Sidney resident inducted into Honor Society for First-Year Success

Saint Anselm College student Christopher King, of Sidney, a biology major in the class of 2024, has been accepted into Alpha Lambda Delta, a national honor society for first-year success, for the 2020-2021 academic year, in Manchester, New Hampshire.

To be eligible for invitation, students must be enrolled full-time at an institution with an active chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta and have a 3.5 grade point average or higher in their first semester or first year.

St. Anselm College presents dean’s list

Saint Anselm College, in Manchester, New Hampshire, has released the dean’s list of high academic achievers for the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year. To be eligible for this honor, a student must have achieved a grade point average of 3.4 or better in the semester with at least 12 credits of study which award a letter grade. A total of 573 students representing 24 states received this honor.

Area students include, Katherine E. King, of Sidney, class of 2021, majoring in biology, and Christine M. Quirion, of Winslow, class of 2022, majoring in business.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: More high schools, part 3

The Lawrence Library, in Fairfield.

by Mary Grow

Fairfield, Palermo, Sidney

In Fairfield, according to the Historical Society’s bicentennial history, town meeting first appropriated money for schools in 1793, five years after the town was incorporated. As in other towns, schools were based in neighborhood school districts. The history says in 1904 there were 25 schools within the town boundaries.

The first high school classes were in 1873, in “part of the already existing grammar-school building…at the corner of Main Street and Western Avenue.” Voters raised $500 for high-school education. This building was presumably the one that was North Grammar School by the middle of the 20th century, and now houses businesses.

In 1881, an article asking voters to build a separate high-school building was on the warrant for the March town meeting. Voters passed over – did not act on – it.

The history says a building for Fairfield High School was built in 1890-91, on Burrill Street (which is at the south end of the business district, running west from Water Street across Main and High streets to West Street). It cost $5,000 and “served the Town until Lawrence High School opened in 1907.”

After 1907 it became South Grammar School, on the north side of Burrill Street between High and West streets. It is now an apartment building.

The 1907 Lawrence High School was a brick building on the west side of High Street, facing Memorial Park. It opened on Sept. 21, with the more than $60,000 construction cost paid by Edward Jones Lawrence.

Lawrence had made a fortune in lumber, street railways, shipbuilding and other ventures. Readers will see more about him in a future article, because Fairfield’s Lawrence Library is also named in his honor.

The Fairfield history says Lawrence’s fortune was drastically reduced in the global financial panic in 1906-1907. He kept his promise to build the high school by “mortgaging his home and borrowing against the schooners” – six-masted schooners built in Bath in which he had invested.

On Feb. 15, 1925, the high school building was “gutted by fire,” the bicentennial history says. It was rebuilt by the spring of 1926.

The Fairfield town report for the year ending Feb. 28, 1926, includes financial information on rebuilding. The town borrowed $50,000, with repayment beginning Jan. 1, 1927, and got more than $57,000 from insurance. The “contract price for construction” of $103,446 covered payments to the architect, contractor, electrician and plumber.

The report from the new Lawrence High School Principal, Edward S. Young, in the same town report said that the school “opened September 14 [1925] in its temporary quarters in the Opera House with an enrollment of 204.”

(The Fairfield Opera House was built in 1888, supported by Amos Gerald [1841-1913], “the Electric Railroad King,” another local boy who made good. It was “demolished in 1961 to make way for the present modest municipal building,” which is at 19 Lawrence Avenue. Lawrence Avenue runs from Main Street at the end of the Kennebec River bridge up hill past the library to High Street.)

Young continued: “Your principal has made a determined effort to make the scanty equipment in the Opera House adequate for a good school and he feels that real work is being done in spite of adverse conditions.”

An innovation was provision of a hot lunch twice a week, at cost, “through the cooperation of the domestic arts department,” for students who did not go home during the noon break.

The 1925 school routine included 10 a.m. daily chapel, with two hymns, the Lord’s Prayer and a Bible reading. Outside speakers were invited every Wednesday. To prepare students for public speaking, “Three times each week a student gives a declamation before the entire school. He is introduced by a fellow student.”

When yet another new Lawrence High School was completed in 1960, the 1907 building became a junior high school. It is now Fairfield Primary School, serving students in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.

In Palermo, historian Milton Dowe found early settlers had many children – John Cain had 18; Amasa Soule 13; Jacob Worthing 12, five of them born before 1800. Primary schools were in existence before 1811; that year, seven school districts were created.

By 1886, Dowe wrote in his 1954 town history, Palermo had 17 schoolhouses. “At this time several of the elementary schools also held terms for free high school classes,” he added.

Millard Howard’s 2015 history said Palermo’s 17 school districts never operated simultaneously; and he said not all districts hired a teacher for every term. His book includes a paragraph on high schools, in which he wrote that Palermo offered none until after Maine’s 1873 Free High School Act.

