Gladys Doten Chapman: A Life Well Lived

By Tessa Surette, MHS Volunteer

Gladys Chapman, circa 1907

I recently processed the Chapman-Doten family collection which documents the lives of a Portland family during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Chapmans — Philip Sr. (1884-1949), his wife Gladys (1886-1980) and their children Virginia (1910-2011), Marion (1913-1965) and Philip Jr. (1917-2001) — lived on Spring Street. Their lives are preserved through correspondence and numerous photographs.

While all five family members are represented in the collection, it is Gladys who emerges as its star. She lived a long and meaningful life as a wife, mother, suffragette, poet and active Portland citizen, and her papers are a valuable addition to the Maine Historical Society.

Gladys (3rd row from the top, 1st from the left) and her future husband Philip F. Chapman, Sr. (to her immediate left) with “The Crowd” on December 30, 1905

Gladys Doten Chapman was born in Maine to Roswell and Clara (Stevens) Doten. She attended Waynflete School and later graduated from Portland High School in 1902. She went on to Wellesley College, graduating in 1907. The decade following her graduation was a busy one. She married Philip F. Chapman Sr. in 1909, had three children, and dedicated herself to the fight for women’s suffrage. She played a prominent role in the Maine Suffrage League and was an original member of the Portland League of Women Voters.

Gladys with baby Virginia, circa 1910
The three Chapman siblings, circa 1917.
(L to R) Virginia, Philip Jr., and Marion outside their house at 375 Spring Street

In addition to politics, Gladys was involved in a wide array of organizations and hobbies. She wrote poetry throughout her life and some of her poems are preserved in this collection. During the 1930s, she wrote book reviews for the Portland Evening News. She was president of the YWCA, the first secretary of the Portland Players, and a longtime member of the Portland College Club. She was also involved in Greater Portland Landmarks, the Wellesley College Alumnae Association and the Portland Museum of Art.

Gladys, circa 1929

While Gladys’s resume is impressive, it doesn’t tell the whole story. A list of accomplishments can illustrate a person’s interests, values and intellect, but not their personality. That is why the correspondence in this collection is such a treasure. During the 1930s and 1940s, Gladys wrote detailed letters to her daughter Virginia, regaling her with anecdotes and colorful commentary about her daily life. Here are a few examples:

In a letter from January 1937, she speaks of Philip Jr.’s attempt to fix their antique Ford.

“He spent about all of three solid days working on the antique Ford… When it finally started, it sounded like the bombardment of Madrid. I got up and looked out the window to see who [was] shooting machine guns, never suspecting it was coming from my own garage.”

Philip Chapman Jr. and his sister Marion, Dec. 28, 1944

In another letter from April 1937, she describes a shopping excursion with daughter Marion (nicknamed Emmy).

“Did she tell you how narrowly we escaped bringing a monkey home with us? If she had had the money I couldn’t have stopped her; but she had only ten dollars and I flatly refused to lend her the rest. It wasn’t like Stella; it was one of the kind with a greenish tinge to its coat and a hairless rear—you know. Also a bat tail, the kind that is the same size all the way down and stops suddenly and bluntly.”

Later in the same letter she mentions her work as a book reviewer and Emmy’s continued pursuit of a monkey.

“There is a pile of books waiting for me; I can’t bear to face the fiction ones… Emmy has been working by the hour clipping and pasting the last month’s reviews into my own book, to bring that up to date. I told her she was a fool if she didn’t take advantage of a chance to kill several birds with one stone and write my publishers’ letters for me and get secretarial practice and earn cold cash at the same time. I am afraid the desire to accumulate the price of a monkey is the driving motive.”

In another letter from September 1939, Gladys describes how she and Marion, who was recovering from a head cold, were inconvenienced by unexpected guests.

