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/.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Mail delivery – Conclusion

Augusta Post Office, built in 1886, depicted on a post card.

by Mary Grow

The previous article talked about postal service in the southern part of the central Kennebec Valley. This article completes the story with summary postal histories of Sidney, Fairfield, Benton, and Clinton, plus miscellaneous notes.

As mentioned in last week’s article (see The Town Line, Oct. 15), Henry Kingsbury found Sidney had six post offices at various times. Alice Hammond built on his information in her history of Sidney to provide additional information on several of them.

The earliest Sidney post office dated from 1813, when Stephen Springer became postmaster on March 13. It was on River Road, location unspecified.

The Sidney post office was probably toward the southern end of town, because Hammond wrote that the North Sidney post office opened in January 1854 toward the north end of River Road. According to Kingsbury, first Postmaster John Merrill served until August 1867, when Stephen Springer took over and served for almost 16 years. (With a 41-year interval between appointments, it was probably not the same Stephen Springer.)

Meanwhile, the Sidney Centre post office opened at Bacon’s Corner, on Middle Road, in 1827. (Google locates Bacon’s Corner at the intersection of Middle Road with Dinsmore and Shepherd roads, not far south of the James H. Bean School.)

Four years later, in 1831, the West Sidney post office opened for the first time. Hammond wrote that it had the distinction of being discontinued four times “for want of a proper person to run” such an undistinguished and unprofitable operation. (A contemporary map on line identifies West Sidney as the intersection of the south end of Pond Road with Route 127.)

Sidney’s fifth post office was named Eureka – Hammond gave no explanation — and was on the north end of Middle Road, toward the Oakland line. Opened in 1879, closed in 1886 and reopened in 1887, it closed for good in 1902.

The final Sidney post office, which operated only from 1891 to 1902, was named Lakeshore. Neither Hammond nor Kingsbury suggested a location; presumably the lake referred to was Snow Pond (Messalonskee Lake).

Hammond wrote that Martha C. Bacon was the first Lakeshore postmaster; Moses Sawtelle followed her, but she had the job back when the office closed permanently in 1902. Hammond’s history has a photo of former post office “pigeon holes” – rows of open-front wooden boxes that appear to be four or five inches square – in the Bacon house.

The Fairfield bicentennial history lists seven post offices serving seven villages: Fairfield, Fairfield Corners, Kendall’s Mills (now downtown Fairfield), East Fairfield, North Fairfield, Larone and Somerset Mills (now Shawmut). The Fairfield post office was established in 1807; in 1872, the name was changed to Fairfield Center.

The Fairfield Corners post office (1822 to 1882) was at what is now Nye’s Corner, on the Kennebec between Shawmut and East Fairfield.

The Kendall’s Mills post office is undated; the history says its name was changed to Fairfield in 1872. It was relocated at least twice before 1938, when the current building, which the history says cost $50,000, came into use in January.

East Fairfield is now Hinckley. The Fairfield history has an undated photo of a large three-story building with two-story and one-story annexes, identified as Palmer’s Store and the Hinckley post office.

The history gives no date for the establishment of the post office in the mostly Quaker North Fairfield settlement. It closed in 1908; a 1913 photo of the village shows the building and adjacent store.

Waterville Post Office, built in 1911, as seen in this 1960s photo.

There are no dates for the Larone post office, either. The history says after the village grew enough to rate mail service, two residents of nearby Norridgewock helped villagers petition successfully to get mail delivered by the stagecoach that ran from Waterville to Norridgewock.

The Shawmut post office was called Somerset Mills from 1853 to 1889, when it became Shawmut.

Clinton’s mail was carried after 1816 by a horseback rider going from Winslow to Bangor, Kingsbury wrote. The earliest of Clinton’s three post offices was established June 13, 1836, at East Clinton (after July 2, 1842, simply Clinton), and the rider began coming twice a week. About 1850, the stagecoach driver going from Augusta to Bangor became the mail carrier.

On June 10, 1825, the Pishon’s Ferry or North Clinton post office opened on the east bank of the Kennebec River opposite Hinckley. The third post office, at Morrison Corner, was established Nov. 10, 1891, Kingsbury wrote. (The contemporary Google map shows Morrison Corner as the intersection of Battle Ridge, Peavey and Hinckley roads.)

Benton separated from Clinton in March 1842, was Sebasticook for eight years and in March 1850 became Benton. According to Kingsbury, the first two of its four post offices also had a habit of changing their names.

Post office number one was established July 29, 1811, as Clinton; became Sebasticook May 11, 1842; and became Benton June 1, 1852. Post office number two opened Aug. 5, 1858, as East Benton; became Preston Corner on Dec. 28, 1887 (Daniel Preston was postmaster); and was changed back to East Benton May 29, 1891.

The other two post offices were at Benton Falls, opened May 31, 1878, and Benton Station, opened Jan. 27, 1888.

