Friday, March 24, 2023

Raymond waterways at center of 19th century logging operations

By Ernest H. Knight

March is the end of winter, more or less, and the start of spring, more or less. At least when we know the weather has been bad, we can have hopes as to what might be forthcoming, anything that is better.

Waterways were the most efficient method to transport logs
in Maine to the sawmill in the 19th century and the town of
Raymond was a primary destination for loggers and logging
drivers seeking to move their products to markets for
shipping out of state. COURTESY PHOTO  
Appropriate for this time of year in Raymond, however, is the timber harvest of the winter, when logs were readied for their trip to the sawmills.

Before the days of skidders and tractors, the hauling of logs in and from the woods was performed by oxen and horses; before the days of the chain saw, all cutting was by axe and crescent saw; before the days of good roads and trucks, these logs were transported to the mills by water.

And along with all the ‘before the days of” mentioned, there must be recognition of the various environmental, water quality and conservation agencies that today determine policies and practices. For better or worse, free enterprise is no longer free.

At most local sites there was a sawmill, mainly designed for lumber for local properties. But much of the log harvest went further downstream to the bigger mills that supplied the markets of cities along the coast long since stripped of their forests.

All through the winter logs were hauled from the woods on sleds and unloaded in rows on the ice. When the ice melted, the logs floated and with wind, current and headworks ready to travel. Their route was down Great Rattlesnake, through Tenney River into Panther Pond on through Panther Run and sluiced through the dame on Mill Street into the Jordan River and into Jordan Bay on Sebago Lake.

Mills then had to be at natural falls or dam improvements where water wheels could provide the necessary power for the up-and-down and circular saws.

With melting snows providing flowage and helped by prevailing winds down the lake, the logs could reach Panther Pond without difficulty and cleanup crews of drivers could easily free those caught along the shores or in backwaters.

But in Panther where logs could go far astray because of its width and bays, they could use booms and headworks. The headworks was usually a raft about 10 or 20 feet square on which was mounted a capstan, around which men walked pushing on capstan bars to draw the boomed log floe to it.

The headworks would then be towed ahead in the desired direction and one or more anchors set, the boom pulled up to it and the process repeated as many times as necessary.

In Jordan Bay, the logs would again be boomed for their journey to the Presumpscot, except that in the latter 1800s, the capstan headworks was replaced by steam towboats for the longer and more difficult stretch. As late as into the 1910s, there were times until mid-summer on Jordan Bay from Sam’s Point (now Brown’s Point) to Deep Cove that was solid with logs waiting for transport and with drivers still bringing strays down from Panther.

There are still evidences of the log drives to be found. In the cattail-covered marshlands along Route 302 there are long lost boom logs with their short connecting chains where they were stored when not in use, waiting for the next drive which will never come.

Two steam headworks, named Dupont No. 1 and Dupont No. 2, used by the last operators of the powder mills at Gambo, were abandoned tied up at what is now Indian Point Trailer Park on the Jordan River and their sunken parts dredged up when the boat dock was improved and dumped in back of the campgrounds. All along the route, especially in the shallows of Panther Run and Tenney River, can be seen logs that became sinkers and were left behind. While appearing messy on the outside, the condition is only skin deep and internally, they are in perfect condition for salvage.

Logging practices had to change as the use of our waterways was taken over by summer vacationers for sporting uses, state laws enacted to protect water quality and trucks became available to transport logs directly to mills. Large gangs of woodchoppers and teams of horses and oxen have been replaced by a few men with mechanical equipment who can haul massive loads of logs.

Lost forever is the colorful log driver of years past with his calked boots, pikepole and peavey. <

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, March 17, 2023

Amateur historian uncovers lost Windham history

By Walter Lunt

The metal detector started emitting a healthy series of alerts, and it was music to Al Farris’ ears as he slowly swept the Minelab Equinox 800 back and forth over the leaf and stick clutter in woods on Libby Hill in East Windham. According to long-time residents of the neighborhood, the area was once home to generations of farmers, and Farris was hopeful about locating some interesting ancient treasures.

A shoe template is shown, before and after. 
Artifacts uncovered at a cellar hole in East
Windham indicate Gideon Libby may have
been a cordwainer, a maker of shoes.
After a brief dig, Farris came up with a round, coin-sized object thickly coated with years of decomposed forest floor. A delicate brushing with preservation tools revealed what he later learned was a ‘braided hair cent,’ an 1857 penny. Now highly motivated, Farris continued exploring and metal detecting the land surrounding four cellar hole sites on Libby Hill for two more years. To date, he has uncovered dozens of intriguing items both above and below ground.

Farris grew up in Windham. Upon viewing many hours of the reality show “The Curse of Oak Island,” he was inspired to uncover simple treasures close to home. Local residents told him about ancient cellar holes on a hill off Falmouth Road near Little Duck Pond. Over the course of nearly three years, Farris was rewarded with an array of fascinating artifacts that he hopes will be identified and authenticated by experts. Most of his own research has been accomplished using on-line sources.