By 1888, eight Palermo school districts offered high school courses, Howard wrote, the first established in 1882. He explained, “This meant that these districts were occasionally providing a ten-week high school term. There was no fixed course of study.”

Howard found an 1893 Kennebec Journal reference to a free high school at Carr’s Corner ending a term at the end of April. Carr’s Corner, on North Palermo Road, was the site of the schoolhouse for District 13, which was organized in the 1830s and lasted until Palermo school districts were consolidated in 1953.

Dowe also mentioned the Academy Hall on the China side of Branch Mills Village, described in last week’s account of China high schools as Barzillai Harrington’s high school.

Alice Hammond wrote that the Town of Sidney never provided a town high school. There were primary schools from 1792, when Sidney was separated from Vassalboro.

Hammond did not say what opportunities for higher education were offered in the 1800s. Nor does Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history have any information; in a half paragraph about education in Sidney, Kingsbury wrote that by 1891, the number of school districts was cut from 18 to 14 because there were so few students.

From 1906 on, Hammond wrote, Sidney paid students’ tuition to out-of-town schools. The majority chose the public high school in Augusta, Belgrade or Oakland or Oak Grove Seminary, in Vassalboro.

The elusive Barzillai Harrington

Barzillai Harrington, who built an Academy in Branch Mills Village, in China, in the 1850s, was, according to on-line genealogies, born in Tinmouth, Vermont, June 13, 1819; or in Sherburn, Massachusetts, in 1816.

The genealogies and the Maine Historical Magazine, Vol. 1 (1886) identify him as a son-in-law of Shepard Bean (July 16, 1784-1847, the 12th of 14 children of Joshua and Mary Bean). Shepard Bean was born in Readfield, and his wife Jerusha (Hayward) (d. 1876), was from Easton, Massachusetts. Shepard and Jerusha Bean had five children, born in Readfield.

The three older Bean children all found spouses in Readfield. The younger of the two daughters, Lucy Ann, born May 20, 1828, married Barzillai Harrington on Oct. 12, 1843.

(Lucy’s younger brother, Alvin S. Bean, married Phebe Snow, of China, according to the magazine; or Phebe Worth Jones, of China, and after her death a widow named Lizzie [Erskine] Tyler, according to one genealogy.)

Barzillai and Lucy Harrington had eight children between 1844 and 1860. Their oldest son, Myron Clark Harrington, born Aug. 1, 1844, died Oct. 9, 1862, at Bellow’s Heights, Virginia (almost certainly a victim of the Civil War).

Their second son, born Nov. 30, 1845, was named Barzillai Shepard Harrington after his father and grandfather. The genealogies offer no further information.

The magazine article identifies the senior Barzillai Harrington as “from China” and adds: “He built the Lowell, Me., tannery.”

Milton Dowe offered one more clue to the family when he wrote in his Palermo Maine Things That I Remember, in 1996 that “The Branch Mills Sewing Circle was organized at the home of Mrs. B. Harrington in 1853” and went on to list the officers, including “Mrs. L. Harrington,” secretary.

Lowell is a small Penobscot County town, east of Passadumkeag, south of Lincoln. Ava H. Chadbourne’s book on Maine place names says it was Page’s Mills Plantation in 1819 or soon thereafter; then Deanfield Plantation; and Huntressville when incorporated as a town in 1837. It became Lowell in 1838, reportedly to honor Alpheus Hayden’s son Lowell Hayden, the first male child born in the town.

Chadbourne has no Harringtons on her list of early Lowell families. She wrote that Alexander Webb, a New Yorker who had managed tanneries in other Maine towns, “superintended” the building of a large one in Lowell after he moved to town in 1856.

Did, then, the senior Barzillai Harrington literally build the tannery, with Webb overseeing his work? If so, why and how did Harrington switch from running a high school in China to building a tannery in Lowell, a hundred miles away?

Lowell was not his farthest journey. One on-line genealogy says he died May 13, 1885, in Harvard, Nebraska; another says he died in 1881. Lucy survived him, and also died in Nebraska, according to one source.

News from Victor Grange

Here is another update on a prior topic, Victor Grange #49, in Fairfield Center, described in the May 13 issue of The Town Line.

The Grange’s Fall 2021 newsletter reports the successful completion of the effort to raise funds to insulate the building. The money is now in hand, and, the newsletter says, “Northeast Poly Insulation [of Fairfield] will start the job shortly.”

Grangers also obtained the advice they needed on ventilating a well-insulated building. The report says D. H. Pinnette Roofing, of Oakland, “will install six turbine vents, this should do the trick.”

The Grangers expect the insulation will much improve heating in the building and allow more programs. People are invited to suggest programs they would enjoy.

The newsletter lists Grange programs and events. They are open to anyone interested, whether a Grange member or not.

