Friday, December 7, 2012

Readfield History Walk # 5 ~ Readfield Corner before and after the fires of 1921 and 1934

Readfield History Walkers enjoyed a slide show of historic pictures, set to Ernest “Tink” Rolfe’s oral history. Rolfe’s oral history was recorded on audio tape in 1987 by Dale Potter Clark. He lived in Readfield from 1921 until his death in 1997 and was Readfield’s fire chief for 34years. He was also the sawyer at Mace’s Sawmill for 28years and plowed town roads for 18years. In the oral history Rolfe reminisced about the Readfield Fire Department and many businesses and people he knew over the years.  He also shared at length about the big fires of 1921 and 1934 that essentially destroyed Readfield Corner. Rolfe and his wife Iva were among those burned out in 1934. After the slide show History Walkers journeyed up Readfield’s new sidewalk to and around Readfield Corner, and back through the Union Meeting House trail. History Walkers shared many of their own memories in the process making for a very enjoyable and enlightening day!

Above: These buildings are the only ones that escaped destruction during the big fires of 1921 and 1934. The most historic building that survived the fire is the Dr. Samuel Currier house (now the Community Library). This beautiful old home is pictured in the middle above. To the left of that is (what remains of) the Elmwood Hotel. Rolfe talked about both of those buildings in his oral history.

Below: This location has held many mercantiles over the centuries as well as
the old Readfield Post Office (prior 1965). Some older residents still refer to this as "the Brisbin Block". Brisbin ran a store in here in the 1940s and 50's. Before that storekeepers on this site included D. D. Merriman who dealt in dry & fancy goods, underwear and general merchandise. Very early on, in Colonial times, Capt. John Smith (son of Matthias Sr.) ran his store here. Old accounts tell us of men who gathered at the store, before their military musters, to drink cider and be merry. At times they got rowdy enough to cause townspeople concern. Today this is the Readfield Pub and Emporium.
Above: Readfield Union Meeting House sits on Meetinghouse Green, the site of the (first) old Muster Grounds (mentioned above). Milt Wright is on the Board of Directors of Readfield Union Meeting House and shared about the ongoing efforts to restore the beautiful stained and stenciled windows and the bell tower (see behind him on the ground). This building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The UMH web site tells us more: It was built in 1827 for use by all denominations. In 1868 there were improvements made but since then there have not been changes. Even the old hymnals rest in the pew racks. A visitor truly gets the feeling that he or she is stepping back into the nineteenth century. Charles J. Schumacher's trompe l'oeil murals give the appearance of columns, arches, and wall plaques while in reality the effect is achieved totally with paint on the flat plaster walls. It is a masterful optical illusion. The black walnut and butternut pews, stained glass windows, kerosene chandelier, the wall sconces, painted ceiling, and the lectern are all original. The original Bible also survives.
History Walkers requested a future tour of the Union Meeting House which Milt and Dale (who serves on the UMH advisory board) assured them would happen!
The old vestry of the Union Meeting House. This building was once part of the mansion house of Capt. John Smith (storekeeper mentioned above). His daughter, Ursula Smith Gile, donated the building to UMH in the 1860's, for use as a vestry, and it was moved from her and husband Asa's home to this location. Asa and Ursula (Smith) Gile lived in what we all know as "the house with the iron fence" on Main Street.

Readfield Community Library and home of Dr. Samuel Currier,
Readfield's first physician. This building was donated to Readfield by Currier's g-granddaughter Alice Currier Eaton in the 1940's and maintained by Readfield Little Town Club for many years as Readfield Community House. The building is one of the few Readfield historic homes to survive in its original state.
There is a proposal before the Readfield Select Board to tear this building down and replace it with a modern building. The Select Board has asked for "community support and input for the planning of a new community center."
They are encouraging all to get involved and to provide input. FMI see the May 2013 town newsletter, Readfield Messenger.
The Asa and Ursula (Smith) Gile house as it appeared in 1892. Ursula Gile donated part of her father's (Capt. John Smith) mansion to Union Meeting House for use as a vestry in the 1860's. It now sits adjacent to Readfield Union Meeting House (see above).

Friday, November 16, 2012

Readfield History Walk #4 ~ Fogg Farm Conservation Area

Fogg descendants (at front of the line) Bonnie Lash and
Joanne Fogg-Fournier joined us for this History Walk.

