EVENTS: Water Dance set for April 20

Spiral Water Dancing. (photo courtesy of wetdryvac)

by Jonathan Strieff

Spiral Water Dancing organization founder Christine Little. (photo courtesy of wetdryvac)

On Saturday, April 20, the Spiral Dance Collective will perform an original work as part of the 6th Bi-annual National Water Dance, hosted at Granite City Park, 94 Water Street, in Hallowell. The event will be one of dozens of performing arts events taking place simultaneously around the country intended to celebrate and take responsibility for the protection of rivers, lakes, and bodies of water meaningful to local communities.

The performance will take place at 4 p.m., and will be preceded at 3 p.m., by a community dance workshop, in which local residents will be invited to participate in co-creating the final dance that will be live streamed across the nation.

The Spiral Dance Collective is an intergenerational dance group founded by Christine Little, of the Rive Studio, in Hallowell, to create, “site specific dances that explore our relationship to local issues people and spaces.” The group has collaborated with the Hallowell Conservation Commission, the Hallowell Climate Action Committee, and Maine Sculptors Jon Doody, Mark Herrington, and Isabel Kelley to bring their performance to Granite City Park, on the banks of the Kennebec River.

The groups participation in the National Water Dance is sponsored in part by the Hallowell Arts and Culture Committee, Vision Hallowell, and Perennial Renewables. The event is free and open to the public and the Hallowell Community Flood Recovery Fund will be present to accept free will donations. For more information, contact

Jonathan Strieff is a freelance contributor to The Town Line.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Some early Maine poets

by Mary Grow

As promised last week, no more ponds for a while. Instead, your writer turned to Thomas Addison’s chapter on Literature and Literary People, in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history. She hopes you will enjoy meeting a few of the writers mentioned.

Addison’s definition of literature covers almost anyone who wrote: newspaper people, historians, educators and sundry others. Your writer has chosen arbitrarily to begin with selected poets.

Many of the names Addison mentioned have no on-line references. Others are listed only as contributors to a book titled The Poets of Maine: A Collection of Specimen Poems from over Four Hundred Verse-makers of the Pine-tree State, compiled by George Bancroft Griffith and published in 1888.

Your writer found excerpts from this book on line. The samples she read have brief biographies and selected poems.

* * * * * *

Amos Lunt Hinds’ book,
Uncle Stephens

A large number of writers came from Augusta, Gardiner and Hallowell. Addison listed surprisingly few from Waterville or towns farther north, and not many from smaller towns.

An exception was the Town of Benton, identified as the home of poets Amos Lunt Hinds and Hannah Augusta Moore.

Amos Lunt Hinds (born in Benton Nov. 12, 1833, or sometime in 1834; died in Benton, April 24, 1908) was the son of Asher Hinds (born in Benton May 2, 1792; died in Benton April 23, 1860) and Lucy Harding (Turner) Hinds (1801 – July 2, 1883), who was either the first or second of his two wives (sources disagree).

The on-line description of Forgotten Books’ 2018 reprint of Amos Hinds’ 1905 Uncle Stephen and Other Verses includes Hinds’ introduction. The poet said the poems were written over 40 years; some had been published in newspapers and magazines, locally and out of state. Hinds collected them into a book “at the suggestion and request of old friends, to whom they are submitted with affectionate greeting.”

An article in the Jan. 10, 1906, issue of the Colby Echo (found on line) republishes a Dec. 27, 1905, Waterville Evening Mail article on the publication of Uncle Stephen. Hinds is described as a Colby graduate, Class of 1858, and a resident of Benton Falls.

The unnamed writer of the article mentioned several poems with local connections.

The one titled The Soldiers ‘ Monument was “read at the unveiling of the monument in this city on May 30, 1876.” The newspaper quoted one verse:

Long let this musing soldier stand,
‘Neath free New England skies,
To all that love the fatherland,
Type of self-sacrifice.

General Isaac Sparrow Bangs, in his military history included in Edwin Carey Whittemore’s Waterville history, describes the founding of the Waterville Soldiers’ Monument Association in March 1864, before the Civil War ended. Its purpose was to provide a memorial to honor Waterville residents who died in the war.

The first fund-raising events were that month. After a Nov. 29, 1865, event, Bangs wrote, the association apparently went dormant until June 1875. By then, donations and interest totaled $1,000, and the town gave a matching sum.

Association committees were formed to design the monument and find a site. Two more fundraisers May 16 and 17, 1876, added $350, and the Waterville Soldiers’ Monument, in what is now Veterans Memorial Park, at the corner of Elm and Park streets, was dedicated on Tuesday, May 30, 1876, Memorial Day.

Another of Hinds’ poems, Old Block House, was about Fort Halifax, in Winslow, the 1906 newspaper writer said.

Uncle Stephen, “the first and longest poem in the volume,” honored Stephen Crosby, whom the writer called “one of the early settlers of that portion of Winslow which lies adjacent to Benton Falls.”

Crosby owned a grist mill, and during 1816, the Year without a Summer, he “endeared himself to his generation and his memory to other generations, by refusing to profit by the distress of his neighbors, continuing to sell corn, of which he had a store, at the ordinary price.”

On-line genealogies say Amos Lunt Hinds married Lettice Orr Reed (1834 – Jan. 26, 1910), and name only one child, Lucy Turner Hinds (1866-1966). The “Colby Echo” article says Amos was the father of Asher C. Hinds, Colby 1883 (but see box on the Hinds family).

* * * * * *

Poets of Maine says Hannah Augusta Moore was born in Wiscasset on March 15 of either 1827 or 1828. Her grandfather was Colonel Herbert Moore, of Waterville; her father, Herbert Thorndike Moore, is identified as “of New York City.”

Her mother, who is not named, and her father were both poets, the biography says. The family moved to Philadelphia when Hannah was “a small child” and she started writing there. Then she lived in New York (City?) “for many years.” In 1886, she “came back” to Benton, which she called “dear native land.”

The biography does not say when Hannah had previously lived in Benton, and the following text is not helpful. It says that after her mother died (no date given), she “attended school at Waterville, Me.”

As soon as Moore settled in Benton, Ephraim Maxwell, publisher of the Waterville Mail newspaper, began publishing her work.

Moore wrote under pseudonyms, including Helen Bruce and Wanona Wandering. The biography explains that she avoided “Hannah” “from a dread that she might be supposed to consider herself a second ‘Hannah More.'”

(Hannah More [Feb. 2, 1745 – Sept. 7, 1833] was a British writer whose works included plays and poetry, mostly religious.)

The biography says it was Moore’s own choice to live “like a hidden singer in a hedge.” Her poems were available in the United States and in Europe, and many were set to music. One collection, titled “Plymouth Notes,” sold 40,000 copies in Europe in its first year.

The biography ends by quoting “June in Maine,” one of Moore’s best-known poems. The first stanza reads:

Beautiful, beautiful summer!
Odorous, exquisite June!
All the sweet roses in blossom,
All the sweet birdies in tune.

The poem urges readers to go outside and enjoy

All the dim aisles of the forest
Ringing and thrilling with song;
Music—a flood-tide of music—
Poured the green valleys along.


Buttercups, daisies, and clover,
Roses, sweet-briar, and fern,
Mingle their breath on the breezes—
Who from such wooing could turn?

* * * * * *

Frances Parker Mace

Frances Parker (Laughton) Mace is another Maine poet, who was a friend of Moore’s. Wikipedia says she was born in Orono, Jan. 15, 1836 (or, one source says, 1834, citing her tombstone), daughter of Dr. Sumner Laughton and Mary Ann (Parker) Laughton.

