The Common Ground Country Fair, the premier educational event of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), will be held online September 25-27, 2020.
April Boucher, MOFGA’s Fair Director, noted, “While we can’t gather together in person this year, many aspects of the Fair will be available online, including iconic and educational content that folks look forward to year after year.” Additional resources specific to the Fair are available in the fall issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener newspaper. An online marketplace of fair vendors, will run from September 25, 2020, through January 8, 2021, and offers shoppers the opportunity to support local businesses that would typically participate at the Fair, including farmers, crafters, nonprofit educational organizations and more.
The 2020 Common Ground Country Fair artwork features bee balm and bees.
The schedule of live presentations, released earlier today, offers three full days of content related to gardening, farming and sustainable living. The schedule is available at fair.mofga.org and video will be streamed there and on MOFGA’s Facebook and YouTube pages. In addition to keynote addresses each day at 11 a.m. there is a great mix of educational and entertaining content lined up. Learn how to plant garlic, make a sweet annie crown, bake bread, ferment vegetables and so much more! Plus, the ever-popular sheep dog demonstrations will take place each day.
This year’s keynote speakers highlight a mix of national perspectives on farming and gardening in diverse communities. Friday’s keynote speaker, Leah Penniman, is a Black Kreyol farmer/peyizan, author, and food justice activist from Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, New York, and is the author of Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land. Saturday’s speaker is Barbara Damrosch, farmer and co-owner of Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine, author of The Garden Primer and Theme Gardens and co-author of The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook. She has also served as MOFGA’s board president. Sunday’s speaker, Winona LaDuke, is a rural development economist and author working on issues of Indigenous economics, food, and energy policy. LaDuke lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota and is executive director of Honor the Earth.
Members of the MOFGA community are also developing additional content that will be available via an online library on the Fair website. All are encouraged to grow and submit items for the online exhibition hall, submit photos for the online garden parade, share poetry and fair stories and more.
Sarah Alexander, executive director of MOFGA, shared, “We’re hoping that the online fair will still provide a sense of community and engagement related to everyone’s favorite activities from the Fair.”
Regarding the earlier published information about Share the Road with Carol memorial ride event in Windsor, on September 13, 2020. Due to the COVID 19, 100-person outdoor event limit, and the number of volunteers needed to make this event safe, the event has had to cap rider registration at 75.
With overwhelming early turnout and online registration near its cap, unfortunately there will be NO same day registration. If you are interested in riding, check the registration site to see if slots are available: www.BikeReg.com/share-the-road-with-carol. If you miss this year, please join them in 2021.
by Gerald Day
Let me give you an idea of what it was like living in a small town in Maine in the early ‘40s and ‘50s. This was a long time before computers, cellphones and TVs in every home. I was in high school before we had a TV and they were nothing like we watch today. I have some vivid memories of that time.
In those years, each town had individual schools in each area of town and ours was called Windsor Neck Grammar School. The reason we had so many schools was because we didn’t have transportation like we have now. Students had to be able to walk to school. The ratio of teachers to students back then was six to one. Teachers of today would love to have that kind of ratio.
Our teacher, Mrs. Jones, knew each student, as she had seen us grow up from cute children to brats as we got older. Nowadays, they would call myself and my brother troublemakers. We just had busy hands and minds so the teacher gave us projects to do.
One of the first tasks I was assigned was to erase the blackboard. (Remember, there were no computers back then.) I did a good job doing that. So good that she thought I might be able to start the wood burning stove in the morning, as that was how we heated the school. Everything was going fine until hunting season, a time when all the boys old enough carried some ammunition around with them.
We were so young the grown ups only let us use .22 low caliber rifles, which contained about 20 grains of powder and were better suited to target practice than to hunting.
One morning while I was starting the fire, my brother threw a .22 caliber bullet into the fire. Well, in a short time there was a small bang and a “ting” sound, that was all.
A couple of weeks later my brother came to school with a .30-.30 caliber hunting rifle cartridge, which has about seven times the gun powder of the .22 caliber. While I was reaching for more wood, he threw the .30-.30 round into the stove. It didn’t go off like the .22 had. We thought it was a dud. Mrs. Jones took roll call, which didn’t take that long with only six students, and there was still no explosion from the stove. I thought I had escaped my brother’s antics unscathed. Mrs. Jones began the morning lessons. Suddenly, the stove covers jumped up and back down with a clatter and sparks flew everywhere. Not phased, Mrs. Jones stood up from her desk and calmly walked over to examine the damage and the dent in the side of the stove. Without saying a word, she returned to her desk.
