EVENTS: Gaslight Theater presents 2023 Season of Laughter

Gaslight Theater proudly presents its “2023 Season of Laughter” starting with Love is Murder in February. Love is Murder, a comedy by Tim Kelly, will be directed by Gaslight Theater’s Matthew McLaughlin, at Hallowell City Hall Auditorium, at 1 Winthrop Street, in Hallowell. The show will be produced over two weekends, including Sunday matinees, February 10, 11,12,17, 18, 19. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees start at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students and Seniors, cash, check and credit card accepted at the door. For more information visit Gaslight Theater online at www.gaslighttheater.org.

We all say we don’t read them, but we do. Every now and then, we sneak one, just to be able to say how terrible they are. They’re Romance Novels, and they’re everywhere! This spoof of the satin-and-lace literature industry will keep audiences in hysterics. Valentina Velour, the Queen of Romance Fiction, opens Honeymoon House to a television program. Unfortunately, someone has left a dead man in the closet and a wacko called The Rose Killer is bumping off the love scribblers. Confusion and madness abound as vitamin fanatics, cops, literary agents and writers collide. The whole madcap mess concludes with the exposure of Valencia’s arch-enemy and an affirmation of her philosophy, “Romance will be here when men and women no longer walk the earth!” Love Is Murder is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French, Inc.

In Gaslight Theater’s production of Love Is Murder, Valentina Hart is played by Kathleen Brainerd, of West Gardiner, a seasoned actor with Gaslight Theater. The ditzy housemaid Effie is played by Alícia Belmore, of Gardiner. Tom Burns the ‘fish out of water’ butler is played by Matthew Ferrin, of Augusta. The weaselly publishing agent Lydecker is played by Mike Clements, of West Gardiner. TV producer Leon Ketchem is played by Henry Quintal, of Augusta. Gothic novelist Jane Err is played by Tamara Lilly, of Woolwich. Western novelist Calamity Lovett is played by Marcia Gallagher, of Hallowell. Oriental novelist Pearl Sweet is played by Wendi Richards, of Fairfield, another seasoned Gaslight Theater actor. Dr. Wintergreen is played by Randolph Jones, of Augusta. Ed Fish the detective is played by Melvin Morrison, of Hallowell. Director Matthew McLaughlin lives, in Augusta.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Kennebec River floods – Part 2

Hallowell Merchants District, 1896.

by Mary Grow

After the great freshet of 1832, with which last week’s article ended, Augusta business leaders went ahead with their plan to build a dam across the Kennebec River to power mills; and a Fairfield company dammed part of the river there.

The idea of an Augusta dam was by then about 50 years old. An early settler left a record predicting a dam in 1785, according to Augusta historian James North; and around 1818 Ephraim Ballard was quoted as saying he could build one for $25,000.

At the beginning of 1834, an Augusta group petitioned the Maine legislature to form a corporation to build a dam. Despite opponents’ concerns about effects on fishing, river transportation and upriver communities that might be flooded, a legislative majority created the Kennebec Dam Company in March 1834.

Work started in the spring of 1836. Expanded plans and time constraints meant the middle of the dam was left open through the winter of 1836-37; the ends survived freshets in November and December 1836 and April 1837.

In March 1837 the legislature renamed the dam company the Kennebec Locks and Canals Company and doubled the amount of capital stock it could issue, to $600,000. Work resumed in June; the 600-foot-long dam was closed Sept. 27; and the lock that allowed boats to pass opened Oct. 12, in a ceremony that was followed by a celebratory dinner.

In Fairfield, according to the Fairfield Historical Society’s bicentennial history, sometime between 1835 and 1840 the Fairfield Land and Mill Association dammed the west channel of the Kennebec between downtown Fairfield (then Kendall’s Mills) and Mill Island. “This earthen and timber dam had a short life as an [undated] unusual surge of high water washed it away.”

Its (undated) replacement a short distance downriver “was ingeniously unique in having a hinged bulkhead at its downstream end that swung open to release the pressure when the flow of water became excessive at flood stage.”

North described the solidity of the 1837 Augusta dam in detail, with illustrations, talking about ballasted timber cribs, thick planks, granite walls, cement, cast iron and iron strapping and similar substantial materials. The project used 800,000 cubic feet of granite, 2.5 million feet of timber and 25 tons of iron, and cost the full $300,000, he wrote.

The river continued to flow through a canal along each bank. North’s sketch shows the lock on the east end, between the dam and the canal.

A May 1838 freshet brought high water and giant logs that damaged the west bank, and a January 1839 windy rainstorm damaged it again (and covered Hallowell’s Water Street four feet deep in icy water). Nonetheless, Locks and Canals Company directors promptly started seeking proposals to build mills to use the water power, and by late May 1839 ten mills were almost built.

Then came, North wrote, “one of those catastrophes which mock at human foresight and defy human energy to resist.” After several days of rain, about 4 a.m. Friday, May 30, water began to go over the west side canal and through the damaged bank.

People “assembled in great numbers” to try to repair the leaks, but when the canal itself began to give way, they fled. The dam held; the river made a new channel about 500 feet wide around the west end, taking out two houses in the process (one, North said, was about a tenth of a mile from and 100 feet above the former shore).

An effort to blow up the mills to prevent their doing damage downstream failed, and one by one they were lifted off the dam, the last one floating away late Saturday afternoon.

Thus ended the first attempt to use the Kennebec to power Augusta industries. The dam stood blocking the river; the new channel was unnavigable; and during the summer of 1839 merchandise had to be unloaded from one boat and carried to another on the other side of the dam, “which was frequently piled high with various descriptions of goods in the process of transit.”

Businesspeople were annoyed. The company corporators had lost their investment. The legislature in March 1840 repealed the company charter effective Aug. 1, unless by then the corporators promised a rebuilt dam within two years.

North credited General Alfred Redington with saving the situation. Redington said if he were given a mill site, water power, “the materials of the old mills swept away in 1839” and as much money as people could come up with, he would build an improved dam and put a sawmill atop it.

The dam was to be 400 feet long, “upon a ledge, in shallow water, and not so high as the old dam” and Redington thought he could do it for $10,000.

Beginning with an Aug 1, 1840, public meeting, he did it. North wrote that work started Sept. 5, 1840, and was apparently finished promptly. Redington’s mill went up “during the following winter” (1840, or 1841?).

(Although both North and Henry Kingsbury, in his chapter on manufacturing in his Kennebec County history, referred to “rebuilding” the dam, what they described as actually built was a 400-foot addition to the 600-foot dam, extending it across the new channel the river had carved on the west end.)

Another sawmill opened on the east end of the (original?) dam, and a machine shop, in 1842. In 1845 and 1846 there was a burst of expansion: cotton mills, a flour mill and half a dozen sawmills.

Kennebec floods tried the rebuilt dam repeatedly. On April 28, 1843, a “southeasterly storm” raised the river to within four feet of the 1832 level. Four and a half days of rain that began Friday evening, Oct. 31, 1845, brought more than four inches of water. Logs, lumber and remains of upriver buildings were carried on “a magnificent sheet [of water] of great depth” over the dam.

The dam was undamaged both times. North gave credit to the width of the “wasteway,” almost the entire width of the dam, and the way the road bridge just downstream narrowed the waterway to 440 feet, divided by the central bridge pier.

The remains of the Hallowell-Chelsea Crib bridge in 1870.

The result, he explained, was the water level below the dam rose faster than the level above it and the force diminished. Normally, the water below the dam would be about 15 feet lower than in the pond behind it; during the 1845 freshet the difference was reduced to five feet.

This flood damaged two Augusta wharves and swept away the basement framing for a new block of six sawmills.

The river breached the new dam at the end of March 1846, when several days of rain following a normal spring rise as snow melted brought down “floating ice…intermixed with logs.”

The rebuilding had left a stone pier (the west end of the original dam, 400 feet from the west shore) as a connector between old and new sections “rising like a tower unprotected above the top of the dam.” An ice cake knocked it down, and in following days the adjoining area washed away; by Saturday, April 11, 1846, there was a 150-foot opening.

