Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Agriculture – Part 3

Southdown sheep.

by Mary Grow

This subseries began last week to talk about some of the central Kennebec Valley’s agricultural pioneers whom Samuel Boardman named in his chapter on agriculture in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history.

One was Rev. William Pitt Addison Dillingham, of Sidney, who was previously noticed in an introductory essay on agriculture in the March 18, 2021, issue of The Town Line.

Dillingham (Sept. 4, 1824 – April 22, 1871) was primarily a minister, mostly in the Universalist church. Sidney historian Alice L. Hammond wrote that one of his posts was with the Sidney First Universalist Society, of which his father-in-law, Dodavah or Dodivah Townsend (June 4, 1775 – Dec. 4, 1852; one of Sidney’s early settlers), was among the organizers in June 1840.

Dillingham and his wife, Caroline Price Townsend (born May 25, 1817), owned a farm that Hammond said was called Fairview Farm and was also the home of Caroline’s father.

(The 1879 map of Sidney shows no Dillingham property. There is a D. Townsend house, on the north side of Bartlett Road, closer to Tiffany Road than to Pond Road. The 1856 map shows the same D. Townsend property.)

Hammond wrote that Dillingham brought two sheep breeds, Oxford Downs and Southdowns, to Sidney in 1858.

Oxford Downs sheep.

The Southdown, according to Wikipedia, is the smallest of British sheep breeds “and the basis of the whole Down group of breeds.” Southdowns were first bred in East Sussex, England, around 1800, for both wool and meat.

Boardman said it was Charles Vaughan, of Hallowell, who brought the first Southdowns into Maine, in 1834.

Wikipedia says Oxford Downs were bred in Oxfordshire (hence the name) in the 1830s, by cross-breeding Cotswold rams with Southdown and Hampshire Down ewes. The result is a large sheep with short white wool and “a large, meaty carcass,” making it a breed raised primarily for meat.

C. K. Sawtelle also raised sheep in Sidney, according to Hammond and Boardman.

Boardman called cattle – cows and oxen – “the real basis of successful agriculture.” He again credited Benjamin and Charles Vaughan for importing valuable breeds that got the Kennebec Valley off to a good start.

Soon, however, interest waned, and herds began to deteriorate, Boardman wrote. Among a new generation of farmers who “took up the responsibility of obtaining high priced registered stock from abroad, or improving the best of that which remained” in the 1830s and 1840s, he named Luther and Bradford Sawtelle, of Sidney.

The index to Hammond’s history has almost two pages of Sawtelles, from Abbie Z. to Zypporah, plus a column of Sawtells; and there is a multi-page summary genealogy. Kingsbury explained that an early Pond Road settler named Moses Sawtelle had seven sons and was distantly related to another settler named John Sawtelle: “This accounts for the frequency of the name in Sidney.”

Luther Sawtelle (Aug. 7, 1800 – June 25, 1872) and Bradford Jorel Sawtelle (May 18, 1811 – Nov. 12, 1897) were sons of John and Thankful (Robbins) Sawtelle. When Kingsbury wrote his history in 1892, he said Luther’s oldest son, Ambrose, was living on the family homestead, a farm Luther bought in 1824 called Pleasant Plain Farm, and Bradford (by then in his early 80s) was farming part of it.

Summer Sweet apple.

Hammond listed apples, hay and potatoes as other important products of Sidney farms. Hay, she pointed out, was a common export from much of Maine to cities in Massachusetts while horse-drawn transport prevailed. In 1850 she found that Sidney “produced more than 5,700 tons of hay.”

Apples were the “second largest crop” in Sidney in the first half of the 1800s. Farmers planted apple trees “along stone walls or together in clumps on less desirable land” that wasn’t as good for raising hay. Early varieties included Baldwin, Ben Davis and Stark.

Hammond named Sidney farmer Paul Bailey as an experimental apple breeder, “originating a variety named Bailey’s Golden Sweet.”

An on-line source called Out on a Limb Apples recognizes another Sidney-bred apple: Ichabod Thomas created the Summer Sweet around the year 1800. It’s described as a yellow apple with “a beautiful golden apricot-orange blush” and usually “apricot around the stem area.”

The Summer Sweet is “medium-small,” about two inches in diameter, firm-fleshed, with “a mild sweet flavor, best for fresh eating or sauce. It makes a thick, creamy, tropical-flavored sauce—with hints of banana and pineapple —that takes a while to cook down and may need some added water to keep it from burning to the bottom of the pot.”

Ichabod Thomas

On-line sources say that Ichabod Thomas (March 14, 1758 – Feb. 25, 1845) was born in Marsh­field, Massa­chusetts. He was a Revolu­tionary War veteran, having served almost a year in two different regiments. Moving to Maine, on March 10, 1791, he married Mehitable Crosby (Sept. 16, 1767 – April 26, 1842) in Winslow; she was from Albion.

The couple had seven children between 1791 and 1805. The oldest was born in Vassalboro, before Sidney became a separate town on Jan. 20, 1792.

Thomas was a respected citizen, according to records Hammond found and another on line. She identified him as Sidney’s first town clerk, elected at the first town meeting. An on-line record says he held the office two later years, and was a selectman for five years and town treasurer for two non-successive terms.

He and Mehitable died in Brownville, Maine, and are buried in Brownville Village Cemetery with his mother, Eleanor (Mrs. Joseph) Thomas, who died in June 1823 aged almost 96.

Other Sidney residents were apple growers, on various scales. In 1876, Hammond said, the largest apple orchard in Kennebec County was the Bowman brothers’ on Middle Road, which had 75,000 trees.

Hammond wrote that Sidney’s apple crop became less important after the mid-1800s, “as the original trees grew old and there were few new plantings.”

Sweet corn was “a major crop for a good many years” in Sidney, Hammond said. She credited Isaac Winslow, “of Vassalboro,” with learning how to process food while he was in France “on naval duty” and starting a canning factory “around 1840.”

Sweet corn, Hammond wrote, was well suited to less specialized farms: “It provided a cash crop, utilized the farm manure, produced cattle forage, and used family labor….”

It was in 1850 that the railroad along the east bank of the Kennebec River first reached Waterville, Hammond wrote, expanding markets for up-river farmers. Sidney farmers ferried crops to railheads in Riverside and North Vassalboro while the water was open.

In winter, “they risked their lives, teams, and loads to venture across the ice. Many stories have been told of the close calls they had and of the not-so-fortunate who went through the ice.”

Isaac Winslow and corn canning

An on-line account says a Frenchman, Nicolas Appert, invented canning vegetables as a method of preserving food in 1809, thereby earning a reward offered by the Emperor Napoleon as he sought to feed the French Navy. The process was quickly brought to England and America.

For sweet corn, the process consisted of taking the kernels off the cob; putting them in a glass bottle (originally) or a can; heating them to kill bacteria; and sealing the container. First done by hand, it was soon mechanized.

Isaac Winslow

Another on-line site, a Warren County, Ohio, web page, says: “Isaac Winslow is believed to have been the first to successfully can sugar corn for market. He made his experiments in 1842, and applied for a patent which was not granted until 1863.”

