Friday, August 28, 2020

A matter of historical record: Windham’s underground railroad

 By Walter Lunt

(Part one of a two-part series)

The speaker was forceful and eloquent, described as “unequaled except by Frederick Douglas.” His name was Henry Bibb, a runaway slave who stood before a friendly and sympathetic audience in Windham in 1849. His talk was about the evils of human bondage and the abolishment of slavery.

Windham's Walker House, circa 1850, was once a
stop on the Underground Railroad.

Although slavery had been outlawed in Maine and Massachusetts decades earlier, resistance still persisted in many parts of the North due to cotton interests, the soon to be enacted Fugitive Slave Act and outright bigotry.

In the book Maine’s Visible Black History (Tilbury House, 2006), co-author H.H. Price describes how runaway slaves from the South were aided by blacks, whites and Native Americans either by sailing vessels, horse-drawn carriages or even railway. In fact, as rail transportation was emerging in the 1830s, the terms agent, station master and conductor were commonly used and understood; soon after, they were taken up in connection with helping fleeing slaves, or passengers. The new vocabulary may have influenced the term Underground Railroad (URR).

Runaway slaves traveling overland and bound for Canada fanned out from Portland on URR routes to Windham, Gorham, Westbrook, Cumberland and Yarmouth. Others sailed on coasting ships to the Maritime provinces in Canada.

Dark passage along land routes was dangerous, both to the runaway and to the “conductor.” Fines reaching into the thousands of dollars and even jail time awaited those caught aiding and abetting fugitive slaves.

As a result, station masters at stops along the way had to be clever and resourceful in the fabrication of hiding spots. Some were downright creative, even cunning.

One such secretive hideaway was located in Windham’s old Walker farm (the former Mugford house) on River Road in the Newhall neighborhood. Carla LaRoche, who grew up in the house, says her brother found the “secret room” by accident while exploring the basement. The south wall, ostensibly the inside of the foundation, was actually a build-out. Behind it was a small dark room…with no door. The actual entry-way was hidden by the bottom of a staircase that lead to the first-floor kitchen. When not in use, the base was suspended two inches above the basement floor and could be raised higher to allow entrance to the secret room. The “squeeze in” entrance, barely big enough for a person to crawl through, was blocked when the staircase was fully extended. The weight of a person stepping on to the stairway from the kitchen would drop the base, making a distinct noise which, according to LaRoche, was the signal for any occupants of the room to hunker down and stay quiet. During an inspection of the basement by a constable or slave master, the entrance was not visible, as long as the occupant remained standing on the staircase.

“You could only go in that hole when the stairs were in the up position,” said LaRoche, “someone would stand on the stairs while (the authorities) searched the basement.”

LaRoche’s mother, Carol Rogers, the current owner of the sprawling building (now a private assisted living facility), said the great-great grandson of Charles Walker, who built the house in 1850, visited in 1970s and confirmed that family tradition indicated the house had indeed been a stop on the underground railway.

Next time, Windham Quakers and others also assisted in the secret journeys and concealment of runaway slaves.  <


‘Operation Summer Snacks’ wraps up by donating 5,200 snacks to children in need

Parishioners from Our Lady of Perpetual Help assisted
in the collection of 5,197 individual snacks for
children in need this summer which were donated
to the Windham Food Pantry. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Operation Summer Snacks,” an initiative of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Windham, annually collects food for children in need who receive bags of food from the “Backpackers” program during the school year but, in many cases, do not have the snacks during the summer.

After collecting over 2,500 snack items last year, organizers of “Operation Summer Snacks” didn’t know what to expect this year with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting communities across the state and country.
“In this time of uncertainty, we didn’t know whether this program would work this year,” said Jill Russell-Morey, a parish catechetical leader who helped create the initiative in 2016.
But uncertainly led to unrestrained generosity as the program was able to donate a staggering number of 5,197 individual snacks to the Windham Food Pantry.“Thanks so much to all of our parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, friends and family members in the community, countless other supporters, and prayer warriors!” said Russell-Morey. “I can't express my gratitude and put it into words. This summer, we more than doubled our record year last summer. May all who helped be richly blessed for their support and efforts.”
“Operation Summer Snacks” works with the pantry to deliver the donations to those in need. Through the program, each child receives various individual-sized snacks like raisins, crackers, fruit cups, granola bars, and other items.
A big change this year was that the pantry requested that the donations not be bagged by the volunteers, which enabled the operation to be conducted by Russell-Morey, her family, and friends out of her house.
“They wanted all original packages which allows for less handling of the packages and easier storage,” she said.
In addition, the generosity of the community shone through with checks, cash, and Venmo donations. One parishioner even had a large box of snacks sent directly to Russell-Morey’s house from Sam’s Club.
“Our young friends in this community have reaped the benefits of this generosity and we are so thankful for the people responding to this call for what they have to provide people with what they need,” Russell-Morey said. <

Everlasting Gratitude Wreath Program postponed until 2021

By David Tanguay

Special to The Windham Eagle

American Legion Field-Allen Post 148’s popular Everlasting Gratitude Wreath program, which has local veterans placing wreaths on the graves of all the town’s departed veterans in the cemeteries of Windham, is being placed on hiatus for 2020. 

