Owen Riddle achieves Eagle Scout

Eagle Scout Owen Riddle, 14, of Sidney shows off the more than 70 merit badges he has earned in Scouting since joining in 2019. During Covid-19, many Scouting programs stopped meeting but many met virtually and Owen was able to meet with Merit Badge Counselors not only from around the country but as far away as Germany to complete some of the badges. To earn Eagle, a Scout must have earned 22 Merit Badges including 13 required for Eagle.

by Chuck Mahaleris

Owen Riddle, 14, of Sidney, received Scouting’s highest honor, the Eagle Scout rank, after earning more than 70 merit badges and completing a project for the Messalonskee Middle School where he attends school.

Family and friends from as far away as Pennsylvania gathered at the Augusta Elks Lodge on Saturday, November 12, to witness the ceremony. “I like challenges,” Owen said before receiving the Eagle rank. “Scouting is a lot of fun and I enjoy the program a lot.”

“By the authority vested in me by the National Court of Honor of the Boy Scouts of America, it is my privilege and pleasure to pronounce you an Eagle Scout,” announced Pittsfield Troop #428 Scoutmaster Shelley Connolly. Owen’s mother, Sarah Riddle, then pinned the Eagle Scout medal on his uniform shirt pocket flap. His father, David Riddle, swapped off Owen’s old neckerchief for the new Eagle Scout neckerchief.

Owen received his first rank in his Scout Troop, the Scout Rank, on May 17, 2019. During his Eagle ceremony, he was presented 10 Eagle Scout Palms – one for every five merit badges he has earned above the 22 necessary to attain the rank of Eagle. Other awards he has received in Scouting include the Messenger of Peace Award, the National Outdoor Achieve­ment Award for Camp­ing, the Tho­mas Edison Super Nova recognition, the National Outdoor Achieve­ment Award for Conser­vation, the World Conser­vation Award, and the 50th Anniversary Environ­mental Protection Award.

Eagle Scout Dr. Paul Buckthal, Owen’s grandfather, led his grandson and the other Eagle Scouts in the room in the Eagle Scout Charge. “When you pledge yourself on your sacred honor, using the same words which are found at the end of the Declaration of Independence, you seal your eternal loyalty to the code of the Eagle Scout.” Paul earned his Eagle in 1962 but said that the skills he learned in Scouting and the life lessons of the Eagle Scout rank have been prominent in his life ever since.

“The Eagle soars high and seeks to rest only upon the lofty peaks,” Scoutmaster Connelly said. “As an Eagle Scout, you too must soar high. You must not swerve from the path of duty. You must strive to obtain that which is highest and noblest in life.” His Eagle Scout project saw the construction of eight handicap accessible picnic tables at Messalonskee MIddle School.

After high school, Owen plans to attend medical school and become a doctor. “My life vision is to become an individual that can help others,” he said. “I always feel great about myself when I am helping others in need.”

China workshop aims to bring area towns together

Volunteers prepare window inserts at a previous WindowDressers workshop, in Vassalboro. (photo courtesy of Vassalboro Historical Society)

by Eric W. Austin

CHINA, ME — Planned for the second week in November starting just after Election Day, the China Window Dressers workshop is moving full steam ahead. The intent of the workshop is to build low-cost window inserts to reduce heating expenses for homeowners in central Maine. The organizers have spent the past year taking orders and visiting local homeowners to measure the windows requiring inserts, and now they are looking for volunteers to help at the upcoming workshop.

Sponsored by the China for a Lifetime Committee, a local group dedicated to philanthropic activities meant to improve the quality of life for China residents, and assisted by other local organizations, the initiative is modeled after the classic “barn-raising” community efforts of the past, with residents working together for the benefit of everyone.

Committee chairman Christopher Hahn describes it this way: “The workshop is a great chance for the community to come together and help one another during these tough financial times. Such events don’t happen as often as they should anymore in this age of Facebook and online Zoom meetings, so we jumped at the opportunity to organize this workshop. It fits right in with our mission of ‘neighbors helping neighbors.’ I hope to see many familiar faces and hopefully some new ones.”

The committee has received more than 130 orders for window inserts from over two dozen local clients across central Maine. Although the workshop will take place at the China Conference Center, orders have been open from any of the area towns and volunteers for the upcoming build workshop do not need to have ordered inserts or live in China. The workshop will run from Wednesday, November 9, through Sunday, November 13. Work shifts are divided into a morning shift from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., and an afternoon shift from 1 – 5 p.m. Food will be provided by community volunteers between shifts. The first two days are devoted to putting together the wooden frames for the window inserts, while the next two days will be for wrapping those frames in plastic and foam. Sunday will serve as an overflow day if everything cannot be completed by Saturday evening.

No experience is necessary to help out, and there are still plenty of spots that need to be filled. Hahn says they are aiming for eight people per shift. The work is not complicated, and designed to flow through an assembly line process, making it easy for anyone to participate. Participants from earlier workshops will be on hand to answer any questions and provide guidance for volunteers.

For those interested in signing up to participate in the workshop, there are several ways to get involved. The easiest way is to visit the Window Dressers website at windowdressers.org. Click on “Community Builds” link on the menu at the top-right of the page, then scroll down to the China build and click where it says “Sign up to volunteer”. (Click here to go there directly.) That will take you to a page where you can choose which time-slot best fits into your schedule.