Repair work started Monday, April 13, North wrote, and despite a couple more freshets was finished “in about ten weeks,” for about $13,000.

The next damage was from fire, not water: in September 1853 most of the industrial buildings on top of the dam burned. The dam was quickly “repaired, improved and strengthened.”

In June 1855, part of the 1846 repairs failed. About 100 feet of the dam were swept away; repairs cost about $20,000.

North wrote these repairs were tested by a major flood before the derricks used in the work had been taken away. An estimated five inches of rainfall between Friday evening, Oct. 12, and late Saturday, Oct. 13, raised the river level 21 feet by Sunday afternoon, “within eighteen inches of the highest point of the great freshet of 1832.”

The dam was unscathed.

The next major floods North described occurred in October 1869 and January and February 1870. The southeaster that began pouring rain on the Kennebec Valley Sunday morning, Oct. 3, 1869, was expected to be fairly harmless, because the river was low at the time; but it did major damage from Skowhegan south (and through much of New England).

Logs that lumber companies had harvested over the summer and left floating were carried downriver to create jams, notably one at Hallowell, that raised the water behind them. At Water­ville, the Ticonic toll bridge was torn from the banks and floated downriver.

(This bridge, Edwin Whittemore wrote in his Waterville centennial history, dated from 1835. It had been damaged in the 1855 flood and quickly repaired. After it washed out in October 1869, a new free bridge was built for $32,000, mostly paid by Waterville taxpayers; it opened Dec. 1, 1870.)

North wrote that to prevent the Ticonic bridge taking out Augusta’s railroad bridge, “A locomotive was despatched with ropes and a crew of men, who met it in Vassalborough and fastened it to the shore.” The part that came loose and went over the dam was not solid enough to do damage.

This October 1869 freshet damaged warehouses on Augusta wharves and swept away piles of logs and lumber.

The following months, North wrote, were “generally mild,” but with occasional cold spells that froze the river to a considerable depth. After Christmas came another warm spell “which started the buds on trees in favorable exposures” and was followed by rain on Jan. 3, 1870.

The rain caused a freshet; the freshet broke up the ice over rapids in the Vassalboro area; the ice came down and jammed above unbroken ice in Augusta, Hallowell and Gardiner. In Hallowell and Gardiner, North wrote, water started backing up during the night; town officials had bells rung to notify Water Street business owners to rescue merchandise from their basements.

A cold spell added more ice to the jams. From Feb. 18 through 20, 1870, rain and wind moved more ice downstream, until, North wrote, the river was one continuous thickly-layered jam from near the Kennebec Arsenal (on the east bank a bit downriver from old Fort Western) to Hallowell. In places the ice-layers were 15 feet thick; in places they rested on the river bed.

This barrier made the river rise six feet in 30 minutes, until the water levels were equal above and below the Augusta dam. “The dam was completely flowed out, a slight ripple only marking its place,” North wrote.

He described in detail – probably from personal observation – 175 feet of the wooden railroad bridge (built in 1857, according to Charles Nash’s chapter in Kingsbury’s history) breaking away, turning upside down from the weight of the track on top and floating toward the already damaged road bridge, “a huge battering ram.”

When the upside-down floating bridge crashed into the stationary one, one end dipped under and came up on the downriver side, leaving 20-foot-long “legs” sticking up on either side. The mass wriggled until it bounced out and continued downriver, to the “joyous shouts and cheers of many anxious spectators.”

Nash wrote that 160 feet of the Augusta dam went down the river, and commented this was the fourth major damage since 1837. The dam was rebuilt “in a more elaborate and expensive manner than ever before” by the end of 1870; the road bridge was repaired; and a new iron railroad bridge was built “immediately.”

In Hallowell, North wrote, the bridge was carried away and some stores were moved from the east (river) side of Water Street to the west side. An on-line source estimated damage at more than $1 million, including loss of two bridges (road and railroad) and walls torn off buildings by the ice.

This 1870 freshet, North wrote as he concluded his history of Augusta, was the fiercest yet; the water level was two feet higher than in 1832.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Kennebec River floods – Part 1

Hallowell flood of 1870.

by Mary Grow

When this historical series started in the spring of 2020 as a way to distract writer and readers from the Covid-19 pandemic, part of the plan was a survey of historic local disease outbreaks and other disasters. The latter have come to include weather, floods, fires and other destructive events, man-made or a combination.

January in Maine seems like a good time to talk about weather, including floods. Some local historians collected a lot of information on the topic; others paid it little attention. Here is your writer’s proposal to share some past events.

Of great importance along the Kennebec River were – and still are – the frequent floods, often called “freshets.” Kennebec River freshets, interrelated with human attempts to control the water and sometimes including tributary streams, will be the first topic.

(Wikipedia: “The term freshet is most commonly used to describe a spring thaw resulting from snow and ice melt in rivers located in upper North America.”)

Then there is the famous “Year without a summer,” 1816, for a second topic.

Other weather-related events that have distressed central Kennebec Valley residents over the years, were recorded and have not been covered under the prior two topics will be a third topic.

* * * * * *

To the Kennebec Valley’s Native American inhabitants, the Kennebec River was a main source of transportation and communication up-river and down; a barrier, though one that could be overcome in various ways; a source of food; and a recreational resource. Early European inhabitants further counted the river as a natural dividing line, for example when Waterville was set off from Winslow and Sidney from Vassalboro; and a source of power for industry. To everyone, it was sometimes a threat.

Your writer found two books especially good sources of information on the river’s interactions with the Europeans who settled along its banks. The older is James North’s history of Augusta, published in 1870; the newer is Ernest Marriner’s 1954 Kennebec Yesterdays.

North mentioned the Kennebec in the first sentence of his book, when French explorer Sieur de Monts visited the mouth of the river in 1604. Marriner’s first chapter is titled Our Lady Kennebec; he described the river as a “gracious lady” who intermittently loses her temper and wreaks havoc.

After Europeans discovered the mouth of the river, exploration extended upstream. A series of land grants from the British monarchy authorized settlements, starting with the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. (Your writer has avoided trying to untangle the history of early land titles in the Kennebec Valley.)

The Plymouth settlers started trading with Kennebec Valley Native Americans, especially for furs. Their first three trading posts, established around 1628, were at the mouth of the river; in the Richmond/Swan Island area; and at Cushnoc, on the east bank of the river in what is now Augusta.

Trade was broken off in the 1650s. The valley was mostly devoid of Europeans, mainly because of opposition from the Native Americans and their French supporters in Canada, until Fort Halifax and Fort Western were built in 1754.

By the Feb. 19, 1763, Treaty of Paris, the French abandoned their claim to northern North America (they kept Louisiana until President Thomas Jefferson bought it in 1803). Without French backing, Kennebec Valley Native Americans moved north to join other tribes.

British settlers quickly replaced them. North listed about 100 families around Fort Western by 1762. On April 26, 1771, the Massachusetts legislature incorporated the towns of Hallowell, Vassalboro, Winslow and Winthrop.

(Later boundary changes took Augusta, Chelsea and most of Farmingdale and Manchester out of Hallowell; divided Sidney from Vassalboro, and Waterville from Winslow, separated by the river; and took Readfield from Winthrop.)

Hallowell residents built their log houses and laid out early roads on both banks of the Kennebec, which they apparently crossed at will. North wrote that the 1773 annual town meeting began on March 15 in a house on the west shore; after the first decisions, voters adjourned until March 16, when they reassembled in a house on the east shore.

Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history has the earliest mention of a freshet, not on the Kennebec’s main stem but on Bog – later Hastings – Brook, which flows in from the west in what was then Vassalboro (now Sidney). (This brook was in the southern part of town; it might have been the one now called Goff Brook.)

An early settler named John Marsh built a sawmill and a grist mill on Bog Brook, between the road (the present West River Road, also Route 104, approximately follows this road) and the river. Both mills “were carried away by a freshet and an ice jam in 1774.”