*  *  *  *  *

The rural free delivery (RFD) system began operating in Sidney and Vassalboro in 1901, Hammond and Alma Pierce Robbins wrote. Mail from Augusta was distributed to roadside boxes in those two towns. In 1902, Oakland and Waterville also began RFD service, with the north end of Sidney getting mail from both. As Hammond describes the expansion of the service in Sidney, service from Augusta replaced the Sidney and Sidney Centre post offices in 1901 and the West Sidney post office in 1902; Waterville replaced North Sidney in 1902; and Oakland took over Eureka and Lakeshore in 1902.

Ruby Crosby Wiggin wrote that RFD started in Albion July 1, 1903, with three mailmen, Charles Byther, Arthur Skillin and Elmer Wiggin. Each mailman was directed to ask residents on his route to buy and put up a mailbox. Historian Wiggin quotes mailman Wiggin’s account of the resident who scoffed at this new idea and promised to buy a mailbox after he saw Wiggin delivering the mail.

In Palermo, Milton Dowe wrote, a petition to institute RFD was circulated early in the 20th century; there was a lot of opposition, but the system was inaugurated on Nov. 15, 1904. The East and Center Palermo post offices were discontinued immediately; the one at North Palermo stayed open a few years longer.

*  *  *  *  *

Waterville, like Augusta, has a historic post office building, located at 1 Post Office Square, in the southern triangle of the X-shaped intersection of Main Street, Elm Street, Upper Main Street and College Avenue. The elaborate one-story masonry building, now housing commercial establishments, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 18, 1977.

Wikipedia says the Greek Revival building was built in 911; the architect was James Knox Taylor. Taylor was the supervising architect for the U. S. Treasury Department from 1897 to 1912, giving him credit for hundreds of federal buildings all over the country.

Waterville’s current post office at 33 College Avenue was officially named the George J. Mitchell Post Office Building by an act of Congress approved Sept. 6, 1995. (See The Town Line, July 23, for information on the former Senator.)

*  *  *  *  *

Current post offices in the central Kennebec valley in 2020, alphabetical by town or city, from U. S. Postal Service websites:

Albion: 36 Main Street. ZIP 04910

Augusta:

Augusta: 40 Western Avenue. ZIP 04330
Water Street: 295 Water Street. ZIP 04330

Benton apparently does not have a post office within town boundaries. ZIP 04901.

China:

China Village, 19 Main Street. ZIP 04926.
South China, 382 Route 3. ZIP 04358.

Clinton: 15 Railroad Street. ZIP 04937.

Fairfield:

Fairfield: 130 or 132 (sources disagree) Main Street. ZIP 04937.

Hinckley: 753 Skowhegan Road. ZIP 04944.

Shawmut: 117 Bray Avenue. ZIP 04975.

Palermo: 111 Branch Mills Road. 04354.

Sidney apparently does not have a post office within town boundaries. ZIP 04330.

Vassalboro:

East Vassalboro: 361 Main Street. ZIP 04935.

Vassalboro: 25 Alpine Street. ZIP 04989.

North Vassalboro: 847 Main Street. ZIP 04962.

Waterville: 33 College Avenue. ZIP 04901 (P.O. Boxes 04903.).

Windsor: 519 Ridge Road. ZIP 04363.

Winslow: 107 Clinton Avenue (in The 107 convenience store, by contract). ZIP 04901.

Main sources

Dowe, Milton E., Palermo, Maine Things That I Remember in 1996 (1997).
Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield, Maine 1788-1988 (1988)
Grow, Mary M., China Maine Bicentennial History including 1984 revisions (1984).
Hammond, Alice, History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 (1992).
Howard, Millard, An Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine (second edition, December 2015).
Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
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.

Anna Schutte makes the deans’ list at Azusa Pacific University

Anna Schutte makes the deans’ list at Azusa Pacific University

Sidney resident, Anna Schutte, was named to the academic deans’ list at Azusa Pacific College, 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. Schutte is joined by 2,171 other students receiving the same honor.

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.

Local scouts rally in attempt to save Camp Bomazeen

(left to right) Dalton Curtis, Zachary LeHay and Connor Keimel

Submitted by Chuck Mahalaris

Scouts from across the area are busy working on a new and difficult project. If they are successful, there is no merit badge for them to receive but something even better. They hope to save their beloved Scout Camp – Camp Bomazeen.

Dalton Curtis, of Skowhegan, Dawson White, of Sidney, and Zachary LeHay, of Oakland, are some of the Scouts who have begun circulating a petition to save Camp Bomazeen. The Scouts visited leaders during the recent Kennebec Valley District Scouter Recognition Dinner/ Program Kick Off at Camp Bomazeen. They asked them to sign the petition that night and to ask if any Scouts in their Pack and Troop want to help collect more signatures in their area. The petitions will be presented to the Pine Tree Council Executive Board at an upcoming meeting. In July, the council executive board voted to sell the camp this year – its 75th anniversary since opening.