Early on, Farris sought research guidance from the Windham Historical Society. Old maps confirmed the cellar holes were the site of a family named Libby, and genealogical records revealed the time period, occupations and even military service of at least three generations of the Libby family.

John Libby emigrated from England to America on the ship Hercules during the winter of 1636-1637, eventually settling in Scarborough. His direct descendant, Arthur Libby, born in 1760, married Mary Allen of Falmouth and purchased hillside farmland in Windham. He built a house in 1802; records show the structure, now gone, was still standing as late as 1915. Two of his 10 children, Gideon and Isaac, also settled on the hill.

Farris particularly enjoys finding what he calls “important storytelling artifacts.” He has recovered several shoe templates for making colonial footwear, ranging from child to adult sizes, “and even one for someone with a foot condition. I’ve…restored a few of the templates to bare metal to bring them back to life after a couple hundred years.” Farris speculates Gideon was a cordwainer – someone who makes shoes – as opposed to a cobbler, who repairs them.

“The things I find each tell a small portion of their lives: Oxen shoes, suspender clips and buckles, bathtub claw feet, a World War I general infantry button, a harmonica reed, an 1817 “large cent,” and an 1863 Civil War Union Army token. But the most intriguing item appears to be “a Native American medallion with a wigwam hand punched into it, which suggests that the Libbys lived alongside natives and traded with them,” Farris said. He hopes to one day meet with an archeologist to help him date and verify his finds.

Al Farris is committed, or perhaps obsessed, with uncovering all that can be known about the 200-year old history of Libby Hill, and it is perhaps just a bit ironic that a television show with “curse” in the title provided the inspiration. But as he put it, “All of their (the Libbys) history would be completely forgotten if I hadn’t stepped in to save it all, and I’m absolutely not giving up until there’s nothing left to know…once the snow melts.” <

Friday, March 10, 2023

Forgotten art form adorns Raymond church sanctuary

By Ernest H. Knight

If, as some ancient philosopher is supposed to have said, a picture is worth a thousand words, we do have a scroll of a sorts, long hidden in the Raymond Village Community Church.

When the church was built in 1878 and 1879, the minister of the congregation was an Englishman by the name of Rev. William J. Twort, who had been credited with the interior decoration of the church sanctuary.

The restored sanctuary at
Raymond Village Community
Church includes a painting
in trompe l'oeil art style of an
open bible and reading 'The
word is truth' done in the 
19th century.
But the nature of that decoration was lost to sight at the turn of the century by the application of paperboard panels in the plaster walls, held in place by battens over the joints nailed to the laths, the purpose being to cover defective plaster rather than to hide the decorations.

Many years later someone who remembered had removed a panel in the arch restoring to sight an open Bible with the words “Thy Word is Truth,” which has been before everyone ever since.

Whatever graced the other walls was solved by the removal of two panels of the paperboard. Removal of more or all of the remaining panels as part of needed sanctuary renovation is under consideration.

The owners of many old houses in Maine are proud of their preserved examples of stenciled plaster wall decorations, Rufus Porter murals of trompe l’oeil (trick of the eye) of ornamentation or converging lines of structure or scenery.

The owner of a mid-1800s house in Portland, all of whose rooms were decorated with this trompe l’oeil artistry, has been greatly impressed by what has been revealed at the church and urges further exposure toward eventual restoration of what she calls flat wall trompe l’oeil type painting without the intention of depth perception.

The now visible wall painting is in the form of a large rectangle, like a picture frame of lines of varying width and color (blue, buff, gray, yellow and maroon) with enlarged corner meetings of horizontal and vertical elements.

Considering the now visible open bible, words and lines only clairvoyance can predict what else may yet be hidden.

The basic wall paint on which these paintings were superimposed was an unattractive gray, which may complicate final decisions on restoration.

While the paintings may be of little significance or importance compared to older or more skilled work discovered elsewhere, they are located right here in Raymond and are the handiwork of our ancestors left for us to appreciate and protect. <

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, March 3, 2023

A matter of historical record: prosperous and tragic, historic gunpowder mills of Windham-Gorham, now subject of documentary

By Walter Lunt

As a kid, Patrick Bonsant spent countless hours indulging his curiosity and fascination with nature.

“I would spend hours and hours just walking through woods, roaming, exploring, observing…I just loved doing that.”

This grainy photograph from the late 19th century was taken
of staff and mill workers in front of the 'Old Stone Mill' on 
the Windham side of the Gambo Powder Mills at Newhall.
A carpenters' shop and foundry was located here to support 
infrastructure needs of the powder mills. OUTTAKE FROM
After acquiring a degree in Communications and Media from the University of Maine, Bonsant said he combined his fascination of nature with his creative interests and, utilizing video and sound, began showcasing the great outdoors and its forgotten stories. His latest production is titled “The Gunpowder Mills of Gorham-Windham, Maine,” a documentary that chronicles the 81-year history of the storied Gambo Powder Mills of South Windham and Gorham.

