How it began and why you're here...

Readfield, Kennebec County, Maine was originally incorporated in 1771 as part of Winthrop. Twenty years later residents voted almost unanimously to separate from Winthrop, and Readfield became incorporated on March 11, 1791. Welcome to this web site where you will meet the courageous men and women who founded our town.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

BEFORE THEY CAME...

In 1621 King James of England granted a large tract of land to the Plymouth Council in England to plan and govern New England. In 1629 the New Plymouth Colony received a grant from this council which included present day Readfield and other towns in this area of Central Maine (15 miles on both sides of the Kennebec River). In 1640 Governor Bradford of Massachusetts signed over the grant to all citizens of the New Plymouth Colony. Poor fur trade, land ownership disputes, and threats associated with the French & Indian Wars prevented settlement of this area, so in 1661 the Pilgrims sold this land to some Boston merchants for 400 pounds sterling. The merchants called themselves the Kennebec Purchase Company of the late New Plymouth Colony.

 The land remained unsettled, but in 1749 during a period of tranquility the Proprietors reorganized in hopes of developing this land and increasing the value of their investment. They promoted the construction of Fort Halifax in Winslow and Fort Western in Hallowell (later split and this part became Augusta) - both on the Kennebec River. Their plan was to secure this area from the threat of Indian attacks thus convincing settlers that this area was a safe place in which to live.
Fort Western 1754
 
They had the land survey done two settlers lots to one proprietors lot, so as this area developed and became more populated the proprietors share of land would sell at a higher price. In 1761 The Proprietors of the Kennebec Purchase ran a persuasive advertisement for free land. The ad was circulated in England and America. It read (in part) as follows: "...the Proprietors will grant two hundred acres altogether, to each family who shall become Settlers on Condition that they each build a house not less than 20 feet square, and seven feet stud; clear and make fit for tillage five acres within three years, and dwell upon the premises personally, or by their substitutes for the term of seven years or more. The Proprietors proposed to lay out in each township 200 acres for the first settled minister, 200 acres for the ministry, and 100 acres for a schoolhouse lot, training field and burying ground. They went on to say that this land was the best offer of any yet offered in any part of America, had "plenty of meadows and interval, and that many settlers have carried with them 20 head of cattle which they have been able to keep year round… It is well stored with great quantities of the best and most valuable timber..." They further exclaimed that the water-carriage made for ready access to the Boston market "24 hours with favorable wind", and the river and sea abounded with various kinds of fish. By this time several towns had been established on the lower Kennebec River.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

THEY CAME, THEY ENDURED...

The first white men who came to Readfield (then part of Winthrop) were hunters and trappers in the early 1760’s. Timothy Foster arrived in 1764 and settled in an existing hunter's camp on Cobbosseeconte Pond. The next year he brought his wife and 10 children. More colonists, from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, soon followed. Stackpole’s History of Winthrop describes how the countryside looked when they arrived: “(They) found everything around in a state of nature. The roving hunter and trapper had traversed the ground and the surveyor had set his compass and marked the lots, but no clearing had been made… the ground, with the exception of meadows, was completely covered with heavy growth, while beneath the treetops were thickly scattered boulders, largely granite, of various sizes from the smallest to those of many tons in weight… The roots of huge trees were spreading the ground in every direction, sapping the nutrient from the soil and forcing the weaker trees to die. There was little undergrowth, the trees running up tall and straight, not crowded, and with limbs so high that the early settler could ride his horse or drive yoked oxen beneath with little interference by the growth.”

In spite of the challenges our forefathers proceeded to build log cabins, clear land, then plowed and planted the virgin soil. Men came ahead - brothers, sons, fathers, cousins. They came in the spring of the year, cut and burned trees, planted crops, and built shelter for the winter. Cabins were rustic with no windows, doors or chimney. The black flies and mosquitoes were so overwhelming that they were often forced to leave their work for spells in the spring and summer - their eyes buttoned closed and bodies covered with open sores with flies imbedded in them! They sometimes kept a fire going outside the cabin door in hopes of warding off insects, thus the air inside the cabin was usually black with smoke. Once the men had secured enough food supply and adequate shelter they went back for their families, livestock and worldly possessions. Upon their return, weeks later, they set about harvesting their crops and doing further preparations for the next winter season. Once here and settled in, the family proceeded to build a door, and cut a window and a hole in the roof to vent smoke. They laid a floor with split basswood logs, constructed a stone hearth, and maybe even built a partition.

Stackpole says “In locating roads suitable for wheel-carriages, which they hoped to have someday, the meadows, swamps and even the level, undrained lands on the higher ground were avoided whenever possible, for otherwise they (had to) corduroy at an expense of time and labor they could ill afford.” The pioneers’ food crop was sparse so they had to rely on milk, game, fish and wild fruit to survive, but hunting and fishing could be challenging too. Stories that have been handed down about life here in the early days of Readfield and Winthrop demonstrate time and again the perseverance and creativity our town founders tapped into in order to survive. 

