Readfield Historical Society Newsletter Fall / Winter 2000 ~ 2001
Readfield Historical Society Newsletter
Fall 2000 / Winter2001
Readfield, Maine
 RHS Meeting

    Our annual meeting will be held on Saturday, November 18, 2:00pm at Readfield Town Office. The agenda will include election of officers; report from private contractor, Bob Johnson, regarding necessary building repairs; discussion of short and long term goals for 2001 and beyond. All are welcome to attend!

Internet Success Stories

Dale Clark received this message in June:
“You started me along a successful path following the pedigree of Samuel Brown's last January. It has been a fruitful few months that took me back to the 1500s in England… Thanks again for your help. You have allowed me to conclude a search started 20 years ago.”
Kathryn Boughton
 A mother and daughter from Massachusetts visited RHS in August, after finding us on the web. Their long search for grandfather and Revolutionary War Veteran, Charles Dutton, had led them to Readfield. They drove here in hopes of actually finding and visiting his grave. Following a brief search through our records, not only did they find valuable information, but enjoyed visiting with Beverly Newton, who drove them to Huntoon cemetery. In the cemetery, located on a remote and discontinued road, their hope became a reality!

RHS Members and Friends Highlights

    Happy 90th birthday to Mildred Adell Chamberlin of Concord, NH, and formerly of Readfield.
    Relief Savage Gordon, age 200 years +, visited Readfield over Heritage Days. She was saddened to see so many of her “old friends gone,” and remarked there are many changes in Readfield since she was a girl! She hopes to be around to visit again next year during Heritage Days and hopes to see more “old timahs stop by to visit and enjoy some of her stories!”
     We bid our snowbirds safe travel as they journey south for the winter!

Summer 2001 Schedule

 The RHS building was open one day a week throughout the summer thanks to the efforts of:
Lois Williams-Seigler
Bill Granville Piper
Hubert & Irene Adell Potter
Freda McKenney Black
Ginger Welch Adell
Beverly Norton Newton
Henry & Evelyn Adell Potter
 We hope to open the building June – August, 2001 for one day a week, 10am-2pm but are in need of additional volunteers to make that a reality. If you are able to help, please let us know as soon as possible so we can announce the schedule in the spring newsletter. Call Evelyn Potter at 685-3812 with questions or to sign up.

Wish List and Gratitudes

Our thanks to:

Wish List

Old Depot School Inkwell Cupboard Returns

Around 1900 the school children at Depot School banded together to raise enough money to have a special cupboard built for their inkwells. Throughout that year they put on several skits at the school until adequate funds were raised to hire local carpenter, Joseph Denton, to build the cupboard. Denton built and lived in the present home of Norm Dow, and his son, Jim, was a student at the school at that time. The cupboard served the purpose for which it was built for many years, but in later years it was used to hold students drinking cups.
 Our thanks to Ruth and Marion Townsend, who have loaned the cabinet to RHS where it is on display for visitors perusal.

Items for Sale at RHS

Postage & Handling will be added according to item.

Heritage Days Quilt Raffle

 Raffle tickets are still available for the “Winter Woodland at Night” quilt designed and made by Martha Vining. Tickets are $5.00 each and proceeds will be used to help erect a Readfield Veterans Monument. To purchase your chances, visit the Readfield town office or send a check made payable to Readfield Veteran’s Memorial to:
Readfield Heritage Quilt Raffle
Readfield Town Office
8 Old Kents Hill Road
Readfield, Maine 04355