Vaccination clinics are scheduled from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, and Thursday, Oct. 28. The Grange Hall will host Northern Light Health personnel administering the Pfizer vaccine against Covid and the quadrivalent flu vaccine, which offers protection against four different strains of the influenza virus.

The annual Grange Fall Fest and Craft Fair is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bridge lessons are offered Mondays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The newsletter says the original turnout of two tables (eight players) has already doubled some days as more people hear of the chance to learn this card game.

Grange members are looking for help with two more projects, one needing money and the other expertise.

They would like to buy an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) to provide emergency help to a heart attack victim. The cost is listed as $1,300; donations are welcome. The newsletter requests checks made out to Victor Grange 49 AED Fund and left at the Hall, at 144 Oakland Road in Fairfield Center; or mailed to Victor Grange 49, c/o Roger Shorty, 118 Oakland Road, Fairfield ME 04937.

For the Nov. 13 Fall Fest, Grangers are looking for someone who can sharpen knives and scissors, for a fee. Anyone interested can get in touch through Roger Shorty or by emailing Victorgrange49@gmail.com.

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E. , History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Dowe, Milton E., Palermo, Maine Things That I Remember in 1996 (1997).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Howard, Millard, An Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine (second edition, December 2015).
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Sydney Townsend on MCPHS dean’s list

MCPHS University, in Boston, Massachusetts, has announced that Sydney Townsend, of Sidney, has been named to the dean’s list for the Spring 2021 semester. Sydney is pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy. Sydney will graduate from the Boston, Massachusetts campus in 2026.

2021-’22 Real Estate Tax Due Dates

Albion

Tax year runs Feb. 1 to January 31
Taxes due September 30, 2021

China

Semi-annual
September 30, 2021
March 31, 2022

Fairfield

Four quarters

August 25, 2021
November 10, 2021
February 9, 2022
May 11, 2022

Palermo

October 31, 2021

Sidney

September 1, 2021

Vassalboro

Four quarters
September 27, 2021
November 22, 2021
February 28, 2022
April 25, 2022

Waterville

Four quarters
October 8, 2021
December 10, 2021
March 11, 2022
June 10, 2022

Windsor

Semi-annual
September 30, 2021
March 31, 2022

Winslow

Four quarters
October 8, 2021
December 10, 2021
March 11, 2022
June 10, 2022

To be included in this section, contact The Town Line at townline@townline.org.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Tiffany Hill Chapel

by Mary Grow

So far this series has discussed the following churches in the central Kennebec Valley area whose buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places: Waterville First Baptist; Ten Lots Chapel (Baptist-based, now non-denominational); St. Mary’s Catholic, in Augusta; South Parish Congregational in Augusta; St. Mark’s Episcopal, in Augusta; three Quaker (Society of Friends) buildings, China’s Pond Meeting House and South China Community Church (now non-denominational) and Vassalboro’s Sophia Bailey Chapel; and two Universalist, now Universalist-Unitarian (All Souls in Augusta and Waterville’s).

Tiffany Hill Chapel

Remaining to be described is Tiffany Chapel, sometimes called Tiffany Hill Chapel, at 544 Tiffany Road, in Sidney. It was built as a Methodist church in 1881 and added to the National Register on Oct. 4, 2018.

The Methodists were prominent in Maine from the late 1700s. They were briefly mentioned earlier (see the piece on Fairfield in The Town Line, April 16, 2020).

Jesse Lee, the famous Methodist preacher who led meetings in Fairfield Center and Kents Hill in 1794, also stopped in Sidney. Kingsbury wrote in his Kennebec County history that Lee “planted” Methodism in Sidney on Jan. 29, 1794.

Methodists were active in Sidney from then on. Michael Goebel-Bain, now the Maine Historic Preservation Commission’s Historic Preservation Coordinator for the National Register, wrote in his 2018 National Register application for Tiffany Chapel that because Sidney Methodists were less numerous than those in nearby towns, they were often part of the Fairfield (1837 to 1845, according to Kingsbury) or Readfield (1847 to 1850) circuits, or combined with North Augusta (1860 to 1874) or Oakland (1874-1904) congregations.

There were, however, two early Methodist churches in Sidney, mentioned by Kingsbury and Goebel-Bain and in Alice Hammond’s history of Sidney.

The first was built in 1815 in southern Sidney, Goebel-Bain wrote. Hammond located it at Bacon’s Corner.

The second Sidney Methodist church was the 1828 building that Kingsbury described as ‘the largest house of worship ever in town.” That church was “about three miles north” of the Bacon’s Corner one and had a Paul Revere bell, according to Hammond.
The 1828 building was moved about a mile in 1845 and became a Union church, Kingsbury said. Hammond repeated the story that the big building “was attached to two long skids” and moved by 100 pairs of oxen, 50 to a skid.

Its new site was on land whose owners or heirs were allowed to reclaim it when the building was no longer used for religion. The owners exercised their right around 1880, Kingsbury said.