“This morning when we were looking our worst Joy and Mrs. Krahmer arrived. One of the disadvantages of being on the ground floor is that it is harder to refuse to see people. And since they had seen her before and she was undeniably better, it seemed impossible not to ask them in. Marian didn’t want to talk, so she pretended that she couldn’t and just whispered, hoping they would go soon. Then this afternoon… in drove Peter Lallemant, the attractive young man in the Casco Bay Timber… Of course having told the German ladies this morning that she could not speak aloud, she had to keep up the same fiction with him, and while it was poetic justice, it was a good deal of a strain whispering for nearly two hours.”

Virginia and Gladys, January 1971

The Chapman-Doten family collection (Coll. 4113), now available for research, contains correspondence, numerous photographs, book reviews, illustrations, newspaper clippings and Gladys’ English assignments from Wellesley College.

The Sanctity of Archives

By Steve Bromage, MHS Executive Director

You may have heard about a controversy that has emerged this week surrounding the National Archives and Records Administration: NARA, which refers to itself as the “country’s record keeper,” has been taken to task for altering historic images used to promote its exhibit celebrating the centennial of the women’s suffrage movement. Images of the 2017 Women’s March were blurred to obscure references to “Trump” and female anatomy, drawing criticism from historians, the museum field, and many others (including those who participated in the March).

You can read about the controversy in this New York Times article.

History is messy and complex (and wonderful and an incredibly important resource). This controversy strikes a chord: it raises questions about how institutions like Maine Historical Society go about our work at a time when the concepts of “facts, ” “knowledge,” and “truth” are under siege.

At MHS, our mission is to preserve and share Maine’s story. Central to our work is caring for and providing access to documents and other historical items that serve as the foundation of the historical record. We strive to provide broad access to our collections and work closely with partners throughout the state to develop exhibits, public programs, publications, and online resources that provide context for issues that Mainers are focused on today.

A core tenet articulated in our strategic plan states that MHS is “committed to rigorous scholarship, freedom of inquiry, confronting all aspects of the historical record, and advocates the use of history to support planning for the future.” We take this very seriously.

This means that we are meticulous in how we approach, think about, and present the historical record: we do not alter images, manipulate them for effect, sanitize them, or attempt to put aspects of Maine’s story in a more favorable light.

Our staff engages in constant discussion internally and with partners throughout Maine to identify topics of interest and relevance to the community, to include diverse perspectives, and to present multiple viewpoints.

There are inherent biases in all history—based on what records survive, what materials have been valued and collected, the era in which the history is written, and the background and perspective of the historian and institution. We work hard to identify, acknowledge, and address those biases.

I could cite many examples of MHS’s work in recent years that reflect these commitments: exhibitions on immigration in Maine, the paper industry, and Maine’s food culture and economy.

Our current exhibition, Holding Up the Sky, offers a case in point. As the State of Maine commemorates its Bicentennial this year, we felt that it was essential to first place 200 years of Statehood into the context of 13,000 years of Maine history. The exhibition explores the experience and leadership of the Wabanaki, Maine’s first people, who have lived here and been stewards of the place we now know as Maine for thousands of years.

Holding Up The Sky logo 1 NEW

The exhibit revisits historic documents, like treaties, from the Wabanaki perspective and acknowledges that early Maine leaders, like the Longfellow family (near and dear to MHS), acted in deeply disturbing ways (e.g. by offering scalping bounties). The story is complex, tragic, moving, inspiring, and many other things. It is a story that people who care about Maine need to know, good and bad. Information, awareness, and open dialog is the foundation for moving forward together on this and every other topic of contemporary interest and concern.

I hope you’ll have the chance to visit Holding Up the Sky before it closes on February 1.

Exhibitions are one important way for the public to encounter and explore history. Each story, fact, object, label, panel, and graphic plays a role in establishing knowledge, understanding, and trust. It is essential that each is presented with honesty, accuracy, and transparency.

We are fortunate: Maine has an incredible historical community. Scholars, professors, graduate students, and local historians are dedicated to these principles, as are museums, archives, local historical societies, libraries, and many other organizations throughout the state.