David Thurston, a 19th century Winthrop historian, wrote a history of Winthrop in 1855 in which he recounts many stories about the hardships of our early settlers. One, Unight Brown, migrated here in 1769 and settled on the west side of Maranacook Lake. One late autumn day Brown and his young son, Jeremiah, traveled to a large bog - which was a fair distance from their home - in search of game. They were fortunate to find and kill a moose, but it was late fall, the days were short and it got dark before they could make their way back home. They knew what had to be done so they settled in for the night. The elder Brown cut wood and started a good fire. Then he gutted and skinned the moose and wrapped his son in the hide for warmth and shelter. They kept the fire going all night, but it got so cold that by morning Brown had all he could do to pry the frozen moose hide loose from his son. They both survived and Brown went on to help settle the nearby town of Fayette where he died at the ripe old age of 87 in 1815.

In 1765 three Whittier brothers - Thomas, Nathaniel and William - came from Chester, New Hampshire to East Readfield. They took a different approach to opening space in the forest than the other newcomers had. That summer and fall the Whittier’s fell twenty acres of trees, and then returned to New Hampshire for the winter. The next spring they returned to Readfield and burned their fallen trees. The air was filled with smoke for miles around and there was much alarm throughout the area because most people were unfamiliar with the Whittier’s ways. The three men then planted corn in unplowed land and everyone said the brothers were incompetent farmers at best for planting this way. Summer progressed and all were surprised to see the corn sprang up and flourished. It is said that people came from miles around to see with their own eyes that planting without plowing could produce. That fall the Whittier’s harvested a good crop, while the other settlers digested their lesson about farming in the wilderness.

In 1771 Winthrop was incorporated - the first town in this area to be inhabited and established away from the Kennebec River. Word spread about opportunities to own land here and more settlers moved into this backwoods territory. Some stayed here for generations and others moved on to yet greater adventures further north and west of here. Settlers chose the sites for their cabins and a few acres to clear and plant – then built roads to them. Hills were the first choice for a variety of reasons. The soil was richer, and there was less chance of early frost. That also meant easier construction of roads to their dwellings, and better views from their homes. In the early days this also gave a vantage point for spotting Indians and other dangers. Thurston also wrote about Indians during these early days saying “the people were, at times, somewhat terrified by the Indians, as they passed, in their hunting excursions, between the Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers.”

 
One of Readfield’s earliest settlers, James Lane, chose a lot on Kents Hill (near a spring) when he and his brother Ephraim Lane came here in 1771 from their hometown of Hingham, Massachusetts. They came to Fort Western by boat up the Kennebec River, and then by blazed trail through the woods to Readfield. Here, James first met Eunice Chase who was visiting Gideon Lambert, a blacksmith formerly of Martha's Vineyard. Lane got to work and immediately began to forge a place for his new home. For two years James worked to clear his land, build a log cabin, and to plant corn. He bought a pig at Fort Western and carried it to Readfield in a sack. Once the corn was harvested, and the pig slaughtered and salted down, he figured he had prepared a home fit for a bride. He returned to Massachusetts that winter where he found and courted Miss Eunice at her family home in Tisbury. When Lane returned to Readfield the following spring the cabin had been broken into by Indians and the corn and pork was all gone. James had to carry all of his supplies from Fort Western until the next harvest came in. In spite of this hardship Eunice was not swayed. Upon her return to Maine she and James were married by General James Howard at Fort Western, on August 3, 1774. She was not yet 16 and James was 25. Indians continued to be “plentiful” at that time, according to the Lane family history, and they used to camp near James Lane's spring. The Indians never hurt James and Eunice, but bears destroyed crops and killed livestock - in fact James slew one with his ax one time when it tried to kill his pig. Eunice was four months pregnant with her first child when James went to serve in the Revolutionary War. Oh, the courage!

