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.


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.

Maine Farm Days slated for August 21 & 22, 2019

The cows at the Misty Meadow Farm produce 10 gallons of milk each day! With about 700 “milkers,” that is a lot of milk! That could be used to produce over 3,000 pounds of cheese daily. See where the cheese for your pizza, and the ice cream, and the yogurt, and many other dairy products come from.

Maine Farm Days, to take place on August 21 – 22, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., is an Agricultural Trade Show held on a working farm. Open to the public. Admission is free. Farm Days, Inc. joins the host families, John and Belinda Stoughton and Tom and Kimberly Wright in addition to others in order to sponsor this agricultural exhibition. The Stoughton family opens their farm up to the public but they do not stop farming. You have a chance to see how it works. They just allow the public to come in and join the operation and see what is involved in the operation of a large dairy farm. If you joined them in previous years, come and see the changes.

There will be baking contests, a children’s tent, prize drawings, classes about pesticides and pests, vendors displaying equipment and products in addition to many people and groups in attendance set up to answer questions. There are two large tents for vendors and one devoted as a children’s tent. other tents for workshops.

It is approximately a thousand-acre operation that milks over 700 cows, producing approximately two million gallons of milk annually. Come and visit all aspects of a working dairy farm in central Maine. Take advantage of the Stoughton family’s willingness to open up their entire farming operation to the public.

Just follow the signs. Come and join us on the farm. Maine Farm Days.

The Misty Meadows Farm is located on Hill Road, in Clinton. Check out the website for details at www.MaineFarmDays.com or check us on FaceBook.

Burnham named to dean’s list at Plymouth State

Caelie Burnham, of Clinton, has been named to the Plymouth State University dean’s list for the Spring 2019 semester, in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Burnham is a business administration major at Plymouth State.

Veterans observe July 4 holiday

Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #6924, in Fairfield, wave to cheering crowds during the Central Maine Fourth of July celebration held in Clinton. (photo by Beth Fisher, Central Maine Photography staff)


Residents in Clinton celebrate the 4th of July, 2019. (photo by Beth Fisher, Central Maine Photography staff)

Cancer walk at Clinton school

From left to right, co-advisor Mrs. Cloutier, sixth grade students Kaylie Smith, Kylie Delile, Colton Carter, Alyssa Carter and co-advisor Mrs. Buck. (Contributed photo)

Clinton Elementary School’s Student Council led the school in a Bulldog Strong Walk-a-thon cancer walk for the American Cancer Society recently. Students and staff carried with them lists of names of the people they know or have known who had cancer. Over $1,002 was raised.