These individuals and institutions are an invaluable resource and source of information. You can be confident in their vigilance and commitment to providing information that supports civic dialog.

We deeply appreciate the support of MHS members and donors who make this work possible.

Jessie Franklin Turner: American Fashion Designer (1881-1956)

By Molly O’Donnell, MHS Costume Project Intern

Within the Maine Historical Society costume collections live multiple pieces designed by Jessie Franklin Turner dating between 1936 and 1942. Turner was an American fashion designer based out of New York City. She opened her shop in 1923 and retired in 1942. During her time, she was known for her unique and striking clothing. She developed her style by directly draping fabric onto the model, to achieve the elegant draped look that many of her garments captured. She was mostly known for tea gowns and her use of exotic and rare fabrics. Tea gowns were dresses that were inspired from negligee or home wear that were altered to be appropriate to be worn in public. The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art houses a few tea gowns of their larger Jessie Franklin Turner collection.

In 1936 Vogue ran an advertisement about her stating that “special fabrics were woven to her specifications” and they were “dyed by her own formula.”  Turner was involved in every step of creating her garments. The ad also stated, “one of [Turner’s] greatest delights is to plan gowns that are a perfect complement to a woman’s own drawing room.” All of Turner’s pieces were characterized by simplicity and elegance. They were not meant to be the star of the show, but rather, to show off the woman wearing them.

Throughout her career, Turner moved her shop locations several times: in 1922 she was on 290 Park Avenue; less than a decade later she moved to 23 East 67th Street; and in 1936 she relocated to 410 Park Avenue. Maine Historical Society houses three garments by this wonderful designer: one long pink robe; one long-sleeved green dress; and a sleeveless green dress.

The pink robe is lined all the way through with magenta satin. It ties at the waist with a pale green tie. A pale green band made of the same material as the tie goes around the inside of the robe. Below the pale green band, the color of the satin changes from magenta to deep red. Another tie on the interior, made of magenta satin, helps hold the robe closed. The pale green and magenta line the sleeve cuffs. Shoulders are slightly padded. A designer dressmaker label on the inside seam below the green band reads: Jessie Franklin Turner, 410 Park Avenue, New York.








We next examine the pale green, full-length long sleeve dress, which has a high, rounded neckline lined with brown trim. A pleat center front emerges from the neckline. There is a small cut out on each of the gently padded shoulders. The front of the dress has darts to make it fitted.

Sleeves are wide and constructed with multiple pieces of fabric with a seam around the elbow area. Four hook and eyes and a zipper are positioned on the proper left side. There is a waistband with two pleats coming from it on either side. The skirt is straight below the waistband. Lined with olive-green fabric, the inside has sweat guards to keep the dress in good condition.







Lastly, the full-length sleeveless dress has frosted glad round beads around the arm holes and hem. The neckline is rounded, and arm holes are large and oval shaped. Shoulders are gathered. Fabric is constructed with a puckered and pleated oval pattern throughout, and the skirt flares with many narrow gores inserted from waist to hem. There is no waistline, but the gores give the dress its shape. The back of the dress is slightly longer than the front.










All three of these garments have the sewn-in designer label Jessie Franklin Turner, 410 Park Avenue, New York. Originally, the pink robe was dated 1925-1935 and the dresses 1930-1940. However, since Turner did not move to 410 Park Avenue until 1936, all garments have to be post-1936, meaning the original dates were inaccurate. From research, we know that she dyed all her fabrics herself. The two green dresses are the same shade of green and the pink robe has a stripe of the green on the interior lining, along with the tie. Therefore, it is likely that all these garments were dyed around the same time and were part of the same collection.

Jessie Franklin Turner was a prevalent and creative designer during her time. As can be seen here, her garments were not only stylish, but they were also exceptionally well-made.

