Friday, November 19, 2021

A matter of historical record: Meet 'Old Mrs. Wilson' of Windham Center – author, lecturer, teacher, early feminist

By Walter Lunt

In the early years of the 20th century, some residents who lived in the Windham Center neighborhood called her “Old Mrs. Wilson.” They were half right. She was elderly by this time, but her real name was Abba Louisa Goold Woolson. She was born in the stylish colonial house with the Greek Revival wraparound porch and attached ell and tower on Windham Center Road near the Nash Road, known today as the historic Goold House. Old Mrs. Woolson had developed an odd reputation since returning to her childhood home in the late 1800s.

Strong willed and independent,
Abba Woolson helped lead an effort
to reform women's dress codes of
the 1800s, which she felt were
unnecessary and unhealthy. Many
historians rank her among the
distinctive Women of the Century.
She was born at Windham Center
in 1838 and published books and
articles into the 20th century.
The late Windham historian Kay Soldier once inquired of elderly Windham residents who remembered Woolson; it seems the gossipy onlookers found Woolson to be an “odd duck” who lit up the neighborhood with a huge bonfire every April 22 in honor of Queen Isabella’s birthday. And, they claimed, she would occasionally “go out back (to) the family cemetery and open her husband’s casket.”

Born Abba Louisa Goold in 1838 in Windham, she was the second of eight children to William and Nabby Goold; her father was first a tailor, then represented Windham in the Maine legislature and Senate and later in life wrote history books, including Portland in the Past (The Windham Eagle – Nov. 5, 2021).

Abba graduated head of her class at the Portland School for Girls in 1856. That same year, she married the school’s principal, Moses Woolson; she was 18; he was 17 years her senior. The couple lived in Portland where Abba began writing poetry and teaching at Portland High School.

From 1862 to 1887, Moses answered the call for principalships in several cities including Cincinnati, Ohio; Concord, New Hampshire and Boston, Massachusetts. Abba, meanwhile, pursued poetry and began publishing essays. She became Professor of Belles Lettres at the Mount Auburn Young Ladies Institute in Haverhill, Massachusetts, taught higher mathematics and Latin while assisting her husband at Concord High School and delivered lectures before various literary societies on such diverse topics as English Literature, the historical plays of Shakespeare and Spanish history. In 1871, Mrs. Woolson traveled to Utah to interview Brigham Young for the Boston Journal (later the Boston Herald).

By the early 1870s, Woolson’s essays were being published in book form with each volume based on a theme. Her first was Woman in American Society, a reflection of Woolson’s interest and concern for women’s emancipation. It examined and critiqued certain cultural situations that placed constraints on women. It drew favorable reviews nationwide. A follow-up volume titled Dress Reform argued that women’s layered and cumbersome clothing of the time, especially corsets, were both unnecessary and unhealthful. The book featured essays written by women physicians, with recommendations for reform, such as bloomers, or a two-piece garment comprised of a shirt and pantlet, which became known as the emancipation suit. According to Woolson, “…the bloomer costume had been resisted, not because it was unfashionable, but because it had originated in America and not Paris.”

Woolson traveled extensively, both in America and Europe. One nation in particular became a favorite topic, even an obsession: Spain, and the Queen of Castile, Isabella I (1474 to 1505). Woolson visited the nation on two occasions in the 1880s and 1890s. Enthusiasm for its history and geography prompted her founding of the Castilian Club of Boston to promote the study of Spain. Isabella was a strong-willed and powerful queen of Spain as Europe transitioned from the Middle Ages to the age of the Renaissance. Woolson wrote, lectured, and generally celebrated the queen for the rest of her life.
In the late 1880s, Abba Woolson served as president and co-founder of the Massachusetts Moral Education Association, subject matter that was near and dear to her heart – it sought to address certain social issues that led women into prostitution.

Moses Woolson died in 1896. Abba lived on for another 25 years. She returned to the old homestead of her birth in Windham.