The family moved to Foxcroft in 1837. Mace’s education included Latin “and other advanced subjects” at Foxcroft Academy when she was only 10 years old. Her first poems were published when she was 12, some in The New York Journal of Commerce, Wikipedia says.

The Laughtons moved to Bangor, and Mace graduated from Bangor High School in 1852. Wikipedia says her most famous poem was published in the “Waterville Mail” when she was 18, suggesting a Waterville connection by 1854 – did she and Moore meet then? Your writer found no evidence.

This poem is titled Only Waiting. It was inspired by a friend who asked an elderly man in a poor-house what he was doing and received the reply, “Only waiting.”

The poem begins:

  Only waiting till the
  Are a little longer grown,
  Only waiting till the
  Of the day’s last beam
is flown;
  Till the night of earth
is faded
  From the heart, once full
of day;
  Till the stars of heaven
are breaking
  Through the twilight
soft and gray.

It goes on to describe the man’s readiness to leave his weary life for the company of angels.

The poem was published in the Waterville Mail under the pseudonym “Inez.” Later, a hymn-writer named Mrs. F. A. F. Wood-White, from Iowa (according to one on-line source), claimed she had composed it, creating a dispute that was eventually resolved in Mace’s favor.

Mace married a lawyer named Benjamin Mace in 1855, and for the next 20 years was busy with eight children, four of whom died young. She began writing again when their eighth child was two years old, with a poem published in Harper’s Magazine.

Her collected poems were published in the 1880s, before and after the family moved to San Jose, California, in 1885. She died in Los Gatos, California, on July 20, 1899.

NOTE: For those interested in seeking out poems mentioned in this article, your writer found on line:

Two recent reprints of Amos Lunt Hinds’ Uncle Stephen and Other Verses: a 2016 hardcover edition by Palala Press, and a 2018 paperback by London-based Forgotten Books.

Three reprints of The Poets of Maine: in 2008 by Kessinger Publishing (Vol. 2 only); a 2017 paperback by Forgotten Books; and a 2023 paperback by Creative Media Partners, LLC.

Listed as available on, in January 2024: copies of Frances Laughton Mace’s two poetry collections, Legends, Lyr­ics and Son­nets, originally published in Boston, Mas­sa­chu­setts, by Cupples, Upham, in 1883; and Under Pine and Palm, originally published in Bos­ton by Tick­nor, in 1888. No publisher is given.

More about the Hinds family

On-line sources say poet Amos Lunt Hinds had three younger brothers and a younger sister. The brothers are listed as Albert D. Hinds (1835-1873); Asher Crosby Hinds (1840-1863); and Roswell S. Hinds (1844-1864). The sister was Susan A. Hinds (1837-1905).

Find a Grave website says the Asher Crosby Hinds who was born Jan. 7, 1840, in Clinton, served in Company G of the Third Maine Infantry during the Civil War. He started as a corporal and mustered out as a sergeant. The website quotes the beginning of his obituary from the April 2, 1863, Piscataquis Observer, which says he died in Benton at the age of 23.

Amos and Asher’s brother Albert and his wife Charlotte (Flagg) named their first son, born in 1863, Asher Crosby Hinds.

Wikipedia says Asher Crosby Hinds, born Feb. 6, 1863, and died May 1, 1919, represented Maine’s First District in the U. S. House of Representatives for three terms, from 1911 to 1917.

The article says he attended Coburn Classical Institute and graduated from Colby College in 1883; worked for a Portland newspaper beginning in 1884; and from 1889 to 1911 held clerical positions in the Maine House of Representatives, working for the Speaker.

Hinds edited two procedural manuals, Wikipedia says, an 1899 edition of the Rules, Manual, and Digest of the House of Representatives and in 1908 Hinds’ Precedents of the House of Representatives.

The article cites a 2013 study showing the Precedents “successfully altered the behavior of House representatives, as they became less willing to appeal decisions of the chair.”

This information leads your writer to conclude that Rep. Asher C. Hinds was Amos and Lettice Hinds’ nephew, not their son.

Amos Lunt Hinds and a dozen other family members are buried in Barton-Hinds Cemetery on Eames Road in Winslow, according to Find a Grave.

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.

Scout leader recognized for quick action with choking boy

Ryan Avery, right, accepts the Medal of Merit from Chuck Mahaleris, chairman of the Kennebec Valley District. (photo courtesy of Chuck Mahaleris)

by Chuck Mahaleris

Cub Scout Pack #672 and Scout Troop #672 gathered at Spare Time Recreation, in Hallowell, to end the Scouting year with a night of family bowling. However, the biggest part of the evening was not all of the pins that fell but rather the awarding of the Medal of Merit to Troop #672 leader Ryan Avery who saved a boy from choking earlier this year.

Avery, who lives in West Gardiner and teaches science at Gardiner Regional Middle School, was working the lunch detail this past September when he noticed a student who was choking. A witness, who did not wish to be identified, observed Avery talk to the young man and ask if he was choking. The boy nodded and Ryan immediately began the Heimlich Maneuver. In short order, the bottle cap from his water bottle was removed from the youth’s mouth and he was able to breathe fully. The witness then described that Ryan ensured the young man was ok and quietly cleaned up the area and went about his duties.

Earlier this month, Avery had completed 16 weeks of EMT classes and now Ryan has even more training under his belt should the need arise in the future.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Inventions, agriculture & others

The Lombard log hauler, one of only six remaining, at its home at the Redington Museum, in Waterville. (photo by Roland Hallee)

by Mary Grow

Previous articles have talked about how agricultural work changed from the 1700s through the 1800s, as manpower was replaced by animal-power and then machines.

Other changes, too, helped farmers produce more or expend less effort or both. One example is the development of wire for fences. (Barbed-wire fencing was mentioned in the Sept. 7 issue of The Town Line, in the account of the skaters who burned part of a farmer’s stump fence for bonfires and redeemed themselves by putting up barbed wire as a replacement).

In his history of Windsor, Linwood Lowden wrote, “As early as the year 1861, it had been modestly estimated that an old-fashioned wood or stone fence takes a strip of land at least four feet wide out of cultivation.”

Losing a four-foot strip was not a problem while a farmer was battling to clear trees and rocks to make fields to grow food for his animals and his family. When he intended to sell some of what he raised, and when wood became scarce, he needed different fencing material.

Wire fences were the solution, Lowden wrote. Citing an 1882 Maine Board of Agriculture report, he said the first fence wire might have might have been made as early as 1815.

The industry was “still in its infancy” in the 1820s, with an individual worker “able to produce but from 15 to 40 pounds of fence wire per day.” By 1882, new technology made it possible for a single worker to “produce between 1,000 to 2,500 pounds per day.”

(There is an on-line controversy about who invented wire. The candidate list begins with Thomas Malham, Sheffield, England, in 1830; Jean Francois Martin, of France, about the same time; and other contemporary foundry owners, unnamed. Another historian calls their nominations “manifest nonsense.” He says Egyptians in the time of the pharaohs [3,000 B.C. and following centuries] made wire from gold, silver and copper, and wire made from iron “was achieved about 1450, in Augsburg [Germany].”)

Barbs came later. Wikipedia says Lucien B. Smith, of Kent, Ohio, got the first patent for barbed wire in 1867 and “is regarded as the inventor.” In 1874, Joseph F. Glidden, of DeKalb, Illinois, made enough “modifications” (or, another source says, “invented a practical machine for its manufacture”) to get his own patent.