Then she looked at me. I knew I was in trouble when she motioned me over to her desk. She sent me to the storage room to sit facing the wall. She must have heard me going through stuff in the closet because she decided I needed to be where she could see me and soon had me stand in the corner facing the wall instead.
My brother started snickering at the trouble he had gotten me into. She told him to stop or he could stand in another corner. So he stopped.
I was not allowed to start the fire anymore.
Shortly after that we moved to the new consolidated grammar school. I was in the sixth-grade or seventh-grade, maybe age eight or nine. That was 1946, 74 years ago. When Mrs. Jones and her sister retired from teaching, they opened a restaurant on Route 17. It is still in operation today under the name of “Priscilla’s Diner.” Maybe you have eaten there.
We would do anything to get money for school clothing. Daily, I worked on a farm, milking cows at 4 a.m. and again at 4 p.m., seven days a week. It took about two hours for each milking. Every six weeks, when a farm needed help cleaning out their chicken barns, I’d help there, also. They raised 6,000 chicks, called broilers, and they kept them for six weeks until fully grown. Then the chickens were picked up for processing. The week after they were picked up and prior to the arrival of the next batch, the barns had to be cleaned and made ready for the new chicks. When Gray’s or Scott’s blueberry fields needed blueberry rakers, we did that, too.
By my second year in high school I was tired of small jobs and having no money. I went to the Edwards Cotton Mill, in Augusta, to get a job working from 4 to 11 p.m. I continued to go to school until I started falling asleep in class. The school found out I was working in the mill so they called and made the mill let me go.
When I was 17-1/2 years old, and could go into the military with a parent’s consent, my mother signed for me and away I went to the U.S. Air Force to make it a career.
The fourth annual Share the Road with Carol memorial bike ride will take place on Sunday, September 13. Share the Road with Carol is an all ages commemorative bike ride planned for Sunday, September 13, 2020, in Windsor and Whitefield. The ride, which has 12-mile and 27-mile options, starts and ends at the Windsor Town Office.
This annual ride honors the memory of Carol Eckert, M.D. Carol was tragically killed as a result of a bike accident that occurred in Windsor on October 10, 2016. Biking was Carol’s passion and all are invited who feel the same to join in remembrance of a life well pedaled and to further the cause of bicycle safety in Maine.
The registration fee has been lowered from $25 to $20 for adults. In addition, any person under 15 years of age can now ride for only $10 when accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Register online (https://www.BikeReg.com/share-the-road-with-carol) or at the event from 7:30-8:30 a.m. (pre-registration is encouraged). COVID-19 mitigation measures will be followed; participants are asked to bring and wear face coverings while not riding (masks will be available for those who forget) and follow social distancing protocols.
Author Michael R. Goodwin is excited to announce his debut fiction novel, The Liberty Key.
The story is set in fictional Hamilton, Maine, and focuses on Spencer, who buys a house to fulfill a promise to his deceased wife and child, who he lost tragically years prior. Shortly after moving in he learns that his house has the ability to heal and restore itself. When he finds a skeleton key that has powers of its own, he uncovers dark secrets about the house’s past and is taken on a journey that forces him to confront the darkness within himself.
The Liberty Key is a genre-defying novel that is captivating and fast-paced. It aims to satisfy all readers, but especially those who enjoy books by Dan Simmons, Peter Straub, and Stephen King.
Michael grew up in Auburn, and moved to Windsor in 2019 when he married his wife Jessica. Jessica comes from a large family with longtime roots in the Windsor community.
As a writer, Michael’s career started in 2008 when he began writing an online blog under a pseudonym. He wrote there for several years, its rising popularity leading him to publish articles on such sites as GoodMenProject.com and TheFatherLife.com. These articles gained enough interest on their own to land an interview with the Chicago Tribune. He published a collection of short stories in 2011, and released his first novel, The Liberty Key, earlier this year.
For more information about the author, or to purchase a copy of his book, please visit his website: www.michaelrgoodwin.com.
A dozen Windsor voters, mostly masked, who spaced themselves around the Windsor School gymnasium were in an agreeable mood at the July 15 town meeting.
Supplemented by four selectmen and several town employees, they voted unanimously in favor of every warrant article except one. That one they voted unanimously against; moderator Jeffrey Frankel even asked for a revote to make sure he hadn’t missed a murmured dissent.