The extraordinary change to the program is because of COVID-19 concerns and a desire not to financially overextend the community with an additional fund drive to support the event, Each year about 900 wreaths have been placed on veterans graves at a cost of about $6,000 donated by local business, veteran’s families and the community. 

A more modest program is proposed for this year that will include the placement of one large wreath at each of the major cemeteries in Windham with appropriate honors. Details as to placement will be worked out with the Windham Public Works Department.

The Everlasting Gratitude Wreath Program was launched in late 2013 and was the idea of the owners of Studio Flora of North Windham who funded the program for its first few years with some support from the community.

For the past three years, the American Legion Field-Allen Post has coordinated the funding donations for the program.  Past support by the community for this program is greatly appreciated, and it is hoped that the American Legion post will be able to support the wreath event again in 2021. <



Friday, August 21, 2020

Raymond Village Library adds new StoryWalk

By Briana Bizier

With its long, golden afternoons and sunny, cooler weather, August is the perfect time to get the entire family outside. Now, thanks to the Raymond Village Library and a generous CARES grant from the Maine Humanities Council, a new StoryWalk in Raymond’s Community Garden ensures that even the littlest nature lovers can have an outdoor August adventure and read a book at the same time.

A CARES grant from the Maine Humanities
Council has led to the creation of a StoryWalk
for children in Raymond's Community Garden.
The concept of the StoryWalk was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vermont and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library as a way to engage children and their parents in physical activity, to enjoy the outdoors, and to appreciate a great story. To create a StoryWalk, laminated pages from a children’s book are placed on numbered stakes along a path or a trail. Families follow the trail while reading pages from the book.

Raymond Village Library’s new StoryWalk tells the familiar tale of Jack and the Beanstalk while guiding families through the Raymond Community Garden. Many of the StoryWalk’s signs, which were made by Raymond Village Library children’s librarian Karen Perry, contain both a page from a beautifully illustrated version of Jack and the Beanstalk and a child-friendly activity.

My little assistants enjoyed the cloud-gazing activity and watering the plants in the children’s garden, but their favorite was combing through the grass to find “gold” coins dropped by Jack as he ran to escape the giant. These coins can be returned to the Raymond Village Library.

It was awesome!” said Sage Bizier, my almost-10-year-old assistant. “I really loved the illustrations and the gold coins. It incorporates basically the whole library into one outdoor place.”

 I liked that they allow you to water the plants,” 6-year-old Ian Bizier added. “Isn’t that just a nice touch?”

Another treasure hiding in the Raymond Community Garden are bright pink spoons and spatulas marking rows of vegetables that community garden growers are raising for the Raymond Food Pantry. Just be sure to restrain your little vegetable enthusiast from picking food destined for the food pantry or the tables of the community garden’s members.

Funding for this new StoryWalk came from the Maine Humanities Council as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. With the coronavirus barring access to Raymond Village Library’s traditional children’s summer programming, such as story time and weekly crafts, this grant allowed the library to create alternative, outdoor programming for its youngest patrons. The StoryWalk is open to the public every day, making it a perfect choice for parents looking to entertain cooped-up children while practicing responsible social distancing. 

The StoryWalk begins beside the parking lot of the Raymond Village Library at 3 Meadow Road in Raymond. A clearly labeled path begins among the towering sunflowers and sprawling strawberries of the children’s garden before continuing up a slight hill to wind its way through the entire Raymond Community Garden. The StoryWalk ends at the Raymond Community Garden’s Reading Room, an  open-air wooden gazebo built by High Wire Hydroponics. This outdoor Reading Room is the perfect place to relax in the shade after exploring the garden with Jack and the Beanstalk.

Exploring the Raymond Village Library StoryWalk and participating in all the activities takes about an hour. The Community Garden is in full sun and can get hot, so this activity might be best reserved for mornings or cloudy days. <

Custom woodworking shop launched in Raymond by college friends

By Elizabeth Richards

When Ryan Cathcart and Reece Teixeira of Raymond found themselves with time on their hands towards the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, they put it to good use. What started as a potential “side hustle” has become Orion Woodshop, a thriving new enterprise based in Raymond.

