Friday, September 23, 2022

Craft Fair promises affordable holiday shopping

By Ed Pierce

Christmas is coming and what would the holidays be without a visit to the huge annual craft fair at Windham High School?

The Windham Raymond Athletic Boosters 30th Annual Craft
Fair will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 and
Sunday, Nov. 13 at Windham High School. Vendor spaces
are still available. COURTESY PHOTO   
The Windham Raymond Athletic Boosters 30th Annual Craft Fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 and Sunday, Nov. 13 at WHS and vendor space is still available. The vendor fee is $100 for a space at the craft fair and includes a table.

Entirely free to the public, the event is the largest of its kind in Windham every holiday season and typically features around 200 vendors and some very interesting gifts for the holiday season, many made right here in Windham.

The types of crafts available include holiday gifts, decorations, jewelry, art, candles, and pretty much anything involving the holiday season.

All proceeds benefit the Windham Raymond Athletic Boosters which support student-athletes at RSU 14, says Kristin Drottar, Booster Club president.

“The boosters provide funding for each athletic team, athletic cords for graduation, and scholarships for graduating seniors, just to list a few things,” Drottar said.

She said she became involved with the craft fair by joining the Windham Raymond Athletic Boosters

Club.

“Booster volunteers work together to support the student athletes of RSU 14 and this is our biggest fundraiser,” Drottar said.

According to Drottar and Boosters Club co-chairs Su-Anne Hammond and April Ammons, the best thing about going to the craft fair is that you are supporting your local businesses and buying something unique.

They said the greatest challenge in staging the event this year was overcoming a year lost to the pandemic or a smaller-scale fair being held outside to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

“Because of COVID-19 we’ve missed two years, so it’s challenging to reconnect with everyone, Drottar said. “And some local craft fairs changed their dates which causes vendors to choose between hosts.”

In addition to crafts available at the event, there will be lots of yummy homemade treats and the very popular crockpot meals, Hammond and Ammons said.

Crafts prices typically range from $1 to $100 and with 200 tables for vendors showcasing items for purchase, selection is fantastic.

“People often assume that craft fairs will look the same way that they have looked 40 years ago,” Drottar said. “Craft fairs have changed a lot over the years. We continue to have traditional crafters with handmade items as well as school-based organizations participating in fundraising events and local businesses that set up pop-up spots at our event. It is an eclectic venue to get a lot of your holiday
shopping done while supporting all sorts of vendors.”

Drottar, Hammond and Ammons say that they’re grateful to be inside at the high school for the craft fair and do not have to worry about the weather.

“At this point it is impossible to know how much will be raised. We do offer concessions during the event as well as a silent auction of vendor items,” Drottar said. “The more people that attend, the more money we are able to raise for our school’s athletic programs. We have heard a lot of positive feedback from our vendors. Everyone is happy to be back together, and indoors this year.” <

Friday, September 16, 2022

Reflections of the origins of ‘Raymondtown’

By Ernest H. Knight

Going all the way back to the pre-history of our town, Raymondtown was one of the dozen local “Canada Towns” that had its origins in the 1690 expedition to Canada under the leadership of Sir William Phips.

The man for who the Town of Raymond is named, Capt.
William Raymond, led a group of American soldiers in 1690
to Canada where they attempted unsuccessfully to take the
city of Quebec and prevent raids originating there of towns 
and outposts across New England. COURTESY PHOTO
He was a poor boy from Harpswell who rose to the heights of power to free the coastal towns from the ravages of bands of French and Indian raiders originating from their stronghold at Quebec.

The men making up the expedition were raised in the many settled towns in eastern Massachusetts under their local leaders to serve without pay for the safety and welfare of all. In those days a company of militia, the basic security organization of the day, consisted of 60 men and while nominally a town matter one of more adjacent towns could supply the men as necessitated by population and circumstances.

Thus, our Captain William Raymond led his 60 men from Beverly and Salem in the venture.

Over 2,000 men departed Boston Harbor in a fleet of small vessels in the summer of 1690, but it was late fall before they arrived at Quebec via the St. Lawrence River, a poor time in view of their primitive equipment and approaching winter.

The citadel was attacked and enjoyed brief success in breaching the outer defenses but was soon devastated by an epidemic in the personnel of ships frozen in the ice. Abandoning the campaign, they started for home but many of the ships were wrecked in storms in the Gulf of St, Lawrence and Atlantic Ocean with great loss of lives.

