Friday, September 17, 2021

An eventful baseball trip to Bridgton by canal boat

A canal boat converted to seam, like this vessel,
was grounded while taking a baseball team and
its supporters home from a game in Bridgton 
back to Raymond in 1904. The group was
rescued the next morning. COURTESY PHOTO 
By Ernest H. Knight

Shipwrecks anywhere in the world are now instant news everywhere, thanks to such modern aids as satellite communications and rapid air travel by various news media to the scene, but it was not many years past that even local events happened beyond the knowledge of those nearby.

The people of Raymond were once faced with the imagined possibility of a nautical emergency due to slow communication that turned out to be only a minor inconvenience though it did cause much concern to those involved on the scene and back at home. 

On Aug. 6, 1904, an excursion was arranged for a group of people from Raymond made up of the Raymond Red Stripe Baseball Team and supporters from both local families and summer vacationers from the many hotels and boarding houses in the area. A canal boat once used on the old Cumberland & Oxford Canal, still being used on Sebago and Long Ponds, and owned by the Crockett Family that had a sawmill, store and other enterprises on the Muddy River on the north shore on Sebago not far from the Songo River, was chartered to convey them to Bridgton for a baseball game.

In those days, baseball was a very popular activity with any respectable town having its own team to uphold its honor and public spirit, and enthusiasm ran high throughout the summer season. But with the roads of the day very poor and vehicles limited to horse and wagon, the main means of transportation was by boat on Sebago and its connecting waters, for which there were many boats left over from the canal days plus the newer steamboats for both passenger and freight transport, providing more comfort, speed and scenery to travel.

The Crockett canal boat, as were many others still in use, had been converted to steam power in addition to the two original sails to permit operation on somewhat of a schedule independent of the weather. As the weather that weekend was threatening, the group on board totaled only about 75, all carried on deck except for a few who might get into the tiny cabin along with the steam engine and its engineer.

The events of the day were a great success as the traveling team from Raymond defeated Bridgton by a wide margin and all was joyful as they started home after the game. Darkness came on early and travel through the winding and treacherous Songo River was slow so that when they emerged on Sebago, visibility was very poor.

From the mouth of the river to deep water there was a half-mile long channel that still had to be followed even though the level of Sebago had been raised. In the darkness, the craft grounded on the channel bank and remained stuck in spite of efforts of the captain and engineer to refloat, which suited the captain as the weather conditions and lack of navigational aids made running on the rocks while rounding Raymond Cape a real possibility.

Rowboats, presumably carried or towed by the canal boat but perhaps also provided by cottagers on the nearby shore, ferried the passengers to land. The women were taken into the cottages for shelter while the men made themselves as comfortable as possible on the beach with whatever means were at hand and cheered somewhat by a bonfire of driftwood. Totally out of contact with anyone except for the cottagers, Raymond seemed a long way off.

But four of the more resourceful undertook to walk to the first farm they could find where a horse and carriage were obtained and they drove on to Raymond, Paul Revere style.

Word spread quickly along the way and at Raymond Village to allay the fears of the families and the hotels waiting for the overdue travelers.

Now knowing where to go, a small steamer was dispatched to rescue the stranded group, which arrived back at the wharf about 6 a.m. Sunday morning. Those who were weary had part of Sunday to recover from that ordeal, and for some of those there was no doubt a need for explanation. <

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 10, 2021

A matter of historical record: Traditional and true stories, fascinating facts and the subculture created by the 50-mile route of the Cumberland & Oxford Canal

A C.&O. boat, converted to steam power, in the 1890s is shown
here at the rail depot at Sebago Lake Station. Captain Benjamin 
Knight (tall, bearded fellow at center of standing gentlemen) was
the grandfather of C. & O. Canal historian Ernest Knight.
COURTESY PHOTO
Part six of a series

By Walter Lunt

Recent installments of this series discussed the origin and operation of one of the most advanced and celebrated engineering feats of 19th century Maine: the Cumberland & Oxford Canal.

In the next two parts of the series, we attempt to capture the life and times, and the subculture created by the 50-mile transportation corridor that stretched from the town of Harrison near Oxford County, to the seaport of Portland in Cumberland County. What follows, in no particular order, are some of those facts and stories.

The dug portion of the C. & O. Canal extending from Portland to Sebago Lake Basin, was approximately 20 miles long and, for most of the way, ran on the westerly side of the Presumpscot River. It passed through Little Falls Village (South Windham) and the farmland along River Road.

As a young boy living beside the canal in Little Falls, Ernest Bragdon would “go for rides” on the waterway by jumping onto a canal boat from the South Windham bridge, riding down to Horsebeef locks (Mallison Falls) and then hopping another boat back.

Although mainly a freighting operation, the canal boats would occasionally carry passengers, who would usually ride atop sacks of merchandise. Some would travel from Portland to Harrison, but it was more common to travel partial distances between neighborhoods. Some of the travelers paid a fee, others just hitched a ride. Many were pressed into service, helping to raise or lower masts for lake travel, or wield 20-foot poles during the trip on the Songo River. One passenger, lacking experience with the maneuver, described the task this way: “They have long poles with one end padded and the other pointed with iron. First placing the pole perpendicularly, they sent it with a quick motion to the bottom, then lean with their shoulders against the padded end and walk toward the stern as the boat moves along…We found upon trial that even this work required some practice, as we were unable to throw the pole to the bottom. When placed for us and we had walked to the end of the boat, we could not get it out of the mud again.”


Poling was also necessary when boats entered and exited locks, when moving across Sebago Basin from the canal headgate to White’s Bridge and when traversing a dug channel in Sebago Lake leading into the Songo River.

Once in operation, the canal’s sole source of income was tolls placed on the value of cargo moving through the locks. Sawed plank, boards and joists, for example, were assessed at 3-cents per thousand feet per mile and molasses at 2-cents a hogshead. In the five-year period from 1832 to 1836, users paid the canal corporation an average of $14,000 annually. The revenue went to pay the interest on loans secured from the Canal Bank and for upkeep and damage costs on the canal.

Repairs were never ending; they included flooding, cave-ins, vandalism and lock damage (malleable clay soil at Saccarappa and Stroudwater pressed against lock walls causing major damage). Where the canal cut across pasture land, the canal corporation was obligated to build fences, and when public roads were bisected, bridges had to be built – 13 in all.

In 1836, William Whitney submitted a claim for the value of his horse that drowned in the canal. Alley Hawkes, an ancestor of a well-known Windham farming family, placed a claim for damages to his horse and carriage after busting through what he insisted was weak planking on the bridge at Great Falls.

Following opening day of the canal in 1830, the 50-mile corridor became busy, even crowded, almost immediately. At its peak of activity in the 1840s and 50s, almost 150 boats plied its waters. Red-shirted captains and crews carried all manner of merchandise to and from Portland, and numerous wharves in between; wood products were the most common. The town of Portland, for example, burned about 20,000 cords of firewood a year. With the advent of the canal, transportation costs for cordwood were reduced from $4 per cord to one dollar. Other products flowing into Portland for local consumption or for shipment to foreign ports were lumber, shook and staves, farm products – especially apples (500 to 700 bushels per boatload) – powder kegs for the Gambo gunpowder mills, clapboard and shingles, and even shade trees to be planted around Portland, a municipality destined to be known as the “Forest City.” It was also not uncommon to see disassembled barns and other structures being transported from town to town for re-building. Granite slabs, quarried on Raymond Neck, were also hauled on the canal.