Hammond retold an interesting story of the Sidney Grange being frustrated in its effort to buy the building when one of its own members, planning to use it for a hay barn, bought the pew-holders’ rights for himself. He was expelled from the Grange.

Not long afterwards, Hammond wrote, the Revere bell was stolen from the barn, allegedly by two men, maybe Grangers, driving a double-horse team pulling a sled with a blanket-wrapped burden. Later, two men, with a similar team and sled, chopped a hole through the ice on the Kennebec River and dumped a blanket-covered object.

In 1892, Kingsbury wrote, the 1815 building was still a church but no longer Methodist: a Congregationalist minister, Rev. Henry Loring, had been preaching there for a year, “greatly to the satisfaction of the people in that section.”

Goebel-Bain, however, wrote that by 1880 both early churches had been “sold for other uses or destroyed.”

Sidney services were sometimes held in schoolhouse, Kingsbury said, including, Goebel-Bain wrote, Tiffany School (no longer existing) near the present chapel site.

Goebel-Bain and Hammond credited Oakland pastor Rev. M. E. King with inspiring Sidney Methodists to build their own church. Hammond referred to a revival; she and Goebel-Bain wrote that in August 1881 the Sidney Methodists incorporated as an independent parish, with King preaching in both towns.

On Aug. 13, church members appointed a three-man building committee consisting of Laforest Ellis, D. H. Goodhue and Zalmon Sawtelle (Goebel-Bain called Sawtelle a “housebuilder”).

Henry Goodhue donated the land, Hammond wrote – the lot is about one-third of an acre. The committee, meeting in Tiffany School, agreed on a plan by Aug. 20, according to Hammond, and the new church was dedicated Dec. 11. Goebel-Bain added that the school continued to be used “as an auxiliary support building for church events.”

(Kingsbury dated King’s tenure in Oakland as 1882 to 1884, and dated Tiffany Chapel to 1882.)

The school and the church were named for Tiffany Road and Tiffany Hill, which in turn were named for “a local farm family,” Goebel-Bain wrote.

He identified the building as historically significant both in its original 1881 form and after major alterations in 1911. Throughout his application he emphasized its small size, lack of ornamentation and other characteristics of a building designed for a small, rural, low-income congregation.

The original building, he wrote, is an example of one of the designs the Methodist Church Extension Service sent out in the latter half of the 19th century, when new congregations were being established in many places. It represents “the smaller type of modest rural church building.”

The major 1911 change was the installation of pressed metal interior walls. Goebel-Bain wrote that the original wall material is not recorded.

The new walls he considered “compatible with the original construction period.” He continued: “[T]he overall 1911 appearance reflects the small modest church of a small rural congregation.”

Later changes he described included reducing the height of the chimney, installing a tile ceiling below the original ceiling and adding asphalt roof shingles and aluminum storm windows.

Goebel-Bain described a single-story, east-facing, one-room wooden building on a granite foundation, with a steeply-pitched gable roof, no steeple and a brick chimney. It is 28 feet wide and 36 feet deep. The cornices above the front door and window “are vaguely reminiscent of the Italianate style, but the building is otherwise devoid of architectural detail on the exterior,” he wrote.

The narrow front door is wooden on the bottom and has two tall, slender windows in its top half. There is a rectangular window on either side of the door; a similar window in the gable above has been filled in with clapboards.

Each side of the buildings has two windows. Goebel-Bain called the back (west) wall “a mirror image” of the front except there is no door, and because the land slopes downward to the west, more of the foundation is visible.

The front door leads into a small “trapezoidal plan vestibule” with wooden doors set in angled walls and a nine-foot ceiling. The doors open into the single room that is the body of the chapel, with a 14-foot ceiling, painted wooden floor and “painted pressed metal” walls and ceiling.

The metal walls are sectioned, for example by a chair rail at the height of the bottoms of the windows, and have “three colors and two designs,” Goebel-Bain wrote.

In the west end of the room is a carpeted platform raised eight inches above the floor. It has a wooden railing across the front, with breaks at either end before lower metal railings covered with cloth connect to the wall on either side.

When Goebel-Bain wrote his description, the room had rows of “open back benches” facing the platform; whether they were original, he did not know. He deduced from the lack of marks on the floor that there had never been fixed seating, in the body of the room or on the platform.

A wood stove near the vestibule provided heat.

Goebel-Bain described the ceiling he saw as “covered with square acoustic ceiling tile in poor condition.” Four lights hung down from it, he wrote. He twice mentioned plans to redo the ceiling to make it more compatible with the historic building.
Despite the modern additions, Goebel-Bain saw Tiffany Chapel as well worth a place on the National Register. “Both interior and exterior are in good condition and retain a high degree of integrity,” he wrote.