About half the men survived to reach home and the raids from Quebec continued unabated.

Though the colonial government was insensitive to the safety of the settlements, expansion continued through the French & Indian Wars under difficult and deadly conditions. In the 1730s a solution appeared for the colonial government, short of cash but abundantly endowed with wilderness land, to make grants of townships to any groups to whom they were indebted.

There were, besides the “Canada” veterans, others who had served in the Narragansett War, Monadnock conflicts and other actions that qualified for grants as Defense Towns which spread outward in a 50- to 100-mile radius from Boston to act as buffers to the encroachment of the raiders from Quebec via the Connecticut River or Lake Champlain and over cross-country trails to their vulnerable destinations.

Captain Raymond’s company of volunteers, reduced to a few living survivors but under the leadership of younger heirs, was an early claimant of a township based on the 1690 effort although equally entitled to a grant based on the conflict of 1675 and was granted permission to select a site as Canada #1 or Beverly-Canada.

A location was found on the Piscataquog River, now in the town of Weare, New Hampshire, in 1735 and roads, bridges and buildings started but soon were aborted when a boundary dispute discovered that Massachusetts had given away land belonging to revived New Hampshire claims. A large number of other settlements were also negated and these pioneers had to return home and bide their time for a better opportunity, which did not come until 1765.

In 1766 a second grant, in lieu of that lost in 1741, was obtained in other lands governed by Massachusetts along with many others of those evicted 25 years earlier. After looking at and rejecting a site on the Royal River above North Yarmouth, the choice was made of the present homeland, encompassing what is presently the towns of Casco, Raymond, and part of Naples, the largest township in Maine due to deducting the large percentage if the area in lakes and ponds as being useless for cultivation.

So here we are, but not without a little hardship and determination here and there along the way more than 300 years later. <

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.

Friday, September 9, 2022

A matter of historical record: Is Roosevelt Trail named for Theodore or Franklin? Route 302: the highway with numerous names

The 26th President of the United States was
Theodore Roosevelt, shown in a photo from
about 1902. SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Walter Lunt

In its over 200-year history, the highway officially named Route 302, stretching in a northwesterly direction from Portland to Fryeburg, has undergone numerous alterations, taken on many different names and gone from a rutted pathway carved by two-wheeled carts to the paved two-lane modern thoroughfare it is today.

According to Maine Department of Transportation records, the roadway was laid out as early as 1784. Despite constant wear and spring washouts, the early road accommodated farmers and millwrights well. But by the mid-1800s, increased traffic driven by growing commerce demanded improved roadways. At the time, draft animals pulled heavy loads of goods through Windham on Windham Center Road and Ward Road. The route was known as the Bridgton Road (Portland to Bridgton); it required a grueling climb up Windham Hill.

Alterations were made between 1847 and 1858 when a new road was built between the intersection of Ward Road and Route 302 to the point where Windham Center Road intersects with Route 302 near today’s Anthoine Road. It was called the “new Anthoine Road.” It was shorter, and avoided the trek over Windham Hill. It should be noted, however, that the entire stretch between Portland and Bridgton retained the name Bridgton Road.

Major alterations also occurred later, in the 20th century. The stretch from Nash Road to Albion Road was straightened and improved. Similar improvements were made with the building of the Fosters Corner rotary in 1950, and in the late 1900s, with a widening through North Windham. Similar improvements were made in Raymond, Naples and Bridgton. Remnants of the “old 302” can be seen in various spots.

In 1914, yet another name was added when the Maine DOT designated Route 302 as State Highway 14. The Roosevelt name was introduced in 1921.

Theodore, or Teddy, Roosevelt was no stranger to Maine. Over four decades, he made many trips to the Pine Tree State where he hunted, fished, snowshoed and even climbed Mount Katahdin. As the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909, the irascible Roosevelt presided over what he liked to call his “bully pulpit” (in those days meaning “splendid,” a meaningful opportunity to promote one’s ideas). Among his many progressive ideas, as the automobile was fast coming into use, was to advance and improve the nation’s highways.