The Board of Agriculture report said in 1874, the United States had 10 miles of three-strand wire fence (in 37 states). By 1882, there were 166,000 miles (in 38 states; Colorado was added in 1876).

* * * * * *

The invention of wire fencing, unlike the use of it, had nothing to do with any part of Maine. However, Maine had its share of inventors, including some from the central Kennebec Valley area.

Vassalboro historian Alma Pierce Robbins named two Vassalboro inventors who helped with farm and other outdoor work. One was the comparatively well-known Alvin Lombard (see below).

The other, more obscure, was Hanson G. Barrows, who, she wrote, invented a mowing machine & a snowplow; models extant in 1971 “go to prove what a true genius he was.”

(On-line sources on the origin of the mechanical reaper [which the web discusses in reply to requests for mowing machines] do not mention Barrows, focusing instead on the competition between Obed Hussey [1792-1860] and Cyrus McCormick [1808 or 1809 – 1883 or 1884] in the 1840s and 1850s. Colby College historian Earl H. Smith included both these inventors in his 2021 book, Downeast Genius: From Earmuffs to Motor Cars Maine Inventors Who Changed the World.)

Hussey was born in a Quaker family, in Hallowell; they moved to Nantucket, Massachusetts, when he was a child, and his work was done in Maryland and Ohio. Smith commented that Hussey realized Maine was an unfair place to test his reaper – not only was Maine farmland “hilly and difficult to plow, the real curse was the rocks, which often broke the shafts and blades of his machines.”

Smith connected Virginia-born McCormick with Maine only through his “War of the Reapers” with Hussey, which covered much of the United States; in 1851 was part of London’s Great Exhibition, “the first world’s fair”; and later moved to France and elsewhere in Europe.

Robbins wrote that Hanson Barrows (1831-1916) was the oldest of three sons and two daughters of Caleb Barrows and his wife (whose name your writer cannot find). She called Caleb an early settler in Vassalboro; Henry Kingsbury, in his Kennebec County history, said he moved to Vassalboro from Camden in 1830.

Hanson Barrows spent his life on the farm he inherited from Caleb, named Twin Oaks, on Barrows Road (Kingsbury said the farm was “on the pond road,” probably meaning Webber Pond Road). In 1971, Robbins wrote, the Barrows family home still stood, with a view across the golf course to Webber Pond.

(Barrows Road ran west from Webber Pond Road to the section of Old Route 201 named Holman Day Road. On May 13, 2010, the Vassalboro select board ordered the road discontinued, without retaining a public right-of-way. Voters at the June 7, 2010, town meeting ratified the decision.)

Hanson Barrows and his wife, Julia E. (Wood) Barrows (1854-1942), are buried in Vassalboro’s Union cemetery. Their son, Leon Martell Barrows (Oct. 24, 1888 – March 5, 1956), in 1911 married Bertha May McCloud (1892-1913).

(Hanson’s brother Edwin [April 2, 1842 – April 20, 1918] was profiled in the article on Civil War veterans in the March 31, 2022, issue of The Town Line.)

* * * * * *

The Lombard house in Waterville, today, across from the public library. (photo by Roland Hallee)

Alvin Orlando Lombard was born June 15, 1856, in Springfield, Maine. Various sources say by the age of eight he was at work in the family mill – a shingle mill, in Lincoln, Maine, Smith wrote, where the “[s]toutly built, inquisitive, and energetic” boy “quickly mastered every woodland task from lumberjack to river driver and from stacker to mill sawyer.”

The child also built machines. Several sources mentioned his miniature water-powered sawmill (or wood-splitter – sources disagree) that he demonstrated by cutting up cucumbers.

Later, Lombard and his younger brother Samuel operated a blacksmith shop, in Waterville. Wikipedia said Alvin designed “sawmill and logging equipment” and Samuel supervised manufacturing.

Smith wrote that in the summer of 1899, Lombard, age 43 and already known as an inventor, shared a streetcar ride with his wealthy Fairfield friend, E. J. Lawrence. Lawrence “bemoaned the cost and cruelty” of using horses to haul harvested trees out of the Maine woods in the winter and asked Lombard if a machine could be used instead.

Two days later Lombard showed Lawrence a wooden model of a tracked vehicle. Lawrence liked it. The two built a full-size sample at Waterville Iron Works, “and on May 4, 1901, U. S. Patent #674,737 was issued for the Lombard Log Hauler, arguably the most significant invention ever to come from the State of Maine.”

Lombard’s machine was powered by “a steam engine with an upright boiler” and ran on steerable front skis and rear caterpillar treads. Here is Smith’s description: “A continuous belt of hinged steel lags (treads) was fitted over two pairs of geared wheels, allowing the heavy machine to pull itself along on a rolling carpet of steel…, like a caterpillar.”

These machines replaced “the work of 50 lumber-pulling horses,” one source said. Another called the log-hauler the model for “every snowmobile, tank and bulldozer ever built.” Even after trucks succeeded tractors in the Maine woods in the 1930s, the caterpillar tread continued to expand its uses world-wide.

The Maine Forest and Logging Museum website lists the six known Lombards remaining of the 83 built between 1900 and 1917. Two are at the museum in Bradley, the website says.

In addition to the log hauler for which he is best known, Smith wrote that Lombard’s commercially successful inventions included “a device for tossing (de-barking) pulpwood, and an apparatus that separated knots and sawdust from ground pulp.”

Smith said Lombard was most proud of an 1893 invention, “an automatic mechanical device…that maintained the speed and power of water turbines.” Lombard made and sold this useful regulator for six years before selling the patent and, according to Smith, dividing his time between his house in Waterville, where he had a basement workshop, and his country house in Vassalboro.

An online genealogy says Lombard and Mary Etta Bates (Sept. 8, 1856 – April 13, 1931) were married June 13, 1875, in Webster Plantation. They had one daughter, Grace Vivian Lombard Vose (Dec. 8, 1876-Aug. 24, 1947).

Alvin Lombard died Feb. 21, 1937. He, his wife and their daughter are buried in Waterville’s Pine Grove cemetery.

Online sources list two memorials to Lombard. Mount Lombard, in Antarctica, recognizes his contribution to driving over snow; and his Waterville house, now an apartment building, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Your writer, and Vassalboro Historical Society president, Janice Clowes, add Lombard Dam, on Outlet Steam, in Vassalboro, recently removed to allowed alewives to migrate into China Lake, and Lombard Dam Road.

Who invented the snowmobile?

Earl Smith nominated O. C. Johnson, of Waterville, who, inspired by Alvin Lombard’s log hauler, “is said to have built one of the first snow machines in 1909. It was ten feet long and powered by a ‘one lung’ engine.”

Your writer failed to find additional information on O. C. Johnson. On-line sources say early versions of the snowmobile were invented in 1911 by Harold J. Kalenze, of Brandon, Manitoba, Canada; in 1915 by Ray H. Muscott, of Waters, Michigan; in 1917 by Virgil D. White, of Ossipee, New Hampshire; in 1922 (much improved by 1935) by Joseph-Armand Bombardier, of Valcourt, Québec, Canada; and in 1924 (patented in 1927) by Carl Eliason, of Sayner, Wisconsin.

A snowmobile history found on the Volo Museum’s website credits White, Eliason and Bombardier, and agrees with Smith. The website says: “One of the earliest snowmobile ancestors is the steam-powered Lombard Log Hauler….”

Appeal to our readers

An appeal to our readers, especially those in Windsor, to help an out-of-state historian.

Peter Pettingill, from Barrington, New Hampshire, is seeking local information on an event in Windsor that he described as “the death of Charles Northey, Jr., which occurred in South Windsor, in October, 1905, resulting in the sensational six-and-a-half-week trial of resident Alice Spencer Cooper.”

