came from all over Maine. Ceremonies included a parade; cannon salutes; speeches, including one by Governor (former General) Joshua Chamberlain; dinner prepared by townswomen and served “in the old freight depot”; and a baseball game with a final score of 60 to 40 (the history does not record the names of the teams).

“The day was not without its tragedy,” the history says. A veteran named William Ricker, who had survived the war unscathed, lost a hand when one of the cannons went off too soon. Chamberlain promptly canceled the remaining salutes.

Kingsbury found that one of Sidney’s soldiers, Mulford Baker Reynolds (Aug. 5, 1843 – Aug. 3, 1937) served in Company C of the 1st Maine Cavalry from August 1862 to July 1865, “and spent about six months in Andersonville prison” in Georgia.

Reynolds married Ella F. Leighton on Nov. 23, 1881, according to an on-line source. Kingsbury wrote that in 1892 Reynolds was farming his family place in Sidney and he and Ella had four children.

Among the many Vassalboro men whose personal paragraphs in Kingsbury’s history list Civil War service is Edwin C. Barrows (April 2, 1842 – April 20, 1918). Educated at Waterville and Bowdoin colleges, he enlisted Nov. 19, 1863, in the 2nd Maine Cavalry.

Transferred in June 1865, he became second lieutenant (but acted as adjutant, the officer who assists the commander with administration, Kingsbury wrote) of the 86th U.S.C.T. (United States Colored Troops), serving until he was discharged April 10, 1866.

After the war, Barrows got a law degree from Albany Law School in January 1867 and practiced four years in Nebraska City, Nebraska. He married Laura Alden (Sept. 5, 1842 – Dec. 19, 1909) and returned to Vassalboro in 1872. By 1892, he had been a supervisor of schools in 1882 and 1883 and since then a selectman, “being chairman since 1887.”

Edwin and Laura Barrows are buried under a single headstone in Vassalboro’s Nichols Cemetery.

Vassalboro’s G.A.R. Post was named in honor of Richard W. Mullen of the 14th Maine, one of 410 Vassalboro Civil War soldiers, Alma Pierce Robbins wrote in her town history. After the war, town meeting voters appropriated money to the G.A.R.’s Women’s Relief Corps for Memorial Day services and veterans’ grave markers. The Post disbanded in 1942 and the appropriation was transferred to Vassalboro’s American Legion Post and Auxiliary.

The Waterville G.A.R. Post, chartered Dec. 29, 1874, was named in honor of William S. Heath, who was killed in action at Gaines Mill, Virginia, on June 27, 1862. The first post commander was General Francis E. Heath, the second General I. S. Bangs. Francis Heath was almost certainly William Heath’s brother (variously identified as Frank Edw. and Francis E.; died in Waterville in December 1897), I. S. Bangs the author of the military history chapter in Edwin Whittemore’s Waterville history.

Ernest Marriner added information on William Heath’s life in “Kennebec Yesterdays”. In 1849, he wrote, Heath was 15 and “somewhat tubercular”; his father, Solyman, thought a trip to the goldfields in California would be good for him.

Young Heath “did survive the rigors of the terrible trip across plains and mountains, worked a while in a San Francisco store, then shipped off to China, from which distant land the anxious father soon had him returned through the intercession of the United States government.”

Back in Waterville, Heath graduated from Waterville College in 1853. When the 3rd Maine’s Company H was formed in Waterville in April 1861, Heath was captain and his brother Francis/Frank was first lieutenant. By the time of his death, William Heath was a lieutenant colonel in the 5th Maine Infantry, Marriner wrote. Francis ended the war as a colonel in the 19th Maine, according to Bangs.

Linwood Lowden, in his Windsor history, wrote that Charles J. Carrol, one of seven Windsor men who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg July 2-4, 1863, was mortally wounded. Three more Windsor men, George H. B. Barton, George W. Chapman and George W. Merrill, were killed May 6, 1864, in the Battle of the Wilderness.

Windsor’s Vining G.A.R. Post, organized June 2, 1884, was named to honor Marcellus Vining. Post members met every Saturday night in the G.A. R. Hall, which was the upper story of the town house, Lowden said.