Early Settler Series
How Our Old Homes Began
by Dale Potter Clark

    King James of England granted a large tract of  land to the Plymouth Council in England in 1621, which was to plan and govern New England. In 1629 the New Plymouth Colony received a grant from this council which included this area of Central Maine (15 miles on each side of the Kennebec River).  In 1640 Governor Bradford of Massachusetts signed over the grant to all citizens of the New Plymouth Colony. Poor fur trade, land ownership disputes, and threats associated with the French & Indian Wars prevented settlement of this area, so in 1661 the Pilgrims sold this land to some Boston merchants for 400 pounds sterling. The merchants called themselves the Kennebec Purchase Company of the late New Plymouth Colony.
The land remained unsettled, but in 1749 during a period of tranquility the Proprietors reorganized in hopes of developing this land and increasing the value of their investment. They promoted the construction of Fort Western in hopes of securing this area from the threat of Indian attacks thus convincing settlers that this area was a safe place in which to live. They had the land survey done two settlers lots to one proprietors lot, so as this area developed and became more populated the proprietors share of land would sell at a higher price.  In 1761 The Proprietors of the Kennebec Purchase ran a persuasive advertisement for free land. The ad was circulated in England and America. It read (in part) as follows:
  "...the Proprietors will grant two hundred acres altogether, to each family who shall become Settlers on Condition that they each build a house not less than 20 feet square, and seven feet stud; clear and make fit for tillage five acres within three years, and dwell upon the premises personally, or by their substitutes for the term of seven years or more...the Proprietors proposed to lay out in each township 200 acres for the first settled minister; 200 acres for the ministry; and 100 acres for a schoolhouse lot; training field and burying ground... They went on to say that this land was the best offer of any yet offered in any part of America, had "plenty of meadows and intervale, that many settlers have carried with them 20 head of cattle which they have been able to keep year round.... It is well stored with great quantities of the best and most valuable timber..." They further exclaimed that the water-carriage made for ready access to the Boston market "24 hours with favorable wind", and the river and sea abounded with various kinds of fish. By this time several towns had been established on the lower Kennebec River.
    Men came ahead - brothers, sons, fathers, cousins. They came in the spring of the year, cut and burned trees, planted crops, and built shelter for the winter. Cabins were rustic with no windows, doors or chimney. The black flies and mosquitoes were so overwhelming that they were often forced to leave their work for spells in the spring and summer - their eyes buttoned closed and bodies covered with open sores with flies imbedded in them! They sometimes kept a fire going outside the cabin door in hopes of warding off insects, thus the air inside the cabin was usually black with smoke.
    In the fall, once the men had secured enough food supply and adequate shelter they went back for their families, livestock and worldly possessions. Upon their return, weeks later, they set about harvesting their crops and doing further preparations for cold weather. Once here and settled in, the family proceeded to build a door, and cut a window and a hole in the roof to vent smoke. They laid a floor with split basswood logs, constructed a stone hearth, and maybe even built a partition.
     One early Readfield settler, James Lane, spent two years  clearing his land and building a log cabin near a spring at Kents Hill. He also planted corn, and bought a pig at Fort Western which he carried home in a sack. In the fall, after the corn was harvested, and the pig slaughtered and salted down, he returned to Hingham, Massachusetts to court his future bride, Eunice. When they returned to Readfield the following spring the cabin had been broken into by Indians and the corn and pork was all gone. James had to carry all of his supplies from Fort Western until the next harvest came in.
     Many mothers and babies died from illness and complications from childbirth. Women who had been taught old herbal remedies or midwifery carried herbs and medicines in their saddlebags and sometimes rode long distances to visit the sick or deliver an infant. These women were generally the only source of any healthcare in the 18th and most of the 19th century . Martha Ballard, a well-known midwife from Hallowell and Augusta sometimes made the long trek to the the “backwoods” as our area was then known, to treat illness or deliver babies. Readfield’s own Sarah (Mrs. Stephen) Norton was also known for her extensive knowledge of herbal treatments and medicines.
    Women were grateful when babies were born in winter because of their heavy workload during warm months. There was, in fact, so much work that children played a vital role in operating the farm from a very early age. Chores were clearly defined according to sex, and referred to as men's work or women's work. Some jobs required many hands and all took a part - such as haying. Over time, once the men had cleared their land and built stonewalls and out buildings, some chores that had until then been considered female domestic chores were assumed by the men - such as milking and tending to the cows.
    By now the men could find time to make additions and improvements to the log cabins - sometimes the original cabin became an outbuilding, and a finer house was built. Or, the original cabin was enveloped, and a century later the unsuspecting eye would never have guessed that a log cabin was nestled inside that lovely Victorian structure. The Smith homestead on Sturtevant Hill Road is an example of a log cabin that has been enveloped within a Victorian structure.In the mid 19th century it became common in Maine to build a summer kitchen, shed and barn onto the house (usually a cape cod style house) creating a "big house, little house, back house, barn" effect. This architectural style caught on about the time of the mass exodus west, and at the beginning of the agricultural decline in Maine, thus our extended farm buildings are rarely seen in the rest of the USA.  The disadvantage was, of course, threat of fire which would destroy the whole farm, and the smells and flies that went with an attached barn. Some of the advantages were easy accessibility to the barn, animals, food storage areas, milk room and sleigh in the winter. Protection from the winter winds both outside and in, added warmth for the animals. And last but not least an indoor trek to the privy at the back of the barn or shed. If you mention a dooryard in another part of the country chances are they will not know to what you are referring. Extended farm buildings boasted three yards. The front yard by the parlor where special guests were greeted; the barn-yard where men could be found doing farm chores; the door yard, by the shed or summer kitchen, where women did laundry, planted and tended their kitchen garden and did other woman's work. Neighbors often made "door yard calls" – brief stops as they passed by – so to not disrupt a farm wife’s busy schedule with a lengthy visit.
As you drive through Readfield and neighboring towns take note of the surviving big house, little house, back house, barns. They are disappearing slowly but surely. Someday they will be remembered only through pictures and stories – like the rustic log cabins of long ago!

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