Isaac Winslow is mentioned in Alice Bibber’s 1989 paper titled Nearly All in the Family: Nathan Winslow and His Family Network, published in Vol. 28 of Maine History and available online through the University of Maine’s Digital Commons.

Bibber’s focus was on the extended family that assisted Isaac’s older brother, Nathan Winslow (born in March 1785), a Portland-based inventor and merchant whom she credits with “launching the first corn-canning operation in the United States.”

Canned corn from 1800s.

She added, “Although twentieth-century historians credit Isaac with being the first person to preserve corn in tin cans, at least one contemporary who talked with Nathan Winslow about the business stated that the latter had made the experiments.”

Bibber mentioned Isaac as sailing to Le Havre, France, in 1818, not in the Navy but on a family whaling ship; and taking his ill sister-in-law, Nathan’s wife, to Madeira in 1842, where she died early in 1843.

“Some time earlier,” Bibber wrote, “Isaac Winslow had returned home with information about a French method of preserving food in sealed cans.” Nathan and Isaac decided to try it; Bibber wrote they used as “a base of operations” the family farm, which was apparently in Falmouth.

A factory was set up in 1852. When patents were issued in 1862, Bibber wrote, they were in Isaac Winslow’s name, but “assigned to” Nathan’s nephew, John Winslow Jones.

Bibber mentioned Vassalboro once: after Isaac’s father married Lydia Hacker, from Massachusetts, his wife’s family moved to Brunswick and “made marriage ties with a Vassalboro family.”

There is one more possible connection: the Winslows were Quakers, and Vassalboro and China had relatively large numbers of Quakers. However, your writer found no evidence confirming Alice Hammond’s statement that Isaac Winslow lived in Vassalboro.

Main sources

Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

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: Agriculture – Part 1

by Mary Grow

Early days

Families who settled the central Kennebec Valley in the 1700s were, of necessity, farmers: one of the first actions was to clear enough land to raise food crops, for both people and livestock.

Alice Hammond wrote in her history of Sidney, “In the late 18th century, almost every Sidney home would have been a self-sufficient farm, with oxen, dairy cows, sheep, chickens, and steadily expanding fields that provided food for people and livestock.”

The Fairfield bicentennial history quoted from an 1848 letter in which Elihu Bowerman recollected his first years in North Fairfield, in 1783 and 1784. As he remembered, the log cabin came first. He raised potatoes on the farm of a fellow Quaker, in Vassalboro, Remington Hobby (or Hobbie; Hobbes in Bowerman’s account), but they froze early in the fall; his winter diet was corn (bought on credit), frozen potatoes and “pork and smoked herring.”

The next spring, Bowerman wrote, he and his brother cleared enough more land to plant “corn, potatoes, beans and some other things, but no wheat.”

Clearing land was no simple job; several historians talk about the immense trees the first settlers found. In what became the Town of Palermo, Milton Dowe wrote, trees were up to 250 feet tall, “and some of the stumps, when cut, were large enough for a team of oxen to turn on.”

And, Windsor historian Linwood Lowden reminded his 20th-century readers, those stumps “must be pried, pulled, dug and/or burned out, and the war against recurring saplings must be joined.”

Ruby Crosby Wiggin, in her Albion history, mentioned using “oxen-power” in later years to pull gigantic pine stumps and use them for fences – very effective fences, she assured her readers.

Lowden added large rocks to the farmers’ problems. Really big ones, he wrote, might be drilled, split and used for building foundations or lining wells; others could become stone fences.

As the cleared land was cultivated, smaller stones kept surfacing. These, Lowden said, were loaded onto a stone drag pulled by oxen and taken to the stone dump that every farm had, “either at a place where the woodlot met an open field, or in a corner of two stone fences, or perhaps atop an outcrop of ledge.”

Lowden wrote that at least one Windsor farmer was growing rye by the summer of 1783. He cited an 1807 letter from a farmer named John Linn, who was raising “corn, wheat, rye, and hay,” and quoted Linn’s praise of the potato as “the pioneer’s main stay.”

Wiggin wrote that by 1809, people in the future Town of Albion were raising wheat, rye, corn, oats and peas, among other crops. She listed them because that year, voters agreed to accept those produce items in payment of taxes, provided they were less than a year old.

Dowe generalized that early settlers’ gardens produced “corn, wheat, potatoes, onions and beets.” His fellow Palermo historian, Millard Howard, added by 1820 oats, barley, peas and beans.

Quoting a South Freedom farmer’s report at the end of 1851, Howard said potatoes were raised for animal feed until an 1845 crop failure. The farmer wrote that in 1851 the potatoes rotted less than in any of the preceding five years.

A New England rock fence.

A typical late-1700s or early-1800s farm would have livestock: horses, cows, oxen, swine, sheep. Some agricultural statistics broke down the “cow” category, for example listing separately steers (neutered males).

Vassalboro historian Alma Pierce Robbins quoted a 1792 census report: within the town, there were “96 cows, 114 oxen, 37 horses, 104 steers, and 124 swine.” The town had a tannery and a slaughterhouse by then. Robbins did not mention the human population that year; an on-line source says 1,253 as of the 1790 census.

(The 1790 number would have counted residents of what is now Sidney, on the west side of the Kennebec. Sidney became a separate town from Vassalboro on Jan. 30, 1792, so the 1792 report probably covered only the east side of the river. The 1800 census recorded 1,188 inhabitants in Vassalboro and 1,011 in Sidney.)

Cows and steers provided milk, cream, butter and meat. Horses and oxen were main means of transportation for goods and people. Dowe, again generalizing, described a couple on their way to church: “The man rode in the saddle with his wife behind him.”

Though farming families were self-sufficient, Lowden wrote that self-sufficiency did not exclude cooperation. He gave examples from an “account book” Gideon Barton kept beginning in 1808, recording “debits of work and the loan of animals and farm equipment against similar credits among his neighbors.”

Some Windsor residents could and did pay in cash, but, Lowden wrote, “At a time when currency was scarce, the bartering of work was a convenient and necessary way of life.”

Thus, in the fall of 1811, Elisha Pike “helped Barton butcher a hog and a cow. Another time Barton helped Pike butcher an ox, and the next year they butchered a cow together.”

Records showed Barton hauling rocks and pasturing cows and horses for one neighbor and helping another build a new barn.

A typical town pound.

Town government in the Kennebec Valley in the early days of European settlement was tailored to an agricultural economy. Town officials included some elected specifically to deal with livestock; early records list appointments of hog-reeves, field-drivers and pound-keepers.

In 1805, Ephraim Clark was elected pound-keeper in China (then Jones Plantation), Henry Kingsbury said in his Kennebec County history, “and he is reported as holding the office for life.” Clark, born July 15, 1751, and one of China’s first settlers in the summer of 1774, died Oct. 20, 1829, at the age of 78.

Farm animals were not infrequently a topic on a town meeting agenda.