Much has been written in books and articles about the mills, however Bonsant’s work is the first to document the story with moving images and spoken words.

The mill site, located on both sides of the Presumpscot River at the end of Gambo Road at Newhall in Windham, first produced gunpowder in 1824. The operation proceeded through several owners until about 1905, manufacturing the explosive product for military and sporting firearms and for blasting. It is estimated that 25 percent of all the powder used by the Union forces in the American Civil War was produced at the Gorham-Windham mills.

In his acclaimed 1985 book “The Gunpowder Mills of Maine,” author Maurice Whitten explained that the Gambo Mills were the first, the largest and the longest running powder mills in Maine, and the fourth largest in the nation for many years.

Raw materials necessary for producing gunpowder were potassium nitrate (saltpeter) imported from India, sulfur (brimstone) from Sicily, and charcoal manufactured on site from alder or poplar wood “baked” in cast-iron retorts. The imported ingredients arrived by boat on the Cumberland & Oxford Canal which ran adjacent to the mills. In his book, Whitten quoted medieval philosopher Roger Bacon, “Take 7 parts saltpetre (old spelling), 5 parts hazelwood charcoal, 5 parts sulfur, and you can make thunder and lightning…”

Tragically, some explosions occurred unintentionally during the manufacturing process. Over its 81-years of operation there were several accidental blasts causing loss of life and extensive property damage. Despite an abundance of caution, oversights, inattention and errors were inevitable. Over eight decades of operation, 25 explosions claimed the lives of 47 men.

In one exceptionally horrific blast on Oct. 12, 1855, seven workers were killed while loading powder kegs onto a canal boat. Among the casualties were Franklin Hawkes of Windham and Samuel Phinney and John Swett, both of Gorham. The next day, Portland’s Eastern Argus newspaper headlined the explosion as a “Frightful Accident.”

Whitten reprinted the journalist’s graphic description of the scene: “Phinney, after the explosion, walked several rods, until he met a man who spoke to him, and he instantly fell dead. Swett was thrown nearly a quarter of a mile. Hawkes had his bowels blown out, and one side of his head blown off. A cart, to which a yoke of oxen was attached, was shattered to fragments, and the hair was burned off the oxen almost entirely. A buggy wagon was also blown to pieces, and the horse driven, like a wedge, into a pile of lumber.”

Bonsant says he hopes people will take away several things from seeing his film.

“I wanted to create an understanding of a little-known chapter in Maine (and local) history, particularly, Maine’s connection to the Civil War,” he said. “It’s the story of hard-working men sacrificing to support their families, as well as the hardships (for families left behind) after the loss of the breadwinner.”

“No matter where we go history is all around us. We’re often walking on hallowed ground where great stories happened. I hope this film helps to raise the curiosity in people as they travel around.”

Bonsant is the executive director of Saco River Community Media but characterizes the documentary as a “two-year no budget labor of love.” And, he said with an air of pride, “(the documentary) has been accepted by Maine Public Broadcasting and will be aired soon as part of their Community Film Series.”

Bonsant said that “The Gunpowder Mills of Gorham-Windham” was a collaborative effort made with the help of several local historians and dedicated assistants. It is dedicated to Maurice Whitten “for the reverence and respect he deserves, without which this documentary couldn’t have been made.”

The public is invited to a viewing of the documentary at Windham’s Little Meeting House at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 11.

The event is free. Refreshments will be served and donations to the Windham Historical Society are appreciated. <

Friday, February 17, 2023

Famous Maine cartographer’s work has unique Raymond connections

By Ernest H. Knight

Moses Greenleaf had a unique talent for cartography and his work included maps of Maine before and after it became a state by separation from Massachusetts in 1820. Among his finest works is a wall map which hung for years at Raymond Town Hall before its transfer to the Maine State Museum in Augusta.

Maine's first mapmaker, Moses Greenleaf, lived in New
Gloucester and surveyed much of Raymond and the
surrounding area for his definitive 1829 book
'A Survey of the State of Maine' in which he included
chapters about the land, rivers, mountains, climate,
and people of the state. COURTESY PHOTO 
Greenleaf was born in Newbury, Massachusetts in 1777 but moved to the District of Maine, then still part of Massachusetts, as a boy with his family and grew up a farmer. When a young man, he struck off on his own to become a storekeeper with interests in the Maine wilderness and devoted the rest of his life to Maine promotion and statistics.

His surveying and map-making, writings and gathering of information, and his belief in the future of his state both as Massachusetts and Maine, while an active promoter of the change, belied his meager formal education in the schools of New Gloucester.