Notes from the Archives: The Friendship of Robert P. Tristram Coffin and Samuel Appleton Ladd Jr.

by Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist/Cataloger

I love presentation copies. I also love Maine authors. A recent donation from  Samuel Appleton Ladd III of books owned by his father, Samuel Appleton Ladd, Jr., combines two of my favorite things in the collections of the Maine Historical Society, as well as incorporating other themes such as friendship, the bond of fraternal brothers, and artwork/illustration.

Samuel Appleton Ladd and author, poet, and Bowdoin professor, Robert P. Tristram Coffin were longtime friends. They were also members of the same fraternity at Bowdoin College, Zeta Psi, although at different times. Samuel Ladd was born in 1906, and Robert P. Tristram Coffin was born in 1892, and graduated from Bowdoin in 1915.

Evidence of this friendship is in this wonderful collection of books and their inscriptions, including some with drawings, from Coffin to Ladd, and his wife Estelle (“Dolly“). “Primer for America” is inscribed: “For Sam Ladd, who spends most of his money buying my books, and may he keep up the good works! With best wishes, in Tau Kappa Phi as brother in fraternity and life.”

Apparently “Tau Kappa Phi” is the greeting of those in the Zeta Psi fraternity. This inscription includes a charming picture drawn by Coffin of a coastal scene, complete with house on the shore (with smoke billowing out of the chimney), dory on the beach, a lighthouse, and lots of seagulls (seemingly birds are Coffin’s trademarks).

Another inscription in “Maine ballads” says: “for my friend and brother in Tau Kappa Phi and fellow Brunswickian, Sam Ladd Jr. with all neighborly wishes, Robert P. Tristram Coffin.”

In “Kennebec, Cradle of Americans” Coffin writes: “Inscribed for Samuel Appleton Ladd who has a good Bowdoin name, is a Bowdoin man, a brother [?], and now my friend, Robert P. Tristram Coffin.”

In Coffin’s “Collected Poems” he writes, “For Sam Ladd who reads my books as much as I do, friend and brother in TKØ, with best wishes Robert P. Tristram Coffin.” This inscription also includes a drawing by Coffin of a house with smoke rising from the chimney, and flanked with pine trees on either side.

In “Captain Abby and Captain John: An Around-the-World-Biography” the inscription says: “For Sam and Dolly Ladd who live around the corner and are my good friends, with best wishes, Robert P. Tristram Coffin.” The drawing underneath shows a bunny and tracks in between two pine trees.

Even Dolly, Sam’s wife, has her own inscription in Coffin’s “Mainstays of Maine”, a cookbook: “For Dolly Ladd who is a New England artist and cookery and doesn’t own this book, but I am glad she has it so I can put my name on it and good wishes, Robert P. Tristram Coffin.” The drawing under this inscription shows a bird carrying off an envelope.

Also in the collection is a book “Inscribed for Harry Oakes, Fellow in Bowdoin at whose home I spent a lovely Californian evening talking about Maine, with best wishes in Tau Kappa Phi, Robert P. Tristram Coffin.” This is an intriguing tale, if indeed it is inscribed to Sir Harry Oakes, the gold mine owner, entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. Oakes was born in Sangerville, Maine, and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1896. He earned his fortune in Canada, and in the 1930s moved to the Bahamas for tax purposes, where he was murdered in 1943 in notorious circumstances.

This inscription has a date of February 19, 1948, but it looks like it could have been written at a different time. In any case, obviously Oakes was dead by then, but his daughter, Nancy, later lived in California – perhaps this is when the book was signed. There is a bust on their mantelpiece of the Zeta Phi House at Bowdoin College of Sir Harry Oakes, so this may have been the same Harry Oakes in the inscription. Underneath this inscription is a drawing of three birds flying.