At an 1886, meeting, “a Mr. Bangs presented a picture of Marcellus Vining” to the organization. Kingsbury added that the Vining family donated Marcellus Vining’s army sword, “his life-size portrait and an elegant flag.”

Lowden believed Vining Post continued “well into the twentieth century.” Windsor voters helped fund the G.A.R., usually at $15 a year, he wrote. In 1929, however, “$30.00 was appropriated for G.A.R. Memorial and paid to the Sons of Veterans.”

Kingsbury wrote that Vining was born on the family homestead on May 2, 1842, third child and oldest son of Daniel Vining by his first wife, Sarah Esterbrooks of Oldtown (Daniel and Sarah had three daughters and three sons; after Sarah’s death, Daniel married Eliza Choat, and they had six more daughters).

On Jan. 25, 1862, Marcellus Vining became a private in the 7th Maine. He served for two years, during which his “ability and courage” (Kingsbury) earned him two promotions. On Jan. 4, 1864, he re-enlisted in a reorganized 7th Maine. On March 9 he was made second lieutenant of Company A, and on April 21 made first lieutenant. On May 12 he was wounded at Spottsylvania, Virginia; he died a week later.

“A captain’s commission was on its way from Washington to him, but too late to give to the brave soldier his richly earned promotion,” Kingsbury wrote.

He continued with a paraphrase from a letter Vining, knowing he was dying, wrote to his father, saying it was better “to die in the defense of his country’s flag than live to see it disgraced.”

Kingsbury concluded: “Thus the oft-repeated tale—a bright, promising man with the blush of youth still on his cheek, willingly laid down his life to preserve that of his country.”

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988)
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984)
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892)
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993)
Marriner, Ernest, Kennebec Yesterdays (1954)
Robbins, Alma, Pierce History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971)
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902)

Websites, miscellaneous

Give Us Your Best Shot! for Thursday, February 3, 2022

To submit a photo for this section, please visit our contact page or email us at townline@townline.org!

MMMM YUMMY: Emily Poulin, of South China, snapped this hummingbird enjoying the nectar of the flowers.

ENDURING: Joan Chaffee, of Clinton photographed this blue jay enduring the weather.

BLAZING SUNSET: Tina Richard, of Clinton, caught this blazing sunset last December.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Wars – Part 4

The frigate Warren.

by Mary Grow

Revolutionary War veterans from Albion, China, Clinton, Fairfield

Note One: this article and next week’s will be about a few of the Revolutionary War veterans who lived in the central Kennebec Valley. Selection is based on two criteria: how much information your writer could find easily, and how interesting she thought the information would be to readers. There is no intent to disparage veterans who are omitted.

Note Two: Alert readers will have noticed in last week’s piece that artist Gilbert Stuart was misnamed Stuart Gilbert. Your writer accepts blame for carelessness; she also assigns blame to Mr. and Mrs. Stuart, for giving their son two last names, or two first names, depending on your perspective.

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Ruby Crosby Wiggin wrote that town and state records and cemetery headstones identify more than a dozen Albion residents who were Revolutionary War veterans. Two, Francis Lovejoy and John Leonard, were among early settlers.

Rev. Francis Lovejoy, grandfather of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, was in Albion by 1790. Wiggin found that he served initially in “Colonel Baldwin’s regiment” and later re-enlisted to fill the quota from his then home town, Amherst, Massachusetts.

(Colonel Baldwin was probably Loammi Baldwin [Jan. 10, 1744 – Oct. 20, 1807], who fought at Lexington and Concord in the Woburn [Massachusetts] militia. He later enlisted in the 26th Continental Regiment, quickly became its colonel and commanded it around Boston and New York City until health issues forced him to resign in 1777. Wikipedia identifies him as the “Father of American Civil Engineering” and the man for whom the Baldwin apple is named.)

Wiggin gave no information on John Leonard’s military service. By Oct. 30, 1802, he owned the house in which Albion (then Freetown) voters held their first town meeting. Wiggin wrote that he held several town offices between then and 1811, when his name disappeared from town records.

