Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Before the memory fades: Windham’s smallest Biggest Buck of 1957

By Walter Lunt

This story comes to us from a trusted eyewitness to an event that occurred 65 years ago this month at the height of Maine’s deer hunting season, November 1957. It seems a local resident, well-known to all around Windham as a good guy and an affable school bus driver, walked into the side entrance of H.H. Boody’s general store in North Windham and headed straight for the proprietor, Pete Philpot. For purposes of our story, we’ll name this customer Mr. Hunter.

Many of the antiques displayed at the
Windham Historical Society's Village
Green museums bring stories with them.
This old platform scale, once used to break
down bulk weight items like flour and
molasses, is exhibited at the Old Grocery
Museum and is likely the same one
referred to in this story.
SUBMITTED PHOTO
Philpot recognized the man who approached him as a regular customer. On this day he was wearing a hunting jacket; a knife tucked into a brown, leather sheath hung from his belt.

The two exchanged friendly greetings, then Mr. Hunter got right to the point: “I just bagged a 10-point buck – she’s a big one and I need to weigh her out.” He went on to explain that none of the local tagging stations had weigh scales, but he remembered that Philpot’s store still had a set of old-fashioned industrial scales. Could he use them to weigh his deer?

Philpot confirmed that he still had the scales, though seldom used, in a back room of the 80-foot-long general store that stood on the corner of Roosevelt Trail (Route 302) and Tanberg Trail (Route 115 ) – now occupied by the Bangor Savings Bank and Cross Insurance building).

Hunter said he was certain the deer would top 200 pounds, thus qualifying him for membership in the prestigious Biggest Bucks Club of Maine, an elite group of deer hunters readily identified by a bright red and orange arm-patch on their hunting jacket.

Minutes later, Hunter and three of his hunting buddies carried the big white-tail through the large side doors, holding the carcass well off the floor as they proceeded through the retail space towards the rear of the store. “She’s a heavy, heavy one,” said Hunter, “…and we didn’t want to mess up your floors during store hours.”

Philpot, a former meat-cutter, looked askance at the large deer and exclaimed, “Hate to disagree with ya’ friend, but I’d say it don’t go much more’n 175 pounds.”

Hunter stiffened, as if the words had somehow produced an electric shock. “Oh no sir, she’s more than 200 pounds, for sure.”

Philpot, still with a look of skepticism, helped lift the carcass onto the old platform scales. He then adjusted the counterweights until the exact weight revealed “…a minute over 175.” He shot Hunter a knowing look.

Hunter, known generally as a calm, even-tempered man suddenly changed his voice tone, declaring, “No, no, that ain’t right! Can’t be! Somethin’s wrong here.” He pointed at the deer’s legs and hooves which rested on the floor. “Let’s get ‘im off the floor. That’s robbin’ some of the weight.”

Philpot obliged by securing two 2x4’s that he placed cross-wise on the scale’s platform. The deer was lifted back onto the scales and the new weight determined (minus the weight of the 2x4’s). “Well,” said Philpot, “looks to be about…almost 179 pounds.”

Hunter, now noticeably more aggravated, proclaimed in a stern voice, “Those old scales ain’t accurate. They been checked (certified) lately?”

“No, not lately,” replied Philpot, “but I can vouch for ‘em. We’ve never had a problem with them. And anyway, they couldn’t be off THAT much!”

Hunter, now nearly shouting, produced a new argument: “You gotta allow for the innards. This deer’s been field dressed (removal of entrails, stomach, organs, etc.) so you got to add at least 15 percent, that’s what the old-timers do.”


“Well, I don’t think so,” responded Philpot, “now you know, as well as the rest of us, what counts is field dressed weight, NOT live weight.”

The three other hunters (and the young witness to this story) fell completely silent as Hunter and Philpot argued the state’s game laws.

Finally, an exasperated Philpot insisted that Hunter pay a fee for the use of the scales (and his time and patience).

That ended it. Hunter’s anger turned to near rage, whereupon he wrapped one arm around the deer’s neck and grasping an antler with the other, alone, lifted the animal from the scales, proceeded to tow the carcass out of the storage area, hind quarters dragging along the floor, right through the clothing and dry goods retail space and out the side entrance to his truck.