The defeated article was the annual one asking voters to override the state-set limit on the amount of spending from taxation. Assessor’s assistant Vern Ziegler said previously-approved spending for 2020-21 was more than $900,000 under the limit, so the article was unnecessary.
Normally a written vote is required on the spending limit, but Frankel said Governor Janet Mills waived the requirement to minimize contact among voters and staff.
Most of the articles dealt with the 2020-21 budget. Voters agreed to put $446,000 into eight different reserve funds; approved requested expenditures, with public works, administration and the transfer station being the most expensive areas; and bought the public works department a new plow truck for $175,000, with $100,000 coming from the truck replacement reserve fund and $75,000 to be borrowed over three years.
The spending article that took the most time, because each item in it needed an individual vote, was the appropriation of $3,450 to nine out-of-town social service agencies that serve Windsor residents.
Meeting attendees got information about town business from Town Manager Theresa Haskell’s opening statement and from answers to questions raised as articles were briefly discussed.
Haskell said town officials had prepared a pre-Covid-19 budget that they revised downward beginning in mid-March. The budget approved at the meeting had $293 less in expenditures than the 2019-20 budget, she said.
Two articles generated questions about cemeteries, specifically lot sales and maintenance. Each answer included, “Talk to Joyce,” meaning cemetery sexton Joyce Perry. Selectman Ronald Brann praised Perry’s work.
The Veterans’ Memorial Fund got $10,000 from voters. Haskell said with previous private donations and town appropriations there is enough money for the memorial itself; future fund-raising will provide a base, ground work and lighting, followed by a wall and a parking area.
Haskell said the town crew has finished roadside mowing. Voters asked why Routes 32 and 105 were still overgrown.
They’re the State of Maine’s responsibility, Haskell replied. Routes 32 and 17 are state roads, and the state is responsible for year-round maintenance. Route 105 is a state aid road with shared maintenance: the town plows it, but the state does summer work. She blamed Covid-19 for state workers being behind schedule this year.
The town meeting opened a couple minutes after its announced 6:30 p.m. start and adjourned at 7:50 with a round of applause for moderator Frankel.
The July 15 open meeting was preceded by a July 14 written-ballot local election, with no contests on the ballot.
Brann and Richard H. Gray, Jr., were re-elected for three-year terms as selectmen. Successful write-in candidates for the budget committee were Robert Holt, Tom McNaughton and Jeremy St. Onge. Ryan Carver was unopposed for a seat on the Regional School Unit (RSU) #12 school budget committee.
This series has repeatedly mentioned the Kennebec Proprietors. It is now time to backtrack to the 18th century, to find out who they were and why they are mentioned in almost every history of the State of Maine and in most local histories of Kennebec Valley towns and cities.
The initial group, the Plymouth Colony, was chartered in 1606 by King James I of England. The king gave it and its companion London Company, whose first settlers came to Virginia, control of most of eastern North America.
In a series of grants and sales in following years, the land went successively to the new Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts; to the Council for New England (1620-1635, a London-based joint stock company headed by Ferdinando Gorges, with a royal charter to promote American settlement) and to the Boston-based New Plymouth Company.
The Council for New England set up other land companies, including the Pejepscot Company, which was given a claim on the lower Kennebec and extended it upriver to Swan Island and Richmond, overlapping with the Kennebec Proprietors’ claim on the southwest.
On the east, the Waldo Patent, named for Bostonian Samuel Waldo, also overlapped in what is now Palermo and the surrounding area. According to one on-line source, the land was a gift to Waldo from Massachusetts for his help in deterring a 1729 attempt by King George II to establish a crown colony that would have been exempt from Massachusetts’ jurisdiction. Another source says the Surveyor of the King’s Woods (the person responsible for marking and protecting trees large enough to make masts for British Royal Navy ships) made a nuisance of himself, Waldo persuaded his British superiors to fire him and the appreciative heirs of a 1630 Waldo Patent rewarded Waldo with acreage.
The Plymouth grant extended up the Kennebec from Merrymeeting Bay to the falls at Norridgewock, already known as a Native and French settlement, and for 15 miles on each side of the river. Since the river’s windings were not well documented and the surrounding land not well known to Europeans, there was considerable uncertainty about the size (supposedly about 1.5 million acres) and shape of the grant.