History Walkers hiked the Fogg Farm Conservation Area on Fogg Road. This 15-acre gem was part of the Fogg Farm for nearly two centuries. In the early 1990s, after the farm was subdivided, the land was donated to Readfield with a conservation easement to the Kennebec Land Trust. An easy loop trail winds through mixed forest uplands for 0.4 mile.  Following this we watched the "FOGG Farm video"  made in 1989. In the video Barbara Fogg (wife of Sam Fogg, Jr.) led us through a tour, room by room, while sharing history and showing historical items that were collected by members of the Fogg family for nearly 200 years. A year later the property was sold, the land subdivided, and most of its contents auctioned. The barn was torn down but the original house still stands and is occupied. Walkers also learned about the nearby Gove homestead, Marston Cemetery and the Theodore
Fogg homestead in 2012.
Marston Homestead.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Readfield History Walk # 3 ~ Torsey Pond Nature Preserve

Annette Donaghy at our destination in
Torsey Pond Nature Preserve.

Milt Wright, Dale Potter Clark, Bonnie Gilman-Parlin
Eileen Gilman-Lord, Annette Donaghy and Brenda Boutlier-
Deojay. Barbara Clark-Gilman took the photo.
History Walk #3 was Torsey Pond Nature Preserve. This series of trails wanders through 92 acres of woods, over and alongside a curvy, babbling brook and ultimately comes to a wildlife observatory at a marsh on Torsey Pond. The serene trails are very well marked and skillfully maintained.  The historical background on this walk was the Goucher farm, of which this preserve was once a part, and the transitions of Torsey Pond in name, use and appearance over the past 250 years.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Readfield History Walk # 2 ~ Old Readfield Fairgrounds

We entered the Old Fairgrounds trail from route 17 near
the Maranacook Community School. L to R: Annette
Peterson Donaghy, Betty & Richard Mason, Gary &
Ann Keilty, Barbara Clark Gilman, Milt Wright,
Bonnie Gilman-Parlin, Brenda Boutlier Deojay
and Dale Potter Clark. Photo by Harv Boatman.
History Walk #2 was from the Readfield Town Office via the new sidewalk on Main Street to the Lower Fairgrounds Trail and other trails in the Fairgrounds Complex. Co-stewards Gary Keilty and Milt Wright shared the evolution of that trail and some goals for future expansion and improvements. The walkways are wide and easy to navigate as they wind through woods and fields. Our history on this walk was Kennecook Farm, the old Readfield Muster Grounds, Readfield Agricultural Fair and Readfield Grange Fair. Stories and pictures were shared by those who remembered the Readfield Grange Fair. One walker brought blue ribbons she had won at the Fair as a child. We returned via the old Readfield Memorial Day Parade route (Church Road) and reminisced about the parade and people who used to live along that street.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Readfield History Walk # 1 ~ Macdonald Woods and Readfield Town Forest

These "History Walkers" joined us on our maiden voyage! Brenda Bouthlier Deojay, Annette Peterson Donaghy, Nathalie Giles, David Libby, Barbara Clark Gilman, Eileen Gilman Lord, Bonnie Gilman Parlin, Evelyn Adell Potter, Milt Wright, Gerry (visiting from CA) and Dale Potter Clark. Photo by Harv Boatman.
We kicked off the "Readfield History Walks" in late October with a walking tour of the Readfield Town Forest and the adjoining Macdonald Woods owned by Kennebec Land Trust. Historical features on this walk included: Huntoon Cemetery; the site of District #6 schoolhouse at Palmer Corner; the Seldon Smith (formerly the Macomber) homestead farm foundation; and the Readfield Town Poor Farm & Forest property. The area was settled early on in Readfield’s history and includes North Wayne Road - one of the first roads built in town (in 1776); impressive stone walls; a wide and lengthy sheep / cattle walk; and a very large Town Poor Farm house and barn as evidenced by the foundations. One walker remembered this property when it was still open farmland and some of the buildings were still standing. He also shared that his aunt was one of the many Readfield Corner (Gile Hall) School children who helped plant White Pine there sometime in the 1930’s. FMI about this property visit 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Readfield History Walks are Reborn!

Milt Wright and Dale Potter-Clark
In October 2012 a group formed that calls themselves “The History Walkers.” Some members also participated in the Bicentennial walks of the 1970-80’s. The “History Walkers” have been fortunate to hike some of Readfield's and the Kennebec Land Trust’s nature preserve trails while learning and sharing some Readfield history. Milt Wright, steward of numerous trails in town, guides the group on the hikes while Dale Potter Clark provides historical background of the area, with input from others. On occasion the History Walks are led by guest tour guides and / or historians. We welcome residents from Readfield and surrounding communities as well as those with family roots in Readfield who wish to participate in any given History Walk. Suggestions are welcome for future tours - email Dale at