Products moving north into the Sebago hinterland included salt, sugar, chests of tea, coffee, ingredients for the manufacture of gunpowder at Gambo, molasses and rum by the hogshead, tobacco and certain dry goods.

Canal boats approaching each other, travelling in opposite directions, had to deal with tow lines getting crossed. The tow-horses, pulling the boats from the same tow path, also came face-to-face. The two boats were able to pass when one hoggie (person leading the tow horse) disconnected the tow rope and dropped it onto the tow path, clearing the way for the other horse to continue on. The “downstream” boat always had the right of way.

Next time, we’ll discuss the foils and frustrations of the crusty canal boat captains and crews. And we meet the tragic “Wolfman of the Cumberland & Oxford Canal. <

Friday, September 3, 2021

Remembering a Raymond legend, Edgar Welch

Once each year, Edgar Welch of Raymond would
run from Raymond to the top of Mount
Washington in New Hampshire while wearing a
suit, boots and a tall beaver hat. Here he is shown
following one of those runs.
COURTESY PHOTO   

By Ernest H. Knight

Raymond and Casco have had many distinguished sons, but perhaps none captured the imagination or stirred the spirit of the people as did our legendary Edgar Welch.

He was born close to the Raymond/Casco line on the County Road to Otisfield (Route 85) in Raymond, though his labors and exploits covered both towns.

Edgar’s grandfather, James, born 1765, came from Cape Elizabeth as an early pioneer settler of Raymond where his son was born in 1819 and Edgar on Sept. 21, 1849. As was the norm in those days, Edgar was adopted into the life of a farmer and worked all of his later years for a neighbor, David McLellan, whose barn and part of his house are still in use, the main house having burned about 1954.

Edgar was a bright, pleasant person though inclined toward strange ideas on work and physical activity, which were extreme to say the least. Besides hard work, running was his pastime for which the urge seized him after a week or so of labor. Dropping whatever he was doing at the time, winter or summer, he would be off running to Portland, Norway or wherever fancy directed, and on his return, he’d pick up where he left off.  On frequent occasions his route was through the White Mountains and once a year he would jaunt to the top of Mount Washington, an event to which proprietors and guests looked forward to with anticipation.

For this event he wore a suit, boots and a tall beaver hat where on his ordinary runs his garb was his overalls with woolen socks in the winter and barefoot in the summer.

On one occasion he ran to Boston, circled through Tremont Street and Boston Common and then head for home. Once an owner of a nice span of driving horses challenged Edgar to a race to Portland. Starting from Raymond Village, the team soon left him far behind but when the team reached its destination on Congress Street, Edgar was there waiting for them. 

Edgar had friends everywhere and my mother fondly recalled that in the 1880s and 1890s when my grandfather farmed what is now called Crockett House by the marina on Jordan River there would be a cry from somewhere “Here comes Edgar” and all those able would go to the edge of the road to greet and cheer Edgar on his way.

Edgard had other unique ideas of labor and benefits to mankind. An astute observation that the McLellan farm, being on the easterly slope of Rattlesnake Mountain, had the sun set much earlier than farms to the north or south, set him on a mission.

To correct this fact of nature, he worked for many years off and on as time permitted, day or night, rolling boulders from the top of the mountain to reduce this bothersome interference. In the stillness of the night, people would awaken to the sound of crashing on the mountain, and remark that Edgar was at it again, and go back to sleep.

While piling logs on the ice at Crescent Lake (then Great Rattlesnake Pond) to be floated to Sebago when the ice melted, Edgar would get hot feet, take off his boots and run on the ice or snow until he could go back to work in comfort.

He was a great conversationalist and interested in the politics of the day. As a composer of rhymes and ballads, with a good voice always in true pitch, he would sing on picnic occasions accompanied by Carrie McLellan on her portable melodeon. His physical make-up baffled doctors, though he never had need of their services as he never even had so much as a cold. With all his work and running, Edgar never perspired, which the doctors said should have killed him.

He did perhaps have one more attribute, clairvoyance or a sixth sense. When he was young, a man named Eastman Bean in Otisfield fell from a haymow holding a pitchfork, was impaled on the tines and died. This was on Edgar’s mind all of his life and at odd times he was overheard muttering some rhyme of reference to Eastman Bean.

On Dec. 23, 1903, Edgar was working in the McLellan barn (still standing on the easterly side of Route 85 not far from the Raymond-Casco line) when he slid from the mow while pitching hay down for the cattle. He was impaled on his pitchfork and died as did Eastman Bean. His funeral was conducted from the Village School at Webb’s Mills (now Crescent Lake Village) and was attended by so many that the overflow stood outside near the windows, left open so they could hear the orations honoring their friend. <

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 27, 2021

A matter of historical record: Ye olde canal days, 1830–1872, a fascinating, but mostly forgotten era in Windham history

By Walter Lunt 

Part five of a series on the Cumberland & Oxford Canal

Jubilant crowds gathered on June 1, 1830 in the small towns along the 20-mile route of the long-anticipated Cumberland & Oxford Canal. Politicians, businessmen, mill owners, lumbermen and whole families were awaiting the appearance of the first canal boat to travel the C. & O. in its day-long journey from Portland, through 27 locks, to Sebago Basin. Gentlemen wearing tall hats and handsome suits, ladies in silk and ordinary folk in their work-a-day outfits cheered loudly as the stately and ornate George Washington canal boat, pulled by a great white horse and barely creating a wake at 4 mph, came into view.

The frontier-like region surrounding Sebago and Long Ponds was rich in natural resources and manufactured goods; Portland Harbor was a bustling seaport. And now there was a cheaper and faster way to move products for import and export.

Notably and sadly absent from the celebration was the man who had devoted nearly half a century to the creation of this engineering marvel, Woodbury Storer, whose last official act before his death in 1825 had been initiating a petition resulting in the creation of Canal Bank, the principal vehicle for financing the canal.

While construction of the canal was financed through a form of public financing, the vessels that would conduct the commerce over its waters fell to private enterprise. Seemingly overnight, farmers, millwrights and enterprising businessmen became “ship owners.”

For the next four decades the canal boats, or freighters, would move thousands of tons of merchandise, including lumber, cordwood, farm produce and mill products, between Portland and the town of Harrison, located on the northern tip of Long Pond. On average, the journey took each boat three days, one way, to complete. A wise canaler would deliver two to three tons of goods to Portland and return with a heavy load of imports from foreign ports, like sugar and molasses or raw materials for the mills. Wharves for loading and unloading were located up and down the canal at each town, as were taverns and inns for meals, drink, and overnight stays. Many provided stables for resting the horses.