As was the custom of those early times, private burial grounds were often created near the family farm. Moses, who was 74 at the time of his death, was placed in the Goold family tomb located on a ridge behind the historic house. He joined veterans of several wars and several generations of the Goold family.

In 1912, a most unusual funeral procession took place there. It seems Abba kept company with two elderly lady relatives. And with them, a beloved cat – who died that summer. It was decided that the cat, named Buffy Greenleaf Clarke, would be interred in the Goold family cemetery amidst grand pomp and ceremony. Invitations were distributed – friends and relatives arrived dressed in appropriate funeral attire – bouquets of flowers graced the beloved kitty’s headstone – Buffy’s casket was lined in pink satin and the tiny feline rested with a pink rose between her paws. Funereal protocol was expected of the full procession. However, it is said that the three elderly mourners became “miffed” when several of the gentlemen attendees failed to remove their hats during the solemn event.

It is likely that this funeral exercise, the annual bonfires on the birthday of Queen Isabella and the rumors of Abba’s visits to her late husband’s casket all combined to encourage the neighborhood to form unfair judgments of the elderly educator, writer and lecturer.

Abba Louisa Goold Woolson passed away in 1921, aged 83, and was interred beside her husband, Moses, in the Goold family tomb on the high ridge behind the old family homestead on Windham Center Road. They had no children.

According to the respected website, “Mrs. Woolson (had) a remarkably retentive memory and a wide knowledge of literature and history, and is probably the ablest woman that Maine has ever produced.”

So, as a matter of historical record, here’s to “Old Mrs. Wilson” – Windham is proud of you.

Next time, an epilogue to our recently concluded series on the Cumberland & Oxford Canal. <

Friday, November 5, 2021

A matter of historical record: Windham’s Goold family – 'born of good ole Yankee pluck'

By Walter Lunt

Countless individuals and families of honor, high character - even fame have called Windham home. Many have been discussed in this column. Few, however, have carried distinguished careers from one generation to another quite like the Goold family.

The Goold House on Windham Center Road was home to
several generations of the Goold family, including William
Goold, a tailor and the first proprietor of Windham's Old
Grocery. The Goold House was placed on the National
Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The first Goold to arrive in Windham is probably best described by historian Samuel Thomas Dole in his book Windham in the Past (Merrill & Webber, 1916): “In the year 1768, a young Quaker named Benjamin Goold, then twenty-one years of age started from Elliot, Me. to Falmouth to make his way in the world. He had no means to begin with except his Yankee pluck.” (pluck: courageous readiness to continue against all odds; dogged resolution – Merriam-Webster).

Young Benjamin found employment in Falmouth (Portland) and worked there before coming to Windham in 1774 where he worked on Daniel Hall’s farm near Windham Center, eventually building a log cabin and later a single-story wood frame house. He was described as industrious and frugal while acquiring considerable land.

Benjamin married Phebe Noble of Gray, who was later remembered by her grandson as a “smart Quaker lady who rode to (Friends) meeting on her pacing mare named Knitting Work.” Benjamin became tax collector and assessor for Windham. He died in 1807 at age 60.

Benjamin’s son, Nathan Goold, born in 1778, purchased 60 acres of land across the road from his birthplace at Windham Center in 1802 on land that is the current site of the Goold house we know today. He was married soon after to Miriam Swett; their first son died within two years of his birth, and later Miriam died only days following the birth of their second son. Nathan remarried and the couple had three more children.

Nathan became a prominent citizen of Windham. He was chairman of the Windham Board of Selectmen for eight years; represented the town in the Court (assembly) of Massachusetts; was a justice of the peace for many years and was captain of the Town Militia during the War of 1812. In September 1814, he marched his company to Portland to defend his town from an expected attack. It is thought that during this time Nathan built the iconic tower onto the ell of his Windham Center home where he mounted a bell to warn citizens of imminent danger (The Windham Eagle – Oct. 22, 2021).

