Autumn in the Maine woods…100 years ago

By Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist & Cataloger

Harris S. Colt, grandson of longtime Parmachenee Club member Harris D. Colt of New York City, poses with the staff of the private hunting-fishing club at Parmachenee Lake.

Harris S. Colt, grandson of longtime Parmachenee Club member Harris D. Colt of New York City, poses with the staff of the private hunting-fishing club at Parmachenee Lake. MMN# 19381

Being outdoors in the Maine woods in the fall is the best time – crisp cool nights, warm days, colorful autumn foliage, and, best of all, no mosquitoes or black flies. In northern Maine there are many sporting camps that lure folks from afar to where hunting and fishing opportunities abound. At the turn of the 20th century one of these camps, owned by the Parmachenee Club, offered expeditions into these northern woods.

Teresa Colt (Mrs. Harris D. Colt Jr.) and her father-in-law, Harris D. Colt, with an unidentified friend at the Parmachenee Club on Parmachenee Lake. MMN# 19387

Teresa Colt and her father-in-law, Harris D. Colt, with an unidentified friend at the Parmachenee Club on Parmachenee Lake, ca. 1940. MMN# 19387

The Parmachenee Club was formed in 1890 by a group of (mostly) New York City lawyers. The members obtained a lease of 120,000 acres of land, from the Old Aziscohos Dam above Wilson’s Mills to the Canadian border. They hunted and fished within these acres, and built a camp, called “Camp in the Meadows,” along the Magalloway River in Oxford County, where they lodged. Maine Guides assisted the members on their hunting and fishing expeditions.

The Parmachenee Club, a private hunting-fishing club on Treat's Island at Parmachenee Lake is seen from a distance across the lake. MMN# 19389

The Parmachenee Club, a private hunting-fishing club on Treat’s Island at Parmachenee Lake is seen from a distance across the lake, ca. 1940 . MMN# 19389

In 1910, the Berlin Mills Company and the International Paper Company built a dam in the leased territory to move cut lumber. Club members were able to penetrate further into the woods due to the new dam, but it also placed the Camp in the Meadows under twelve feet of water. The Parmachenee Club was re-established on Treat’s Island on Parmachenee Lake.

Some of the buildings of the Parmachenee Club, a private hunting-fishing club at Camp Caribou on Treat's Island, Parmachenee Lake, in about 1940. The club was founded in 1890 on the Meadows of the Magalloway River and moved to the island when a paper company dam flooded the first location. MMN# 19385

Some of the buildings of the Parmachenee Club, a private hunting-fishing club at Camp Caribou on Treat’s Island, Parmachenee Lake, in about 1940. MMN# 19385

The membership, which included women, loved the woods and the streams. Their ideal was sportsmanship, and their goal the preservation of the woods and the wildlife within it. Henry P. Wells, a member, invented a lure called the “Parmachenee Belle,” named after the club. Harris D. Colt was the oldest member. He fished there for 41 consecutive seasons.

Teresa Colt with an unidentified friend at the Parmachenee Club on Parmachenee Lake. She was married to Harris D. Colt Jr., son of longtime Parmachenee Club member Harris D. Colt of New York City. MMN #19382

Teresa Colt with an unidentified friend at the Parmachenee Club on Parmachenee Lake. MMN# 19382

It wasn’t easy to get to the camps – you had to travel by train, steamboat, canoe, and on foot, along rails, rivers, and roads. But it was worth it. The season started as soon as the ice melted in the spring and went through October 1st, “but as always, the Club will be open as early and as long as the members desire it.”

Harris D. Colt wrote to his grandson Harris S. Colt, “The first time I visited the club was in 1896. With your grandmother Colt we spent two or three weeks there in the month of September.”

Harris S. Colt, grandson of longtime Parmachenee Club member Harris D. Colt, at the private hunting-fishing camp on Caribou Island on Parmachenee Lake. MMN# 19386

Harris S. Colt with fish, in about 1940. MMN# 19386

The club disbanded in the 1960s. Many sporting camps still exist today and may be visited. Although they’re still not easy to reach, it’s not the arduous journey of 100 years ago.