Thus, ended it all: the need for four men to carry the buck, consideration for clean retail floors and Hunter’s entry into the Maine Biggest Bucks Club. <

Friday, November 18, 2022

WCA students host special recognition breakfast for veterans

Freedom makes a huge requirement of American citizens and following a special Veterans Day event at Windham Christian Academy, students are now aware that we all have a responsibility to recognize the sacrifice of veterans on our behalf.

First- and Second-Grade students at Windham Christian
Academy held a breakfast for veterans on Tuesday, Nov. 8
to thank them for their service and to learn more about their
military careers. The students were involved in every aspect
of the event and were able to connect it to their classroom
activities. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
Students in first and second grade at Windham Christian Academy staged a special breakfast for area veterans on Tuesday, Nov. 8 and teachers say they were involved in every aspect of the event.

WCA Second Grade Teacher Lynn Dodd conceived the idea for the breakfast and collaborated with WCS First Grade Teacher Natalie Edmiston in making it a memorable activity for students and veterans alike.

Dodd’s husband was a Vietnam veteran and said she saw first-hand the effects that life outside of the military had upon him.

“We need to make sure children understand what our veterans have done for us and learn to honor them,” Dodd said.

Students began planning for the event by interviewing a local veteran and asking them questions about their military service.

The questions ranged from what the veterans liked the most and the least about their time in the military, as well as what qualities they felt a person needed to be a good soldier.

Their answers included travel as something soldiers liked the best and time away from their family as what they liked the least. They responded that the qualities required to be a good soldier are integrity, teamwork, and having a sense of humor.

The students then compiled a guest list of area veterans to invite to the breakfast, assisted in creating and planning the breakfast menu, lining up volunteers for the event and creating decorations for the breakfast. The planning activities also connected to schoolwork and lessons.

“There was a lot of math happening on the board as we were planning how many tables we needed to set up,” Dodd said.

On the day of the event, students waited patiently for their guests to arrive so they could bring them to get a cup of coffee and escort them to their table.

Not only were each of the veterans treated to breakfast, but the students shared a poem with those in attendance and they also sang each of the service songs for the different branches of the military while inviting the veterans to stand and be recognized while their service song was performed.

The event ended with each veteran who participated receiving a homemade gift from the students thanking them again for their time spent serving our country. <

Friday, November 4, 2022

Before the memory fades: The hauntings on River Road

By Walter Lunt

Ian Dixon was driving home from Westbrook on River Road headed for Raymond. Having just passed the intersection at Anderson Road and approaching the entrance to Smith-Anderson Cemetery, he spotted a blurred figure a short distance ahead crossing the road from right to left toward the cemetery. Dixon slammed on his brakes and lurched forward as the car came to a quick stop.

Some people driving on River Road in Windham tell
hair-raising tales of mysterious encounters.
COURTESY PHOTO
“It appeared to be that of a young boy, but I couldn’t be sure. I looked for him after I stopped, but just like that, he vanished – suddenly in front of me, and then gone. Its features were grayish and blurred, and you could almost see right through it. Almost unreal. I drove on, and during the whole trip home I tried to process what I saw – not an animal, a child I think – suddenly in my vision, then out of my vision. When I think about that night it comes back more like a strange feeling than (as) a memory. I just can’t rationalize what I saw.”

Unlike others who have claimed eerie sightings on the old settlement end of River Road between Mallison Falls Road and the Westbrook boundary line, Dixon has told his story to family, friends, acquaintances, and anyone interested enough to listen.

His strange encounter may not be an unusual occurrence. Others, who prefer to remain anonymous, have reported seeing disquieting shapes and figures during night-drives on River Road in the vicinity of the ancient Smith-Anderson burial ground, the resting place of many of Windham’s earliest settlers – the town’s founding families from 1737 on. The stories describe various shadowy forms, apparitions, specters, all ghost-like in appearance with indistinguishable faces. Some were said to have been semi-transparent, dressed in flowing white garb.

The Smith-Anderson Cemetery, usually referred to as just the Anderson Cemetery, has long been the site and the subject of paranormal activity. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of visitors have reported haunted happenings of every kind imaginable: orbs, small spheres of lights hovering about the headstones, undead figures lurking in woods just beyond the cemetery grounds, male voices speaking in low tones, strange knocking sounds emanating from the Anderson crypt and cars that were moved from their original parking spot. Paranormal groups regularly investigate the site and describe it as “the most haunted cemetery in the state.”