Nathan is also remembered for an act of uncommon generosity. Shortly after purchasing the farm land he turned over a small parcel to a widow, Dorothy Barton. He provided her with a house that he had moved onto the property where she and her daughter lived out their lives. He charged them nothing for all the years they lived there. It is believed the reason for Nathan’s kindness was that Barton’s husband had served with Nathan’s grandfather in the Revolutionary War.

Nathan Goold died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1823 at the young age of 45. His son, William, was just 14 at the time. Just before his death, his father had advised him to learn a trade, and at the urging of his mother, Betsy (Gowen), he went to Portland and began a seven-year apprenticeship under Seth Clark, a tailor (despite his desire to be a printer, or writer). During this time William walked back to his boyhood home at Windham Center numerous times to visit his family. By 1830 he had become a partner with Clark, and in 1834 married “the bosses’ daughter,” Nabby Clark. By 1837, they had established a prosperous tailoring business at the four corners of Gray Road (route 202) and Windham Center Road in a building later known as the Old Grocery (which today has been moved to the Village Green behind the Windham Historical Society Museum). The intervening years had seen the home of his childhood, today known as Goold House, enlarged at least twice.

William represented Windham in the state legislature in 1866, and was a state senator in 1874 and 1875.

But it wasn’t until 1886 that William realized a life-long dream and the achievement for which he is best known. At age 77, he published Portland in the Past, the culmination of a long interest in local history. He was also an original member of the Maine Historical Society, to which he submitted numerous writings.

The Honorable William Goold died in the Windham Center home in which he was born in May, 1890, aged 81 years. William and Nabby Goold had eight children.

Their second child was named Abba Louisa, and was probably the Goold family member who tops the list in terms of notoriety.

Born in 1838, she was, like her father, a person of learning and literature, publishing books and poems, delivering lectures around the country on such far-ranging topics as Shakespeare’s plays and what she termed “constrictive” women’s fashion and, later in life, lighting bonfires at the Windham Center house in honor of Queen Isabella of Spain. According to Windham residents who knew her in the early 1900s, she was quite unique. Some would call her “odd.”

Suffice it to say, over many generations, the Goold family of Windham made significant contributions to the town, the state and even the nation.

And they did it all…with pluck. <

Next time, more on Abba Louisa Goold.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Legendary Ben Smith and the allure of Rattlesnake Mountain

By Ernest H. Knight

One of the early settlers in Raymond on Raymond Hill was Ben Smith, who came to the area from Dover, New Hampshire as a runaway boy in 1787.

On a trip to explore a nearby mountain, Smith found it infested with timber and common rattlesnakes and gave that spot its present familiar name.

Ben Smith, who came to Raymond Hill as a 
runaway boy in 1787, is credited with naming
Rattlesnake Mountain shown here. On a trip to explore
the mountain, Smith found it infested with timber and 
common rattlesnakes and later turned selling the snake's
venom into a liniment business. FILE PHOTO
The mountain was about five miles from his farm and Smith became famous in Maine for his business of peddling Rattlesnake Oil for rheumatic and neuralgic pains. 

As a sideline to farming, Smith’s business involved catching rattlesnakes, extracting their oil and venom, and then selling it locally and the Portland area for its therapeutic value as a liniment for rheumatism and anything else needing a sure cure.

To prove his product genuine, he carried live snakes with him on his travels and attracted attention by putting a live snake inside his shirt and letting it crawl around his body.

Smith was bitten at least once, and it was reported by his friends that he ultimately took on one of the characteristics of rattlesnakes in that his tongue constantly darted in and out of his mouth.

He had experimented to eliminate the hazards of his act by pulling out the snake’s fangs with the pincers he used in repairing his boots and apparently his research paid off as he lived to the age of 82, expiring in bed surrounded by a few of his reptilian pets.

Through overkill and forest fires, the rattlers eventually became extinct on the mountain and the last known capture of a rattlesnake in Raymond was reported at Webbs Mills about 1870.