Cathcart and Teixeira, who are both 27, met at Keene State College.  After graduating in 2015, they went in different directions, but reconnected when Cathcart moved from Colorado to Portland last year.  They began working together recreationally in Teixeira’s woodshop and discovered that their professional goals, process driven approach and work styles were compatible, according to their website. They began having conversations about the possibility of forming a business. 

College friends Reece Teixeira, left, and Ryan
Cathcart, both of Raymond, created Orion
Woodshop during the pandemic this spring.
In early 2020, Orion Woodshop became a reality after the coronavirus pandemic hit.  Cathcart’s hours had been cut drastically, and Teixeira decided to take a couple of weeks off from his carpentry job to work on some personal projects. 

Both intended to return to their previous employment originally, but the business began to gain traction, Teixeira said, “and then we never went back.”

Cathcart said that when they decided to make the business official, they put together a collection of work, started social media accounts, and announced their intent on their personal accounts.

“Pretty quickly, we had a significant amount of work come in,” he said. 

In fact, within a few days they had enough work booked to keep them busy full time for two-and-a-half to three weeks. 

About a month later, each gave notice to their previous employment on the same day, though they had not intentionally planned to do so.  That same day, they received a call from Steve Minich at WMTW Channel 8 News, who wanted to do a feature about their business and a fundraiser they were running. 

Their two-year plan, Teixeira said, is to have a shop/warehouse out of their house, hire some employees, and grow from there.

Their work is focused in three distinct areas: contracting, handmade products and custom furniture. 

“We’ve split up our target growth into three departments and what we want those to look like down the road,” Cathcart said.

Their website,, highlights everything they do, Cathcart said. 

Their handmade products include turned products, cutting boards, bookmarks and cornhole games.  Premade products are often sold through their Etsy store. 

Custom furniture inquiries come through their website, where people can also see their predesigned furniture options. Teixeira said most of their furniture is customized in some way, often based off those designs.

“Sometimes it’s completely different and sometimes they’ll just tweak it slightly.,” he said.

One thing that makes Orion different than many furniture companies, Teixeira said, is that they will make furniture designed for a specific purpose after consultation with a client. For example, they designed custom boot benches for a ski shop, he said. 

Another custom project was a table designed as an espresso bar. Designing furniture to fit a specific need is something they hope to find a niche market in, Teixeira said.

Another important aspect of the business is their commitment to giving back to the community.  The charity page on their website says, “We take pride in being founded here in Maine and are committed to being a strong community partner.”

Their charitable efforts began by donating $1,750 made by selling custom bookmarks to the Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative.  They also are looking to continue doing charitable donations moving forward, Cathcart said.

“If anyone has any ideas that they think would be a good collaboration we’d be happy to hear them out and work with them,” he said. <

Chamber celebrates grand opening of Knight’s Café in Naples


The Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, friends, family and Naples Town Manager John Hawley came together to celebrate the grand opening of the new Knights Café in Naples with a ribbon cutting on Aug. 13. 

Knights Café owners Tammy Sawyer and Kristie Leighton had a beautiful array of desserts and beverages for participants to sample. Although a hot and humid summer evening, it did not dampen the enthusiasm or the appetite of the crowd of over fifty attendees. 

Check out the delicious breakfast items, sumptuous sandwiches and irresistible pastries Knight’s Café has to offer at 679 Roosevelt Trail, Naples. Congratulations to Tammy and Kristie, and welcome to the town of Naples and the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Friday, August 14, 2020

American Legion Post 148 remembers fallen comrades


By David Tanguay

Special to The Windham Eagle 

They came from many different backgrounds and all walks of life, but those remembered during a special ceremony conducted by American Legion Post 148 on Aug. 5 at the Windham Veterans Center all shared one thing in common. They each wore the uniform of the United  States of America at one time in their lives and were proud to serve their country.

The special “Post Everlasting” tribute was led by Chaplain Richard Drapeau and honored every Post 148 member who passed away from May 2019 to July 2020.

Drapeau recited an opening prayer for the event before comments were made about the ceremony by American Legion Post Commander Eric Bickford.

Chaplain Richard Drapeau of American Legion Post 148
commits the names of fallen post members to the flames
of Post Everlasting at a cermony held Wednesday,
Aug. 5 at the Windham Veterans Center.
The house lights were then dimmed while Drapeau received the “records” of the deceased and performed a commitment of the names to the flames of the brazier on a stacked rifle and military helmet while Bickford read a citation commending their spirits to “Post Everlasting.”