He added, “It was the longest trial in Maine’s history at the time and was in the press from Maine to California and involved countless folks from your area and a lot of prominent Maine characters.”

Mr. Pettingill has done a lot of on-line research; he visited the area this past summer to check out graveyards and remaining buildings. He would appreciate more information from local people – does anyone have an ancestor in the Northey or Cooper family, or perhaps one who was involved in the trial?

In 2022 he published Porter: The Murder of David Varney (your writer found favorable reviews on line). His second book, titled The Murder of Mattie Hackett, is due out by the end of the year, he said.

For anyone with relevant information, Mr. Pettingill’s email address is His postal address is 58 Waterhouse Road, Barrington, NH 03825.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).
Smith, Earl H., Downeast Genius: From Earmuffs to Motor Cars Maine Inventors Who Changed the World (2021).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Waterville woman organizes inaugural Maine Book Festival

Over 100 attended the inaugural Maine Book Festival, in Hallowell. (photo by Jonathan Strieff)

by Jonathan Strieff

More than 20 vendors from all over Maine filled the Stevens Commons lawn, in Hallowell, on Sunday, October 1, for the first Maine Book Festival. Well over 100 attendees circulated among the stalls of local authors, crafters, and book sellers throughout the day-long event in the warm autumn sunshine. Besides the vendors, the event featured book and poetry readings, presentations from varied literary organizations and live music.

The Maine Book Fest was created by Maddie Smith, a 22-year-old Waterville resident who operates The Banned Bookstore, an online and pop-up book store featuring titles that have been banned from schools or faced other forms of censorship. Smith said the idea to celebrate the rich diversity of writers, publishers, and readers in central Maine came from attending a similar festival near Cleveland, Ohio.

The morning began with a welcoming address by Virginia Marriner, the executive director of Literacy Volunteers of Kennebec. Marriner praised the enthusiasm of the event participants before detailing some of the work her group does. For 50 years, the mission of LVK has been to improve reading, writing and literacy skills of adults so each individual may reach their potential.

photo by Jonathan Strieff

Volunteer tutors offer learner-centered guidance for overcoming all kinds of barriers to literacy, from promoting family literacy and early childhood intervention, to working with English as a Second Language learners, adults with learning disabilities, as well as high school equivalency degree coaching. Marriner spoke extensively about the impacts low literacy can have on peoples lives, from poverty rates and employment challenges to increased incidences of incarceration, and encouraged participants to support the children’s programming LVK does to help create lifelong readers.

The group has installed “StoryWalks,” posted pages from children’s books, along popular walking trails in Augusta, Hallowell, and Gardiner, as well as built “little library” free book boxes throughout the city to help increase access to books. LVK will be hosting a children’s book giveaway Trick or Treat event on Saturday, October 28, from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m., at the Lithgow Public Library, in Augusta.

The next presentation was led by three members of Z about creating and maintaining a book club. The three members took turns speaking to both the joys and pleasures of participating in a book club as well as the logistics involved in managing the group. The Lone Pine Book Club meets in person monthly to discuss a selected book. A far greater number of members participating online using the Fable app to share their opinions between in person meetings. Besides the enjoyable discussions, and discovering books one would never otherwise read, the three members agreed the greatest aspect of book club participation was the sense of community built over time with the other members.

When asked, most festival goers included building community as a primary reason for attending the event. Will Neils, of Appleton, portrayed the value of the event in somewhat darker terms.

“I’ve traveled all over this land,” said Neils, “and I’ve never seen the level of belligerent ignorance out in society today. The only antidote to that is knowledge because knowledge is power.”

Jonathan Strieff is a freelance contributor to The Town Line.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Agriculture – Part 2

The Hubbard Free Library in Hallowell, built in 1800.

by Mary Grow

The Vaughans

Last week’s essay was about early farming in the central Kennebec Valley, as reported in local histories, with emphasis on Samuel Boardman’s chapter on agriculture in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history. This week’s work describes one important farming family and detours to talk about Boardman and another historian who contributed to Kingsbury’s opus.

Boardman wrote that as more people moved into the area and economies diversified, many farms became specialized. Farmers found resources and time to develop specific kinds of crops and of farm animals.

Preparing the truck crops in the 19th century.

By 1892, when the Kennebec County history was published, Boardman could write about orchardists, dairymen, hay farmers and those who “breed a particular kind of cattle, or fine colts of a fashionable family.” Others specialized in raising what he called “truck crops” to sell to urbanites.

“The orchard farmer lets another make his butter, and the dairyman purchases his apples and often his hay of his neighbor,” Boardman wrote.

Specialization was profitable. Boardman wrote that a farmer in 1892 could earn more cash for “a few acres of early potatoes” sold in town on July 1 than from “the marketed crops of his entire farm” two decades earlier.

The first two names on Boardman’s list of leaders among the men “to whom the agriculture of Kennebec county owes so much for its early improvement” are Benjamin Vaughan (Apr. 19, 1751 – Dec 8, 1835) and his brother Charles Vaughan (June 30, 1759 – May 15, 1839), of Hallowell. (The Vaughn brothers were featured, with their brother-in-law John Merrick, as patrons of music in the Aug. 31 issue of The Town Line.)

Boardman wrote that the brothers’ inherited land in Hallowell ran for a mile along the Kennebec and extended west five miles to Cobbosseecontee Lake.

He continued: “They had extensive gardens, established nurseries, planted orchards, imported stock, seeds, plants, cuttings and implements from England, and carried on model farming on a large scale.” (Some of the imported stock was “selected by a skillful English farmer from the herds of England,” James W. North added in his Augusta history.)

They built “miles” of walls on the farms, and built public roads. They sold trees and plants they raised (sometimes as much as $1,000 worth a year); “they also freely gave to all who were unable to buy.” They shared information and their “stock, plants and seeds” with farmers in other towns.

The potato harvest in 1888.

The Vaughans raised “apples, pears, peaches, cherries, and many kinds of nut-bearing trees.” They brought a mechanic from England to set up “the largest and most perfect cider mill and press in New England.”

Charles was more the hands-on manager, Boardman and North agreed, while Benjamin pursued “studies and investigations” (Boardman). Charles’ responsibilities included making sure each “breed of stock or variety of fruit, vegetable or seed” was “carefully tested and found to be valuable and well adjusted to this country” before it was shared. The farms provided year-round employment for “a large number of workmen.”

Benjamin, Boardman wrote, was active in the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, founded in 1792. Many of his articles were published in the society’s reports, usually signed “A Kennebec Farmer.”

North included background information on Charles Vaughan, writing that he was heavily involved in business development in Hallowell and farther south on the Kennebec in the 1790s. By 1802, he was bankrupt, whereupon he devoted his attention to the family farmland “with his wanted vigor and activity.”

Here are North’s summaries:

Benjamin Vaughan “was benevolent and kind; and was greatly beloved and respected by all classes of citizens for his great usefulness, exalted worth and many virtues.”

Of Charles Vaughan, North wrote: “It was his greatest pleasure to do good, and never was he more happy than when he conferred happiness upon others.”

* * * * * *

While this series of articles has detoured south to Hallowell, from which Augusta separated in 1797, it seems appropriate to mention one more contribution the Vaughan family made to that town (now a city).

According to the chapter on Hallowell by Dr. William B. Lapham, in Kingsbury’s history, the first library in Hallowell was organized Feb. 5, 1842, with a total of 519 volumes. In 1859, the library received donations from John Merrick’s heirs and from George Merrick’s library (George was one of John and Rebecca [Vaughan] Merrick’s sons).