Rattlesnake Mountain with its rocky terrain and once massive oak forests were a source of knee, stem, keel and other pieces required for building Maine sailing vessels. Rather than haul heavy and awkward timbers, forks and roots to the waterfront shipyards, patterns for needed shapes were brought to the mountain for the hewers to use in removing the excess material.

With a limited supply of suitable trees which nature could only make by 100 or more years of growth, it is fitting that the building of wooden ships was abdicated when the use of iron became popular for shipbuilding.

Another product of never-ending supply but of diminished demand is split granite building foundation for stones and walls. It was once an active business as it was split from boulders and ledges by hand with a hammer, rock drill and wedges.

The Berry Brothers, John, Charles, and George, who lived on Plains Road, were practitioners of this craft and who from their outcropping on Rattlesnake Mountain split all the stone wall surrounding Riverside Cemetery near their home. Split stone has since given way understandably to concrete, brick, and cement blocks though the glamour has been lost. <

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, October 22, 2021

Before the memory fades: The haunting of the ell tower, and other ghostly tales of Windham’s Goold House

The Goold house in earlier times. The tower, which once sported
a bell (and purportedly a ghost), is seen at the end of the ell
on the left. According to an article written by Nation Goold
II in the early 1900s, the Goolds occupied the house from
1802 to around 1900. More on this amazing family
in our next installment. COURTESY OF WINDHAM
By Walter Lunt

It’s October 1958, and the Millard family is thinking about Halloween, especially the children. In addition to the spooky costumes and candy, the Millard’s wonder if the ghost will return to the small bell tower attached to the ell of their colonial home on Windham Center Road. The five Millard children, their father and a friend told a reporter that if the ghost were to return, Halloween might be the obvious time.

The story of the tower ghost originated more than 100 years earlier in the years following the War of 1812. The Millard’s first heard the legend when, just seven months earlier, they bought and moved into the house adorned with Greek pillars and a Greek Revival wrap-around porch, located near the intersection with Nash Road.

It seems an early owner of the house, Nathan Goold, for whom it is named, was a captain in the Windham militia. Goold built an ell with a bell tower attached. The bell was to be rung in case of danger during the War of 1812. It was said, and passed down through the decades, that after the bell was removed, footsteps on the squeaky floorboards in the tower could be heard when no one was there. It was further rumored that certain people, only those with ears tuned into the supernatural, would hear the clanging of the tower bell. Again, when no one was there.

The Goold House ghost apparently remained absent on that Halloween night in 1958, but the family remained wary due to other occurrences during their 30 years in the house.

The Millard’s eldest son, Michael (today known as Max Millard), recently shared memories of living in the house during his childhood years. “We loved the house from the moment we moved in. (It) was a magical place that seemed designed for large families with children.” All the same, he remembers some scary moments, “Because of the (old Goold family graveyard located behind the house), our house felt as if it were full of spirits. The ell was a dark place that we used mostly for storage, and none of us dared to go there while darkness reigned.”

Max remembers a time in the early 1960s when his father had a bedroom built for him on one end of the ell. “When I lay there at night, I would sometimes hear footsteps clunking up the stairway toward my room. Lying in bed, the covers over my head, …I would picture the ghost of William Goold (son of Nathan Goold) come gliding through the door. To this day, I remember those footsteps clearly and I don’t think they were my imagination.”

Asked by the reporter back in 1958 if the family believed in ghosts, most said yes. The father, Ben, seemed almost giddy about the prospect of a spiritual encounter. He commented, “I’m looking forward to meeting the old gent.”

Next time, more on the history and heritage of the Goold family, and the house that was home to several of their generations. <

Friday, October 15, 2021

Life of farmer’s wife embodies Raymond’s pioneering spirit

Carrie McLellan of Raymond is buried in
Raymond next to her husband, David at
Raymond Hill Cemetery.  FILE PHOTO 
By Ernest H. Knight

Born in Westbrook on Jan. 29, 1865, and christened Carrie Crockett, her cavalryman father was drowned, along with his horse crossing a river during a Civil War battle. She came to Raymond at the age of 3 when her mother married Hiram Cash, whose grandfather was John Cash, the famous rattlesnake charmer of Raymond Hill.