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A veteran who settled in what is now China, and whose story has been increasingly revealed in recent years, was Abraham Talbot (May 27, 1756 – June 11, 1840). In various on-line sources, his first name is also spelled Abram, and his last name Talbart, Tallbet, Tarbett, Tolbot and other variations.

Talbot was a free black man. He was an ancestor of Gerald Talbot, the first black man elected to the Maine legislature. Gerald Talbot’s daughter, Rachel Talbot Ross, is assistant majority leader in the current Maine House of Representatives.

Born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, to Toby (or Tobey) Talbot, also a Revolutionary War veteran, Abraham Talbot enlisted in the Massachusetts Line in July 1778 and served his nine months’ term at Fishkill and West Point, New York, until March 1779. He married Mary Dunbar in his home town on Sept. 3, 1787.

When he applied for his pension in 1818, he owned an acre of land in China with a small house on it. He and Mary were the only ones living there, although they had had eight children, born between December 21, 1787, and Feb. 16, 1805, in Freetown (now Albion).

William Farris (1755 – Oct. 19, 1841) was another veteran who in 1832 applied for his pension from China, having previously lived in Vassalboro from either 1796 or 1802 (sources differ). He was a native of Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and on Oct. 5 1775, married Elizabeth Burgess of that town.

An on-line history says he enlisted three times in three regiments: Nov. 1, 1775, for two months in Colonel Putnam’s regiment; February 1775 (a misprint for 1776, as the writer says he enlisted “again”) for two months in Colonel Carey’s regiment; and April or May 1776 for four months in Colonel Berckiah Bassett’s regiment.

His first terms were spent building fortifications in Cambridge and Dorchester, outside Boston. His third enlistment ended in the fall of 1776 on Martha’s Vineyard, “guarding the shore.”

Col. Rufus Putnam

(Colonel Putnam was probably Rufus Putnam [later a Brigadier General], a French and Indian War veteran who was instrumental in building the fortifications that forced British troops to evacuate Boston in mid-March 1776. Colonel Carey was probably Colonel Simeon Cary, commander of “the Plymouth and Barnstable County regiment of the Massachusetts militia,” which was at the siege of Boston. This writer failed to find Colonel Bassett on line.)

William and Elizabeth Farris had “at least eight children.” After she died around 1805, on March 18, 1806, he married a 22-year-old Vassalboro woman, Martha “Patty” Long. He bought a piece of land in Vassalboro in 1816, but was a China resident by 1832. His annual pension amounted to $33.33.

The China bicentennial history lists seven other early residents who were Revolutionary War veterans, including Joseph Evans. Evans, for whom Evans Pond is named, arrived in 1773 or 1774 and left his wife and children in the wilderness when he enlisted.

* * * * * *

Michael McNally (about 1752 – 1848), sometimes spelled McNully, was a veteran who ended his life in Clinton. He served in the Pennsylvania Line up to 1781. An 1896 on-line source says his descendants claimed that his role was driving the horses that pulled cannons.

Family stories reproduced on line give two accounts of his arrival in Pennsylvania: one says he was born as his family emigrated from Ireland, the other that as a youngster he ran away from home and crossed the Atlantic alone. He settled in Clinton around 1785 and “raised a large family.”

* * * * * *

The Fairfield Historical Society writers who produced the town’s bicentennial history in 1988 listed four early settlers who served in the Revolutionary army and 10 veterans who moved in after the war (eight from Massachusetts, one from New Hampshire and one from Georgetown, Maine).

The most prominent was William Kendall (1759 – 1827), referred to in one section as General William Kendall. The history says he enlisted from Winslow in March 1777 and obtained an honorable discharge in 1780. An on-line source says he was a drummer “in various New England regiments.”

Having bought most of the area that is now downtown Fairfield, including an unfinished dam and mill building, Kendall completed that project and added saw and grist mills in 1781. The village center was called Kendall’s Mills until 1872.