In October 2022, a South Windham woman who prefers not to be identified and who says she is “fully convinced River Road is haunted,” shared with the writer what is probably the most recent roadside encounter with an apparition.

She said it was a clear night just two or three years ago; she was returning home on River Road with her boyfriend. As they neared the Anderson Road intersection there appeared the figure of a woman wearing a silky, white garment below a featureless face that seemed to stare straight into the oncoming headlights.

“You could see right through her; it was frightening – I had goosebumps all over. When I recovered, I asked my boyfriend, ‘Did you see that?’” He responded with an unprintable remark and told her to just keep driving. The woman says her boyfriend has since refused to discuss the event.

These stories, and many others like them, have been told since time immemorable. Their veracity is matter of faith. Dixon is a skeptic but maintains an open mind. The South Windham woman is a firm believer.

The writer knows both individuals and can attest they are both stable and clear-thinking individuals.

Skeptics will cite the lack of witnesses, or that the mysterious figures could have been mistaken for something else. Perhaps, but the stories are sure fun to tell.

Here’s hoping our readers had a happy and believable Halloween. <

Friday, October 28, 2022

Apple orchards look for rebound after subpar season

By Abby Wilson

The last of the apples have fallen from trees in Cumberland County and throughout the Lakes Region where the season was not very good due to summer droughts across the southern part of the state.

Varieties of apples are plentiful in Maine,
but this past season was tough for apple
growers such as Meadow Brook Farm in 
Raymond because of continuing drought 
conditions. PHOTO BY ABBY WILSON
We all noticed the lack of rain this summer, but how does a dry summer affect fruits and fall harvests? Apple trees flower in the spring and begin to produce fruitlets (clusters of young apples) shortly after. If these fruitlets do not get enough water, the tree will drop them, to conserve nutrients.

This affected both wild trees and orchards this season. Paired with the fact that many apple trees are biannual producers, the season was sub-par, growers say.

In fact, the entire Cumberland County area was hit hardest in the state with drought. Northern Maine sites like Aroostook County had a much better apple season, says Alexander M. Koch, a “fruit explorer” originally from Cumberland.

Koch travels throughout the state, and sometimes further, to talk with other apple lovers. He considers himself a “fruit explorer” and has an orchard of about a dozen fruit trees himself.

“My main interest is finding wild varieties with desired traits and spreading the word about them,” Koch said.

If you’ve ever set foot in an orchard, you know that apples come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. But you probably didn’t know that apple growing season is much longer than the one month in the fall when harvesting is most popular.

Some varieties, like Black Oxford, a Maine heirloom apple, isn’t ready to pick until November. Some varieties are ready as early as July. However, the peak season for popular and delicious apples such as Cortland, Macintosh, and Honeycrisp, is September to mid-October.

Pick-your-own is very popular in the early fall because so many tasty varieties are ready to eat right off the branch, but the weather and foliage are also pleasant, which brings many people out to the orchards.

There are so many apples in Maine and the popular variety is constantly changing. You can actually date an old orchard based on the varieties that are present, says Koch.

If an older or younger variety is present, you’ll know so based on historical evidence. For example, if a Baldwin apple tree is present in the orchard, it’s probably a newer variety, because we know Baldwins were mostly wiped out by frost in the early 1900s.

Apples go through many phases of inspection before being packed to sell. If the operation is large enough, industrial machines will do the grading and sorting. Most farms have employees that look over each apple to determine quality. The best apples go to grocery stores. Others will be sold in the farm store, be pressed into cider, or go to the pig farmers/compost pile.

These graders are inspecting each individual apple for insect damage, deformities, or small holes from other apple stems. Produce markets expect apples to look a certain way and to be a certain size, even though size does not change the taste of the apple. Honeycrisps are expected to be bigger than liberty apples, otherwise people may not want them.

Pick-your-own is over, and the trees are bare, the ground is littered, and there’s about 30 apples with one bite out of them strewn across the parking lot. What happens now?

Once the season is now over and orchards give their “drops,” apples that have fallen naturally to the ground, to farmers which then feed livestock such as pigs or chickens. If spiked cider is being produced, many small orchard owners can use these drops because the cider will be fermented and therefore, a sterilizing process can naturally occur. Otherwise, these dropped apples become compost.