The Cobbosseeconte Waterway and the 30 Mile River (from the Androscoggin) were used by Indians and early travelers and settlers alike. In 1776 a party of six men, having been told about the fertile Sandy River Valley by hunters and trappers, traveled through Readfield on their way to explore that wilderness. Their goal was to reach and explore Sandy River Valley near present day Farmington Falls with an eye towards plotting a settlement there. Butler's History of Farmington relates the story of their trip in a fair amount of detail, which I'll quote here in part: "...The party came up the Kennebec River in canoes as far as Hallowell, which was generally known at that time by the Indian name of Bombahook. From Hallowell they proceeded on foot through the sparsely settled district to Mr. Rumford Smith’s, who had settled and built a log cabin a little east of what is now known as Readfield Corner...” This was without doubt, in this author’s opinion, Ransford Smith (not Rumford). Butler went on to say that “…after leaving Mr. Smith’s, the last house on the route, they proceeded a west-northwest route, supposing this course would lead them to what is now Farmington Falls…” Upon arrival there the men surveyed lots, then each agreed to meet and return in two weeks with some tools to begin chopping trees and marking boundaries. Butler also described their second trip to Farmington Falls and it is interesting to note that on their return trip they chose to use the old Indian Cobbosseeconte Waterway instead of walking the rugged land terrain they had traversed the first time.  This route took them from the Kennebec River, up Cobbosseeconte Stream, into Lake Cobbosseeconte, then Maranacook Lake and towards lakes and streams further northwest of Readfield. Butler made no mention of them stopping at Ransford Smith’s on this recount but since the travelers passed so near his log cabin – when paddling up Lake Maranacook – it seems probable they would have stopped by again. Sometime before 1790 Smith returned to Martha's Vineyard because of threats from Indians, but he returned to Readfield in 1792. Ransford Smith’s land was located on the Cobbosseeconte Waterway and the Indian’s portage to the Sandy River (land) Trail. The Indians would have undoubtedly passed directly through Smith's property and it is understandable that some could have shown resentment about Smith’s presence there.
Let us not forget the women in this equation. They kept the home fires burning, took care of the young children's needs and managed all the inside domestic chores - and none of those came easy in those days. Of course the children helped too! As soon as they were old enough they were taught how to do chores and no one sat idle. They were busy from sunrise to sunset. In addition to the duties we often think of as "women's work" the wives and daughters also carried much of the outdoor workload too - such as tending the animals, milking the cows and such. They did this for at least for a few years, until the men had brought the homestead and the land to a sustainable level. The women even helped with catching fish or shooting game if the occasion presented itself - or if their husbands became too ill or debilitated from the strenuous workload. Thurston tells one story about Squire Bishop's wife whose husband became so weak and frail from lack of enough food in the house he was ready to lay down and die. His wife would have no part of it! She threw her shawl over her shoulders, grabbed a fishing pole and made her way by foot a great distance to the nearest pond where, to her relief, she was able to catch some fish. On the way home she managed to tree a coon, set up a fake person at the base of the tree to keep him up there, and made her way back to the cabin. There she demanded her husband get off that bed and go shoot that coon before they all starved to death! He did and they gained ground, flourished and went on to be substantial citizens of Winthrop! The size of many families was huge by today's standards. It was not unusual for there to be 8 - 12 children within one household and sometimes more! Women were grateful when babies were born in the winter because of their heavy workload during warmer months. To complicate matters the death rate was high for mothers, babies and young children from illness and complications from childbirth. Some women, who had been taught old herbal remedies or midwifery, carried herbs and medicines in their saddlebags and sometimes rode long distances to visit the sick or deliver an infant. These women were generally the only source of any healthcare in the 18th and most of the 19th century.  Readfield’s own Sarah Norton (Mrs. Stephen Norton) was known for her extensive knowledge of herbal treatments and medicines.  Martha Ballard, a well-known midwife from Hallowell and Augusta sometimes made the long trek to the “backwoods” as our area was then known, to treat illness or deliver babies. It was actually more common for midwives than doctors to deliver babies during the 18th and early 19th centuries in our parts. When the woman of the house died, her husband married again right away - oftentimes to her younger sister or a cousin. The house simply could not survive without a woman. The few who did not marry again right away, I have noticed, soon returned to where they came from. Ransford Smith is one such example and I have read of others.

In 1798 when Methodist missionary Jesse Lee and Bishop Francis Asbury came to Readfield for the first Methodist Conference they gave descriptions of the countryside. Remember - this was thirty years after the first settlers arrived and had created some semblance of civilization. Bishop Asbury stated in his journal that he and Lee had arrived on a Saturday, August 25th. He described their trek by saying “We had to beat through the woods between Winthrop and Readfield, which are as bad as the Alleghany Mountains and the shades of death”. They must have been very travel weary for Asbury went on to say they “laid by the carriage and saddle to wait (four days).” That Wednesday Lee and Asbury led the Methodist Conference in East Readfield, which was the “first of the kind ever held in these parts." 

As soon as the conference was over the 50 year old Bishop left Readfield and aimed his horse for Portland. He “rode sixty miles (by horseback) in two days, under the heat of the sun over desperate roads and rocks”.  Thus was the determination and fortitude displayed by all the courageous men and women who settled our fair town of Readfield and beyond!

Read more about some of the Hardships of the Early Settlers
written by Rev. David Thurston in 1855.

HARDSHIPS OF THE EARLY SETTLERS as written by Rev. David Thurston in 1855

Excerpt from A Brief History of Winthrop from 1764 to October 1855; Written and published by vote of the town of Winthrop, ME; Publisher: Brown Thurston Steam Printer, Portland, ME 1855; Pages 61-69

NOTE: Rev. Thurston wrote this History of Winthrop, in part, according to oral history told to him by the settlers themselves. This is exactly how Thurston wrote it - including punctuation and spelling.  
 
Page 61
The privations and hardships, to which the early settlers were subjected, were such as those who have always been accustomed to convenient and comfortable habitations and well supplied tables can scarcely form an adequate idea of. So great was their destitution of the necessaries of life, that some were, at times, reduced to the verge of starvation. Indeed, had it not been for the wild animals, the fish, the native fruits and the milk of their cows, some of them would doubtless have perished for the lack of food. When they needed meat, some of the more favored ones, would take their guns and kill a moose, a dear or a bear, with nearly as much ease as our farmers now go to the pasture and select a sheep for slaughter. But all could not do thus, nor could the most favored of them always do it. As a specimen, Nathaniel and Joseph Fairbanks in the month of February, took their guns, snow shoes and dogs, and started off in a western direction, on a hunting excursion. Having gone a long distance, the dogs went up a hill and gave notice that they had found game. This hill, they supposed