And, he concluded, “Compared to other local churches the integrity of design, materials and workmanship is high. Location is intact and setting is largely unchanged from 1881. Although the house to the east is modern, the general setting remains open fields and woods with two farm residences nearby. Feeling and association are high as well.”

In 1967, Hammond wrote, Tiffany Hill Chapel and Oakland’s Dunn Memorial Church merged to create the Oakland-Sidney United Methodist Church. Tiffany Chapel was used only for summer services by the time her history was published in 1992.

Additional information on earlier topics

1) The First Amendment Museum in Augusta (see The Town Line, Nov. 12, 2020), based in what was once the Guy Gannett house, on State Street, has been awarded $249,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to expand its exhibit space. An early-August notice said the grant will help turn the house “into a 21st-century museum,” according to the museum website.

Genie Gannett, Guy Gannett’s granddaughter, and her sister bought the house late in 2015 and started the museum. Genie Gannett, now president of the board of directors, expressed gratitude to the Institute.

“This major grant will help us create a visitor experience that is unique, interactive, and relevant,” she said.

The website firstamendmentmuseum.org offers more information on the museum’s history, activities and staff, an invitation to sign up for a e-newsletter and instructions for making donations to this 501(3)(c) non-profit organization.

2) At a recent open house in Victor Grange in Fairfield Center (see The Town Line, May 13), members showed off recent improvements, especially the new parking lot, and talked about their next projects. The latter include insulating the building, which dates from 1903; restoring the canvas stage curtain; and restoring the colored tin ceiling.

Victor Grange welcomes new members. Grange meetings are held in the hall the second Monday of each month, following a 6 p.m. potluck meal.

People looking for more information or wanting to assist with the on-going fund-raising are invited to e-mail Victorgrange49@gmail.com, or to call 453-9476. The Grange also has a Facebook page.

3) For people interested in helping fund maintenance of Asa Bates Memorial Chapel (see The Town Line, Aug. 5), Kay Marsh offers the following rare family-published books of interest to Mainers:

ONE BRANCH of the COOLIDGE FAMILY 1427-1963

by Fred Coolidge Crawford 1964

Ancestors of the Waterville area Lot Sturtevant family with ties to the Thomas Burgess and Richard Warren, Mayflower families, includes family charts and recent photos.

MY FIRST and MY LAST DAY with GRANDMA COOLIDGE

by Grace Davenport Winslow 1967

The oldest grandchild of John and Martha (Sturtevant) Coolidge recalls her memory of things past. This book contains “Memories of my childhood”, a biographical sketch of Martha (Sturtevant) Coolidge, presented to a group in Watertown, MA, in 1896. She grew up on Ten Lots Road, in West Waterville, now Oakland. Her birth house still stands, 200 years later.

YOUR GRANDMOTHER- A MEMOIR OF MATTIE COOLIDGE CRAWFORD

by Fred E Crawford (her husband) 1945

Several of Mattie’s beautiful watercolor paintings, including one of Lot Sturtevant’s house, period family photos, some early Coolidge family history in Watertown, MA, and Mattie’s role in her many causes are discussed.

Donations for these books will be dedicated to the Asa Bates Memorial Community Chapel Call Kay Marsh, 1-207-465-7458, or email grammy.kay.cee@gmail.com for further information.

[Editor’s Note: This section has been updated to correct the date on which Genie Gannett, Guy Gannett’s granddaughter, and her sister bought the Gannett family house to 2015, not 1915.]

Main sources

Goebel-Bain, Michael National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Tiffany Chapel (June 18, 2018), supplied by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Sidney Resident inducted into honor society for first-year success

Saint Anselm College student Christopher King, of Sidney, a biology major in the class of 2024, has been accepted into Alpha Lambda Delta, a national honor society for first-year success, for the 2020-2021 academic year, in Manchester, New Hampshire.

To be eligible for invitation, students must be enrolled full-time at an institution with an active chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta and have a 3.5 grade point average or higher in their first semester or first year.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Granges – Part 3

Sidney Grange #194. (photo by Roland D. Hallee)

by Mary Grow

Palermo & Sidney

Palermo had two Granges for which multiple records exist, and Milton Dowe found an earlier third one in his research for his 1954 History Town of Palermo.

Dowe gives one paragraph to “Recreation Grange” – the quotation marks are his, and he did not add a number – in North Palermo, organized in 1875 and therefore among Maine’s first Granges. Dowe wrote that Leander Bowler owned the building where the Grange met, and that, “This grange did not exist many years.”

This writer has searched unsuccessfully on line for another reference to Recreation Grange.

Branch Mills Grange #336 started Jan. 1, 1897, and is included in the China bicentennial history (among other sources), though it has been headquartered in the Palermo side of Branch Mills Village most of its life. Sheepscot Lake Grange #445 was organized in 1905, in East Palermo.