On Christmas Day 1782, Kendall paddled up the Kennebec to Noble’s Ferry (Hinckley) in his birchbark canoe and came back with his new wife, Abigail Chase. The couple lived first in a log house by the river at the foot of present Western Avenue, then in Fairfield’s first frame house and later in a large brick house at the corner of Newhall Street and Lawrence Avenue. The last housed Bunker’s Seminary (briefly mentioned in the Oct. 21, 2021, issue of The Town Line); it was torn down in the 1890s.

The Fairfield history says Kendall served eight years as a selectman. An on-line source adds that he was Kendall’s Mills postmaster in 1816, Somerset County Sheriff and a member of the first Maine Senate. He and Abigail had eight sons and three daughters. Kendall is buried in Fairfield’s Emery Hill Cemetery.

The cemetery, on the river side of Route 201 at the foot of Emery Hill, is near the site of the log house built by Jonathan Emery in 1771 that is called the first house built in Fairfield. Jonathan’s son David (born in Massachusetts Sept. 24, 1754) was one of the four Revolutionary soldiers who enlisted from Fairfield. The historians doubt the story that he enlisted in September 1775, inspired by Colonel Benedict Arnold’s troops marching up the Kennebec on the way to Québec, because dates don’t match.

They did find records showing that David Emery joined the Second Lincoln County Regiment on Mach 12, 1777. On Feb. 2, 1778, he transferred to the Continental Army, where he became part of General George Washington’s personal guard. After being mustered out Jan. 23, 1779, he came back to Fairfield and on April 5, 1782, married Abigail Goodwin. He died in Fairfield; one on-line source gives his date of death as Nov. 18, 1830, another as Nov. 18, 1834.

The other three early settlers who fought in the war were Josiah Burgess (1736 – 1828), a lieutenant from March 1776 to March 1779 in the First Barnstable Company from his home town of Sandwich, Massachusetts; his younger brother Thomas (1741 – 1820), who served in Josiah’s company for a week; and Daniel Wyman (1752 – 1829), who moved up the river from Dresden to Fairfield in 1774 and served three years in the Second Massachusetts Line. After independence, each Burgess brother served as a Fairfield selectman and Thomas was town treasurer for two years.

Jonathan Nye (November 1757 – September 1854) was born in Sandwich, Massachusetts, and is identified on line as serving as a private in 1775 and 1776 at Elizabeth Islands, first in Captain John Grannis’s company and later in Captain Elisha Nye’s company.

(The Elizabeth Islands are an island chain south of Cape Cod and west of Martha’s Vineyard; they compose the town of Gosnold, Massachusetts, named after the British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold, the first European to visit them, in 1602.

(John Grannis was a captain of marines, identified in several on-line sources as spokesman for America’s first whistle-blowers. In February 1777, nine shipmates aboard the frigate “Warren” chose him to jump ship and carry to the government in Philadelphia their charge that Esek Hopkins, in charge of the Continental Navy, was “unfit to lead.” The Continental Congress fired Hopkins.)

The Fairfield history says after Nye’s first one-year enlistment, he enlisted again from Sandwich in the spring of 1777. He was at Saratoga when Burgoyne surrendered and at Valley Forge during the winter of 1778. At some point he became a sergeant. He was honorably discharged at West Point March 7, 1780. After that, the history says, he enlisted yet again for short terms and served on privateers.

The on-line source names his first wife as Mercy Ellis from Sandwich. The bicentennial history calls her Mary Ellis, and says Nye married her “soon after his discharge [in the early1780s, then] and settled in Fairfield.” The history also says that in the spring of 1835, when Nye applied for one of the land grants Congress had just authorized, he said he had lived in Fairfield for 35 years, indicating he moved there in 1800. And in an account of the Nye family in another section of the book, Jonathan Nye is said to have moved from Sandwich to Fairfield in 1788, with his cousins Bartlett (August 1759 – 1822), Bryant and Elisha (Nov. 2, 1757 – 1845) Nye.

On March 18, 1820, Jonathan Nye married again, to Abigail Fish, who died in 1850. When he applied for a military pension in 1820, he said she was not strong enough to help with their farm, and he could not do much because of “blindness caused by small pox while in the army and a lameness in both knees.”

