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MAINE Maine’s History Magazine

Aroostook County

The Lynching of Jim Cullen

Rough justice and cross-border tension

Volume 7, Issue 2

Free 2010

The Patten CCC Camp Hay Lake was home to hundreds of young men

Will Atkins, Master Trapper

Atkins Camps in OxBow served sportsmen for many years


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— Aroostook County —

~ Inside This Edition ~

4 Lieutenant Frank Benn Holden Oakfield native has American Legion post named after him by Jim Burton

7 9

The Patten CCC Camp Hay Lake was home to hundreds of young men by Charles Francis

John W. Jackins: A Great-great-grandfather’s Affidavit Discovered Congressman Cary requested confirmation of events during 1839 by Charles Francis

13 The Orange Order In “The County” Secret order circle in Houlton by Charles Francis

16 Memories Of A First-Year Teacher Teaching requirements were a bit less stringent 45 years ago by Charles Francis

19 Washburn Resident Wrestles Into His 50s “Chico” Hernandez is a UMPI graduate by Charles Francis

21 Travels With Charlie: Day Trips Through Maine History The potato triangle tour by Charles Francis 26 How Ashland Got Its Name The Kentucky/Missouri connection by Charles Francis

30 Will Atkins, Master Trapper Atkins Camps in OxBow served sportsmen for many years by Art Wheaton 40 The Lynching Of Jim Cullen Rough justice and cross-border tension by Charles Francis 42 Reverend Otis Bridges Fort Fairfield preacher lived a moral life by Barbara Adams

44 Bud’s Camp In The County by John McDonald 46 Holts’ Grocery Store A gathering place for the community by Pastor Barry Blackstone

48 The Genealogy Corner In search of Swedish roots by Charles Francis

52 The Madawaska Survey Organization of Aroostook County started here by Ian MacKinnon 56 History Of The Potato Maine’s #1 agricultural industry by Lauren Verlaque 58 Edward Wiggin The man who loved Aroostook by Charles Francis

62 The War That Created The St. John Valley Acadian Community Acadians were at the center of the Seven Years’ War by Charles Francis

Discover Maine Magazine Aroostook County

Published Annually by CreMark, Inc. 10 Exchange Street, Suite 208 Portland, Maine 04101 (207) 874-7720


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Designer & Editor Michele Farrar

Advertising & Sales

Brian Casalinova Dan Grenier Tim Maxfield Craig Palmacci Cesario Rodriguez We could use 1 more good salesperson!

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Field Representative George Tatro

Contributing Writers

Barbara Adams Pastor Barry Blackstone Jim Burton Charles Francis Ian MacKinnon John McDonald Lauren Verlaque Art Wheaton

Maps supplied by Galeyrie Maps & Frames. All maps in this issue are available for reprint at See their ad on page 26.

Discover Maine Magazine is distributed to fraternal organizations, shopping centers, newsstands, grocery and convenience stores, hardware stores, lumber companies, motels, restaurants and other locations throughout this part of Maine.

NO PART of this publication may be reproduced without written permission from CreMark, Inc. Copyright © 2010, CreMark, Inc.

Front cover photo:

View downriver from Houlton

All photos in Discover Maine’s Aroostook County edition show Maine as it used to be, and many are from local citizens who love this part of Maine.

— Aroostook County —


by Michele Farrar

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Notes From The Fayette Ridge

he holidays are behind us once again. This writer’s family got together, had a lovely dinner, exchanged gifts, and caught up on each other’s news. My family is spread throughout the state, and we gather at my sister’s home in Augusta since she is centrally located. (Also because she has a good-sized house with lots of sleeping area.) The family decided to try something new this year — the “Yankee Swap.” This eliminated the need to draw names for gifts at Thanksgiving. Now that the kids are all grown, their names went into the hat, and because my sister’s family is the largest, they kept getting each other’s names and the drawing process quickly became frustrating. My sister-in-law threw out the idea of the Yankee Swap, and, after explaining the process, the family agreed. We threw tradition to the wind. I had a busy work schedule this year and didn’t get to do much holiday shopping. Actually, I farmed it out to my oldest daughter while I

worked. Believing that she understood the concept of the Yankee Swap, I sent her off with my debit card and a wish for creativity. She came back with a fruit basket. Oh, it was lovely — oranges, bananas, three kinds of apples, clementines and grapes, all in an attractive wavy glass bowl and topped with a bright red bow with gold trim. It weighed about ten pounds. I wasn’t thrilled, but it was 9:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve and my options were now nonexistent. The fruit basket (I can’t bring myself to call it a fruit “bowl”) would have to do. As it turned out, my 16-year-old nephew ended up with the fruit basket. He had originally opened up a gift card to Best Buy, and then his older brother, who was next in line to pick a gift, made the strategic move of grabbing the fruit basket from under the tree and immediately trading it for the gift card. I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to wrap a fruit basket, but it is practically impossible. Mine went into a plastic grocery bag, its handles tied cleverly below the red bow. Next to all of the wrapped presents, it didn’t hold much mystery (or appeal). For those of you who are not familiar with

the Yankee Swap, it goes like this: Everyone draws a number. Number One picks a present from the assortment under the tree and opens it. Number Two then picks a gift, opens it, and decides whether to keep it or trade with Number One. Number Three opens a gift, and chooses between that and the other two. It goes like this until everyone has a gift (considerable trading may occur before the Last Number). At this point, Number One gets the choice of all the gifts. (Number One is the best position, obviously.) I know my nephew wasn’t thrilled with the fruit basket, but there are five people in his family, and I know at least some of them like fruit. I’ve always had good luck at Yankee Swaps. I once walked away with a small, battery-operated television, perfect for camping. Another time I got a coffee maker, just days after mine had broken. This year I got a little “Dynamo” radio that has a battery pack that is powered by a crank and also a solar panel. It has AM/FM, the weather channel, a flashlight and a cell phone charger. It will be great for fishing. And, I know my sister enjoyed the fruit.❖