If you’re not tech-savvy, or don’t have internet access, you can also send an email to ChinaforaLifetime@gmail.com or call the China town office at 445-2014 and let them know what days you are available to help.

More information about the China for a Lifetime committee can be found on their website at chinaforalifetime.com.

2022-’23 Real Estate Tax Due Dates

Albion

Taxes due September 30, 2022
(Interest begins October 1, 2022)

China

Semi-annual
September 30, 2022
March 31, 2023

Fairfield

Quarterly

September 29, 2022
November 2, 2022
February 8, 2023
May 10, 2023

Oakland

August 19, 2022
October 14, 2022
January 13, 2023
March 10, 2023

Palermo

November 17, 2022

Sidney

September 1, 2022
(Interest begins October 1, 2022)

Somerville

Semi-annual
November 15, 2022
May 15, 2022

Vassalboro

Quarterly
September 26, 2022
November 28, 2022
February 27, 2023
April 24, 2023

Waterville

Quarterly
October 14, 2022
December 9, 2022
March 10, 2023
June 9, 2023

Windsor

Semi-annual
September 30, 2022
March 31, 2023
(Tax club due dates are the 15th of each month.)

Winslow

Quarterly
October 6, 2022
December 8, 2022
March 9, 2023
June 8, 2023

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

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Agricultural Fairs

by Mary Grow

Your writer is pleased that she didn’t promise a story about Hathaway shirts this week, because, considering the season, she decided to detour to write about the country fairs our ancestors enjoyed. Some of the historians cited previously in this series mentioned them; your writer will share bits of their information.

Samuel L. Boardman, in his chapter on agriculture in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, and Linwood Lowden, in his history of Windsor, summarized development of central Maine agricultural organizations, often sponsors of agricultural fairs.

Lowden’s list:

  • The short-lived Kennebec Agricultural Society, “organized in 1787 and incorporated in 1807,” was the first in New England and the second in the United States. (On-line sources say the first in the country was the 1785 Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, still active.)
  • The short-lived Maine Agricultural Society, incorporated Feb. 21, 1818, “held cattle shows in Hallowell in 1820 and 1821.” The 1820 show was Maine’s first, Boardman wrote.
  • The Winthrop Agricultural Society, incorporated Feb. 28, 1829, and reorganized in 1832 as the Kennebec County Agricultural Society, leased fairgrounds in Readfield beginning in 1856. By 1892, Boardman wrote, it had several buildings, a track and a grandstand; organizers continued “the old custom” of having a prominent Maine man deliver an annual address.
  • The North Kennebec Agricultural Society, headquartered in Waterville, began July 31, 1847. E. P. Mayo (in the agricultural chapter in Edwin Whittemore’s Waterville history) wrote that its first exhibition was in October 1847. Another early action, Mayo wrote with approval, “was to raise $75 for the purchase of standard agricultural works for a library.”
    • This organization bought land in southern Waterville and built a half-mile horse track in 1854. Its annual exhibitions continued into the 1880s, Mayo wrote, until competition from outlying towns cut too deeply into attendance. Its real estate was sold to expand Pine Grove Cemetery.
  • The South Kennebec Agricultural Society, which included Windsor, was incorporated in 1853 and in April 1857 bought three lots in Gardiner for a fairground.
  • The Kennebec Union Agricultural and Horticultural Society was incorporated on March 17, 1860, and took over “all assets” of the South Kennebec Society. Its “active career” ended in 1877, according to Boardman.
  • The Eastern Kennebec Agricultural Society, organized April 4, 1868, “built a half mile race track, and held its fairs on a sixteen acre site at China,” the China Fairgrounds or China Trotting Park, west off Dirigo Road. In 1869, Boardman said, the Society added a 40-by-60-foot exhibition hall. The last fair was in the fall of 1874; Boardman wrote that bad weather on fair days kept income below expenses, and the society gave up in December 1877 and sold its property.
  • A second South Kennebec Agricultural Society was organized March 24, 1888, in South Windsor, and incorporated by the Maine legislature a year later. This Society leased a lot with a trotting park, the earliest part of the current Windsor Fairgrounds. Lowden wrote that in 1973 the Society’s legal name became Windsor Fair.

* * * * * *

Albion historian Ruby Crosby Wiggin was delighted to find secretaries’ records of the Farmer’s and Mechanic’s Club of Albion (the apostrophes are as she placed them), organized Oct. 5, 1863, and sponsor of an annual October fair from Oct. 13, 1863, through at least 1891, when the records end.

The secretaries’ books answered a question that had plagued her research: local residents told her three different locations for the fairs. The records showed everyone was right.

The 1863 fair was in the Temperance Hall, on Bangor Road, with outdoor exhibits near the former Marden’s – later Drake’s – store. After what was first the Public Hall and later the Grange Hall was built in 1873, the fair moved there and used land behind Keay’s store, on Main Street. And after the town house was built in 1888, it hosted indoor displays, with outdoor events in the field behind the Besse building.

Wiggin’s list of animals at the first fair in 1863 totals more than 100 horses, oxen, cows, sheep and swine. Indoor displays featured farm produce, including locally-raised tobacco; cheeses; and buttons, “carpets, quilts, rugs, cloth, yarn” and other handicrafts.