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Early settlers hunting on snowshoes.
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to be what is now in the town of Leeds. The dogs had found a noble moose, which the hunters soon killed and dressed. But the day was too far spent, they could not return. They therefore buried their meat in the snow and camped for the night. The net day they took the meat upon handsleds and brought it home. This was a valuable prize indeed. The four quarters of that meat weighed eight hundred pounds!
Mr. Gideon Lambert was an early settler. He and his family had to subsist one season from planting time till rye harvest, on milk and herbs. During this time, he fell four, and some say six, acres of trees, and prepared them for the “burn” the ensuing spring. He had been a soldier in the old French and Indian War. He aided in the defeat of the British army under the command of Abercrombie, 1758. He also served in the war of the Revolution, after he came to Pond Town.
Some families were so destitute of provisions, that one at least, by the name of Delano, subsisted, for a time, on boiled beach leaves. Others were without bread from sowing time till harvest. Some of them had nothing for themselves except milk and maple sugar. One neighbor sustained the children of another neighbor on skimmed milk. A woman said. The day after birth of a child she dined on smoked moose meat and turnip greens. Her husband had gone to procure them breadstuff, but was gone longer than expected. She had finished the last of their provisions. What could she do? Her neighbors could not assist her, for they were in the same predicament. She was greatly at a loss what course to take to save herself and the child. She adopted this singular method. She ate salt; that made her thirsty, and

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she drank more, and thus procured nourishment for her child, till relief came. The neighbors would hunt in company, and share game between them; because there were times in which they could obtain provisions no other way. Mr. David Foster, in the month of June, was very destitute for food. He went to a brook and caught a sucker, which, while it was broiling, gave a cheering fragrance. He dug up some potatoes he had planted to eat with his fish; but he found the fish very soft and the potatoes very watery. But they sustained life. Mr. Squire Bishop came with his family to Pond Town in embarrassed circumstances, poor and in debt. But though for a season they were greatly straightened, and at times much disheartened, he at length accumulated property sufficient to enable him to pay his creditors the amount of their claims. Rev. Mr. Eaton once came to “preach the gospel to the poor,” and impart the bread of life to these few in the wilderness, called on Mr. Bishop’s family and found them very destitute. Mrs. Bishop went to the pigeon net and obtained competent supply.  At another time, Mr. Bishop’s family was out of provisions, and none to be had nearer than Cobbossee.[i]  Mrs. Bishop spoke to her husband about going to procure something for their sustenance. He was much discouraged, and said he was so feeble, that he could not get to Cobbossee, and they might as well die where they were. But the good woman, not so desponding, resolved to see what she could do. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” She bent up some pins, procured a pole and line and bait, and took her babe in arms and went to the pond, which was a great distance, and soon caught

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as many fish as she could conveniently carry with her child. On returning to the house, she heard a rustling in one of the trees and in looking up, saw a raccoon. Now what shall she do? If she called to her husband to come with the gun, it would, doubtless, frighten the animal, and he would escape; or if she went and told her husband, the game might be gone. Perhaps some good angel suggested to her the plan; which was this. She took off some of her clothes, and some of the child’s, and made such an image as she could, and placed it at the foot of the tree where the animal was, and hastened to the house. She said to her husband, “the Lord has sent us a ‘coon’’ take your gun and go shoot him.” Mr.
Bishop took the gun and shot the raccoon. They fed upon the meat until Mr. Bishop recovered strength and courage to procure a supply of food. Thus providentially their lives were saved.

There was a time when Jonathan Whiting had grain. Several families had none. Lest the neighbors might suffer, his wife put the children upon an allowance. He, to teach them to be economical in the use of their bread, would sell only a limited quantity to any one lest someone might be more needy. The soundness and strength of his moral principles were exhibited another way. During this period, approximating famine, he might have had almost any price for his grain. But he affixed a reasonable price, and no consideration could induce him to take any more.
An aged man, now deceased, wrote me, that he had heard one of the settlers say, he had lived a week at

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a time in smoked Alewives and milk. At the same time he was under the necessity of laboring hard.

When Mr. Joseph Fairbanks and wife had five children they took a journey to Marshfield, Mass on horseback. The mother became so anxious for her children, on their return, that, bad as the roads were, she traveled fifty-five miles! Much as the roads are improved, there are a few ladies now in this part of the world who would be willing to perform such a day’s ride. There was a time when this family was reduced to such as extremity of oppressions of a certain man, I was about to say, but he appeared more like a brute than a man, that they had nothing to eat or to wear. She searched the house to see if she could find anything eatable, and discovered a quantity of bran. She attempted to knead it, but could not make it hold together, even after it was baked. They ate it, however, and it sustained life till he obtained something better.
The men had to roam quite a distance in search of their game. Mr. Ichabod How, one winter, went into the neighborhood of Livermore Falls on a moose hunt. He started three, two males and a female. He followed them until they came near the hill where Mr. Nathan Kimball now lives. There was a crust on the snow, which bore him, but was not sufficiently hard to bear moose. They at length became so fatigued, that the oldest male turned upon him. So he stepped behind a tree, as the moose rose upon his hind feet to strike him down; but the tree was so small that the feet of the moose brushed his arms as they came down, but without hurting him. He found himself now in a perilous

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condition. The moose however went back to the others, and Mr. How shot him. By the time Mr. How reloaded his gun, the younger male came at him, but the discharge from his musket, prostrated him. He then felt relieved, for he did not fear the other, and soon dispatched her. He cut them open, filled them with snow, and returned home. The next morning he called on his neighbor, Mr. Gideon Lambert, and informed him what he had achieved the day before, and offered to give him one of the moose, if he would go and help to bring them in To this Mr. Lambert readily agreed, and he and his sons Ebenezer and Paul, accompanied Mr. How and brought home the venison. Thus the families were provided with meat.

