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.
“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: <

Before the memory fades: Yesterday’s fire alarm – the horn that blew numbers

By Walter Lunt

Some sounds are lost to history: the crunch and grind of the neighborhood gristmill fell silent over a century ago, the rapid clacking of the office typewriter has faded into obscurity, and today few can remember the fuzzy crackle of “snow” on yesterday’s TV screens. And, before the memory fades, the resounding blare of an air horn declaring the outbreak of fire somewhere in the community.

Ernie Nichols served with the South Windham fire station
from 1956 to 1981, the last four years as deputy chief. He
wrote 'A History of the Windham Fire Co. 1913-2004. It was
an honor to be a fireman.'
From 1966 and for many years thereafter, instead of calling 911, Windham residents reported the outbreak of fire by calling a dedicated telephone number that was preceded by an exchange known as Twin Oaks (892). The call did not go to a central dispatch center or to a fire station; instead, it went to the home of Betty Burke on Huston Road in Gorham.

Burke, who was often praised for her prompt, efficient work as the local dispatcher of the South Windham/Little Falls Fire Department, would respond in a calm, disciplined manner by requesting the location, type of fire, caller’s name and the “cottage” number. These directions, posted near the telephone of nearly every household in the town, also stated “Don’t Hang Up until full information has been given” – Walter L. Peavey, Chief.

Former deputy chief Ernest Nichols, 86, remembers the reporting routine and says the process was remarkably fast and efficient, even though the town relied on volunteer firefighters. Utilizing what was called a control box, Burke could activate a compressor, located inside the fire station at South Windham, which would trigger a loud air horn mounted on the roof, designed to alert the nearest volunteer fireman. Many lived or worked in the Little Falls neighborhood and could, in some cases, respond in less than a minute or two. The first fireman in the station would pick up the telephone receiver; Betty Burke was already on the line and would relay all relevant information. The first respondents at the station would leave for the fire. The purpose of the air horn was to alert all other fireman in town as to the approximate location of the fire.

The air horn was an improvement over a siren, used prior to 1966. “It could blow numbers,” observed Nichols, which were a series of alarm codes. He explained that, for example, if the horn blew three short blasts followed by four blasts, or 3-4, it meant the fire was on Windham Hill. The code for a fire on Haven Road was 4-4-1, and for Forest Lake, it was 4-8. Schools and large businesses had their own codes. There were over 70 different codes representing all parts of town. Volunteer firemen who did not live near the fire house would go directly to the fire. Households kept a listing of all the codes next to their telephones.

Before leaving the fire station, the address of the fire would be posted on a chalkboard where it could be observed by concerned citizens or other firefighters.

Nichols recalled the time the South Windham department was called to aid with a particularly bad blaze far out of town, “…up north of Cornish (the air horn code for “out of town” was five short blasts). Our boys had trouble locating the right road.” Again, it was Betty Burke to the rescue. She had two-way radio contact with the fire trucks. After making a few quick telephone calls, she was able to direct the crews to the correct location.

Although it was named the South Windham fire station, it actually served both Gorham and Windham. Gorham fire trucks also occupied the station. The neighborhood on both sides of the Presumpscot River bridge, which separates the two towns, was known as Little Falls but was usually referred to as simply South Windham. “It didn’t make any difference (which side of the river you were on), I can’t emphasize how much of a community it was,” says Nichols, “…there was a Windham-Gorham Club, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops were from both towns, telephone numbers were all 892, and there was one post office (on the Windham side) and one library (on the Gorham side).”

But, “…if the fire was in Gorham, Gorham paid (the firefighters). If it was in Windham, Windham paid.”

Nichols maintains the two towns worked together as one for many years, “…long before there was talk about regionalization.”

Writing in Maine Firefighter Magazine in 2004, Nichols said, “This marked the first time two towns in Maine shared a fire station. By splitting the cost, both towns were able to provide…state-of-the-art (equipment) that neither town could afford by themselves.”

Nichols speaks with reverence regarding the many firemen with which he served, the chiefs and the life-saving experiences he had with the South Windham department. And he’s pleased that the old air horn, out of service for the last few decades, will be relocated to the Windham Historical Society’s Village Green where it will be installed on top of the old South Windham Library building which, before 1935, was used as the hose house for the South Windham Fire Station.

If the society can secure a compressor, what are the chances it could bring back a sound once lost to history? Nichols answered, “Maybe.” <

Friday, July 22, 2022

Newly launched 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline serves as alternative to 911

To help stem depression and prevent suicide, the 988 Suicide
and Crisis Lifeline has been created to serve as an alternative 
to 911. The national telephone and text lifeline officially
was launched July 16 in America. COURTESY PHOTO
By Lorraine Glowczak

Boston College researchers recently reported that anxiety increased to 50 percent and depression to 44 percent by November 2020 amid the pandemic.

As described in the report, these rates were six times higher than one year previously. The study included more surprising facts.

“Among U.S. adults aged 18-29, the impact on mental health was even more severe,” the report said. “Rates of anxiety and depression increased to 65 percent for anxiety and 61 percent for depression.”