He proposed a transcontinental highway linking Portland, Oregon with Portland, Maine. The idea simmered for more than 10 years, and within one month of his death in 1919 a group of businessmen (car dealers) organized the Theodore Roosevelt International Highway Association (TRIHA) and began creating a 4000-mile network of roads from the west coast, through part of Canada, to the east coast.

The Portland-to-Portland trail became official in 1921 and was so designated on Rand-McNally maps of the time. The route, however, was established as a monument, not an official road name bearing legislative approval. But the name caught on. For many decades, Roosevelt roads from coast to coast were recognized by the public.

However, as interstate highways accommodated increasing numbers of vehicles throughout the country, the TRIH designation faded. But not in the Cumberland County Lakes Region. Business names and addresses commonly utilize Roosevelt Trail, especially along the stretch of Route 302 from Westbrook, through Windham and Raymond to Naples (even though today it is not recognized by Delorme maps).

As for Franklin Roosevelt, his chief tie to Maine are the numerous trips he took through the state to reach his cherished Campobello Island in Passamaquoddy Bay in Canada. Though loved and respected by Mainers, Roosevelt Trail is not named for Franklin Roosevelt.

As we reach the 21st century, there is still another title attached to the multi-named Route 302. According to the Maine Department of Transportation, the name Roosevelt Trail does not appear on any Legislature-named roads. Route 302 was, however, designated the 10th Mountain Division Highway by the Maine Legislature in 2001. The law specifies that the designation does not affect any names that towns and cities may have adopted for Route 302; thus, Roosevelt Trail prevails as the lingering monument to Theodore, especially here in Windham and the Lakes Region.

At this point we’re almost out of names for Route 302. However, there is one more that no one has ever heard before. Max Skidmore, writing in the SCA Journal (Society for Commercial Archeology), “The markers are gone, the name is forgotten, but the Theodore Roosevelt International Highway remains America’s Bully Boulevard.” <

Friday, September 2, 2022

Lakeview Pavilion at Crescent Lake a popular spot during Prohibition

The old Lakeview Pavilion near Crescent Lake in Raymond 
was a popular dance hall for decades in the Lakes Region  of
Maine especially during the Prohibition Era. It was torn
down in the early 1990s. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
By Ernest H. Knight

It is historical fact that since time immemorial man, no matter how austere his circumstances, man has reserved some part of his day-to-day life for entertainment and pleasurable pastimes.

Raymond was no different from other communities during the past decades and a popular form of social activity was dancing, whether it be a reel, a square or just a fast clog or slow shuffle even down to our present generations when it was jitterbugging, rock n’ roll or disco. Even when travel was mainly by foot for the many or by horse and buggy for the more affluent, devotees of the art managed to gravitate to the places where dancing was to be enjoyed.

These places were sometimes halls with hardwood floors appropriately designed and maintained and sometimes merely adequate open space. Music could be anything from a jewsharp or fiddle to an orchestra of strings and brass. Canned music or radio is a recent innovation.

In or close to the town of Raymond many places have at various times provided the opportunity for such pleasures, such as the upper floor of the Mains’ Store in South Casco Village, the Lafayette House (at times known as the Central House, Smith’s Hotel or Sawyer’s Inn) in Raymond Village, Forhan Hall (also the prior Forhan Storehouse on the same site and the present Knights of Pythias Hall), Sam Witham’s in the “Lower Village” (later called the Raymond Inn), Bartlett’s above the Bartlett Store on Mountain Road beyond Raymond Hill and the N.E.O.P. Hall at Webb’s Mills. 

Then there were substantial and available barns suitable for an impromptu or planned wing-ding and it did not require much encouragement for the venturesome to find a way to get to nearby towns to partake if their offerings, such as the famous dance hall at North Windham presided over by Rayal Manchester’s orchestra, the Casino on the Naples Causeway or for the elite a visit to the Poland Spring House, the Summit House or the Bay of Naples Inn.

Dress was somewhat optional though the belles and swains could attempt to make a good impression on the other sex or create envy on the part of their competition and the Beau Brummel set his unruly hair in place with an application of bacon grease if it were not fly time. And of course, there was always the unfortunate wallflower and the annoying stag who only came to ogle and heckle.

A place omitted from the above-mentioned hot spots is the Lakeview Pavilion overlooking Crescent Lake between the Tenney River and the “Over the River” Schoolhouse. The building of this dance hall was somewhat coincidental with the renaming of the Great Rattlesnake Pond into the deglamorized Crescent Lake, otherwise it might have been name “The Rattlesnake Den” with resulting better or worse patronage.