The New Plymouth Company, with a gradually changing membership as newcomers bought or inherited shares, did little. In the fall of 1661, four Boston merchants bought the land rights for 400 pounds sterling. The beavers, basis for earlier fur trading, were by then in decline; the Bostonians’ plan was to use the timber resources, including as a basis for building ships, and in the future to encourage agriculture. They, too, failed to accomplish significant development.
Upriver settlement was discouraged by a series of wars with the Natives from the 1670s to 1763, including the four-war series beginning in 1688 that Americans call the French and Indian Wars. Maine Natives had support from the French, who had settled along the St. Lawrence River and disputed the British claims in northeastern North America.
The 1763 Treaty of Paris between the European rivals ceded Canada to the British and promoted settlement in Maine. (Many historians add that it contributed to Britain’s loss of the American colonies, because removal of the French threat made colonial leaders believe they no longer needed British military protection).
In the 1740s, a man named Samuel Goodwin, who had inherited half of a third of a quarter of a Plymouth Colony share, became interested in development along the Kennebec. After much searching, he found the original charter, which had been missing for decades, and in 1749 he and other heirs brought the New Plymouth Company back into business, beginning with a Sept. 21 organizational meeting in Boston.
In 1753, the Massachusetts General Court re-awarded the grant to “The Proprietors of Kennebeck Purchase from the late Colony of New Plymouth.” The name is shortened by historians to Kennebec Proprietors, Kennebec Company or Kennebec Purchase Company (sometimes Kennebeck) or Plymouth Colony or Plymouth Company, used interchangeably in discussing the period from 1753 to 1818, when the company disbanded.
Because settlement was slow to expand upriver to Norridgewock, the western boundary of the Kennebec Patent was not a big source of contention. The downriver line was intermittently challenged, especially by the Pejepscot Proprietors, leading to legal proceedings in America and in London.
In 1757, the boundary question was referred to a panel of lawyers. They confirmed the upriver boundary and defined the downriver end of the Kennebec patent on the east side of the river as the present northern boundary of Woolwich. The western boundary was defined as Lake Cobbaseconte (now Cobbosseecontee).
The Kennebec Proprietors brought settlement to much of the central Kennebec River area. Surveyors laid out lots along both sides of the river for miles, defining the 15-mile boundaries. The population had increased so much that Lincoln County was separated from York County in June 1760. By 1775, when the American Revolution began, Hallowell (including Augusta), Vassalboro (including Sidney) and Winslow (including Waterville) were incorporated as towns.
The Kennebec Proprietors reserved some lots in each new town for themselves. Some they gave away to encourage settlement, some they sold. A typical lot contained 100 acres; typical deed requirements included building a house of specified size and clearing a specified number of acres within a specified number of years. A settler or his heirs might be required to stay on the land for a specified term – two, three or seven years, sometimes longer. Often deeds included an obligation to help lay out roads, or provide for a church and minister, or both.
A complication was that some of the land the Kennebec Proprietors claimed, surveyed and gave away or sold was already occupied by Europeans. Some had bought their holdings from Natives. Some had deeds from other Europeans. Some had moved onto and improved a vacant tract and claimed squatters’ rights.
Native deeds had been a source of misunderstandings for years. When a Native chief “sold” part of his tribal land, he believed he was giving the European “buyer” the right to share the land equally with tribal members; and the right was valid only for the lifetime of each party. The European believed he acquired the exclusive right to live on and change the land forever, and to sell or will it to someone else.
The history of Windsor offers an example of transactions between European claimants with no involvement with the Kennebec Proprietors. As described in Linwood H. Lowden’s history of the town, in 1797 Ebenezer Grover and associates hired Josiah Jones to survey about 6,000 acres on the west side of the West Branch of the Sheepscot River in southern Windsor. They ended up with 33 Oak Hill lots, some individually owned and some held in common.
These lots were occupied or bought by families who became southern Windsor’s first settlers. Lowden points out that Grover had no legal right to survey or sell the land; indeed, he says, many of Grover’s deeds warned purchasers that Grover and his associates would not help them if the Kennebec Proprietors challenged their titles.
Jones did other, smaller surveys elsewhere in town, and Isaac Davis surveyed at least once, in northern Windsor.
In January 1802 the Kennebec Proprietors asked the Massachusetts General Court to appoint commissioners to deal with the people they saw as illegal squatters. The Proprietors also had their own survey done, laid out their version of lots (usually, Lowden says, smaller than the originals) and offered to sell them to the settlers.