In 1829, Greenleaf published “A Survey of the State of Maine” in which there are chapters on such subjects as the land, the rivers, the mountains, the climate, the natural resources, commerce, agriculture, manufacturing, education, and population. His writing showed that in 1820, the relative wealth or taxable property for Raymond at $43, compared to Portland’s $281.

Another of his tabulations, the value per acre of wood and improved land shows Portland’s at $5 per acre, while Raymond’s at just 50-cents. These statistics and the details of his maps are remarkably complete for the times and makes one wonder how he could carry out this work over such a vast expanse of wilderness without the help of telephones, vehicles, libraries, ballpoint pens and other technology we now take for granted.

Greenleaf was heavily involved in surveying land in the remote townships across the state including many of the first properties in Raymondtown and the surrounding area.

The name of Moses Greenleaf is not completely unknown locally even to this day. It is memorialized by the “Greenleaf Subdivision” off Route 302 a short distance east of the Bridgton Road Church in Casco.

There at the entrance, a large-polished granite monument has the name “GREENLEAF” and nearby a boulder has a bronze plaque to “Maine’s First Map Maker – October 17, 1777 to March 20, 1834” and his prophecy of 1815 that “Settlers may soon enjoy many advantages, pecuniary, civil, moral, and religious which flow from a residence in a well settled community.”

As Maine’s pioneer mapmaker, he also is credited with producing the first significant drawings of the many lakes and waterways surrounding the entire Raymond area, including Sebago Lake, Crescent Lake and Little Sebago 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, February 10, 2023

Schools encouraged to participate in Chamber’s ‘Polar Dip’

By Lorraine Glowczak

In its third year, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce (SLRCC) will host its annual Sebago Lake Polar Dip at Sebago Lake’s Raymond Beach on Saturday, Feb 18.

Plunge time begins promptly at noon and spectators are welcome to cheer the brave souls who will be diving in the icy waters along the shores of Route 302.

Participants in previous Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of
Commerce Polar Dip events jump into the freezing lake
waters to help raise funds for Lakes Region food pantries.
This year's Polar Dip will be conducted at Raymond Beach
at noon on Saturday, Feb. 18 and school teams are 
encouraged to sign up. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE    
Right now, there are 10 teams who will participate in the Polar Dip to raise funds to benefit Lakes Region food pantries, all of which are a part of the Chamber’s business connections. The food pantries in Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish, and Windham will be the recipients of the funds raised again this year.

But what makes this year’s polar dip extra special is the invitation by Melissa Dubois, Windham High School’s (WHS) Health/PE Teacher and advisor for the Mental Health Advocacy Committee (also referred to as the Kindness Crew) to other Lake Region area schools for a fun little competitive spirit.

“The goal is to help raise awareness about food insecurity right here in the Lakes Region area,” Dubois said. “Right now, WHS has approximately six teams from various clubs who are going to participate in the polar dip. The students are excited to not only try something they haven’t done before but also to do something important that helps others in valuable ways, which also includes the fact this is one of many ways to spread kindness throughout the community.”

Robin Mullins, the President & CEO of the SLRCC, is very grateful for Dubois’ encouragement to the Lakes Region schools. She said that the chamber has promoted participation from all eight towns the chamber supports.

“We always have many teams from the Windham area who participate in the polar dip, but we hope to increase participation from other area towns,” Mullins said. “All eight towns are the recipients of the funds raised so when Melissa approached me with the idea of WHS competing with Gray-New Gloucester, Bonny Eagle, and Lake Region High Schools I was super excited. I thought, ‘Wow. She is a genius.’”

Both Mullins and Dubois contacted the other area high schools and there was interest in participation.

“They were excited about the possibility but weren’t quite sure they could pull it off this year,” Mullins said.

As a result, Dubois and Mullins are collaborating with the high schools to continue conversations about other friendly competitions to raise funds and spread kindness.

“It’s all in the beginning stages but we hope by next year’s polar dip, there will be a big group of students from all the Lake Region high schools who will compete to raise the most funds,” Dubois said.

Of course, safety is of the upmost importance when it comes to jumping into the icy waters of Sebago Lake. Mullins encourages all team members to consider the advice from the American Red Cross.

“Before jumping in the water, stand on a blanket or towel and only remove your clothes right before you enter the water. Wear socks, aqua boots, neoprene surf boots, or running shoes to stop your feet from sticking to the snowy, icy shore or the mucky lake bottom to prevent cuts and scrapes from the frozen ground. If you wear glasses, secure them with a strap or bathing cap.”

Mullins said that spotters will be available with towels to help participants out of the icy waters. There will be two heated trailers to change out of wet clothes and hot chocolate for all participants.

SLRCC is still accepting more teams and jumpers.

“We are looking for more jumpers (student clubs/sports teams, faculty, co-workers, families). They must register online at Jumpers under the age of 18 must have their parent's permission to jump. There is a link for anyone who wants to donate but doesn’t want to get wet.”