Mr. Unite Brown and his son Jeremiah, went to hunt for moose late one autumn. By what is called the “Great Bog” and they found and killed one. [ii] But the day was so far spent, that they were not able to return. The father cut wood and kindled a fire and wrapped his son in the skin of the moose, and encamped for the night. The cold was such, that the father had often to renew the fire, to prevent their freezing. In the morning, the skin was so much frozen that the father had no small difficulty in extricating his son from the covering. The children of the early settlers not unfrequently, went barefooted most of the winter if not the whole. They might often be seen walking on the frost and snow with naked feet.
In the winter of 1785 Capt. Timothy Foster, the first settler, was cutting a tree, and it fell on his head, and fractured his skull so that he became speechless. His son, Stewart, went to Falmouth, now Portland, on snow shoes, for a physician. But he could not leave, and

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sent a trepan, doubtless with some instructions on how to use it. On the return of the son, the indented part of the skull was raised, and Capt. Foster roused up and spoke rationally. But so long a time had elapsed, the inflammation had proceeded so far that he died. His remains were interred near where Mr. Metcalf lived.

A man by the name of Fish, came from port Royal, now Livermore, to Mr. Nathaniel Fairbanks’ to obtain some leather. It was growing so late in the day, and there was no road, and only spotted trees for a guide, he was urged to spend the night; but he could not be prevailed to stay. He took two bundles of leather and left, and perished along the way.
A Mr. Dutton, a hunter, had a line of traps on the streams and ponds up toward the Androscoggin River. He had been examining them, and night overtook him ere he was aware, and he lost his way. He began to call for help, hoping he might be within hearing of some habitation. Mrs. Bishop thought she heard a voice. Her husband doubted it. She insisted that she heard a human voice. At length he went out and listened, and became convinced there was some one needing assistance. Mr. Bishop called, and the man answered. He then went and brought him into the house. All habitations, though but log cabins, and all tables, were open and free. All were neighbors and brothers. The spirit of the caste found no place among the early settlers.

The wife of Samuel Wood, Esq., was fond of referring to their early poverty. The first pig they ever owned, she paid for by spinning linen.

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The early settlers did not cultivate their farms as much as would have been for their interest.  Too many of them went largely into the business of lumbering, and depended upon that to procure bread and other provisions from Boston, or some other place in the vicinity. After the war commenced in 1775, and the British cruisers were hovering on the coast, their supplies were cut off. In the spring of 1776, they were in a very destitute condition. Their scanty stock of provisions was nearly exhausted. How to obtain a supply became a momentous question. The inhabitants of the town were requested to meet for consultation on the subject. They decided to charter a small vessel and send to Boston, for provisions. This was an enterprise of no small danger. But they hoped that, by keeping near the shore, they might avoid the large British vessels. Through the good hand of God upon them their little craft performed the voyage, and safely returned with a cargo of provisions. These were distributed among the people. From them, through the blessing of God, they derived strength and courage to put an abundance of seed in the ground. The next year they had bread and meat in plenty. They thus learned an important lesson. Henceforth they cultivated their farms; God smiled upon them, and they had a full supply.

Such was the scarcity of money in 1784 or 1785, a man who had the occasion to borrow five dollars, could not obtain it. Some of his neighbors had accumulated considerable property, had a good stock of cattle, but had no money. Such was the depreciation of the currency

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about this time, that Col. Simon Page iii sold a pair of oxen for ninety-eight hundred dollars! The real value, in present currency, was about seventy dollars.[iv]

The people were, at times, somewhat terrified by the Indians, as they passed, in their hunting excursions, from the Kennebec to the Androscoggin rivers. But it does not appear that they did them any other injury. A party once came to Mr. John Fuller’s, when he was absent, and Mrs. Fuller and the children had no others with them. The Indians had “fire water’ with them and began to drink. This produced considerable alarm. But they delivered all their knives up to her, and charged her to keep them, till they became sober. They did this to allay her fears, telling her, they were afraid they should hurt one another. They were certainly more considerate than many who claim to be greatly their superiors.
Other instances of suffering there doubtless were, could all facts be known. Some of them might even be more grievous than any here related. These are given as a specimen. Well may they awaken, in the present inhabitants, the gratitude we own Allwise Dispenser of events, for having provided so much “better things for them.”


[i]  Squire Bishop lived in Winthrop on (currently called) Metcalf Hill Road.
[ii] This is located between Winthrop Road and Sturtevant Hill Road and not far from where Unite Brown lived, which was near the current Readfield / Winthrop town line, route 41.
[iii] Lived on Stanley Road near the Winthrop / Readfield town line. He was brother to Robert Page, Esq. who lived on the South Road and owned significant land holdings in Winthrop / Readfield.
[iv] Remember – this was written in 1855.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

THEIR FIRST HOMES..

