Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Granges – Part 2 (Benton, China and Clinton)

Benton Grange.

by Mary Grow

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.

Starling Grange, now town-owned Starling Hall, in Fayette.

(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 deteriorating Silver Lake Grange, in China Village, in 2021. (photo by Roland Hallee)

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.

Main sources

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.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: The Grange – Part 1

Vassalboro Grange (photo: vassalboro.net)

by Mary Grow

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.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Fortins celebrate 65th wedding anniversary

Anne , 86, left, and Jerry Fortin, 85. (contributed photo)

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 Graduates from Ithaca College

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.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Winslow, Benton, Clinton

A 19th century photo of the Clinton schoolhouse.

by Mary Grow

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.)

Fort Halifax in 1754.

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.

The Conforth homestead, in Benton, in this 19th century photo.

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.

MAJOR SOURCES:

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.

[See also: Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Augusta & Vassalboro]

Joins military following in family footsteps: and still involved with veterans

Tina Richard, second from left, in the wheelhouse of the USS Hunley.

by Roland D. Hallee

Following graduation from Rumford High School, in 1984 Tina Richard, of Clinton, decided she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father and brother, and join the U.S. Army. When that didn’t work out, she was determined to continue her pursuit to serve her country. Her father served a tour of duty in Vietnam, and she felt the need to do her part.

That’s when she decided to join the U. S. Navy, and did just that in August 1987, at the age of 20.

Following basic training in Orlando, Florida, with Company K125, at a Navy base that no longer exists, she was assigned to the USS Hunley, a sub tender, as a quartermaster. The Hunley was designed to tend most of the long-term requirements of the Polaris Class of submarines. The ship achieved several records and milestones in its service.

Quartermaster is a military term. In many navies, a quartermaster is an officer with particular responsibility for steering and signals. The seaman is a non-commissioned officer (petty officer) rank; in some others, it is not a rank but a role related to navigation.

The term appears to derive from master of the quarterdeck where the helmsman and captain controlled the ship. The duties involve reading charts assisting in the navigational process.

The USS Hunley, AS31, was sent to Holy Lock, Scotland, as she had done several times previously during its commission, to assist in submarine repairs. During Richard’s tour of duty, the Hunley was docked in Scotland for six months, when it was then sent back to the United States, to be stationed in Charleston, North Carolina.

[See also: Brief history of USS Hunley]

“When I got on the USS Hunley (AS-31) in Holy Loch, Scotland, in January 1987, said Richard, “I started out in deck department. I handled the mooring lines in and out of port. I painted the decks, bulkheads, the anchor chain and the side of the ship.”

Once underway, she drove the ship and kept in contact with engineering about how fast or how slow to steer the ship under the Officer of the Deck during her watch.

Richard came back to the states in Norfolk, Virginia, after six months of being in Scotland. “After being in deck department for awhile, I wanted to find a rate that I could go up in rank so I shopped around and found something I really liked. I became a quartermaster, navigation in and out of port.” She worked directly with the captain and executive officer.

“Duties I did as a quartermaster included, correcting charts, using a sexton, had to know about tides and currents, determined the time of sunrise and sunsets, worked with compasses – the magnetic compass and Gyro compass – and planned for when we went out to sea. I was very good at being out on the weather deck and picking up the navigation stuff so the quartermaster in the pilot house could plot it.

“They called me eagle eyes because I was quick and my eyes were incredible. In August 1989 our ship went to Charleston, South Carolina, to tend SUBRON FOUR submarines.

“In September we were underway steaming east to avoid the wrath of Hurricane Hugo. We were out to sea over a week. Upon our return to port we assisted in the local cleanup and relief efforts. We returned to our homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, in November, in time to enjoy the holidays with family members.”

Richard was discharged from the Navy on August 28, 1990, and returned home to Rumford, as a QM 3.

“I would’ve stayed in but back then they would not let women on many ships. Now the ladies are on all of them, even subs. I didn’t want shore duty and I loved being out to sea doing my job.”

Richard took a year off and then, “I did one year of reserves [because] I was bored. I was not use to sitting around on my weekend duty so I got out as a QM2 after taking the test. Would I do it again? Yes, I would and make a career of it.

“My most memorable memories of being in the Navy was being out to sea and seeing beautiful sunrises and sunsets, watching the dolphins swim at the bow of the ship, going to Scotland, Annapolis, Maryland. seeing the Blue Angels fly, Halifax, Novia Scotia, the buildings were just incredible and the fort I visited had lots of history. Even went on a Canadian Navy ship which was way cool. Made many friends, in fact, I keep in touch with a few of them on Facebook. Some day I hope to go to a reunion and catch up with some of my shipmates.”

It was a different experience for Richard as she served on board the Hunley, which was a coed subtender. At first segregated from the male seamen, the policy was changed later to allow for mixed accommodations. Changes were taking place at an accelerated rate during her active duty, as even the uniforms of the female service members changed during her time of duty.