For more information about the Polar Dip, contact Robin Mullins at or 207-892-8265. To donate,

Mullins also encourages those who enjoy ice fishing to participate in the Sebago Lakes Rotary’s 21st annual Ice Fishing Derby that is taking place on Saturday, Feb. 18 and Sunday, Feb. 19. You can register online by going to: or forms are available at Sebago Bait Shop in Windham and at Jordan’s Store in Sebago.<

Friday, February 3, 2023

Before the memory fades: Unoccupied Windham farmhouse on Route 302 has long, rich history

By Walter Lunt

Travelers along the stretch of Route 302 two miles east of Foster’s Corner (rotary) have likely wondered about the long-unoccupied farmhouse sitting close to the roadway in serious decline.

Retrieved from the farmhouse, a painting of
Little Orchard Farm from the mid-20th century.
The back reads "To my good friends Mr. and 
Mrs. Brackett," signed Emily B...
Turns out, in the mid-20th century, it was a sprawling, prosperous farm. “I get nostalgic thinking about the place,” says Betty Rideout, who spent decades at the residence. Speaking recently from her home in Michigan, she explained that the 62-acre farm was purchased in 1933 by her grandparents, Carl and Edith Brackett, and became known as Little Orchard Farm.

Posted above its mailbox along Roosevelt Trail (Route 302) were signs advertising the sale of apples, cider and asparagus. “The farmhouse,” says Rideout, “had been renovated in the 1920s to a Greek Revival style and the house, ell and barn were in good shape; “I remember a big, beautiful window over the barn doors which dated back to the 1800s. They had cows and chickens, and out back there were 124 apple trees. Granddad made cider from an 1800s vintage cider press he found in the barn when he bought the place.”

Rideout recalls with great fondness the interior of the farmhouse. “The woodshed was located right next to the kitchen, which had a big, beautiful old woodstove with a copper storage tank for water.” Most of the rooms, she said, were quite large including the living room that had a large pot-belly stove. My grandfather was a plumber so one of the first upgrades was an inside bathroom to replace the outhouse. My grandmother insisted on that.”

Upstairs, in her grandparent’s spacious bedroom, Rideout remembers the “…tall 4-post bed. It had a cover, but my grandfather took it off. They called it a Washington bed because its design was supposedly like George Washington’s bed at Mount Vernon.”

Grandmother Edith played the piano. In the early ‘40s, “… my playpen was located right beside the piano. I would reach up and pluck the keys. One day, Grammie lifted me up and showed me how to play a simple tune.” It would turn out to be a momentous event in her life.

Betty, her parents and brother Robert lived at the farm with her father’s parents from 1943 to 1946. “I was just a little kid, but my grandfather decided I could do anything. He showed me how to cut asparagus stalks from his big garden across the road. He also taught me to drive his 1916 Fordson tractor; I would drag the harrow over the asparagus garden. It’s all woods now.”

Does Betty remember the nearby Ledgeland Market? “Oh yes. My grandmother would give me a list of things to buy, and I would walk down there and do the shopping for her.”

Betty’s family moved to Westbrook in 1946, then to Brunswick, but through the early 1950s she spent summers at Little Orchard Farm, enjoying life “in the country,” and helping out with the farm chores. Grandmother Edith died in 1963, and Grandfather Carl in 1972, whereupon Betty’s brother, Robert, took over living at the farm. He would live there but cease to carry on the farming activities.

In 2018, the floorboards around the old pot belly stove, weakened by a roof leak, gave way and Robert fell into the basement. A neighbor had alerted the police that Robert had not emerged from the house in nearly four days. “When they got to my brother, he was within six hours of kidney failure.” Today, according to Betty, he is doing well living in a special care facility.

Since being abandoned and cleaned out in 2018, at least two local historians have estimated that the farmhouse dates back to the late 1700s. Little is known about the place before 1933. “I’ve been told,” said Betty, “that the original (dwelling) was nothing more than a two-story house, one room built on top of the other.”

The property was sold in 2021, and according to Betty, “The last I heard the barn and ell will be removed and the house restored to its original features, and it may become a business location.”

What would her grandfather say if he could see the severe deterioration of his beloved farmstead? “Heartbroken! He loved that place and I’m sure couldn’t imagine how it could ever look the way it does today.”

Asked about her life today in Michigan, Betty says she is retired and, along with her daughter, composes music, plays piano and records albums – and all the while frequently recalling the day, long ago, when Grammie Edith taught her that simple tune on the piano at Little Orchard Farm. <

Friday, January 27, 2023

Small but mighty Lutheran church in North Windham never loses faith

By Lorraine Glowczak

There have been many times over its 40 years of existence that the doors of Faith Lutheran, located at 988 Roosevelt Trail in Windham, were about to close. But then, as if by some miracle, its membership would increase, or the coffers would be filled to financially sustain operations.