For more information, search “Parmachenee” or items 19381-19387 and 19389 on the Maine Memory Network.

Harris D. Colt, a New York City lawyer, on the steps of a cabin at the Parmachenee Club on Caribou Island on Parmachenee Lake. MMN# 19383

Harris D. Colt, a New York City lawyer, on the steps of a cabin at the Parmachenee Club on Caribou Island on Parmachenee Lake. MMN# 19383

Teresa Colt (Mrs. Harris D. Colt Jr.) and friends relax at the Parmachenee Club on Camp Caribou on Treat's Island on Parmachenee Lake, ca. 1940. MMN# 19384

Teresa Colt (Mrs. Harris D. Colt Jr.) and friends relax at the Parmachenee Club on Camp Caribou on Treat’s Island on Parmachenee Lake, ca. 1940. MMN# 19384

The Making of Our YELP Video

In August, we teamed up with Yelp to promote MHS and the Wadsworth-Longfellow House. A video was produced and we had a lot of fun making it with filmmaker Patrick Russell.

Take a behind the scenes look at the making of our video! (Note: from our Yelp page, click the link “Watch Video” beneath the images.)

An Abundance of Scrapbooks

By Nancy Noble, Archivist/Cataloger

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I love scrapbooks. Even though they can be problematic, they have much to recommend them. They can be charming and quirky – the whimsical selections reflect the tastes of the compiler. They can be informative – documenting a movement or organization. And they can be indicative of how people created, collected, and presented information many years ago, in the days before the digital tools we have at our fingertips existed.

So, it wasn’t much of a hardship to make it a summer project to pluck over 100 scrapbooks out of backlog, where some have been languishing for at least 50 years, waiting to see the light of day. (Mostly I was weary of shifting them around and in desperate need of space).

109 scrapbooks later, I want to share with you my favorites, as well as some observations about them.

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They typically contain newspaper clippings, but some include programs, correspondence, and photographs. Many focus on a theme, such as the hurricane of 1938 (Scrapbook 17), tuberculosis (Scrapbooks 45 and 84), and World War II. The war scrapbooks focus on scrap salvage efforts (Scrapbook 7), and men and women from the Belfast area who served in the military (Scrapbooks 50, 57, and 58). Two of my favorites are about the Emerson Mason School of the Dance (Scrapbook 122) and the Dorothy Mason School of the Dance (Scrapbook 123). The Emerson-Mason School of the Dance was located at 73 Oak Street in Portland, and run by Janet Emerson and Dorothy Mason. It was later known as the Dorothy Mason School of the Dance. Dorothy Mason (Mrs. John Wesley Craig) operated her school for 45 years.

I enjoyed cataloging the scrapbooks compiled by William E. Sutherland, the longtime chief engineer on the Oakey L. Alexander. He compiled a scrapbook about the wreck of that freighter, which shipwrecked off of Cape Elizabeth in 1947 (Scrapbook 52, as well as other scrapbooks on maritime history (Scrapbooks 44 and 83).

Several organization have scrapbooks represented: the Portland Port Commission (Scrapbooks 1-5), the Maine Federation of Music Clubs Choir Festivals (Scrapbooks 16, 63, and 64), Daughters of the American Revolution Maine (Scrapbook 54), and a large collection of 18 scrapbooks kept by the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Maine (Scrapbooks 80, 100-116).

The Hospitality Committee of the Portland Chamber of Commerce (1928-1943) includes a photograph of waitresses at the Cabaret D’Art in 1930, as well as photographs pasted into the scrapbook of a picnic on Peaks Island in1933 (Scrapbook 85).

Some revolve around people, such as a scrapbook compiled by Philip Greely Clifford about his father William Henry Clifford, a lawyer who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1886 (Scrapbook 47). Scrapbook 125 features Clyde H. Smith and his wife Margaret Chase Smith, including clippings regarding the death of Clyde, and the subsequent succession of Margaret, who assumed his office in the United States House of Representatives. And then there is one about Carrie Kidwell Steward of West Virginia, a vocalist and pianist who performed in Skowhegan and Portland in 1900. The scrapbook (Scrapbook 60) includes concert programs, clippings, personal correspondence, a February 3, 1891 invitation to the White House, a wedding announcement for Carrie to Mr. Philo Steward (January 9, 1895), and several small portraits.