The most popular varieties today are apples such as Macintosh or Honeycrisp. If orchardists know people buy certain varieties, they tend to grow those varieties. But popularity is always changing, Koch says, and “Heirloom varieties are picking up momentum”. These are varieties that have been grown in Maine for hundreds of years and lately, interest in them is growing.

Black Oxford for example, is an heirloom apple variety that was historically grown in Maine due to its cold-hardiness and its ability to be stored for months through the winter.

Besides droughts, there are other threats to apples which include invasive insects, like the brown tail moth, fungus, and disease.

The new owners at Meadow Brook Farm in Raymond have spent their first-year learning all there is to know about growing apples in Maine.

“We experienced a very short season this year. Fingers crossed for a longer 2023 season as we have some fun and delicious things planned for next year,” Meadow Brook owner Shana Webb said. <

Friday, October 21, 2022

Author seeks public’s help in telling history of Maine Correctional Center in Windham

By Ed Pierce

A Falmouth author is seeking the public’s help in gathering information for a short story he is writing about the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

Author Brad Fogg is seeking the public's
help in telling the story of the history of the
Maine Correctional Center from anyone
who used to work there or has old photos
from years ago from there. COURTESY PHOTO 
Brad Fogg worked at the Maine Correctional Center for many years and says that he is trying to locate individuals or families of people who worked there years ago. He is hoping to include interviews with them or photos they may have about the correctional center for a story about the history of the facility.

“I’m writing a history of the first 100 years of the Maine Correctional Center and would like to speak with anyone who may still be around that worked or lived there anytime up to 70 years ago,” Fogg said. “I’d like to know what they experienced there.”

Fogg says it is an important project that he felt compelled to undertake.

“They will be tearing down the old buildings and building some new ones and I feel it is important to have something written down about the history of the Maine Correctional Center from people in Windham and the surrounding area who worked there,” he said. “I didn’t want this opportunity to pass without future generations knowing more about the history of this facility.”

The Maine Correctional Center in Windham was originally created in 1919 as the Maine Reformatory for Men by an act of the Maine Legislature.

At some point, the facility was renamed as the Men's Correctional Center and housed men as well as women.

Originally called the Reformatory for Men, it was later named the “Men's” Correctional Center. In 1976, the Stevens School was closed and the women were moved to the renamed “Maine” Correctional Center.

Today, the MCC complex includes a medium-custody facility which currently houses about 650 incarcerated men and women, as well as a 96-bed Minimum and Community custody facility for women called the Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center.

The Maine Correctional Center is the primary reception center for the Maine Department of Corrections’ adult population.

Fogg has given presentations about the history of the facility in recent years, but now would like to include stories from anyone who may have worked there from the 1950s on in a short story format.

“I just don’t want the history of the correctional center to be lost,” he said.

To reach Fogg to schedule an interview or to contribute a photo, call him at 207-405-4420 or send him at email at Bradfogg@maindotrr.com <

A matter of historical record: Local historian traces ancient shoreline of what was larger Little Sebago Lake

By Walter Lunt

Two massive floods, 50 years apart in the 1800s, drained Little Sebago Lake of one-third its water mass, irrevocably changing the geography along a flooded path between what is now Collins Pond and the Fosters Corner rotary. The events created fresh beaches, new islands and erased one small brook, replacing it with a larger free-flowing stream.

Gray area shows the present Little
Sebago Lake. Adjacent area, shown in
blue, indicates former size of the lake.
Note that Mill and Collins' Ponds were
once  part of the lake.
COURTESY OF RAYMOND PHILPOT 
Little Sebago’s shores were sparsely settled in the mid-19th century. Over the next 150 years there was little regard given to the original size of the lake. Interest in the lake’s history surfaced only in recent memory, principally among the modern camp and homeowners on Little Sebago. “How much bigger was it?” was a common question. Before discussing the results of a local historian’s research into that question, let’s review the origin of Little Sebago’s contracted shoreline.

Ellery Sawyer, whose residence was situated near the present- day Mill Pond in North Windham, sat down to breakfast on the early morning of May 7, 1861. From a short distance away, a loud crack and roar would prevent him from finishing his eggs and coffee. A log and earthen dam, holding back a giant portion of Little Sebago Lake, had exploded following many days of winter run-off and heavy spring rains. And as one historian put it, “…great the fall thereof.” In the following hours, tiny, nondescript Smith Brook would not only be transformed into a raging torrent but erased from the local geography.

