Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Waterville – Sidney

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

by Mary Grow

As previously described, what is now the Town of Sidney, on the west bank of the Kennebec River north of Augusta, began as the western half of Vassalborough, now a separate town on the east bank of the river. (See The Town Line, March 26)

The Kennebec Proprietors hired Nathan Winslow to survey both sides of the river in 1761, and in 1774 they had John Jones survey the rest of the west side to Lake Messalonskee, also known as Snow Pond (and so called in this article). The map and description of Winslow’s surveys in Alice Hammond’s History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 match the description of Vassalboro: three tiers of long narrow lots west from the river with a rangeway between each tier, an irregular space that Hammond calls a gore between Winslow’s and Jones’ work, then two more tiers of lots.

Sidney’s original boundary was on the west side of Snow Pond, Hammond says; after Sidney separated from Vassalboro in 1792, the new town laid out 10 school districts, and one of them was the area on the west side of “the Pond.” In 1799, she says, that land became part of Belgrade, leaving Sidney with the Kennebec as its eastern boundary and Snow Pond as part of the western boundary.

The name Sidney recognizes British soldier and poet Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586). Sources consulted offer no reason why it was chosen for a Maine settlement.

Hammond mentions a feature that makes Sidney unusual: the Great Sidney Bog, which is mostly in southern Sidney, on the west side of Bog Road, and partly in Augusta. Hammond calls it a 640-acre peat bog traditionally used for hunting and blueberrying.

On its (undated) Beginning with Habitat website, Great Sidney Bog is called a 605-acre Raised Level Bog and an area of state-wide ecological significance. It is important, the website says, because it is farther south than most similar bogs in Maine and because it provides habitat for deer, wading birds and waterfowl.

[See also: The Kennebec Indian tribe]

The first settlers in the 1760s chose riverside lots. Henry Kingsbury’s History of Kennebec County offers a list of names, starting with John Marsh, whose family still owned the June 24, 1763, deed from Massachusetts when Kingsbury published his invaluable book in 1892.

Neither Kingsbury nor Hammond gives details about the spread of settlement through the rest of the town in the early days, although Hammond mentions a few people settled on the shore of Snow Pond. The first town meetings in 1792 were convened along the river; Kingsbury says the first was in David Smiley’s house, and David Smiley operated the first tavern on what Kingsbury calls the river road (presumably today’s West River Road/Route 104).

To be a voter in 1792 Sidney, Hammond says, one had to be male, at least 21 and possessor of either an annual income of at least three pounds or a “free hold estate” valued at a minimum of 60 pounds.

Hamond says the first meeting elected 32 town officers, some with experience in town affairs in Vassalboro.

The first meeting must have been early in the year, because Hammond says at least four more town meetings were held in 1792. Business at the second meeting in May included electing a four-man committee to reach a final agreement with Vassalboro, presumably on the separation of the two towns.

Abenaki Indians engaged in warfare. (Internet photo)

In 1793 voters agreed to alternate meetings between David Smiley’s and Isaac Cowan’s houses. Town meeting voters voted in Massachusetts elections and dealt with local matters, including funding for schools and churches and the laying out of roads.

Voters at an April 1792 school meeting – Hammond does not explain the difference between town meetings and school meetings – approved raising 100 pounds to support 10 school districts, Hammond says. The decision was rescinded at a special town meeting early in 1794; the annual (presumably town) meeting later that year settled on 60 pounds.

Although the Kennebec was the original means of transportation, as mills were developed on tributary brooks, better overland transport became a necessity. What had been foot trails became horse trails, then cart trails and then roads. Hammond says the rangeways turned out not to be the most convenient routes, and the eight-rod rangeway width unnecessary.

The town deeded parts of rangeways to abutters. Roads were laid out across as well as between properties, with landowners allowed to work off part of their taxes by building them. In 1793, Hammond says, voters approved the following (daily?) rates: $1 per man, 25 cents for an ox, a plow or a cart.

Most early industries were sawmills and gristmills producing lumber for frame houses (to replace early log cabins) and grain to eat. Kingsbury says John Marsh built one of each in 1763, on the east (river) side of river road on Bog (later Hastings) Brook. In 1774, he says, a combination of high water and an ice jam washed away both mills and drowned Thomas Clark as he tried to save two bags of meal his family need.ed.