After facing many challenges in the past couple of years,
Faith Lutheran Chruch at 988 Roosevelt Trail in Windham
is experiencing a renewal of energy and excitement as
attendance increases and additional activities ignite
new breath. SUBMITTED PHOTO  

Lovingly referred to by its members as the small but mighty church on the hill, Faith Lutheran once again faced a certain level of uncertainty a little over a year ago as they dealt with several challenges. They have recently felt the blows that come with the deaths of a few long-time members; their part-time pastor accepted a full-time position, the music minister retired from his position at the church, and membership slowly declined to include about 10 to 15 active members.

But this is where church members keep their faith, and things have begun to turn around once again.

“There have been so many times in the past when we thought we would have to close our doors,” Marilyn Walsh, one of the founding members of Faith Lutheran, said. “But we never gave up. We all were determined to keep it going - come hell or high water. We feel very strongly that this is our church, and we will do all we can to keep it going. And this time is no different.”

Their ‘hang in there’ faith has kept their doors open again as attendance increases and new energy comes alive, breathing new life into the small but mighty church.

“In addition to the increase of attendance, we are bringing back and adding new events and activities,” the President of Faith Lutheran’s Church Council, David Guiseley, said. “One event that the members are especially looking forward to is bringing back bible study.”

Faith Lutheran will begin a midweek Lenten bible study in conjunction with St. Ann’s Episcopal Church. It will be held at Faith Lutheran on Wednesdays, starting on March 1 and at St. Ann’s on Thursdays beginning March 2. The bible study will include the viewing of the drama series “The Chosen,” a 22-episode program about the life of Jesus. The evenings will also include soup.

“We are also looking forward to other ‘faith in action’ ministry work as well as new fundraising events,” Guiseley said.

The small church gives back to the community in significant ways. They are one of the founding members of the Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing, they assist and contribute financially to St. Ann’s Essentials Pantry, donate items to communities in need through the Lutheran World Relief organization, and have assisted a homeless Congolese refugee family in Lewiston find an apartment. Recently, a team of four traveled to Englewood, Florida, to help with disaster relief due to one of the latest hurricanes.

“We are also excited to bring back the ecumenical weekly community meal programs that were very successful and popular before the pandemic,” Guiseley said.

Along with Faith Lutheran, other area churches, including St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, Windham Hill United Church of Christ, and St. Anthony of Padua Parish (formerly known as Our Lady of Perpetual Help) will be bringing back the weekly free ‘food and fellowship’ meal program that will occur every Thursday.

The first weekly meal will be Thursday, Feb. 2, at Windham Hill United Church of Christ, 140 Windham Center Road, from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. Flyers that will include the lists of dates and locations for these weekly meals will be available at every participating church. Also, check out each church’s Facebook page for updated information.

Since the departure of the former pastor, Rev. Tim Higgins, the Rector of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church was approached by the Lutheran New England Synod (the governing entity for Faith Lutheran Church) to serve in a temporary capacity until the foreseeable future.

“Since Faith Lutheran and St. Ann’s have always worked closely together, the Synod asked me to be a Contact Priest for Faith,” Higgins said. “This entails attending church council meetings, providing hospital visits, being there for emergency calls, and other situations in which a clergy person is needed.”

The church has been grateful to retired Pastor Nancy Foran, Pastor Pam Brouker, and Lutheran Lay Minister Pam Chabora for their weekly communion celebrations and the leading of Sunday services. They also welcome their new Music Minister, Betty McIntyre, who has successfully reignited a choir.

Chabora and McIntyre have worked closely together to create various fundraising opportunities and special events. A Murder Mystery fundraising dinner will be coming soon during February. For more details on this event, contact Chabora at

The renewed energy and increased attendance may be just a fluke, or perhaps the members of this small but mighty church that carry big and unending faith are where the true power lies.

“Faith is what brought us here, and faith is what keeps us going,” Walsh said.

For more information about Faith Lutheran Church, reach out to their Contact Priest, Rev. Tim Higgins at 207-892-8447 or <

Friday, January 20, 2023

A matter of historical record: Windham’s old neighborhoods – relinquished names, lost history

(Part two)

By Walter Lunt

Windham’s many and varied neighborhoods of the 19th century all had original and revealing names, their origins driven by personalities, unique geographical features or significant events. Some were archetypical, like Land of Nod and Tattleville (as explored in Part one The Windham Eagle - Jan. 6, 2023). This time, we’ll discuss the self-styled identities of what would later become North, South and East Windham, as well as earlier names for Windham Hill, Newhall and the Mallison Falls area.

Mallison Falls was the site of Windham's first saw mill. While
under construction, workers made an unfortunate discovery
while preparing dinner, leading to it being called Horsebeef
Falls for the next half-century. PHOTO BY WALTER LUNT  
Separated by a distance of only seven miles, North and South Windham were once named according to their location within the community. North Windham, from the 1820s and into the 1850s, was called Upper Corner; South Windham was Lower Corner, later to be known as Little Falls. At one point in the history of the town (it is not known exactly when), North Windham was referred to as Poverty Corner, the origin of which is self-explanatory. Certain sections of North Windham were once called Quebec and Scratch Gravel.