Kingsbury wrote that another early settler, Thomas Clark, had two bags of meal in the grist mill. He rescued one; saying his family needed the second bag, he went back into the mill “just as the resistless torrent bore it and him to destruction.”

North’s first mention of a Kennebec flood was in April 1789, after an April 7 rainstorm. Apparently a minor flood, it nonetheless set a destructive precedent: a six-month-old bridge over Bond Brook (formerly Ballard’s Brook), which enters the Kennebec from the west at the north end of Water Street, was washed out, and Ephraim Ballard’s house and dam were damaged.

On Feb. 3, 1791, North wrote, Hallowell residents experienced “the greatest freshet…since the settlement of the country.” After bare ground and an ice-free river at the end of 1790, the river froze and a foot of snow fell by Jan. 4. There was more snow at the beginning of February; it changed to rain as the wind blew from the southeast.

Again the area around the mouth of Bond Brook was hard-hit. A store was flooded, and the house where Martha and Ephraim Ballard’s son was living was knocked off its foundation by four feet of water carrying cakes of ice.

Hallowell flood of 1896.

During the winter of 1794 – no specific date – and on Feb. 5, 1795, North wrote that ice jams in the river led to brief flooding. In February 1806, a combination of rain and ice-jams raised water levels, in Bond Brook early in the month and in the Kennebec in mid-month.

The week of March 21, 1826, began with thunderstorms and ended with “torrents of rain” falling on almost two feet of ice on the Kennebec. Saturday morning, March 26, North wrote, the ice broke up, floated down to Hallowell and jammed against Brown’s Island, creating a barricade that brought the river 20 feet above normal high water in Augusta by Sunday (while downstream in Gardiner the level was below normal).

This flood took out parts of bridges in Norridgewock and Waterville. In Augusta it damaged a mill on Bond Brook, floated away stockpiled lumber and flooded cellars. Buildings on Hallowell’s Main Street had first floors as well as cellars water-filled, and much merchandise was ruined. “Capt. Wyman’s sloop was driven into Mr. Elias Bond’s garden”; other ships were carried downriver to join the jam at Brown’s Island.

Late Sunday afternoon, March 27, the jam let go. A “compact mass” of ice, trees, logs, lumber and five schooners” tore past Gardiner and hung up again a mile or two south, raising the river “to an unprecedented height” at Gardiner.

The next year, 1827, Augusta was chosen as the capital of Maine, which had become a separate state from Massachusetts in 1820. The Maine legislature began its first session in the new state house on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 1832. In May 1832 occurred what North, Edwin Carey Whittemore in his centennial history of Waterville and Marriner agreed was the worst flooding Europeans had seen on the Kennebec to that date.

North wrote that central Maine got a lot of snow in the winter of 1831-32, and spring was late – the ground was still frozen early in May. A sudden warming beginning May 8 started melting the snow. After rain, at first moderate and then “in torrents” from Thursday night, May 17, through Tuesday morning, May 22, “the Kennebec was swollen to an unexampled height.”

North listed damage as including destruction of two bridges in Waterville (part of one came downstream past Augusta); all but one of that town’s sawmills knocked off their foundations; on Bond Brook, a “valuable fulling-mill” and – again – the bridge swept away.

He wrote: “The Redington saw mill [from Waterville] came floating along, upright and high out of the water, being buoyed up by lumber piled in it. The formidable looking mass as it rapidly approached was expected to seriously damage if not remove the [Augusta] bridge. It struck, stopped for a moment, the gable of the building was crushed, and it sunk down into the water and passed under” without harming the bridge.”

However, the water damaged the east end of the bridge enough so that it was unsafe for carriages for two weeks.

Whittemore dated the Redington mill and the dam on which it stood to 1792. The bridge that sailed downriver was the Ticonic bridge, a privately-constructed wooden toll bridge dating from the early 1820s. It had been damaged in the “great freshet” in March 1826 and promptly repaired.

To Whittemore, the 1832 “great freshet” had not been equaled when he finished editing his history in 1902.

Kingsbury wrote that the bridge across the Sebasticook in Winslow was also taken out. A private company replaced it with a toll bridge in 1834; in 1866, the town bought it for $2,500 and abolished the tolls.

Marriner described his Lady Kennebec in May 1832 (and again in 1936) as a “demon of wrath” who did millions of dollars in damage. Much of his description of the flood is based on an 1891 report by a Winslow-born engineer named Timothy Otis Paine, employed in the interest of the Hollingsworth and Whitney Company to date high-water marks.

Paine, born in a house uphill from the Sebasticook River and Fort Halifax and eight years old in 1832, remembered watching the Kennebec cover Lithgow Street and continue rising. He knew other people who measured subsequent floods by how close the water came to 1832 levels, as recorded on riverside trees and other features.

Why, Paine asked, did the river rise so dramatically in 1832? He discounted two theories: the rumor that a dam holding back Moosehead Lake had breached, because there was no dam at the foot of the lake in 1832; and an elderly resident’s theory that the persistent northeast wind had blown water out of the lake to supplement the rainfall.

Marriner wrote that Paine decided the flood was so bad because large logs being floated to sawmills got jammed in Fairfield, against the foundations of “the three bridges between Fairfield and Benton” and around Bunker Island. When the jam broke and moved forcefully downriver, pent-up water followed in a series of waves, each higher than the one before.

This information does not match the Fairfield Historical Society’s bicentennial history. That book contains a single reference to the 1832 flood, a quotation from the Dec. 17, 1901, Fairfield Journal saying the Dec. 16, 1901, flood was “the worst freshet since 1832.”

The Fairfield history dates the first dam across the west channel of the Kennebec, between downtown Fairfield (then Kendall’s Mills) and Mill Island, to the late 1780s, but there is no reference to a dam in Marriner’s account of the flood. The Fairfield history also says the bridges linking Fairfield and Benton were built in 1848, so they could not have held back logs in 1832.

Marriner retold an odd story from Paine. He wrote that a flock of sheep pastured on the east bank of the Kennebec “just above the Pond Hole,” with “an old flat boat turned bottom up” as their shelter, lived through the flood.

In the course of trying to find out how they survived, Paine decided the “Pond Hole” was neither a pond nor a hole, merely a piece of very rough ground. Why that interpretation saved the sheep, Marriner did not explain.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Marriner, Ernest, Kennebec Yesterdays (1954).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870). Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Augusta fires & fire departments – Part 1

The 9-ton steam powered fire engine was a revolution in its day, they were built by the Amoskeag Steam Fire Engine Company, of New Hampshire, late 18th century, and cost $7,000.

by Mary Grow

A consequence of building buildings, like those described in Augusta’s downtown historic district (see the February 2021 issues of The Town Line) and the ones described recently in Waterville’s downtown historic district (see the August and September 2022 issues, ignoring the two irrelevant articles) is that they catch fire.

The next three articles in this series will talk about fires and the development of fire-fighting in Augusta. See also the issue of Aug. 27, 2020, where fires in China, Fairfield and Palermo were described; and the issue of Feb. 4, 2021, for Augusta’s great fire of September 1865.

* * * * * *

James North’s year by year history of Augusta, published in 1870, records several fires before the 1865 disaster. The first he knew of was in 1785 (when Augusta was still the northern part of Hallowell): “Elias Craig’s Hatter’s shop” burned on Dec. 1.

Craig (Sept. 27, 1756 – May 6, 1837) had been an army private during the Revolution; he was 23 years old when he moved from Massachusetts to Fort Western in 1779. North called him “the first hatter in this region of country.”

His house and shop were on the west side of the Kennebec at the intersection of Bridge and Water streets. Charles Nash, in his 1904 history of Augusta, listed the places Hallowell town meetings were held between 1771 and 1792. The majority were at Fort Western in 1771 and 1772 and in the town meeting house after 1783; in between, voters assembled in three different inns, a barn and several houses, including in 1782 three times in Elias Craig’s house.