Carrie was a true embodiment of the pioneer woman, an inheritance from an ancestor, Davy Crockett of Alamo fame. Also, her husband, David McLellan, born Jan. 4, 1859, in Raymond, was undoubtedly an inspiration as he for many years had the reputation of being the hardest working and most powerful man in Raymond and Carrie worked along with him in running the farm in its developing years.

Yet while David was a very large man, Carrie weighed barely 100 pounds.

The McLellan homestead was on Otisfield Road, now Route 85, not far from the Casco line east of Rattlesnake Mountain and the nearby home of renowned 19th century Raymond resident Edgar Welch.

Originally the one-story farmhouse of his father, William, David rebuilt or replaced it with a 2 ½-story with gingerbread trim and that was considered a bit of foolishness by his neighbors. There was of course a large barn and connecting ell, the barn being where Edgar Welch met his dramatic and tragic end. The barn is still in use though the house burned down in 1954.

Carrie McLellan was well educated for the day, tutored at home by her schoolteacher stepfather who was noted for his skill in mathematics. She also took piano and organ lessons and played the organ in the Raymond Hill Church for many years. 

She worked in the corn shop at Webb’s Mills as a girl and attended Gorham Normal School from which she graduated with honors in 1885. Before and after she taught for many years in the schools of Raymond, Casco, and other nearby towns.

The McLellan farm was a prosperous family venture in which Carrie carried her full share of responsibility. The couple had one child, a son, Paul, who apparently was not inclined to the life of a farmer or woodsman as he went to Portland and became a well-known contractor.

Though her husband had been noted for his strength and abilities, he became incapacitated with rheumatism and had to leave the labor to Carrie and hired help.

Taking in summer boarders was then becoming popular, which Carrie adopted, for which she did the cooking and housekeeping in the big 13-room house along with milking the cows, tending the pigs and chickens, carrying the wood, planting, and harvesting the garden crops and all the things necessary to living in the country. Edgar Welch did the heavy work as long as he lived along with his employer, but it was Carrie that kept things moving.

But all was not work and drudgery for them in those days. There were frequent picnics on Sundays and on neighborhood or family occasions, at favorite pleasant spots in the woods or on the hilltops. At these gatherings Carrie would play her melodeon for singing, with Edgar adding his strong voice. Also, there was Jim Strout, a grandfather of Ina Witham. Called “Uncle Jim” by his many friends, who accompanied Carrie on his clarinet.

Following the death of his son, Cyrus, “Uncle Jim” never played his clarinet again except once a year when he went to a high point on Raymond Hill and played a memorial to his son, attended by sympathetic neighbors.

Carrie was also practical and inventive as well as active and ambitious. Women’s clothing of the day was not well adapted to physical labor, which she adequately solved by designing and making a form of long pants or pantaloons that enabled her to do those things not otherwise convenient, such as milking cows and navigating a wheelbarrow. Modern women have been liberated for some things, but Carrie was well ahead of her time in others.

She once tried to live in Portland with her son in her late years, but the confusion of the city was no substitute for the peace and quiet of Raymond with those she knew best. She soon returned to the town where she had spent all but the first childhood years.

Carrie lived a long and useful life, highly respected by her many friends until her death on June 28, 1952, at the age of 87. <

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, October 8, 2021

A matter of historical record: The Cumberland & Oxford Canal – the close of a great public enterprise

(Conclusion of a series)

By Walter Lunt

For over 40 years in the mid-19th century, the Cumberland & Oxford Canal followed the boundary of several towns in the Sebago Lake region, delivering trade and commerce to a wide frontier-like corridor devoid of economic prosperity. Its influence reached out into other settlements in both counties. By all accounts, it was a smart and successful venture, although unprofitable to stockholders, the canal company and some farmers along its route who suffered property damage and land acquisition.

The C. & O. was busiest, some historians would say prosperous, from its opening in 1830 to 1852 when toll collections reached over $16,000 – its highest year.