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D iscove r Ma ine



— Aroostook County —

Lieutenant Frank Benn Holden Oakfield native has American Legion post named after him

by Jim Burton

he American Legion Post No. 52 in Oakfield, Maine, in Southern Aroostook county is named in honor of Lieut. Frank Benn Holden, a World War I veteran. Lieut. Holden was born in Oakfield, the son of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Holden. He attended the local grade school in the little railroad community and attended Ricker Classical higher education school, then entered the University of Maine in the class of 1918 and was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity. From there he entered the service as a member of the Second Maine Regimental Band and was promoted to first class musician. Lieut. Holden arrived in France and was assigned to the 103rd, to which his command was brigaded and he was sent to an officers training school. After graduating, he spent some time at the front. He then entered a second school and received his commission. In the last letter written to his mother in October, Lieut. Holden said that he had been

assigned to the 57th Infantry Brigade, and the Brigade had attacked against stiff opposition within five miles of his old regiment. The letter indicated that the action had taken place near Verdum. Word was received later from the Adjutants General office that Lieut. Frank B. Holden had died of gunshot wounds and pneumonia on or about November first of that year. Lieut. Holden would have been 24 years of age on January 24 the following year. Lieut. Holden was survived by his parents and one sister, Miss Nellie Holden, as well as grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Ezekiel Benn. Lieut. Frank B. Holden was buried with his comrades in Flanders Field, France. It is said that Lieut. Frank B. Holden came from fighting stock, as his Grandfather Ezekiel Benn served in the Civil War, and his cousin, Sgt. A. E. Holden, served in the Great War to end all wars. At the end of World War I, the returning

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veterans of the little community of Oakfield banded together to form the new wave of comradeship, with the returning veterans called the American Legion. The group of returning World War I veterans from Oakfield asked for a charter post from the National Organization, and was granted an American Legion charter on September 22, 1919. Knowing that a legion post cannot be named for a living person, they chose the name Frank B. Holden, who had given all for the flag and his country during World War I, and was a member of the Oakfield community. Because Lieut. Holden was held in high esteem by the returning veterans of that war, the American Legion Post No. 52 was named after him. The name of Frank B. Holden Post No. 52 is still held in high esteem with the veterans of the area — World War II veterans, Korean veterans, Viet Nam veterans and the most recent conflict veterans. ❖

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— Aroostook County —

D iscove r Ma ine


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— Aroostook County —

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— Aroostook County —

Shin Pond area, 1875

The Patten CCC Camp Hay Lake was home to hundreds of young men by Charles Francis


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ay Lake lies almost due west of Shin Pond. It is one of those places where if someone asks for directions you can say with a good deal of truth “You can’t get there from here.” The scenery surrounding Hay Lake is magnificent. Hay Lake lies in the Matagamon Wilderness. It is a little-inhabited region, one of splendid natural beauty, of streams, lakes and mountains. Today the most frequent visitors to the area are hunters, fishermen, hikers and campers. Back in the 1930s, however, Hay Lake was home to hundreds of young men — youths belonging to the CCC’S 159th Company. Anyone who grew up during the Depression will tell you it was a tough time. In all too many instances, when the family bread winner had a job, it was more than likely part-time or temporary. This kind of job didn’t do a great deal toward paying bills, much less putting sufficient food on the family dinner table. The Depression saw more teenagers drop out of school than in any other period in the country’s history. They dropped out to help their families by getting a job. For most, though, there weren’t any jobs. Then President Roosevelt signed the Emergency Conservation Act. The act created the CCC — the

(Continued on page 8)

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— Aroostook County —

28 camps were home to an estimated 17,000 The function of the CCC under the Maine (Continued from page 7) Civilian Conservation Corps. Suddenly there young men between 1933 and 1942. 17,000 Forest Service was to open up lines of comwere jobs for young people — boys, anyway. strong, able-bodied young men had a major munication in the Maine Forestry District. Youths in CCC companies worked every- impact in some of the most beautiful places in The Maine Forestry District is that region of where in the then-48 states as well as in Alaska Maine, an impact that today’s generation is Maine not served by municipal government, and Hawaii. Almost all of them worked out- largely ignorant of. The work of the CCC specifically fire departments. The once-famildoors. They worked in the wilderness muck- men who made their home at the Hay Lake iar green fire towers were one of the first coning out roads, they worked in parks planting Camp serves as an example of the impact the centrated efforts in fighting forest fires in the trees, and they worked for the betterment of CCC had in the state. Maine Forestry District. the environment. They did this because conThanks to the Maine Folklife Center and We know the stories of Hay Lake Camp servation was one of President Roosevelt’s the Maine State Archives, we know some facts CCC men like Denzil Bryant and Malcolm pet projects. Williams because of their children. 2008 marked the 75th anniversary of They took the time to write down their The 28 camps were home to an the creation of the CCC. There were fathers’ stories for the Maine State estimated 17,000 young men between celebrations all across the country. Men Archives. The recollections of Tom 1933 and 1942. These men had a major in their 80s and 90s attended cereDesjardines are first-hand. impact in some of the most beautiful monies to be honored and tell stories. Tom Desjardines, like most other places in Maine. Back in 2001 Maine honored the CCC young men who served in the CCC in with the Civilian Conservation Corps Maine, was inducted into the corps at We know the stories of Hay Lake Camp Boys Statue. It is near the Maine State Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth. There men like Denzil Bryant and Malcolm Library in Augusta. was intelligence testing: completing a Williams because their children wrote Those who venture into the woods sequence of simple numbers, for extheir fathers’ stories for the of Maine or visit the state’s parks may ample. Young men were also given Maine State Archives. run across a descriptive plaque comclothes. The structure of the CCC was memorating the young men of CCC. decidedly military. That is why there They built bridges, trails and the like at Acadia about the young men who worked with the were companies. There were also company National Park, Camden State Park, and CCC. At Hay Lake they had names like Den- commanders. In some cases the commanders around Sebago. The work at these locations is zil Bryant, Tom Desjardines and Malcolm were military reservists. There were good reafairly well-known, but doesn’t begin to ac- Williams. These three and a lot of other sons for using the military model for the count for the total impact of the CCC in young men worked deep in the north woods CCC. Maine, especially in more remote areas like the building roads. The roads were intended to Many of the young men who became part Matagamon Wilderness. help combat that most dreaded of north of the CCC were from urban environments. The stories of those young CCC men who woods occurrences — forest fire. They had never seen wilderness. They needed worked in Maine might well be a forgotten The CCC had three camps in the general discipline and they needed direction. Road part of the state’s history were it not for a few Katahdin/Moosehead area. Hay Lake was work, felling trees and the like is dangerous. belated attempts to collect and collate the rec- one. As the nearest town to the lake is Patten, CCC workers at the Hay Lake Camp put in ollections of the rapidly dwindling number of the camp is sometimes referred to as the Pat- the road that leads to Katahdin by way of CCC veterans or their offspring’s remem- ten Camp. The other two camps of the Horse Mountain. At one point construction brances of parent’s tales. Fortunately, the Katahdin/Moosehead area were the entailed drilling and blasting with dynamite. Maine Folklife Center at the University of Millinocket Foster Field Camp and the Another of the Hay Lake Camp projects inMaine at Orono and the Maine State Archives Moosehead Camp at Greenville. The Foster volved building a road that was to link up with are doing just this. Unfortunately, it is too late Field Camp sometimes appears as the Baxter one under construction by the Moosehead in all too many cases, for — believe it or not Park Camp. These three camps fell under the Camp at Greenville. These were construction — there were 28 CCC camps in Maine. The jurisdiction of the Maine Forest Service. projects of some magnitude requiring diligence, care and dedication. The State of Maine owes a debt of gratitude to the young men who but for the CCC Matthew Anderson might never have gone on to serve their counLicensed Master Electrician try in other ways. Denzil Bryant and Malcolm Williams both went into the Army at the • Residential onset of WW II. Many, many other CCC men • Commercial Specializing in Hair on Hides joined them. Theirs was an act of service which began in America’s wilderness — Registered Maine Guide • Industrial wilderness like that surrounding Hay Lake. ❖