These rates are also intensifying right here in Maine. For example, the Windham and Raymond drug-free coalition known as Be The Influence (BTI) has witnessed a rise in anxiety and depression in recent years – especially among area youth.

“There has definitely been an increase in mental health concerns among teens as witnessed by BTI coalition members as well as other community and area health care officials, including teens themselves,” BTI Director Laura Morris said. 

Due to this alarming trend and the number of calls directed to the 911 emergency line, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) officially launched the national 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline on Saturday, July 16. This crisis line is an alternative to dialing 911 for people experiencing emotional distress, thoughts of suicide or a mental health crisis.

In a recent press release by DHHS, 988 is the new national three-digit dialing code connecting people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK).

In Maine, calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline have been routed to the existing Maine Crisis Line since 2018. With Saturday’s launch of 988, the process remains the same – only the number is changing.

Maine people who call 988 are routed through the Lifeline network based on their area code and connected to a trained crisis specialist at the Maine Crisis Line. Specialists provide therapeutic support and assessment in the moment, and connection to community-based resources such as one of Maine’s regional mobile crisis teams.

All 988 callers in Maine continue to be served by local providers.

Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield said that the 988 crisis line will provide expert care and support to those who need it most.

“We have seen a major uptick in calls,” Chief Schofield said. “There are a number of different reasons for that, and many include calls from the 25 DHHS group homes in Windham that provide services for people with mental health disabilities. The 988 line is a potential tool for police and 911 staff to provide effective resources for people who need it. Our officers have been doing an exemplary job providing a short-term need until expert care and support arrives.”

According to the press release, the launch of 988 in Maine opens doors to hope and support for the one in four Mainers struggling with a mental health challenge, marking an essential step in transforming access to appropriate services within their communities. 

“As with physical health emergencies, we hope that 988 will save lives by providing critical emergency services for mental health and suicidal crises,” Hannah Longley, Senior Clinical Director of Community Programs at NAMI Maine, said.

Morris concurred with Schofield that there are many reasons for the rise in the mental health crisis and suggests the 988 lifeline will be beneficial in many ways.

“The upswing relates to the increased use in social media, isolation from Covid, and increased access to substances to self-medicate,” she said. “A resource like 988 makes reporting for those in crisis is a confidential and easy tool without the risk of stigmatizing hurdles.”

The Maine Crisis Line is administered by DHHS and managed by The Opportunity Alliance of South Portland.

“The Opportunity Alliance is thrilled to have additional, easy to access support available for Mainers experiencing a mental health crisis,” Joseph Everett, President and CEO of The Opportunity Alliance said in the recent press release. “The compassionate and talented staff at The Maine Crisis Line have been answering the calls of Mainers in crisis for six years, and they will continue to provide dedicated, expert care and support to those who need us most.”

The 988 Lifeline responds 24/7 to calls, chats or texts from anyone who needs support for suicidal, mental health, and/or substance use crisis, and connects those in need with trained crisis counselors. Individuals can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support. <

The Wild Woman of Frye Island

By Ernest H. Knight 

A massive ground search of Frye Island by Raymond residents
in 1878 failed to turn up evidence of a 'Wild Woman' who was
reported by farmers to be involved in strange sightings and
unexplained disappearances of clothing, food and other items.
Ghosts, mysterious happenings, and extra-sensory perceptions have always had a fascination for people; few localities are without something in their past to qualify for membership in the club.

The Himalaya Mountains have their Abominable Snowman, our Pacific Northwest has its Bigfoot, and Frye Island had its Wild Woman, though she more accurately belonged more to Standish than Raymond as Frey Island has always belonged to that town even though Standish Cape and the Gore were absorbed by the town of Raymond in 1871. No one cared much about Frye Island except the people who lived there.

Frye Island was once exclusively farmed and was mostly cleared land. There were the Jose farm buildings, later owned by the Hooper family, a short way south of the present ferry landing, which had a large two-story dwellings that housed many family members and hired help as transportation across the Gut to home or to visit was not available for casual use.

Life there must have been lonely and could perhaps have contributed to fantasy or hallucinations.

However, in 1878, the residents of the farm were aware of strange sightings and unexplained disappearances. Items of clothing were missing, vegetables evaporated from root cellars, cows were occasionally dry at milking time and there were fleeting glimpses of a shadowy figure, presumably female, in the distance.

The natural conclusion was that there was a person or persons on the island who survived on pilfered food and did not want to be identified or to be friendly. Out of concern for their own safety and security, and perhaps a little compassion for the welfare of whoever, if human, might have to survive the coming winter, aid was enlisted from the mainland to supplement their unsuccessful attempts to solve the mystery.

In the late summer or fall of that year, canal boats and other craft available at the wharves and shore of Raymond and Casco were filled with men and boys for transportation to Frye Island.

Starting at one end of the island they formed almost a hand-to-hand chain as they swept over the fields and forest, always on the lookout for what they thought they were looking for, the Wild Woman.

They were denied success, either by cleverness on the part of the hunted or a failure of the hunters to do their job to perfection, and the net result of the community effort amounted to nothing more than an outing for the visitors.