In August 1771, according to Kingsbury, Vassalboro voters authorized two town pounds to contain stray animals. They directed male residents to build them that December; any man who did not come to help was to be fined.

While Palermo was the plantation named Great Settlement, from 1801 through 1804, Dowe wrote that plantation voters decided that “Hogs should run at large, provided they be yoked and ringed.”

A yoke was a wooden neck-collar, similar to yokes used to hitch a pair of oxen or occasionally put on one ox. A ring was a nose-ring; its purpose was to keep a wandering hog from rooting and digging on other people’s and the public’s land. A hog-reeve’s responsibility was to catch and impound any stray hog not properly accountered.

That same year, 1804, according to Wiggin’s Albion history, voters at an April 16 town meeting decreed that “swine shall not go ‘at large.'” They also banned horses on “the common” and elected a pound-keeper, apparently the town’s first.

(By then, what is now Albion had changed from Freetown Plantation, incorporated in 1802, to Fairfax, as of March 9, 1804. The reference to “the common” is a puzzlement, because Wiggin wrote that in July 1806 voters chose a committee to buy land for a central town common, but she could find no record of such a purchase.)

China must have had a common by 1803, because Kingsbury recorded a town meeting vote that year prohibiting geese from running on it.

Wiggin recorded another interesting vote in April 1805: voters decided that “hogs and sheep ‘shall not run at large, but that Phineas Farnham’s sheep shall have the privilege of the road the width of his lot.'”

(Phineas Farnham was born April 1, 1767, in Woolwich, and died Dec. 14, 1837, in Albion. Early in 1791 he married Elizabeth “Betsey” Stinson, of Woolwich; she died there in May 1824. Their daughter Joanna, born in 1790, married James Chalmers, of Albion, in 1811; they had eight children.

(Wiggin had mentioned Farnham once before in her history, as one of two bondsmen for the tax collector elected at the first Freetown Plantation meeting on Oct. 30, 1802. She did not say what road he lived on.)

Farms produced not only food, but household items. Dowe mentioned mattresses filled with corn husks, hay or feathers.

Wool from a farm’s sheep could be taken to a fulling mill to be made into cloth. Samuel Boardman, in the chapter on agriculture in Kingsbury’s history, added cultivation of flax to provide rough tow cloth (for sacks, for example) and smoother linen.

Boardman was enthusiastic about the suitability of the central Kennebec Valley for farming. The whole county, he wrote, is far enough inland to escape salt air and coastal fog, far enough from mountains to stay warmer and “one of the best watered sections of Maine.”

Although Kennebec County soils vary from place to place, Boardman wrote that overall, the county “is a rich grazing section, excellent for the production of grass, the hill farms among the best orchard lands in the state, the lands in the river valleys and in the lower portions between the hills and ridges, splendid for cultivation.”

Boardman named Albion, Benton, Clinton and Windsor “excellent grazing towns.” China, Sidney and Vassalboro he listed (with Manchester, Monmouth, Readfield and Winthrop) as “without question the garden towns of the county.” He mentioned the “fine, deep, rich, productive loam” in the parts of Winslow along the Kennebec and Sebasticook rivers.

He credited Kennebec County’s early farmers with initiating agricultural development for the whole state. He described these farmers as “men of intelligence, anxious for improvement,” eager to promote new types of plants and animals and new tools and machinery and to share knowledge through organizations, “books and journals” and popular education.

A story about a New England stump fence

Ruby Crosby Wiggin told a pleasant story about a stump fence that ran along George Hanscom’s line to the shore of Albion’s Lovejoy Pond, where, in the early 1900s, her father and other boys often skated late into the evening. For several nights in a row, she said, the boys took a stump from the fence, dragged it onto the ice and built a bonfire to warm themselves.

When Hanscom checked his fence the next spring, he was so angry he asked a town official named Charles Abbott if he could have the vandals prosecuted.

Abbott had a good idea who was to blame, and he knew the families involved were his and Hanscom’s friends. So he proposed to Hanscom that the culprits buy and install enough wire fencing to replace the missing stumps.

Hanscom calmed down and consented; the boys bought enough wire to fill the gap they’d made and continue beyond it; and Hanscom, satisfied, offered them the stumps they’d supplemented with wire for the next winter’s bonfires.

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Fairfield Historical Society Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
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).
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).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Music in the Kennebec Valley – Part 4

R. B. Hall Band, in Richmond, circa 1878.

by Mary Grow

R. B. Hall Band & Cecilia Club

Kennebec County historian Henry Kingsbury provided a minor exception to the general lack of interest in music in local histories when he included a section headed “MUSIC” in his history of Waterville and wrote two whole paragraphs.

The first was about “the earliest instrumental or band music” in town, “produced by Abel Wheeler, a music teacher, and his two sons, Erastus O. and Sumner A., with fifes and drums.” The Wheelers provided music at the first Waterville College commencement on Aug. 21, 1822, Kingsbury said.

Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore, in his Waterville history, added that between commencements and military exercises, a brass band was “a necessity” for Waterville. That first commencement parade, he wrote, was led by the Waterville Artillery and “a band of music,” “and bands have existed here from that time on.”

Kingsbury wrote that “a few years later,” (your writer has been unable to find a precise date), “the first Waterville Band was formed.” Waterville College officials promised its members $100 a year for playing at commencements.

Kingsbury listed the eight original band members, most of whom he said were from the Ten Lots section of western Waterville that later became part of Fairfield, and four of the Waterville Band’s successive directors over “many years.” Except for Stephen Jewett (violist and fifer Stephen Jewett from Augusta? – see the July 27 and Aug. 10 issues of The Town Line), none of those named is mentioned in George Edwards’ Music and Musicians of Maine, nor is the Waterville Band listed.

Three of the Waterville Band’s original members were Reward Sturtevant, Anson Bates and Asa B. Bates (1794-1878). The last-named is the man in whose honor the Asa Bates Memorial Chapel in southwestern Fairfield is named (see the Aug. 5, 2021, issue of The Town Line).

An on-line genealogy identifies Asa Bates as a musician and a veteran of the War of 1812. Isaac Bangs’ chapter in Whittemore lists him as one of the three musicians in William Pullen’s militia company, which was stationed in Augusta in September 1814.

An organization called the Waterville band appears occasionally in later years in Waterville’s history. The July 1-3, 1879, Waterville Classical Institute commencement included a procession “escorted by the Waterville band.”

In William Mathews’ memoir of growing up in Waterville in Whittemore’s history, Mathews wrote that in the period between 1825 and 1850 Waterville had three “fine military companies:” the Light Infantry; an artillery company that kept two brass cannons in the small Temple Street house that was its headquarters; and the militia. He implied that each company had its own band.

Waterville’s best-known musical organizations in the late 1900s and early 2000s were the R. B. Hall Military Band and Hall’s Orchestra. Both were organized and led by Robert Brown (or Browne) Hall, who was born in Bowdoinham on June 30, 1858, and died in Portland on June 8, 1907.