Life Scout Connor Keimel, of Troop #401, Sidney, is one of the Scouts taking part in the petition drive and said, “Bomazeen has been a camp that I have gone to for so many years. I have made so many memories here. It would be such a shame if other Scouts coming forward didn’t have the opportunity to go there.” Eagle Scout Dalton Curtis, of Troop #485, in Skowhegan, said he learned to swim at Bomazeen and he loves all of the aquatics activities. Zachary LeHay, a Second Class Scout, from Oakland, said that he enjoys the camp in all the seasons. He has taken part in winter camping trips there and week-long summer camp experiences. Star Scout Dawson White, of Troop #401, in Sidney, loves the shooting sports program at Camp Bomazeen. “I have never been to another Scout camp. I just love it and would hate to lose it.”

Dalton’s mother, Tammy James, said that he has been working hard on collecting signatures but it has been hard with Covid-19. “Some people aren’t really happy about us going to their doors even with masks on,” she said. “But he is continuing to work on his sheet and will be bringing it to the troop leaders’ meeting. He really has gotten so much from his time at Camp Bomazeen. He would live there if he could.”

Former Camp Bomazeen Director Bruce Rueger, of Waterville, praised the Scouts for their effort. “I was heartened to see the Scouts doing this,” Rueger said. “They clearly have formed a strong bond with the camp. I think that is what happens. You spend so much of your time camping at Bomazeen, taking part in camporees there, working on merit badges there, learning about nature, exploring the world around you and discovering things about yourself as you do – it becomes a part of who you are and you want to preserve it for others. Camp Bomazeen has given to them and generations that have come before them and now they want to give back when Bomazeen needs their help the most. Bomazeen has made a remarkable difference in so many people’s lives since it was given to Scouting by Dr. Averill in 1944. Some of our Scouts went on to serve in the military, help the needy and run large corporations. Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro, in Pittsfield, was a Bomazeen Scout in 1959 as was his son and grandson as well. ”

Chris Bernier, of Winslow, runs the Bushcraft Program at Bomazeen which is a living history program designed to teach Scouts skills such as Native lore, blacksmithing, outdoor cooking, muzzle-loading, basket-making, metal working, woodworking, candle making, to hide tanning. The program transports Scouts from today back to the pioneer days of the 1840s. Before joining the staff, Bernier was a Scout at Camp Bomazeen. “I think that the Scouts wish to do this it is a great way for them to practice citizenship,” Bernier said. “They see something wrong and they are peacefully trying to make it better. They wish to see an active change and to do so in this manner is practicing what they learned in their citizenship badges. In this case Citizenship in the Community – the community of Scouting for them and future Scouts.”

Scouts from several communities including Jackman, Skowhegan, Sidney, Oakland, and Augusta are working the petitions that they began circulating on August 12. They hope to convince the Scouting Executive Board to reconsider their vote to sell the camp and, if not, that they hope to convince whatever entity buys the property to allow the Scouts to continue to use it as they have for the past 75 years.

For those who would like to lend their name to the petition but would not like a Scout to visit due to Covid-19 concerns, email FriendsofBomazeen@gmail.com or send a message to the Facebook page Friends of Bomazeen. Be sure to include your name, town and what Bomazeen means to you.

Area scouts receive recognition for patch design

Scott Adams, left, head of the Bomazeen Old Timers, of China, presenting check to Zachary LeHay, of Troop #401, from Sidney. (contributed photo)

New design to celebrate 75 years of Camp Bomazeen

Patch is the design from Dalton Curtis that will be used by the Bomazeen Old Timers to fundraise for their efforts to provide ongoing support for Camp Bomazeen.

Scouts Dalton Curtis, of Skowhegan Troop #485, and Zachary LeHay, of Sidney Troop #401, both received $75 prizes from the Bomazeen Old Timers on August 12 during a special presentation at Camp Bomazeen. The Scouts had drawn the two winning patch designs during the camp’s 75th anniversary season celebration.

Initially, they were to receive $75 camperships to attend Camp Bomazeen but when the camp did not open due to Covid-19, Scott Adams, of China, head of the Bomazeen Old Timers, opted to present both Curtis and LeHay with their prize during the annual Kennebec Valley District Scout Leader Re­cog­nition Dinner/ Program Kick-Off.

Curtis had planned to work at Camp Bomazeen’s kitchen this summer and LeHay was planning to attend with his troop. Adams said the patches will be used to help raise money for the Bomazeen Old Timers, which is a group of camp alumni dedicated to help the camp.

Submitted by Chuck Mahaleris

Scott Adams, left, head of the Bomazeen Old Timers, of China, presenting check to Dalton Curtis, of Troop #485, from Skowhegan. (contributed photo)

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.