(Observant readers will have noticed that Hammond gives some of her prices in British pounds and some in United States dollars. In Kennebec Yesterdays, Ernest Marriner says that after the new United States government converted to a decimal system, country people had to adapt too. Talking about a doctor in Sidney in the early 1800s, Marriner explains that the man used to charge one British shilling to pull a tooth; he changed to 17 cents American after a dollar was “arbitrarily” set as equal to six shillings, making one shilling one-sixth of a dollar, or 17 cents.)

Continuing north along the Kennebec River, Sidney is bordered by Waterville, like Sidney originally part of its east-bank neighbor, Winslow (see The Town Line, April 2). The two were separated in 1802.

After sharing Winslow’s early name, Ticonic, and then being part of Winslow, Waterville needed a new name in 1802. Ava Harriet Chadbourne’s Maine Place Names says “Waterville” means “a town or city located on the water.” Marriner says several prominent families wanted the new town named after them, and whoever made the decision chose Waterville to avoid offending anyone.

Waterville included what is now Oakland until 1873, when Oakland was set off as West Waterville. In 1883 the name became Oakland (because of its many oak trees, Chadbourne says).

Kingsbury says the Waterville part of Winslow grew faster than the Winslow part, citing population figures, the number of doctors who chose the western shore, early mills and early businesses. Among early settlers’ names repeated in 21st-century street names are Appleton, Boutelle, Cool, Dalton, Getchell, Gilman, Redington, Sherwin and Temple.

Waterville’s first three doctors, all of whom practiced other professions as well, are mentioned in most histories of the city. Dr. John McKechnie (c. 1732-1782) is generally considered the foremost; Kingsbury calls him active and useful.

McKechnie was an engineer and surveyor as well as a medical doctor. Kingsbury says he was a Scotsman who came to America in 1755 and to the Kennebec in 1771, where he surveyed Winslow before settling on its western side. Though his medical career was not a main occupation, he supposedly helped care for soldiers passing through on Benedict Arnold’s 1776 march to Québec. By 1780 he was operating a gristmill and a sawmill on Messalonskee Stream.

Early mills were built on smaller tributaries to the Kennebec, Marriner explains, because the river was too big and too swift for their simple machinery. Most of the streams with waterfalls flowed from the west shore, these smaller, more controllable streams provided better mill sites; so early mills were more numerous in west-shore towns.

Dr. Obadiah Williams (1752-1799), a surgeon in the Revolutionary War, came from New Hampshire to Sidney (according to Kingsbury) or to Mount Vernon/Vienna (according to Marriner) and in 1792 moved to Waterville, Marriner says for business opportunities. He owned a lot that had 40 rods of Kennebec River frontage and extended west to the first Rangeway, including what became Waterville’s business district.

Williams is said to have built the first frame house in Waterville. Marriner claims he was so prominent that in 1802 his was one of the names proposed for the new town.

According to websites, he is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery.

The third notable doctor was Dr. Moses Appleton (1773-1849), another New Hampshire native who graduated from Dartmouth College in 1791. According to the website American Medical Biographies, a Dartmouth classmate named Reuben Kidder had a law practice in Winslow, and in 1795 or 1796 Appleton asked him about Waterville.

Kidder told him it was a town of about 1,000 people, mostly living in log cabins, with six shops; the nearest drugstore was 30 miles away in Hallowell; and Dr. Williams would welcome a younger colleague. Kidder offered Appleton half of the building he was about to build for a home and office.

Appleton came to Waterville in 1796 and never left. Marriner and the website say he got 96 patients the first year, including Dr. Williams, for whom he pulled a tooth. He was active in town affairs, joined the Maine Medical Society early in its life and was admired and respected. (The Maine Medical Society, properly the Medical Society of Maine, was founded in 1820 and stopped meeting in 1845, eight years before the present Maine Medical Association was organized.)

MAIN SOURCES:

Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992);
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed. Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892);
Marriner, Ernest, Kennebec Yesterdays (1954);

Websites, miscellaneous.

Schutte makes the deans’ list at Azusa Pacific University

Sidney resident Anna Schutte made the academic deans’ list at Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa, California. An English major, Schutte is honored for a fall semester 2019 academic standing of a 3.5 or better grade-point average.