After the fact, masterminding by both the participants and island dwellers gave the general store and blacksmith shop debates, as well as kitchen and across the fence conversations going for some time.

Theories abounded all the way from the Wild Woman making her escape by swimming off ahead of the searchers to there never being a physical presence at all, and it was some time before local residents got back to their normal way of life. 

Life on Frye Island apparently returned to normal with no recurrence of the disturbing incidents of the pre-posse period. It was about this time that farming on Frye Island declined, either due to the psychological impact of the spell cast by the Wild Woman or natural economic changes which altered the farming activities of Maine people. The landscape of the island returned to growing trees and brush.

Later, Frye Island was used for hunting or timber harvest.

The Wild Woman was never found and whether she was fact or fake is still a worthy legend for discussion or conjecture. Add your guesses if you will. <

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 15, 2022

Windham’s ‘Rosie the Riveter’ shares lighthearted version of life in 1940s

Barbara Tolman of Windham shows her
official 'American Rosie the Riveter
Association' certificate which acknowledges
her membership in the organization.
By Lorraine Glowczak 

Barbara Tolman of Windham was just 17 years old when she stepped into the workforce in 1942, unknowingly becoming one of many women celebrated as an iconic ‘Rosie the Riveter.’

She, and many other females at that time, filled jobs in factories and shipyards to replace the gaping hole left by male workers who joined the military and were on active duty during World War II. But Tolman did not seek out this role; she was recruited.

“When I was a senior at Watertown [Massachusetts] High School, Mr. Van Keuren [of Van Keuren Manufacturing] sent a letter to the high school asking if there were any senior girls who were taking physics class,” Tolman said. “There were two of us. He offered us both a position at the company and I started at the end of April during my senior year.”

Tolman, whose job at Van Keuren was to inspect copper wires, using a Light-Wave Micrometer, to make sure they met the precise shape and length, said she had more than enough credits to graduate high school. So, she left during her last few months of classwork and began working immediately, returning upon graduation day with the rest of her class of approximately 300 to accept her diploma.

She loved her manufacturing job for many reasons, but the income was essential to her satisfaction.

“I made the magnificent sum of 50 cents per hour,” she said. “Back then, that was a lot of money. I worked eight hours daily, Monday through Friday, and four hours on Saturday. With the overtime, I was bringing home $23 per week. That was much better than the girls who worked in office settings making only $15 to $18 per week.” 

Born Barbara Clarke on May 10, 1924, in Cambridge, Mass., Tolman grew up in nearby Watertown as an only child in a supportive and loving family. As a result, she admits the shock she experienced as a 17-year-old by the tomfoolery that transpired among the much older factory workers.

“There was always mischief happening between the older workers, and I didn’t always understand what they were saying or doing until I was older and ‘wiser,’” Tolman said with a laugh. “They would do silly things. I remember one time, a group of workers cut rubber bands and put the rubber bits inside someone’s cigarette. They would laugh and be amused for days at these shenanigans.”

Tolman also shared another memory of a coworker who carried a unique talent.

“One coworker always amazed me at how he could capture a fly without destroying it and tie a very, super tiny string on its leg,” she said. “We would all laugh as this fly flew around the room with a string hanging from one of its legs.”

This 98-year-old ‘Rosie’ has a sharp memory and acknowledges this fact.

However, there is one detail that escapes her.

“I can remember so many things about my time during those years, but the one thing that I can’t recall is how I got to work,” Tolman said. “I lived two miles from the manufacturing plant, and I didn’t have a car or access to public transportation. So, I either walked both ways or made arrangements with others to drive me to work. To this day, I have no clue how I got to my job.”

Despite working more than 40 hours per week, Tolman found time to enjoy life.

“Often, I would take a trolly from Watertown to Harvard Square and then get on a subway to go into Boston,” she said. “I loved going to the USO dances to meet other people – especially men. Those English men sure knew how to waltz.”

Although the nation began rationing certain high-demand items such as tires, flour, sugar, meat, and cheese, Tolman only remembers one rationed item that affected her.

“There was only one shortage I experienced – and that was the availability of men, - or the lack thereof,” she said

And speaking of men, she recalled a trendy song during that era that was well-liked and sung by Rosemary Clooney (aunt of actor George Clooney).

“I remember my favorite lines of a popular song back then,” she said, repeating the lines verbatim. “’They’re either too young or too old. The pickings are poor, and the crop is lean. What’s good is in the army; what’s left will never harm me.”

While working at Van Keuren, she admits to learning many essential things besides how to tie a tiny string to a fly’s leg. She recalls one important lesson.

“I was astonished to discover the precision that is needed for tools in order to make things work accurately,” she said. “I just thought a wire was a wire, and a screw was a screw. I had no clue that these things really needed to be accurate in order for the tool to work properly.”

After three years of working at the manufacturing company, the war was over. The men returning from war needed their jobs back to support their families. As a result, Van Keuren ‘let her go’. She was making 85 cents per hour when her job ended.

“I found a new job in Boston as a cashier and bookkeeper for Liberty Mutual Insurance – making a lot less money,” she said.