The on-line Maine An Encyclopedia says Hall was an outstanding cornetist – his father was his first teacher – and bandmaster. He composed 62 marches that were published while he was alive, and according to Frances Turgeon Wiggin’s Maine Composers and Their Music, “at least 100” altogether.

John Philip Sousa played a Hall march at the 1900 Paris Exposition, Maine An Encyclopedia says. The United States Navy Band played his Funeral March at President John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession in 1963, according to a 2019 Central Maine Morning Sentinel story.

Hall’s musical abilities were displayed in many municipalities, including Boston, Massachusetts, and Albany, New York, and in Maine Richmond, where as a 19-year-old he directed the Richmond Cornet Band; Bangor (1883-1890); Portland; Augusta; Cherryfield; and Waterville.

He is credited with reviving the Bangor band. In 1884 residents held a week-long celebration during which they showed their appreciation by giving him a “gold Boston Three Star Ne-Plus cornet,” reportedly now owned by the Waterville Historical Society.

Hall began his work in Waterville in 1890, Whittemore said, organizing the “carefully trained” and well-received band and orchestra. In the 1890s, the band not only played at “school and college commencements,” but was hired by the city for summer concerts in Monument Park. Wiggin added that he brought members of the Boston Symphony to join local musicians at Colby commencements.

Wiggin named two local men associated with Hall. Clinton native Herbert C. Hunter (Dec. 18, 1867 – Dec. 11, 1931) was a violinist and cornetist who studied under Hall. Arthur F. Roundy, of Fairfield (Oct. 12, 1881 – ??), music director at Lawrence High School for many years, was a student of Hall’s (according to an on-line source) and played clarinet in the R. B. Hall Band (according to Wiggin).

In 1899, prominent citizens organized a corporation to support the band and orchestra, naming Hall the corporation manager. The corporation paid Hall and band members from collected earnings.

The point, Whittemore wrote, was not to make money, but to support “a band that will be a credit to the city, as Hall’s Military Band and orchestra certainly are.”

Hall was the music director of Waterville’s 1901 centennial celebration. Whittemore’s history says he conducted his orchestra at the Sunday evening, June 22, “religious mass meeting” at City Hall and again at the Monday morning dedication of the new City Hall; conducted his military band at Monday afternoon’s “literary exercise” at Monument Park; and presumably was in charge again as the band led off the first division of Tuesday morning’s parade.

The Bridgton Community Band website says Hall was so lame he habitually used a cane or crutch; he would march carrying his cane. Several sites comment that when playing the cornet, he often played the music an octave higher than it was written.

* * * * * *

The St. Cecilia Society established one of the earliest traditions of musical patronage. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music. In November 1766, prestigious local gentlemen, in Charleston, South Carolina, created the first private musical society in America.

The Cecilia Club was another late-19th-century Waterville musical group. It is described in Edwards’ history and the description is plagiarized in Whittemore’s, listing officers, conductors and pianists.

(Your writer found on-line references to the St. Cecelia Society, organized in 1766 in Charleston, South Carolina, named after the patron saint of music and described in Wikipedia as “the earliest known private subscription concert organization in North America”; and New York’s Cecilia Chorus, founded in 1906. The latter was a women’s group until 1965; it is now co-ed. A Dec. 16, 2023, concert at Carnegie Hall will include Vaughn-Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and the world premiere of a piece by American composer Daron Hagen.

(Edwards described an Augusta Cecilia Club, organized in the early 1880s by Mrs. Pauline Myrick and active into the late 1920s. Little information is available, he wrote, because records have been lost.

(In the Aug. 17 issue of The Town Line, on p. 14, is a notice of Damariscotta’s St. Cecilia Chamber Choir auditions, as the group prepares for its December pre-Christmas concert. Information is available at ceceliachoir.org.)

Waterville’s Cecilia Club was organized Oct. 15, 1896, through the “persistent labors of Mrs. George F. Davies and Mrs. Frank B. Hubbard.” Initially 19 members, there were 80 by October 1897, when they sang in a festival in Bangor, and about that number in 1902.

Whittemore and Edwards wrote that Waterville’s Cecilia Club sang in Maine Music Festivals as well as locally, including during the centennial celebration. Both credited Fairfield members’ contributions.

The last sentence of this section of Whittemore’s history reads: “The Cecelia club holds high place in the esteem of the people [Edwards wrote “held a high place in the esteem of the people of the State] though perhaps it never will attain the popularity possessed by ‘The singing school kept at Col. Hayden’s’ in 1795.”

Your writer found no other reference to this singing school.

Among the several Haydens who were early residents of Winslow and Waterville, Whittemore and other contributors to his history gave the title of Colonel to the senior Charles Hayden. He was identified as an east-side (Winslow rather than Waterville) resident who was a school agent in 1798; moderator of a First Universalist Society meeting Nov. 17, 1831; and member of the building committee for the west-side church that meeting attendees voted to build.

(This 1832 church at the intersection of Elm and Silver streets has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978. See the June 24, 2021, issue of The Town Line)

An on-line genealogy lists a Charles Hayden, born in Massachusetts in 1767, who came to Winslow with his parents in (according to Kingsbury) 1789. Charles’ father, Josiah Hayden, was a Revolutionary veteran, active in town affairs into the early 1800s. His mother was Silence Hayward or Howard Hayden; Waterville’s Silence Howard Hayden DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) chapter was organized Jan. 3, 1898.

Dedication to R.B. Hall

R. B. Hall

According to the Maine An Encyclo­pedia website, on Aug. 14, 1936, Waterville officials held a tribute to R. B. Hall during which a Memorial Band Stand was dedicated; and on May 11, 1981, Governor Joseph Brennan signed a bill making the last Saturday in June R. B. Hall Day.

The bandstand was in what is now Veterans Memorial Park, at the intersection of Park and Elm streets. Your writer was unable to find it.

An on-line program for Waterville’s June 29, 2018, observance of R. B. Hall Day at the Opera House lists performances by town and state bands from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., including the R. B. Hall Memorial Band and the Hallowell Community Band playing together for half an hour and massed bands for another half-hour.

Governor Janet Mills proclaimed June 24, 2023, as R. B. Hall Day. On-line sites note celebrations in Richmond and Rockland.

Main sources:

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).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).
Wiggin, Frances Turgeon, Maine Composers and Their Music, 1959.

Websites, miscellaneous.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Music in the Kennebec Valley – Part 3

Typical 19th century brass band.

by Mary Grow

Band music

Another type of music in the central Kennebec Valley from early days of European settlement was band music. It was often, but especially in later years not inevitably, associated with military organizations; and like other forms of music, got limited attention in most local histories.

* * * * * *

James North, in his Augusta history, sometimes mentioned parade music, presumably provided by a band, as in his description of former president George Washington’s funeral procession in Augusta on Feb. 22, 1800.

North wrote that the procession was headed by a military escort. It included an infantry company, followed by musicians with “drums muffled, instruments in mourning,” followed by an artillery company.

By 1805, North wrote, Augusta had two military companies, and a group of young men persuaded the legislature (still in 1805 the Massachusetts General Court) to authorize a light infantry company.