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Other businesses from this area are featured in the color section.

— Aroostook County —

John W. Jackins:

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A Great-great-grandfather’s Affidavit Discovered Congressman Cary requested confirmation of events during 1839


by Charles Francis

istory gets revised all the time. This doesn’t necessarily mean reinterpreted, though it can and often does mean just that. Nor does it necessarily mean what is often referred to as historical revisionism, a term which is generally taken as indicating or reflecting contemporary values and mores. Historical revision can occur because of new evidence coming to light and this may just have happened with the discovery of the almost 200-year-old affidavit of John W. Jackins of Hodgdon. John W. Jackins gave his affidavit in 1843. The affidavit relates to his experiences in 1839. In early 1839 tensions in the Aroostook region threatened to break into full-fledged conflict. John Jackins was employed by Houlton lumberman Shepard Cary at the time. The Jackins affidavit would appear to have been given at Cary’s behest. It reposed in Cary papers until 2008. Then it was discovered by John Jackins’ great-great grandson Eugene A. Jackins. Eugene Jackins was kind enough to send a copy of his ancestor’s affidavit to Discover Maine. He hoped the magazine might find use for it. Mr. Jackins also included this photograph of his great-great grandfather. In his cover letter Eugene Jackins suggested that his ancestor’s statement shed new light on Bruce Wallace, Owner the events of the Aroostook War. This certainly appears to be the case. None of the accounts • Breakfast of the Aroostook War that this writer is famil• Lunch iar with mention the events described in John • Dinner Jackins’ statement. Nor do they mention Jack• Hot & Cold Sandwiches ins. • Pizza Eugene Jackins is one of the volunteers Open Mon-Sat 6am-10pm Sun 8am-10pm working on the Houlton bicentennial. This • Groceries work includes bringing together Shepard Cary’s • Gas papers at the Houlton library. That library is

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(Continued on page 10)

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D iscove r Ma ine

— Aroostook County —

the Aroostook War. The most often cited appraisal of that conflict of (Continued from page 9) named in Cary’s honor. It was among these papers that the John W. interest is that of Maine historian Henry Burrage. It is found in Burrage’s 1919, Maine in the Northeastern Boundary Controversy. Burrage does Jackins affidavit was discovered. Shepard Cary was an important figure in the early history of Houl- not mention Parrott. What happened according to the John Jackins statement was as folton, the Aroostook region and Maine. More than anyone else, Cary is credited with developing the timber industry of what would become lows. William Parrott stopped the timber drive. Jackins and the others Aroostook County. Cary was a state legislator and senator. In fact, he working on the drive left. They then met Shepard Cary at Woodstock, was a member of the state legislature at the time of the Aroostook New Brunswick. Cary directed the men to return. They were unable to complete the drive, however. Water levels had dropped. This was War. He went on to be elected to Congress. In 1839 John Jackins was working as a timber driver for Shepard early spring of 1839. At the time, negotiations between the United States and Britain were underway to resolve Cary on the Aroostook River. In this time the issue as to just who had authority in the period timber was driven from such rivers as John Jackins gave his general area of the Aroostook River. The the Aroostook and the Fish to the St. John. statement on June 27, 1843. chief American negotiator was General From there it descended the river to the port In it he says that Shepard Cary lost Winfield Scott. Historians seem in agreeof St. John, New Brunswick for shipping. a substantial amount of valuable ment that Scott facilitated the subsequent British or Canadian authorities are generally timber. Was this why Cary had reduction in tensions. At the time, however, considered as interfering with American log Jackins give his affidavit? Mainers believed that British or Canadian drives in the region of the Aroostook and authorities were in control of the disputed Fish rivers in the period just before and durregion. John Jackins’ statement clearly shows something different. ing the Aroostook War. John Jackins gave his statement on June 27, 1843. In it he says that In his cover letter Eugene Jackins says his great-greatgrandfather’s affidavit “clears up incorrect and past information. It Shepard Cary lost a substantial amount of valuable timber. Jackins says was thought that the British soldiers and Canadian militia were stop- that some 500 tons of timber jammed at Aroostook Falls. This was ping timber movements, but no! It was the American Capt. William due to the actions of William Parrott. Jackins gives an 1840 price of Parrott....” Parrott, Jackins says, “was not sure of the origin of the six dollars a ton for timber. He says that the price was probably higher timber…” that his ancestor and others were employed in driving for in 1839. So exactly who was William Parrott? Parrott was a Maine state surShepard Cary. The name William Parrott is not found in the common accounts of veyor. In 1839 he was employed as a state land agent. In that capacity


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— Aroostook County —

Parrott was placed in charge of the civil force in the Aroostook region. This introduces a further question. Why did Shepard Cary have John Jackins give his affidavit? From the above facts one might conclude that William Parrott cost Shepard Cary a fair amount of money. Shepard Cary ran for Congress in 1843. He took his seat the next year. A Congressman would have a good chance of successfully pursuing restitution for losses in circumstances such as those of the spring of 1839. Was this why Cary had John Jackins give his affidavit? It would seem a logical conclusion. Discover Maine Magazine and this writer wish to thank Eugene Jackins for sharing his discovery.❖ Other businesses from this area are featured in the color section.


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Shepard Cary (1805-1866) was born in New Salem, Massachusetts. He married Susannah Whitaker in 1832. They lived in Houlton, where Shepard moved in 1822.

He served in both the Maine State Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives. The artist of this 1840 portrait was known both as Albert Tracy and Albert Tracy Haddock.