The China history says Branch Mills Grange started with 20 charter members. Virginia Dowe, in a 1948 summary history included in Milton Dowe’s 1997 reminiscence, Palermo, Maine Things That I Remember in 1996, said there were 29 and named them. John Henry Barton, of Windsor, started the organization, at what the China history called the Good Templars Hall and Dowe called the “old Academy Hall.”

(Milton Edwin Dowe [Feb. 19, 1912 – Aug. 7, 2001] and Virginia Wescott Dowe [March 12, 1916 – Nov. 20, 2012] married April 29, 1939. They ran the Real Maine Country Store at the intersection of Branch Mills and North Palermo roads from the mid-1940s until 1981 or 1982. Among their many roles in the town, Milton Dowe helped organize the volunteer fire department and was its chief for 18 years, and Virginia Dowe was Palermo Town Clerk for 47 years.)

Kingsbury’s history says the first Good Templars group organized in Branch Mills lasted from December 1865 to sometime in 1869. In April 1874 it was succeeded by Lodge #349, which was still active in 1892. The Good Templars owned the building that Barzillai (or Brazillai) Harrington built for an academy in the mid-1800s.

Branch Mills Grange #336. (photo courtesy of the Kennebec Journal)

Early 20th century records included two references to J. H. Barton, resident of West Windsor: he was a Windsor selectman in 1902, and he commented on the condition of orchards in a 1903 State Pomological Society publication.

The China history says that during its first year, Branch Mills Grange gained only 17 members, so in 1898 they organized a contest (unspecified) that brought 90 more people to join them. The larger group began planning to buy or build a Grange Hall.

By 1900, the China history says, they owned a former shoe shop in Branch Mills, on the west (China) side of the Sheepscot River. They enlarged and remodeled the building and held a dedication on March 13, 1902. That year, state Grange records say, there were 108 members.

The Grange Hall burned in the June 26, 1908, fire that destroyed almost every building in the village. The China history describes what happened next, under the auspices of Eleon Shuman, at 18 “probably the youngest Grange Master in Maine,” and in 1975 a source of information for the history.

The Grangers sold their lot for $100, and for $300 bought a two-acre lot on the east (Palermo) side of the river from the Shuman family. They borrowed $4,000 and hired Fred Jordan as contractor.

Jordan in turn hired Shuman, who had been working as a painter for a man in China, and asked Shuman to do carpentry until it was time to paint. So Shuman “bought a saw and hammer and became a carpenter.”

Two jobs he remembered: nailing the rafters to the ridgepole, because “no one else wanted to climb that high”; and making the wooden figures 1909 and nailing them on the building’s face.

As in other towns, the Grange Hall served as a community center. For instance, Milton Dowe wrote in his 1954 history that when electricity reached Branch Mills in the summer of 1928, the lights were turned on on Aug. 8, and the Aug. 10 celebration was held in the Grange Hall.

The hall served as a meeting place for other town organizations. It hosted town meetings and other official public events. It was available for public entertainment, like dances, movies and plays; and for residents’ celebrations of weddings and the like.

Virginia Dowe wrote that during World War II Branch Mills Grange spent more than $500 helping and honoring soldiers. The Grange paid soldiers’ dues and sent Christmas gifts; and as veterans came home, Grange members gave each $25 and an honorary banquet.

In January 1947, Virginia Dowe continued, Grange members celebrated the organization’s 50th anniversary with “a tea, oyster stew supper and an old-fashioned dance,” with older members telling stories.

In the 1940s, she wrote, weekly dances in the winter provided funds for a furnace, installed in 1948.

Also in 1948, Milton Dowe wrote, Branch Mills Juvenile Grange #162 was established.

Grange-sponsored dances, “dramas” and other events benefited the volunteer fire department; Grangers donated $50 and let firefighters use the Grange Hall basement as a firehouse. The Grange Hall’s west wall was on the China-Palermo line and the basement door was on the west, so the fire trucks crossed into China as they left the building.

In 1949, Virginia Dowe wrote, Branch Mills Grange had 131 members and “a substantial fund in the treasury.” In 1975, according to the China history, the firefighters still occupied the basement and the Palermo town office was on the ground floor, leaving the second-floor meeting room for town meetings and Grange and other events.

Since 1975, a new town office and a new fire station have been built on North Palermo Road.

Branch Mills Grange was active in 2015 and is still listed as active by the Maine State Grange. The person listed on the state Grange website for information did not return a telephone call.

Sheepscot Lake Grange #445, in East Palermo, was organized Oct. 10, 1905, according to Milton Dowe’s history. Dowe wrote that its initial meetings were in the East Palermo schoolhouse, built by Paul Ames (who was related to novelist Ben Ames Williams).

Later, meetings moved to the second floor of Carroll Turner’s store. In 1907, Grange members bought a piece of land; in July 1907 the Grange was incorporated; and in the fall of 1908, members built a stable for their horses, presumably on the land they owned.