The canal boats, of which 100 were in service within the first year (150 within ten years), were less than elegant in appearance. Their design was a prescription, dictated by the limitations and demands of passage on the canal, the sail over lakes and the jaunt on the twisty Songo River.

Unlike the graceful lines of the sea-going tall ships of the day, canal craft were boxy and inelegant at best. The typical canal boat was built, literally, to fit the confines of the canal channel. They measured 60 feet in length, 10 feet wide and had flat bottoms to limit the amount of draft. The bows were blunt, and the stern squared. A cabin, equipped with a stove, folding table and one or more beds was situated at the rear of the vessel. Two masts were mounted on hinges that could fold (or jack knife) onto the deck for passage under bridges, and two centerboards that could be raised for sailing, or lowered during canal and river travel.

Owners took great pride in the appearance and naming of their awkward vessels. The Forest City, for example, was painted like the forests it traversed, with multiple shades of green. The Red Jacket was colored bright red. The Northern Light was silver streaked to represent the heavens, and Reindeer sported sets of animal horns on its bow. The most elaborate and decorated canal boat was the George Washington; not built for freight, it was a pleasure, or party, boat for passengers and special gatherings. The hulls displayed patriotic stripes of red, white, and blue. The deck was graced with stenciled carpets, gold designs, and a brass rail; curtains were hung on the cabin windows, and inside there was a kitchen stove and copper sink. Carved, wooden heads of Martha and George Washington adorned the stern. The boat turned heads during its heyday when partying, music and dancing could be observed on its deck as it plied the waters of the lakes and canal. Unable to defray expenses, the George Washington was soon turned into a freighter.

Horses, and occasionally mules, towed the boats on the canal, led by young men or boys called hoggies. Fore and aft sails would be raised when the boat entered the lake at Sebago Basin. Upon reaching the mouth of the Songo, crewmen (and sometimes passengers) would use 20-foot poles, padded at one end and pointed with iron on the other, to “push” the boat along the river by walking along the tops of the hills. Once in Brandy Pond and past the drawbridge at Naples Causeway, the sails would again be raised for the trip to Bridgton and Harrison. The original survey would have carried the route by canal to Thomas Pond (now Lake Keoka) in Waterford, Oxford County, however due to the great additional expense, the plan was abandoned. Even though the canal never entered Oxford County, its residents added much commerce to the canal via the town of Harrison, and so a measure of veracity was given to the C. & O. name.

During its heyday of the 1840s and 1850s, the C. & O. Canal became an integral part of day-to-day life within the communities it touched. Numerous stories emanated from its business dealings, crews, and passengers – next time we’ll share some of those captivating, and almost forgotten, tales – some passed down, some recorded from primary sources. All, quite fascinating. <

 

Friday, August 13, 2021

A matter of historical record: Linking lakes to the sea, the Cumberland & Oxford Canal is, at last, a reality in 1830

Shown is a wall mural commissioned by Canal Bank (today its
successor is Key Bank). Upper left. the original directors of 
Canal Bank. The bank was commissioned in 1825 to finance
the Cumberland & Oxford Canal. Upper right, Woodbury Storer,
35-year promoter of the canal, and Homes Hutchinson, chief
engineer of the canal. Below, Irish immigrants at work during
construction of the c anal. Center block: A lock with canal
boat at top. Right block, upper right, the Little River aqueduct,
Gorham. Below, tow boats pass in the canal and a wharf for
freight. COURTESY PHOTO   
 (Part four of a series)

By Walter Lunt

By 1825, despite decades of funding and economic set-backs, Woodbury Storer’s dream of a twenty-mile hand dug canal connecting Portland harbor, a shipping mecca, with the wealth of forest, agricultural and manufactured products of interior Cumberland and Oxford counties was fast becoming a reality.

For over 30 years, Storer served in important positions during efforts to fund and build the man-made waterway, including president of the canal corporation’s board of directors. It was Storer that the canal shareholders, including John Tying Smith of Gorham and Eli Longley of Raymond, looked to for leadership following the failure of stock sales and a lottery to cover the C. & O. price tag, originally estimated by Erie Canal engineer Holmes Hutchinson to be about $135,000.

In 1825, the Maine Legislature once again rescued the fledgling canal promoters by establishing a new bank, chartered specifically to provide enough funding to build the canal. The Canal Bank was issued $300,000 in capital with the provision that one-fourth, or $75,000, be invested in canal stock and that the bank be exempted from state taxes.

Surveying began immediately. The original route, which was to have begun near Sebago Lake Village, crossing through the Otter Ponds and on to Saccarappa (Westbrook), was abandoned. The revised course started at the Sebago Basin waterfall (Wescott’s Falls) in Standish and followed closely the western shore of the Presumpscot River to Westbrook where it turned cross country toward Stroudwater in Portland. It also passed through the towns of Standish, Gorham and Windham. The altered route added five miles of digging but was favored because less land had to be taken, and it accessed the products of the mills located along the Presumpscot.

By 1827, land rights for the channel, acquired by eminent domain, were secured and trees and brush cleared along the 20-mile route. Landowners were promised “just compensation” for their property, but many farmers reported dissatisfaction with the payments; some settlements were paid half in money and half in canal stock (which failed to produce the anticipated dividends).

By 1828, actual construction was set to begin. Surplus laborers were nonexistent in the early 19th century, so Irish immigrants, many recruited from the just finished Erie Canal in New York, were brought in. One observer wrote, “…the whole course (of the canal route) was alive with freshly imported Irishmen who with pick, shovel and wheelbarrow excavated the earth and the tow path. The banks were dotted…with rudely built shanties which overflowed with kid(s) and healthy-looking buxom mothers…”

Digging and sculpting the canal channel was, to say the least, a formidable task. University of Southern Maine professor Joel Eastman, a recognized academic expert on the C. & O. Canal described it this way in an article for Maine Life magazine in 1973, “It is not difficult to understand why costs escalated as the actual digging of the twenty mile canal began. There was a lot of earth to be moved even though the canal was only 18 feet wide at the bottom, 34 feet wide at the top and designed to carry just four feet of water. The workers often ran into ledge and large boulders (and in places) the canal bed had to be blasted out of solid rock. The few hills and ridges which could not be avoided required laborious digging to get the route through.”

The escalating cost to which Eastman referred occurred in 1829 as the canal neared completion. Yet again, the Canal Corporation approached the legislature for Canal Bank loans totaling $82,800. Bank directors defended their approval saying the expenditure “…prevent(ed) the entire loss of so large an (investment already made) and to relieve contractors from great loss and ruin.” And so, with construction nearly two-thirds complete, work continued.

Excavation, Eastman pointed out, was only part of the job: …twenty-eight locks had to be built to lift the canal from tidewater to the level of Sebago and Long Ponds, 280 feet above sea level.”

The locks were literally watery elevators that lifted or lowered the freight boats, depending on whether the boats were headed north or south on the canal. Each lock measured about 70 feet long by 10 feet wide and was constructed of split stone and wood panels. Hinged gates on each end swung open and shut. Culverts were installed to allow streams to flow beneath the canal. In Gorham, the canal had to cross a river. In his book, Canals and Inland Waterways of Maine, author Hayden Anderson described what has been called the engineering marvel of its time: “The Little River aqueduct, with its two solid stone abutments and three stone piers in the river, probably cost more than any other canal structure. It was a heavy plank and strong timbered trough eight feet or so above the surface of the river and one hundred feet long; it carried the canal across the river with a bridge alongside for the tow horses.”