Exhibits became more varied over the years, Wiggin wrote. She listed some she considered unusual: a “collection of stuffed birds”; a 100-year-old chair; an English table cover more than 100 years old; woolen stockings and a patchwork quilt made by women in their 90s; and a “worsted lamp mat” made by a six-year-old boy.

She found no description of baby shows, but, she said, in 1865 the “largest, fattest and best fed baby” won a prize, and in 1879 a committee named the “longest and leanest and poorest fed man.”

Old-time residents told Wiggin the Albion fair sometimes included a merry-go-round “run by two fellows turning it by a crank in the middle.” It was reportedly owned by Stevens Brothers, from Unity, and was a feature of annual Unity fairs.

* * * * * *

Palermo historian Milton E. Dowe, in his 1996 book of memories, included a short description of the annual Branch Mills Grange fair, where, he wrote, “A wonderful time was had by all.” His undated description refers to a time after 1909, when the Grange Hall, in Branch Mills Village, was built after the 1908 fire.

Behind the building, Dowe wrote, was a hitching rail where people left their horses for the day. On the grounds were cattle exhibits and the horse pulling competitions that were “the highlight of the Fair day.”

Inside, Dowe wrote, people admired “displays of handiwork, arts, crafts, vegetables, etc.” There was an afternoon baby show. The noon dinner included “baked beans, brown bread, biscuits, casseroles, pickles,…various kinds of pies…[and] always plenty of coffee.”

* * * * * *

Alice Hammond’s history of Sidney credits the Sidney Grange with starting the Sidney Agricultural Fair in 1885; it continued well into the 20th century. Kingsbury said its specialties were fruit –Sidney had many apple orchards – and “working cattle.” One year, he wrote, 75 yokes (pairs) of cattle paraded in a line.

Hammond included a report that the fair’s treasurer, Martin L. Reynolds, put in the 1890 town report “[o]wing to the inquiry of some of the townsmen” about the use of town funds.

From 1887 through 1890, taxpayers gave the fair $25 annually. In 1887, fair organizers spent $24.62. The largest expenditure was $9 to E. A. Field for “lumber and hauling same.” The two smallest were 30 cents each for two dozen hooks from O. Williamson and “Swifel Eye to machine” from J. S. Grant (Hammond wondered what a swifel eye was; your writer suggests a misspelling for swivel eye).

In 1888, A. E. Bessey chipped in $1 (he was probably, despite the spelling difference, Dr. Alden Edward Besse [Jan. 1, 1838 – June 15, 1903], born in Hebron, living in Sidney in 1880, died in Waterville, buried in Pine Grove Cemetery). Lumber was again the most costly item; total expenditures were $23.65.

The 1889 expenditure totaled $12.10. Joseph Field earned $2 for “care of lumber” – Hammond noted that the wooden animal pens were dismantled after each fair, stored and rebuilt the next year – and Badger and Manley charged $3.50 for posters (up from $2.50 in 1887).

In 1890 three individuals added $21.94 to the $25 appropriation. The account was nonetheless overdrawn for the first time, mostly because the Oakland Band, making its first appearance, cost $20. Because of earlier frugality, however, treasurer Reynolds reported a balance in the fair treasury of $12.91 at the end of four years.

The year 1890 was also the first year that fair organizers bought a police badge, for 75 cents. Hammond wondered if the crowd was getting rougher, or if the organizers were merely being extra careful.

* * * * * *

Alma Pierce Robbins focused her Vassalboro history on agricultural organizations, mentioning fairs only incidentally. The Vassalborough Agricultural Society was organized in 1820, she wrote. The town had three Granges, Oak Grove (1875, moved to Getchell’s Corner in 1883), Cushnoc at Riverside (1876) and East Vassalboro, organized in 1895 and still flourishing.

The Agricultural Society must have sponsored fairs, because Robbins wrote of spring “preparations to exhibit at the Fall fairs.” She also wrote about “premiums” for “wheat, corn, hemp, flax and silk,” and “prizes” for “cattle, sheep and swine,” and mentioned oxen-pulling and later horse-pulling.

Robbins specifically referred to Cushnoc Grange fairs “with fine exhibits of hand work, farm produce and stock.” She added memories of “the oyster stew suppers on cold snowy nights, the baked bean and brown bread dinners with great jars of home made pickles and dozens of apple pies,” where all the neighbors gathered.

* * * * * *

Windsor’s extensive fairgrounds are at 82 Ridge Road (Route 32), not far north of the intersection where Route 32 joins Route 17. The site includes a dozen historic buildings restored and maintained by the Windsor Historical Society, multiple exhibition halls for everything from livestock to jams and jellies, an oval racetrack and large parking areas.

Lowden wrote that the first Windsor Fair was held Oct. 3 and 4, 1888, before the South Kennebec Agricultural Society was organized and legislatively incorporated in the spring of 1889. There is some confusion about whether a formal racetrack was used that year; Lowden said “a firmly held local tradition” is that horses ran on the road that is now Route 32, across a bridge that “stood high above” Gully Brook. But he found an Oct. 5, 1888, newspaper report saying there was a race track by 1888, so he inferred the in-the-road races must have been earlier.

Lowden wrote that the horse races have always been the most popular attraction and “the financial backbone” of the fair. Other features he described included displays of and competitions among other farm animals. In 1888, the exhibition of horses and colts drew a local reporter’s praise; the reporter was even more enthusiastic about the displays of fruit, vegetables and “artistic needle and fancy work.”