For many years while it was operating as a public spa it was also used during the summer months for Sunday morning services as a branch of the Mechanic Falls Catholic Church, thereby saving vacationing Catholics a long ride to Portland, Westbrook, Lewiston, or Mechanic Falls to fulfill their religious obligations.

As this period was partly during the Prohibition Era brought about by the Volstead Act, and the presence of ready-made hideaways for purposes of refreshment brought about by the increasing availability of the automobile a general overhauling or purification of the building and grounds was necessary in the short interval between the termination of entertainment and the start of early Mass.

But changing times worked against the continued acceptability and profitability of the public dance hall and the property was taken over by the church and renovated into a fulltime place of worship and its allied activities, called St. Raymond’s Catholic Church, open during the summer season.

Eventually the building needed more repairs than the churchgoers could afford, and the church was closed, leaving behind its scenic views of Crescent Lake. <

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.


Friday, August 26, 2022

A matter of historical record: Courtroom drama stuns as Windham murderess is revealed in 1895 infant death

By Walter Lunt

(PART TWO)

Facing a sentence of life in prison, Rose Dolley, her head buried in a tear-stained handkerchief, sat in superior court in Portland, where she was on trial for the brutal and horrific slaying of her infant son on Thanksgiving Day 1895.

As explained in Part One (The Windham Eagle, Aug. 12, 2022), the young Windham woman, who was unmarried, gave birth in Portland at a home for unwed girls. Her mother, Ellen, fearing shame and dishonor would be brought upon the family, demanded her daughter give up the child. That idea fell through and as the pair returned to Windham with the child during an early season snowstorm, the horse and carriage came to a stop just beyond the Prides Corner bridge where the babe was taken into the woods. It was found dead a month later, face down in an icy bog. The coroner would later testify that he found “…part of a white apron around the child’s neck. It was tied in a hard knot…” and that death was due to strangulation.

Following an investigation that included an eyewitness to a woman entering the woods and to retracing footsteps through brush, barbed wire fences and wetlands in the snow, Sheriff Samuel Plummer arrested both mother and daughter, Rose for murder and her mother as an accomplice. Rose’s trial drew hundreds of spectators who followed an unfolding drama, dubbed “The Prides Corner Mystery,” that made newspaper headlines throughout New England.

Evidence presented by the district attorney was overwhelming and pointed toward certain conviction.

But in an unusual legal twist, defense counsel William Anthoine, who represented both women, stunned the courtroom by asserting Rose was innocent, that the infant was dead when taken into the woods because the mother, Ellen, had killed the child during the wagon journey. Rose, however, had confessed to the crime during the prosecution phase of the trial.

This was yet another astounding turn of events that brought about surprise and astonishment to the thousands of courtroom followers in six states. According to the Jan. 30 Portland Evening Express, “Counsel Anthoine stated that the defense would admit that murder had been committed but would show that the child was dead when taken by Rose from the carriage. It would also show that Rose did not touch the child from the time it was given to its grandmother in Portland…until she took the baby from her mother’s arms just before going into the woods. The defense would show that, if murder was committed, it was committed by the grandmother, Ellen Dolley, and not by Rose Dolley.”
 
In his stern and almost fiery address to the court, Anthoine declared, “Ellen Dolley believed that the wages of sin is death and she considered herself as one of the instruments of God’s justice. Ellen Dolley refused to let her daughter come home (to Windham) when the child was born. She called her daughter every name that she could think of and told her that as she had disgraced the family, she might get out of it as best she could. She offered no sympathy to her unfortunate child, said no consoling words, but left her, heaping imprecations on her head and cursing her for the disgrace she had caused her family… (Mrs. Dolley) said she wished the child was dead. They drove on gentlemen (towards Windham), through the gathering gloom, the mother and child suffering the agonies of the damned under the cruel lash of her mother’s tongue, the grandmother of the child plotting murder in the heart. At last, they reached the woods beyond Prides Corner when Mrs. Dolley suddenly asked Rose, who was driving, to stop the horse. Mrs. Dolley then jumped out like a cat and took the child with her (into the woods).”