Post members remembered at the ceremony included Roger Beaudoin, John Herald Sr., Robert Newberry, Richard Small, Ray Charmad, John Gallagher, and Past Post 148 Commander Donald Rogers.

The final tribute was the mournful sound of taps played as all in the room stood at attention and saluted their departed comrades for the last time.

According to The American Legion, when a comrade passes, the moment is one of honor. The memory of his/her life in the service of country has now been enrolled in the great spirit army, whose footfalls cause no sound, but in the memory of mankind, their souls go on marching, sustained by the pride of service in time of war. Because of them our lives are free: because of them our nation lives: because of them, our world is blessed.

Post Everlasting is the final destination within The American Legion, where our departed comrades are called for duty by the Supreme Commander. We salute our departed Post members and thank them for their contribution and service to our Country, Community, and Post, and transfer their membership to the Post Everlasting.

Each American Legion Post conducts a solemn Post Everlasting Ceremony once each year. Families of deceased Members are invited to attend the Post Everlasting Ceremony and they may receive an American Legion Post Everlasting Certificate commemorating their loved one's transfer to Post Everlasting.

“This was a very moving ceremony,”. Bickford said.

The event was held prior to the monthly meeting of the Field-Allen Post 148 members at the Windham Veterans Center. <

Evergreen Credit Union makes donation to community organizations

 A summer-long kayak raffle administered by Evergreen Credit Union has raised more than $8,200 which was then donated to deserving charitable community organizations.

Some of the recipients of a summer-long kayak
 raffle and community fundraiser were on hand
to learn that their organizations would
benefit from donations made by Evergreen
Credit Union. From left are Jeana Roth of the 
Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, 
Jason Lindstrom, Evergreen CEO, Tim Greer
of the Little Sebago Lake Association, and Cheryl
Rawson of the Collins Pond Improvement
Donations are made to three lake associations, including Collins Pond, Lakes Environmental and Little Sebago Lake. 

Also receiving funds were the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland and many local food pantries.  

“With thanks to the hundreds of raffle participants, Evergreen is very pleased that we can annually support different organizations essential to the many local communities we serve.” said Evergreen Vice President of Marketing Howard Lowell.<


Friday, August 7, 2020

A matter of historical record: The last Pope

Ellen Pope, the last descendant of an amazing Quaker family that inspired and enriched Windham for 182 years 


 In our recently concluded series on the neighborhood known as Popeville, we learned that a Quaker family, escaping persecution, settled in Windham around 1768.

For over 100 years and through at least five generations, the Pope family created industry, participated in town government and were known for entrepreneurship and integrity (The Windham Eagle, June 26 – July 10 – July 24). 

The original home of Robert and Juliette Pope
(circa 1840s) on Pope Road. It was the
childhood home of their daughter, Ellen
The late Windham historian, Kay Soldier, described the Pope neighborhood, located in the area of the Pleasant River bridge on the road named for the illustrious family, as “…once the busiest place in Windham,” with mills and commercial enterprises contributing to the town’s mid-19th century economy. 

As explained in part three of the series, the mills and various businesses washed away in the crash and roar of a major flood caused by the unleashed waters of a Pope dam break. Ultimately, hard times fell on the enterprise known as Isaiah Pope & Company and the firm was defunct by the 1870s. 

All of the numerous members of the family moved on. Fast forward to 1950. The once Popeville home of Robert Pope, partner in Isaiah Pope & Co., is occupied by Allen Jones, soon to be police chief of the city of Portland. He is selling the circa 1840s house. 

The buyers are Harry and Dorothy Adams, but there is a problem clearing the title. Jones had inherited the house from his parents. 

The Adams’ located the last surviving member of the Pope family: Ellen Pope, daughter of Robert and Juliette Pope, who was born in the house on January 27, 1854. Ellen, then 96 years old and residing in an old age home in Portland, signed away the old claim. She died soon after. 

Her obituary, in an August, 1950 edition of the Portland Press Herald read as follows: 

Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at 749 Congress Street for Miss Ellen Pope, 96, a practical nurse here for many years, who died Tuesday at the Home For Aged Women, 64 Emery Street. Interment will be in Friends Cemetery, Windham Center. She was born at Windham, Jan. 27, 1854, daughter of Robert and Juliette Pope, and lived in Portland most of her life. She was a member of the Friends Church at Windham. She had no survivors. 

 Next time, the underground railroad was alive and well in Windham. <