About the same time, Lapham wrote, Charles Vaughan (the first Hallowell Charles Vaughan named his second son Charles) gave the library “a brick store.” The tenants’ rent was to be spent to buy books, and when the store was sold, the money was to be used to create a permanent fund to support the library.

Lapham continued the story after the Merrick/Vaughan involvement: a new granite library building was dedicated March 9, 1880, and by 1892 the collection was almost 6,000 volumes, “many of them rare and valuable.”

Hallowell’s library is now the Hubbard Free Library. Its website calls the 1880 building “the oldest library building in Maine built for that purpose,” and says architect Alexander C. Currier designed it “to resemble an English country church.” The building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since Oct. 28, 1970.

Vaughan Woods in Hallowell

Vaughan Woods and Historic Homestead, in the southern part of Hallowell, preserves the Vaughan family house and some of the family land. Bounded on the north by Litchfield Road and the south by Maple Street, the property combines a house/museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since Oct. 6, 1970, and a nature preserve protected by the Kennebec Land Trust.

The main part of the large two-story white house, with its generous windows and broad, tall brick chimneys, dates from 1794, when, Wikipedia says, Charles Vaughan built it as a summer home. In 1797, Benjamin Vaughan made it year-round.

By the late 1800s, the article continues, much of the Vaughan property had been sold off and cleared. In 1890, William and Benjamin Vaughan started buying back and reforesting the land. The present area is almost 200 acres, with Vaughan Brook (also called Bombahook Brook) winding through them from Cascade Pond to the Kennebec.

Information on programs and public access is on line.

Contributors to Kingsbury’s history

More than a dozen of the 47 chapters in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history were written by people other than Kingsbury. The authors include Samuel L. Boardman, who wrote the chapter on agriculture, and Dr. William Berry Lapham, who wrote the history of Hallowell.

Boardman had apparently published his own Kennebec County history years earlier and had been involved with at least two local agricultural newspapers.

In the chapter on the newspaper press in Kingsbury (written by Howard Owen), Boardman is named as agricultural editor of The Maine Farmer, founded in January 1833, for 10 years, from March 1869 to March 1879. Owen added that as of 1892, Boardman was “now employed on the editorial force of the Kennebec Journal.

In Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore’s history of Waterville, S. L. Boardman is mentioned twice: as the author, in 1867, of a history of Kennebec County; and 20 years later as editor of an agricultural newspaper called The Eastern Farmer.

Henry C. Prince, author of Whittemore’s chapter on the Waterville press, wrote that The Eastern Farmer began life in Augusta and in 1887 moved to Waterville under the auspices of Charles O. and Daniel F. Wing, of Waterville, and Hall Burleigh, of Vassalboro. “The paper lost money steadily,” Prince wrote, and after 30 issues the owners sold its subscription list in April 1888 to The Lewiston Journal.

The on-line text of The Maine Genealogist and Biographer lists Boardman as a member of the standing committee of the Maine Genealogical and Biographical Society in 1875 and 1876.

Lapham (Aug. 27, 1828 – Feb. 22, 1894), who authored Kingsbury’s chapter on Hallowell, is described in an article provided by the Bethel Historical Society to the on-line Maine Memory Network as “[o]ne of Maine’s most prolific 19th century historians.”

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: Music in the Kennebec Valley – Part 5

by Mary Grow

Two musical Hallowell families

In the course of reading about the history of music in the central Kennebec Valley, specifically George Thornton Edwards’ 1928 Music and Musicians of Maine, your writer came across two intertwined musical families who lived in Hallowell, before and after Augusta became a separate town in 1897.

Both were from England. Edwards, James W. North (in his 1870 Augusta history) and Henry Kingsbury (in his 1892 Kennebec County history) paid attention to:

  • Benjamin Vaughan, M.D., LL.D. (April 19, 1751 – Dec. 8, 1835), son of Samuel and Sarah (Hallowell) Vaughan;
  • His younger brother, Charles Vaughan (June 30, 1759 – May 15, 1839); and
  • John Merrick (April 27, 1766 – Oct. 22, 1861; or 1862), husband of Benjamin and Charles’ sister Rebecca (1766 – July 1851).

Benjamin Vaughan

Benjamin Vaughan was born in Jamaica, educated in Britain (including Trinity Hall, one of the Cambridge colleges, from which he did not graduate) and earned his medical degree at the University of Edinburgh.

He was interested in science and politics, a combination, Wikipedia says, led to his friendship with Benjamin Franklin. He and his wife, Sarah (Manning) Vaughan (April 29, 1754 – 1834), whom he married in 1781, also knew other leading families in the new United States, including the Washingtons, Adamses and Jays.

Vaughan was a participant in the negotiations to end the American Revolution. In 1786, he was elected a member of the Philadelphia-based American Philosophical Society.

In 1792 Vaughan was elected a member of the British Parliament. But his politics were out of step – he had supported both the American Revolution and the 1789 French Revolution – and he left Britain for France in 1794. He moved on to Switzerland; in 1795 (probably; other sources say 1796 or 1797) to Boston; and a year or two later to the family property in Hallowell – Hallowell because the Vaughan brothers inherited land there from their mother’s family.

Here, according to the on-line Maine An Encyclopedia, Vaughan practiced medicine for the first time, serving the poor and “usually supplying medicines as well as advice without charge.” He helped manage the family land and advised other landowners.

Maine An Encyclopedia says that in Hallowell, “he built houses, mills, stores, a distillery, a brewery, and a printing-office, and established a seaport at Jones’s Eddy, near the mouth of the Kennebec.”

He brought with him a library, the same source says, almost as big as Harvard’s (2,000 books smaller, an on-line source says), and spent much time researching and writing articles on politics and science. Harvard gave him an honorary LL.D in 1807, Bowdoin in 1812.

In addition to Benjamin Vaughan’s many business activities, an on-line source says in 1820, the Maine legislature asked him to design a seal for the new state. He recommended the farmer and the mariner, symbols of work; the moose, for nature; the pine tree, for timber resources; and the north star overhead.

Charles Vaughan came to the family property in Hallowell a few years earlier than Benjamin, according to Edwards and others (but Kingsbury said a few years after Benjamin, whose arrival he put in 1796). One on-line source dates Charles’ arrival 1790, another “around 1791.” Sources call him a merchant instrumental in Hallowell’s economic development.

Benjamin and Sarah Vaughan had at least seven children. Charles and his wife, Frances Western Apworth or Apthorp (1766 – 1818, or Aug. 10, 1836, or May 15, 1839), had three or four children.

John Merrick (who often has “Esquire” after his name) was born in London; Edwards said he was “of Welsh origin.” North said he studied for the ministry, but did not pursue it. At some point he “became a tutor” in Benjamin Vaughan’s family, and when the Vaughans moved to America in the 1790s, he came with them.

In 1797, North wrote, he went back to London, where in April 1798 he married Rebecca Vaughan, bringing her to Hallowell in May. North listed six Merrick children.

North, who had known Merrick at least casually, and Edwards both speak highly of him as a man and a civic leader. North wrote that Merrick “was a gentleman of thorough education, refined tastes, high intellectual and social culture, benevolent, public spirited, kind, courteous, and gentle…just in all his dealings, of excellent judgment and practical good sense, a good citizen highly esteemed and beloved by his neighbors and friends….”

Describing Merrick in his 90s, showing a companion where a recent Kennebec River flood had cut around the Augusta dam, North wrote: “His form…was erect, his step elastic, and his flowing long locks of a snowy whiteness resting upon his shoulders gave him an imposing and venerable appearance.”