The fair introduced inventions and new practices for farmers and their families, like a new parlor stove and a new kitchen stove in 1893; an automobile in 1900; a hot air balloon in 1902; and an airplane in 1917. The midday featured varied entertainers, simple games, food vendors; the first merry-go-round appeared in 1916.

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., Palermo, Maine Things That I Remember in 1996 (1997).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
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).
Whittemore, Rev. Edwin Carey, Centennial History of Waterville 1802-1902 (1902).
Wiggin, Ruby Crosby, Albion on the Narrow Gauge (1964).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Upcoming fairs

Although Maine’s 2022 fall fair season is winding down, there is still time to take in some that aren’t too far from the central Kennebec Valley.

  • Windsor Fair began Aug. 28, and runs through Monday, Sept. 5. See the website windsorfair.com for daily programs.
  • The Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair, on the fairgrounds at 1450 Bangor Road (Route 100) opens at 3 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 8, and runs through 5 p.m., Sept. 11. Details are on Clintonlionsagfair207.com.
  • Litchfield Fair, at the 44 Plains Road fairground, opens Friday, Sept. 9, and runs through Sept. 11, with free admission for seniors on opening day. See litchfieldfair.com.
  • Farmington Fair runs from 10 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 18, through Saturday afternoon, Sept. 24. The fairground is at the intersection of Maple Avenue and High Street, on the northwest (right) side of Routes 2 and 27 coming from New Sharon. See farmingtonfairmaine.com.
  • The annual Common Ground Country Fair runs from Friday, Sept. 23, through Sunday, Sept. 25, in Unity, at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) education center, 294 Crosby Brook Road (off Route 139 in southeastern Unity). See mofga.org.

CORRECTION: The building in the photo in last week’s issue is the Clukey Building, located on the corner of Main and Silver streets, location of the Paragon Shop today. It was an editing error.

 

Local residents named to dean’s list for Spring 2022 semester

Saint Anselm College, in Manchester, New Hampshire, has released the dean’s list of high academic achievers for the second semester of the 2021-2022 school year.

Julia Bard, of Sidney, class of 2025, English.

Christopher King, of Sidney, class of 2024, natural sciences.

Garrett Grant, of Windsor, class of 2022, economics.

Christine Quirion, of Winslow, class of 2022, business.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Kingsbury’s people

“Nelson” and his breeder Charles Horace Nelson, in a photo that appeared in The Centennial History of Waterville, 1802-1902, by Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore. The chapter on agriculture was written by E. P. Mayo.

by Mary Grow

This article is for people who enjoy an occasional glimpse into someone else’s life – nothing scandalous or earth-shaking, just odds and ends about the ordinary lives of people in another time. The main source is Henry D. Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history.

The Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 was first published in 1892, after what editor Kingsbury described as “two years of labor.” Simeon L. Deyo is listed as co-editor and there are 18 “Resident Contributors.”

In the introduction, Kingsbury thanks “twenty writers whose names these chapters bear,” “more than twenty hundred” people who contributed through correspondence or interviews or both and “the good people of Kennebec who have so kindly and faithfully cooperated with us.”

The initial edition, by H. W. Blake & Company, 94 Reade Street, New York, was limited to 1,600 copies. The last page is number 1273, and that number does not count the introduction, illustrations or instances in which pages have the same number followed by a or b. The result is a volume that measures 11 inches high, eight inches deep and almost four inches wide – a worthy companion to the family Bible that would have been conspicuous in many Kennebec Valley homes in 1892.

Although there is no evidence of other editions until recently, there are references on line to two-volume versions. In 2018 a 956-page paperback was published.

Kingsbury divided the work into two sections. Each of the first 15 chapters covers a specific topic, like land titles, military history, courts and the law and the medical profession. The rest of the book describes individual towns, giving most a single chapter, Waterville two chapters and Augusta three chapters.

Kingsbury and his contributors were not infallible. Later historians have corrected some of his information, probably because they have more resources and more time than he had. Nonetheless, the Kennebec County history is a valuable starting point. Many on-line displays quote the same comment: “This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.”

Each chapter on a city or town ends with what Kingsbury labeled “Personal Paragraphs.” These profile an individual, or occasionally a family, who lived in the municipality in the 18th century. The number of profiles per chapter varies, depending partly on the size of the municipality.

The vast majority of those Kingsbury chose were men – your writer has not reviewed towns outside the central Kennebec Valley, but within the area has found only two women who deserved mention. Some were prominent citizens; at the end of the chapters on Augusta, publisher Edward Charles Allen (1849 – 1891) was described as “the wealthiest man of Augusta…[who] paid the largest personal tax.” (See the Nov. 12, 2020, issue of The Town Line for information on Allen’s publishing empire and its impact on Augusta’s growth in the 1870s and 1880s.)

James G. Blaine (1830-1893; United States Representative and Senator, Secretary of State, unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1884, called the Plumed Knight by his friends and the Continental Liar from the State of Maine by his opponents) got eight and a half pages of fine print, contributed in April 1892 by “his townsman and former business partner, Hon. John L. Stevens, United States Minister Resident, Honolulu, Hawaii.” (Blaine was profiled in the Aug. 20, 2020, issue of The Town Line.)

The majority of people to whom Kingsbury gave a few sentences or a few paragraphs were less exalted. Many were farmers, blacksmiths, small businessmen and the like. As a city, Augusta offered a choice of educated professional people, some of whose stories he told.