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— Aroostook County —

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Early view of Market Square, Houlton

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— Aroostook County —

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The Orange Order In “The County”


by Charles Francis


Secret order circle in Houlton

ometimes obituaries can provide unexpected insights into something more than just the personal history of a particular individual. Sometimes obituaries can serve as a window into the past. Take, for example, the obituary of Claude Clark of Houlton. Claude Clark’s obituary tells us that he owned a machine shop where he built wagons and provided automotive maintenance, that he owned a farm, and that he was Houlton Fire Chief in the 1920s. It also tells us that he was “prominent in secret order circles, being a Master Mason, member of the Orange Lodge at Houlton; and connected with the Modern Woodman of America and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.” The obituary tells us Clark was born in Lincoln and that his parents came from New Brunswick. It gives the name of his wife and children. On the surface it appears that there is little

out of the ordinary in Claude Clark’s life, except for one bit of phrasing, that Clark was “prominent in secret order circles.” Americans have a fascination with secret societies. One reason for this is that they seem to foster conspiracy theories. Another is the fact that some do real harm. To this day, conspiracy theories surround the death of John F. Kennedy. The Cosa Nostra is a secret society, one that fascinates, as the popularity of movies and television shows like The Godfather and The Sopranos clearly illustrates. Most of the societies that Claude Clark belonged to are as evident in Maine today as they were in Clark’s day. That is but for the Orange Lodge. The Masons, Modern Woodman and Elks are all benign fraternal groups noted for good deeds. The Orange Lodge has little in common with the Masons or Modern Woodman or Elks other than the fact it is a fraternal organization. The Orange Lodge is noted for promoting bigotry and violence


against Catholics, certain Protestant sects like the Unitarians, and a variety of minority groups. It is a Protestant fraternal group which has been compared to the Ku Klux Klan. The Orange Order has its origins in Northern Ireland, and has been involved in the violence there. That point aside, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Order was strong in North America, especially in Canada. Just over the border from Houlton, in St. John, New Brunswick, the Order was involved in a long-term series of violent acts in the mid-nineteenth century. Even closer to Houlton, Woodstock, New Brunswick saw a full-scale riot involving the Orange Order in 1847. The United States also saw violence connected to the Orange Order in the mid-nineteenth century. On July 12, 1871 nine people were killed and over 100 injured during an

(Continued on page 14)


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D iscove r Ma ine

— Aroostook County —

(Continued from page 13) Catholics. It needs to be noted that the Ku Klux Orange Order demonstration in New York City. Klan also claimed members in Aroostook County in Claude Clark was not the only Houlton-area man the 1920s. None other than Aroostook County involved with the Orange Order. Businessman and Sheriff George Knox was a member. farmer Charles Starkey was, too, during the same From time to time, the curtain is drawn back to time that Clark was. Starkey also had New reveal disturbing, often tragic activities stemming Brunswick associations. He was born there, in from a clandestine group. The social violence in Queens County. And not only was he a member of New Brunswick and New York of the mid- ninethe Houlton Orange Lodge, Starkey also claimed teenth century is a clear example of this. It has been membership in the Royal Black Knights of Ireland. indisputably connected to Orange Order practices. The Black Knights are a subgroup within the OrIt is generally accepted that the Orange Order in ange Lodge. the United States came here from Canada. Given Orange Order membership requirements include that many Canadians immigrated here in the mid- to belief in the Trinity. This excludes Unitarians and all late 1800s, it is not surprising that some brought non-Christians. Orange Order members face extheir particular prejudices with them. Thus, we have pulsion for attending any Catholic religious cerean explanation as to how it was that Houlton came mony. Some chapters exclude Protestants with a to have an Orange Lodge. Catholic parent from membership. The Orange Order almost completely died out in Dressed for Orange Order The Orange Order does support some charities. the United States in the 1940s. The Orange Lodge These charities include cancer research, support for of Houlton was so small as to be almost- but not orphans and unemployment insurance and death benefits for mem- quite- insignificant. Today the fact that the Houlton Orange Lodge, bers. along with The Royal Black Knights of Ireland did exist stands a good While the Orange Order of the days of Claude Clark and Charles reason for being a bit paranoid about the ultimate goals and objectives Starkey did perform some worthwhile functions, it is also clear that of certain clandestine societies.❖ the Order had a darker side. While there is no definite evidence to back up certain allegations of the time, it seems that the Houlton OrOther businesses from this area ange Order may have directed some of its negativism at the town’s are featured in the color section. Unitarian church. The same is true in regard to Aroostook County

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— Aroostook County —

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— Aroostook County —

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Memories Of A First-Year Teacher 16


Teaching requirements were a bit less stringent 45 years ago

by Charles Francis

y teaching career began with the 1965-66 school year at Central Aroostook High School in Mars Hill. Looking back on that experience with the perspective of someone who spent his adult career in education, I know that my first year of teaching was little different from the first year of most classroom novices. Like the majority of new teachers who enter the classroom fresh out of college, I came with a certain set of expectations based on what I had acquired in the previous four years. And like the majority who start teaching right out of college, I found myself ill-prepared for the actual job of classroom teacher. Fortunately, however, the majority of the teaching staff at Central Aroostook High School, at the time I began teaching, consisted of a large number of what are today referred to as master teachers, and they were individuals who went out of their way to help neophytes like me. When I began teaching at Central Aroost-

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ook High School, the school, as well as the entire district was in a state of transition. In fact, Central Aroostook High School had just come into existence, recently having had its name changed from Aroostook Central Institute. The name change had come about because Mars Hill and the surrounding communities like Bridgewater and Monticello were undergoing the education restructuring that was sweeping across Maine at the time, with the creation of school districts which were supposed to be better able to meet the educational needs of the students they served. The teacher in today’s Maine school, with its myriad of support staff and system of educational checks and balances, would be shocked to learn how I became a teacher in the Mars Hill school district, and the fact that there was little in the way of support staff. In fact, when I taught there, Central Aroostook High School didn’t even have a guidance counselor.

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Most individuals seeking employment in Maine’s public schools when I was starting out registered with Margaret Arbor, who ran the Maine Department of Education’s teacher placement office in Augusta. And that is, in fact, the route I followed. After registering, I got a summer job and waited to see if I would be contacted. The contact came in the form of a phone call from the district superintendent, who asked me if I wanted to teach high school English. Ten minutes into the call I had a position as a classroom teacher and had volunteered to put on a variety show and direct a play for the state one-act play contest. No interview was necessary, and the fact that I did not have a teaching certificate as well as the fact that I was eligible for the draft would be taken care of. Shortly after that I showed up in Mars Hill and secured an apartment in Blaine right under that occupied by Jim Coolong, one of the high school’s math teachers.