Samuel Appleton Ladd, Jr. was on the Bowdoin College faculty for many years. During that time, he became the elder person at the Zeta Phi fraternity to keep order, good food, and be financially secure. Sam co-edited “An informal history of the Lamda Chapter of Zeta Psi at Bowdoin College, 1867-1967” (Brunswick Publishing Company, ca. 1967). Bowdoin later eliminated fraternities and turned them into housing places for students. All living members on the fraternities voted to re-name the houses and get rid of the Greek names. The Zeta Psi house, by popular vote, was named the Ladd House. It still stands today on College Street in Brunswick. (Information from the donor, Samuel Appleton Ladd III).

All together, these presentation copies, as well as other books which were part of the library of Samuel Appleton Ladd, give us a charming picture into long friendships and connections within the Bowdoin College family.

Chansonetta Stanley Emmons Photograph Collection

By Judith Wentzell, MHS Volunteer

Chansonetta Stanley Emmons (left) sits next to her daughter Dorothy Stanley Emmons, Kingfield, Maine 1907. Photographic print by the artist.  MMN #26179.

What good fortune I have, as a part-time volunteer in the Brown Research Library at Maine Historical Society, to prepare the photographs of Chansonetta Stanley Emmons for all to see on Maine Memory Network.  Born in Kingfield, Maine in 1858, Chansonetta was an adventurous woman of the late 19th and early 20th century with stamina, perseverance, skill, a point of view, and an artist’s eye.

Her surviving photographs, taken primarily between 1900 and 1930, range from staged scenes with friends and relatives reflecting an earlier lifestyle to photographs taken in Europe and Canada. There are scenes of Maine farmers at work, portraits of homes and villages in rural Maine, trips to coastal towns in New England and a set of well over 100 hand-colored glass lantern slides. These were taken in 1926 on a trip to South Carolina where she photographed Charleston architecture, public gardens, and tenant farmers. Finding a very few photographs of a trip she took to Colorado is a reminder that we know many of her photographs were destroyed.

Hazel True feeding the hens, New Portland, ca. 1910. Handcolored lantern slide by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons. MMN #102400

The collection is in a number of formats.  There are 5”x 7” glass plate negatives, prints developed on Velox paper, mounted prints, and the lantern slides. Some images were taken with a roll film camera. Regardless of format, Chansonetta was adept at standing in just the right place to take a photograph. Her images are clear and sensitive to her subjects.  She had no artificial light source, so therefore became skilled in determining exposure with only natural light. She developed and processed all her work.

Uncle Tristam at the well, Kingfield, ca. 1900 by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons. MMN #102516

Chansonetta (as I am on a first-name basis with her after these many months) was born to a farm family, the only daughter of seven children. Her twin brothers Freelan Oscar and Francis Edgar went on to considerable success as inventors of the Stanley Dry Plate photographic process and the Stanley Steamer automobile.  From them she was introduced to photography.

However, she had already started on her path for a career in the arts while attending Western State Normal School in Farmington. She enrolled planning to become a teacher and graduated having decided to be artist.  Chansonetta moved to Boston to further her career.  In 1887 she was married. Her daughter, Dorothy, was born in 1891. It was after the death of her husband seven years later that Chansonetta focused more on photography and in 1904 bought her Century camera.  She was fortunate to have brothers who could support her in a comfortable manner for the rest of her life as they provided her with an apartment and automobiles. She did not have to work although she earned some income from her photography.

A cooling draft, ca. 1910. Handcolored lantern slide by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons. MMN #102407

Chansonetta had a lifelong partner in her travels with her daughter, Dorothy, who grew into the role of assistant and chauffeur.  They traveled together to all the locations of her photographs including almost every summer back to friends and family in Kingfield.  When Chansonetta died in 1937, Dorothy kept close watch on her mother’s legacy.