But this ‘demotion’ wasn’t an issue for her. Tolman accepted what life gave her and did those things she enjoyed most when she wasn’t working. This includes her love of dance.

“One weekend, I attended an English Country Dance Camp in Plymouth, Mass.,” she said. “I somehow convinced two friends to go with me, and we ended up having a good time. This is where I met my future husband.” 

That was June of 1946. Tolman married Charles Bill Tolman 14 months later in September 1947. Together they had a son, Gerald, and a daughter Laurel (many know her as the former Windham Public Library Children’s Librarian, a carillon bell playing expert, and historian at Windham Hill United Church of Christ).

While Bill, as he was known, worked for the company Texaco in several roles after receiving a bachelor's degree from Boston University and a Master’s from Northeastern, Tolman did what she loved best.

“My aim in life was to be a professional volunteer,” she said. “I have volunteered with many organizations such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and as a board member and President of the YWCA in Nashua, New Hampshire, a member of the Longfellow Garden Club, and am also a member of the Friends of the Windham Public Library – just to name a few.”

Her husband Bill passed away in 2017. Tolman enjoys her life in Windham as she looks on to the lives of her three amazing granddaughters and one amazing, great-grandson.

If there is any advice she cared to share, there was one thing she said with reflection.

“There are two things I need to share,” she said. “In my marriage, we were a team. We worked together to be a success. We saved money; we worked hard and found time to have fun. Secondly, it's not about how much you have; it is what you do with what you have at the moment that really matters.” <

Before the memory fades: Love springs forward as well water is retrieved on Freeman’s Hill in Windham

By Walter Lunt 

A small wood-frame shed once covered the Sebago
Mineral Spring on Freeman's Hill in Windham. It was
replaced, probably in the early to mid-20th century, by
the brick and wood structure where it stands today.

Through much of its 100-plus year history, it can be said that Mineral Spring in Windham is the outdoor version of the office water cooler. Catching up with friends and neighbors, meeting new people – even matrimonial match-ups happened spontaneously as community members hand-pumped the cool, clean and clear spring water from the side of a steep hill off the eastern shore of Sebago Lake located off Route 302 between North Windham and the Raymond town line.

In the late 19th century, before it was the Mineral Spring neighborhood, an arc of shoreline dotted with rustic seasonal cabins, it was the hundred-acre farm of Samuel Freeman. About half-way up “Freeman’s Hill” was a spring-fed well continuously spewing very cold, clear water. Tests on the spring water were conducted by a state chemist in 1883 and concluded “The water is very pure (with) no organic matter…(and) mineral matter (that is) beyond doubt, very beneficial in many diseases.”

Documents at the Windham Historical Society indicate there was at least one attempt to market and sell Freeman’s spring water, however there is no evidence to suggest that it ever succeeded. Jane Shaw, a resident of the Mineral Spring neighborhood for the past 38 years, explains that the deed to the spring house includes the following passage: “…the right to take water from (the) Spring for drinking purposes (is permitted), but not to lay pipes from said Spring or to take said water for sale.”

The Freeman property was sold some time after 1912 to William H. Cram (1860-1949). Cram was a well-known and highly respected Windham resident and a successful businessman. He ran a grocery store in North Windham and served as a town selectman as well as a Cumberland County Commissioner for 18 years, acting as chairman during his last term. He was also a Master Mason and faithful member of North Windham Union Church.

Cram developed Freeman’s Hill into what is now known as Mineral Springs (which is near but separate and distinct from the original Mineral Spring neighborhood).

In 1921, several residents of the original Mineral Spring formed an association designed to maintain the history, heritage, and social culture of the Mineral Spring neighborhood. Said Jane Shaw, “The Sebago Mineral Spring Association was originally formed as a Social Club. What is now our field and boat storage area there was originally a Club House and tennis courts. In the summer, every Saturday, a pot-luck supper was done and quite a few dances held.” And she said, “In many of our deeds there is an easement to allow for horses to pass over our land in order to drink from the lake.”

The association marked its 100th anniversary last year, and 101st this month. True to form, there was a healthy gathering of members to celebrate both occasions. Shaw reports (road) membership now numbers over 30 homes.

In the early days, it was common for the seasonal folk to gather at the spring house to socialize while collecting water. On a summer day in the early 1920s, Philip Grant, 13, was working the hand pump, filling his water jugs, when he noticed a new face in the crowd. Young Lillian Hamilton, who was visiting from Portland and staying with friends, was waiting her turn at the water pump. The two exchanged a few words before Philip returned to his cabin to announce to his parents that he’d just met the girl he would someday marry. His mother, Lillian, promptly recorded her son’s words in her diary, which survives to this day.

Stories like this, and many others, abound within the small, close-knit neighborhood called Mineral Spring.

Fast-forward to the 1960s and Kristin Grant begins her long string treasured memories in the neighborhood that straddles Sebago Lake’s eastern shore. Her great-grandparents bought the lake cottage in 1919. Her grandparents renovated it into year-round living in 1960. Now a retired administrator from Windham schools, Grant reminisces about the long-ago summers swimming, trolling for salmon, playing ball in the clubhouse field, hiking up the hill to the spring house, the winters when there was skating and sledding down the big hill, and spring when the family would chop melting ice chunks from the edge of the lake and hand crank the old ice cream churn.