The Cumberland & Oxford Canal opened with much fanfare along its entire length on June 1, 1830. The story of that joyous occasion and of the 40 years of canal boating that followed, next time. <


Friday, July 30, 2021

A matter of historical record: A second attempt to construct the Cumberland & Oxford Canal

 (Part 3 of a series)

By Walter Lunt

During the second decade of the 1800s, Portland, Maine’s preeminent seaport city, found itself struggling to overcome twin economy-crushing events: the nationwide embargo of 1807 and the War of 1812.  By 1815, however, the town’s population had risen considerably; its port, now one of the busiest along the New England coast, needed a quicker and more efficient transportation system. 

In his 1949 book Sebago Lake Land, author/historian Herbert Jones described Portland’s growing pains: “The streets…were invariably clogged with long strings of oxen hauling heavy loads to the…waterfront for shipments to Massachusetts and the West Indies. The peaceful early morning slumbers of the irate citizens would be rudely disturbed by the raucous cries of the drivers goading their plodding beasts, and their loud exclamations: ‘Gee Star’ and ‘Whoa hisk’ could be heard for long distances, leaving the suffering populace to infer that the oxen were exceedingly deaf.”

Sensing a return to austerity, certain business leaders revived the idea of an inland waterway that could tap resources like timber and lumber, manufactured products and farm produce that could be brought from the north to Portland for both local consumption and foreign trade.

As discussed in parts one and two of this series, efforts to join the inland treasures around Sebago Pond and beyond with awaiting vessels in Portland Harbor had failed a quarter century earlier. The most efficient route to the north was by water because rivers and roads presented too many natural obstacles.

The ever-optimistic Portland retailer Woodbury Storer, who also dabbled in the import-export trade, resurrected an idea he’d put forth 30 years earlier: the construction of a canal connecting Portland with Sebago Pond and Long Lake, which would extend freight travel up to 60 miles inland. The immediate problem with his notion was, of course, feasibility and financing. Canals were not a new phenomenon in the early 19th century.  The most well-known and celebrated at the time was the Erie Canal in New York. Still, skeptics denounced the idea as too expensive and unworkable.

The canal proposal stalled until Maine became a separate state in 1820. The next year, spurred by the efforts of Storer and others, the Maine Legislature enacted a charter, signed by Gov. William King, granting rights for the construction of a canal from Thomas Pond in Waterford, Oxford County, through Sebago, to the Fore River at Portland, Cumberland County. The charter also provided for the issuance of stock.

Mainers, a conservative brood often labeled as “cautious capitalists,” were slow to invest in what they considered was a risky scheme. It was noted that Stephen Longfellow, a prominent leader in the community, purchased only two shares – which did little to promote sales.

 Enlisting the services of Erie Canal engineer Holmes Hutchinson, the estimated cost of the Cumberland & Oxford Canal construction came in at just over $130,000. That figure, many feared, was too low. Canal incorporators also issued a feasibility report. The glowing and overly optimistic study assured Portlanders their cost for wood fuel would be reduced from four dollars per cord to one dollar. Additionally, it stated that the city would be the “grand receptacle” of new forest and farm products, enhancing the value of land and mills and proclaiming that “one man with the facilities of a canal is deemed equal to three men and eighteen horses…” Appealing to the sensibilities of the potential investor, the study said investment would go beyond personal gain, offering “imperishable fame as a public benefactor.”

Stock sales continued to lag. Again, canal proprietors returned to the Legislature. Storer and others petitioned for a lottery, explaining that the company’s “utmost exertions” had failed to raise the needed revenue (and) …” little hope exists of its accomplishment.” The response was authorization of a complicated lottery scheme aimed at raising $50,000 for the canal. Critics sounded off with “reservations about the economics and morality of lotteries.” A later inspection of lottery records showed a balance of over $11,000 “unaccounted for.” A legislative investigation failed to account for the shortfall and the state treasurer was instructed to cancel the balance owed the state. Ultimately, the lottery fell far short of its promised proceeds.

The future of a Cumberland & Oxford seemed daunting. Determined and resolute, the intrepid Woodbury Storer and other canal supporters would forge ahead in search of financing, labor and construction materials. Further issues on the horizon would be route revisions and eminent domain appeals. How these and other problems are confronted next time.  <

Friday, July 23, 2021

Festival helps unite St. Anthony of Padua parishioners

With a dedication Mass, a procession with a statue of St. Anthony of Padua, and an outdoor festival, parishioners came together in Windham on July 16 and 17 to celebrate the formation of the new St. Anthony of Padua Parish.

“Today, we celebrate our officially formed blended family as the new St. Anthony Parish, knowing that we have a powerful parish intercessor in St. Anthony of Padua,” the Rev. Louis Phillips, pastor of the new parish, told parishioners.

Priests from the new St. Anthony of Padua Parish lead a
procession helping to dedicate the recently merged
parish  at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Windham
on July 16. SUBMITTED PHOTO  
The new St. Anthony of Padua Parish was formed July 1 by the canonical merger of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Windham, St. Anne Parish in Gorham, and St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Westbrook. Parishioners voted on a name for the new parish, and chose St. Anthony of Padua, which Bishop Robert Deeley approved.

The new parish features four worship sites including Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Windham, the summer chapel of Our Lady of Sebago in Sebago, St. Anne in Gorham, and St. Hyacinth in Westbrook.

Prior to the merger, the parishes already shared the same priests and pastoral staff, but the move will further strengthen their ties and, at the same time, reduce some administrative work and costs.

“I think it’s going to be good. I think there are some financial savings that will accrue to all the parishes, and I hope that, in the spirit of ecumenism, we will support each other, as we’re doing today,” said Paul Concannon of Knights of Columbus Council 2219 in Westbrook.

While the merger is, in some ways, an administrative move, Fr. Phillips said it is also about bringing parishioners together as one family, and that is why he wanted to have a celebration. Although the first St. Anthony Festival was held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, folks from the churches in Gorham and Westbrook also volunteered and attended.

“It’s the first time that we have come together as three churches under one parish. It’s the first time that we’ve had to work together for one goal,” said Carol Kennie, one of the festival organizers. “It’s been wonderful meeting everybody from the other parishes on a more personal, casual level. It’s amazing the talent, the interest, and the enthusiasm that we’ve had from everyone.”

Parishioners agreed.

“I’m hoping we’re all going to get to know each other. That’s the reason we’re having this,” said Christine Lynch, who attends Our Lady of Perpetual Help. “It’s been a good team, a good working team.”

The festival began with a dedication Mass, during which Rev. Phillips blessed St. Anthony medals and prayer cards, which were then distributed to parishioners. Following the Mass, Deacon Dean Lachance carried a statue of St. Anthony, leading a procession of priests and parishioners to an outdoor St. Anthony Shrine, where people placed devotional candles.