* * * * * *

Sidney native Henry Pishon, born in 1833, attended Vassalboro and Waterville academies and served as an acting ensign in the Navy for two years of the Civil War. In the 1860s and 1870s he served two short stints as chief clerk in the Maine secretary of state’s office.

When the Augusta post office and courthouse were built on Water Street between 1886 and 1889, Kingsbury wrote, Pishon was the “clerk of construction.” A United States treasury disbursement list for July 1889 found on line lists four local men involved in the project: Thomas Lambard clerk, Pishon foreman, Herbert G. Foster disbursing agent and Melvin S. Holway superintendent of construction.

If “p.d.” in treasury records means per diem, Lambard earned $6 a day, Pishon and Foster earned $4 and Holway was paid some (illegible) fraction, perhaps one-half “of 1 p. ct.” of an unknown amount.

Sereno Sewall Webster (1805 – 1893) was the descendant of four Nathan Websters and two John Websters. The first John Webster was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1605. The second, Sereno’s father, was born in 1777 or 1778 and died in 1828.

(Kingsbury’s source called the 1605 John Webster a “free-man,” leading your writer to wonder if he was a former Black slave. Not necessarily; in colonial Massachusetts, a free man was anyone who had full civil rights. Some colonies, not all, required membership in the established church; land ownership was not necessary.)

Sereno was born in Gardiner, according to an on-line genealogy on the Find a Grave website. John Webster moved his family to Vassalboro in 1806, according to Kingsbury. Sereno held a “clerkship” in Washington, D. C., for nine years; in 1845, he married Mary A. Hayes (1821 – 1893) from Dover, New Hampshire. Kingsbury said the couple had three children; the on-line genealogy lists four, born between 1846 and 1857, Helen, Emeline, Sereno and Otis.

Sereno Clifford Webster, Sereno number three, was born in 1850 and died in 1919, according to the genealogy. He married Alice Etta Tracy; they named their first son Sereno Sewall Webster (1889 – 1980). Most members of the family are buried in Augusta’s Wall Cemetery, at 422 Riverside Drive.

The on-line search for Sereno Webster turned up yet another man with the same name: an obituary for Sereno Sewall Webster, Bowdoin Class of 1943, who died April 12, 2006, in Brunswick. The obituary says he was born in Augusta Aug. 9, 1920, graduated from Cony High School and after World War II service had a career as an engineer and surveyor. His wife, Eula Willetta (“Billy”) German, died in 1999; he was survived by a daughter Anne and a son Clifford Sewall Webster, Bowdoin Class of 1972.

A sad story: J. Albert Bolton, of Augusta, was born in 1820 and was still alive in 1892. He and his wife Priscilla (Merrill) had only two children. Their daughter “died in infancy” and their son, William A. Bolton, a Cony High School and Boston Commercial College graduate and “a young man of great promise,” died at 21.

J. Albert was the grandson of Savage Bolton, first settler on Augusta’s Bolton Hill. Charles Nash, in his Augusta history, quoted from Martha Ballard’s diary for Oct. 21, 1789: “Savage Bolton and his wife were taken with a warrant for breaking the Sabath.”

* * * * * *

Moving up-river to Sidney, Kingsbury profiled many farmers. Some were descendants of first settlers still occupying family homesteads, others more recent incomers. Quite a few had second occupations. Examples follow.

Frank Abbott, who was born in 1853, was the great-grandson of Joseph Abbott (1743-1833), who in 1804 came from Massachusetts and bought 1,000 acres on the Pond Road. Kingsbury did not specify whether Frank still farmed the original family land.

James H. Bean (1833 -??) combined farming with wagon-making and blacksmithing. He was probably an ancestor of the James H. Bean for whom Sidney’s elementary school, opened Sept. 6, 1957, on Middle Road, is named.

(Sidney historian Alice Hammond wrote that the Bean for whom the school is named was honored for his many contributions to education in Sidney “and is still remembered [in 1992] with love and respect.”)

Civil War veteran Thomas S. Benson moved from Augusta to Sidney in 1876 and was a farmer and deputy sheriff.

Albert Black was the grandson of a former Palermo, Maine, resident who moved to New York State in 1820. Black came back to Maine in 1863, at the age of 23. His agricultural specialty was apples, Kingsbury wrote – he grew them and bought other farmers’ and for 16 years had been making cider vinegar, 10,000 gallons in 1891.

James D. Bragg, a third-generation Sidney farmer born in 1821, and Charles H. Burgess, born in 1861, served as postmasters in two different Sidney post offices beginning in the late 1880s. Hammond wrote that Bragg served for only one month, in 1887. Burgess, whose farm Hammond located on Middle Road, was also a harness maker, Kingsbury said.

Atwood F. Jones, who moved from Mercer to Sidney in 1849 at the age of 27, was a teacher as well as a farmer until 1872, when he became “a dealer in nursery stock.”

Charles H. Lovejoy, the fourth generation of his family in Sidney, “has been messenger in the state senate since 1878.” He had also been a Sidney selectman for 12 years. (Charles’ great-grandfather, Abial Lovejoy [1731-1810], came to Sidney in 1778; see the Feb. 3, 2022, issue of The Town Line for more information on this prominent citizen.)