Azusa Pacific University is an evangelical, Christian university committed to God First and excellence in higher education. With 68 bachelor’s degrees, 48 master’s degrees, 18 certificates, 10 credentials, and 9 doctoral programs, the university offers its more than 10,000 students a quality education on campus, online, and at seven regional locations throughout Southern California.

Taylor Ferguson graduates from the University of New Hampshire

Taylor Ferguson, of Sidney, graduated from the University of New Hampshire, in Durham, New Hampshire, in December 2019. She earned a MS in Occupational Therapy.

Students who received the honor Summa Cum Laude graduated with a GPA of 3.85-4.0: Students who received the honor of Magna Cum Laude graduated with a GPA of 3.65-3.84; and students who received the honor of Cum Laude graduated with a GPA of 3.50-3.64.

Annual Polar Bear Dip held during Maine Pond Hockey Classic

Colby football players Travon Bradford and DJ O’Donnell, make their plunge. (photo by Missy Brown,
Central Maine Photography staff)

by Mark Huard

The 27th Annual Polar Bear Dip took place on Sunday February 9 at the Snow Pond Center for the Arts in Sidney.

The event helped raise $23,500 and had 114 dippers, Colby College Sports brought 68 dippers and raised over $4,000 by itself! 92 Moose’s Cooper Fox was live streaming throughout, and between the all weekend Pond Hockey Classic and the Dip, over $55k was raised. The event would not be successful without the hard work and support of site sponsor Snow Pond Center for the Arts and lead Dip Sponsors, Hannaford, Maine­General, and Nicholson, Michaud & Co.

Colby men’s hockey team. (photo by Central Maine Photography)

The Silver Street Tavern team won most money earned for the fifth year in a row with $7,400, led by team captain and highest raising individual with $3,900, Tony Tuell.

The Colby men’s hockey entry in the tournament included, front, from left to right, Reed Spear, Chase Lawler and Max Poulin, all CMYHA Mites. Back, Paddy Daley, Sean Holly and Mark Leprine. (photo by Sarah Fredette,
Central Maine Photography staff)

The challenge between Alfond Youth & Community Center CEO Ken Walsh and incoming board chairman Amy Bernatchez, ended in a tie of $2,400 each, thanks to a last minute pledge to do just that; however, Amy pulled out a secret $500 donation from Golden Pond Wealth Management to best Ken, who went into the sink, ‘70s wig, glitter jumpsuit and all. Then, as a show of solidarity and just to prove she could, Amy jumped in, too.

Best costumes included the AYCC Wellness team’s ‘80s workout theme, the afterschool program’s pink T’s decorated by Club kids, and the KVYMCA cape donned Super Hero Dippers, with honorable mentions to Colby football teams’ banana and football-shaped entries.

With over a dozen belly flops, an impressive Timber! Fall and too many cannonballs to count, Best Dips went to American Heritage Tour Director Kurt Mathies for most water displaced, Silver Street/Charlie’s Mules Tony Tuell for staying in the water while his team of ten jumped in individually, and the entire Colby men’s soccer team for twirls and flips that impressed us all.

Top prizes included a four-person portable hot tub (won by Tony) donated by Lowe’s and gift cards donated by Marden’s, Portland Pie, Amici’s Cucina, The Proper Pig, and Silver Street Tavern – each accompanied by its very own mini-Oscar.

And once again, thank you, Delta Ambulance for being on hand and not being needed (phew).

All money raised directly fund the Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA of Greater Waterville’s Kid’s Kitchen, which serves more than 85,000 free, hot, nutritious meals and snacks annually to an average of 200 at risk children daily. Over 65 percent of these children say this is their last meal of the day. In addition, every weekend 125 families receive a meal supplement backpack through the center’s Weekend Meals Backpack program. Every $5 donation fills a backpack for a family of three for the weekend, according to a news release from the club.

AYCC Childcare leadership team, Chrissy Johnson, Bobbi Pelletier and DJ Adams, take the dip. (photo by Missy Brown, Central Maine Photography staff)

Sidney sisters build shelters for Benton dogs

Sierra, left, and Macie begin assembling their project. (Contributed photo)

by Eric Westbye

As the Christmas season approaches, two local teenage sisters from Sidney are giving back to the community in a big way. Sierra Gagnon, 17, and her sister, Macie, 15, have grown up in a family that stresses giving and putting others first. This is evidenced by what they did recently for some dogs at a local shelter.