Scottish and Irish immigrants to Windham settled in the eastern part of town, the area we know today simply as East Windham, principally along the Falmouth Road. Their settlements were sometimes referred to as Little Scotland and Little Ireland. The Scottish neighborhood (first settled by Jane and Duncan McIntosh) was along the shores of Highland Lake; farther north on Falmouth Road near the intersection with Nash Road was Ireland Corner.

Highland Lake used to be called Duck Pond. According to Westbrook historians Mike Sanphy and Ken Moody, it was first named in the 1720s when a man followed a thick flock of ducks flying from Falmouth (Portland) five miles north to a pristine lake that spanned present day Windham, Westbrook and Falmouth. Future settlers continued to call it Duck Pond until around 1900 when government maps changed it to Highland Lake. No one knows how or why the name got changed.

Windham Hill once bore the name of Zions Hill. History is silent regarding the origin of this earlier name.

For about a century before it was called Newhall, the neighborhood was known as Gambo, which today retains the name of a road at its crossing with River Road. The origin of this earlier name is unusual, but fascinating. In his 1935 book A History of Windham, Maine, historian Frederick Dole reported that a sea captain from Gorham “brought home from the West Indies a (Black) man named Gambo…he was an excellent performer on the violin, and his music attracted the young people to his homely dwelling (in Windham), so that it soon became a common saying, “Let go to Gambo’s.” The name was later changed to Newhall who was an owner of the nearby gun powder mill.

The former name for Mallison Falls, located near the South Windham Correctional Center, is equally compelling. In 1739 or ’40 it was given the peculiar name Horse Beef Falls. It was here that the very first mill, a saw mill, was built in New Marblehead (early Windham). During its construction the workmen were provided with temporary housing and food. One unlucky day they were given a barrel of beef and assured that it was “of the finest quality.” However, the cook is said to have found the hoofs of a horse at the bottom of the barrel. The angry workers returned the hoofs to the barrel and rolled it over the falls. Then and there the site would be known as Horsebeef. The name stuck until 1866 when a new owner named Mallison took over the falls.

The tiny village of Popeville was born well over 200 years ago. Its namesake began with the arrival of Elijah Pope before the dawn of the 19th century. He was a blacksmith and a Quaker. He and his sons were highly respected citizens, known for their industry and honesty. The Pope brothers established a prosperous set of mills on the site where Pleasant River crosses Pope Road at Windham Center. They built a dam on the east side of the bridge and over a number of years successfully operated a store, sawmill, wool carding mill, grist mill and later engaged in the manufacture of clothing, including embossed felt table and piano covers, felt skirts, horse blankets and boot and glove linings. Their various businesses thrived for nearly five decades.

As to that perennial question, “what’s in a name?” – one possible answer could be…a whole lot of history. <

Friday, January 13, 2023

Landmark ‘The Venice’ was a sightseer’s dream at Jordan’s Bay

By Ernest H. Knight

In any community there may be places of interest, significant sites and examples of outstanding architecture, but none of these qualities guarantee that they be considered landmarks. However, there is a spot in Raymond that has little to recommend except that it is a landmark.

The now-demolished landmark 'The Venice" sat on Jordan
Bay on Sebago Lake in Raymond and was created in the 
late 1800s by Sumner Plummer. COURTESY PHOTO 
Long known as “The Venice” on Sebago Lake in Jordan’s Bay, people passing through Raymond Village have for more than a century, looked across the waters of the bay and thought or spoken of the building that once perched on the bar rocks that themselves have never had a name. It’s enough that what is there above and below the water is just called “The Venice.”

Before the level of Sebago Lake was raised by 11 feet in the mid-1880s, the ground on which the building rests would have been of sufficient height, area, and soil to support trees and other vegetation. At that time there was dense forest growing along Route 302 where now only cattails flourish.

But in the late 1800s, the building was erected by Sumner Plummer of Raymond Village as a summer school for girls. Plummer was an ingenious individual of many talents. He was a craftsman, artist, inventor, undertaker, carriage and sign painter, temperance worker and practitioner of the “laying on of hands” to soothe illness.

“The Venice” reflects his handiwork in substantial construction, small stateroom-like rooms with hidden drawers and fold-away conveniences, kitchens with many utilitarian gadgets and bins, a massive stone fireplace with colorful mineral inserts spelling VENICE and wide porches around the outside for those who might imagine a nautical situation while “walking on deck.”

On the outside of the building at second floor level facing the village was a large “VENICE” name board. Attached to the building by a wooden gangway was a square-ended flat-bottomed barge on which there was an auxiliary building for needed activity or dormitory space, and the bottom of this barge may still be seen on the lake bottom on the shore side of the present building.