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— Aroostook County —

The building that housed Central Aroostook High School — it has since been replaced by a new one — was one of those old Maine high schools that had rung to the voices of generations of young people. The stair treads and banisters were worn with the passage of untold numbers of feet and hands, and the floors had been reduced to bare wood with the passage of time. In more than one sense it spoke to a time long past, as did my second floor classroom, which most teachers would envy today because it had its own huge closet complete with a work area where I could spread out papers and teaching materials for easy access. While there was no support staff — the principal, Bill Yerxa, doubled as guidance teacher — the faculty for the most part had years of experience that more than made up for what some today would declare a glaring deficiency. Two teachers had just returned from earning graduate degrees in their respective fields: Jim Coolong in mathematics at the University of San Diego, and Sal Perry in science at Tuskeegee Institute. In addition, a number of teachers had devoted most of their lives to serving the educational needs of the area, and knew and understood students

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in a way that few teachers do today. This latter group included Stan Strombach, a man known and respected across the state for his dedication as a teacher, and the agriculture teacher who everyone simply referred to as “Whit.” Today’s teachers rely heavily on audiovisual materials. Previous Central Aroostook High School English teachers had done little to develop this resource — for which I was grateful — but had rather devoted what funds had been allocated to them for the purchase of teaching materials to acquiring anthologies, a wide variety of classic and modern literary works, vocabulary books and what was once a staple in English classrooms across the country, Warriner’s Handbook of English. In fact, it was due to the wealth of reading materials that I could make a variety of assignments, one of which produced a rather useful classroom learning experience. One of my students was an exceptionally bright young man by the name of Rodney Lawrence. Rodney, being bright, liked to show off at times. One day when students were asking me what certain books were about so that they could pick one for a report, someone asked about a work by James Baldwin. Rod-


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ney piped up and said he knew all about Baldwin because they were close relatives. After Rodney had gone on about Baldwin for a bit, I blandly commented that he was a Black who wrote about the Black experience in America. This incident resulted in a unit on attitudes among Blacks and whites as expressed in such books as To Kill a Mockingbird. Another student who stands out in my mind was a brilliant young actress by the name of Sharon Barnes, who had the lead in the one-act play we did — Synge’s Riders to the Sea. I have seen professional productions of the play in which Sharon could easily have taken over as lead. At times I still wonder if she ever realized her potential. I spent the bulk of my teaching career in the mid-coast region. At times I came in contact with people associated with Central Aroostook High School, which made me look back on my first year of teaching with nostalgia for times past. Only those who went there or to schools like it as students, or who taught there or in schools like it forty or more years ago, can begin to comment as to whether education has changed for the better.❖ Other businesses from this area are featured in the color section.

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Your Hosts: Danny & Sandy Collins

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— Aroostook County —

Cars and marchers pass by businesses and observers during a parade in Presque Isle, circa 1952. The cinema marquee reads “In technicolor, Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen.” Image #197 from the collections of the Maine Historical Society and

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— Aroostook County —

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Washburn Resident Wrestles Into His 50s


by Charles Francis

“Chico” Hernandez is a UMPI graduate

ames “Chico” Hernandez was born in 1954. And today he is an ac- wrestling match depends on the skills and abilities of the competitors. tive wrestler! He is a world-class wrestler. Well into his 50s, Her- These points aside, it needs to be said that Chico Hernandez isn’t the oldest competing wrestler with ties to Maine. nandez continues to place in the very top echelon of his While I am not sure who the oldest Maine wrestler is, it could chosen sport. very well be Robbie Ellis. At least Ellis is one of the betterHernandez is a member of the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. known. Ellis, whose real name is Rob Elowitch, was born in His induction was in 2006. That was the same year that All1943. He is a professional wrestler and remarkable enough Star baseball shortstop Mike Bordick was inducted. Herto have been featured in Sports Illustrated. Elowitch also had nandez is also a member of the University of Maine at a career as an amateur. He wrestled at Amherst College and Presque Isle (UMPI) Athletic Hall of Fame. as an AAU amateur. Elowitch is co-owner of Portland’s Over the years Chico Hernandez has garnered an incredBarridoff Galleries. His sister was mayor of Portland. His ible number of awards and accolades. He has even had his father founded Yudy’s Tire. features memorialized on a Wheaties box. That was in 2001. I have always been drawn to wrestling. I was a Hernandez was welcomed into the Wheaties very unsuccessful wrestler in high school. That Breakfast of Champions family by Tiger Woods James “Chico” Hernandez lack of success didn’t stop me from further inand Mary Lou Retton. volvement in the sport. I was assistant coach to One of the remarkable things about Chico Hernandez wrestling into his 50s is the fact that he is an amateur, not a Bill Graves at North Yarmouth Academy. Graves, a product of the professional. This is not to denigrate the physical demands made on Springfield College powerhouse wrestling program, was one of the professional wrestlers — they are great. But as everyone who follows greatest of all Maine wrestling coaches at the secondary school level. professional wrestling knows, the outcome of a professional match is When I coached under Graves, Rob Elowitch joined us as a volunteer governed by other than the prowess of a particular wrestler. Chico coach. The greatest wrestling match I ever saw in person took place (Continued on page 20) Hernandez is an amateur wrestler. The outcome of an amateur

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— Aroostook County —

D iscove r Ma ine

(Continued from page 19)

late one afternoon between Graves and Elowitch. I was the only witness. Elowitch and Graves were great amateurs. Neither, however, established the amateur credentials of Chico Hernandez. While I attended some University of Maine at Presque Isle wrestling matches when I taught at Central Aroostook High School in Mars Hill, it was before Hernandez’s era. Then I heard about this great UMPI wrestler. That was in the late ‘70s. I went to a UMPI match and then made it a point to attend another. Unfortunately, this was during Hernandez’s last year of college wrestling. What I saw, however, convinced me that Hernandez’s skills were such that any knowledgeable wrestling fan would want to see him in competition. Chico Hernandez wrestled one year at Chicago State. There he placed second in District 20. That was in 1976. The next three years Hernandez was at UMPI. Each year he was District 10 champion. Following graduation from UMPI, Hernandez served as the college’s wrestling coach for a year. Then he enlisted in the Army. There he won three 1st Infantry Division championships. That, however, would seem to be just the beginning of Hernandez’s incredible career. According to Courier Publication’s Maine Coast Now, Hernandez, who makes his home in Washburn, has garnered in excess of thirty championship titles. Worldwide Grappling Forum places the number higher. Hernandez wrestles Sombo or Sambo style. Sombo’s origins are Russian. The style developed out of necessity back when the Mongols and Vikings were invading Russia. It enabled those who were unable to obtain weapons to defend themselves. Sombo includes elements of