But, being a quartermaster on board the ship didn’t exempt her from other manual duties. One of those experiences involved having to be lowered down the side of the ship to do some painting on the hull. It was not one of her favorite things to do, knowing there could be sharks in the waters that were only a few feet below.

One of the oddities of the Hunley, as Tina explained, was that it “had a periscope.” She doesn’t know why.

The Hunley was decommissioned in 1994 and turned into scrap metal in 2007. As of this writing, there are only two subtenders left in service.

During her active duty, she was awarded the Good Conduct ribbon, National Defense ribbon, Sea Service Deployment ribbon, with one star, Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon, Humanitarian Service ribbon, and SW Asia (Persian Gulf).

But, following her discharge from the military, is when she began her career in the American Legion.

She joined the Legion in 2000, and would commute to Lewiston from her home in Rumford. That travel commitment lasted two years. Her subsequent marriage brought her to Clinton, as her husband’s employment was at the SAPPI, Hinckley mill, and she became deeply involved with the American Legion Post #16, in Skowhegan.

In her 19 years of service to the American Legion, she holds the position of historian and chaplain locally, and is historian and first vice president at statewide District #10.

“I love my positions and I love helping other veterans,” she emphasized.

But, her work is far from being done. She is very much involved in veterans’ issues and continues to support military veterans, past and current.

Military service is a rewarding career

Margaret Williams at the 286th Battalion, in Augusta, in 1978.

by Roland D. Hallee

Not having gone to college as originally planned, Margaret Williams, 64, of Clinton, decided it was time to do something.

So, at the age of 22, she enlisted in the Army National Guard. Thus began a long military career for the 1974 Winthrop High School graduate. At the time of her enlistment, she lived in Mt. Vernon.

She would eventually attain a bachelors degree from the University of Maine at Augusta in 1992, and a master of education degree from the University of Maine at Orono in 2007.

“The education program in the Army is what helped pay for my bachelors degree,” she points out.

She spent 26 years working for the military of which seven were active duty. Following her military service she pursued a career in teaching.

However, she attributes most of her life goals because of the military.

“My military career had helped me with time management, leadership, organization, self-discipline, a can-do spirit and always getting back to people when they request assistance,” she emphasized “I have had several volunteer positions where meeting management came in handy.”

Because the military began using computers in the 1980s, far ahead of the public sector, she had a leg up on others from her military time of service.

She completed her basic training at Fort Jackson, in South Carolina, and advanced individual training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, in Indiana.

Once having completed her training, she was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters 286th Service and Support Battalion, in Augusta.

Her time in the military also took her to some training in Germany and Guatemala, where she spent six months improving roads, building a school, building hospitals and digging wells, among other humanitarian acts.

“My greatest military schooling accomplishment was to complete the Army Sergeants Major Academy, at Fort Bliss, Texas.”

Margaret Williams at the 240th Engineering Group, in Waterville, in the 1990s.

Once back home, she served as the Family Program Specialist for the state of Maine, and this was rewarding as she helped families who had their soldiers deployed. As a Personnel Noncommissioned Officer, she assisted units and soldiers by ensuring their records were up to date and they were ready for deployment.

She also served as Personnel NCO for the 240th Engineering Group, in Waterville, where she reviewed personnel actions on more than 1,500 soldiers before forwarding them to the state headquarters.

Following her separation from the National Guard, she was presented with what she described as her highest award, the Meritorious Service Medal for her 26 years of service. She also received the Army Com­menda­tion Medal, Army Achievement Medal and other awards.

“I was privileged to have the opportunity to serve,” she concluded. “I recommend the military to young people who are searching for a career. As one of 12 children growing up in rural Maine, I wouldn’t have believed that I would have been able to travel to many states and overseas.”

She cites other rewards and benefits: “In retirement I am reaping the benefits of discounts for veterans, good medical insurance and care with the VA health care system.”

Give Us Your Best Shot! for Thursday, September 26, 2019

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

LAZY SAIL: Tina Richard, of Clinton, took this photo of a schooner going by the Breakwater Lighthouse, in Rockland, while being on a ferry ride.

COOL SPOT: Emily T. Poulin, of South China, snapped this robin resting on a somewhat unusual perch.

COME ALONG, KIDS: Michael Bilinsky, of China Village, photographed this mother duck with her chicks in tow.

Local Residents initiated into the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi

The following local residents were recently initiated into The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the nation’s oldest and most selective all-discipline collegiate honor society.

Brooke Curtis, of Skowhegan, was initiated at University of Maine.

Jazzy Osborn of Clinton, was initiated at University of Maine.

Hold that pose

Tina Richard, of Clinton, captured this photo of a young buck in velvet with a doe while walking on her favorite trail.