For their shore-based activities there was a two-story building on the point of land at the entrance to Deep Cove, now a garage apartment that had originally been a dwelling in the village, and then moved to its present location over the ice. This is an example of the passion of Raymond residents in the last century to move buildings from one part of town to another.

While Sumner Plummer was the proprietor and guiding light of the enterprise, he had an educator to supervise the activities of this school for girls. Little or nothing is known of the curriculum or activities but it was advertised in at least one national magazine of the day and brochures stressed the scenic aspects of the area, the healthful activity and the companionable advantages of the school population.

As this setting was in the heyday of steamboat travel on Sebago Lake and Long Lake, there was substantial landing of cribbed logs for the docking of large watercraft nearby. Much of the passenger travel as well as freight to local resorts and towns around the lakes was by steamboat from Sebago Lake Station, which operated on schedules that included rendezvous in mid-lake between the small local steamboats and the larger vessels operating express service between Sebago Lake Station and the end of the route in Harrison.

But with the changing pattern of summer visitors and the ecological limitations on accommodations without adequate septic waste disposal, the school ceased operations by the start of World War I. Use as a private summer residence became impossible due to regulations of the Portland Water District.

“The Venice” continued, however, to be referred to as a landmark by both residents and vacationers. Denied use by its various owners in the 20th century, it fell into disrepair, followed by assaults by vandals until it is now, little more than a pile of rocks after being burned as an eyesore after being acquired by the town for back taxes. <

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, January 6, 2023

A matter of historic record: Revisiting Tattleville, and Windham’s other neighborhoods of the 19th century – ‘many and marvelous’

By Walter Lunt

One hundred eighty-five years ago, a traveler seeking directions in Windham might have been told, “A-yuh, that’s located ovah in Tattleville.” In olden times, Windham had many named sections of town, or neighborhoods. Some remain with us today; many have long been abandoned. Most were named for families living in the area (Popeville, Dolley’s Corner), for prominent geographic features (Duck Pond, Pike’s Hill), or even unusual and memorable events (Horsebeef Falls).

A view of the Land of Nod in Yorkshire, England with a 
poppy field in the foreground is shown. COURTESY PHOTO
The origins of nearly all these place names are obvious or easily traceable through Windham history books or records kept at the Windham Historical Society. But the one called Tattleville remains a mystery. A deeper dive into the unusual name may reveal an answer that would take us slightly beyond conjecture.

At the historical society, a photocopy of a newspaper article in the Portland Sunday Telegram, dated 1908, was headlined ‘Nicknames for different sections of Windham – many and marvelous.’ It appeared to be one of a series of installments on greater Portland communities. The article discussed long abandoned names for the various villages around Windham and identified Tattleville as the nickname for Windham Center, an area surrounding the intersection of Gray Road (Route 202) and Windham Center Road but failed to say why it was given that name.

The internet can sometimes be instructive when researching questions like this. An article dated Dec. 7, 1837 in a Hamilton County, Indiana newspaper titled ‘Scenes at Tattleville Inn’ observed, “…being situated…a considerable distance from any of the principal towns, and with no water privileges beyond a small stream sufficient for a grist-mill, its growth has been gradual. Consequently, the worthy inhabitants had a much better opportunity of prying into the concerns of their neighbors, and of gratifying their curiosity (about) respected strangers.” The article further stated that with little else to do in the tiny hamlet, the local sewing circle often engaged in gossip and rumors. Window curtains were frequently pulled aside to observe the comings and goings of neighbors and of visitors arriving on the stage. “The moment the steps were let down,” the titillation and the conjectures would begin regarding any new arrivals – “he looked handsome! Is that his wife? Where are they from? What did the stage driver say?” If a new couple moved into town, “…a new piece of scandal was broached.”

There were similar occurrences right here in Windham. An amusing story that’s been passed down through the generations about Windham Center concerned a barn that was inconveniently located close to the roadway. At one time, the barn sat between where today’s Corsetti’s store is and the white farmhouse next door on Windham Center Road. Long ago the dwelling was owned by the Fred Hawkes family; the barn used to sit just a few feet off the road, and it blocked Mrs. Hawkes’ view of the four corners, which was a stage stop and a very busy intersection. Tradition says that Mrs. Hawkes had the barn moved back (where it sits today) so she could view activity on the corner.

Another curious neighborhood nickname is an area located near Highland Cliff – Land of Nod. Today, it’s the name of a road; but in the past it identified a whole section of town. What was its origin? Was it named from the Bible? Or, as some local historians suggest, farmers in the area were Quakers and when passing each other in their buggies did not speak, only nodded. There may be another explanation, however, as many of Maine’s early settlers brought place names over from England. Land of Nod is the name of a picturesque 3,000-acre hamlet in East Riding of Yorkshire, England. Perhaps that is a more likely origin of the name.

Windham’s boundary villages were not always known as North, South or East Windham. And what about the part of town named for dead horses? They’re all part of the historical record, and we’ll examine those…next time. <