Copyright
Everett Schermerhorn Stackpole.

History of Durham, Maine; online

. (page 13 of 28)
Online LibraryEverett Schermerhorn StackpoleHistory of Durham, Maine; → online text (page 13 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


"to have three aisles, one on each end and one in the middle
of the house, two feet wide each." George Williams, Waitstill
Webber and James Strout were chosen a committee to superin-
tend the building of the house and the erection of the same was
bid ofif at auction to the lowest bidder, William Newell, Jr., for
three hundred and sixty-four dollars.

This town house has been moved to S. W. Bend and has
fallen very much into decay. I well remember the town
meetings over thirty years ago. They were orderly assemblies
and sometimes occasions for earnest debate over questions
political and civil. People put on their Sunday clothes for town
meetings. There were stands outside for sale of apples, candies,
cider, gingerbread, etc. The boys had a game of ball. There
was no smoking within the house. The place was clean and
<:omfortable. Something of the reverence that belonged to the
old meeting-place in the Church was shown also for the town
house. I regret very much that a change for the worse has
taken place. Durham needs a better town hall. Nobody can
feel much respect for a dirty and dilapidated building, and there
will be a corresponding disrespect for meetings held therein. It
is to be lamented when citizens cease to hold in esteem and
carefully guard places for the making and administration of law.
Next to the church in the respectful conduct of citizens and
youth should be the place of holding town meetings. To this
end there must be at least needed repairs, cleanliness, good order
and decorum. A new hall, well ventilated, with proper offices
for all town officials, with, also, a Library and reading-room,
having their walls decorated with portraits of Durham's noble-
men of the past, would be a blessing to coming generations.
These lines are written with the hope that Durham, like other
towns, may find a generous benefactor. Where is the man who
will build such a memorial in his native town ?



In the olden times alcoholic beverages were sold at every
tavern and store, under a license system that dates back to early
^colonial days. Many sold without license. In 1840 one article
in the town warrant was, " to see what method the town will
take to put a slop to the immoral conduct of Rumselling."



HISTORICAL MISCELLANY I3I

Jonathan Strout was chosen agent to put the law in force against
those who were selHng "ardent spirits to be drunk in their stores
or shops without Hcense." The old account books of store-
keepers show that the best people of the town bought liquors
frequently. They were considered necessary for laborers. Men
could not be hired to go into the haying field, unless spirituous
liquors were supplied. At every raising and "bee" the crowd
must be treated. Between 1840 and 1850 good men began to
recognize more distinctly the evil of all this. Some preachers
had denounced rumselling and drinking and some temperance
societies had been formed. Little progress had been made till
1848, when Neal Dow gave three lectures in the Union Church.
Directly afterward thirteen persons met one night in Esquire
Simmons' law-ofifice and organized a secret society called "The
Temperance Watchman Club." Among the founders were Rev.
I. C. Knowlton, Rev. Moses Hanscom, Esquire Simmons,
Benjamin Hoyt, Albert Gerrish, James Wm. Gerrish, James H.
Eveleth, Jonathan Libby and George W. Strout. This was the
beginning of a great temperance revival throughout the State.
Its motto was, "Temperance. Humanity and Progress." In 1851
the Society had one hundred and twenty-two organized branches
in Maine and nine in N. H., and it spread into other States. It
soon put a stop to rumselling in Durham. March 4, 1850 the
town voted " to instruct the Selectmen to prosecute all who sell
liquors illegally." March 14, 1853 it was voted "to advise the
Selectmen not to appoint an agent to sell spirituous liquors the
ensuing year." Since that date there has been no open sale of
liquor in Durham, nor has there been within the remembrance
of the writer even a rumor that intoxicating liquors have been
sold in town secretly. With very few exceptions the inhabitants
of Durham have been total abstainers for half a century. To say
of a man that he drinks, is to classify him with criminals. In
1884 the town voted for the prohibitory amendment to the
Constitution, 166 to 44.. For thirty years or more there have
been Good Templars' Lodges at S. W. Bend and So. Durham.

Temperate habits have made law-abiding citizens. During
the hundred years after Durham's incorporation only three
persons were sent to State's Prison from the town, and one of
these was a boy who seems to have had an unbalanced mind and
horribly mutilated a playmate.