A political and legal dispute followed, during which some of the settlers paid again for their land and the Proprietors evicted others for non-payment. The Proprietors were unpopular, to say the least; their local representatives and their surveyors, being available, were threatened and had their property destroyed.
The culminating event of the “Malta War,” as it is often called (Windsor was named Malta from March 1809 to March 1821), came on Sept. 8, 1808. Surveyor Isaac Davis, hired by a settler to determine lot lines so the settler could pay the Proprietors, was heading a crew on Windsor Neck that included a resident named Paul Chadwick. Other residents, armed and disguised as Natives, intercepted the party and shot Chadwick, who died three days later.
Nine local men were arrested and sent to the county jail in Augusta. Disturbance continued as rumors spread of a planned attack on the jail to rescue them. On Oct. 3 a mob gathered on the east bank of the Kennebec; in response, authorities called out the militia and placed cannons to defend the bridge if necessary.
The accused were all acquitted in November 1809, an outcome historian Lowden thinks was the best choice to ease tension. He also suggests the men were after Chadwick specifically, because he had opposed the surveys and then hired on to help Davis; and he speculates they did not intend murder.
In neighboring Palermo, the Proprietors’ demands led inhabitants to petition the Massachusetts General Court for help. Legislators set up a commission early in 1802 that assigned three local men to value properties, subject to approval by the Proprietors’ agent, and assigned three surveyors to fix settlers’ boundaries. Local historian Millard Howard lists more than 60 families who bought their homesteads, mostly 100 acres, for prices ranging from $25 to $155.
Although the larger Sheepscot Great Pond area, including present-day Palermo and Windsor, hosted groups most actively and violently opposed to the Kennebec Proprietors’ effort to claim land they thought was rightfully theirs, other parts of the valley were affected.
In Vassalboro, for example, historian Alma Pierce Robbins writes that the presence of squatters who built cabins and cleared farmland before Nathan Winslow’s 1761 survey for the Proprietors started a century of legal disputes over land ownership. Additionally, she says, in Vassalboro and elsewhere the British Crown’s claim to any tree large enough to become a ship’s mast bred resentment, since landowners (legal or otherwise) were not compensated for the timber.
(Dean Marriner recounts the later history of one lot in Dr. John McKechnie’s 1770 survey of the Waterville-Winslow area. A century later, he says, a lot owner claimed his boundary, as shown on the McKechnie survey, was wrong. He and his neighbor disputed it for more than two decades; he went to court six times, allegedly spending over $15,000 on legal fees, and lost every time.)
The Kennebec Valley settlers’ problems with the Proprietors on whose property they lived ended after 1813. A Massachusetts Commission recommended and the General Court approved an agreement giving the settlers their disputed holdings and giving the Proprietors Saboomook Township as compensation. (Saboomook Township has no web listings. It might be Seboomook, the unorganized township north of Moosehead Lake that hosted one of Maine’s four German prisoner of war camps from 1944 to 1946.)
Hammond, Alice History of Sidney Maine 1792-1992 1992
Howard, Millard An Introduction to the Early History of Palermo, Maine Second edition, December 2015
Kershaw, Gordon E. The Kennebeck Proprietors 1749-1775 1975
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
Marriner, Ernest Kennebec Yesterdays 1954
Williamson, William D. The History of the State of Maine from its First Discovery, A.D. 1602, to the Separation, A.D. 1620, Inclusive Vol. II 1832
Hussey’s General Store, at 510 Ridge Road (Route 32) just south of the Route 105 intersection, has a website and its own Wikipedia entry, both quoting the store’s slogan, “If we ain’t got it, you don’t need it.” The business has operated for 97 years and is now owned and managed by the third and fourth generations of the Hussey family.
Harland B. Hussey opened the original store in 1923 in a former stable in the northwest angle of the Windsor Corners intersection, Linwood H. Lowden says in good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993). Harland Hussey’s son, Elwin Hussey, recalls that the stable belonged to the Dutton family, who had for many years owned what Lowden calls the Haskell lot, where Hussey’s now stands. Lowden, who did his typical comprehensive research in deeds and other documents on the Haskell lot, writes that Harry Pinkham was running the Dutton store on the Haskell lot when it burned in 1923.
Harland Hussey, his son says, was a cousin of Pinkham’s wife and was running a car dealership half a mile south. He says Harland Hussey sold Stars and Durants (both manufactured in Lansing, Michigan by Durant Motors, Inc., from 1921 to 1931).