The Augusta Light Infantry, which appears frequently in North’s history, was organized in the spring of 1806. North listed its officers and its musicians: fifer Stephen Jewett (the same Stephen Jewett who played the bass viol in church beginning in 1802? – see the July 27 issue of The Town Line) and drummer Lorain Judkins.

Some of the women connected with infantry members created and presented a company standard, with the motto “Victory or Death.” North described the Sept. 11, 1806, presentation as followed by a parade and a ball (presumably at least the ball and probably the parade included musicians).

By the time the Light Infantry was part of the local Federalist party’s July 4 parade in 1810, there was definitely a band. North wrote that its members politely stopped playing as the parade passed the house where Judge Nathan Weston was addressing the rival Democratic party celebration.

Another association between music and the military is the lists of men who fought in the War of 1812. Kennebec County historian Henry Kingsbury and many local historians listed soldiers (in 1812 and later wars) by name and rank, including musicians.

Most 1812 companies had either two or three musicians, though Kingsbury listed only one apiece for two of Vassalboro’s companies. The majority are described unspecifically as “musicians,” but Kingsbury mentioned a drum major and a fife major from Augusta.

By July 4, 1832, North again described two separate parades by two political parties, with multiple bands and military units. The National Republicans’ parade included “the Hallowell Artillery and Sidney Rifles, each with a band of music,” and the Hallowell and Augusta band, which he said was “one of the best in the State.” The Democrats’ parade included some of the Augusta Light Infantry and a band from Waterville.

There was an Augusta band in 1854, when Augusta city officials (the town became a city in 1849) decided the annual July 4 celebration should include recognition of the 100th anniversary of the building of Fort Western. Events included an extremely elaborate parade, with the Augusta Band providing the music.

And on April 18, 1861, as the Civil War began, North wrote that “the Augusta Band, playing patriotic airs” (including Yankee Doodle), led Augusta’s Pacific Fire Engine Company as members marched to the homes of leading citizens to ask their reactions to the rebellion.

(Their visits started with Governor Israel Washburn, Jr., and included his predecessor, former Governor Lot M. Morrill. North commented that Republicans and Democrats alike expressed support for the federal government.)

By August 1863, either there was another band or the Augusta Band had a second name. North described the return of two volunteer regiments whose members’ nine-months enlistments were up.

The 24th Regiment got to Augusta at 10:30 p.m. Aug. 6, by train; a large number of dignitaries and ordinary citizens and the Citizens’ Band escorted the soldiers to the State House for a welcome and a banquet (after which they slept on the State House floor, too exhausted to continue to Camp Keyes). The 28th arrived around noon Aug. 18; their welcoming parade included the Citizens’ Band and the Gardiner Brass Band, and their refreshments were served on the lawn south of the State House.

In 1864, according to North, it was the Augusta Band that on June 3 escorted the first trainload of wounded men to the new military hospital at Camp Keyes, in Augusta.

* * * * * *

In the village of Weeks Mills, in the southern part of the town of China, there was in the latter half of the 19th century an all-male brass band that the China history says “was more a marching band than a dance band,” because its concerts were mostly outdoors.

Sometimes there were concerts in “a town public hall” that was the second floor of a building on the east side of the Sheepscot, north of Main Street (which is called Tyler Road on the contemporary Google map). There was also a bandstand, “with a flagpole,” that band members built at the junction of North Road (now Dirigo Road, perhaps?).

Quoting a former resident named Eleon Shuman, some of whose family were in the band, the history adds, “Few of the band members could read music, and the band director transcribed their pieces into a simpler notation called the tonic sol fa method which they could follow.”

Oakland also had a town band by the late 1880s. In her history of Sidney, Alice Hammond wrote that the organizers of the 1890 Sidney fair spent most of their money to hire the Oakland Band.

She explained that in the absence of television and Walkmans (never mind smartphones), “To hear the band playing as you strolled around the fair grounds, or went into the hall and sat down to take a break was a treat.”

There were also dances some afternoons – “Anyone who wished to dance paid for one dance at a time.” In 1890, the fair was not lighted, so there was no evening music or dancing.

Hammond’s history included reproductions of two posters.

One advertised a Feb. 5, 1892, exhibition of “The marvels of the modern phonograph,” which would “Talk, Laugh, Sing, Whistle, Play on all sorts Instruments including Full Brass Band.” After Professor R. B. Capen, of Augusta, finished his demonstration, there would be a Grand Ball, with music by Dennis’ Orchestra, Augusta, for dancing until 2 a.m.

The second poster announced an Aug. 15, 1898, Grand Concert by the Sidney Minstrels. The program included vocal and instrumental (guitar, banjo and tamborine solos); it was followed by a “social dance” with music by Crowell’s Orchestra.

John Philip Sousa’s inaugural playing of The Stars and Stripes Forever, in Augusta

John Philip Sousa

An on-line site called Military Music says John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever was played for the very first time by Sousa’s Band in the new (opened in 1896) city hall, in Augusta, Maine, on May 1, 1897. Because at that time the march had no title, some historians inaccurately date the first performance to a May 14 concert in Philadelphia.

Contributor Jack Kop­stein wrote that Sousa composed the march as he was returning from Europe late in 1896. His original version called for “Piccolo in D-flat, Two Oboes, Two Bassoons, Clarinet in E-flat, Two Clarinets in B-flat (1-2), Alto saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone, Three Cornets (1-3), 4 Horns in E-flat (1-4), Three Trombones (1-3), Euphonium, Tuba, Percussion.”

Augusta’s Museum in the Streets (on line) says by May 1, 1897, Sousa’s Band was “the most famous in the land,” and Sousa was “America’s ‘March King.'” The afternoon concert presented some of his earlier compositions; “Sousa’s band enthralled the Augusta audience with spirited music, and his first encore was a new untitled march” – the one that became The Stars and Stripes Forever.

On-line sites give different versions of the words for the march. The one attributed to Sousa begins, “Let martial note in triumph float / And liberty extend its mighty hand….”

Your writer’s personal favorite begins “Be kind to your web-footed friends / For a duck may be somebody’s mother.” (The web attributes these words to radio comedian Fred Allen [1894-1956].)

Augusta’s 1896 city hall was designed by John Calvin Spofford (Nov. 25, 1854 – Aug. 19, 1936), a Maine-born, Boston-based architect well-known for designing public buildings in New England. In addition to municipal offices, the building included a city auditorium.

Kopstein, writing in 2011, said the building served its municipal function until 1987; it then became an assisted living facility. An on-line description of the Inn at City Hall says it now has “31 apartments with its historic decor preserved throughout the complex.”

Main sources

Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984)
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.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Music in the Kennebec Valley – Part 2

This photo was generated by AI as a representation of dancing in the 1800s.

by Mary Grow

Composers, dancing

In his Music and Musicians of Maine, George Thornton Edwards’ list of “principal musical centers in Maine” in the late 18th and early 19th centuries included the Augusta-Hallowell-Gardiner complex, China and “some of the towns in the Kennebec Valley,” in addition to Portland and other, mostly coastal or more southern, towns.