In 1907, Violet Lenfest reported to the state Department of Agriculture on behalf of Sheepscot Lake Grange. It was a bad year for insect pests. There were only a few “red-humped and yellow-necked apple worms,” fall webworms and grasshoppers; but cutworms, tent caterpillars, potato beetles, rose chafer beetles, “codling moths, cabbage worms, currant worms, railroad worms, horn flies and mosquitoes” were numerous.

Construction of the Sheepscot Lake Grange Hall started in the spring of 1910, and the building was finished in October. The first Sheepscot Lake Grange fair was held in the hall in September 1913; the fairs were still annual events when Dowe wrote in 1954.

Sheepscot Lake Juvenile Grange #106 “was chartered Feb. 15, 1941,” Dowe wrote.

In 1982, Sheepscot Lake Grange honored Walter Banton (Feb. 4, 1918 – Sept. 19, 2007), a World War II veteran active in town affairs, with its outstanding citizen award.

On the west side of the Kennebec, Sidney Grange #194 was organized Nov. 24, 1875, with 25 charter members. One of the members’ first actions, Alice Hammond wrote in her Sidney history, was to borrow $200 “to buy groceries to be sold to members at cost.” In 1876, they got a license to sell tobacco.

In 1885 Sidney Grange members started the Sidney Agricultural Fair, and from 1887 they invited non-members to bring entries. The fair was held annually at the town house on Middle Road. Kingsbury wrote that the Fair’s best displays were fruit and working cattle: “seventy-five yoke of the latter, driven in one continuous line, were shown one year.”

Brothers George and Frank Bowman had the largest tree nursery in Kennebec County, Kingsbury wrote. George Bowman was president of the Fair from 1887 until at least 1892 and was one of the early Grange Masters.

Hammond wrote that Grange members held their early meetings on the second floor of a store building on River Road. When they started considering building or buying a permanent home, enough Middle Road farmers were members that the group asked to share the town house for a year.

As the arrangement continued, the Grangers added a second story to the town house. The town office, a kitchen and a meeting room/dining room were on the first floor; the Grange used the upper floor for meetings and social events.

An old photo in Hammond’s history shows the front of the “town and grange hall,” an unadorned wooden rectangle with a generous front entrance and a ground-floor window on at least one side of the entrance (the photo is unclear). There are three windows on the second floor and two more above them under the sloping roof.

When Kings­bury’s history was published in 1892, Sidney Grange had 160 members and owned a “capacious hall.” In 1894, Grangers reached agreement with the congregation of the neighboring Uni­ver­salist Church to build a horse shed on the church’s land, to be owned by the church and used by both groups.

State Grange records show 310 members in 1902 and 282 in 1906. The state records include a report from the Grange’s Deputy of West Kennebec County on his Oct. 30, 1902, inspection of Sidney Grange. He recorded 307 members with more applications coming in while he was there.

He commented: “Books well kept and dues well paid up. Young Master well qualified for his work.

Hammond wrote that Grange meetings were held every Thursday evening until 1946, when they decreased to two Thursdays a month.

The Grange was a source of information for farmers and a community center for everyone, Hammond wrote. Grange gatherings often featured meals; she wrote of “bills for eight gallons of oysters for a stew” and coffee brewed in a “copper wash boiler with a spigot soldered near the bottom.”

On May 6, 1937, after a Grange meeting, the building caught fire. Because of fog, the fire wasn’t spotted promptly; and the Oakland fire truck got stuck in Middle Road mud. The hall, the horse shed and the church all burned; firefighters were able to pour enough water on the safe to keep town records from being destroyed.

Voters at a special town meeting agreed to rebuild their town hall at about the same place and again with the Grangers, Hammond said. Waterville Savings Bank donated land southwest of the former building site; town and Grange committees worked together to assemble a building crew; and money was accumulated from insurance and multiple other sources to provide the $9,533.15 needed “without an appropriation from the town.”

Hammond wrote that Grange members and town voters approved in 1937 and 1938 an agreement for the “use, care and renting” of the building that was still in effect when her history was published in 1992. By then, Sidney Grange had fewer than 50 members.

The 2003 town comprehensive plan says Sidney owned its separate town office building and had a half interest in the Grange Hall, splitting expenses with the Grange.

Currently the Grange Hall and the single-story town office building just north of it share a lot at 2986 Middle Road. The Grange Hall is a wood-shingled building atop a basement that rises above ground level. Across the center of the front, tall pillars support a pediment the height of the peaked roof, with a single window on each side on the basement and upper levels.

The Sidney Historical Society headquarters are in the basement. When this writer visited the hall recently, a sign on Middle Road advertised Young Americans Dance Center. A lady arriving with several young (elementary-school age) Americans said she believed dance classes were offered several days a week. YADC websites say the organization is based at Waterville’s Alfond Youth Center with a “secondary campus” in Sidney.