The first witness to be called by Counsel Anthoine was Patia Dolley, Rose’s younger sister and a daughter of Mrs. (Ellen) Dolley. The young girl’s testimony was said to be given in a convincing manner. She was at home in Windham the night of Nov. 25 when her mother and Rose arrived home from Portland. Her key testimony revealed that Rose had arrived in dry clothes and dry footwear. Her mother, however, had immediately entered her bedroom and changed her clothes.

Anthoine’s second witness was Rose Dolley, who reluctantly stepped into the witness box. Here the story of the ride from Portland to Windham that stormy night changed dramatically. Under intense questioning from her counsel, Rose said she drove the wagon and that she and her mother argued about bringing the child home. Rose recounted how Mrs. Dolley grew increasingly anxious with each passing mile, and finally, as they entered the wooded area at Prides Corner, ordered Rose to stop the horse. Mrs. Dolley got out of the carriage with the baby and disappeared into the dark woods, ignoring Rose’s pleas for an explanation.

When her mother later reappeared without the baby, Rose demanded to know, “Where have you been so long, and where is the baby?” Her mother’s curt reply was that she had taken care of the baby. Rose attempted to get out of the carriage, but her mother prevented her from doing so and the two quarreled bitterly for the rest of the ride. Rose further stated that the child was alive when Mrs. Dolley took it from the carriage. Her testimony was delivered amid loud sobs and several lengthy breaks while she regained her composure.

The judge, jury, prosecution, and the courtroom spectators listened in dazed silence. Counsel Anthoine’s presentation had gone far beyond what he had told the court to expect to hear. Now, it appeared, it was Ellen Dolley who was on trial.

On cross examination, referencing Rose’s earlier confession to the crime, the prosecution asked her, “Did you not know that your mother had committed a greater crime in killing the child than you had?

“Yes,” answered Rose, “but I was the cause of it all. I wanted to protect my mother.”

The Portland Evening Express observed, “The pitiful story of the defendant yesterday…served to reawaken public sympathy in her case. The generous hearted public believed her tale, the jury believed it…even the prosecuting officers being impressed with her apparent truthfulness.”

The following day, Jan. 31, 1896, spectators, mostly women, mobbed the lower corridors of the city building to witness the next sensational development. They were, reported the Evening Express, “All anxious to get a look at the girl who had been heroic enough to even confess to the murder and put herself on record as an inhuman parent to save her own mother from punishment and from prison.”

Ellen Dolley took the witness stand and corroborated the testimony of her daughter, Rose. In an unusual legal move, Judge Bonney instructed the jury to find Rose Dolley not guilty. They did so, without leaving their seats.

On Feb. 4, Ellen Dolley, 49, pled guilty to the murder of her 6-week-old grandson, William. As reported in the press, “She uttered the word (guilty) in a very low tone but the stillness in the courtroom was so intense that it was distinctly heard by all.”

Her defense counsel, William Anthoine, who, in effect, had prosecuted her, called for a reduced sentence declaring the deed was committed during an outburst of violent temper, that her initial efforts to convince her daughter to give up the child showed that “she had not murder in her heart.”

Attorney General Powers countered for murder in the first degree, proclaiming,” Her frenzy could not have been aroused by a sudden knowledge of her daughter’s shame, for she was aware of that shame before the child’s birth,” and he insisted the evidence brought out in Rose’s trial revealed premeditation.

The judge’s decision was announced on May 5: “That Ellen Dolley be confined in the state prison at Thomaston for the term of her natural life.”

According to research conducted by Louis Dunlap and Jean Dyer and Annette Vance Dorey, author of Maine Mothers Who Murdered, Ellen Dolley served only nine years in prison. Her attorney, William Anthoine, petitioned successfully for her full pardon in August of 1905, arguing that Mrs. Dolley’s crime was manslaughter (not first- degree murder) and that the maximum sentence had been served. She was living on the family farm of her son, George, in Windham when she died in 1931, the same farm where our story occurred. Her great-grandson, Lawrence Dolley, remembered seeing her there and described her as “feisty.”