Edwards added that Merrick was well-informed about “astronomy, navigation, mathematics, and surveying.”

Among Merrick’s civic roles the two authors listed were trustee of Hallowell Academy (from 1802) and board president in 1829; member of Bowdoin College’s Board of Overseers (1805); Hallowell first selectman “for many years” (North) and overseer of the poor for 10 years; and cashier of the second Hallowell and Augusta Bank from 1812 until it failed in 1821.

In 1810, North wrote, Massachusetts Governor Christopher Gore appointed Merrick a member of an expedition charged with exploring a possible road from the Kennebec to Québec. During the six-week expedition, “he camped out twenty-one nights, seventeen of which it rained.”

Edwards devoted considerable attention to the musical side of the Vaughan and Merrick families. He summarized: “The Vaughans, the acknowledged leaders of all social events in Hallowell, were liberal patrons of the arts, and they and the Merricks were responsible in no small degree for the prestige which Hallowell was destined for nearly a century to enjoy as a musical center, and for the musical advancement of the towns along the Kennebec River.”

Music was important in both families, Edwards continued. Both sets of parents provided for their children the best available “instructors in piano, violin and flute.”

Merrick was one of the tutors in the Benjamin Vaughan family; their French teacher was a violinist. Charles and Frances Vaughan’s son, Charles, born in 1804, became a flutist and cellist; their daughter, Harriet, was a pianist and singer.

(Benjamin and Sarah Vaughan also had a daughter they named Harriet, the first-born of their seven children. Born in 1782, she died in 1798.)

Charles and Frances Vaughan’s daughter Harriet, born April 15, 1802, married children’s book author Jacob Abbott (Nov. 14, 1803 – Oct. 31, 1879) on May 18, 1829. Harriet Vaughan Abbott died Sept. 12, 1843.

Jacob and Harriet had several children. Another on-line source provides a brief biography of their oldest son, one of Charles Vaughan’s grandsons. He was Benjamin Vaughan Abbott, born in Boston June 4, 1830, a Harvard Law School graduate (1852). He is recognized primarily for his many collections and digests of court rulings and other legal records, work with which his brother, Austin Abbott, helped.

Merrick, in addition to tutoring Vaughan children, was a talented musician and leader. Edwards wrote that his musical taste was “exquisite.” He was known as a cellist, singer (Edwards quoted a description of his voice as “a very sweet and highly cultivated tenor”) and music critic. Linda Davenport, in her Divine Song on the Northeast Frontier, included a quotation saying Merrick “could play on any instrument.”

Locally, he led outstanding choirs at Hallowell’s Old South Church (called the best in New England in his time) and the Gardiner church, Edwards said. He also sang in the old South Church choir, as did Jacob Abbott.

When the Handel Society of Maine was formed in Portland in February 1814, Merrick was its first president. Edwards described the group as an ambitious state-wide effort that probably lasted only a few years, holding twice-yearly meetings at Bowdoin College. Its short life he attributed to the many other demands on members’ time, their limited resources and the difficulty of travel in Maine in the early 1800s.

Handel Society of Maine program from 1883.

Edwards listed one more of Merrick’s musical accomplishments: he wrote that when Samuel Tenney published The Hallowell Collection of Sacred Music in 1817 (second edition 1824), Merrick and (future) Chief Justice Prentiss Mellen, from Biddeford, “two of the ablest men in the state,” assisted.

Davenport analyzed the history of The Hallowell Collection in more detail, pointing out that although it is attributed to Samuel Tenney, he is not named “on the title page, in the notice about the copyright deposit, or in the introductory advertisement.”

Merrick and Mellen did endorse the collection, Davenport said, in their capacities as president and vice-president of the Handel Society. She disagreed with the suggestion that the Society published the book.

In Davenport’s opinion, “A more likely possibility is that Merrick and possibly Mellen may have served as musical advisors to the book’s publisher, Ezekiel Goodale, a Hallowell printer who was not known to have been musical.”

Merrick, because of his education and his experience leading choirs, she believed probably guided the choice of mostly-European music and wrote the “theoretical introduction, portions of which are more detailed and erudite” than in other contemporary collections.

Mellen could have contributed from Biddeford. Tenney might have helped, Davenport wrote, and almost certainly used the book when he opened his singing school for sacred music late in 1817.

Main sources

Davenport, Linda, Divine Song on the Northeast Frontier Maine’s Sacred Tunebooks, 1800-1830 (1996).
Edwards, George Thornton, Music and Musicians of Maine (1928).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Music in the central Kennebec Valley

The 1866 Hook organ at the South Parish Congregational Church, in Augusta.

by Mary Grow

After the frustration of finding only scanty and random information from local historians on how central Kennebec Valley residents cared for their destitute neighbors, your writer decided to continue frustrating herself on a more cheerful topic: music.

There were music and musicians in central Maine before the Europeans’ arrival. Music historian George Thornton Edwards provided a bit of information on native American music in his Music and Musicians of Maine.

The early European settlers, too, enjoyed and appreciated music, Edwards wrote. At first it was mostly sacred and mostly vocal.

An 18th century Viol.

The usual accompaniment to a church choir was a bass viol. Portland’s Second Parish Church seems to have been a leader in expanding use of instruments. Edwards wrote that the cornet and clarinet (or clarionet) had supplemented the viol before 1798, when the church acquired the first church organ in the city.

Augusta wasn’t far behind. In 1802, according to Edwards and to James North’s Augusta history, residents of the North Parish raised $35 to buy a bass viol and build a box for it. Stephen Jewett played the viol; Edwards commented that “ultra conservative” residents no doubt disapproved.

North included a reference from 1796, when Hallowell Academy, opened May 5, 1795, celebrated the end of its first year with public student recitations. North quoted from the May 10, 1796, issue of the Tocsin (Hallowell’s second newspaper): the public presentation included “vocal and instrumental music, under the direction of Mr. Belcher the ‘Handel‘ of Maine.”

(“Mr. Belcher” was Supply Belcher [March 29, 1751 – June 9, 1836]. Born in Massachusetts, he fought in the Revolution; moved to Hallowell in 1785; and in 1791 settled in Farmington for the rest of his life. He published in 1794 a collection of his sacred compositions called The Harmony of Maine.)

North borrowed from Edwards’ history a description of another series of musical events that started in early 1822, when a group of musically-inclined South Parish Congregational Church parishioners brought to the town “Mr. Holland,” a professor of music from New Bedford, Massachusetts. (Your writer has failed to find Mr. Holland’s first name or dates.)

Holland began a new method of teaching “psalmody” (the singing of sacred music, especially in church services) and gave piano lessons. His singers joined the church choir, and the ensuing interest led to raising money to buy a $550 British-made organ, the first organ in Augusta. It was installed on Sept. 4, North said.

The next Sunday, “Mrs. Ostinelli,” Sophia Henrietta Emma Hewitt Ostinelli (May 23, 1799 – Aug. 31, 1845), played the organ. She was the daughter of Boston composer, conductor and music publisher James Hewitt, and the new wife of Italian-born violinist and conductor Paul Louis Antonio Ostinelli (1795 – 184?). An on-line source calls her “pianist, organist, singer, and music teacher.”

Edwards wrote that her husband was described as a violinist “without a peer in America at that time.” He was also an orchestra conductor.

On Sept. 19 and again on Sept. 25, Holland directed “an oratorio of sacred music,” held, Linda Davenport wrote in her Divine Song on the Northeast Frontier, at the church. The concerts were benefits, the first for Holland and the second for the Ostinellis.