One name frequently mentioned in Maine music histories is composer and hymnologist Japheth Coombs Washburn (Jan. 20, 1780 – Aug. 22 or Aug. 29, 1850), of China Village.

The China bicentennial history says he came to China with his father in 1804, when the north part of the town was still Albion (then Fairfax).

In 1804, Washburn opened the first store in what is now China Village; he opened the first tavern there about 1812. It was he, as a member of the Massachusetts legislature in early 1818, who chose the name “China” – the title of a hymn he liked — for the new town, after “Bloomville” was opposed by the representative from Bloomfield (now part of Skowhegan) as likely to cause misdelivered mail.

When China Village got its first post office in June 1818, it was in Washburn’s store, and he was the first postmaster. He was the first town clerk, serving from 1818 through 1821 and again from 1830 through 1836.

Linda Davenport wrote in her 1996 book Divine Song on the Northeast Frontier that Washburn was a justice of the peace early in the 19th century. He published the town’s first weekly newspaper, the Orb, from Dec. 5, 1833, through November 1836. After China Academy was founded in 1818, Washburn was a member of its second board of trustees starting in 1819.

Washburn married twice, fathered 10 children and founded a family famous for public service in China. Being town clerk was a specialty. Japheth’s oldest son, Oliver Wendell Washburn (Oct. 17, 1804 – Sept. 18, 1885), was clerk from 1840 through 1850; his oldest son, Willis Wendell (March 18, 1856 – June 22, 1942), from 1872 through 1877 and from 1888 until his death. Willis Wendell was succeeded in July 1842 by the youngest of his six children, Mary Alida Washburn ((July 25, 1893 – July 5, 1971), who served through 1970.

The China bicentennial history says nothing about Washburn and music. But Frances Turgeon Wiggin, in her Maine Composers and Their Music, credited him with two collections of hymns and similar music: Parish Harmony, published in 1813, and Temple Harmony, published in 1818. Davenport added collaboration with an older Maine composer, Abraham Maxim (Jan. 3, 1773 – March 28, 1829) of Turner, on the 1816 edition of Maxim’s collection, titled Northern Harmony.

Edwards provided a longer title for Washburn’s 1813 collection: The Parish Harmony or Fairfax Collection of Sacred Music. It was printed in Exeter, New Hampshire, he said, and described (he appeared to be quoting from the introduction) as including “a concise introduction to the grounds of music” and numerous “tunes” suitable for worship services.

Temple Harmony, Edwards wrote, was co-published by Washburn and Hallowell publisher E. Goodale.

Davenport’s book includes a 14-page chapter on Maxim and a 24-page chapter on Washburn’s life and music. She described Washburn as a composer of dozens of pieces of sacred music, as well as a compiler of other people’s music.

* * * * * *

Wiggin listed one other 19th-century composer from the central Kennebec Valley, Emily Peace Meader (Feb. 5, 1858 – Sept. 4, 1914). Known as Peace to some of her friends, she was a Waterville native and the only female graduate in Colby College’s Class of 1878.

Her parents were Edward Gove Meader, originally from New Hampshire, and Helen A. (Smith) Meader, of Anson or North Anson, Maine. She had an older and a young brother and a younger sister. There is no record that she married.

Nor are there many records, period. The closest to an account of her role in music history is a few lines in Wiggin’s Maine Composers.

Wiggin described her as a pianist and an accompanist who studied with organist, choir director and composer Homer Norris (Oct. 4, 1860 – Aug. 14, 1920), born in Wayne. Norris, in turn, Wiggin called “One of our earliest composers of importance to follow the French school of music.”

Wiggin included titles of three of Meader’s songs, from a collection published in 1918, and noted that “Miss Meader wrote her own texts.”

Meader was a cousin of Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, one of the four Colby women who founded Sigma Kappa sorority, and was in the sorority’s first group of initiates on Feb. 17, 1875. Wikipedia says Meader composed most of the original music used during the ceremony. A Colby presentation found on line gives her two short paragraphs, including a note that the college has “copies of her sheet music.”

Edwin Whittemore’s Waterville centennial history mentions Meader once, in a list of businessman Edward Meader’s four children; it says nothing about her as a musician. Edwards named her among lesser Maine composers in his chapter on the period between 1857 and 1896.

Edwards included in a list of post-Civil War composers Nathaniel Butler, of Waterville, born in 1824. Whittemore’s history introduces two men of that name, father and son. Franklin W. Johnson’s chapter on Waterville Academy says the senior Nathaniel Butler was that school’s principal for one year, starting in late 1842. Various sources say the junior, son of Rev. Nathaniel and Jeanne Emery Butler, was born in Eastport in May 1853 and was president of Colby College from 1895 to June 1901.

Given the 1824 birth date, the Waterville composer must have been the Rev. Butler, if he was either of these two men. Could he have been Waterville Academy principal in 1842? Conceivably; other educated 18-year-olds assumed similar responsibilities.

Was he the Rev. Nathaniel Butler from Eastport who was a member of the Yarmouth Baptist Church sometime before 1855? Who came from Camden to fill in at the Baptist Church in Ellsworth in December 1866 and January 1867? Who was chaplain of the Maine Senate in 1881-82?

The relevant point for this essay is that none of the references providing these possibilities say anything about their Nathaniel Butler having musical ability or interest.

Edwards also wrote that Maine composer George W. Marston (May 23, 1840 – Feb. 2, 1901), who spent much of his life in Portland where he composed songs and taught “piano, organ and harmony,” “taught piano and played the organ at the First Baptist Church” in Waterville for a year right after he finished high school.

The China bicentennial history adds one more minor association between music and education (otherwise, the book says nothing of significance about music). In 1872, the history says, students at China Academy, in China Village, could sign up for 20 music lessons for $10. For comparison, the fee for “common English” for the 10-week term was $3.50, for “higher English” $4.50 and for “languages or bookkeeping” $5.50.

* * * * * *

Several local histories include references to dancing, which implies music. James North, in his history of Augusta, gave an example from 1788.

That was the year surveyor Ephraim Ballard rebuilt his sawmill on Bond’s Brook that had burned in August 1787. The mill-raising was July 7; after the day’s work, North wrote, “the young folks…had a dance” at Ballard’s that lasted until midnight.

Years later, in 1838, North described resolutions approved by Augusta’s conservative East Parish Unitarians “on the subject of ‘public balls and the amusement of dancing,’ in which the inconsistency of professing Christians in attending the former was declared and their duty to refrain from the latter asserted.”

Not all church members complied, North said. In 1840, a committee reiterated the resolutions; after discussion, church members endorsed them on a 25-1 vote and had them printed and distributed in February. Disobedience continued, leading to arguments about the church’s right to discipline its members and in the summer of 1840 the withdrawal of “the offending members.”

In his chapter of recollections from the 1820s through 1850s in Whittemore’s Waterville history, William Mathews mentioned a “dancing-hall” in one of the town’s three hotels. There and elsewhere in town, “Tea parties, dance parties, and balls were frequent,” he wrote.