Sawyer had been monitoring the dam; his worst fears had now turned to reality. Leaving his morning meal uneaten, Sawyer mounted his steed and rode off to warn all who were downstream of the violent wall of water. In the preceding few weeks, the Pope brothers, who owned the dam, had been warned countless times of its vulnerable condition, having been built on top of pebbles and sand. Now, a furious surge of Little Sebago water was carving a new stream toward Pleasant River and ultimately the Pope Mills at Windham Center.

In less than three hours, residents, and onlookers at the small Pleasant River village of Popeville could hear the dull upstream roar of water converging on their mill site and bridge. Samuel T. Dole, historian and author of Windham in the Past (1914) was a young clerk working at the Popeville mills at the time and was an eyewitness to the destructive onslaught.


“…around a (an upstream) curve in the river came an immense wave bearing on its crest a large quantity of …stumps, the ruin of bridges, mill logs, cord wood and trees that had been torn up by the roots…borne along with irresistible force by the rushing waters.”

Most of the mill site, including machinery, materials, mill products, the basement of a nearby store and the Pope Road bridge was destroyed, all washed downstream.

The so-called great freshet (severe flood) of 1861 was not the first to wash away the region. Forty-seven years earlier, in 1814, a similar catastrophe occurred in the same place in much the same way.

Maj. Edward Anderson of Windham Hill owned a sawmill on Pleasant River that needed more waterpower. Seeking the chief source of his water, Anderson followed a tiny tributary, Smith Brook, to its origin near the base of Little Sebago Lake. Here he dug through an earthen berm, releasing lake water to his mill. The deed was successful and Anderson’s lumbering operation became quite prosperous, employing many men. However, on June 14, 1814 during a period of high water, the mill dam was undermined; its collapse unleashed a torrent of water out of Little Sebago that redirected Smith Brook (creating what is today Ditch Brook) and demolished all the mills and bridges on Pleasant River as far downstream as Gambo and Mallison Falls on the Presumpscot River.

These two major floods, taken together, drained as much as one-third of the water area of Little Sebago Lake.

Around 2010, Raymond Philpot, a life- long resident of North Windham, set out to learn just how expansive the earlier lake was, and more specifically, how much higher.

Much of Philpot’s childhood days were spent on the lake. He was familiar with the lake’s landforms, terrain, and ridges, but paid little attention to them.

He began with the written history (Dole and others) and with stories passed down from long before his time. One piece of information proved to be the essential starting point: elevation above sea level. The lake’s current elevation is measured at approximately 286 feet. Before 1814, it was nearly 300 feet.

Using a modern topographical map, Philpot used a blue marker to trace the 300-foot line around Little Sebago. The result showed a considerable expansion of the shoreline, enough to reveal that most, if not all, of the current camps and homes would be inundated with water, if not underwater. Collins Pond, which was part of Little Sebago pre-1814, would be about 40 feet higher. Both Collins and Mill Ponds did not exist as separate water bodies before the two floods but were part of Little Sebago Lake. Consider too, many of the lake’s islands did not exist. Horse Island did but added more acreage after the flooding.

Particularly noteworthy, says Philpot, is that the lake extended all the way to current-day route 302. Early travelers would pause to water horse and oxen teams at a point near the Pope Road/302 intersection – specifically, behind where Cumberland Title at 585 Roosevelt Trail is today; here, the drop-off near the building is where the lake’s edge lapped the shoreline.

Graphic evidence of the lake’s former elevation is clearly seen on a huge boulder that rises in the upper lake. In the photo shown here, a few feet below the swimmer, there is a pronounced indentation formed by many years of erosive splashing motion from the surface water. This is likely the original water level of Little Sebago Lake, pre-1814. Philpot says there no hint of an indentation at the current water level, which has been hugging the rock for over 200 years. He says the only remaining question is, “…how many thousands of years did it take to create the higher indentation?” <

Friday, October 7, 2022

Be The Influence greets new project coordinator

By Masha Yurkevich

Teenage years are not easy. Young adults want to fit in, grow up, try new things and be cool in ways that they think are cool. They are like a sponge, soaking up whatever they see and hear. Unfortunately, many of these young minds cannot yet decipher the difference between what is good what is bad, leading to many poor choices. While these poor choices can be from society, family or friends, Be The Influence (BTI) is there to be a friend, an example, and a trusted adult, and now has a new coordinator.