When Harland Hussey learned that Pinkham did not plan to rebuild, he bought the whole property, Elwin Hussey says, and opened his store. The stable-become-store building, which is now used as a warehouse, was expanded at least twice, Lowden writes, for the second time in 1947 when Elwin Hussey joined his father in the business.
Elwin and Shirley Hussey had two daughters and one son, whom they named Benjamin Jay. Jay Hussey’s daughter, Kristen (Hussey) Ballantyne, says her grandfather was born in 1923, the same year the store opened. He started working there in his ‘20s, as manager of the electronics and appliances department, and later took over the business.
In 1953 the family built the present store on the southwest corner of the intersection. Ballantyne says her great-grandmother, Harland Hussey’s wife Mildred, took advantage of the expanded space to start the store’s bridal business in 1953 and 1954, and in April 1954 organized a celebration of the new building and the new department.
Jay Hussey and Kristen Ballantyne now co-own the business. Ballantyne says she has worked in the store since childhood; after college, a short career in social work and marriage, she returned to Hussey’s in 2009 and describes herself as co-owner/general manager and overseer of the clothing and bridal departments. Her half-sister, Lindsay French Hannon, has worked in the bridal department for the past 10 years, she adds.
Lowden writes that the first Haskell store was started in 1837, where the north end of Hussey’s store is now, and by 1841 Ambrose Bryant had a second store on the next lot south, under the middle of present-day Hussey’s. Both disappeared in the early 1850s, and the lot was vacant until in September 1874 the Dutton building was moved from South Windsor.
Lowden quotes part of the description of the move from Roger Reeves’ diary (even though, he writes, it had previously been quoted in the Windsor sesquicentennial history). Reeves, who headed the movers, says the building was put onto skids and rollers, and 56 yokes (pairs) of oxen – “the best team that I ever saw together” – were able to move it; but there should have been another 60 oxen, in Reeves’ opinion.
The move took two full days. By the end of the first day, Reeves wrote, “Men worked hard and ate a barrel of crackers and most of a 46-pound cheese with codfish for dessert.” His comment at the end of the second day was, “There has been one heavy hauling without rum!”
Introduction: so far this series of historical essays has focused on towns along the central part of the Kennebec River between Augusta and Fairfield–Benton, and on the river itself. Next we’ll move inland to four towns farther east: Windsor, east of Augusta; China, east of Vassalboro; Albion, east of Winslow and southeast of Benton; and Palermo, east of China and barely touching Windsor on the southwest and Albion on the northwest.
Windsor, China and Albion are in Kennebec County; Palermo is in Waldo County. Windsor, China and Albion are in the watershed of the Sheepscot River. The main river flows southwest from Sheepscot Pond in Palermo; the West Branch originates in northwestern Palermo, flows through Branch Pond and joins the main river between Coopers Mills and North Whitefield.
Albion is in the Sebasticook River watershed; the Sebasticook flows into the Kennebec at Winslow.
* * * *
Unlike the Kennebec River towns, towns like Windsor were not always surveyed and settled from the coast or river inland. In his comprehensively researched good Land & fine Contrey but Poor roads a history of Windsor, Maine (1993), Linwood H. Lowden writes that Windsor was settled initially from Bristol via Whitefield to the south, later from China and Vassalboro to the north and northwest. Moving directly inland from Hallowell (later Augusta) on the Kennebec was discouraged by an intervening area of swampy, boulder-strewn land that would not appeal to aspiring farmers, he suggests.
How much Windsor’s settlement lagged behind its northern and southern neighbors depends on the source of information. Lowden says the first documented Windsor resident was Ebenezer Grover, who came from Ballstown (now Whitefield) and took over meadowland in southern Windsor, northeast of the current junction of Routes 17 and 32. Grover came in 1781, but kept his Ballstown farm until December 1786. Lowden cites deeds showing him in a house on the west bank of the West Branch of the Sheepscot River by 1793.
Another early settler was John Linn, who brought his wife and 10 children from Bristol in 1801 and settled in the Windsor Corner area in the middle of town. Windsor Corner, also called Windsor Corners and Windsor Four Corners, is the intersection of Route 32 (also Ridge Road) and Route 105 in the middle of town. In 1807 Linn wrote a letter about his property deed in which he used the phrase that is the title of Lowden’s book.
Henry D. Kingsbury says, in his 1892 Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892, that Walter Dockindoff (or Dockendorff, according to Lowden) who came from Bristol around 1790, was the first settler. Dockindoff’s land, Kingsbury says, was “about a mile west of Windsor Corner.”