Grant recalls drawing water at the spring house as a young girl. “It was common practice to get your drinking water by climbing the hill and filling up containers with the amazing cold spring water, but you just couldn’t do it with bare feet; you had to stand in the overflow (that collected on the ground). It was sooo cold. But it was so good – clear, cold and refreshing.”

Sadly, no one draws water from the spring house these days. Jane Shaw says the water now tests high for chloroform and therefore it is not drinkable. The association, she says will work to fix the problem.

And yes, Philip Grant did marry Lillian Hamilton… in 1933. They spent 55 happy years together, much of it at the lake house at Mineral Spring, within sight of the old spring house. We know the story of their first encounter is true – it’s recorded in Philip’s mother’s diary, and Kristin Grant remembers her grandfather’s words to her, “He (told me) it was love at first sight.” <

Friday, July 8, 2022

Maine’s first bank robbery has unique Raymond connection

A box of gold bullion taken during Maine's first bank robbery
in Portland in 1818 may have been buried in Raymond and
never recovered. COURTESY PHOTO 
By Ernest H. Knight

To every story there is a beginning, a middle and an ending. If the middle is missing or uncertain, it may be that there are simply two stories. The missing link may not be satisfactorily established, but the alpha and the omega are equally interesting in their own light.

On Saturday, Aug. 1, 1818, late at night, the Cumberland Bank in Portland was entered by two robbers using a key made from the bank lock while it was being repaired in Boston some time earlier.

Though the robber had obtained in excess of $200,000 in bullion, coins and bags and bank notes put into wooden boxes and bags made from sail cloth, much of it was abandoned in the bank building and adjacent yard when the culprits were scared off by some nearby residents returning from a night out, with intentions of returning on Sunday night to retrieve it and finish the job.

But on Sunday afternoon a customer of the bank, suddenly needing funds to take to Boston on business on Monday, prevailed upon the bank cashier to go to the bank to obtain those funds and while there he discovered the in-progress skullduggery. By Monday bank officials and police were investigating Maine’s first bank robbery. 

Though foundry sand was found in the boxes, investigators shifted their attention from foundry personnel to a Daniel Manley of Scarborough as a suspect. Through the sailcloth used for the bags and identification of men at a sailmaker’s loft, a Captain Benjamin Rolfe of Gorham was apprehended on Wednesday. He was promised some of the $10,000 reward offered by the bank directors and turned over to them $1,600 in coins in his possession.

Rolfe unsuccessfully attempted to lead them to banknotes supposed to have been buried by Manley in a wooded area near the waterfront. Continuing the search on Thursday, he excused himself from his escorts and while out of their sight put a small pistol in his mouth and “immediately expired.”

Without telling Manley of Rolfe’s actions, the authorities prevailed on Manley to disclose the location of his stolen holdings, which he had transferred from its first burial near Fort Burrows (near the present Bath Iron Works Portland Yard) to a hedge fence in Scarborough.

Though Manley could not find it there, his remorse was not as extreme as that of Rolfe. The day, and money, was saved when Amos Libby and his two sons of Scarborough, who had observed Manley acting in a suspicious manner and then dug up what he had hidden, turned that portion over to the searchers and were subsequently awarded $3,500 of the reward.

Benjamin Rolfe had raised a family of seven in Gorham before his wife died and after remarrying had moved back to Portland. McLellan’s “History of Gorham” book merely mentions that Capt. Benjamin Rolfe died Aug. 6, 1818.

Daniel Manley spent 12 years in the Charleston State Prison in Boston (Maine was still part of Massachusetts then), and he died on Oct. 5, 1837. He was buried in Eastern Cemetery in Portland with the epitaph on his headstone reading “Portland’s first bank robber – 1818.”

Some accounts say that all the money was recovered but one says “all except a bag of gold” was returned to the bank. With no FDIC to protect the depositors, a loss of $200,000 in 1818 dollars, would have been devastating to them and the growing new city of Portland.

But here’s where the story changes from Portland to Raymond.

One of the very early settlers of Raymond was William Rolfe, born in Portland on Dec. 25, 1787. His son William was born in Raymond on March 1, 1819. Their homestead was on Plains Road near the old house used by the caretaker of the Boy Scout Camp and Camp Hinds properties. The first William Rolfe born in 1787 in Portland could have been a brother or of the family of Capt. Benjamin Rolfe, who was born in 1780 in Portland before moving to Gorham.

It is also of interest that Benjamin’s father, also a Capt. Benjamin Rolfe, had come from France with General Lafayette in the Revolutionary War. A connection is strengthened by a statement made by William Jr. in a 1909 newspaper writeup on his 90th birthday. In that article, he said that he could distinctly remember the death of Napoleon Bonaparte at St. Helena in 1821, perhaps reflecting a family interest in French heritage.

The newspaper interview quoted William Jr. as saying when he was a boy there were five log cabins within a mile of his home. There was a legend connected with the Rolfe home or property concerning treasure buried somewhere near there.