In the same history, novelist Martha Baker Dunn contributed a chapter on social life in Waterville. She, too, talked about dancing parties, in private homes and public spaces.

In his history of Windsor, Linwood Lowden named common 19th-century social activities. Some were work-related, like husking bees and sewing bees. He also listed horse trots, turkey shoots, croquet parties, community picnics and Sunday afternoon rides in a horse-drawn buggy.

“Community dances were especially popular. These were held in barns, in mills, in halls, and in private homes,” Lowden wrote.

A dance was a common finale to a community event like “an all day picnic,” he added. His discussion was without dates, but the context suggests he was talking about the second half of the 19th century.

And remember teen-ager Orren Choate, who celebrated Independence Day in 1885 by going from his Windsor home to a dance in Weeks Mills and didn’t get home until midnight (see the June 29 issue of The Town Line)?

It seems to have been Choate’s diary that gave Lowden his description of the Grand Army of the Republic’s fair at the end of September 1885. Events included a Wednesday performance by the Hallowell Cornet Band and a Friday evening dance.

On Christmas Day, 1885, young Choate decided against going to a dance in South Windsor because the weather was too cold. Lowden added that the dance “would have been held in Wingate Hall – now [1993] Shirley Varney’s apartments.”

What kind(s) of dance music and whether it was provided by a solitary fiddler or half a dozen people playing varied instruments – local historians provided only occasional sketchy information.

For example, Mathews wrote that summer vacations were not common in the1820s and 1830s, but occasionally a group of Waterville residents would go by boat to the mouth of the Kennebec for a week’s recreation. “Usually they took a fiddler with them,” he wrote, to accompany them in whatever dance was popular at the time.

Lowden described an expedition from Windsor in July 1886, quoting from Choate’s dairy. On Wednesday, July 28, Choate and three friends made a 40-mile, 12-hour journey to Pemaquid (Pemequid, in Choate’s spelling) Point. They stayed until the following Monday morning, hunting, fishing, lobstering and collecting shells; and on Saturday Choate wrote, “There is going to be a dance near our tent tonight.”

Several smaller towns had dance pavilions. Milton E. Dowe’s history of Palermo locates a 19th-century one in the field behind the present Branch Mills Grange Hall; he wrote that “it was demolished about 1900.”

The China bicentennial history says there were three in South China, one probably open in the 1890s and two more early in the 1900s.

Main sources

Davenport, Linda, Divine Song on the Northeast Frontier Maine’s Sacred Tunebooks, 1800-1830 (1996).
Dowe, Milton E., History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
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).
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Lowden, Linwood H., good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902)
Wiggin, Frances Turgeon, Maine Composers and Their Music (1959).

Websites, miscellaneous.

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.”

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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: How towns cared for their poor (conclusion)

In many areas, poor families were auctioned off to the lowest bidder.

by Mary Grow

Benton, Clinton, Fairfield, Waterville, Winslow

This fourth and final article on the ways central Kennebec Valley towns carried out their responsibility to care for their poorest residents will provide bits of information about half a dozen towns not already discussed.

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For Benton (which was part of Clinton until March 16, 1842, when it became a new town named Sebasticook, changed to Benton on March 4, 1850), Henry Kingsbury had only one sentence about paupers: “The poor of the town have never been numerous, and are cared for [in 1892] by individual contract.”

In his Kennebec County history, he related an informal example. In the early 1800s, he wrote, a family named Piper proposed moving from Anson, Maine, to Ohio. As they were canoeing down the Kennebec, the canoe upset at Ticonic Falls, in Waterville, and the father drowned.

A second-generation Benton resident named Isaac Spencer rescued the Piper son, Joseph, “snugly wrapped in a blanket,” and brought him to his house. Joseph’s mother also survived, but she could not support her son, so he stayed with Spencer.

Kingsbury wrote that Joseph Piper “became a successful farmer.” He died in the 1850s, leaving a large estate on part of which a grandson named Charles was living in 1892.

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Kingsbury wrote that Clinton’s first poor farm, which existed before Benton and Clinton were separated in 1842, was “about half a mile west of Morrison’s Corner.”

Morrison’s Corner was, and as Morrison Corner still is, the four corners where Hinckley Road, running roughly north to south, meets Battle Ridge Road, which runs northeast to connect to Upper Bellsqueeze Road, and Ferry Road, which runs southwest to the former Noble’s Ferry on the Kennebec River.

By 1879, according to that year’s Kennebec County atlas, Clinton had a new town farm east of the original one, on the east side of Hill Road (which runs north-northwest out of downtown Clinton toward Canaan).

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Crossing back to the west side of the Kennebec, the 1988 Fairfield bicentennial history has no reference to a town farm, poor house or almshouse or any other town-funded method of caring for paupers. The first town meeting after the town was incorporated was on Aug. 19, 1788; the first reference to appropriations says that in 1793 “The Town first raised money for schools,” but lists no amount and mentions no other expenditures.

The history gives a short paragraph to what became the Goodwill-Hinckley School (described in the May 20 and June 3, 2021, issues of The Town Line). Rev. George W. Hinckley founded what started as Good Will Farm in June 1889, in the part of Fairfield now called Hinckley, “as a home for boys.”

In November 1889, the history continues, “the Good Will Home Association was organized as a home for needy boys with funds Rev. Hinckley had been collecting for some time.” The writers go on to describe 20th-century changes.

At the end of the bicentennial history is a reproduction of a 1909 map of Fairfield that shows a building labeled “Town Farm.” It is on the south side of a road running east from Green Road to Nye’s Corner, which is south – downriver, toward the Fairfield business district – of the Goodwill School.

A map from the mid-1980s shows the former road as a trail. It does not appear in any form on a contemporary on-line map.

(According to the 1909 map, the town farm was a short distance east of a four-way intersection where at least two families named Green lived. There was a schoolhouse on the east side of the intersection.)

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Waterville was part of Winslow from 1771 to 1802, and Oakland was part of Waterville until 1873, when it became a separate town called West Waterville (changed to Oakland in 1883).

Kingsbury explained that the growth of water-powered manufacturing on Messalonskee Stream, the outlet of Messalonskee Lake, led to the development of an industrial center separate from Waterville’s, which was based on and near the Kennebec.

Kingsbury’s accounts of poor farms in Winslow, Waterville and Oakland are frustratingly incomplete. As he often did, he assumed future readers would have access to the same documents he had, and would recognize the names of families, roads and localities that were part of his daily experience in the 1890s.

In his chapter on Winslow, he wrote that until 1859, paupers were bid off. That year, “the town voted $3,200, and bought the Blanchard farm.”

If the former Blanchard farm was still the town farm when the 1879 Kennebec County atlas was created, it was in a part of town more settled than officials usually chose for an almshouse.

The map shows the Town Farm on the west side of what is now Clinton Avenue (Route 100) running northeast along the Sebasticook River to Benton. The farm is marked about halfway between the top of the hill in Winslow and the Hayward Road intersection. Along this stretch, the map shows a dozen houses (occupied by, among others, several Getchell and Fuller families and two whose last name was Town) and a schoolhouse diagonally north of the town farm.