The original log cabins soon became too small for their large families – some might say they provided substandard living at best. They built larger homes – the cabins made good outbuildings for the animals and tools. In some cases the original cabin was enveloped, and a century later the unsuspecting eye would never guess that a log cabin is nestled inside a large Colonial or Victorian structure. The Smith homestead on Sturtevant Hill Road in Readfield is an example of that. The kitchen is the original cabin.
By the mid 19th century it became common in Maine to build a summer kitchen, shed and barn attached to the house (usually a cape cod style house) creating a "big house, little house, back house, barn" effect. This architectural style caught on about the time of the mass exodus west, and at the beginning of the agricultural decline in Maine, thus our extended farm buildings are rarely seen in the rest of the USA. The disadvantage was, of course, threat of fire which would destroy the whole farm, and the smells and flies that went with an attached barn. Some of the advantages were easy accessibility to the barn, animals, food storage areas, milk room and sleigh in the winter. Protection from the winter winds both outside and in, added warmth for the animals and shelter for the house – if they planned well they put the el on the north side. And last but not least an indoor trek to the privy at the back of the barn or shed was huge advantage in cold weather! Pictured below is an example of this kind of structure. It is the Nathaniel Ford homestead c1790 on Old Kents Hill Road. The house is still standing and has been remodeled / updated but still looks much the same. The little house, back house, barn are gone.
 
 
If you mention a dooryard in another part of the country chances are they will not know to what you are referring. Extended farm buildings boasted three yards. The front yard by the parlor where special guests were greeted; the barn-yard where men could be found doing farm chores; the door yard, by the shed or summer kitchen, where women did laundry, planted and tended their kitchen garden and did other woman's work. Neighbors often made "door yard calls" – brief stops as they passed by – so to not disrupt a farm wife’s busy schedule with a lengthy visit.
 
As you drive through Readfield and neighboring towns take note of the surviving big house, little house, back house, barns. They are disappearing slowly but surely. Someday they will be remembered only through pictures and stories – like the rustic log cabins of long ago! 

ROADS and TRAVEL in EARLY READFIELD (REVISED 12/17/2013)

1772: A ROAD AROUND CHANDLER'S MILL POND



In 1771 when Winthrop Selectman planned and laid out a road around Chandler’s Mill Pond (now called Maranacook) there were only six settler’s cabins in the northern parish (now Readfield) near the lake’s shore. They are noted above in the approximate areas they were located. The road passed near their doors – much closer to the lake than the South and Winthrop Roads do today. The County Road (route 17) noted on this map followed the old Indian Sandy River Trail. This is part of a map that was drawn in 1795 and on file at
Kennebec County Registry of Deeds.
In 1772 there were six settlers’ cabins scattered around the northern perimeter of Maranacook Lake – then called the Mill Pond or Chandler’s Pond. On the northeast shore (now part of Readfield) Robert Waugh, Sr. was located as was his landing called “Waugh’s landing”. His neighbor to the north was Elisha Smith; next – at the northern most point of Chandler’s Pond - lived Joseph Baker (near Readfield Beach); to Baker’s west lived Ephraim Lane (now Readfield Corner); then on the west shore of Chandler’s Pond was Moses Ayer (lot #70 about halfway between the present Readfield Corner and Winthrop town line); and his neighbor to the south was James Craig (his house was near the lake on the north end of lot #68 [i] (near the Ritzi home). The old road completely circled the lake from (present day) Winthrop Village and back. Suffice it to say this would have been more like a primitive foot trail than a well groomed road. Winthrop did not even mention the use of oxcarts in their road proposals until 1787.
James Craig owned lots #68 and #69 on the west shore of Lake Maranacook during his earliest years here. He built a grist mill and sawmill at what later came to be known as Factory Square and sold his holdings on the lake about that time. In 1774 he sold 100 acres, the southern part of lot #68 to Captain William Armstrong for Twenty-three pounds Six Shillings and Eight Pence. In 1789 he sold the northern part to John Gray for Five Pounds Sterling.[iii] Those men built homes further away from the lake and closer to what we now know as the Winthrop Road. Both homes are still there in 2013. The course of the original road was changed sometime around 1793 and brought further west from the perimeter of the lake.  John Gray’s house was located in proximity to where that road intersected with the present day Winthrop Road and it became known as “Gray’s Corner.” [iv]   
1776 THE CROSSROADS FROM 
30 MILE RIVER TO COBBOSSEECONTEE WATERWAY

When the early settlers came there were NO roads so they followed the Indian trails that had been used for centuries before them. Likewise, when the first roads were built the Colonists utilized some of those old Indian trails. One of the first roads to be built in Readfield, in 1776, was the North Wayne Road and the East Road to Sturtevant Hill. These passageways were a direct shot from Thirty Mile River (where the dam is now located at the head of Lovejoy Pond in North Wayne) towards  Maranacook Lake (part of the Cobbosseeconte waterway to the Kennebec River).
The route discussed in this section is indicated with
red dotted lines on this 1956 topographical map.
Locations are approximate and for historical reference only.
Click on the map to see it enlarged.
 