Geneva Bean, who lived there for many years, once went to a spiritual medium with her concern and received an enigmatic answer that “She was walking on it.” In the basement of the old Rolfe house there is a strange and extensive maze of walls and foundations of granite and brick that could be thought of as suited for concealment or security of a treasure.

Is there gold to be found in Raymond, other than that once mined for on Raymond Hill in the gold rush days? And can Raymond claim fame, if not fortune, with a proprietary interest in Maine’s first bank robbery?

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 1, 2022

Beloved community resource officer moves on to new adventures

Many community members, including past and present
students at Windham Middle School, joined Windham
Police Officer Matt Cyr at a farewell gathering on June 17.
From left are Chayse Caron, Sandra Donnelly, Matt Cyr,
Joe Donnelly, Levi Hayman, Trevor Baillargeon, and
By Lorraine Glowczak 

Officer Matt Cyr is looking forward to his new role as a Recreational Guide with the New England Outdoor Center near his hometown of Millinocket, retiring from a 29-year career in law enforcement.

Having been with the Windham Police Department since 1995, Cyr is best known for his role as a Community and School Resource Officer at Windham Middle School, playing a large part in the lives of the area youth.

His impact on students, and the community in general, have been instrumental in his popularity through his admired DARE to Adventure program, where he taught healthy risk-taking, resiliency, and sound decision-making through a variety of outdoor activities such as white-water rafting, kayaking and rock climbing. The mission of DARE is to prepare the student to confront life’s challenges positively and prevent substance abuse.

“Officer Matt Cyr brought a love of working with students, staff and families to his job as the SRO,” said WMS Principal Drew Patin. “Through his humor and fun-loving nature, Matt made all students feel welcomed and a part of the school community. His DARE program and DARE to Adventure were his pride and joy, and he should be commended for the education he provided and modeled to students.”

In a farewell celebration held at the Windham High School (WHS) on Friday, June 17, RSU 14 staff, community members, as well as past and present students and their parents gathered to offer Cyr best wishes on his new adventure.

Haley Atherton, who will be a WHS senior this fall and was involved in the DARE to Adventure program while in middle school, was among his well-wishers.

“Officer Cyr was and is an important part of my life,” she said. “All through high school, I still visited him because he is such an inspiration. While in the DARE to Adventure program, he took care of me and taught me a lot about myself – especially about teamwork and leadership.”

Levi MacDonald, who will be a WHS junior in the fall, has also maintained a connection with Cyr since participating in the DARE to Adventure program.

“Officer Cyr pushed us to achieve our goals, encouraging us to try new things and introduced us to new adventures,” MacDonald said. “He supported us and was there for us if we ever needed someone.”

In addition to being a positive role model for youth, Cyr played a role within the larger community. For example, he worked alongside the Windham Parks and Recreation Department to build the Windham skate park.

He also helped bring in the National Night Out, created neighborhood watch programs, worked with banks to teach theft prevention and offered Citizen Response to Active Assailant events, teaching situational awareness.

Cyr was a part of a team of individuals, including former WHS Assistant Principal Kelli Deveaux, former Sebago Lake Region Chamber Executive Director Aimee Senatore and WPD Captain Bill Andrew, establishing a drug-free coalition.

“We all wanted to send the message to the adults to set the right examples for youth,” Cyr said. “The original concept was to spread the word about healthy decision making and to offer educational opportunities to adults about not focusing so much on alcohol and to store owners who sold alcohol and their employees about carding people, etc.”

As the group grew, Cyr said the volunteer organization needed to hire an administrator. So, they applied for and received a Federal DFC (Drug-Free Communities) grant. Today, the group is known as Be The Influence (BTI).

“Matt Cyr was instrumental in identifying the need for an organization like Be the Influence and has been a huge part of its success,” said Laura Morris, BTI Executive Director. “His contribution in this community is unsurpassed in reaching hundreds of youths a year that love and respect him and are motivated by his inspiration to make healthy choices. His energy, expertise and passion will be sorely missed.”

WPD Chief Kevin Schofield agrees with Morris’ sentiments, sharing the depth of loss Cyr’s absence will have among his peers. <

“In my 36-plus years in the law enforcement profession, I have seen few people who have impacted a community such as Matt Cyr. Matt’s 22-plus years in our school system have had an unquantifiable impact not only on the thousands of students he has reached but also on assuring that the police department was truly involved with the school department and the community. Several of our current officers and others in the area attribute, at least in part, that Matt impacted their decision to become police officers. Internally, Matt has embraced additional duties that will take us some time to replace; I suspect after July 1st we will become more enlightened about that! Overall, I feel confident that I speak for all of us, that Matt has been more than a co-worker. He is a friend and will always be part of our department. He will be truly missed!”

Cyr said he is looking forward to his new adventure as a recreational guide, where he will help the New England Outdoor Center expand its program offerings. Although he is ready to shift from law enforcement, where the challenges and duties of a police officer have increased immensely, he said he will miss thousands of things about working for the Windham community and school.