The house was of so little value that the assessors did not count it in 1784, North wrote. Indeed, he said, they counted only 38 “dwelling houses” for a population of 682 white people and 10 black people. Realizing the disparity, they explained that many families still lived in the “log cabins or camps which they first built,” which weren’t worth listing as taxable.

The 1784 assessors’ report listed 21 varied commercial holdings. Craig’s was one of five shops, and his stock in trade was valued at 50 pounds.

Craig rebuilt the shop after the fire, and enlarged the house at intervals. When that corner was rebuilt as a commercial block, the house was moved to Jefferson Street.

North wrote that Craig “possessed the confidence of the settlers, many of whom were welcomed to his house upon their arrival” before they moved to their new homes.

In 1792 one of his house guests was James Johnson. On May 31, he and his brother Samuel were firing celebratory cannons “probably on account of some recent news from France,” and one cannon exploded, injuring the two men. They were brought to Craig’s house, where midwife Martha Ballard attended to them. Apparently both survived.

Craig’s first wife was Hannah McKecknie (Sept. 28, 1766 – April 12, 1790), daughter of an early settler, Dr. John McKecknie. They were married in December 1788, and had a daughter, also named Hannah. On November 28, 1793, Craig married again, to Olive Hamlin or Hamlen (Nov. 2, 1770 – Sept. 25, 1848); they had three or four children.

Craig was a selectman in Hallowell, first elected in March 1795. He was among the 161 residents petitioning the Massachusetts legislature to create the separate town of Augusta in May 1791. The request was approved in February 1797, and a town named Harrington was organized; in June of the year, its name became Augusta.

Criag was elected selectman again at the first meeting in Harrington, in April 1797, and later was an Augusta selectman. North wrote that he served a total of seven years in the three successive towns. In 1806 he was the local coroner, according to Nash’s history. He moved to Fayette before his death on May 6 or May 7, 1837.

Leathern fire bucket.

North recorded the earliest fire department in the central Kennebec Valley, a “private fire company” formed in the 1790s in Augusta (then still Hallowell). The “principal citizens” who started the company wrote a charter requiring each to have on hand “two leathern fire buckets, and a canvas bag for the removal of goods at fire.” An on-line fire department history says insurance companies formed such associations to protect their members’ property.

The buckets, North explained, had been in use in the American colonies since the 1600s. They were oblong with leather handles, “very durable and convenient to pass water.” Association members put their names on their buckets.

On March 11, 1799, North wrote, two years after Augusta separated from Hallowell, town meeting voters appointed six fire wardens (Elias Craig was one of them). Later in the year town officials bought a fire engine and appointed firefighters (North said 13, Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history names 12, the online site names 14). The firefighters were called “engine men”; they were instructed to create an organization and make regulations “not repugnant to the constitution of the Commonwealth [of Massachusetts]).”

North did not mention the firefighters when he reported briefly on the Feb. 11, 1804, fire that burned a building whose tenants included Peter Edes’ printing office, where the Kennebec Gazette was published (the paper resumed publication March 23).

Nor did he describe any suppression efforts when the Hallowell Academy building burned on Jan. 29, 1805. Opened in 1795, it was in the area that remained Hallowell after the 1797 division. (See the Sept. 16, 2021, issue of The Town Line for more information on the two Hallowell academies.)

More than once North credited Hallowell with helping put out Augusta fires. He wrote that on Jan. 8, 1808, an old and a new blacksmith shop on Water Street burned down, and Nathan Weston’s old building beside them was “pulled down to prevent the flames from spreading.”

He continued, “The Hallowell engine arrived early and afforded great assistance in subduing the fire.” Total damage was $900; residents contributed $600 “to the relief of the sufferers.”

Hallowell came to the rescue again during a more serious incident a little more than three months later. The spring of 1808 was the period of the uprising of squatters against local government sometimes called the Malta War (Malta was an early name for Windsor, Maine). Public officials were attacked, and there was concern that public buildings, like the Kennebec County jail in Augusta, would be next.

A chaotic scene in early America when a house caught on fire. Bucket brigades were usually the main method of fighting fires. The whole community would pitch in, or risk the spread of fire.

Around sunset on March 16, 1808, North wrote, “a sudden alarm was given that the jail was on fire. The fire was discovered in the upper story. It rapidly spread, enveloping the building.”

The jailhouse was destroyed. The prisoners were evacuated, and North recorded that because of the unstable times, the jailer had already moved out essential records.

North wrote and quoted (probably from the March 18, 1808, issue of the Kennebec Gazette): “The citizens of Hallowell attended in great numbers ‘with both their engines,’ and were entitled to ‘much credit’ for their ‘prompt and spirited exertions.'”

The same evening, incendiary devices started a fire upstairs in the courthouse, but it was noticed in time to be put out before there was much damage. At 10 p.m., two local judges asked Major-General Henry Sewall to call out the militia, and Sewall immediately ordered the Augusta Light Infantry to guard the courthouse and the prisoners’ temporary accommodation.

Later, it was determined that the jailhouse fire was started by one of the prisoners, a tavern-keeper named Edward Jones, jailed for stealing. The courthouse fire probably was set by some of the rebellious settlers; North gave no names.

Jones, according to the Oct. 21, 1808, Kennebec Gazette (cited by North), was sent to the state prison to serve two months in solitary followed by nine years’ hard labor for arson. He was also convicted of stealing; that sentence (whether concurrent, North did not say) was 15 days’ solitary confinement and a year at hard labor.

And what, readers may wonder, did Kennebec County do with no jail? The answer is that county officials had a new one built; and North recorded its progress.

Right after the fire, he wrote, the county sheriff had a temporary wooden building put up near the county courthouse, and in April 1808 the Court of Sessions accepted it.

Court officials appointed a local man as superintendent of the interim jail and also charged him with cleaning up the old site, where they directed a new stone jail be built as soon as possible. Meanwhile, they paid good money to keep prisoners guarded in the “insecure” temporary quarters.

The court levied an $8,000 county tax for the new jail. North wrote that Massachusetts legislators cut it to $5,000; and in April 1809, they added back $3,000 to finish paying for the work. The building was in use by December 1808.

North described the new jail as a two-story building with walls of “large blocks of rough hammered stone fastened together with iron dowels.” Each floor had two blocks of cells separated by a central hall.

The ground-floor cells were for “the worst criminals,” and “were lighted and ventilated by openings in the walls six inches wide and two feet long.” The second-floor cells were for debtors and minor criminals; each cell had a grated window.

North wrote that the new jail “was much in advance of the prison accommodations of that day, and was considered a very expensive and secure structure.”

However, by 1857 the county commissioners were ready to replace it. North quoted their justification: the building was “wholly unfit for the purposes for which it was intended and used; more especially on account of the want of sufficient warmth, light, ventilation and cleanliness; it was inhuman, dangerous to life, and detrimental to health and good morals to imprison persons therein.”

The new Kennebec jail was built close to the courthouse and the old jail, at a cost of about $60,000, with preliminary study beginning in the spring of 1857 and the building ready for a well-attended public inspection on Feb. 1, 1859. A four-story stone and brick building, it had 54 regular cells and eight “privilege rooms.”

The regular cells were eight feet square, except for a dozen tiny ones, three feet 10 inches wide, on the second floor. The privilege rooms, which North also classed as cells, were eight feet by 19 feet.

The building evidently accommodated jail staff, as North listed eight “sleeping rooms,” a kitchen, eating and bathing rooms and “a parlor, sitting-room and office.”

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Nash, Charles Elventon, The History of Augusta (1904).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870)

Websites, miscellaneous.

EVENTS: Gaslight Theater to present Agatha Christie thriller “The Stranger”

Gaslight Theater rehearsal of The Stranger in September. Pictured, left to right, are Matthew McLaughlin, of Portland, as Gerald, Andrew Lamb, of Augusta, as Dick, and Gwenyth Fraser, of Brunswick, as Enid. (photo by John Rider)

HALLOWELL, ME — This November Gaslight Theater proudly presents The Stranger, by Agatha Christie, at Hallowell City Hall Auditorium, located at 1 Winthrop Street, in Hallowell. Theater patrons can choose from six performance dates over two weekends, including Sunday matinees, November 11, 12 and 13 and 18, 19 and 20. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinee performances start at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, cash, check and credit card accepted at the door. For more information visit Gaslight Theater online at www.gaslighttheater.org.