To follow this route from present day North Wayne travelers would have gone east towards Readfield, up the hill and passed the Huntoon Cemetery. Then on to the intersection called Palmer Corner. From there they picked up (currently called but d/c) East Road which crossed to Sturtevant Hill Road (can still be seen on maps). Then, slightly south on Sturtevant  Hill Road and a turn east at what was then called Craig’s Corner onto another cross road towards Winthrop Road. I have not seen a name for that section of the road. It shows on the 1856 map but not on later ones. When travelers reached the “road from the Corners to Winthrop Mills” (Winthrop Road) they may have stopped at the inn at that crossroads for the night. From there they went slightly south to Gray’s Corner where the road veered east again and on towards the lake.
The 1956 topographical map above indicates two camp roads in about the same location as the last mentioned road that veered off at Gray’s Corner. On the east side of the lake there was another road that extended from the lake to Beaver Dam Road. James Craig's ferry crossing was most likely at that spot – using trees on the island to anchor ar cable part way across? A ferry could have also be located a little south of that. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has explored and found any indications that a ferry once existed in this area.
The ferry across Maranacook it would
have been a raft hooked to a cable - in other words
a cable ferry - like the one pictured here.



MORE WILL BE ADDED ABOUT OUT OLD ROADS AND
TRAVEL AS IT IS DISCOVERED SO CHECK BACK…


[i] Stackpole, Everett; History of Winthrop; pub. Merrill & Webber, Auburn, ME 1925; page 49
[ii] This end of the section of the East Road came out slightly south of what many today know as the Albion and Annie Bryant place. The Bryants moved into the house at that intersection in 1931 - the road was d/c but remains were still evident well into the 1960's. Midge Bryant Potter passed on some stories to me about that house and area as told to her parents by people who had lived there before them. For one - a whole team of horses was once lost in quicksand in the swamp between Sturtevant Hill Road and Winthrop Road . Midge also related that their old house was an inn at one time and about some of the original features of the house. When it was an inn there was a large double room across the front of the second floor where several beds were set up for use by travelers. The brickwork is outstanding in this home. Large brick arches in the basement and the house itself is made of brick and then enveloped by wood. There will be more about this home when I add information about Robert Waugh Jr. and Francis Hunt to this web site. Midge also told me where the course of this crossroad went from here - further south by Ritzi's house - as they used to walk that road as children to get to the Maranacook Lake.
[iii] Reflections of Readfield; Readfield Bicentennial Commission; pub. 1975; pages 9 and 10
[iv] Stackpole, Everett; History of Winthrop; pub. Merrill & Webber, Auburn, ME 1925; page 60-61

Monday, August 19, 2013

READFIELD CEMETERIES



As with all small towns there are cemeteries and burial places where the earliest settlers were laid to rest before towns and churches owned and organized common burial grounds. Then there are also private burial grounds that have been lost and forgotten over time. I am aware of some of each which I will share here (and will be added to as new information is discovered). Also included below are those graveyards the Town of Readfield owns and maintains.
 
"Lost and Forgotten" Cemeteries
 
NORTON
Stephen and Sarah (Fosdick) Norton settled above Readfield Corner on the intersection of Church Road and Chase Road. Their farmhouse was located on the southwest corner of that intersection. Later members of the Norton family resided in a farmhouse across the road (within our memories it was the Eliot house and then Tim and Sandra Rourke lived there). Stephen and Sarah (Fosdick) Norton are buried on the site of where their (original) Norton homestead was located. It is not know at this time if other members of the Norton family are also buried there but it seems feasible they would have been.
 
THE OLD "HEAD OF MARANACOOK" CEMETERY
History tells us that east of Readfield Corner in the area of Hunt's Lane there is an ancient burial ground where some of our early settlers were buried before 1800. This burial ground fell into obscurity and became plowed land sometime in the early 19th Century. Around 1900 there were still people living in Readfield who remembered this cemetery had once existed. They told how within their memories there were only mounds there and no gravestones. It is not known who was buried there nor if this cemetery had a name but I have some thoughts on possibilities for its origin.
 
Freewill Baptist Meetinghouse which is currently a private residence.
 
The "Head of Maranacook Burial Ground" was located across the road from the Freewill Baptist Meetinghouse which was built in 1844 (later Readfield Town Hall and now a private residence). So, could it have been an old Baptist cemetery?

The homestead of Joshua Bean is located a short distance from this old burial ground.
 
The more logical is this theory when you consider the timing. This land was originally owned by Joshua Bean - an early settler and prosperous landowner. Among his holdings was lot #214 at the north end of Lake Maranacook. Joshua Bean was a devout Quaker with a very large family of 13 children. According to the Bean Family Genealogy, by Bernie (Bean) MacBean, there was a serious break in the Bean family between 1800-1809 and three of Joshua's sons and a grandson gathered all their worldly possessions and moved their families to Jay where they started their own "Bean Quaker Colony." That in itself might not give rise to this theory except for one additional piece to this story. When they moved from Readfield they left almost no trace of their residence in town. They even dug up the caskets of some of their dead, brought them to Jay by oxcart and reburied them at Bean's Corner in Jay. Could this have been the Bean Cemetery and those mounds that were remembered by some were all that was left behind? This is just speculation tis true but it seems to fit well with what little information we have about this graveyard. 

ARMSTRONG CEMETERIES

THERE ARE TWO - one is in Winthrop and the other is in Readfield. Both are on side roads off route 41 (Winthrop Road.) They are near each other, and on private property. Readfield Armstrong Cemetery Located on former Martha Washington Inn property, which was originally owned by William Armstrong. For more information contact the Readfield or Winthrop town offices. To see a complete listing of people buried in these cemeteries follow this link.
 