132 HISTORY OF DURHAM

Bears were common in the early days. Joshua Miller built a
corn-barn in 1794, harvested his corn and returned to Cape
Elizabeth to spend the winter. Soon word was sent to him that
the bears were eating up his corn. He had to return and guard
against them. The last bear that tradition mentions in Durham
was seen by Rufus Warren, in 1815, near the Stone Mill Pond.
He gave the alarm and everybody within the sound went for his
gun. The bear was driven into the woods. A number of shots
were tired at him without effect. He went up a leaning tree and
hung his head over a branch and looked very saucy. Jeremiah
Brown wanted to fire the first shot. He took a boulder, threw it
and hit the bear in the head. This brought him down, maddened
and crazy. Eben Roberts got a shot at him and broke his
shoulder. After the bear was killed he was carried to the
buildings of John Fabyan and dressed.



In 1822 it was voted to give a bounty of five dollars on wild-
cats' heads. It must have been about this time that Nathaniel
Getchell was out in the woods one day cvitting some withes
when he saw a large nest up in the top of a big pine tree.
Curiosity impelled him to climb up, and there he found four
young wildcats. As he picked one of them up, it commenced to
snarl and cry out. The mother heard the cry and started for the
tree, screeching at every bound. She made a flying leap and
struck the tree nearly twenty feet up the trunk, ripping and
tearing the bark with her nails. To say that Getchell was
frightened is putting it mild. There he was up the tree with no
weapon, holding on for life and likely to lose it if he didn't let go.
The maddened wildcat was close upon him. Not knowing what
else to do, he seized one of the young ones and hurled it out as
far as he could. It went shrieking through the air into the
bushes. The old cat left the tree and flew to the aid of the
squealing kitten. Taking it in her mouth she carried it away
and hid it, then came bounding back to the tree. By this time
Uncle Nat had learned military tactics. The same means of
defense was adopted. The fourth time he slung the kitten as
far as he possibly could. As soon as the old cat started down the
tree, he started too in a lively manner, and his legs carried him
home swiftly and safely. It is not recorded whether he ever got
any bounty on those wildcats.



HISTORICAL MISCELLANY 1 33

It may not be known to some how near Durham came to
having another Congressman. Joseph Reed, Senior, moved into
Durham from Peak's Island before 1830. His wife was a Miss
Brackett. Their chiklren were Joseph, Thomas, WiUiam,
Daniel, John and Emily. This family lived on the road leading
from County Road past David Crockett's. Their house stood
east of the brook still called the "Reed Brook." Thomas,
the father of Hon. Thomas B. Reed, moved to Portland in 1839.
How unfortunate for Thomas ! He might have been President
ere this had he been born in Durham, one year later.



Durham has always had an ear for music. There was no
lack of lifers and drummers in the old days of militia-musters.
Joshua Miller was famed as a drummer, being able to play with
three sticks at once, keeping one stick .constantly in the air.
All the Miller family of West Durham were skilful musicians
iind James Henry Miller was for years leader of a Band in Lew-
iston. Freeman Newell was an expert with the flute, also
manufacturer of melodeons and keeper of a music store in
Auburn. The leadership in music, however, was for many years
accorded to Joseph G. Tyler who was born in Pownal and died
in Durham 22 Oct. 1882, aged 68 yrs. His wife Esther J. died
I Mch. 1891, aged 72 yis. His first Band was organized at
Pownal Corner, about 1842-4, consisting of himself, William
Miller, Z. K. Harmon, Lewis Whitney, Richard Dresser and
Joseph Sawyer. They played extensively at Trainings, Musters,
Anniversaries, etc. This organization was short-lived and was
succeeded by the Durham Band, which continued over thirty
years with Tyler at its head. The other earliest members were
William Miller, Simon W. Miller, George Plummer, Miltimore
Watts, Lewis Whitney, Z. K. Harmon and Joseph Sawyer.
Later were added William Miller, Jr., James Henry Miller,
Henry and Andrew G. Fitz, Mark, Rufus and John Waterhouse
and Tyler's sons, Joseph and Irving. There was no better street
band in the State. It was in demand at political rallies of all
parties. The Fourth of July could not be celebrated in Andro-
scoggin County without Durham Band.

Tyler was also church chorister for several years and taught
many terms of Singing School. He played skilfully the violin,



134 HISTORY OF DURHAM

bugle and clarionet. Mrs. Annie Louise Cary Raymond
received her first musical instruction from him.

The Band was out in full force at the Centennial. That
was its last parade. Few of the old members are now living in
town.

Samuel Miller and Ralph Hascall are remembered by many
as good teachers of Singing Schools. The most cultured musi-
cian of Auburn, Prof. E. W. Hanscom, was born at S. W. Bend.
He took lessons of Joseph Tyler when nine years of age. As an
organist, composer and teacher his reputation is equalled by few
in Maine.