Kingsbury says Dockindoff planted the first apple orchard in Windsor. Lowden believes Linn also started growing apples very early. When Linn sold his property in 1811 to his son, he reserved the right to continue to tend his trees and to move them later (which Lowden says he apparently did).
Lowden adds that by the 1860s Windsor was known for its apples, and they remained important in the agricultural economy until a hard freeze in the winter of 1933-34 killed many trees.
[See also: A history of Hussey’s General Store]
Kingsbury comments that Windsor is unusual in having all or parts of seven separate ponds within town boundaries, none of them very big. Some modern maps, like the 1984 edition of DeLorme’s Maine Atlas and Gazetteer and Google Maps, show six of them and identify five.
The south end of Three Mile Pond juts into northwestern Windsor. Southward is Mud Pond, between Weeks Mills Road and Route 105, unnamed on Google.
Moody or Moody’s Pond, presumably named after an early settler, is north of Route 17, almost due west of the fairgrounds on Route 32. South of that, on the Whitefield line, Windsor includes the northern tip of Given’s or Givens Pond, formerly Longfellow Pond.
In northeastern Windsor, north of Route 105 and northeast of Greeley Road, are Fox Pond and slightly larger Savade Pond. Kingsbury says Fox was named because people saw foxes in the area and Savade is a corruption of “surveyed.”
Kingsbury’s seventh pond, to which he devotes half a paragraph, is extremely small, with steep sides; is in the center of town about three-fourths of a mile south of Windsor Corner; and was first named after Rev. Moses Donnell, renamed Grant Pond by 1892. Kingsbury says it has two significant features, no outlet and, as far as was known in 1892, no bottom.
Rev. Moses Donnell, born in Wiscasset Aug. 25, 1789, was a Methodist preacher who came to Windsor in the spring of 1818. He kept detailed records from which Lowden took information about his strenuous life and how much – or little – money he earned. Lowden lists various houses Donnell probably owned at different times and says he preached in Windsor in 1822 and from 1832 until his death October 2, 1861. After 1838 he was appointed to different “circuits,” preaching in several towns and traveling thousands of miles.
Lowden gives Donnell Pond another name, Dorr or Dorr’s Pond. It is nameless in the 1984 DeLorme atlas and on current Google maps, but the 1856 and 1879 maps reproduced in Lowden’s history show Donnell Pond on the east side of Route 32 a little south of the present Windsor School. Harland Road leaves Route 32 north of the pond and curves southeast around its northern and eastern shores.
(To this writer’s unscientific eye, Donnell Pond appears to be what geologists call a kettle pond. Kettleholes are created when a retreating glacier leaves behind a block of ice that gets covered with sediment and slowly melts, leaving a hole in the ground. Depending on depth, size and location, such holes can become dry land, bogs or ponds. Kettleholes are fairly common in Maine; Stuart and Hamilton ponds in Belgrade, west of the town office, are examples of kettle ponds.)
Another transplant who followed Dockindoff from Bristol was Thomas Le Ballister (Leballister, according to Lowden; Labalister, according to Geo. J. Varney’s 1886 Gazetteer of the State of Maine), who settled on 300 acres in the southeastern part of town and, Kingsbury said, found squatters already there, including Grover and the Trask brothers, Edward and Joseph.
Josiah Jones surveyed 6,000 acres in southeastern Windsor in 1797 on behalf of Grover and others. They called the area Pinhook, apparently because of a kink in the nearby West Branch of the Sheepscot River. By 1799, Lowden writes, it was generally known as Waterford, later sometimes New Waterford. He suggests the name might have been proposed by Richard Meagher, an early land speculator and agent for the Kennebec Proprietors, who came from Waterford County in Ireland. Lowden also cites a single 1805 reference to New Windsor.
On March 3, 1809, Kingsbury writes, the town was incorporated as Malta. That name was an error, according to Lowden, who quotes a petition to the Massachusetts General Court, signed by 43 residents, asking that New Waterford plantation become an incorporated town named Alpha. Legislative documents approved incorporating Alpha; but the final act incorporating the new town in February 1809 showed the name as Malta. Lowden blames “the slip of a clerk’s pen.”