The Friday evening festivities concluded with a light reception of appetizers, sangria, beer, and other beverages.

On Saturday, the St. Anthony Festival featured live music; booths with handmade items, jewelry, and books; a silent auction with items such as bicycles, kayaks, and a homemade quilt; a yard sale; raffles; and lots of food, including homemade meatball sandwiches, clam cakes, fried dough, hamburgers and hotdogs, and pizza. You could also buy a s’mores kit and roast them over a fire pit, and after a break for 4 p.m. Mass, members of Knights of Columbus Council 10020 in Windham put on a chicken barbecue dinner.

“We’re working the whole day. We’re working the yard sale. We’re helping with the other concessions, and we’re doing the chicken barbecue dinner,” said Charlie Bougie, Grand Knight of the Windham council. “We’re a pretty active council, and we do whatever we can, but this is the first opportunity for us to be a faith community that includes the other churches, and we’re up for that anytime.”

Bougie and the other volunteers said they are excited about the newly formed parish.

“I think it’s wonderful, and with the fact that St. Anthony is in charge, we’ll help all the lost souls,” said Bougie.

Some parishioners said they liked meeting new people.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said Rita Smith, who normally attends St. Hyacinth Church in Westbrook. “We need to unify our church and get new ideas from different corners and just celebrate together.”

Although the merger took place July 1, it has been in the works for months. The process included informational sessions with parishioners, which resulted in a proposal being presented to the bishop, whose approval was needed.

The bishop consulted with the Presbyteral Council and received the consent of both the College of Consultors and the Diocese of Portland’s Finance Council before agreeing to let the merger proceed. There was then a two-week window in which people could appeal the decision.

To reach the new St. Anthony of Padua Parish, call 207-857-0490. <        

Friday, July 16, 2021

A matter of historical record: Origins of the Cumberland & Oxford Canal – part two of a series

By Walter Lunt

Traveling back roads in the late 18th century was an extremely unpleasant and sometimes dangerous activity. Transporting cargo on the unimproved trails north of Falmouth (Portland), including the Sebago Pond (Lake) area, was nearly impossible. As discussed in part one of this series (The Windham Eagle – July 2, 2021), economic development was stymied by the inaccessibility of inland resources like timber and wood products. 

Influential traders and retailers like Woodbury Storer, Peleg Wadsworth and Enoch Freeman foresaw the potential for a lucrative trade in manufactured goods and farm produce, just out of reach in isolated woodlands to the north.


In his book, Canals and Inland Waterways of Maine (1982, Maine Historical Society Research Series, No. 2), historian Hayden L.V. Anderson notes, “By 1790 Portland was recovering from the effects of (the Revolutionary) war and feeling the influence of the new national spirit. A period of vigorous growth began. The town had…been surrounded by forests of towering pine, with ridges of oak, red and white ash, birch and other hardwoods, and settlers along the Presumpscot and Stroudwater rivers had for some time been cutting this easily reached timber…Portland’s splendid harbor and bustling inland settlements provided the setting and opportunity for the rise of an industrious and versatile merchant class.”

However, as Anderson observed, “…roads of the time provided poor freightways.”

Likewise, the Presumpscot River was an equally undesirable alternative with its shallow stretches, rocky obstacles and numerous waterfalls.

The chosen option, born of the trade route dilemma, was a hand-dug canal from Sebago Pond to the falls at Saccarappa (Westbrook), to be known as the Cumberland Canal. Because the Presumpscot did not directly connect to Portland, a second canal group was organized to construct the Falmouth Canal from the head of Saccarappa Falls to the Fore River in Portland. The prime mover of the joint venture was Woodbury Storer, who immediately spearheaded a committee charged with studying the feasibility of creating a “Big Ditch” from “Sebago to the sea.” The panel reported back promptly and enthusiastically, saying that such a canal system would be wise and warranted, as it would extend the region’s economic reach some 60 miles inland.

The Massachusetts General Court incorporated Storer and others as proprietors of the Cumberland Canal. Loammi Baldwin, designer and engineer of the Middlesex Canal at Boston was hired to come and “view the ground” and advise the group. Planning and preparation proceeded slowly; it wasn’t until 1803 that Governor Samuel Adams signed a charter authorizing $20,000 for the purchase of land and allowing up to ten years to dig the canal and bring it up to full use. The following year it became obvious that the initial $20,000 outlay was not enough, and it was increased to $120,000 for each canal company.

In the years leading up to what would have been the Cumberland & Falmouth Canal, it was estimated that Portland’s prosperity nearly quadrupled due to vigorous trade with Great Britain and the West Indies.

In 1806 and 1807, due to international events, the boom times collapsed. Nationwide trade embargos, instituted by Congress, and later by President Thomas Jefferson over issues related to the impressment of American sailors and American sovereignty shut down ports up and down the eastern seaboard.

Gloomy economic times fell on the port of Portland. Commercial shipping and related business interests valued at over a million and a half dollars were halted. One observer quipped, “Great distress prevailed…grass literally grew upon the wharves…”

The disastrous times also brought failure to progress on the Cumberland and the Falmouth canals. Recovery would not be realized for another 20 years, well after Maine statehood.

Next time, the story of the second attempt to construct “water communication” between Portland and Sebago. <

Friday, July 2, 2021

A matter of historical record: The Cumberland and Oxford Canal – first of a multi-part series

An illustration is
shown accompanying
an article about the
Cumberland and Oxford
Canal from the Portland
Advertiser newspaper
on Sept. 3, 1899.
SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Walter Lunt

Before he was the first vice-president under George Washington, and before he became the second president of the United States, John Adams traveled the back trails of Southern Maine as a circuit judge.

In his journals, he revealed how he despised the journey, describing the steep hills and the mud and ruts as “vastly disagreeable.” He even stated that he “hated the trees” because they often blocked his path.

At the time, in the 1770s, certain spotted trails (many, old Indian trails) were all that connected the inner tier of townships like Gorham, Windham and Gray. An enterprising farmer might walk miles over unkept trails carrying a bag corn for milling.

Lumbermen of the time used rivers and streams to transport their stock-in-trade, however hundreds of acres remained untapped due to lack of suitable waterways.

Blocking the way were shallow stretches, waterfalls or rock-filled rapids. The Presumpscot, for example, sported seventeen waterfalls and turned north at Cumberland Mills, away from the wharves at Portland.

Nature and geography had endowed Maine with an abundance of two valuable commodities: fish and timber. The latter, however, remained ensconced and inaccessible north of Portland. Stands of tall pine and groves of hardwood trees stood since time immemorial in forests along the north and east shores of Sebago Pond (Lake), sheltered and untapped by early entrepreneurs.

Road improvement was an unlikely prospect, given certain stretches of watery lowland, steep grades and spring washouts, not to mention the distance of over 20 miles.