The Durham Agricultural Society was formed May 8, 1886.
The first officers were : President, Charles W. Harding ; Vice-
President, Charles H. Bliss ; Secretary, J. L. Wright ; Treasurer,
Marcus W. Eveleth ; Trustees, Rufus Parker, G. W. Keirstead,
Alfred Lunt, William Stackpole, Arnold C. Morse and Samuel
B. Libby. The town voted $200 to build a house for the exhibi-
tion of agricultural produce, etc. The annual exhibit is as good
in quality as any town can show. Durham has many good
farms and long-headed farmers. When that Electric Railroad
shall be built through it from Auburn to Yarmouth and so on
to Portland, it will become the garden of Androscoggin County
and a favorite place of residence for business men of the cities.

It is a good town for stock-raising, as any one can see who
attends one of the Annual Fairs. Here the big oxen drag away
everything they can be hitched to. The sheep, once driven
away by low tariff, are beginning to return. The fine butter
indicates good Jersey cows and that the old-fashioned creamery
is not yet out of date. The races call out good horses not only
from Durham but also from distant towns. Liberal prizes are
offered, and the usual excitement prevails. How people do like
to see a struggle for mastery !

But the most attractive feature of the Fair is the people that
visit it. It is an annual feast, when all the old residents who
can go up to their Jerusalem. The whole town is there. Every-
body shakes hands with everybody else. They talk over old
times. The old renew their youth. The middle-aged find out
what their neighbors have been doing and have an eye to trade



HISTORICAL MISCELLANY 1 35

and future improvement. The yovmg are just as fond of merri-
ment and flirtation as they were thirty, fifty, a hundred years
ago. Let the day be far distant when the Yankee farmer shall
cease in Durham. The same enterprise with half the hard work
the ancestors did will produce triple the comforts and luxuries
of life that they enjoyed. With the many good things that Dur-
ham is producing by improved methods of Agriculture let her
continue to raise noble men and women, and perish the memory
of any native who shall ever forget the old town.



136 HISTORY OF DURHAM



XI.

CENTENNIAL

On the twenty-second day of August, 1889, was celebrated
the one hundredth anniversary of the incorporation of Durham.
A general committee, consisting of Charles W. Harding, Alfred
Lunt, William H. Thomas, William P. Davis, Josiah H.
Williams, David B. Strout and Z. K. Harmon, had made exten-
sive preparations and issued about seven hundred printed
invitations to old residents of the town. It was estimated that
five thousand persons were in attendance. A big tent was set
up on the Fair Grounds. The churches and houses at South
West Bend were decorated.

The day was ushered in by a salute of thirteen guns in honor
of the original States. At 8 A. M. there was a Parade of Fantas-
tics. After that the procession formed and moved to the Fair
Grounds. Prescott R. Strout was Marshal, aided by Sherman
Strout and George Sylvester. The Continental Band, consist-
ing of bass drum, tenor drum and fife, led the procession. Then
came the " String Bean " Military Escort, commanded by Capt.
William D. Roak and Lieut. David Crockett, and composed of
veterans, etc., with uniform and arms somewhat irregular.
Next was the " Singing School," consisting of thirty young per-
sons, who sang " Star Spangled Banner." P>ank Hascall was
chorister. A big carriage contained thirteen damsels in white.
representing the original States, and twenty-nine little girls to
answer for the later members of the Union. Following them was
a team with five little girls in white in a huge floral basket, repre-
senting the Territories. Next came a company of school boys
in white caps and sashes, commanded by Elmer Randall. Then
there was a mowing machine followed by two men with rusty
old scythes. A hay-rake succeeded, and behind it was one of the
old pattern made by John Vining in 1832, steered by his son,
Edward R. Vining, while the horse was ridden by a grandson,
Willis J. Vining. Silas Goddard & Sons made an exhibition of



CENTENNIAL I37

plows. W. P. Davis and Son had a cart, wherein was an anvil
and a fire fanned by a bellows over a century old. A horse-shoe
was made while the procession was moving. In another cart
Joseph H. Davis, carriage-maker, put spokes into a wheel on
the route. Durham Band rejuvenated furnished music. Old
regimental flags floated over all. Citizens in carriages closed
the procession.

At 2 P. M. there was a Ball Game, followed by Potato Race,
Egg and Spoon Race, 100 Yard Dash, Sack Race, etc.

The Literary Program, which was interrupted for dinner,
consisted of Music, Address of Welcome by the Rev. Edgar L.
Warren, Prayer by the Rev. John Cobb, Song, " Home, Sweet
Home," by Mrs. Ada Cary Sturgis. Then followed an address
by the Hon. Nelson Dingley, Jr. Since it treated largely of
historical matters it need not here be reproduced. One passage,
however, so well states the old mode of living that it ought to be
preserved.

