“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

 Lie-Nielsen Image 1

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.

Lie-Nielsen Image 2

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.

Lie-Nielsen Image 3

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