Directed by Linda Duarte, The Stranger is an adaptation by Agatha Christie, of her short story Philomel Cottage. The play centers around Enid Bradshaw, who breaks her seven-year engagement to Dick Lane in favor of marrying the charming Gerald Strange, whom she had known for a mere afternoon. The two move to a cottage in the country in Act Two, and it is then that we get a sense of Gerald’s true character. Things are not always what they seem, of course, and a well-placed red herring plus Enid’s fascination with Scheherazade and One Thousand and One Nights add key elements to the plot.

For more information visit Gaslight Theater online at www.gaslighttheater.org.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Natural resources – Part 3

Augusta House

by Mary Grow

Three brick and granite buildings in Augusta

Attentive readers will have noted that the previous discussions of brickyards and brick-making have omitted the two cities in the central Kennebec Valley, Augusta and Waterville. Your writer deliberately saved them for last, because they have so many buildings of brick and granite as to deserve extra space.

In James North’s detailed history of Augusta, the first mention of a brickyard is in a list of businesses active in August 1792 in what was then Hallowell. There were no brickyards in the northern part of town, which after February 1797 became a separate town named Augusta.

In the southern area called the Hook, which remained Hallowell, Samuel and Phillip Norcross owned buildings, two quarter-acre house lots and “brickyard, lime kiln and earthen ware kiln.” Their total property was valued at 50 pounds, one of the town’s smaller businesses.

Samuel Norcross (Oct. 18, 1729 – Dec. 1, 1800) was the oldest of five sons of Philip and Sarah (Jackson) Norcross); his brother Phillip (1732 -?) was next oldest.

An on-line genealogy says Samuel was born in Newton, Massachusetts, where in 1752 he married Mary Wiswall. The first seven of their “at least 14” children, starting with Samuel II and Philip, were born in Massachusetts.

The family evidently came to Maine in 1762 or 1763, because the genealogy lists the seven youngest children as Mary, born in 1763 in Hallowell; Hannah, born in 1764 in Lincoln; Nathaniel, born in June 1764 in Gardiner; Sarah, born in 1766 (no place of birth listed, but in 1786 she married in Pittston); Thankful, born in 1767, in Gardiner; Susannah, born May 10, 1769, in Gardiner; and Elizabeth, born in Lincoln in 1769.

(Hannah and Elizabeth do not fit, biologically or geographically. Perhaps Hannah and Elizabeth are listed in this family in error; or perhaps Samuel kept a second family?)

The same on-line genealogy has no information about Phillip except that he remained in Newton for “about 18 years.” Another on-line source is an 1803 court record of the Kennebec Proprietors (the inheritors of British land grants who continued to claim land rights for generations) filing an action of ejectment against Phillip Norcross and others of Hallowell, in Kennebec County Supreme Judicial Court in September 1803. The Phillip Norcross born in 1732 would have been 71 by then.

North wrote that the Norcross’ house, brickyard and kilns were “at the north end of Water street” in Hallowell, “just south of the present railroad crossing.” The family also ran a nearby ferry across the Kennebec “for many years.”

There must have been other brick-making businesses in the northern part of Hallowell, because North recorded that at the first town meeting in Augusta, on March 13, 1797, voters chose among their town officials two “Inspectors of Lime and Brick,” Henry Sewall and Daniel Foster.

About 1804, North wrote, Lombardy poplars were planted on both sides of State Street from Bridge Street “to the brickyard at the southerly end of Grove street.” (Your writer found one map that identifies Grove Street as the roadway between the rotary at the west end of Kennebec Memorial Bridge and the south end of Water Street; other maps call this stretch Water Street.)

Augusta’s first brick schoolhouse went up in the spring of 1804, according to North (and to Captain Charles E. Nash, who “borrowed” North’s information for his chapters on Augusta in Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history), on the northwest side of the intersection of State and Bridge streets. It was also Augusta’s first grammar school (offering classes more advanced than primary schools); the building burned down March 16, 1807.

Readers with unusually good memories will remember that most of the commercial buildings on Water Street, in Augusta, are on the National Register of Historic Places (see the February 2021 issues of The Town Line). Some are listed individually; some are part of the Water Street Historic District. Almost all are brick; and they are not the buildings described in the following paragraphs, but their successors, built after the great fire of Sept. 17, 1865.

Merchants whom North identified as “Robinson & Crosby” built the first brick stores in 1806, two together in a block on the north corner of Market Square on the river side. In 1811, Joshua Gage, Bartholomew Nason and Benjamin Whitwell built a second block of three stores nearby.

North added that all five stores were closed temporarily in 1813, as a result of the economic slump caused by the dispute between Britain and the United States that led first to a United States embargo on trade and then to the War of 1812.

These brick store buildings had what North called “old-fashioned brick fronts,” featuring “heavy wooden door and window shutters,” hinged and locked with diagonal iron bars. By 1833, the new fashion was “granite posts and lintels.”

Seven new brick stores were added on Water Street in 1835, five at the north end and two farther south. None survived the 1865 fire.

Brick was also used, along with stone, in the Augusta jail that was built after an inmate burned down the wooden one on March 16, 1808. North wrote that prisoners were held in a very insecure temporary jail while a two-story building was built “of large blocks of rough hammered stone fastened together with iron dowels.”

This building, finished in December 1808, “was connected, by a brick ell, with a two story square brick jail house” at the intersection of State and Winthrop streets. The brick building was standing when North finished his history in 1870, but had been supplanted as a jail by a larger stone building, completed in 1859.

In 1812, owners of the newly-chartered Kennebec Bank had a brick building put up on Court Street. This building served as a bank for four years, then as a house; North wrote that it was torn down when the county courthouse was enlarged in 1851.

In 1813, Kennebec County officials, concerned about keeping paper records in the wooden county courthouse, had a brick building with “four fire proof vaults” built nearby. With brick floors, brick partitions and iron doors on the vaults, it was assumed safe; but, North wrote, when it was replaced years later, county officials were surprised to find wooden floors under the vaults, so that “the building could not have burned without consuming the contents of the vaults.”

The Augusta House on State Street, a leading hotel for many years, was built of brick and opened Jan. 31, 1831. Among its guests, according to Nash, were General Winfield Scott, who stayed about three weeks in the spring of 1839 during the Aroostook War (see The Town Line, March 17, 2022); and President Ulysses S. Grant, who visited with his family on Aug. 3, 1865, and was entertained at a state dinner at the hotel.

The Augusta House was enlarged substantially during the Civil War. On-line postcards from 1912 and 1938 show a six-story building on an above-ground granite foundation. The main door in the center of the front veranda is protected by a two-story portico supported by columns. Another on-line source says the hotel was closed and torn down in 1973.

On June 7, 1833, the Citizens’ Bank opened in its new brick building at the intersection of Oak and Water streets, in the middle of downtown. This was a three-story building, North said; the bank had the back rooms on the second floor, jeweler Benjamin Swan and dry-goods merchant G. G. Wilder shared the street floor, and the Kennebec Journal newspaper, founded in 1825, had its office on the top floor.

Another brick schoolhouse was erected in the summer of 1835 to house Augusta’s first high school. Located at the intersection of State and Bridge streets, not far from the site of the earlier brick grammar school, the building cost $7,000. North (and Nash) wrote that it was two stories high, 65-by-50-feet, with four Doric columns supporting the front pediment.

Owned by a group of corporators, the school briefly did well; but after the first head teacher moved on, it began to fail and after 1848 the building served as a public high school for the surrounding school district.