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the free-style wrestling that today most Americans think of as amateur wrestling, and Greco-Roman wrestling, which most of us only see every four years on Olympic telecasts. Judo is there too, as are elements from most every other martial art form. There have been a lot of Maine athletes who competed at an elite level well into middle-age and beyond. Weight lifter Ernie Gilbert, owner of famed Gilly’s Gym in Waterville comes to mind. So, too, does bodybuilder Ed Flanders, owner of Bay Area Fitness in Belfast. Then there is University of Maine at Orono graduate and retired college biology professor Bernd Heinrich. Heinrich, born in 1940, holds, as of this writing, the American ultra-marathon records for 100 miles and 100 kilometers. These records are open class records, not age group records. Heinrich represents ‘the’ absolute epitome of athleticism. So does James “Chico” Hernandez. For me, there is one thing above all others that stands out about Chico Hernandez. He is a role model. He is a role model by example. He is, of course, a model for young people. But there is more. I am a bit more than a decade older than Chico. I have always exercised and well into middle-age competed in a variety of sports. Yet, sometimes I question the lifestyle. I was doing so when a friend pointed me to an article about Chico. It was just what I needed! Thank you, Chico.❖ Other businesses from this area are featured in the color section.

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— Aroostook County —

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Travels With Charlie: Day Trips Through Maine History

The potato triangle tour


by Charles Francis

roostook is a county like no other in Maine and the United States. More than a million acres of Aroostook lands are under cultivation. Nearly four times that acreage is commercial forest land. This acreage supports a complementary blend of recreational and vacation opportunities and industrial development. While it was Aroostook forests that drew the bulk of the earliest settlers, it was the potato that made Aroostook famous. It isn’t hard to understand how the potato made Aroostook County famous when one realizes that in the 1880s “the County” produced onefourth of all America’s potato needs. In the 1960s potato production reached 38,500,000 cwt. That figure comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture likes to use its particular brand of measurements. Cwt. is “Agspeak” for hundredweight. Cwt. means character

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width table. A cwt. equals 100 pounds. In other words, Aroostook County produces a phenomenal amount of potatoes. Just multiply 38,500,000 by 100! This means there are a lot of acres devoted to growing potatoes.

It is something to see, the thousands of acres of land devoted to the potato when the fields are in bloom. When there is a breeze, it is like looking out over an ocean of green topped by white, purple-tinged whitecaps. The whitecaps are potato blossoms. One of the best places to take in this amazing sight is that section of Aroostook County known as the Potato Triangle.

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(Continued on page 22)


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The points of the Potato Triangle have Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield at the base, and Caribou at the apex. There is a bit of a jog on the west to include Washburn. The Potato Triangle makes for a wonderful day trip. Taking it with a view to understand the significance of the potato in the “County,” one begins to understand how the potato made Aroostook famous. There are scores of potato warehouses, plus plants and factories for freezing potatoes or turning them into starch. Then there is Fort Fairfield. “Fort” has laid claim to growing more potatoes than any other town in the world. This day trip may begin at any of the towns included on the Potato Triangle. Taking about fifty miles, the trip passes through a land of wide-open spaces and rolling hills, and includes stops where Aroostook history comes alive. There is the Northern Maine Museum


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— Aroostook County —

D iscove r Ma ine

(Continued from page 21)

of Science at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, the Aroostook Agricultural Museum in Washburn, the Nylander Museum in Caribou, and the Fort Fairfield Blockhouse replica.

Presque Isle 1884

The points of the Potato Triangle have Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield at the base, and Caribou at the apex. There is a bit of a jog on the west to include Washburn. This day trip follows Parsons Street and Parsons Road from Presque Isle to Washburn. Route 164 from Washburn to Caribou. Route 161 from Caribou to Fort Fairfield. And the Currier Road and Marshall Road and Route 201 from Fort Fairfield to Presque Isle. Presque Isle is said to be so named because Presque Isle Stream and the Aroostook River make it “almost an island.” In 1966 Presque Isle was named “All America City.” Part of the

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— Aroostook County —

reason for this singular honor had to do with the closing of the World War II air base, signaling potential economic disaster and the transforming of that base into an industrial park. The Northern Maine Museum of Science, one of the state’s newest museums, continues this tradition of development. Devoted to science education, the museum houses exhibits ranging from natural history to a model of the solar system. There are forestry displays, an herbarium and marine and fresh water shell collections. Washburn was first known as Salmon Brook. It takes its present day name from Governor Israel Washburn, the state’s Civil War governor. In many respects Washburn began as an international community. Many of the first settlers came from New Brunswick. Today the Salmon Brook Historical Society operates two museums: the Benjamin C. Wilder Farmstead and the Aroostook Agricultural Museum. Both museums take visitors back in time. The Aroostook Agricultural Museum has displays of that period when the potato was fast becoming the backbone of Aroostook’s economy, back when one of the locally grown potatoes went by the name of Lobster Brand. (Continued on page 24)




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Fort Fairfield 1884

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— Aroostook County —

Caribou 1884

Other businesses from this area are featured in the color section.

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(Continued from page 23)

Caribou takes its name from the animal of that name. One of the sons of Alexander Cochran, an early settler, shot a caribou. This was back in 1829. Even then the animal was a rarity in Maine. To commemorate the event, Cochran named the stream where his family built their homestead “Caribou Stream.” The Nylander Museum in Caribou devotes much of its space to the natural history of Maine. There are over 6000 specimens relating to the science of conchology (the study of mollusks) as well as geology and marine plants. Swedish-born Olaf Nylander, a geologist and naturalist, began the collections. Seasonal art exhibits celebrate Maine’s flora and fauna. Fort Fairfield takes its name from the period of the bloodless Aroostook War. In the late 1830s New Brunswick and Maine had yet to accept a mutual border. Governor John Fairfield sent militia to the disputed region. In 1839 the troopers built a blockhouse for defense. This explains the origin of Fort Fairfield’s name. The replica of the original blockhouse was built under the auspices of the local historical society, Frontier Heritage. Frontier Heritage has worked to preserve a

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— Aroostook County —

number of other local points of historic significance, including the Fort Fairfield Rail Museum and Fort Fairfield’s last one-room schoolhouse.