Information is available online at the official Town of Readfield website, including a downloadable map of cemetery locations. Follow this link.

Dudley Plains Cemetery est. 1789
According to town records Dudley Plains Cemetery was established in 1789 though Deborah Dudley, wife of Joseph, was buried here as early as 1780.


When you look at an 1856 or 1879 map of Readfield you will see the name Dudley all along the Plains Road and on several adjacent roads. Though the Dudley name is not evident in current town rolls, you can still find them in the old family burial ground est. 1789. Many of the other earliest Readfield settlers who helped settle Dudley Plains are buried in this cemetery also.  There are many descendants in this area who do not bear the Dudley surname, but who share in their legacy.  

WHITTIER CEMETERY est.1850
This was private cemetery until it was deeded to the Town of Readfield in 1974 by Eugene and Grace Whittier. Eugene and Grace Whittier are not buried here themselves but are in the East Readfield Cemetery. There are Whittier ancestors buried in this graveyard however - the first generation being Josiah Whittier and his wife Sally White Whittier. Her parent's graves are marked with fieldstones - Samuel White and his wife. It is said that Sally Whittier's sister Clara, a dwarf, is buried in the grave with her. A log cabin was first built on this place where the Whittier Cemetery now stands, thought to be that of Ransford Smith. From route 17 at Readfield Depot take South Road which turns into Beaver Dam Road. Soon after your turn a sharp corner look to your right and it sits in the field on a knoll. Essentially, it is located between the Beaver Dam Road and Tallwood Drive. Access it by parking beside the road and walking across the field. Watch out for the poison ivy! For a complete listing of those buried in this cemetery follow this link.

EAST READFIELD CEMETERY est. 1788
East Readfield Cemetery is in proximity to Jesse Lee Methodist Meeting House, which
is the oldest Methodist church still in use in New England.
 
Located on the corner of Route 17 and Plains Road across the intersection from Jesse Lee Church. This cemetery was deeded to the town by Nathaniel Whittier in 1788 - early in our town's history. Many of our town's founders and generations that followed are buried here, including Nathaniel Whittier. This is the second largest cemetery in Readfield. 

CASE CEMETERY est.1789
The North Manchester Meeting House was built in 1793 on same location as the Case Cemetery. It was moved to Scribner Hill Road, North Manchester in 1839 by vote of the congregation who wanted their church closer to home. The church was built by Baptists under the leadership of Elder Isaac Case, famed Colonial Baptist preacher and missionary. Today (2013) it is non-denominational. Rev. Isaac Case, his wife, son Elisha and two daughters are buried in Case Cemetery.

Located on Route 17 soon after crossing the Manchester / Readfield town line. The land was donated by Mr. Barber for this cemetery and is referred to by some as "Barber Cemetery". The name Case comes from Elder Isaac Case whose Baptist Meeting House was built on this site in 1793 - later moved to North Manchester. An interesting memorial to Case and his wife is in this cemetery - said to be located on the very spot where his pulpit once stood. This is a very old cemetery and many of the graves are marked with fieldstones. For a full listing of those buried in this cemetery follow this link. 

HUNTOON CEMETERY est.1835

Peter Huntoon deeded this cemetery to the inhabitants of Readfield in 1835 for a burial place. He died one year later but today there is no evidence of a grave marker for him in this cemetery – though one must assume that is where he is buried. In the 1960’s, according to residents who lived in the area then and roamed this land, the entire Huntoon Cemetery was covered with gravestones. Today (10/2012) only about half the graveyard has visible stones – most of them are a cluster of fieldstones and presumably some, if not all, of those fieldstones are pauper graves. Located near the old Readfield Town Farm and Forest, off North Wayne Road, in Mcdonald Woods (owned by Kennebec Land Trust). Access to this burial ground requires about a 1/2 mile walk. For a listing of people buried in this cemetery follow this link. 
  
READFIELD CORNER CEMETERY est.1808
 
This is the largest cemetery in Readfield dating back to early our earliest days. An annex accommodates more recent burials. The oldest graves in this cemetery sit nearly in the center. There are many unmarked graves in that section. Here we find many of the men and women who were influential in forming our town. Maine Governor Jonathan Huntoon is also buried here. Route 17 to Readfield Corner, turn onto Church Road at the four corners / blinking traffic light. Cemetery is about 3/4 mile on the right.
 

KENTS HILL CEMETERY est.1808
 
Torsey Memorial Methodist Church is located across the road (route 17) from Kents Hill Cemetery. It was built in 1835. Prior to that Methodists from this part of town attended services at the Kents Hill Meeting House which was dedicated by Rev. Jesse Lee in1800. That was located on the east corner of P Ridge Road and Main Street. Torsey Church was named in honor of longtime KHS headmaster Dr. Henry Torsey as was nearby Torsey Pond. 
Names of those who came and settled Kents Hill very early on will be found among the gravestones in this cemetery - such as Packard, Waugh, Kent, Ford, Lane and Haines. Also buried here are Luther Sampson and Elihu Robinson who founded the Maine Wesleyan Cemetery (Kents Hill School), and the much beloved Dr. Henry Torsey. This cemetery is located on route 17 across from Torsey Church (pictured above).