Scituate at high tide, Scituate, Massachusetts, ca.1910 by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons. MMN #102606

I have seen and processed over 500 photographs, with perhaps that same number to go.  This may not seem like many in an age of digital cameras.  Now the average person has a small camera or a cell phone. There is no need to purchase film or have film processed and printed.  Chansonetta lugged around a heavy view camera with tripod and a glass plate for most every photograph she took.  Wearing dresses of the time, she must have had some hiking skills to walk to many of her locations!

Little red school house, Stowe, Vermont, ca. 1910 by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons. MMN #102455

Along with discovering beautiful and surprising images as I open each envelope, last summer I walked in the photographer’s footsteps at Wohelo Camps on the shores of Sebago Lake.  In the camp records Mrs. Chansonetta Emmons and Dorothy Emmons are listed as being campers for the 1918 season.

Not all Chansonetta’s photographs are precisely captioned. Luckily, a few photographs of a dramatic performance in a woodsy area and photographs of women lounging on the rocky shore of a lake were labelled “Wohelo.” A brief search on the Internet led me to Mark Van Winkle, the fourth-generation owner/director of this iconic and historic Maine camp for girls. On a glorious summer day in July of 2018, I was given not only a tour and a delicious lunch with campers but also a chance to view hundreds of Chansonetta’s glass plate and celluloid negatives, all taken at the camp between 1918 and 1923.  Perhaps she was a friend of the illustrious founders/owners, Dr. Luther and Charlotte Gulick or perhaps it was employment – we do not know.

Sebago Wohelo, Raymond, ca. 1918. Handcolored lantern slide by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons. MMN #102381

Most of what we do know now about Chansonetta comes from Marius B. Peladeau, who has been a force in Maine art and historic circles for many years. It was Peladeau who purchased the collection of Chansonetta’s photographs, cataloged them and assured that they ultimately went to the Stanley Museum.  It is this collection that now finds a home for safe keeping at the Maine Historical Society. In 1977 Peladeau published “Chansonetta: The Life and Photographs of Chansonetta Stanley Emmons, 1858 – 1937.”  I and many others first learned about her from this book as well as from exhibits held at the same time.

My personal adventure with Chansonetta is not soon to end – there are still many boxes to open, explore, and catalog.  I look forward to seeing lives and locales she captured that are now lost to us a century later.  I hope my work with her photographs will play at least a small role in bringing a widespread appreciation and enjoyment of Chansonetta Stanley Emmons and her work.

For more of her photographs, be sure to browse now and periodically on Maine Memory Network. More photographs will continually be added to the database.

The Crosby Farm on the Maine Turnpike

By Bjorn Swenson, MHS Guide

You may have noticed this old farmhouse beside the Maine Turnpike in South Portland. It stands out in a landscape dominated by shopping plazas and parking lots. A sign at the foot of the driveway reads “Maine Turnpike Crosby Farm Maintenance Area.” The site is across from Maine Mall Road and near Long Creek.

The Crosby farmhouse is one of the few vestiges of the agrarian neighborhood that preceded the Maine Mall, an area called Crockett’s Corner. The Maine Turnpike Authority purchased the property from the Crosby family just months before the opening of the turnpike in 1947. But the Crosbys were actually the fourth family to own it. The Second Empire farmhouse with its mansard roof was built by the Trickey family, who were the first to cultivate the land around it.

Current Crosby Farm Maintenance facility. Photo: Kathy Amoroso

Although the exact year of construction remains unknown — a search of historic maps, the Cumberland County Registry of Deeds, obituaries, conversation with former state historian Earle Shettleworth, and resources on — helped to reveal stories of the previous owners of the property, a history that stretches back to the early 18th century. The house looks like it was built around 1860-80.

1733 deed shows that Lt. Zebulon Trickey purchased 50 acres of land “on each Side the Mast Road leading to Dunston” in (then) Falmouth from Samuel Waldo and Thomas Westbrook, and purchased an additional fifty acres adjoining this land from the same men two years later. Westbrook was a colonial Mast Agent and businessman for whom the City of Westbrook is named, and Waldo was a wealthy Boston land speculator and soldier who bought and sold lots of property in the area during this time period. Waldo County is named for him.