Residents did not like the name Malta, and in the fall of 1820, town meeting voters approved a petition to the Maine legislature to change Malta to Lexington (Lowden does not say why the name was chosen). Again they did not get their way. On March 10, 1821, the legislature passed a bill renaming the town Gerry, honoring Eldridge Gerry (July 17, 1744 – Nov. 23, 1814), Massachusetts governor and later James Madison’s vice-president and the politician after whom “gerrymander” was named.
Residents promptly appointed a six-man committee to choose another name. On Jan. 9, 1822, the town became Windsor. Lowden cannot say why, or even whether, the committee recommended that name. Ava Harriet Chadbourne, in her Maine Place Names and the Peopling of its Towns (1955) says that Windsor is the name of the British royal family but does not explicitly say that Windsor, Maine, honors them.
The main settled areas in early days were in the southern end of town, where Routes 17 and 32 now intersect, and in the middle where Routes 105 and 32 meet. Lowden says the road connecting them, the current Route 32 (Ridge Road), was “an established way” by 1798. There were smaller areas of settlement in West Windsor and North Windsor.
As more people moved to town, the West Branch of the Sheepscot and several smaller streams provided water power for numerous mills, mostly sawmiils and gristmills, and Kingsbury and Lowden list 19th-century stores, blacksmith shops and other businesses scattered throughout.
Although Windsor is not on the Kennebec (it is about 10 miles from the river), Lowden gives three examples of Windsor people involved in Kennebec River activities.
Before 1810, a large seine net at the mouth of Seven Mile Brook, in Vassalboro, trapped alewives that people from Vassalboro, Malta, Sidney and Belgrade shared. The fish were food for the settlers, especially important to poor families, Lowden writes.
In 1810 the Massachusetts General Court passed a law that, as Lowden presents it, explicitly forbade that seine. Lowden does not give a reason. Vassalboro then established its own net farther up the brook and trapped alewives there. Residents of other towns were allowed to buy them, after a delay and at an inflated price.
Lowden quotes the letter Malta selectmen sent to Massachusetts legislators in 1816 asking them, unsuccessfully, to repeal the law. The three selectmen who signed the letter were William Hilton, Walter Dockindorff and John Linn Jr.
In 1834, when the Kennebec Dam Company proposed the first dam across the Kennebec River, Windsor was one of many towns and cities submitting opinions to the legislature. Windsor’s petition, with 57 signatures, supported the dam, saying it “would be of great benefit and utility,” according to Lowden. (See The Town Line, May 7, for more on this and other dams.)
In the 1870s and 1880s, men from Windsor were among the crews cutting ice on the Kennebec. (See The Town Line, May 14, for more on the ice business.) Lowden quotes from Roger Reeves’ diary about both winter and summer work in 1876. In February, Reeves wrote, two men were hired at $1 per day.
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
Hussey, Elwin, and Ballantyne, Kristen (Hussey), emails
Web sites, miscellaneous
- Week of September 24, 2020
- Week of September 17, 2020
- Week of September 10, 2020
- Week of September 3, 2020
- Week of August 27, 2020
- Week of August 20, 2020
- Week of August 13, 2020
- Week of August 6, 2020
- Week of July 30, 2020
- Week of July 23, 2020
- Week of July 16, 2020
- Week of July 9, 2020
- Week of July 2, 2020
- Week of June 25, 2020
- Week of June 18, 2020
- Week of June 11, 2020
- Week of June 4, 2020
- Week of May 28, 2020
- Week of May 21, 2020
- Week of May 14, 2020
- Week of May 7, 2020
- Our Town’s Services
- About Us
- Original Columnists
- Community Commentary
- Eric’s Tech Talk
- Garden Works
- Give Us Your Best Shot!
- Growing Your Business
- I’m Just Curious
- INside the OUTside
- Mary Grow’s community reporting
- Messing About in the Maine Woods
- Pages in Time
- Review Potpourri
- Scores & Outdoors
- Solon & Beyond
- The Frugal Mainer
- The Money Minute
- Tim’s Tunes
- Veteran’s Corner
Town Line Archive
- September 2020
- August 2020
- July 2020
- June 2020
- May 2020
- April 2020
- March 2020
- February 2020
- January 2020
- December 2019
- November 2019
- October 2019
- September 2019
- August 2019
- July 2019
- June 2019
- May 2019
- April 2019
- March 2019
- February 2019
- January 2019
- December 2018
- November 2018
- October 2018
- September 2018
- August 2018
- July 2018
- June 2018
- May 2018
- April 2018
- March 2018
- February 2018
- January 2018
- December 2017
- November 2017
- October 2017
- September 2017
- August 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016