“Windham has been the most supportive community of me and my programs,” Cyr said. “I was supported by the town council, the school department and the school board. Without that support, I would not have been able to do my job very well.”

But perhaps most importantly, he recalls one of the most extraordinary things he will miss.

“Most definitely the youth,” Cyr said. “I have connected pretty strongly with the students, and I will miss them. They are just a lot of fun and made my job fun.”

Chief Schofield said the WPD offers Cyr all the best with his future endeavors, and Morris added that BTI is very excited for the deserved happiness he has ahead. Patin also wishes him the best on behalf of WMS, saying, “Whoever takes over for Matt will have big shoes to fill.” <

Windham’s Haibon to compete for Miss International Teen title

By Masha Yurkevich

In today’s modern day and age, there are many things that are brought to attention, everything from education and individual rights to environment and government. But something that is often overlooked is what we are closest to and what surrounds us in our everyday lives: lifting each other up. Rosie Haibon has made sure that this very topic does not get forgotten about or tossed to the side.

Windham's Rosie Haibon will compete in
the Miss International Teen Pageant later
this month in South Portland. She won the
title of Miss Maine Sweetheart Teen
After being crowned Miss Maine Sweetheart Teen in 2020, Haibon will be competing in the Miss International Teen Pageant later this month.

Haibon is a 2021 Windham High School graduate and in 2018, when she was 15 years old, Haibon competed in her first Young American Women of Service (YAWOS) pageant.

The Young American Women of Service, along with the American Women Pageants, which include the American Women of Service and Young American Women of Service, are international pageants that empower young women to become the best version of themselves by inspiring others and volunteering.

Haibon says that she started doing pageants because of her sister. The first pageant she competed in was the Miss Sensational pageant, which was created for women with disabilities.

“My sister and I both have autism, so this pageant was an amazing experience for the both of us to bond,” said Haibon.

At her second Miss Sensational pageant she was asked by one of our local directors for the state pageant if she would come and compete for one of her titles.

“I was very flattered she thought I was that good at pageantry, and I happily accepted,” says Haibon. “Little did I know that she would bring into a family of sisters, and she opened the door to a passion I didn’t know I had in me.”

She was first runner up the first year she competed, and in 2020, she was crowned Miss Maine Sweetheart Teen.

Her service as Miss Maine Sweetheart Teen is to educate and bring awareness to our state platform, bullying prevention and education. This is done in numerous ways, and through various actions and she also acts as a representative and an advocate for those who are bullied but don’t have a voice.

“I work to bring awareness to such a heartbreaking topic, one that needs to be discussed more everywhere,” says Haibon.

The YAWOS works to provide to the community through various acts of volunteerism.

“I focused on the Girl Scout Troop 1187, who I love with my heart and soul. We focused on a few different topics, my favorite to discuss with them was how to prevent bullying and how we can help someone being bullied,” said Haibon.

She also got to talk about feelings with the girls, and how to express emotions.

“I work alongside my 11 other sister queens to be proactive against bullying prevention. I also work to bring education about my own personal platform, Autism education and awareness,” Haibon said.

In her latest pageant, Haibon will be competing for the title of Miss International on July 27 at the DoubleTree in South Portland. To be crowned as Miss International Teen, one must first compete and win a state competition, which Haibon has done.

Judging for International Teen includes four stages of competition: runway, evening gown, optional competition, and personal interview. Each is worth various percentages of the score, with the interview segment being scored the highest.

“My optional competition is presenting a speech, but there are a variety of choices. Judges will also pay attention to how I conduct myself throughout the week, and how I act towards others,” said Haibon. “Should someone not be conducting themselves properly or be caught misbehaving, it can take away from their scores.”

Unlike what social media portrays, where girls are snarky and mean to each other, the girls Haibon is competing with are becoming very close friends.

“I want to win Miss International because it would break a stigma. In social media, pageants are portrayed as shallow, fake and with mean girls bullying each other. This isn’t true at all. Every girl I have met has been nothing but kind and welcomed me with open arms,” says Haibon. “But on top of this, I am proving that as someone with a disability, I can do just as much and more than someone who is neurotypical. I am breaking the wall that people who have disabilities can’t do what others can, and I can’t wait to take a sledgehammer to that metaphorical wall of a stigma.”

She said that the girls that she has met in her years of pageantry are the kindest, sweetest group of women that she has met in her life.

“They are my sisters, my best friends. I look to them for guidance and support. We uplift each other and protect one another. We like the phrase ‘Fixing each other's crowns’. Our system is all about empowering women and raising each other up,” Haibon said. “Our system focuses on not only who we are as people, but our community service and involvement and our academic achievements. I’m so proud to work with these wonderful women, and I’m honored to be a part of such an amazing group.” <

Before the memory fades: Hundreds of donations slated to grace historic and newly renovated Village Green

By Walter Lunt

Eric Nason delivers the historic telephone 
switchboard, donated to the Windham
Historical Society and displayed in the
Old Grocery museum on the new Village
Green History Park. A switchboard, nearly
identical to this one, serviced Windham's
telephone system for decades in the 1900s.
(The Windham Eagle, April 23, 2021)

As changes and improvements gradually take shape on the Windham Historical Society’s Village Green museums, supporters have donated literally hundreds of antiques and artifacts that are destined to adorn the shelves, walls, display cases and corners of the various museum buildings that comprise a re-creation of a 19th century public square. Included in the complex is a one-room schoolhouse, the South Windham library and railroad depot, the town’s first library, the Windham Center Old Grocery and a gazebo.