Stilman S. Reynolds, born in 1818, farmer and mechanic, “has worked on the river twenty years and carried the mail eight years from Sidney to Riverside” (presumably by ferry across the Kennebec).

Oliver C. Robbins (1817-1891) was a butcher and lumberman as well as a farmer. Kingsbury wrote that his widow, Mary (Weeks), and younger son Edwin were continuing the farm after Oliver’s death.

De Merrit L. Sawtelle was the third generation of his family on the same farm, previously owned by his father, Asa, and grandfather, Nathan. His specialty was “breeding and training horses.”

In addition to long family histories in Sidney and multiple occupations, many Sidney farmers had two other things in common. They were Civil War veterans; and, not surprisingly, they tended to marry neighbors and relatives, creating a town full of interrelated families.

For the most part the families were not large. Kingsbury often lists four or five children, but seldom more – with two exceptions your writer thought worthy of note.

Flint Barton (1749-1833; moved to Sidney from Massachusetts in 1773) and his wife Lydia (Crosby) Barton had 12 sons. The 10th, whom they named Anson, was born in 1799; he married Rhoda Sisson and they had 13 more Bartons.

Another man who started a large clan was Thomas Bowman, the second of that name, who moved from Massachusetts to Sidney. Kingsbury did not give dates nor mention Thomas’s wife’s name, but he said Thomas had eight sons, including a third-generation Thomas, and two daughters.

Kingsbury gave brief biographies of five male descendants, all farmers in Sidney. Grandson Isaac had farmed the land formerly his grandfather’s, where “the family burying lot is,” until he died on May 16, 1890, leaving his widow, Phebe (Richards), and oldest son, Isaac N., running the farm.

Correction to August 4 article

Benton historian Barbara Warren wrote to point out an error in the Hinds genealogy in the Aug. 4 piece on natural resources, the section on Augustine Crosby (1838-1898), who invented a gold dredge and married Asher Hinds’ daughter, Susan Ann Hinds (1837-1905).

This writer incorrectly identified Susan Hinds’ father as Asher Crosby Hinds, known as “the Parliamentarian.” Her father was actually Asher Hinds (1792- 1860), whom Warren calls “the builder” (he sponsored the building of the Benton Falls Meeting House in 1828 and in 1830 built the Benton Falls house in which Warren now lives). Warren describes him as “a prosperous farmer and merchant,” War of 1812 veteran and delegate to the Massachusetts General Court.

Susan Ann (Hinds) Crosby was Augustine Crosby’s third cousin and Parliamentarian Asher Crosby Hinds’ aunt. Her brother, another Asher Crosby Hinds, was born in 1840 and died in 1863 in the Civil War. The Parliamentarian’s father was Susan’s brother, Albert Dwelley Hinds (1835-1873).

The confusion is understandable, Warren wrote. For four generations, the Hinds family included an Asher; and Hinds and Crosbys often intermarried.

Update on the Aug. 4 update on the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta

Kennebec Journal reporter Keith Edwards wrote in the paper’s Aug. 7 edition that Augusta City Councilors voted at their Aug. 4 meeting to declare the historic Arsenal property dangerous. They gave the private owner another 90 days to “address concerns,” and authorized the city codes officer to extend the time to 150 days.

Main sources

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

Websites, miscellaneous

PHOTO: Sidney Bracelet sale

Hunter Moser, 12, left, of Sidney, and Ava Couture-Lynch, 11, from Boston, Massachusetts, right, selling lemonade and bracelets that they made on July 1. Hunter was spending time with her grandparents, in Winslow. Hunter and Ava’s #1 customer of the day was Winslow Police Officer Marc Rousseau, center. (photo by Mark Huard)

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Native Americans – Part 3

A sketch of the Kennebec tribe settling along the Kennebec River. (Internet photo)

by Mary Grow

Three local settlements

The Kennebec tribe’s village at Cushnoc (a word that means head of tide, most historians agree) was on high ground on the east bank of the Kennebec River in what is now Augusta, about 20 miles south Ticonic village (described last week).

Leon Cranmer, in his Cushnoc, pointed out that the high land provided views of river traffic both upstream and down and offered some protection against attack. Canoes could land in a cove at the foot of the bank (now, he wrote, a park and boat landing).

Charles E. Nash, in his chapters on Augusta in Henry Kingsbury’s Kennebec County history, wrote that Cushnoc village had wigwams, cultivated cornfields and open space for young men to practice “wrestling, running and dancing.”

Kerry Hardy, in a nicely-illustrated 2009 book titled Notes on a Lost Flute: A Field Guide to the Wabanaki, argued that Cushnoc was the west end of an important Native American trail that ran from the present town of Stockton Springs near the mouth of the Penobscot River (almost due east of Cushnoc) to the head of tide on the Kennebec River.

Looking at old maps, Hardy traced that east-west trail and found others that converged on Cushnoc, coming from present-day Rockland (on the coast to the southeast), Canton Point (on the Androscoggin River to the northwest) and Farmington Falls (on the Sandy River to the north).

Unfortunately, Hardy did not explain why Cushnoc was the center of a Native American communications network. Instead, he summarized the importance of the British trading post established there (as at Ticonic; and, as at Ticonic, the site of the trading post was later chosen for a fort).

Cranmer offered the theory that Cushnoc was a convenient mid-way place for Native Americans traveling between Canada and the coast to branch off to other parts of Maine.