Kingsbury was slightly more informative on Waterville (unlike the Waterville centennial history; the summary of the 100 years from 1802 to 1902 doesn’t mention the poor, and since the book has a names-only index, finding any other reference is time-consuming).

In Waterville, Kingsbury found, the poor were bid off from 1811 (or earlier) until about 1842. In 1811, five paupers cost the town from 35 to 65 cents a week, for a weekly total of $2.59. In 1812, the town supported a dozen people and the cost went up to $3.48 a week.

(Ruby Crosby Wiggin’s comments about doctors’ fees, cited in last week’s article, suggest there might have been occasional additional charges.)

From 1837 records Kingsbury quoted a decision that the poor as a group “be sold at auction for one year.” Samuel H. Batchelder was the successful bidder, charging $865.

Around 1842, Waterville officials bought from Joseph Mitchell and George Bessey a 90-acre farm to use as a town farm. At an unspecified later date, the town also acquired a woodlot in Sidney, apparently intended to complement the farm.

The 1879 Kennebec County map shows Waterville’s town farm a short distance south of downtown, on the south side of Webb Road. It was just west of the intersection with Mitchell Road, which current maps show coming south from the back of LaFleur Airport to Webb Road.

In March 1890 the house on the town farm burned down. Officials then bought seven acres from George Boutelle and “built the present excellent city alms house at a total expense at $6,444.”

(George Keely Boutelle was a prominent Waterville lawyer and businessman who helped organize and lead several banks and was active in civic organizations.)

By 1892, Waterville’s “poor department” was costing more than $9,000 a year, Kingsbury added.

The 1873 separation of West Waterville (which became Oakland) from Waterville would have required the new town to assume the care of its indigent residents. The 1879 map of the new town shows a town farm not far west of downtown, on the north side of what is now High Street (Route 137 heading west toward Smithfield). Comparison with a contemporary on-line map puts the farm site about half-way between the Oak Street intersection and the Gage Road intersection.

Kingsbury provided evidence that in the early 1890s Oakland was both running a town farm and caring for paupers off the farm. Appropriations listed in a town report for the fiscal year that ended Feb. 28, 1892, included “support of poor,” $1,100 and “town farm,” $500.

A current on-line map labels the road along the east shore of McGrath Pond that connects Route 137 with Route 11 (the Oakland-Belgrade road) as Town Farm Road. A town farm on this road, if there were one, would have been west of the one in use in 1879.

Story of the Bray sisters

Did local methods of caring for the poor lead to those who were bid off to local families being turned into unpaid and mistreated farm and household help? Linwood Lowden said “without doubt” the system led to abuses; an on-line source says there is no evidence of abuse.

Your writer found one piece of writing that looks at bidding out from the paupers’ viewpoint: a short story by Sarah Orne Jewett called The Town Poor.

Two prosperous women in a small Maine town detour on their way home from a church event to visit two elderly sisters, Ann and Mandana Bray, who ran out of money and saw their house and possessions sold at auction and themselves bid out.

They live in a dingy upstairs room in a shabby farmhouse on a run-down farm. The couple with whom they live, named Janes, are not their social equals, and the complaining wife is not enthusiastic about sharing her house with two more adults. The sisters admit to their friends that they haven’t been to meeting because they lack outdoor shoes that their caretakers never remember to buy for them, nor do they have enough stovewood to keep their room warm.

But they bring out the four china teacups saved from the auction, the last of the homemade peach jam from the peaches that grew by their former house, tea and cheese and crackers. The friends have a warm reunion; and Ann says next time, she’ll invite Mrs. Janes, too; the woman means well and deserves cheering up, because she has a hard life and none of the happy memories the Bray sisters have.

See part 1 here.
See part 2 here.
See part 3 here.

Main sources

Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Halfpenny, H. E., Atlas of Kennebec County Maine 1879 (1879).
Jewett, Sarah Orne, A White Heron and Other Stories (1999 edition).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Free community college extended two more years

photo: Janet Mills, Facebook

Governor Mills signs budget funding free college scholarships for high school classes of 2024-25

Tuition-free community college in Maine was extended to two more graduating high school classes under the budget passed by the legislature and signed on July 11 by Governor Janet Mills.

The $15 million investment will allow students graduating from high school or its equivalent in 2024 and 2025 to attend any Maine community college without paying any tuition or mandatory fees – a value of more than $3,800 a year.

“Extending Free College to the classes of 2024 and 2025 tells today’s high school students that the State of Maine believes in them and is willing to invest in them and their future,” said Maine Community College System (MCCS) President David Daigler.

“The scholarship means they won’t have to work multiple jobs while they study or take just one or two classes at a time because they can’t afford more. They’ll have time to focus on learning a trade or becoming a nurse or a police officer or a chef, or pursuing any of the hundreds of degrees or one-year certificates we offer. And they’ll graduate as the kind of skilled workers Maine desperately needs right now and for years into the future. It’s a bold move that benefits workers, employers, and the entire state of Maine,” Daigler said.

Following a proposal from Governor Mills, Maine launched the Free Community College program in April 2022 with a one-time state investment of $20 million, benefiting the pandemic-era high school graduates from 2020-2023. In the first year, 6,400 students attended community college tuition-free.

Earlier this year, some students told lawmakers what a difference the program made for them. Maya Eichorn, now a top student at York County Community College, said she wasn’t even considering college.

“One year ago … I was dropping out (of high school) to take the HiSET exam,” she said. “Today, I am a full-time college student with a 4.0. Without the Maine Free College program, I would be aimlessly moving through life.”

Tuition-free education at Maine’s community colleges is also available to current high school students through OnCourse, an early college program, and for anyone enrolled in most short-term workforce training programs. More information about the Free College Scholarship is available here.

Annual 11-hour continuous soccer returns

Photo credit: Shine on Cass/Kick for Cass

Over 500 players, including 17 high school soccer teams from around the state, will join the 11-hour, continuous soccer game “Kick For Cass” on Saturday, July 15, at Thomas College, in Waterville. The annual event is held in memory of Cassidy Charette, a former midfielder for Messalonskee High School girls soccer, who wore the #11 jersey, before her passing in a tragic hayride accident on October 11, 2014.

Kick For Cass will welcome back high school soccer teams, playing from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., in a round-robin play day. From 3 to 7 p.m., community teams of club soccer, adult leagues, local organizations, Cassidy’s friends and neighbors, and her former soccer teammates will round out the final hours.

The final hour of Kick for Cass will have a walk-in ceremony and a friendly competition between Cassidy’s former soccer teammates from Messalonskee High School vs. her Central Maine United Premiere Soccer team, from 6 to 7 p.m. Spectators are welcome all day. Messalonskee All Sports Boosters Club will provide concessions throughout the event. Inclement weather date is Sunday, July 16. For more information, email shineoncass@gmail.com or visit shineoncass.org.