There are also interesting scrapbooks having to do with government entities such as post offices and police departments. Scrapbook 17 contains clippings regarding the post office in Portland from about 1927-1952, the gem of which is a typescript memo and related article from 1927 regarding postal employees learning how to shoot pistols. Interspersed are wedding and obituary notices, many of which concern post office employees. Scrapbook 88 has newspaper clippings mostly related to news about the Portland Police Department in the 1920s-1930s, including promotions, deaths, retirements, and crimes and arrests.

Scrapbooks can contain newspaper columns or series. There are six compiled by George Curtis Wing consisting of his column, “From the sidelines,” published in the Lewiston Sun (Scrapbooks 10-15). George C. Wing Jr. was born and raised in Auburn. He was a politician, lawyer, served on the Maine House of Representatives from 1921-1922, and served as mayor of Auburn from 1934-1935. Earle G. Shettleworth, Maine’s State Historian and the Director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, wrote a series of articles, mainly from 1965-1967 (with some articles as late as 1978), entitled “Portland’s Heritage,” which ran in the Portland Evening Express (Scrapbook 42).

Elizabeth E. Fox is the queen of the scrapbook compilers, having assembled 20 related to Maine history, especially Portland and Westbrook history (Scrapbooks 19-36, 72). Edward C. Clarey’s passion was for the Robinhood and Georgetown area (Scrapbooks 65-68) – he was born in 1876 in Georgetown where he spent more of this life, working on his farm. He compiled many of these in the 1950s, shortly before his death in Bath in 1960. Harry S. Boyd was interested in Portland history, and compiled 6 scrapbooks related to that (Scrapbooks 37-41). Boyd (1878-1868) wrote A History of Portland Banks in 1895, and worked as a bank cashier or treasurer for most of his life.

Whether about specific topics or organizations, or general history of a time or place, scrapbooks offer a fascinating look into an era, of what was important or of interest to folks in Maine. Scrapbooking continues to be popular today, although in a different format, oftentimes digital.

To view all our scrapbooks in our catalog, click here.

 

“Your Maine Home” Essay Contest Winner – 3rd place

3rdWe are pleased to present below the 3rd place winner of our 2014 “Your Maine Home” essay contest. This year we asked to hear about defining moments in the history of your Maine home or neighborhood. The contest ran in the summer and the winners were announced in the fall print newsletter, which was mailed to MHS members last week. You can see the first and second place winners on this blog. Congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to all the entrants. We received many wonderful stories.


 

Log Drives on the Kennebec

By Alice True Larkin

Annual River Drive, Guilford, ca. 1940. Item # 30974 on Maine Memory Network. Image courtesy of the Guilford Historical Society

Annual River Drive, Guilford, ca. 1940. Item # 30974 on Maine Memory Network. Image courtesy of the Guilford Historical Society

 

Every spring when I was growing up in Skowhegan, logs cut in the north woods were floated down the Kennebec River to the paper mills. Cut to four-foot lengths, with the company’s brand on the end, they erupted through the sluiceway at the Central Maine Power Co. dam, raced down a deep gorge to the Big Eddy, where they bucked and tossed in the rapids, then spread out to blanket the river from bank to bank. My friend and I, sitting on her porch at the river’s edge, would spend hours watching the logs float down the river, sometimes picking our favorites and racing them. When they backed up in Wesserunsett Stream to our swimming hole, we would each grab a log, straddle it and ride it like a bucking broncho.