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to see how local residents have devoted countless hours and much labor to preserving what makes Aroostook the unique county it is. ❖

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— Aroostook County —

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How Ashland Got Its Name

by Charles Francis

The Kentucky/Missouri connection

shland, one of Aroostook County’s westernmost towns, was named to honor Senator Henry Clay. Today, high school students best know that southern politician as a War Hawk — a saber rattler who called for the United States to declare war on Great Britain in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Clay saw war with England as a way for the United States to annex all of British North America, as Canada was then known. Kentuckian Henry Clay also played an important role in Maine becoming a state. That is why, when it came to choosing a name for Township #11, Range 5 in 1862, the name the town

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fathers opted on at the time of incorporation was Ashland. Ashland was the name of Henry Clay’s Kentucky mansion and estate. John McHatton, an Ashland native, is a good friend of mine. I once asked him if he knew of his hometown’s connection to Henry Clay. He didn’t. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that I was a U.S. history teacher and John was a math teacher. We were both teaching in the same high school at the time. Too, the fact that I knew why Ashland had been named might have had something to do with the fact that I had recently discovered that a branch of my family had been among the first set-

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tlers of the town, and what I really wanted was to know if John knew anything of them. Unfortunately, he didn’t. The relatives I was researching at the time were named Howe. The family patriarch of the Ashland branch of the family was one Benjamin Howe. Benjamin Howe was one of the very earliest settlers of the region, situated at the confluence of the Big Machias and the Aroostook rivers. It appears that the only settler to precede Howe in the area was William Dalton. Dalton is commonly thought to be the first settler of Township #11, Range 5. For this reason the township bore

(Continued on page 28)

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— Aroostook County —

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— Aroostook County —

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(Continued from page 26)

Senator Henry Clay

his name for a brief period in the late 1800s. The early settlers of Ashland are identified for the most part as coming from Kennebec County. This would not seem to be the case with either William Dalton or Benjamin Howe. Some genealogical sources indicate that William Dalton was born in the Island Falls area. The same sources suggest he was a mover, not a builder. William Dalton came to what would become Ashland shortly before 1836. Though he is identified as Ashland’s first settler, he did not sink roots there. Instead, he sold off his holdings to two of the community’s other early settlers, Elbridge Dunn and John Gilman. Dalton no longer appears in township records after 1844. While Benjamin Howe may have lived for a brief period in Winthrop in Kennebec County, his origins are in Massachusetts. Benjamin Howe’s lineage extends back to Sudbury. His is the Howe family that is famous for establishing Sudbury’s Red Horse Tavern. This is the tavern that gained renown as Longfellow’s Wayside Inn.


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— Aroostook County —

Benjamin Howe was descended of Samuel Howe through Ebenezer Howe. Benjamin Howe’s immediate ancestors settled in Worcester, Massachusetts. From there, several, including Benjamin, moved to Winthrop. Winthrop, however, was more of a way station for Benjamin’s pioneering the Aroostook River Valley. Benjamin Howe, unlike William Dalton, was looking for the place where he could sink roots. After coming to what would become Ashland, he stayed, married and raised a family. He died there in 1881. In short, Howe was a resident of Township #11, Range 5 when it was incorporated, and when Ashland was renamed Dalton, and when it was named Ashland again. Benjamin Howe was Ashland’s first permanent resident. The reason for the naming of Ashland to honor Henry Clay relates to the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

As every Maine high school student learns, Missouri wanted to enter the union as a slave state. If that happened, it meant the South would control the U.S. Senate. At the time there were eleven free and eleven slave states. If Missouri became a state, then the South stood a chance of legalizing slavery throughout the United States. Northern Congressmen therefore prevented Missouri from becoming a state. In 1819 when Maine, which would obviously be a free state, applied for statehood, southern Congressmen, fearing that slavery would become illegal everywhere, opposed its entry into the union. That is until Henry Clay proposed Missouri be admitted as a slave state and Maine as a free state. Southerner Henry Clay therefore may be claimed as one of the fathers of Maine statehood. This explains why Ashland town fathers

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chose to memorialize his Kentucky estate. Ashland, the name Henry Clay chose for his Kentucky home, is situated in Lexington, Kentucky, in the heart of bluegrass country. The mansion itself consists of a two-story brick center with one-story wings to either side. Clay built the mansion amid 125 sprawling, carefully groomed acres. It was and is the sort of place where one would expect to find Kentucky thoroughbreds. Henry Clay’s Ashland would be out of place in Ashland, Maine. One wonders if that fact had anything to do with the name of the town being changed to Dalton in 1869, just seven years after the name Ashland was chosen. If it did, it couldn’t have been all that important, as the town’s name was returned to Ashland in 1876.❖


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— Aroostook County —

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Will Atkins, Master Trapper

Atkins Camps in OxBow served sportsmen for many years

by Art Wheaton

Will Atkins, born in Valcartier, Quebec in 1857, was a professional trapper, having begun at 14 years of age, who could operate in the back country on snowshoes, in below-zero weather for weeks on end. He migrated into the Rangeley region and, while not trapping, began guiding sportsman who came to the area on newly laid rail lines. By the mid-1880s Will had build a set of camps in the Aroostook River headwaters country. His business was brisk so he built more camps, mounted clients’ trophies in the winter, along with his trapping, and attended sportsman’s shows to attract

Standing in line, on the shore are 13 cabins built of peeled spruce logs, which are light, roomy and airy, accommodating from one to four persons, affording unique, comfortable, separate quarters for each person or party, which are a never-ending charm to city people,” quoted an Atkins Camps brochure. The brochure further stated, “The game qualities can best be appreciated by referring to the shipments from Masardis over the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad. The record of moose and deer shipped from here each season in comparison with other parts of the State speaks for itself.”

(Continued on page 32)

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— Aroostook County —

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— Aroostook County —

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(Continued from page 30) and by 1903 he had a hotel with eight more “sports.” sleeping rooms in OxBow, Maine, but Will married and a daughter was the same year tragedy befell him when born in 1893. His business flourished, his young wife died. Eventually, Will

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remarried but it was tough for him to manage alone. By 1910 Will had 52 camps tucked away the Maine wilderness with 100 canoes, and there seemed to be no end in sight. By this time the old trapper-at-heart was getting edgy, and with the business demanding more and more of his time, he decided to sell to his neighbor, Charles C. Libby, who had at times taken many “sports” that were on their way to Will’s camps. Will was a dyed-in-the-wool trapper, so he then built over an abandoned lumber camp between Millinocket and Munsungan Lake by chinking the logs, covering the inside walls with split cedar boards, re-shaking the roof with cedar splits and made himself some furniture. He withdrew from his prior world, avoided people, and kept to himself. In effect, Will Atkins became a recluse, and by 1918 at the age of 61,

(Continued on page 34)




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— Aroostook County —

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— Aroostook County —

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(Continued from page 32)

he made another big move. He shipped a supply of traps and equipment to Edmonton, Alberta, and hit the trail to the McKenzie River watershed. By the spring of 1919 he had a grand catch of furs and 22 wolves to boot. Venturing back to OxBow for the Christmas holidays, then back to the trap line until the ice break-up in March/April, Will was doing what he loved best. In 1927 at the age of 70, he and his high school-aged son built a new trap line camp. They took their food and building supplies by canoe across the Aroostook River, nine miles to the building site. The story goes that within a few days, Will and Wilfred (who became a well-known game warden called Sleepy Atkins) had eaten all their food except tea and salt pork.