The most recent donation was made by New England Communications of Portland. Owner Eric Nason, who grew up and still lives in Windham, donated and delivered a telephone switchboard, nearly identical to one that first brought telephone service to Windham in the early to mid-20th century. It will be displayed, along with early telephones and communications equipment, in the Old Grocery Museum.

Terry Christy, well-known and longtime Windham educator, gifted several volumes of books written by celebrated Maine author John Gould. Said WHS president Sue Simonson, “We thought it would be a nice collection to have in the South Windham Library (building).”

Included in the book collection is Gould’s 1975 MAINE LINGO – A Wicked-Good Guide to Yankee Vernacular, a compendium of words and phrases, their meanings and usage, that are unique to Maine. Many are lost to time; some are still familiar today.

Here’s a sampling:

Ayeh - Originally aye-yes, this double affirmative may have, over the years, become ayeh.

 - A Maine cellar was the storage vault of winter goodies, including the cider barrel. When a man invites a friend “down to see his sulla,” it means “Can I buy you a drink.”

Wizzled Berries - gone by on the vine are wizzled up.

Canoodlin’ - A Maine nicety for pleasurable dalliance atween the sexes, mostly casual – in the bushes or behind the chip pile.

Fence Viewer - A minor town official whose duties have become obsolete. In early times when there was a dispute between neighbors as to how much of a (boundary) line fence each should build or maintain, the fence viewer would help settle the matter. He was not meant to be a surveyor; he was concerned only with construction.

Gunin’ - unting with a firearm.

Hornswoggle - Standard definitions say it means to swindle or cheat, but Mainers used it to indicate amazement or a happy surprise as in, “Look who’s here. Well, I’ll be hornswoggled!”

Fish peas - Spawn, roe, caviar, haddock eggs.

Bluenose - A less than complimentary nickname for Nova Scotians, whose noses are supposed to reflect the rigors of their climate. Mainers used the term contemptuously for both the people and their boats, as Nova Scotians competed on the fishing grounds.

Daow! - Along coastal Maine, it means an emphatic NO!

Cuss - To use profane language toward a person. Also, a contraction for cussid, as in “I can’t get the cussid thing to run!”

Away - Any other place, non-native. A person who has lived fifty years in your town and paid his taxes faithfully would not be called a furriner but will still be “from away.”

Comeupance - An unhappy occurrence. “Myra’s rich aunt died, and Myra sure got her comeuppance when it turned out the old lady left everything to the church.”

Clabbids - Clapboards.

Floridy - Florida

Drownded - Drowned

Boughten - Store bought – not home-made. The young lady wore a store-boughten dress.

Store choppers - False teeth.

Boston eggs - Brown eggs. Maine family farms separated brown and white eggs. White eggs went to New York.

- Another term for “hind side to,” meaning what it is when it isn’t, or back to front, in reverse. You had to be an old-time Mainer to get this one.

Woods - Preferred Maine term for forest.

- Mainers propensity for transferring a picture from one context to another. Two dogs fighting is jarring and noisy. “That god-awful thing! I wouldn’t wear it to a dog fight.”

State of Maine
 - Out of staters marvel at Mainers insistence on using the full title. People come from Delaware, Floridy or Vermont, but Mainers come from The State of Maine. Interestingly, when Maine separated from Massachusetts, much pondering took place regarding the new state’s title; it is said that most Mainers “had no desire to be another damn commonwealth.”

Hound dog mile - The distance a hound dog chases a rabbit before the hound dog drops dead. Used in estimating distances.

And finally, a word that was puzzling to all who read our story on The Windham Hill Club (The Windham Eagle – April 1, 2022). This group of neighborhood citizens worked tirelessly for decades beautifying the Hill and conducting fund raisers for various charities. It was said that they mowed and planted flowers at the “heater piece” on Windham Hill. We were able to define heater piece as a triangular plot of land, but our readers wondered, “How did it get that name?” At last, we know. John Gould’s book provides us with a clear definition:

Heater Piece - The common household flatiron, made hot on top of a stove, was triangular in shape and was called a heater. A heater piece is thus a triangular plot of land; specifically, a grassy place at a road intersection left untraveled by wagons that always cut the corners.

In his introduction (or overture) to Maine Lingo, Gould writes “Maine speech is essentially a conversation of poetic images in which similes and metaphors are derived and applied.”

The book also observes that the unique northeast vernacular persisted and grew for nearly 300 years until “TV, radio and other leveling media began to seriously erode regional speech distinctions.”

Gould (1908 – 2003) wrote dozens of books over 62 years. His collection, the historic switchboard and thousands of other artifacts will come together soon inside the several clabidded museum buildings known as the Village Green. We feel certain you will be hornswoggled. <