Trickey (c. 1705-1744) and his wife Eleanor (Libby) were from Kittery and had recently settled in Scarborough. They bought and sold other properties in Scarborough and Falmouth as well, and it appears that they did not reside on this land near Long Creek, but in another part of Falmouth which later became Deering. It was their son, also named Zebulon (born 1736) who decided to move to the Long Creek property and start improving the land, probably by the late 1760s. Zebulon, Jr. had already married Rebecca Skillings and started a family by this time. He purchased additional land to add to his farm from Eleazer Strout in 1766 and from the York family in 1789. The original deed from the Yorks is included in the Trickey Family Papers which were given to Maine Historical Society. This collection of documents is almost entirely comprised of deeds which demonstrate the family’s investment in real estate throughout Maine over time.

In addition to running the farm, Zebulon, Jr. bought property and mill rights at Great Falls in Windham, laying the groundwork for the industrial community that grew up there. The area is now the Great Falls Historic District.  His son John took over operation of the Trickey mill. Zebulon and Rebecca raised at least seven children on their farm at Long Creek, and their oldest son, yet another Zebulon, eventually inherited the property.

Zebulon Trickey III (1767-1847) married Lucy Mitchell Skillin in 1799. In addition to running his family farm, he invested in the lumber industry by partnering with Thomas Seal and Archelaus Lewis of Westbrook, as agreed to in an 1822 deed. The couple raised seven children on the Trickey farm. Of the six who survived into adulthood, only one left home: Edward married when he was 59 and settled on his own farm in Westbrook.

Trickey Family monument in Evergreen Cemetery

The other five Trickey siblings lived together, all unmarried, well into old age: Samuel, John, James, Edward, Robert, and Lucy. It was likely during this period when the siblings were running the farm, and after their parents had died, that the current farmhouse was built, or perhaps they modified an older structure. In addition to farming, James served four terms in the Maine legislature. Robert was eventually the last surviving member of his family on the farm, and his biography was included in a book of prominent men in Cumberland County a few years before his death in 1899. He was buried alongside his siblings and parents at Evergreen Cemetery  in Portland.

Portraits from the Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1896

After 166 years in the Trickey family, the farm was purchased by Wilbur F. Dresser, a successful real estate agent with offices on Exchange Street in Portland’s Old Port. Blogger Scott Leonard has written about the Dresser family on his genealogy blog Old Blue Genes. Dresser lived at the farm with his wife Sarah and their five children for twenty years until he sold the property to Carroll and Elizabeth Gleason. After only one year, the Gleasons sold the 120-acre property to Willie E. Crosby and his wife Lillian in October 1920.

William Elwyn Crosby was born on April 11, 1873 in Hampden, Maine, the fourth generation of his family to live there. He moved as a young man to Bridgton, where he appears on the 1900 census as a merchant, working at a music store and living in a small boarding house. He married Lillian Whitney in 1901. Lillian was born in 1871 in Gorham, and living with her parents in Bridgton at the time of her marriage. Willie Crosby was still working as a merchant on the 1910 census for Bridgton, this time for the box company there, and he and his wife were raising three young children: Mary, Calvin, and Rodney. He had switched to farming by the time he registered for the World War I draft, and the whole family moved to South Portland around 1920 when Willie and Lillian bought the old Trickey farm to run as a dairy.

The Crosbys’ daughter Mary (1903-1998) married Victor Tribuson and she eventually moved to California. Calvin “Joe” Crosby (1905-1986) pursued a career as a carpenter, raising four children, and retired with his wife Emily in Casco. Rodney (1909-1995) carried on the Crosby Dairy Farm business after their father Willie died in 1938. He and his wife Irene tended a herd of about one hundred cows by the time the Maine Turnpike Authority came knocking in the late ’40s. Planning for the turnpike began in earnest in 1941, and the proposed route cut directly through the Crosby’s farm, splitting the old farmhouse from their pastures on the other side of Payne Road (now Maine Mall Road). After contemplating whether they should try to keep part of the farm, the Crosbys signed the paperwork selling 223 Payne Road in its entirety to the Maine Turnpike Authority on May 6, 1947. Rodney and his family were allowed to stay in the farmhouse until August 1st of that year.