The easiest and most efficient mode of travel by the early settlers was by water. Gorhamtown and New Marblehead (Windham) were planned by following a river (Presumpscot), so it was natural for the founders to consider waterways as the best form of connecting settlements. Although turnpikes and toll bridges were favored early on, widespread interest in canal building surged after the Revolution - spurred by George Washington’s interest in internal improvements. Hand-dug canals, though costly to build and maintain, seemed like the only suitable option for “communication” between shipping interests in Portland and the inland towns.

Inland travel in America, even into the 1800s, was easiest by water. By 1793, over 30 canal companies had been incorporated in the original 13 colonies. Portland businessmen, including merchant Woodbury Storer, were eager to tap inland resources for domestic use and for shipping to foreign ports.

The use of canals was considered a public service but was carried out by private corporations which required authorization by the state legislature. The earliest overture for the construction of a canal between Sebago Pond and the port of Portland was advanced by Storer and others in 1791.

We’ll discuss that ill-fated attempt and detail the full story of the Cumberland and Oxford Canal (which never really reached Oxford County) next time.  <

Friday, June 18, 2021

Yard sale, bottle drive, raffles to help Windham Youth Bowlers

Camden Gendron, Lucas Littlefield, and
Zach Bernier get lessons from local
bowling coach Jimmy Clark last year. 
The Windham Youth Bowling fundraiser
will include a yard sale, bottle drive and 
raffles on Saturday, June 19.
SUBMITTED PHOTO  
By Daniel Gray

On Saturday June 19, the public can give a boost to Windham Youth Bowlers by participating in a combined yard sale, bottle drive, and even a raffle all merged into one.

The Windham Youth Bowling fundraiser will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Percy Hawkes Road in Windham and will be a multi-family yard sale, although it will be centralized on one property to make it easier for people to browse. There will also be yellow signs directing people the right way once turning onto Percy Hawkes Road.

While items are scattered, the yard sale aspect will contain books, plus-sized women's clothing items, furniture, craft supplies, and children's toys. And that’s not to mention the amazing raffle prizes that are being offered, one being a “bowling basket” and another being a “beauty basket” featuring gift certificates and assorted items.

The “bowling basket” contains a gift certificate for bowling shoes from Dexter Bowling, a gift card to Bayside Bowl, some bowling T-shirts, and a bag for the bowling shoes that can be attached to a regular bowling bag.

In the “beauty basket” there is a gift certificate for a facial from Samantha Hale at Hands and Soul, some Color Street Nail sets donated by Rachel Lagere at Simply Sparkle with Rachel, and several other makeup and beauty products.

Along with the bottle drive that will be taking place, organizer April Moras Littlefield hopes it will be one interesting yard sale. All of the proceeds go toward a Youth Bowlers' trip to Indianapolis, which is where the Junior Gold Bowling Tournament will be held from July 9 to July 18.

Littlefield, a second-grade teacher in Lewiston and a bowling fan, wanted to help deflect some of the cost in any way she could for the families of Windham Youth Bowlers going to Indianapolis. This is a big opportunity for everyone, especially after canceled tournaments in 2020.

"We had a big event like this being planned last year when everything was shut down." She said, "As a parent of a bowler who wanted to compete, I knew that 10 days of practice and tournaments was going to be expensive. I decided to help the seven bowlers from our association, and their families, with such a long trip in the same way."

Her son Lucas Littlefield, a bowler in the league for nine years, said that he is very appreciative of his mom's efforts to help with the team’s costs.

"I really enjoy and appreciate her help and active participation in a hobby and sport I enjoy,” he said. “Her help with the fundraisers has drastically impacted the sport's opportunities and has also helped my friends grow with me as bowlers.”

With the tournament coming up in July and costly expenses per family to participate, April Littlefield said she is optimistic that the fundraiser, whether it be through the yard sale, raffles, or bottle drive, will help everyone. Even if someone cannot attend the event, their bottle drive at Patman's Redemption for the Windham Youth Bowlers is available for folks who want to lend a helping hand.

"I'm excited to have this event. I think it’s a great opportunity to share our love of the sport,” she said. “A lot of people think of bowling as only something you do with friends for a fun night out or during a rainy day, which it is. But few people realize there is a competitive side to it as well. So while the main focus of this event is to raise money for the families going to the Junior Gold Tournament, it is also a great way to help grow our sport. I’m excited for both."

Disappointed by 2020's missed opportunities, Lucas Littlefield thinks that 2021 will be a better year, especially with help from our community.

"This yard sale will be items from our own homes and items from people within the community,” he said. “The community is coming together to support us and I thank and appreciate all the help that people are pouring in to help make our experience and opportunities come to fruition."

Windham Youth Bowlers competed in the Saturday Morning Youth League and some high school participants bowled in the Juniors League on Saturdays from September to April.  The upcoming Junior Gold Bowling Tournament in Indianapolis is a national event with young bowlers qualifying from ac ross America. 

For more information about the yard sale, bottle drive or raffles, visit April Moras Littlefield’s Facebook page. <

Friday, June 11, 2021

WHS alumnus embarks upon dream job with U.S. Navy

Adam Maley of Windham, despite
facing many challenges as a young
person that would have prevented
some from following their dreams,
is living his career of choice. On
Sunday, he left Maine and is now
in Yokosuka, Japan to serve on
board the USS Benfold, a destroyer
built at Bath Iron Works in Maine.
SUBMITTED PHOTO
 
By Lorraine Glowczak

Adam Maley of Windham has held a lifelong dream of making a career in the U.S. Armed Forces and that desire is about to become a reality.

“Since about the age of 10, I've always had this itch…this monkey on my back trying to pull me in the direction of military service,” said Maley, a 2016 graduate of Windham High School.

However, as a teenager, Maley didn’t expect to see his dream come to fruition. While growing up and in school, he was often restless, easily distracted and had trouble focusing on assignments and classwork. He was identified as having ADHD and placed in special education classes. Although he didn’t expect much of himself once separated from the traditional education path, he states there was no official diagnosis to explain his inattentiveness. He said it was just a part of his teenage experience and was not an indication of his intelligence.

“I showed no real clear signs of ADHD,” Maley said. “I just felt the educational material and the way it was being presented to me was dry and hard to engage in. It was a time when I was going through that teenage nervous wreck phase – and like all teenagers – I was self-conscious about how I looked and what people thought of me. Being in those special education classes made me feel less than my peers. I felt labeled and believed others looked down on me. I didn't think I would be much of anything after high school.”

Believing that the military was now out of his reach, Maley decided during his junior year of high school to learn a technical trade to prepare for his future. But what Maley didn’t know - it was this choice that would shift a belief in himself and set the course for his future.

“The one thing that helped me find myself in the midst of high school was going to Westbrook Regional Vocational Center,” Maley said. “I was training as a heavy equipment operator in the field of construction and our instructors aimed to give us the tools and knowledge to land high paying jobs and be successful doing the trades we loved. It was here that my confidence grew. I no longer felt as if I was failing.”

Maley decided to move forward on his longtime dream of joining the military, but he couldn't decide which branch he wanted to enlist.

“It wasn’t until one day, a recruiter for the Navy called and asked if I would like to visit them and see what they had to offer,” Maley said “And the rest is history.”