The threat that would eventually cast a death-knell on the canal arrived in Portland in 1842 – the railroad - a mere 12 years into the life of the canal. It was the Portland, Saco & Portsmouth Railway (shortly linking up to the Boston and Maine). This first rail line actually helped the canal, as it opened up an outlet for goods moving south; however, this new power-house of the Industrial Revolution represented a unique psychological impact which was best expressed by Prof. Joel Eastman in his early academic treatise, Carrying Commerce to the Countryside:

“The railroad came to symbolize economic progress – a role it was ideally suited for because the huge, iron, steam-powered engines running on iron rails seemed to epitomize…power and speed. The locomotive came to be viewed as the new cutting edge of economic growth and development. In contrast, the canal, with its small, slow, horse-drawn wooden boats seemed slow and old fashioned – more suited to the old pastoral era of the 18th century than to new urban industrial age of the mid-19th century”

It is a common misnomer that railroad transportation was cheaper, per mile, than canal shipping. As stated by Eastman, “…railroads were never less expensive than the canal, but they were faster and operated the year around (and on time), whereas the canal closed in the winter.”

By the 1850s, more railroad lines, including the Atlantic & St. Lawrence (later Grand Trunk) had moved into the region, and they did siphon cargo from the C. & O., which forced the canal company into bankruptcy. Unable to pay off its numerous loans from the Canal Bank, the 27-year-old canal was sold in 1857 to private interests for $40,000 (less than 20 percent of the original construction price of the canal).

The ultimate irony in this course of events is that in the year 1829, while the C. & O. was under construction, it was a canal company in New York that decided to import the first railroad engines to the U.S. (probably used to pull canal boats over high terrain). So, the machine destined to kill canal travel was introduced by a canal company.

The new owners of the C. & O. Canal in 1857 (a businessman and a lawyer/politician) had to come up with ways make it pay. Their ideas were novel and enterprising. But the Civil War and declining interest in the canal destined its doom. Among their proposals for future use: 1) channel drinking water from Sebago Lake to Portland; 2) conversion of the canal to a series of fish hatcheries; 3) establishing a narrow-gauge railroad on the towpath. An earlier idea, never realized, proposed cutting two-foot chunks of Sebago ice in winter, storing the hard water underground in sawdust, then shipping it down the canal for domestic use and shipping.

All ideas for reinventing the C. & O. Canal fell through, and efforts to sell it off fizzled. A portion of its footprint in Portland was sold for the construction of Commercial Street. Lumber and some manufactured items continued to ship on the canal, but heavy maintenance costs and low income caused it to descend into disrepair. The death knell came in 1868 when the Portland and Ogdensburg (New York) Railroad (later the Mountain Division of Maine Central) laid tracks that paralleled the canal all the way to the foot of Sebago Lake, and later to Sebago Lake Station. Now, there was little need for cargo to be canaled all the way to Portland for shipment. It was the end of the Cumberland & Oxford Canal. Official operations ceased in 1872.

The distinction of being the last canal boat captain to sail any portion of the Big Ditch, according to historian Herb Jones (Sebago Lake Land – 1949) goes to Lewis P. Crockett in the canal boat Arthur Willis “to the store and mill of Goff and Plummer at Middle Jam (North Gorham), about one mile from the entrance to the canal,” after which Mr. Crockett continued deliveries of apples on Sebago Lake.

Following the canal closure, the armada of canal boats (some had converted to steam) operated on Sebago and Long Lakes, hauling cargo and passengers to Sebago Lake Station to meet the train.

And there’s still another twist to our story. The Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad failed to make a profit and eventually leased operations to Maine Central Railroad.