" If we could bring before us to-day the simple and frugal
manner in which the first settlers of Durham were compelled to
live, and compare it with the methods of living in this commu-
nity at the present time, it would be a most impressive object
lesson illustrating our progress in material prosperity. Picture
to yourself the scattered log-cabins of the early settlers, with
one room, as the common cooking, dining and living
room, and another as the common sleeping room, each
lighted by a single pane of glass, and v^^armed by one fire,
without a carpet, easy chairs, or a single article of luxury, and
you have the houses in which they lived. For food, rye took
the place of flour bread ; and pork and beans or peas, or fried salt
pork, or fish was the staple. Tea and coffee and sugar were
used only on great occasions. For books, the Bible with some
times another volume sufficed. Newspapers scarcely were
known. In clothing, rough, ready-made clothes sufficed. In
those days an organ or a piano in one of these houses would
have astonished the town. Luxuries were unknown. Whatever
was not grown on the cleared land or found in the forest was
brought on the backs of horses through paths in the woods from
Portland or Freeport. Money was scarce, and fifty cents per
day was considered good wages. The poorest family in Dur-
ham to-day has more luxuries and lives far better than the
richest in those ' good old times.' "



138 HISTORY OF DURHAM

Dr. David B. Strout responded to the toast, the People of
Durham. Z. K. Harmon read a biographical sketch of Col.
Isaac Royall. The Rev. I. C. Knowlton told of the Progress of
Temperance. Prof. Fred M. Warren spoke of the Musicians of
Durham. Miss Duigin, granddaughter of Dr. John Converse,
gave an original poem. In the afternoon there was an address
by the Hon. William P. Frye. William D. Roak spoke for the
Farmers of Durham. Lewis C. Robinson represented the
Mechanics. The Rev. George Plummer told of the many min-
isters born in Durham. The Hon. William H. Newell extolled
the Teachers. Dr. Charles E. Williams had good words to say
of the Physicians. The Rev. Wm. Shailer Hascall reviewed
Durham's Missionaries. The singing of " America " closed the
program.

To recount the good stories told, the social reunions, the
merriment, the hand-shaking with old acquaintances, the
hospitality and enthusiasm would fill too many pages. The
people of Durham love their native heath. The Centennial
celebration was a great occasion. Many would like to see
another. The poem is worthy of preservation and is here given
in full.

POEM.

BY MISS ELIZABETH CONVERSE DURGIN.
I.

Wondrous spirit of the Past,
Erst so shadowy and vast,
For a little, fold thy wings.
Be to us a friend that sings
Mournful legends, ballads gay ;
W^afts with morning-breath away
Mists that o'er the landscape lay ;
Tells, with tender voice and low.
Stories quaint of long ago.

Seventeen hundred and sixty-three !
Men were learning to be free.
Grand old woods of Royalsboro'
Guarded lands, where not a furrow
Ere had cut through fern and moss, —
Emblem of life's daily cross.




A RUSTIC BRIDGE.



CENTENNIAL 139

Quivering leaves were whispering,
Busy birds, poised on the wing,
Heard, with flutterings of fear,
Human footsteps drawing near.

O ye wounded trees and riven!
Special grace to you was given.
Never yet such honor paid
Druid worshiper in shade
Of the mighty oaks of old
As to you the woodman bold,
When for sacrifice elected^
You, that happy birds protected,
Shuddering, fell beneath his blows,'
And our first log house arose.

Sunbeams peeped to see the wonder,
Breezes blew the leaves asunder,
Touched three lads with soft caressing,
Whispered tenderly a blessing.
Merry echoes now rejoice,
Mimicking each childish voice.
Calling gayly to each other.
Clearly ringing, " Father ! Mother ! "

Through the sound of childish prattle

Clashed the news of far-off battle.

Goodman Gerrish paused and listened.

Tears in Mary's sad eyes glistened,

On her baby's face dropped down.

First-born child of this fair town.

Smile of babe or tears of wife

Cannot keep him from the strife.

Loyal heart and loyal life

Bears he, where, midst fear and trembling.

Patriots are for war assembling.

How can tongue or pen relate
How a woman learned to wait
Days and weeks and months, while all
Solemn, dark, and still, and tall.



140 HISTORY OF DURHAM

Closed the forest trees around,
In their tops a mournful sound,
As of sobbing and of wailing.
As of sorrow unavailing,
While, within their shadows hiding,
Haply, savage foe was gliding,
Or the wild beasts, prowling near,
Chilled her mother-heart with fear.