During archaeological excavations around the trading post site between 1974 and 1987, Cranmer wrote, more than 17,500 artifacts were found, mostly signs of European rather than Native American habitation.

He specifically mentioned a few stone flakes left over as Kennebecs made their edged tools; a stone projectile point that appears from its photograph to be in excellent condition and could be anywhere from 2,200 to 6,000 years old; and a bit of pottery, the remains of what Cranmer called an Iroquoian-like jug or bowl.

If there was a Native American burial ground associated with Cushnoc, this writer has been unable to find a reference to it. J. W. Hanson, in an 1852 history of the area found on line, claimed that “the quiet graves of their [Kennebec tribal members’] fathers clustered around the mouth of each tributary to their beloved river,” but he offered no specific location.

The first British trader at Cushnoc was Edward Winslow from the Plymouth Colony in 1625, Nash wrote (or in 1628, according to Old Fort Western Director Linda Novak’s bicentennial lecture). He and successors traded European goods for Native American products, primarily beaver skins.

By the 1650s, trade and profits were diminishing, Nash said. In 1661 the Plymouth group sold the trading post to four other Europeans, who gave up and closed the operation about 1665.

Novak blamed the decline in trade at Cushnoc on rival traders Thomas Clark and Thomas Lake, who opened competing posts both upriver at Ticonic and downriver near current Pittston. James W. North, in his history of Augusta, blamed “growing Indian troubles” for the decline and said war was the final blow (the first war counted by historians, writing primarily from the Anglo-American point of view, started in 1675).

North listed other problems in the 1650s, including a decrease in fur-bearing animals, the Kennebecs’ recognition that the furs were more valuable than the goods offered in exchange and “the increasing number and avaricious disposition of the traders.”

Cranmer added two more problems that could have contributed to a smaller supply of furs: British settlements expanding into woodlands, and attacks on Maine Native Americans by Iroquois tribes from the northwest (current upstate New York and thereabouts).

In 1655, the governor of the Plymouth Colony appointed Captain Constant Southworth as magistrate at Cushnoc, responsible for administering civil law throughout the colony’s holdings. He had two main jobs, Nash wrote: to prevent other traders from trespassing and “to check the sale of demoralizing liquors to the Indians.”

Nash commented that Joseph Beane or Bane, an Englishman held captive by the Native Americans, reported that remains of the Cushnoc trading post were still visible “among the new-grown trees and shrubbery” in 1692. Novak, however, says the post was burned in 1676, during the first of the serial wars. Either account suggests the Kennebecs had no interest in using the building.

North wrote that the 1725-1744 interregnum in the Kennebec Valley wars was a genuine peace, during which the Kennebecs interacted peacefully with the British traders, who he suggested treated them fairly and even generously, and with early settlers. In 1732, Massachusetts Governor Jonathan Belcher and “a large retinue” toured the coastal settlements. The governor met with an unspecified group of Native Americans at Falmouth, and told them that he planned to establish three missionary stations in the province, one to be at Cushnoc, “where a town and church were about to be built.”

North offered no evidence of such a town, or of any pacifying influence from missionaries, before the final defeat of the French at Québec in 1759. Instead, continued Native American resistance delayed the growth of European settlements around Cushnoc for another generation.

* * * * * *

Besides the settlements at Ticonic/Winslow and Cushnoc/Augusta, Kennebec tribal members lived elsewhere along the Kennebec River, its tributaries and other nearby water bodies. Some of the town histories on which this writer relies describe evidences of pre-European occupation from Fairfield and Benton through Waterville/Winslow and Vassalboro/Sidney to Augusta.

The current Town of Benton has frontage on the Kennebec River, and the Sebasticook River runs (almost) north-south through (almost) the middle of town. The Sebasticook, like the Kennebec, was a major travel route for Native Americans.

Benton historian Barbara Warren says because of the rapids in the Kennebec above Ticonic (until Waterville manufacturers’ dams calmed them, beginning in 1792), upriver travel was via the Sebasticook to Benton Falls, about five miles upstream from the Kennebec, and a portage back to the Kennebec at Fairfield. The Sebasticook was also a connector between the Kennebec and Penobscot valleys, according to another source.

Kingsbury wrote that “the relics found many years ago at the foot of the hill overlooking Benton Falls are now the only traces of the original possessors of the soil.” The “hill” – high land – is the east bank of the river where Garland Road runs through Benton Falls Village. Warren remembers as a child walking along the river and finding artifacts like shards, grinding tools and “a stone weight for a fishing net.”

Warren says a state-listed archaeological site on the west side of the Sebasticook near the dam includes a burial ground. State preservation officials are protecting the exact location of the site. Your writer surmises there was a Kennebec village, at least seasonally for fishing and perhaps year-round for farming and hunting, on the east bank with the burial ground across the river, as at Ticonic.

A 1992 University of Maine at Farmington study of the banks of the lower Sebasticook, between the dams at Benton Falls and Fort Halifax, found 30 archaeological sites along that part of the river, dating from the Archaic period (in Maine, between 10,000 and 3,000 years ago, according to Wikipedia) and the early contact period in the 1600s.

A 2004 archaeological survey related to the Unity Wetlands covered the banks of the Sebasticook in Unity and a small part of Benton and found 16 riverside Native American sites. Ten of the sites were either near rapids or near a junction with a tributary stream.