Music was provided by church members – the church did not seem to have its own “ongoing musical society,” Davenport wrote – plus choir members from Hallowell’s Congregational and Baptist societies. At one of these concerts, maybe both, Ostinelli played violin solos.

Davenport reprinted the program of the Sept. 19 concert. Each of the two parts began with an organ voluntary, followed by vocal music, both chorus and solo. Seven of the 15 pieces performed were by George Frideric Handel; one was by Franz Joseph Haydn.

North wrote the Holland concerts were the last time such “first class concerts” were presented in Augusta until June 1859, when Ostinelli’s daughter Elise, Madame Biscaccianti, sang.

Holland moved back to New Bedford in September 1823, Edwards wrote. “It is said that his influence on the musical life in Augusta is felt to this day (1928).”

The same year Cyril Searle was “temporarily located in Augusta and he continued the excellent work which had been started by Mr. Holland.”

North devoted three pages to Searle – not to his musical career, but to a description of the sketch he did of Augusta, probably in 1823 (definitely after Maine and Massachusetts separated in 1820, and before a building he included burned on Nov. 8, 1823).

When Augusta’s first Unitarian church, called Bethlehem Church, was built in 1827, it had an organ, North wrote. This church, according to Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, was on the east bank of the Kennebec, where the Cony Flatiron Building (formerly Cony High School) stands today. Since most of the Augusta Unitarians lived on the west side of the river, a new church was built only six years later on State Street, about a block north of the present Lithgow Library.

In later descriptions of new church buildings, North occasionally mentioned an organ; apparently by the 1830s, they were common enough not to be worth noting.

An event he described that will remind readers of the old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” and in which music played a minor role, occurred in 1832.

By then Maine’s capital had moved to Augusta. The legislature, meeting in secret session, discussed a controversial proposal to cede land to Great Britain to resolve the conflict over the Maine-Canada boundary (a conflict that led to the Aroostook War of 1839 – see the March 17, 2022, issue of The Town Line).

An anonymous source sent information on the secret deliberations to Luther Severance, publisher of an Augusta newspaper, who printed it. Legislators demanded to know the source. Severance refused to answer committee questions and was threatened with a contempt citation, but was apparently never prosecuted.

Enough of Augusta’s elite sympathized with Severance to organize a dinner in his honor, at which speakers denounced legislators, praised the free press and, North quoted from Severance’s newspaper, enjoyed “an excellent dinner, moistened with the best old Madeira, and accompanied by fine music.”

* * * * * *

There were also privately run singing schools, Edwards wrote. Millard Howard wrote in his Palermo history that schoolhouses were one place singing schools met. He added that by the late 1800s, schoolhouses were also sites for “some rowdy dances with frequent fights.”

Edwards’ history includes names of people, mostly men but some women, who ran singing schools. One was Coker Marble, whose singing school in Vassalboro operated for more than 20 years in the period from 1836 through 1856.

An on-line Marble genealogy provides limited information on not one but two men named Coker Marble. The genealogy starts with Samuel Marble (Oct. 23, 1728 -?) and Sarah Coker (June 21, 1735 -?), who married in 1754 in New Hampshire. They had at least three children: Hannah and John, both born in 1755, and Coker Marble Sr. (Sept. 28, 1765 – Aug. 30, 1823).

Coker Marble Sr., married twice, according to the on-line genealogy. He and his first wife, Polly Mason, whom he married about 1796, had at least one daughter.

On Jan. 1, 1801, in New Hampshire, he married Rhoda Judkins (1776 -1864). The oldest of their six children was Coker Marble Jr. (Feb. 8, 1802 – Sept. 10, 1882), who was born in Vassalboro.

In his chapter on Vassalboro in the Kennebec County history, Kingsbury named Rev. Coker Marble as pastor – presumably the first pastor – of the Second Baptist Church, organized at Cross Hill in 1808 with 37 members but, Kingsbury said, “probably…no church property.” From the dates in the genealogical information, this pastor must have been the senior Coker Marble, who would have been in his mid-40s in 1808.

Grave marker for Elder Coker Marble Sr., left, and his wife, Rhoda, on right., at the Cross Hill Cemetery, in Vassalboro.

Vassalboro cemetery records show that Coker Marble Sr., named as Elder Coker Marble, and Rhoda are buried in Vassalboro’s Cross Hill cemetery, with the two youngest of their four daughters.

(Your writer also found on line a biography of a Massachusetts doctor named John Oliver Marble. The biography specifies that he was the son of John and Emeline [Prescott] Marble and the grandson of Rev. Coker Marble. Dr. Marble was born April 26, 1839, in Vassalboro. He graduated from Colby in 1863 and received his medical degree from Georgetown in 1868.)

Coker Marble Jr., married Marcia Lewis (March 19, 1806 – Dec. 17, 1881) on Aug. 31 or Oct. 20, 1824, in Whitefield. Between 1825 and 1853 Marcia bore seven daughters and three sons. The sons were named Arthur, Edwin and Henry.

From the birth and death dates, your writer concludes that it was Coker Marble Jr., who ran the Vassalboro singing school, probably beginning when he was in his early 30s. The genealogy lists two of his and Marcia’s children as born in Vassalboro, in 1837 and 1841, and two others in Hallowell, in 1839 and 1845.

The on-line site says the younger Coker Marble lived in Pittston in 1870 and Skowhegan in 1880; Marcia is listed in Pittston in 1870 and in Milburn in 1880 (Milburn might then have been part of Skowhegan). Both died in Bath (another site says Coker Marble died in either Bath or China) and are buried in Bath’s Maple Grove Cemetery.

Main sources

Davenport, Linda, Divine Song on the Northeast Frontier Maine’s Sacred Tunebooks, 1800-1830 (1996).
Edwards, George Thornton, Music and musicians of Maine: being a history of the progress of music in the territory which has come to be known as the State of Maine, from 1604 to 1928 (1970 reprint).
Howard, Millard, An Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine (second edition, December 2015).
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: Taking care of paupers

Bidding out was done at town meetings, where officials and voters discussed each needy person or family publicly by name. Residents bid for a poor person, asking a specific sum from the town for a year’s room, board and care, in the pauper’s home or the bidder’s home.

by Mary Grow

The earliest settlers in the Kennebec Valley, as elsewhere in New England, were for the most part able-bodied and self-supporting. But within a generation or two, a settlement would be likely to have residents who were unable to support themselves.

Some might be physically or mentally disabled. Older people might lose their ability to do manual labor and outlive their resources. Children might be left without a caring family.

A bad economy might send people into poverty. Different historians mention the near-destruction of export-dependent businesses (lumbering, for example) and the dramatic increase in prices of food and other necessities caused by the embargo during the War of 1812. Bad weather was another factor; farmers lost crops and income in 1816, the Year without a Summer.

Whatever the cause, if someone was a pauper and had no supportive relatives, caring for the poor was a town responsibility, as evidenced by the expression “going on the town” – becoming dependent on local taxpayers for the means of existence.

An on-line source says going on the town was a last resort and a humiliation. The writer gave three reasons: paupers lost the right to vote or to hold office; town officials might have authority to sell paupers’ property to fund their care; and townspeople looked down on those whom their taxes supported.

Maine towns had at least two ways of caring for their poor. One system was called “outdoor relief:” paupers were either supported financially on their own properties, or bid out to live with more prosperous neighbors.

Bidding out was done at town meetings, where officials and voters discussed each needy person or family publicly by name. Residents bid for a poor person, asking a specific sum from the town for a year’s room, board and care, in the pauper’s home or the bidder’s home.