Seamen Recruit Maley’s career in the Navy is now in full swing. After a brief visit with his family, SR Maley left Windham this past Sunday, June 6 and is now in Yokosuka, Japan to board the USS Benfold (DDG-65), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (which, ironically, was built at Bath Iron Works in Brunswick).

“This ship will be my home for the next four years, and I would not change the experience – my dream - for anything in the world.”

SR Maley said the Navy has completely changed him in terms of confidence and physical health and in the process has instilled the Navy's core values of honor, courage and commitment. “I feel forever changed in the way I see day to day life - always looking with a positive attitude no matter what the situation brings.”

His goal is to achieve the rank of Petty Officer Second Class and work as an RP (Religious Program) Specialist with the Navy’s chaplains.

SR Maley’s parents, George Maley and Melissa Harmon who have encouraged and supported their son to beat the odds, are very happy that he is accomplishing his dream.

“Adam was four years old and his brother, Andrew, was three when I became a single dad 24/7,” Adam’s father George Maley said. “It wasn’t easy to be both mom and dad, but I am honored to have witnessed my sons grow into the people they are today. It is true that Adam had always wanted to be in the military. When we would go shopping for school, Adam immediately ran to the camouflage clothes. This is all he wanted to wear. What I admire the most about Adam is that he never would give in or give up. He was a determined person who never used the words, ‘I can’t.’ I could not be prouder of Adam and the choice he has made to serve his country and protect our freedom.”

Melissa Harmon-Maley also feels honored to have been a part of SR Maley’s life. “As his stepmom I always had the confidence in Adam’s capabilities, but to see him grow over the years and watch him gain confidence in HIMSELF is incredible to see,” she said. “I’m BEYOND proud of him!”

For the 2021 WHS students who will be graduating this Sunday, SR Maley offers the following guidance; “My advice for current graduates and high school students is just because you find yourself in a specific class or given a label by your peers or others - or even if you are told you won’t be able to accomplish something – their opinion about you doesn't have to be your reality,” he said. <

Friday, June 4, 2021

Summer fun for residents a goal for Windham Parks and Recreation

By Elizabeth Richards

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift, the Windham Parks and Recreation Department is planning an exciting lineup of events and activities this summer.  “We are moving and shaking here for the summer months,” said Linda Brooks, Windham Director of Parks and Recreation.

Dundee Park opened for the season last weekend and things are almost how they were pre-pandemic, Brooks said, with one key exception.  There will not be lifeguards on duty at Dundee Park this year, mainly because lifeguards are in short supply.

Paris Knight practices the long jump last 
summer during the Windham Summer
Track Program at Windham High School.
This year's Summer Track Program starts
June 21 and is part of an extensive number
of summer events and activities planned
by Windham Parks and Recreation for
area residents. COURTESY PHOTO 
REBECCA VERSLUIS

“There was already a lifeguard shortage before the pandemic, and the inability of people to get trained and certified during the pandemic added to that shortage,” Brooks said.

Another exciting thing, Brooks said, is the return of the summer concert series at Dundee Park after a one-year hiatus because of the pandemic.  The series will run four Wednesday nights, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., with the first concert set for July 7.  Admission to Dundee Park is free after 5 p.m. on concert evenings.

Facilities can once again be reserved to host family gatherings or parties at Dundee Park. New this year is the ability to reserve picnic space at Donnabeth Lippman park as well, which includes access to yard games stored there at the park.

Also on the lineup is a modified – but not strictly virtual - version of Summerfest.

“We are celebrating Summerfest here in Windham, albeit different than it used to be,” Brooks said.  “We have a few different ways that businesses and organizations are able to still do what they normally do and spotlight their organizations.”

A town wide scavenger hunt will take place during the week leading up to June 19, the traditional Summerfest date.  Businesses and organizations will provide challenges through a free app, EVENTZEE, and prizes will be awarded for participation. 

“Families may want to do it together, but it can be an individual participation thing as well,” Brooks said.

In lieu of the traditional parade, Summerfest will include “Yardi Gras” where residents or businesses will create floats to display in their front yards using the theme “Summertime in the Lakes Region.”  

Windham Parks & Recreation will publish a map of all the floats so that people can drive by and see them in person and $100 prizes will be awarded to the best entries in each of five categories.

The Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, Sebago Lake Rotary Club and Modern Woodmen are sponsoring a golf ball drop, with a potential top prize of $1,000, depending on how many of the 1,000 available balls are sold.

Proceeds of the fundraiser will support both Summerfest and the Windham Food Pantry.  Balls can be purchased through the Chamber website. The Windham Fire Department will drop the balls from a ladder truck at 1 p.m. on June 19.  People can watch the drop in person or live on Facebook. 

Although it’s different than traditional Summerfest, the committee really wanted to do something fun and great and promote what Windham’s Parks and Recreation is all about, Brooks said.

Windham Parks and Recreation is also offering “Summer Kids Club,” again this year.  More than 200 children are registered already, an increase of about 100 participants over last year, Brooks said. 

Though they’ll have to adhere to some camp-specific guidelines around COVID-19, they’re a little less restrictive than last year at this time, Brooks said. While staffing for camp programs has been a struggle in some communities, Brooks said they’re fortunate to have both strong returning staff and some new staff.

The summer track program will begin on June 21 and currently, Brooks said that they’re uncertain as to whether they’ll work under USATF and compete against other programs, since they received an update only last week, and many other communities are opting out this year.  Even if they decide not to go that route, she said, they would like to offer some type of competition. 

“Last year competition was not allowed at all. This year it could be, so we may be just trying to pull something together with neighboring communities to still give the participants that experience,” she said.

The department has been hosting Playdates in the Park for preschoolers this spring, and may continue through the summer months, depending on interest, Brooks said.

A range of opportunities for seniors are also available.

For more information, or to register for Windham Parks and Recreation summer programs, visit https://windhamrecreation.com. <

Friday, May 28, 2021

Before the memory fades: Field and Allen, Windham’s sons of sacrifice and honor

Sgt. James Franklin Allen
(1919-1945)
COURTESY PHOTO
By Walter Lunt

Last week, this column discussed the character and combat legacy of Charles W.W. Field, Windham’s first casualty of World War 1. Part 2 is about the first loss of a native son during World War II, James Allen.

L. Wayne Allen retrieved the contents of his mailbox and immediately recognized the handwriting on one of the envelopes. It was from his older brother, James Allen, who was serving in the United States Marine Corps overseas – World War II had been raging for several years and the Allen family, like all war families of the early 1940s, was anxious about the status of their sons and daughters in uniform.

The letter from James indicated that should anything happen to him, L. Wayne should take possession of his dairy cows. A grim communication.

James had established a substantial herd of livestock before going off to the war in the fall of 1941. He loved the farm, which had been in the family for generations. It is located on Cartland Road in the Popeville (Friends) neighborhood of Windham, and is now being maintained by James’ nephew, Lee Allen (L. Wayne and Monica Allen’s son).

James saw his first action at Roi-Namur in the Kwajalein Atoll, then in Saipan and the invasions of the Marshall Islands, engagements described as fierce and bloody. Each battle victory moved the U.S. closer to the Japanese mainland and would facilitate long-range bombing attacks.