Rose Dolley changed her name to Hazel R. Dolley and moved to Boston. She married Leslie Wentworth in Portland in 1919 and in 1940 was living in Gorham, Maine with her husband; she later worked at Pineland Hospital. Rose Hazel Dolley died in 1964 and is buried in Chase Cemetery in Windham.Lisa Elizabeth of Standish is a direct descendant of Ellen Dolley and only recently learned the story of her distant grandmother. “The story was harsh, awful, very sad. The story was (obviously) hushed through the generations – like a family secret. I admired Ellen for her courage – she could have walked away, but she didn’t. She owned up for what she did. I think she just momentarily snapped. After 100-plus years, I forgive her.” <

Friday, August 12, 2022

A matter of historical record: Spectacular murder trial of Windham mother and daughter grips New England in late 1800s

Rose Dolley and her mother Ellen were put in
jail in Portland, shown above, for the murder
of Rose's baby boy in December 1895.
COURTESY OF PORTLAND
LIBRARY ARCHIVES
Part One

By Walter Lunt 


Observers in the Portland courtroom sat motionless and silent, listening intently to incredulous testimony from the young lady from Windham who was on trial, accused of an unthinkable crime. Rosalie (Rose) Dolley sobbed uncontrollably, spilling tears into a handkerchief behind a black veil that covered her face. The warrant for her arrest, dated Dec. 8, 1895, stated that she was being charged with the murder of her infant child and that her mother, Ellen Dolley, was charged with being an accessory before the fact in the crime.

Newspapers from Bangor to Boston were enthralled with the case against the two Dolley women and printed front page stories, sometimes under banner headlines, as each nefarious detail emerged.

The whole affair began the previous year when Rose, then 17, became engaged to James Libby, 40. The two decided to postpone the wedding for at least a year. Libby, however, died suddenly in May of 1895; a short time later, Rose discovered she was pregnant; bearing a child out of wedlock, in those times, was seriously frowned upon and usually brought shame and dishonor to the entire family.

Rose told no one, not even her immediate family, of her condition and left home to take a job at a boarding house on Peak’s Island. Eventually, word got back to her mother, Ellen, that Rose was “in trouble.” Furious, Ellen visited Rose and insisted she go to the Temporary House, a home for unwed girls, in Portland.

After Rose gave birth to a baby boy named William on October 7, Ellen forced her daughter to give up the child to a Portland couple who, ostensibly, would adopt it. Days later, for reasons that remain unclear, Rose and Ellen returned to the home and reclaimed the child. The baby, however, would never arrive at the Dolley home in Windham.

As Rose would later confess to Cumberland County Sheriff Samuel D. Plummer, the night they retrieved the child from Portland was the evening of the season’s first snowstorm, Nov. 25. As the horse and wagon moved north through wind-whipped snow along the Bridgton Road toward their home in Windham, they argued about the disposition of the infant and how they would explain the situation to family and neighbors – perhaps claim it was someone else’s child. Ultimately, all seemed hopeless and about a quarter mile beyond the Prides Corner bridge the horse would pull up to a stop. Rose said she stepped from the wagon with her child and entered woods on property owned by Oliver Leighton. While wandering aimlessly through the trees, underbrush, and brooks, she was spotted by a man named Winfield Lawrence who was returning to his home following a welfare check on a neighbor. Later, he could not identify the girl due to the bad weather and because a shawl was wrapped about her head and shoulders. After about an hour, Rose said she returned to the wagon and her waiting mother…without the baby.

The next morning, both Lawrence and Leighton returned to the wooded area and followed the meandering tracks of the mysterious woman. The following day, results of their exploration were reported in the Portland Evening Express under the headline A Mysterious Case (that is) Exciting the People at Prides Corner – the story stated, “…they went down the road until they found the track through the woods made by the woman in her flight…For more than an hour they followed the tracks in the snow, which seemed to be made by a woman wearing a small sized shoe. The trail led over logs and through a deep tangle of underwood, across brooks and over bogs. On the edge of a brook the men picked up a baby’s hood and a lady’s handkerchief with no initials on it. The entire distance followed by the men was about five miles and tracks finally came (back) to the Bridgton Road, about half a mile below the point where the woman (went in).” The story went on to speculate that a child may be in some sort of danger, perhaps even murdered, and that the matter would undoubtedly be investigated by the sheriff’s office.

The newspaper’s assumption was correct. The next day Sheriff Plummer and two deputies “put in” with Oliver Leighton. On the track trail they discovered additional items of clothing, described as a blue worsted cord and tassel from a baby’s jacket. Authorities (along with dozens of Prides Corner residents) were now convinced the mysterious woman in the woods was carrying a baby.