There remain portions of the old C. & O. waterway that can still be seen today, the most conspicuous being the channel that crosses Route 35 in Standish just past the Presumpscot River. It has been raised and widened for use as a feeder stream to the Eel Weir Dam. Two other locations that seem to capture a vision of days gone by are at Babb’s Covered Bridge and at the remains of the Gambo Powder Mills in South Windham. Adjacent to a small parking lot on the Gorham side of Babb’s Bridge, there is a gully, grown in with trees and brush (sadly, often sullied with litter); this is the old canal bed. At Gambo Mills, a few hundred yards beyond the foot bridge going into Gorham, on the right, are the remains of the canal, still with water, and the towpath.

Third grade students, studying Windham history, hear the stories of the canal’s glory days from a tour guide and try to picture what it all must have been like. On one such visit a few years ago, one young visitor commented, “Wow, a lot sure happened here before I was born.” <

Friday, October 1, 2021

Sweet treats come to Raymond

By Ernest H. Knight

Ever since the late 19th or early 20th century, Raymond Village has been a mecca for tourists and summer visitors.

Along with the many advantages and attractions for them was refreshment to satisfy the summer palate in the form of homemade ice cream dispensed in the building that was used as a fishing tackle shop for years on Main Street in the village.

Several ice cream freezers like the one shown
were part of the original process of how ice 
cream was made and then sold in Raymond by
Daniel and Grace Mussey in the 19 century.
Built by Daniel and Grace Mussey, the buildings with a store on Maine Street with a dwelling in the rear and the very necessary ice house further behind that, were sandwiched between the old blacksmith shop, long since gone, and the Wharf Road.

Main Street at that time was the county road to Bridgton, later called Roosevelt Trail and Route 302. Wharf Road was the regularly traveled way from the village to the canal boat and steamboat landing built on the rocky shoal in front of Swan’s Island.

Before the days of minimum frontage lot sizes, village buildings were snuggled closely together, perhaps as a carryover from colonial days when closeness was a necessity for safety and survival. But with the towering elm trees through the village overshadowing the buildings, there was a charm and peacefulness in the combination that is now not as apparent.

Grace and Daniel built their shop for the sale of the ice cream that they made in the back room, together with homemade and commercial candies as well as novelty and souvenir items and a few necessities such as cigars and cut and plug tobacco. Also, Dan being the town barber kept an eye on two shops at once.

Ice cream that was made in the days before the invention of all the wonder chemicals and substitute food stuffs had to use natural ingredients – rich cream, fresh fruits and flavorings, without the solidifying sub-zero temperatures of mechanical refrigeration. Ice from the ice house, chipped and mixed with rock salt, provided the moderately low freezing temperatures and human muscle power provided the churning of the freezer that produced the soft texture for a tasty treat.

And so a part of the day’s ritual for travelers, for boarders at the nearby guest houses, and for the local gentry was apt to be a cooling dish of delicious homemade ice cream or a sweet.  

Later, the Mussey Ice Cream Parlor was taken over by Leta and John Leavitt, and the building and the business was expanded. A wide porch was added to the front and side to give more room for tables and provide comfortable relaxation on a hot summer day. While perhaps not equaling the “29 Flavors” made popular by the later Howard Johnson chain, there was a great variety of flavors, fruit and nutty mixtures and various toppings (all non-fattening of course) to suit at least some of the individual choices.

Natural ingredients were still the rule, but somewhere along the line, muscle power gave way to an engine-driven mixer, and after electricity came to Raymond in 1924, the acme of easy labor arrived with the electric motor that could be put to work with the mere flick of a switch.

The career of the building as a place of gastronomical refreshment ended with its years as a quick lunch emporium operated by Arnold Knox, where ice cream was still on the bill of fare, but now of the more prosaic commercial variety. It was colder and perhaps less apt to drip, but not the delectably rich, smooth and satisfying product of previous days.

For those who, along with the ice cream, appreciated local atmosphere, there was next door the old blacksmith shop of Irving (Scott) Morton with its flame-belching forge, the clang of a hammer on anvil and the pungent odor of hoof as the red-hot shoe was applied for a better fit as a horse or an ox was prepared for its work. And if the wind was right, perhaps a garnish of soft coal soot from the forge chimney in lieu of chocolate sprinkles crowning the topping. <

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.