Be The Influence's new project coordinator
Crystal Aldrich, left, is shown with BTI
Director Laura Morris. Aldrich says that she's
excited about creating a strong community
that listens to everyone and provides an'
educational foundation for its youth to grow
and lead. SUBMITTED PHOTO;
BTI started as a small group in March 2014 as the result of some Windham and Raymond community members who joined forces to raise awareness about substance abuse and to address their concerns about it. With the help of Drug-Free Community Federal Funding, BTI was officially formed and began to focus its attention on the youth within the community.

But this is no easy job. It requires a lot of organization and preparation. But new BTI project coordinator Crystal Aldrich has all of these skills, and more.

Aldrich moved to Windham a year ago from Sioux Falls, South Dakota with her husband and their three sons. She has graduated from Chadron State College and has lived in seven different states. She enjoys hiking, yoga, reading and traveling.

With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Comprehensive Theatre, Aldrich is using the skills she developed working with young children in daycare and elementary schools.

She said she also loves making a difference and being involved in the community, making her all the better of a fit for BTI project coordinator.

Aldrich officially became a BTI staff member Sept. 6. As a BTI coordinator, she will assist the director with all the various activities that BTI provides to the community and youth.

“The Be The Influence vision is to provide support and resources to students as well as communicate a consistent drug - free message, assuring students that they live in a community that cares about them,” says Aldrich. “It is comprised of various members of the community who want to make a difference and influence youth in positive ways.”

To Aldrich, this is important because community and youth are so integral to a great city or town. Having resources available and people who listen really makes a difference in how people treat each

other. Since moving to Maine, Aldrich and her family have been welcomed and feel very at home, and she really feels like programs such as BTI are why.

Aldrich said that she is excited about this position because she cares about creating a very strong community that listens to everyone and provides an educational foundation for youth to grow and lead.

According to Aldrich, as today’s children are the future of tomorrow, it is important to set them up and help them to be the best that they can be so that they can make the future bright, successful and positive.

BTI has been helping children with this for the past eight years, being that trusted, caring adult, that positive role model, that shoulder to lean on, that listening ear, and it’s hoped that with Aldrich, it will only continue to reach greater heights by raising awareness and addressing substance use and abuse in the community. <

Friday, September 30, 2022

Area churches work together with food pantry to offer free monthly community meals

By Lorraine Glowczak

Windham Hill United Church of Christ (UCC), St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, and Faith Lutheran Church, in conjunction with the Windham Food Pantry will be sponsoring free monthly community dinners on the first Thursday of each month as a way to build strong community connections in the greater Windham area. The first dinner will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6 at Windham Hill UCC, 140 Windham Center Road.

Three Windham-area churches are teaming up with the
Windham Food Pantry to host free monthly community dinners 
on the first Thursday of each month in Windham. The first 
dinner will be served from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday,
Oct. 6 at Windham Hill United Church of Christ, 140
Windham Center Road, Windham. COURTESY PHOTO 
“Although Covid is not done with us yet, we have found a way to live with it,” Fr. Tim Higgins, Rector of St. Ann’s, said. “As a result, the Windham Area Clergy Association (WACA) has decided to resurrect the long-held and much-loved community meal that lasted for over 20 years but stalled due to the pandemic.”

Higgins was referring to the highly attended and popular Monday Meals program that was led by Food and Fellowship, Inc., a non-profit ecumenical organization made up of WACA church members. Before the pandemic and required social distancing, Monday Meals hosted between 50 to 70 guests per week. People came from all walks of life and included senior citizens and families with children from the towns of Windham, Gorham, Raymond, Buxton, Falmouth, Naples, Westbrook, Casco, Standish, and Limington, as well as other area communities.

“Unfortunately, the Food and Fellowship committee disbanded due to circumstances beyond their control, but we are going to bring back, in some capacity, the greatest part of the Monday meal program,” Higgins continued. “That is to gain what we have lost in the past three years; to get the community back together on a social level to help prevent social isolation. Social isolation, especially among the elderly, has plagued the nation long before the pandemic but has only increased since.”

Higgins said they want to get the word out to the older citizens in the area. “They are the most affected by social isolation, and the past Monday Meal program proved seniors enjoyed gathering with others due to their attendance.”

Sharon Rankin, Pastor of Windham Hill UCC, noted that the free monthly meal is open to everyone, and there is no specific requirement to attend.