The entire Gagnon family, mother Tricia, left, and dad Jason, back, help Macie and Sierra in their project. (Contributed photo)

Last month, Sierra and Macie volunteered at Charley’s Strays, a dog shelter in Benton. They spent several hours walking dogs on a cold November Saturday and while they were there they noticed that some of the outdoor dog houses could use a makeover. They decided to take matters into their own hands and build some new homes for the dogs.

With a little help from their dad, Jason, and some donated material from Hammond Lumber, they were able to build three new, insulated, heavy duty dog houses. Three weeks ago they proudly brought the houses to the shelter.

They built each house in three parts, and along with their dad and mom, Jason and Tricia Gagnon, they assembled them on site. They designed the houses with three specific dogs in mind: two are huskies that enjoy being outside almost all winter, but will enjoy the winter even more now that they have insulated homes!

Far too often teenagers these days are labeled as self-absorbed and lazy. Not enough attention is given to the kids that do the right thing every day. These two girls are an example for us all that change starts with the person in the mirror and everyone can do something to make the world a better place.

Macie, left, and Sierra Gagnon with the completed dog houses. (Contributed photo)

Unsung heroes: our amazing school librarians

Each school is staffed by dedicated professionals who give so much to the students

by Mandi Favreau

If you go into any school in RSU #18, it doesn’t take long to find the hub of the action. There are a few common telltale signs: the space is always welcoming, it’s full of books, and each one is staffed by dedicated professionals who give so much to our students. Our librarians and library assistants across the district do a wonderful job providing classroom support and bringing educational opportunities to everyone from our pre-k students to our community members. They are there for our students in so many ways, and we cannot say enough about all the good they do.

For the last four years, Kathryn Bailey has overseen the libraries at our elementary schools in Oakland, Belgrade, and Sidney. During that time Kate has been instrumental in creating reading spaces, developing opportunities for families to read together before and during school, and organizing and finding funding for numerous authors’ visits. “Kate works hard, at each school, to provide a functional and inviting library that supports school curriculum and recreational reading,” said Belgrade Community School Principal Gwen Bacon.

“She somehow finds the time to collaborate on projects and develop relationships with instructional coaches, building administrators, teaching staff and other district library staff.”  Kate works with a gifted team of library assistants across much of the district. In each location, they provide learning displays and activities, coordinate the student choice book awards and the scholastic book fairs, and support teaching curriculum.

Atwood Primary School is where the weekly Rise and Read program was first started by Kate Bailey and Amy Grenier. “All Atwood students and their families are invited into our library where they are warmly welcomed and they get to listen to a wonderful story to begin their day,” said Jennifer McGee, Atwood Principal. Recently, the Atwood library has also started hosting a monthly reading event with the Snow Pond Senior Center where senior volunteers come to read with the students.

At BCS, Rita Daniels is at the helm of day-to-day operations. This year, Rita’s focus has been on coordinating with teachers to encourage increased library time for students. Rita is also a dedicated staff member who is always coming up with new ways to improve morale and goes above and beyond to help anyone at BCS. “Rita is integral to our building and student success,” said BCS Guidance Counselor Jamie Wade. “With her positive mindset and team approach, she is a pleasure to work with each and every day!”

Lisa Dugal, the James H. Bean School library assistant, wears many hats. She works with the kindergartners during the daily intervention block, assists teachers by gathering books and videos to augment their units, and is always the first to volunteer if a recess or lunch duty needs covering. She even makes sure students’ birthdays are special through the “Birthday Book Club.” “She goes above and beyond with everything that she does,” said Principal Erica St.Peter. “It is impossible to capture all of the little things that Lisa does on a daily basis to ignite the love of reading in our students at Bean.”

The Williams Elementary School library is run by Rose Smith. Smith and Bailey facilitate book talks during W.I.N (What I Need) time to provide practice in active listening, processing, and comprehension. They do so much to get students excited about new books that come in. “Our librarians offer read-ins to our students and teachers which incorporate read-alouds, book trailers, and independent reading,” said WES Principal Melanie Smith. Students even get to wear their pajamas at read-ins to give them that cozy and festive feel.