Residents must have approved of two-story brick schoolhouses, because North and Nash recorded several more built in Augusta school districts in the 1840s and 1850s, and Nash added a “large four-room” one, Cushnoc Heights Grammar School, built in 1890 at the intersection of Franklin and Oxford streets, partway up Sand Hill at the north end of the city.

The Winthrop Street Universalist Church, started with a June 19, 1867, cornerstone laying and dedicated March 5, 1868, was “built of brick laid in colored mortar,” North wrote. The building was 80-by-61-feet, with 33-foot-high walls; on the southwest corner was a 55-foot tower enclosing a 1, 500-pound bell and topped by a 135-foot (from the ground) spire.

Other brick buildings in Augusta that have not been described in earlier articles in this series and that are on the National Register of Historic Places include:

  • The Lot Morrill House on the north side of Winthrop Street at the Prospect Street intersection, built about 1830;
  • The Governor Samuel Cony House, also known as the William Payson Viles House, on the east side of Stone Street (Route 9 on the east side of the Kennebec), built in 1846;
  • The former Augusta City Hall, at 1 Cony Street, on the east bank of the Kennebec, and the north side of Bridge Street, built in 1895-96; and
  • The Governor John F. Hill Mansion, on State Street at the Green Street intersection, built in 1901.

The old city hall is now an assisted living facility. The Hill mansion is an events center welcoming area residents to rent its facilities. The Morrill and Cony houses appear to be privately owned.

* * * * * *

As previous articles (see 2021 indexes to The Town Line) have shown, another major building material was granite, used in Augusta especially for religious and public buildings, and for a minority of the commercial buildings in the Water Street Historic District.

Two major granite building complexes on the east side of the Kennebec River were the Kennebec Arsenal, built between 1828 and 1838 (see box), and the original building at what was in 1838 the Augusta Insane Hospital, plus the wing added in 1848.

Granite buildings on the west side of the Kennebec included:

  • the Kennebec County Court House, on State Street (1829);
  • the State House, on State Street (1832);
  • the Kennebec jail (1859);
  • South Parish Congregational Church, on Church Street (1865);
  • St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, on Summer Street (1886);
  • Lithgow Library, on Winthrop Street (completed in 1896); and
  • St Mary’s Catholic Church, on Western Avenue (1926).

Because of space limitations, discussion of the development of the granite industry in the Kennebec River valley will be postponed to next week.

Update on Augusta’s Kennebec Arsenal

Kennebec Arsenal

The Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta is a collection of eight granite buildings built between 1828 and 1838 and designated a National Historic Landmark District in 2000 (see the Jan. 21, 2021, and Feb. 10, 2022, issues of The Town Line). It is now privately owned.

A June 24 Kennebec Journal article by Keith Edwards said the owner has failed to maintain the buildings. City council members discussed declaring the Arsenal a dangerous site, but decided at their June 23 meeting to postpone action until July 28.

Edwards explained that if the property were declared dangerous, councilors could set a deadline for action, at minimum presentation of a repair plan. Failure to meet the deadline would let the city have the work done and bill the owner, or have the buildings demolished. If the owner didn’t pay the bill, the city could lien the property; if the lien were not paid, the buildings would eventually become the city’s.

The current owner bought the property 15 years ago, Edwards wrote, accepting an obligation to maintain its historic value. A local group has been formed named Concerned Citizens for Augusta Historical Preservation of the Kennebec Arsenal.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Wars – Part I

Fort Western in 1754.

by Mary Grow

For the next however many weeks, this series will discuss 19th-century wars that affected central Kennebec Valley residents. After the British gained legal control of the region by the 1763 Treat of Paris, the valley was mostly peaceful, but military actions elsewhere had local effects.

Your writer will start with the American Revolution (1775-1783), and go on to summarize some of the local connections with two more wars that finally ended quarrels over Britain’s interest in this side of the American continent, the War of 1812 (1812-1815) and the Aroostook War (1838-1839).

Next will come a very incomplete story of the all-encompassing Civil War (1861-1865). Many men and some women from the central Kennebec Valley were actively involved.

This part of the series will conclude with the Mexican War (1846-1848) and the Spanish-American War (1898). Though Kennebec Valley residents were aware of these geographically distant events, local effects were limited, with the important exception of families whose menfolk fought, and sometimes died, on the fields or seas of battle.

* * * * * *

The United States in the 19th century had two forms of military organization, the national army and the local militia units.

The U. S. Army, the oldest branch of the national military service, is a direct successor of the Continental Army, organized June 14, 1775. After the Revolution, mistrust of a “standing army” in the newly independent country led to temporary abandonment of a national force.

Soon, however, frontier wars made an organized armed force necessary. Wikipedia says Congress created the Legion of the United States in 1791 and in 1796 renamed it the United States Army. The United States has had a national military ever since, though a small one until the 20th century.

Wikipedia says local militias date from Sept. 16, 1565, when Spanish Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles organized the first unit in St. Augustine, Florida, leaving the men to guard supplies while he led his army to attack a French fort.

When English settlers arrived four decades later, they brought with them a tradition of organized militia units. Wikipedia says the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies (established in 1607 and 1620, respectively) started by enrolling every able-bodied man as a militia member.

“By the mid-1600s every town had at least one militia company (usually commanded by an officer with the rank of captain) and the militia companies of a county formed a regiment (usually commanded by an officer with the rank of major in the 1600s or a colonel in the 1700s),” Wikipedia summarizes.

After independence, colonies’ militia units became state militia units. Wikipedia says the federal government first began regulating them in 1792, and until the early 20th century relied on them “to supply the majority of its troops.” The militia became the National Guard in 1903.

Augusta historian Charles Nash included a chapter on the militia in his 1904 history. He described a typical local unit as enrolling able-bodied “citizens” (this writer is quite sure he meant male citizens) between 18 and 40 years old each spring.

“The organization of the militia consisted of companies of infantry in citizen’s dress (better known as ‘string-beaners’), light infantry in uniform, cavalry, artillery, and riflemen; these were organized into regiments, brigades, and divisions,” Nash wrote. Each infantry regiment normally had a company of cavalry and another of riflemen with it.

Uniformed infantry wore blue coats, artillery men “the revolutionary color [dark blue, according to Wikipedia] faced with red” and riflemen green, the better to hide in ambush in the woods. Infantry and rifle companies included fifers and drummers; the cavalry and artillery units had buglers.

Officers, Nash wrote, rode horseback. They wore the “wind-cutting” three-pointed, round-crowned black hat associated with Napoleon Bonaparte, “surmounted by lofty plumes,” and on their shoulders “glittering epaulettes.”

After organizing in May, militias drilled during the summer and in the fall held local musters that were the year’s main attraction for people of all classes, Nash said. Augusta’s muster ground for many years, well into the 1800s, was an area between Augusta and Hallowell named Hinkley’s Plains, after an early settler.

Nash described a typical muster, with demonstrations of military maneuvers, music and a final review before the mounted commander. Outside the muster area “tradesmen and peddlers and hucksters” assembled as for a fair; a great deal of liquor was consumed, inside and outside. In a footnote, Nash wrote that in 1844 the Maine Legislature banned musters because of the “gross intemperance practices.”

The 1817 muster at Hinkley’s Plains was special, Nash wrote, because Massachusetts Governor John Brooks came north to review the troops, only the second time a Massachusetts governor had visited the Kennebec Valley.

Governor Brooks had been a lieutenant colonel in the Revolutionary army and afterwards a major-general in the militia, and was known for his military appearance and skilled, graceful horsemanship. Local soldiers were eager to make their appearance before him, and, Nash wrote, people from 50 miles around made plans to attend.

Alas, early morning clouds and fog turned into a “cold and pitiless northeast rain storm.” The audience stayed home. The troops mustered anyway, with “drooping plumes, soiled uniforms and muddy boots and ruined gaiters.”

Brooks reviewed them from the back of “a fine dapple-gray clad in rich equestrian trappings.” The governor wore “a revolutionary three-cornered hat, with a large cockade on its left point, and a short black plume on its crown;…a blue military cloak, the cape of which was deeply bordered with red silk velvet, and its front and sides trimmed with gold lace; his breeches were buff and his high swarrow boots of shiny black polish, displayed silken tassels below the knees; a gold-hilted sword and gilded scabbard hung by his side.”