Then came Iwo Jima, a 2-by-4 square mile island less than 700 miles from the Japanese homeland. A bomber base there would enable B-29s to fly only half the distance to Japan and back. Some 22,000 Japanese stood ready to defend the island.

In February 1945, Sgt. Allen was among three infantry divisions put ashore there to engage in one of the most violent and deadly operations of the war. He would die in battle two weeks later, along with 5,930 other Marines.

 A posthumous citation, awarded after his death and presented to his mother, Flora Allen, detailed Sgt. James Allen’s valor in combat. It read: “For excellent service as squad leader in a reconnaissance company during operations against the enemy on March 6, 1945 on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands. Sergeant Allen maintained control of his men while under heavy machine gun and mortar fire. He succeeded in withdrawing his squad from an enemy machine gun lane to commanding ground. Without regard for his personal safety, he exposed himself on numerous occasions to severe enemy fire to direct the evacuation of the wounded. His courage and conduct throughout were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.” (Signed) C.B. Cates, Major General, USMC, Commanding 4th Marine Division.

James was the first Windham native to die in World War II, just as his cousin, Lt. Charles W.W. Field had been the first from Windham to perish in World War I (The Windham Eagle – May 21, 2021).

News of James’ death hit the Windham community hard. The family fielded letters, cards and phone calls for weeks. There were newspaper articles and, for a while, he was the only news in town.

His high school yearbook noted he was an “outstanding basketball player;” and participated in the school newspaper, swimming, drama club, speaking (contest), orchestra, chorus, Future Farmers of America, class treasurer, and president of the student council.

While distinguishing himself as a Marine at war, James wrote many letters home to family and friends. Many are kept at the Windham Historical Society. They display a remarkable sense of selflessness and devotion. In them, he spoke little of himself, instead inquiring extensively about every detail of the lives of his seven brothers and sisters, his friends and relatives, even his cows. He thanked his father for selling his automobile, saying he hoped to buy a new car when he got home. He had left behind a fiancée, so marriage was also to be part of a homecoming.

Among the many memories and tributes in the months and years following James’ death was one written by his nephew, Lee Allen. In “A tribute to my Uncle James Franklin Allen,” he quotes a close friend of his uncle’s, who described the fallen soldier this way, “(Jim) always impressed me with his physique and his honest, calm, straightforward manner. One could feel the strength of character in his personality.”

To memorialize its two native sons, Windham would name a school and a local American Legion Post in their honor.

Lee Allen would go on to teach at the Field-Allen School, named in part for his uncle. At least once every year, he would speak to the classes about the honor and sacrifice of Charles W.W. Field and James Franklin Allen so that the students would know and understand the significance of their school’s namesakes.

Field and Allen were alike in many ways. Both grew up on a Windham farm and seemed pledged to stay there; both were men of high personal character; both responded early-on to the call of their country; both left their fiancée behind, never realizing a married life; and, they were cousins.

Finally, it would seem those famous words spoken by a Navy admiral of Iwo Jima, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue,” could easily be applied to both Field and Allen. <


Friday, May 21, 2021

Before the memory fades: Field and Allen, Windham’s sons of sacrifice and honor

Lieut. C.W.W. Field. Writing around
the photo says 'Killed at Chateau
Thierry - July 18, 1918 - Shot by
German sniper - 103 Machine
Gun Batt. 26th Division - Killed
in Action. PHOTO COURTESY
OF BILL SULLIVAN
By Walter Lunt

In observance of Memorial Day, 2021, Before the Memory Fades explores the character and the combat legacy of two native sons, Lt. Charles W.W. Field and Sgt. James Allen, who died fighting in World Wars I and II respectively, and became the collective namesake of an American Legion Post and a Windham middle school. Part one focuses on Lt. Field.

Charles William Wallace Field was born in Windham on June 25, 1892 to William and Emily (Lamb) Field. William was a Civil War veteran, having served with the 25th Maine Regiment. He died in 1893 when his only son, Charles, was 1-year-old.

Charles grew up in Windham helping his widowed mother, sisters and a boarder work the family farm. He was a member of Presumpscot Lodge of Masons of North Windham. Following his early education in Windham grammar schools and at North Yarmouth Academy, Charles entered Bowdoin College where he served as president of Sigma Upsilon fraternity for several years.

By around 1915, Charles was working various jobs for the Grand Trunk and Boston and Maine Railroads. A later newspaper report said the young Field enlisted in the U. S. Army immediately following America’s entry into the World War. He was commissioned an officer at the Plattsburg (New York) Training Camp and shipped out overseas in October 1917.

Lt. “Chick” Field would engage German forces in a major confrontation at Chateau-Thierry, France in July of 1918. The last heroic moments of his life would be recorded in a book, With the Yankee Division in France, written by Boston Globe reporter Frank Sibley, who witnessed much of the conflict:

“Lieutenant ‘Chick’ Field of North Windham, Maine was in a machine gun battalion. The man commanding the platoon ahead of Field’s chucked away his cane when he started on an advance out of Bouresches, and Lieut. Field picked it up and led his men down into the deadly railroad cutting, behind a built-up embankment where they had to stand and take it for a few moments.

Lieut. Field was as cool as though he had been behind the guns that were sweeping the digging, instead of being the very center of their fire. He was really in a support command, and supposed to be in the echelon. But he came up, with his supports, and insisted on moving. He and his men alike were anxious to get into the fight on this first day of the offensive.

He moved back and forth directing his men and swinging his cane jauntily. And his death came swiftly and mercifully (by a German sniper) while he was smilingly at his work. His body is buried there in the cut where the detail found him next day.”

Days later, the Portland Express-Advertiser reported on the memorial service for Lt. Field…” held at the Union Church at North Windham…attended by a large delegation of family and friends. The sermon was preached by Rev. Jas. E. Aikins, pastor of the Congregational Church at Windham Hill…A large American flag extended across the back of the church…Many beautiful flowers including roses, Easter lilies and seasonable blossoms were sent. As the remains of the young officer lie in France, these floral tributes were sent to the sick and shut-ins among his former neighbors.”

Three years later, on September 3, 1921, The Portland Evening Express reported, “The body of Lieut. Charles W.W. Field of Co. A 53nd Brigade, 26th Division, who made the supreme sacrifice on the morning of July 18, 1918 in the World War, has arrived at his home here.” He is interred at the Smith Cemetery, Windham Center.

Among Field’s possessions, retrieved after his death, was a framed picture of his fiancée, Mollie Sheehan.  On the back of the photo, written in pencil in Mollie’s handwriting was, “Left by Chick Field with his ‘buddy’ when he went to the firing line – July 17, 1918. He was killed July 18, 1918 at Chateau Thierry. This picture was returned to me by (a) Capt. Thomas of Providence, R.I.”

In 1938, 20 years following the death of Field, the Windham American Post 148 was chartered in honor of the town’s first soldier killed in action in the World War – the Charles W. Field Post 148. Another name would be added following World War II. <

Next week, the story of USMC Sgt. James Allen.