Crosby Farm, Payne Road, South Portland, ca. 1947

After the Turnpike Authority turned the Crosby farm into a maintenance facility for the highway, the Crosbys moved to Westbrook where Rodney worked in the finishing department at the S. D. Warren paper mill. He and Irene raised two children. Rodney, his brother, and their parents were all laid to rest in Westbrook’s Woodlawn Cemetery.

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Payne Road and the Crosby Farm in 1967. Courtesy South Portland Historical Society

Time marches on, and the neighborhood around the Trickey / Crosby farm continued to change. The nearby Portland-Westbrook Municipal airport (now Portland International Jetport) developed into a much larger facility. Then came the Maine Mall and all the shopping plazas, starting in 1969 with the opening of Jordan Marsh department store. Troop G of the Maine State Police, the unit that patrols the turnpike between Kittery and Augusta, also used Crosby Farm as their headquarters between 1986 and 2009.

Tall case clock made for Zebulon Trickey. Photo: Kathy Amoroso.

Other than a few old homes on Westbrook Street, and two small graveyards, the house at the Crosby Farm Maintenance Facility is the most visible reminder of the people who went before us in this once close-knit neighborhood.

Antique doorknob. Photo: Kathy Amoroso

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Fireplace and old measuring wheel. Photo: Kathy Amoroso

I want to thank Kathryn DiPhilippo, Executive Director at the South Portland Historical Society, for providing obituaries for the Crosby family, and Kathy Amoroso, Director of Digital Engagement at Maine Historical Society, for posing the question of this house’s history and helping with the research.

About the Blogger: Bjorn Swenson leads tours of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House at Maine Historical Society.


Maine Historical Society Introduces New Genealogy Experience

In June, Maine Historical Society kicked off a weekly guided introduction to genealogical research: Find Your Place in History.


On Thursday afternoons from June to October 2018, small groups gather in MHS’s renowned Brown Research Library and embark on the Find Your Place in History program from 4:00 to 5:30pm. During the program, participants explore history on all levels: from the history of their own family to artifacts that help tell the story of western civilization.

“Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the United States, and many of our visitors to the Brown Research Library are genealogists doing research” says Nan Cumming, Director of Advancement and creator of the Find Your Place in History program. “But we have heard from a number of patrons that there is really no guided introduction to genealogy except reading a book or watching a couple of YouTube videos. We have the expertise, the information, and the collections here – this is certainly a gap in the market we can fill!”

During their afternoon session, Find Your Place in History participants dig into their own family story with the guidance of Maine Historical Society staff. In addition, they view artifacts from the collections of the Maine Historical Society and put on the white gloves and explore Maine Historical Society’s archives—off limits to regular visitors. After their work in the library, the participants gather in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House garden to enjoy refreshments.

“We’re delighted to kick off the Find Your Place in History program and to welcome those who have always had an interest in genealogy, but frankly didn’t know where to start!” said Cumming.

Find Your Place in History: A Maine Historical Society Genealogy Experience is offered Thursdays from June to October, from 4:00pm to 5:30pm. Check-in at the MHS Museum Store at 489 Congress Street.

This is a guided introduction to genealogical research—not for experienced genealogists. To ensure you have the most fascinating experience, bring the names and birthdates of a few relatives to your session.

Ticket Price: $75 each. There is a maximum of 6 people per tour. The deadline to register for each event is the Monday prior to the event. Available by advance registration online at or by phone at 207-774-1822 ext. 216