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.