Sonja Boudreau, the librarian “par excellence” at both China schools, does so much to instill the love of the written word in her students. “Last year, author Lynn Plourde read her books and conducted writing workshops with our students,” said China Primary School Principal Darlene Pietz. “What a great experience for our children!”

Mrs. Boudreau also facilitates several structured study halls, oversees reading interventions, and teaches a library skills class to all the fifth-grade students. “When students arrive at middle school for the first time, they welcome the familiar friendly face of Mrs. Boudreau, who has already instilled the love of books in so many of them at the primary school,” said China Middle School Assistant Principal Meghan Murphy. “Her enthusiasm for books and learning is truly contagious to all that enter her library.”

“Libraries are the cornerstones of our schools,” adds Messalonskee Middle School Principal Mark Hatch. He describes the MMS librarians, Rebecca Cobban and Denise Rivard, as “masters of information” and a great resource and support for MMS students. They are dedicated to helping teachers find the right information to tackle any topic and teaching students to recognize bias and false information so they can get to the true facts. He adds that librarians can be “the key holders to the love of reading” by finding the right books to spark students’ interest. “For all these reasons and more our librarians should be the ‘Most Sung Heroes’ of our schools.”

The Messalonskee High School library has long been the domain of Sylvia Jadczak and Kiri Guyaz. The two women create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that many students seek out. The space is set up to make it possible for group work, club meetings, class lessons, and independent reading or study to happen comfortably all at the same time. Anyone can request a book, whether for reading or pleasure, and Jadczak will find a way to get it. She often takes extra time to write grants to supplement the book budget for this very purpose. The library also hosts various education opportunities during lunch, including basic healthy cooking lessons, the ever-popular lunchtime music series, and guest speakers on any topic imaginable.

The latest addition to these activities is the return of Lunchtime Forums where students learn how to discuss tough topics in a diplomatic way. “Sylvia is an advocate for all our students and will go the extra mile to help a student in need,” said Paula Callan, MHS Principal. “Kiri has worked with students outside of the library through her photography club. Both ladies play an integral role in our school.”

There is absolutely no way to fully capture the scope of what these amazing people do in our district. From daily operations to taking the time to connect to a student in need or working to instill a love of reading in all our students, our librarians are true educational heroes and we are grateful for them.

Lauren Pickett earns spot on Assumption women’s lacrosse team

The Assumption Department of Athletics, in Worcester, Massachusetts, has announced that Lauren Pickett, of Sidney, has earned a spot on the 2019 Assumption Women’s Lacrosse team. Pickett, class of 2022, will compete during the Greyhounds’ spring season.

Assumption Women’s Lacrosse, picked sixth in the Northeast-10 Preseason Coaches’ Poll, won their first five games of the season. The team’s impressive start earned the program its first top-ten ranking in school history, ranking ninth in the in the latest Nike/US Lacrosse Magazine Poll.

McGlauflin graduates from Emerson College

Paige McGlauflin from Sidney recently graduated from Emerson College, in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a BS degree in journalism.

Paige McGlauflin named to Emerson College dean’s list

Paige McGlauflin, a resident of Sidney, has been named to the Emerson College dean’s list for the Spring 2019 semester, in Boston, Massachusetts. McGlauflin is majoring in journalism. The requirement to make Emerson’s dean’s list is a grade point average of 3.7 or higher.

Colby-Sawyer College students fulfill internship requirement

Internships are field experiences designed to provide a student learning opportunity under collaborative supervision between Colby-Sawyer College faculty, staff, in New London, New Hampshire, and work site professionals. Internships offer opportunities for students to enhance their academic programs with work experience related to career interests in all industry areas in national and international settings.

Haley Carver, of Sidney, is completing Colby-Sawyer College’s internship requirement at Northern Light Health Inland Hospital, in Waterville. Carver is majoring in sociology and is a member of the class of 2020.

Chelsea Perry, of Oakland, is completing Colby-Sawyer College’s internship requirement at MaineGeneral Health, in Waterville. Perry is majoring in business administration and is a member of the class of 2021.