I lived not far from the Eddy and about a half mile further down was the river-driver’s camp, a sturdy orange building with a sheet-iron roof. In the winter, with other neighborhood children, I slid down the roof into a snowbank. Then we crawled up through the foundation to play in the bateaux stored there, scrambled in and out of the narrow bunks with their stained mattresses, and poked around in the tiny kitchen. When the drive came through, we hid in the bushes to watch the men, sun-browned, muscular fellows in plaid flannel shirts, who chanted woods ditties as they brought in supplies or pulled the clumsy boats down to the river.

In 1775, Colonel Benedict Arnold made his tortuous way up the Kennebec on his march to Quebec, using the same bateaux, although his were hastily constructed, of green wood, which caused untold problems and greatly impeded the expedition. These bateaux are sturdy, double-ended, and propelled by pushing long poles against the river bottom. The river drivers scour the river’s edge for logs that have stranded on the banking, and coax them out into the river again with pick poles. Nimble fellows, they skip over the massed logs to break up a jam or, just for fun, spin one under their cleated boots in log-birling competitions.

The last log drive on the Kennebec took place in 1976, after companies found it cheaper to move the logs by truck, and environmentalists complained that sunken logs polluted the river and killed the fish. Now the Kennebec runs clear and free, the fish have returned and white-water rafting has become a new industry. But for those of us who remember, there remains a nostalgia for the old days when logs filled the Kennebec every spring and river drivers were our heroes.

“Your Maine Home” Essay Contest Winner – 2nd place

2ndWe are pleased to present below the 2nd place winner of our 2014 “Your Maine Home” essay contest. This year we asked to hear about defining moments in the history of your Maine home or neighborhood. The contest ran in the summer and the winners were announced in the fall print newsletter, which was mailed to MHS members last week. The 3rd place winner will appear on this blog on Wednesday, September 10–so come back soon! Congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to all the entrants. We received many wonderful stories.


 

Foster’s Place

By Karyn Lie-Nielsen

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I love coming home to the spicy fragrance of late lilacs floating in the June air. I think of Foster Jameson, former owner of this property back in 1930, returning from an infrequent summer outing. The air carried the rural tang of chickens. Prize-winning chickens, to be precise, for Foster Jameson was the proprietor of The Jameson Poultry Farm in Waldoboro, Maine, one of the “best-equipped Barred Rock farms in the entire country,” according to his 1936 brochure. I have a hunch that smell was as welcoming for him as my flowers are to me, because Foster Jameson aspired to breeding top-ranking egg-layers in the peak of health.

Foster Jameson opened his poultry farm in 1920. My husband and I bought the twenty-acre property eight decades later, in 2000. All that remains of his endeavors is one long poultry barn and one small, but substantial outbuilding that still houses two huge electric incubators. They fill the space, standing over six feet tall, and leave just enough room to walk around them. Each is made of wood (not a single piece of plastic in sight) and is equipped with automatic humidifiers, “important in producing quality chicks,” as the vintage brochure assures us.

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Photographs taken during Foster Jameson’s tenure show the field dotted with small hen houses, structures with salt-box roofs. Foster (as we fondly call him) attended the University of Maine, studying animal husbandry. Breeding vigorous strains of chickens was his specialty. His ambition, perhaps his most fervent dream, was to run a prize-winning hatchery, building up breeds that topped the charts in egg production.

The house where we live, that Foster Jameson and his family lived in as well, was built a century before Foster himself was born. But my husband and I have not yet discovered the name of the original owner. So far, we never felt motivated to research further. Foster Jameson, a model of industry, has been enough of a guiding light for us. After all, we have his photographs and brochures, where he appears wearing a necktie as he holds a plump chicken in his arms. We have his notes penciled on the old incubators. His business survived the Great Depression and World War II. He was able to provide a good living for his family, evidenced by photographs of the white-painted house and neat lawn, a child smiling in the farmyard.

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Everything we know about Foster Jameson deeply compels us to be good stewards of his land. We mention his name with honor, he is the respected godfather of the property.

Nowadays, when haymakers come in June, hurrying modern equipment back and forth over the grassy field where the breeding houses once stood, I imagine Foster watching with me. I’m certain that he would approve of keeping the field open and clean.