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., History Town of Palermo Incorporated 1884 (1954).
Dowe, Milton E., Palermo, Maine Things That I Remember in 1996 (1997).
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).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Mia Dawbin Pine Tree Council’s first female Eagle Scout

Mia Dawbin, of Sidney Boys Scout Troop #1776, became the first female Eagle Scout in Maine. (contributed photo)

Member of Sidney’s Boy Scout Troop #1776

by Chuck Mahaleris

Mia Dawbin, of Troop #1776, in Sidney, is the first female Eagle Scout from the Pine Tree Council which covers half of the state of Maine.

Dawbin, daughter of Karinna and George “Butch” Dawbin, of West Gardiner, had her Eagle Scout Board of Review on February 8 where she met with Scouting volunteers who reviewed her Scouting career including her leadership positions within the troop, merit badges earned, challenges along the way and her Eagle Scout Service Project during which she found a need, led a team of volunteers and performed 265 hours while putting together care packages for those staying in local shelters. Her Eagle Scout application has since been approved both locally and nationally and she is part of the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts.

“Mia is a trailblazer, role model, and mentor to the girls in our troop,” Scoutmaster of Troop #1776 Danielle Hileman said. “She has shown in her daily life and community involvement what it truly means to be an Eagle Scout. We are so proud of her and her accomplishments.”

Mia spoke about her Eagle Scout project: “Each volunteer was wearing a mask and gloves to help make sure there was no risk of spreading Covid-19. Buying shampoo, conditioner, and sanitizer by the gallon was far less expensive than buying individual bottles, so I had lots of help from volunteers to divide them into four-ounce bottles. Menstrual products are among the most expensive hygiene products, so each bag for teen girls/adult women included a month or more supply of pads and/or tampons.”

“We may take a warm place to stay and toys/other fun items for granted, but not every child gets that kind of experience. Due to some really generous contributions from community members, we were able to include toys, games, puzzles, play dough, teddy bears, hats, and gloves in every child’s care package,” Dawbin said. “Each of the adult/teen masks were handmade and donated. We put a total of 370 reusable masks into 200 care packages, meaning everyone was able to receive one – two masks. The color coded bags were then sorted into deliveries for eight separate shelters based on the number of people/demographics of each. I wanted to help support the shelters since I know that the CDC guidelines make things difficult for them. So I decided to put together care packages that included reusable masks, hand sanitizer, hygiene products for one month, and a couple of other necessities to each person currently staying at each of eight area shelters including three teen shelters and two domestic violence shelters.” Her project included fundraising, public awareness, collecting items and then distributing the bags to shelters and was completed last Fall during the pandemic.

Mia’s life ambitions include attending college to study psychology, education and wilderness therapy. “As a career I am most interested in becoming a child/school psychologist or working in the wilderness therapy field.”

“For the past few years I’ve really enjoyed working in the Nechemis Program (new Scouts) at Camp Bomazeen, which I intend to continue in the near future. I’ve also liked being a part of National Youth Leadership Training staff for the 2019 course which was held at Camp Bomazeen.” At Maine Connections Academy, she has served as President of the National Honor Society.

Her mom, Karinna Dawbin, said, “I am so excited for the first female Eagle Scout in K-Valley, and as far as I know, the first one in Maine! This girl works so hard to do her best in everything she does. She’s been handed so many obstacles, but she doesn’t let anything stop her from achieving her dreams.”

Luanne Chesley, Advancement Chairman for Kennebec Valley District, organized Mia’s Board of Review. “Becoming an Eagle Scout is the highest honor in Scouting and it’s not just given to you. Mia never looked at challenges while working on her achievement as obstacles. She kept following her dream to be a part of her family’s long line of Eagle Scouts and everything it stands for. Mia is a true role model for others to look up to and admire. Mia is now a marked woman. An Eagle Scout.”

Disc golf fundraising tourney set for Feb. 27 in Sidney

Get your family and friends involved in some winter fun, that will help raise money for an important cause.

A disc golf fundraising tournament will be held on Saturday, February 27, 2021, to benefit Chiari Malformation.

The tourney is planned to raise money and awareness for Chiari Malformation, a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal, present at birth.

There are many symptoms associated with Chiari, but the most common is severe “squeezy” headaches. Chiari is often misdiagnosed as MS, migraine, fibromyalgia, or psychiatric disturbances. Getting an accurate diagnosis can take years.

The cost to register for the tournament is $15 with a $5 optional ace pot. They will also be offering four mulligans (2 per round) for $10. There will be CTP prizes on every hole, a 50/50 raffle, a throw-off in the field for prizes and much more.

For more information, contact DND Disc Golf, 214 Philbrick Rd., Sidney, 207-547-4612 or visit https://www.facebook.com/dnddiscgolf/.