“This is not just about economic need,” she said. “It is more about coming together as a community and eating together. It is about creating bonds. It is about making us stronger as a community.”

Rankin said that although each church “feeds” its members' spiritual needs, many people do not feel an attachment to a church but want to connect with others nonetheless.

“We are called to reach out and feed the hungry,” she said. “In this way, we live the love of Christ. It’s a way of connecting with our community. Providing a free meal is one way to join us together, to ‘be the hands and feet of Christ’ and to fill a need in a nontraditional way.”

The second monthly meal will be held on November 3 at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, 40 Windham Center Road. The next meal will be December 8 at Faith Lutheran, 988 Roosevelt Trail. The times for all meals are 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm. For more information about this Thursday’s meal or any other upcoming events, please reach out to Windham Hill UCC at (207) 892-4217, St. Ann’s at (207) 892-8447 or Faith Lutheran at (207) 892-9158.

“Anyone and everyone are invited to attend,” Higgins said. “We are very excited about this new energy and new possibility.” <

Friday, September 23, 2022

Craft Fair promises affordable holiday shopping

By Ed Pierce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Club.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 16, 2022

Reflections of the origins of ‘Raymondtown’

By Ernest H. Knight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 9, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 2, 2022

Lakeview Pavilion at Crescent Lake a popular spot during Prohibition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, August 26, 2022

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

By Walter Lunt

(PART TWO)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 12, 2022

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

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

By Walter Lunt 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next time, Part Two reveals the real murderer. <


Friday, August 5, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 29, 2022

East Windham Conservation Project expands, offers new matching challenge

The Town of Windham and the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust have partnered to create a conservation and outdoor recreation destination called the East Windham Conservation Project and this past week, the project expanded to 750 acres, with one more adjacent landowner agreeing to conserve their land as part of this project, growing the project by 85 acres.

A map is shown of the new East Windham
Conservation Project which includes more 
than 700 acres of forested land and 10-plus
miles of multi-use recreational trails.
SUBMITTED PHOTO 
“We are pleased that four landowners are working with us to conserve their lands that make up the East Windham Conservation Project,” said Jarrod Maxfield, Windham Town Council chair. “As Windham continues to grow, we are proud to partner with the Land Trust to provide a significant open space and outdoor recreation project that residents have made clear, through the Open Space Plan, is a community priority.”

Like Bradbury State Park, this project will provide more than 700 acres of forested land, 10-plus miles of multi-use recreation trails and exceptional scenic vistas. The scenic views on this project will overlook the White Mountains and quiet Little Duck Pond.

In addition, this project will have a one-mile universal access trail that will allow people of all abilities to exercise and experience the fantastic views at the scenic vistas.

According to Rachelle Curran Apse, Presumpscot Regional Land Trust Executive Director, this project will also become part of a conservation corridor stretching through Windham into Falmouth, protecting the water quality of the surrounding streams, Forest Lake and Highland Lake, and connecting to 20 miles of existing trails.

The East Windham Conservation Project is nearly a reality because 80 percent of the project’s funding has been raised primarily through $1 million from the Land for Maine’s Future state grant program and $1.8 million from a Town of Windham conservation bond, paid for with open space impact fees.

A federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant for $500,000 is pending.

The land trust is leading the private fundraising effort and needs to raise $400,000 in private fundraising this summer for the conservation easement, trail building, recreational amenities, and long-term stewardship of the land, which is needed for this project land to be conserved this fall.

Gorham Savings Bank has just announced that they are providing a $50,000 matching challenge. Every gift made by individuals and families to the Land Trust for this project will be matched this summer until the matching challenge has been met.

“Gorham Savings Bank is proud to support this initiative, which will provide exceptional outdoor recreational opportunities to the Greater Portland community for generations to come,” said Steve deCastro, President and CEO of Gorham Savings Bank. “And we hope our matching funds will inspire others to donate and help the Land Trust in achieving its fundraising goal.”

Curran Apse said the land trust is grateful for the donation and thanked Gorham Savings Bank in helping the community to fund this important and significant project.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a conservation and outdoor recreation project the size of Bradbury State Park in Windham,” she said. “We are now looking to individuals and families throughout Windham to donate to this project and make this vision a reality.”

To learn more and support the East Windham Conservation Project go to: www.prlt.org/east-windham-project. <