[“Swarrow,” or Suwarrow or Suarrow, boots are mentioned in the Askin Papers, documents relating to John Askin’s life in the northwestern United States, written between 1747 and 1820. Howard Franklin Shout, who wrote a thesis translating the papers into modern English for his Michigan State College Master of Arts degree in the 1920s, confessed that he was “not able to identify” the word.]

As Brooks and his staff began the review, Nash wrote, the governor took off his hat, “and while the merciless rain poured upon his whitened locks which fell upon his shoulders, he rode slowly before the line looking upon every soldier in it.”

Smaller towns, too, had their local militias. Ruby Crosby Wiggin, in her history of Albion, mentioned an 1808 town meeting vote to buy 32 pounds of powder. Other area towns had organized militia units and were stocking up on powder around that time, she wrote, adding, “Troops practiced on the town commons and were quite well organized when the War of 1812 called them to active duty.”

Her research in town records found local expenditures for the town militia, and supplementary payments from the State of Maine, part of the time (depending on successive town treasurers’ degree of detail) from 1839 until the Civil War.

Palermo had two muster fields, Milton Dowe wrote in his 1954 history. One was at Longfellow Corner, “where the Second Baptist Church was built in 1827”; the other was on Marden Hill.

* * * * * *

Six of the 12 central Kennebec Valley towns covered in these articles had legal European settlers by the spring of 1775 (Vassalboro, including Sidney, and Winslow, including Waterville, were incorporated on April 26, 1771), and four more by the time the Revolution ended in 1783. The exceptions were the off-the-river towns of Albion and Windsor, where the first settlements date from the 1880s. Your writer thinks it highly probable, however, that trappers, hunters, fugitives, hermits and other solitary types had homes in the region before record-keeping started.

Fort Halifax.

According to local histories, Augusta and Winslow were occupied first. Augusta was the site of the Cushnoc trading post, which dated from the 1620s, and then of Fort Western, built in 1758. Fort Halifax, in Winslow, was built in 1754-55.

Europeans mostly moved from the coast up the Kennebec, settling the east shore at Vassalboro around 1760 and around 1763 the west shore that later separated from Vassalboro as Sidney. Winslow settlers had spilled across the river into what became Waterville before Fairfield was settled in 1771.

By April 1775 Fairfield had nine families, according to the writers of the bicentennial history. The writers surmised that it took months for news of Lexington and Concord to reach them, and that between their immediate needs and the protection of nearby Fort Halifax, they felt little personal concern.

Clinton’s and Benton’s early arrivals date from around 1775. By then people were moving inland; China’s first family arrived in 1773, Palermo’s around 1776 or 1777.

Kingsbury, considering the whole of Kennebec County, did not share the later Fairfield historians’ opinion about the lack of local reaction. He wrote that news of the fighting at Lexington and Concord led to “bands of scantly equipped men and boys…pushing their way through the forests” to the nearest place where they could enlist.

“Many farms were abandoned or left to the care of women and minors,” Kingsbury continued, and not all the minors were content to remain behind (as examples in a following article will show).

In Augusta (then Hallowell), he said, a group of patriots organized themselves in January 1775 (before Lexington and Concord). In following months they formed a pro-Revolutionary military company and a public safety committee whose responsibilities included corresponding with Revolutionary leaders around Boston.

Winslow, similarly, had a three-man committee of correspondence, created in 1776 to keep town officials in touch with other pro-independence groups, Kingsbury wrote.

The specific event during the Revolutionary War that directly involved the Kennebec Valley was the expeditionary force sent in September 1775 to capture Québec from the British. Led by Colonel Benedict Arnold, about 1,100 men left Newburyport, Massachusetts, by ship on Sept. 17, or Sept. 19 (or thereabouts; exact dates differ from one to another of the many accounts of the expedition). They began landing at Major Reuben Colburn’s shipyard in Gardinerston (now Pittston) a few days later.

Colburn, a supporter of the Revolution, had collected information and built bateaux, flat-bottomed boats the army needed to navigate the river. The boats were built of green wood and therefore heavy and leaky; food, gunpowder and soldiers’ feet were wet most of the time.

After several days of transferring supplies to the bateaux, the expedition moved upriver. Stops along the Arnold Trail to Québec, as it is named on the National Register of Historic Places, included Fort Western, in Augusta; Fort Halifax, in Winslow; and Fairfield, where the 1988 bicentennial history says an early settler named Jonathan Emery repaired some of the bateaux, and a memorial stone marks the route.

By 1775 Fort Halifax had been out of service since the peace of 1763. Much of it had been torn down, and the central building had become a tavern, according to the centennial history of Waterville. Two area residents had explored up the river to provide advance information; another went with the expedition as a guide.

Disease and accidents, and in at least one case deliberate murder, claimed soldiers’ lives as the expedition moved on. Ernest Marriner wrote that Dr. John McKechnie (1732-1782), who had surveyed Waterville in 1762 and moved there in 1771, treated sick and injured men. Others are said to have been buried in the Emery Hill Cemetery, in Fairfield.

The murder, Kingsbury wrote, occurred as a result of a quarrel between two soldiers during several days the army spent at Fort Western. The shooter was court-martialed and sentenced to hang, but Arnold stayed the execution and forwarded the case to General Washington. The victim was buried “near the Fort burying ground”; later, Kingsbury wrote, Willow Street covered his “unheeded grave.”

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed. Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Marriner, Ernest Kennebec Yesterdays (1954).
Nash, Charles Elventon, The History of Augusta (1904).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Senior Spectrum holds 3rd annual Pie Crawl 2021

from left to right, Cindy Sullivan, Regional Center Director for Spectrum Generations, and Michelle and Kyle from Traverse Coffee Co. (contributed photo)

Quarry Tap Room, Traverse Coffee Co. are winners

Spectrum Generations recently held its 3rd annual Pie Crawl in downtown Hallowell.

The Sweet Pie Award was presented to Traverse Coffee Co. and the Savory Pie Award was given to the Quarry Tap Room.

Shaina, left, of Quarry Tap Room, and Cindy Sullivan, Regional Center Director for Spectrum Generations. (contributed photo)

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Hallowell academies

Hallowell Classical and Scientific Academy, Hallowell, ca. 1882. Contributed by Frank Trask through Hubbard Free Library.

by Mary Grow

In preceding articles, readers have learned a bit about three private high schools, Cony Female Academy, Coburn Classical Institute and Oak Grove Seminary (see the issues of The Town Line for Sept. 2, July 29 and July 22, respectively) and about some of the public high schools in Augusta and Waterville (in the Aug. 26 and Sept. 2, The Town Line issues, respectively).

Remaining to be described are numerous other 19th-century public and private schools in central Kennebec Valley towns. A few are well documented; for most, local histories offer only tantalizing glimpses.

For example, Whittemore wrote in his history of Waterville that “private and corporation schools” played important roles, starting in 1823 when “Miss Pettengill” ran “a school for the education of young ladies.”

In 1824, John Butler and “Miss Lewis” opened another school “which with its modern methods and apparatus won enthusiastic approval.” A successor, before or in 1902 when Whittemore’s history appeared, was Miss Julia Stackpole.

Two private academies mentioned previously are Hallowell Academy, in Hallowell, and China Academy, in China Village. The latter will be described in a future article.

There were two 19th-century academies in Hallowell. Their histories are intertwined with each other and with the public high school; your writer wishes her readers luck trying to untangle them.

The first, Hallowell Academy (in one source called Hallowell Academy for Boys), was chartered in 1791. (Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history that Hallowell and Berwick academies, chartered the same day, were the first in what later became the State of Maine.)