On Dec. 2 a search party was organized. At least 50 men and a foxhound initiated a systematic search of Leighton’s woods; more clothing turned up: a baby’s white dress, “…clean and lying on top of the snow.” The sheriff and the Prides Corner neighborhood were now convinced there was a deceased child somewhere in those woods. Sheriff Plummer announced a reward of $50 to anyone who should find a child’s body. More searches were conducted in the following days, but to no avail.

By this time, more newspapers had picked up the “The Prides Corner Mystery” story. It soon became must-reading all over New England, nearly as notorious as the Lizzie Borden axe murders only four years earlier.

On Dec. 9, the Portland Evening Express ran a banner headline: SOLVED AT LAST. The story read, “…at last a reader of the Express…came to the front and gave officers some information. It was to the effect that a young woman named Rose Dolly (sp), who lived in Windham, had given birth to a child in the Temporary (home for unwed girls) in Deering about six weeks before the finding of the footprints in the woods.”

The sheriff’s investigation was then speedy and complete. Interviews with the girl’s home led to the identification of the clothing found in the woods, as well as the identification of the Portland couple who had temporarily cared for the child. This led to the discovery that the child’s mother and grandmother had reclaimed the baby and was taking it to their home in Windham…on the same evening of the snowstorm and the discovery of the tracks. Sheriff Plummer immediately visited the home of the Dolley’s in Windham, where he found Mrs. (Ellen) Dolley, her son, Warren, and three younger children. Rose was not there. All gave conflicting stories regarding the journey from Portland on the snowy night and about the whereabouts of Rose and Rose’s baby. Both Ellen and Warren were immediately arrested as possible accomplices of a crime. The newspaper reported that the scene at Mrs. Dolley’s house when she was taken away from her children “…was very affecting. (She is a widow) and protests her innocence. She has lived in Windham 30 years and is said to have been very much respected there.”

Upon further questioning, Warren finally admitted he had recently driven his sister (Rose) to Portland, that she left him without word of where she was going and that she carried with her a small extension grip (suitcase). A search of the Dolley house turned up an address in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Armed with a picture of Rose, the sheriff boarded the midnight train, located her at the Dorchester address and returned her to Portland. On Dec. 12, the Portland Evening Express, in a simple three-word headline revealed the latest stunning turn of events: “ROSE HAS CONFESSED.”

Both Rose and her mother, Ellen, were put in jail in Portland. Warren was ordered to provide surety bond and was allowed to remain at the Windham home to provide care to the younger children.

Many observers in the public square clung to the belief that Rose Dolley had given up her child, and that baby William was alive and well somewhere in the hands of loving adoptive parents. Those hopes were dashed on the afternoon of Dec. 29; William Leighton had stumbled across the body of an infant approximately one-third of a mile from the main road. Footprints of previous search parties had passed near the child, but the tiny body had been covered with sticks and branches and Leighton found it quite by accident.

Later, at the trials of Rose and Ellen Dolley, a coroner would testify that the infant was lying face down in a swamp and ice had to be cut away from around the body. “A cloth was tied tightly about the child’s neck. There was a look of anguish on its face.” The ruling was death by strangulation.

The county attorney ordered the child’s body be buried at public expense and that no ceremony be held.

On Jan. 29, 1896, a local newspaper reported “The trial of Rose Dolley of Windham, on the charge of murdering her infant son, was begun this morning in the superior court (in Portland). Judge Bonney presiding.” The trial of Mrs. Dolley, accused as an accomplice, was scheduled after that of her daughter’s.

Crowds of spectators swarmed the court, composed chiefly of women, many from Windham who were friends or neighbors of the Dolleys. A few had driven in from out of state. Sheriff Plummer allowed only as many as the courtroom could absorb comfortably. Photographers were barred from taking pictures of the defendant, so news writers provided a written description of the girl: “Rose Dolley was brought into the court from jail by the sheriff…and heavily veiled, was carefully guarded through the surging crowd. She made a very favorable impression on those who saw her this morning. She wore a brown cloak, braided with black…She had on a very pretty dark-green dress trimmed brown. Her hat was also brown with a small feather (that) curled gracefully over one side. Rose Dolley is not a very evil or bad looking girl. Her eyes are large and black, her hair brown and complexion fair. The prisoner sat with her head bowed and face often hidden in her handkerchief.”