An alternative was for voters to leave placement decisions to town officials. Officials for this purpose were the selectmen, whose titles included, and in many Maine towns still include, overseers of the poor.

The other option for a town was to buy a piece of property for a town poor house or poor farm, where paupers would be housed and cared for. “Farm” was almost always literal; the residents helped raise crops and tend livestock.

In her history of Sidney, Alice Hammond listed another method a person or family who owned property but was facing insolvency could use: the property could be deeded over to the town, on condition that the town would care for the donor(s) for life. Hammond mentioned real estate records showing Sidney had thus become owners of several farms that town officials later sold.

Town officials were careful not to spend their residents’ tax money on other towns’ paupers. Local histories occasionally mention lawsuits between towns to settle which is responsible for a person or family.

The following paragraphs will offer more specific information on how municipalities in the Central Kennebec Valley area took care of their poor before the present era of homeless shelters and homeless encampments.

This topic is one for which your writer’s self-imposed restriction to secondary sources available in books or on line (you’ll remember that this history series started early in the pandemic, when visiting town offices was discouraged) is limiting. Not all towns’ records are available on line, and some town historians wrote nothing about paupers. Others, however, provided enough information to intrigue your writer and, she hopes, her readers.

* * * * * *

At Augusta’s first town meeting, on April 3, 1797 (after Augusta separated from Hallowell in February 1797 and briefly became Harrington), Kingsbury reported that voters approved spending $1,250 for roads, $400 for roads and $300 for everything else, including supporting the poor.

The first poor house was approved at a March 11, 1805, meeting, according to Kingsbury and to James North’s Augusta history. Selectmen were not to spend more than $300. Voters at the annual meeting in 1806 elected George Reed or Read as its first superintendent.

Kingsbury described the location by 19th-century landmarks: north of Ballard’s corner (probably the current intersection of Bond and Water streets), and just south of the Curtis residence in 1805, and in 1892 marked by a “well on the east side of the road and an old sweet apple tree.”

By 1810, according to North, municipal spending had increased in the three categories Kingsbury listed in 1897: the appropriation for roads was $1,500, “payable in labor”; for schools, $1,000, and for everything else (both historians lump the poor “and other necessary charges”), another $1,500.

In 1833, North wrote, Augusta voters authorized selectmen to decide how to care for paupers. Neither he nor Kingsbury explained why there was evidently dissatisfaction with the poor house.

A special meeting in January 1834 made the authorization more specific: after the current contract with David Wilbur (the poor house superintendent?)) expired, town officials were to consider whether to buy a farm, contract or think up “some other mode.”

The five-man committee created to carry out this instruction reported at an April 21 meeting that while the legislature was in session they had talked with people from other parts of Maine and found unanimous support for “thePoor House system, both as regards economy and comfort and the prevention of pauperism.”

This committee recommended a second committee be appointed to look for “a suitable piece of land.” Charles Williams, from the first committee, and four new members of the second committee agreed with the first in advising that the farm be “near the village”; they recommended a third committee to buy a suitable property.

This third committee, which consisted of John Potter from the second committee and four more newcomers, reported to a Sept. 9 town meeting an agreement to buy Church Williams’ farm for $3,000. Their action was approved and yet another committee, chaired by Potter, appointed to build a house on the property.

The building went up by the end of 1834, North wrote. By 1870, he said, it had been “enlarged from time to time to the dimensions of the present commodious and convenient almshouse.”

A century after the building was finished, an on-line report on the Depression-era New Deal’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration’s work relief project describes repairs planned in 1934 and done in 1935. The writer said they were much needed: “Very few people realized the condition of this building and the unsanitary conditions and the inmates were living in.”

By then the building consisted of four floors over a large basement, “all of which were deteriorating rapidly.” Early steps were to reinforce a ceiling and put a partial new foundation “to keep the kitchen and range from falling into the basement.”

“The entire building was so infested with cockroaches and bedbugs that a special machine had to be hired along with an operator to exterminate these insects. All beds and bedding including blankets, mattresses, pillows and sheets were destroyed and replaced.”

Interior walls were replastered or repapered or painted; plumbing and heating systems were totally updated; the building was completely rewired; all the stairways were replaced, as were 20 doors and about 75 windows. A laundry was added and equipped, and a shed converted to a well-stocked store from which “the town truck delivers food daily to the city’s poor.”

The work crew consisted of 21 men. Total cost in labor, supplied by the ERA, was almost $5,400; the City of Augusta provided about $5,000 worth of materials. Work began Jan. 24 and was finished June 6, 1935.

The undated on-line site adds that the building had since been demolished and the Augusta public works department had moved onto the property.

* * * * * *

In Sidney, immediately north of Augusta on the west side of the Kennebec River, historian Hammond wrote, in the context of official town business in the 1790s, that “A problem right from the beginning was how to provide for the poor in town.”

She found an (undated) record of an early incident: the town constable “was ordered to serve notice on at least 25 families [presumably poor families] who had moved into town without first seeking permission.”

Town clerk’s records show that the constable carried out his orders, but, Hammond said, there is no proof the families were equally obedient; instead, some were still in Sidney years afterwards.

In addition to bidding out paupers, Hammond found Sidney town meeting voters repeatedly appointed a committee to buy a poor house or poor farm – and at the next meeting rejected the committee’s recommendation.

In 1867, she wrote, “the town actually purchased a working farm, hired a superintendent and moved paupers to the house.”

This poor farm was on 100 acres where Town Farm Road runs west off River Road (now West River Road) to Middle Road, in the north end of Sidney. The 1879 Kennebec County atlas shows the farm in the northwest corner of the three-way intersection; some of the land, then or later, was on the east side of West River Road (see below).

In 1869, Hammond wrote, voters directed selectmen to lay out and fence a cemetery on the town farm.

The 1877 town meeting warrant included an article Hammond quoted: “To see if town will vote to build suitable places at the poor house on the farm so as to be able to control the unruly poor.”

She also quoted the voters’ decision: “That it be left with the overseers to put them on bread and water if they see fit.” (Note the plural “overseers,” – by 1877, taxpayers were paying more than a single superintendent to staff the farm.)

This farm was a working farm, as Hammond’s information from what she called a typical inventory in the February 1895 annual report showed. The farm then had 28 hens; a dozen sheep; four cows and two yearlings; and two pigs. There were stockpiles of hay, straw, potatoes, turnips, oats, beans and beets.

The inventory further listed ham, pork, flour and butter; vinegar, pickles, molasses, spice and salt; and 80 gallons of cider and one pound each of tea and coffee.

Town officials and voters continued to debate whether the farm was the best arrangement, Hammond wrote. They agreed to lease it to different people, and eventually closed and sold it in 1919 to Mrs. Clara Wilshire for $3,000.

Hammond wrote that the sale did not include “the gravel bank on the east side of the River Road.” J. J. Pelotte later bought that parcel for $1,000. (Sidney’s 2003 comprehensive plan, found on line at the University of Maine Digital Commons site, lists the J. J. Pelotte gravel pit.)

Main sources

Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870)

Websites, miscellaneous.

Gaslight Theater’s 2023 season continues

Gaslight Theater’s 2023 Season of Laughter continued in April and May with Peter Shaffer’s Black Comedy, directed by Lucille Rioux. The show will be produced at Hallowell Cithy Hall Auditorium, at 1 Winthrop St., in Hallowell, over two weekends, including Sunday matinees, April 28, 29 and 30, and May 5, 6, 7. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees start at 2 p.m.