Hallowell’s second, Hallowell Classical and Scientific Academy, opened in 1868 (online source); or was incorporated Feb. 8, 1872 (Maine Congregational Church annual meeting minutes, 1872-1874); or as of 1873 was the new name for the earlier Hallowell Academy (Kingsbury); or, most definitively, was scheduled to open Jan. 1, 1874 (online The Maine Journal of Education for 1873). Bob Briggs, in his 1996 history Around Hallowell (found online, delightfully illustrated with old photographs), called it on one page Hallowell Classical and Scientific Institute.

The Academy chartered in 1791 opened for classes in a newly-built schoolhouse in 1795. Briggs wrote that the first two academy buildings burned down; Kingsbury mentioned only one destructive fire, in 1804, after which, he said, the building was replaced a year later.

In 1807, Kingsbury said, the school trustees bought a Paul Revere bell for the belfry. Briggs wrote that in 1841, a brick building was put up. The Academy and (public?) high school were “united” from 1868 until the Classical Academy opened in 1873, he said.

In 1888, Briggs wrote, the Academy building “became Hallowell High School.” Remodeled in 1890, when he wrote in 1996 it was a private home.

The photo illustrating these words, dated about 1880, shows a group of students, the women in skirts from ankle-length to floor-length, in front of what must be the main entrance. Four two-story Doric columns are spaced across the width of the brick building, with two large doors on either side of a window behind them.

Briggs wrote of the 1795 Hallowell Academy that “students received their secondary education under some of the ablest and best educated men in the state.”

Kingsbury listed the first 28 teachers, up to 1838, and their years of service. One, surnamed Moody, stayed for eight years, and Curtis taught for three years. Six others were there for two years; the remaining 20, Kingsbury said, stayed only one year each.

After the 1795 Academy closed, high school age students attended the Hallowell Classical Academy, the Maine Memory Network says. As noted above, the Classical Academy almost certainly opened at the beginning of 1874.

The Classical Academy was on Central Street at the intersection with Warren Street. The Memory Network describes it as a co-ed college preparatory boarding and day school. It was established to promote Christian education and to train young people “in such languages and in such of the arts and sciences” as the school trustees chose.

The school was “affiliated” with the Congregational Church in Maine and, Kingsbury added, “a feeder for Bowdoin College.”

The 1873 Journal of Education, which this writer accepts as an authoritative, contemporary source, says the Maine Conference of Congregational Churches established the Classical Academy. A Congregational minister, Rev. H. F. Harding, was the academy’s first secretary and treasurer; his report to the statewide church meeting in 1874 mentioned connections with Bowdoin and with Bangor Seminary.

The Classical Academy was intended to be Hallowell’s high school and also a state institution to prepare “the sons of Maine” (daughters were not excluded – see below) “for her Colleges and Theological Seminary, without the necessity of going out of the State.”

The Academy was on an 11-acre lot, with views up and down the Kennebec. It started with three buildings, the article continues: “the old Hallowell Academy, which is to be used for recitation rooms” plus a new boarding-house that would accommodate 40 boys in double rooms and a new girls’ boarding house.

The latter is described as three stories with a Mansard roof, 160-feet long with two 40-foot-wide wings, “containing 76 rooms.” The rooms were arranged with two double bedrooms and a “parlor” for each four students.

Gas lighting was planned for the new buildings. The girls’ dormitory had steam heat, “bathing rooms” and a generous supply of “pure spring water,” according to the report in the 1872-74 minutes of the state Congregational Church meetings.

The Journal article said Classical Academy leaders intended to build “a much larger and much better edifice” as soon as they had the money. As of 1873, they had raised about $70,000, mostly from the City of Hallowell, and gotten a $4,000 bequest (the Memory Network, too, mentions a will). Additionally, the Journal article said, “Mrs. Eastman,” a former resident now living in Italy, had donated a $1,000 scholarship and “is also making a fine collection of paintings for the school.”

Classical Academy students came from Hallowell and from other parts of Maine, Illinois, California and New Brunswick, the Memory Network says.

The Congregational meeting minutes mentioned above describe the success of the Classical Academy in its first almost-two years. By 1874, James G. Blaine (then Representative in the U. S. Congress) was President of the Board of Trustees; Harding was still secretary and Joshua Nye, of Augusta, had succeeded him as treasurer.

The next term was to start Thursday, Sept. 2, 1875. A calendar for the next two years said a 12-week fall term would run from Tuesday, Sept. 2, through Nov. 28, 1876; after a week off, a 14-week winter term from Dec. 5, 1876, to March 13, 1877; after a two-week spring break, a 13-week spring term from March 27 through June 21, 1877.

There were 108 students and a staff of seven teachers and two matrons. Each dormitory had a matron; two teachers also lived in the dormitories and had supervisory responsibilities. Three were women; the teacher in the boys’ dormitory was a man.

Subjects taught were English (both English Studies and English Literature), French, German, Latin, Greek, history, natural sciences, mathematics, “Mental, and Moral Science,” bookkeeping, penmanship (these two subjects were on one list, not on a second), piano and vocal music and drawing and painting.

There were three departments, which the report described as follows:

The Classical Course offered “thorough and ample preparation for the most advanced Colleges.”

The Seminary Course was “especially for young ladies,” “to carry their training and culture considerably beyond that given in our public schools.”

The English and Scientific Course gave students of both sexes “the most valuable studies for a shorter course.”

Memory Network photos of the Classical Academy from the early 1880s show two large squarish three-story buildings connected by a three-story rectangular building. The lower stories are white, probably clapboard (possibly brick). The upper story, with a pediment above and below it, appears to be a shingled mansard roof, with four single flat-topped windows in one end and three across the front.

(This description is similar to the Journal of Education’s 1873 description of the new girls’ dormitory.)

Briggs’ book includes a photograph of a quite different building, dated about 1885 and identified as the Classical Academy. This building is rectangular, clearly brick, three stories with no mansard roof. The windows are paired under arches. There appear to be no connected buildings, although at one end is a “strange invention” (Briggs’ words) that looks like a windmill atop a two-story tower.

(Perhaps this is the building the Journal said Academy trustees were in 1873 waiting for money to build?)

Hallowell High School opened in 1887, and the Classical Academy closed in 1888, the Memory Network says. Briggs said lack of money forced the Classical Academy to close, and “its buildings were razed in the early 1900s.”

The Memory Network has a photograph, dated “circa 1900,” of the 1887 high school, a two-story brick building with towers on both ends, one three stories tall, and a triple-arched front entrance. Accompanying information says it was on a lot “used exclusively for education since Hallowell Academy opened in 1795.”

Briggs’ version is that in 1887 the Hallowell school committee agreed to establish a high school separate from the Classical Academy. In 1890, he continued, the “City fathers” renovated “the old Hallowell Academy building,” implying that the 1887 building was not constructed from scratch.

The Maine Memory site says the 1887 high school was converted to a primary school after a 1920 high school building opened “on the site of the old Classical Academy,” that is, at the intersection of Central and Warren streets.

Hallowell might have had a third private high school. Yet another on-line site, called Maine Roots, includes an undated reference to “a female academy” started by John A. Vaughan “where the granite offices now are, which continued a number of years.”

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).

Websites, miscellaneous.

CORRECTION: A correction to the story on the Asa Bates Memorial Chapel, or Ten Lots Chapel, in Fairfield that ran in the Aug. 5 issue of The Town Line: the people responsible for repairing the large windows were Pastor Gene McDaniel and his father, Gary McDaniel, who did the reglazing. Kay Marsh did the painting, and Howard Hardy offered encouragement.

art + gender exhibit to begin August 6, 2021

photo credit: City of Waterville

The Harlow invites artists to submit artwork to art + gender, a juried exhibition that explores the relationship between gender and society. art + gender will be on view August 6 – September 11, 2021, at 100 Water Street, in Hallowell, with an opening reception on Friday, August 6, from 4 – 6 p.m., in conjunction with Hallowell Pride. art + gender is open to all New England based artists. The deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m., on July 1, 2021.

Original fine art in any media may be submitted. For complete details please visit: https://www.harlowgallery.org/art-gender-call-for-art.