The prosecution consisted of a legal trio: the attorney general, county attorney and assistant county attorney. The evidence was presented: the hidden birth, attempts to conceal the child, the snowy journey from Portland, a stop near Prides bridge, the tracks, the discovery and identification of the child and finally, Rose’s confession to Sheriff Plummer. In summation, the county attorney told the jury, “In this case a little child with all of the possibilities of life before it is needlessly, cruelly, and shamefully murdered by (Rose Dolley) who should be the one person in the world to guard it…the evidence bears with certainty…guilt.”

It was reported there was scarcely a dry eye in the courtroom. Rose sobbed pitifully.

Following brief recess, Rose’s court appointed counsel, William Anthoine would stun the court, as well as all of New England with new evidence. The tide was about to turn in the Rose Dolley murder trial. As one observer noted, “(the trial) ended in the way many of the story books do, which the average reader considers overdone. Everybody in the crowded court room was on tiptoe with excitement.”

Next time, Part Two reveals the real murderer. <


Friday, August 5, 2022

19th century Raymond farmers adept at ‘Girt Chain’ use

A girt chain was used by farmers in Raymond
during the 19th century when scales to weigh
livestock were not available in town. Animals
were measured and a complex and unprecise
formula was used to estimate their weight.
SUBMITTED PHOTO 
By Ernest H. Knight 

Determination of the weights of people, animals or things have long been a necessity for business or pleasure and the means of determination of weight has ranged from guess work and intuition to calculation and mechanical devices.

Many years ago when the weight of things became necessary for exactness, scales were not readily available where needed and transportation to them was difficult and time consuming. For example, the weight of working oxen or beef cattle was frequently needed for selling or health, and what do you do when available hay scales or suitable large steel yards were mounted in a fixed position at some inconvenient distance?

For weighing his livestock any farmer in 19th century Raymond could have at home or in his pocket his own “Girt Chain,” short for girth. It was a fine, light chain 6 or 8 feet long with a ring on one end and through a part of its length small brass plates were in place of links on which numbers were stamped.

The chain could be thrown around the girth or shoulders of an ox or steer and in some manner the numbers translated into the weight of the animal. But how? 

In an 1894 copy of “Ransom’s Family Receipt Book,” donated to the Raymond-Casco Historical Society by Eldred Spiller, which along with all its mixtures of food ingredients, some sounding quite delicious and others quite repulsive, included encyclopedic items of daily usage. One section gives instructions for measuring hay in the mow, corn in the crib, weight of bushels of various farm products and the following:

"TO DETERMINE THE WEIGHT OF LIVE CATTLE – measure in inches girth around breast just behind shoulder blade and length of back from tail to fore part of shoulder blade. Multiply girth by length and divide by 144. If girth is less than 3 feet, multiply quotient by 11; if between 3 and 5, by 16; between 5 and 7 by 31. If the animal is lean, deduct one-twentieth from result; or take girth and length in feet, multiply square of girth by length and multiply product by 3.36. Live weight multiplied by .605 gives net weight, nearly.”

So, you can see that with a simple rule of this sort there was no necessity for expensive or cumbersome weighing equipment, and if a girt chain did not weigh more than an ounce, it could be tucked into a pocket or into a cheek in place of tobacco. And throwing a girt chain over the shoulders of a beast and reaching under the end to complete the circuit there were plenty of bulges of the hide to hit or miss that could move the measurement from one category to another.

Or the number on the tiny brass plate might be upside down or hard to read standing on the shady side or when bothered by passing flies.

A situation akin to the butcher or grocer steadying the scales with a finger while weighing something for a purchaser. And in case of question as to whether the buyer or seller should do the chaining, seniority or reputation could be discussed, and no deal worth a hoot should be concluded without opportunity for both sides to show their sharpness or wisdom by argument.

Of course, the last words of the instructions cover a multitude of sins as how can one side hold out too long when the result is “net weight, nearly.”

Empirical formulas or procedures require a vast number of trial runs and an area where the accepted rule might be large or small. The one given here might have been limited to Mr. Ransom’s sphere of distribution. But do give it a try the next time you want to weigh your oxen. <

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.