In the 2004 study, the site at Benton Falls was described as having been used during the Archaic and Ceramic periods. Wikipedia says in Maine, the Ceramic period was between 3,000 and 500 years ago, or from about 1000 B.C. to about 1500 A.D.

Both the Farmington study and a Biodiversity Research Institute publication by C. R. DeSorbo and J. Brockway, found on line, mention pre-European fisheries for migrating river herring. Warren says there is evidence suggesting Native Americans built a two-tier stone fish trap where Outlet Stream from China Lake runs into the Sebasticook in Winslow, within a mile of the Kennebec.

In neither Benton nor Fairfield are there well-known evidences of pre-European settlement along the Kennebec. The Fairfield bicentennial history says Native Americans made arrowheads in an area called the sand hills in Larone, in northern Fairfield. Evidence cited included arrowheads, broken and unbroken, and chips from making the arrowheads (although collectors had picked up most of the chips).

The type of rock used to make the arrowheads was not found locally, the writers said. They surmised the Native Americans brought the rock from Moosehead.

In Alice Hammond’s 1992 history of the Town of Sidney, she quoted Dr. Arthur Speiss, of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, saying there had been Native Americans in Sidney since “at least 5,000 years ago.” By 1992, Hammond wrote, the Historic Preservation Commission had found 11 pre-European sites along the Kennebec River and eight along Messalonskee Lake’s eastern shore.

The Town of Sidney’s 2003 comprehensive plan gives the number of pre-historic sites as 23. Maps show four areas along the Kennebec and three more on Messalonskee Lake. The plan explains that the exact locations are not publicized to protect the areas.

Hammond wrote that there was no valid way to estimate how many Native Americans lived in Sidney, nor are there individuals’ names or information on when the last groups left. She surmised they could have been gone by the 1740s.

Sidney does, however, have its legend, retold in Hammond’s history and in other sources, including Maine Indians in History and Legend.

According to that version, Messalonskee Lake is named from the Native American word “Muskalog,” or “Giant Pike,” a big, voracious fish that lived in the lake. The name further recognizes that 14 other water bodies empty into the lake, “which like the Giant Pike was never satisfied.”

A heroic brave named Black Hawk and a sneaky brave named Red Wolf both loved a lovely, lively maiden named White Fawn. White Fawn chose Black Hawk.

The evening they were formally engaged, White Fawn and Black Hawk stole away from the celebration for some private moments on a clifftop overlooking Messalonskee Lake. Red Wolf followed them, killed Black Hawk, whose body fell into the lake, and tried to kidnap White Fawn.

Screaming, she jumped from the cliff into the water. The rest of the tribe rushed to the scene. Red Wolf cried out “Messalonskee! Messalonskee!” As the avengers closed in on him, there was an earthquake and an avalanche swept him, too, into the ever-hungry lake.

Series of lectures available online

A series of 10 lectures on early Maine history presented at Old Fort Western in 2021 is now available for viewing on line. Topics include Native Americans, Fort Western and Fort Halifax and trading posts on the Kennebec River. Speakers include Dr. Arthur Speiss and Leon Cranmer, mentioned in this article. The series can be found by searching for Old Fort Western or Maine bicentennial lectures.

Main sources

Cranmer, Leon E., Cushnoc: The History and Archaeology of Plymouth Colony Traders on the Kennebec (1990).
DeSorbo, C. R. and J. Brockway, The Lower Sebasticook River: A landowner’s guide for supporting one of Maine’s most unique and important ecosystems. (2018).
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Hardy, Kerry, Notes on a Lost Flute: A Field Guide to the Wabanaki (2009).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Maine Writers Research Club, Maine Indians in History and Legends (1952).
North, James W., The History of Augusta (1870)
Warren, Barbara, email exchange.

Websites, miscellaneous.

Davidoff announces for District #61 seat

Amy Davidoff

Amy Davidoff has announced a bid for House District #61 (Vassalboro and most of Sidney). She retired in 2019 as a Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine after a productive and fulfilling research and teaching career. She moved to Vassalboro with her partner Mary, where they built a high efficiency home with numerous solar panels.

Having sailed the coast of Maine for most of their lives, they have witnessed the adverse effects of climate change. Amy’s political philosophy has been formed in part based on her professional career in health sciences and a life time love of the sea. Amy has been involved in seeking solutions about solid waste disposal in Vassalboro, and expanding broadband access in Kennebec County.

A healthy environment that supports health and safety among all people is one of her top priorities and includes being a good steward of the planet as well as our community.

Area residents named to University of New England dean’s list

The following students have been named to the dean’s list for the 2021 fall semester at the University of New England, in Biddeford. Dean’s list students have attained a grade point average of 3.3 or better out of a possible 4.0 at the end of the semester.

Olivia McPherson, of Albion; Valerie Capeless, Zinaida Gregor, Jessica Guerrette, Brooklynn Merrill and Julia White, all of Augusta; Sidney Knox, of Benton; Alden Balboni, Kierra Bumford and Tyler Pellerin, all of Oakland: Sarah Kohl and Olivia Roy, both of Sidney; Julia Steeves and Dawson Turcotte, both of Skowhegan; Lauren Boatright, Noelle Cote and Richard Winn, all of South China; Libby Breznyak and Lauren Pinnette, both of Waterville; and Juliann Lapierre and Justice Picard, both of Winslow.