And when I planted that row of lilacs, I thought Foster might appreciate how the blossoms tender my thoughts of him, and gently ease the border between past and present.

“Your Maine Home” Essay Contest Winner – 1st place

1stplace

We are pleased to present below the first place winner of our 2014 “Your Maine Home” essay contest. This year we asked to hear about defining moments in the history of your Maine home or neighborhood. The contest ran in the summer and the winners were announced in the fall print newsletter, which was mailed to MHS members last week. The second and third place winners will appear on this blog on Tuesday, September 9 and Wednesday, September 10–so come back soon! Congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to all the entrants. We received many wonderful stories.


Pine View Farm

By Barbara A. Desmarais

 

Pine View Farm once sat upon a gentle knoll in the New Meadows section of Brunswick.

Pine View Farm once sat upon a gentle knoll in the New Meadows section of Brunswick.

 

Pine View Farm in the New Meadows section of Brunswick had been in my family since the late 1700s.

My mother and her seven siblings often reminisced about visiting and working at the 78-acre homestead. They remembered their grandmother, Mary, as a hard-working woman who rarely smiled. Aunt Grace was cheerful and musical, playing organ both at home and at church. Uncle Charlie, they all agreed, was dour and quiet, most comfortable when caring for his beloved dairy cows. The children were never allowed in Charlie’s domain – the cow barn. They remembered pumping water from the well and using a two-holer outhouse, too.

The farm abutted the thousand-acre Town Commons, which encompassed a managed white pine and red oak forest, as well as a blueberry barren planted on the sandy plain. Grampa’s own father had helped plant the white pines that gave their farm its name. In 1930, the town voted to establish the Brunswick Municipal Airport, replacing the sandy plain with aeroplanes.

During World War Two the Town Commons, which had belonged to the citizens of Brunswick since 1719, became the Naval Air Station Brunswick. Aunt Grace saw opportunity in the sudden stream of people traveling past the farm. She baked breads and fruit pies in the wood cook-stove, churned butter and ice cream by hand with milk fresh from the cow, then sold them all at her farm stand just outside the back gate of the Navy base.

In 1956 and ’57, the Federal government bought up the farms surrounding the base, including the roads that had connected New Meadows to parts of Brunswick and Harpswell. The family sold Pine View Farm and it was scheduled to be demolished. My family always ended their round of remembrances by recalling that Uncle Charlie neglected to tell Grampa the exact date when the farmhouse was to be burned to the ground, so Grampa never had the opportunity to gather up the family papers. Generations of documents went up in flame because, the family said, Charlie didn’t care about the family records. My family’s only relics are Mary’s 1888 wedding quilt sewn and signed by the women of New Meadows, Aunt Grace’s 1890s bisque doll, the 1908 46-star American flag that once flew at Pine View Farm, and the 1918 china pitcher used to serve fresh milk to eight rambunctious nieces and nephews.

Today an empty field is all that is left of the farm.

Today an empty field is all that is left of the farm.

And so, one building after another was demolished, effectively erasing not just Pine View Farm, but the very fabric of New Meadows where generations of neighbors had lived, loved and married, where they had worked and worshipped. My own family and all of New Meadows had lost a vital connection to our past. The base closed in 2011. The community has regained access to some of the natural areas, but an empty munitions bunker still stands in place of our homestead.

The families' surviving relics were a 1888 wedding quilt sewn, a 1890s bisque doll, the 1908 46-star American flag that once flew at Pine View Farm, and a 1918 china pitcher.

The families’ surviving relics were a 1888 wedding quilt sewn, a 1890s bisque doll, the 1908 46-star American flag that once flew at Pine View Farm, and a 1918 china pitcher.

Brunswick, Maine

Volunteer Appreciation Picnic

On Wednesday, August 20, 2014, we at Maine Historical Society hosted our annual Volunteer Appreciation Picnic. We honored our volunteers who spend countless hours helping us operate–by processing library collections, transcribing letters, mailing membership packets, leading House and walking tours, maintaining the garden, and many other invaluable activities.

To our volunteers past and present: Thank you! We cannot do what we do without you.

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