Col. Nathaniell Freeman

Jonathan Nye’s cousins Bartlett and Elisha were also Revolutionary veterans. Bartlett Nye, according to an on-line family history, served from July 2 to Dec. 12, 1777, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and again for four days, Sept. 11 through Sept. 14, 1779, as a corporal in Colonel Freeman’s regiment responding to “an alarm at Falmouth [Massachusetts].”

(Colonel Freeman was probably Nathaniel Freeman (March 28, 1741 – Sept. 20, 1827) from Sandwich. He had a medical practice, became active in the Revolutionary movement as early as 1773, was a militia colonel from 1775 and a militia brigadier general from 1781 to 1791.)

Elisha Nye was also in Colonel Freeman’s regiment. He is listed on line as serving for several very brief periods in 1778 and 1779.

After the war, each of the brothers held political office. In 1812, Bartlett Nye was in the Massachusetts General Court, where he supported making Maine a separate state; his term had ended before the decision was taken in June 1819. Elisha, the Fairfield history says, “served as Representative from the County” in 1816, presumably also to the Massachusetts General Court.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Give Us Your Best Shot! for Thursday, December 16, 2021

To submit a photo for this section, please visit our contact page or email us at townline@townline.org!

BLAZING SKY: Tina Richard, of Clinton, photographed this fiery sunset from her backyard.

COLORFUL SUNSET: Summer resident Susan Thiem, of Corpus Christi, Texas, snapped the beautiful colors and sunset on China Lake.

 

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Clinton, China Libraries

Albert Church Brown Memorial Library

by Mary Grow

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.”

John Calvin Stevens

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.

William Wentworth Brown

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.

Main sources

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.

Personal interview.

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Libraries – Continued

Lithgow Library, in Augusta.

by Mary Grow

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.

Brown Memorial Library, in Clinton.

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.

Llewellyn Lithgow

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.”

Main sources

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.

Websites, miscellaneous.

PHOTOS: Youth active in sports in central Maine

League champions

The Palermo Consolidated School’s middle school soccer team beat St. Michael’s School in a 2-0 win for the championship.  They had a 9-0-1 record for the season.  They end the season with a great appreciation for their coach, Dick Reitchel.  Dick Reitchel has been the soccer coach for Palermo School for eight years and also coaches and helps run the Palermo Youth Athletics (PYA) program. (photo courtesy of Stephanie Oliphant)

PAL Senior League champs

The Clinton Lions were crowned champions of the PAL senior league. Front row, from left to right, Colt Robinson, Brady Dearborn, Casey Gagnon, Nolan Owens, Caleb Collins, and Gage Mckenney. Second row, LoganWise, Trent Wishart, Keegan Littlefield, Cody Gagnon, Kayleb Gerow, Tucker St. Jarre, Trevor Denis, Kahl Bolster, Carter Sanborn and Maddok Lepage. Back, Coaches Jevon Owens, Toby Gagnon and Ryan Robinson. (contributed photo)

Cap unbeaten season

Messalonskee Grade 5/6 finished the season unbeaten (7-0) by outscoring the competition 284-46. Team members include, front, from left to right, Dawson Wellman, Sean Smith, Ayden Estes, Hunter Poulin, Hayden Cook, Malachi Cusano, Cavan Gooding, Parker Doucette, Brandon Frowery, Dawson Baker, Dominick Berry and Wyatt Bucknam, Middle row, Cameron Burrows, Trenton Bell, Owen Emmons, Connor Caron, Brayden Stewart, Eben Potter, Gabriel Steinberger, Caleb Corrow and Chase Lawler. Back, coaches Andy Steinberger, Justin Lawler, Tyler Jandreau, Darren Doucette and David Cusano. Absent from photo, Shawn Higgins, Graham Fitzsimmons, Quinn Charles. (photo by Sarah Lawler, Central Maine Photography)

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Even more high schools

by Mary Grow

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 [1873] 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

1913 photo of Frank Besse seated in a Cadillac convertible, in front of Besse High School.

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.

Main sources

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).

Websites, miscellaneous.