Womanwise, her work she wrought,

Grief and pain and hunger fought.

Who in vain His word hath claimed,

In whom, since the worlds were framed,

Every fatherhood is named

Who in woe of life or death.

Like a mother comforteth ?

Round that humble home, I ween.
Trooped white angels, strong, unseen.
Bearing answer to the prayer
Of the brave, true woman there.

Home at last her good man came,

Fame makes music with his name ;

Tells how new homes rising round him

Still a kindly father found him ;

Sings how first his gentle grace

Gave the dead a burial place.

Broken by the cruel plough.

Stone nor mound proclaims it now.

Gone are Charles and William Gerrish,
Yet their memory may not perish.
This shall children's children cherish.

II.

When our grandfathers met in their newly-made town,
The wisest, absorbed in a study most brown.
The poet before whose entranced soul there flitted
Rare, wonderful dreams, the most ready-witted.
Could never, by study, or dream, or acumen,
Forecasting the century's story, illumine



CENTENNIAL I4I

Its pathway, more wondrous than Israel trod,
When through the Red Sea they went, following God.

Nor could our dear grandmothers, young then and rosy.

As, with hemlock-brooms swept they their living-rooms cosy,

Or looked from their windows on blue fields of flax,

And saw there incipient dresses and sacks,

Or, noting the lambkins so playful and winning,

Made housewifely plans for the next winter's spinning.

These grandmothers, say I, so modest and sweet,

Could never have guessed that the babes at their feet

Would look upon miracles, calm-eyed, serene.

Such as from the beginning had never been seen.

Those were days of slow living and ponderous thought.

Those first days of freedom, with blood and tears bought,

When the home-returned soldier recounted, with pride.

How many enlisted, what heroes had died,

What battles were fought, and what wounds had been borne.

What scars would, till death, for sweet glory be worn.

Then over the baby his tall form he bent.

To teach the dear name of the first president.

And how thirteen stars on our banner were shining.

While King George the Third on his throne was repining.

Then the Bible was brought, and the chapter was read.

And the prayer, in voice reverent and solemn, was said ;

And the stories of battle and music of psalm

Seemed to blend in strange harmony under night's calm.

There were schools for the youth, and demand for young birch,
Law upheld the Gospel in the Orthodox church;
Where good Parson Herrick, high over his fiock,
Proclaimed our God's sovereignty — faith's firmest rock.
And while children, restless like birds in a cage.
Long to see the tall parson turn o'er the last page.
The choir, in patience, the " Amen " expect.
And turn to their places in "Watts and Select."

But up from the groves of West Durham there rang
The voices of many who shouted and sang.



142 HISTORY OF DURHAM

And, though crying, " Take heed lest ye fall from His grace,"
Declared that God's love every soul doth embrace ;
O'er the preacher's rude stand the glory descended,
And the prayer-incense rose ere the sermon was ended,
And, wrapt into ecstasy, many a mourner
Found Heaven begin at the Methodist Corner.

As buildeth the wise man, so builded the Friends.
When from lowering clouds the tempest descends,
Firm standeth their meeting-house on a rock founded,
By the beauty of God and His terrors surrounded.
On First-day and Fifth-day, in silence and peace,
Assembled the Quakers, bade worldly care cease ;
There sat they together, and sought for the strength
That through quiet and confidence cometh at length.

''The children of Light" found the true light within,
Through whose shining the kingdom of God they should win.
In stillness of spirit, with no uttered word.
They waited, that so the Lord's voice might be heard.
In their hearts spake they often in hymn or in psalm.
But truth broke through silence, zeal stirred under calm,
God uttered His voice through man's lips, and, erelong.
The deep inward melody burst into song.

On, my muse, with thy verse ! bid thy light feet trip faster !
We must visit a moment the district school master.
The boys and girls rise, as we enter the school.
With bows and with curtseys, for this is the rule.
The long class, with toes on a crack in the floor.
Making much of their learning, with earnest gaze pore
O'er the spelling-book's pages (Noah Webster's) and find
Stories thrilling and stirring, with morals to bind.

Then the parsing-class coolly, of guilt unaware.

Dissect grand old Milton, discuss and compare.

With their erudite master, their varied opinions.

While he sits as a prince in the midst of his minions.

The benches will bear on to distant posterity

Names carved with sharp jack-knives, that worked with celerity.

O mischievous fingers ! you've learned since to wield

The pen in the study, the sword in the field.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Online LibraryEverett Schermerhorn StackpoleHistory of Durham, Maine; → online text (page 13 of 28)