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They were on a tote road and without speaking to his son, pointed to a tall dead pine stub. He walked over to it and promptly removed a small log that had been propped against a hole in the hollow tree. Reaching in, he retrieved a frying pan, a kettle and a 5-lb. can of flour mixed with soda, salt and cream of tartar. “Put it there five or six years ago,” said Will, “and couldn’t remember if I’d picked it up.” Another story about the great trapper revolved around him coming home from his trap line one winter with a swollen and painful shoulder. A physician, Dr. Haggerty of Ashland, drove 20 miles to OxBow in a “pung” to examine him. Will said he had slipped on some ice and dislocated his shoulder, and when asked how he put his upper arm Home Cooked Soups and Breads

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— Aroostook County —

bone back in the socket, Will explained that he had tied the wrist of his injured arm to a tree in such a way that he could push with his good arm and pull the dislocated bone back in the socket. Will asked if he had done the right thing and the doctor said yes, but “where in hell would there be another man that would have done it?” A tough old bird, Will Atkins, who lived off the land, was self-sufficient and counted on no one for survival. The grand old trapper dodged publicity for himself. There were pictures of his camps but not of Will on the trap line or records of his trapping years. When asked about where he put his traps, Will said, “I set my traps in likely places.” With a failing memory, he still worked hard within a year of his death. One spring he came home with his mouth twisted, his head held

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slightly to one side, and he walked with a shuffling gait. It was the beginning of the end to “the best trapper and the best woodsman that was ever in this country,” thought many folks. He died the day before Christmas in 1930. Although a trapper at heart, it is his “home camp” on an island on Millinocket Lake that was the center of his vast hunting grounds. A quote from an early brochure says “my territory is unsurpassed for its beauty or breadth, and my system of camps has no equal in the state. And what is more, the camps are not difficult to access; on the contrary, the journey in is full of charm, attended by no hardships, through a country teeming with interest. We have a well-lighted and picturesque dining cabin, 20x70 feet with many mounted trophies of the woods and streams. The front is for guests at 16x20, while the guide’s din-

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ing room adjoins.” Transportation was the important link to this Maine sportsman’s playground. The development and promotion of the railroad system played a key role in opening that wonderful Aroostook frontier. “Leaving Boston in the evening, for this is the most popular train to depart on from Union Station via Boston and Maine and Maine Central Railroads, you arrive at Bangor the next morning in time to connect with the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad, and arrive at Masardis about noon. On due notification, we will meet parties on arrival with comfortable Bar Harbor Buckboards and convey them to OxBow, where guides will be waiting. The Camp at Salmon Pool may be reached the same night, and some excellent fly fishing enjoyed before supper. In hunting season you arrive at Masardis somewhat later, and

(Continued on page 37)

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— Aroostook County —

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— Aroostook County —

(Continued from page 35)

stop at hotel in OxBow over night and continue journey next day to Home Camps. Round trip tickets, New York to Masardis, all rail, $27.35. By steamer to Portland, then by rail, $25.35. Boston to Masardis, all rail, round trip, $17.85.” “Going In” to the great game-rich mecca of Maine started by rail and invariably connected to a stage or buckboard on to OxBow, then to a vast network of streams, rivers and lakes became the highways. It was the double-end canoe that was used to access remote camps and game trails. Will built his hotel in OxBow in 1903 for the accommodation of sportsmen bound for camps or coming out of the woods. His hotel offered many modern conveniences of the time, including baths, toilets and washstands, furnace heat and a safe for valuables. His skilled taxidermy

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provided many mounted heads, many of which were shipped to clients across the country. Special Maine pride jumps from Atkins’ published words when he notes the character and intelligence of his guides. “They are all trustworthy men who know the territory.” Later brochures go on to say... “and know the haunts of fish and game, how to handle a canoe under all conditions, whose skill is culinary arts is proverbial.” These north woods camps prided themselves in accomplished woodsmen, great hunters and good cooks. Their skills with pole and paddle allowed access to the remotest of country. This early tribute to the Maine guide is part of the lore of the Maine woods. We lost this great trapper, woodsman and outdoorsman the day before Christmas in 1930, but his mark on the great northwoods lives on and his

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exploits are part of the fabric of Maine. The contribution of Will Atkins to our rich Maine heritage is an important treasure and we appreciate the work of Leonard W. Hutchins, Jack Ahern and the Atkins family for the wonderful photos and memories in keeping Will Atkins’ life alive to new generations. If you would like to learn more about the charm and adventure around the early Sporting Camps of Northern Maine, Will Atkins, the great trapper, and his Atkins Camps, try Jack Ahern’s nice work titled, “ Bound for Munsungun,” available through Pear Tree Publishing, Photo credits courtesy Jack Ahern and Pear Tree Publishing. Please note that we are advised that a new and more complete hardcover edition is in the works, a must for Mainers who enjoy our rich traditions.❖

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— Aroostook County —

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Portion of an 1877 map of Aroostook County

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— Aroostook County —

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The Lynching Of Jim Cullen 40

— Aroostook County —

Rough justice and cross-border tension


by Charles Francis

im Cullen is both famous and infamous. If that seems contradictory, then consider that famous at its simplest means wellknown. In the same vein, infamous means notorious. Jim Cullen was lynched in Aroostook County in 1873. As the tale goes, the lynching party consisted of some 150 men. Many of the 150 disguised themselves with hoods. A couple of the more audacious threw a rope over the limb of a tree and strung up Cullen. Jim Cullen is supposed to have killed two men. The alleged murders took place in Chapman Township. Chapman Township borders on Mapleton. In 1873 Mapleton was known as Ball’s Mills. Chapman Township is not all that far from Presque Isle. Most of the tales of Cullen’s lynching emphasis his brutal, gory taking of the lives of

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1877 Chapman Plantation his hapless victims with an ax. Anything to do with Cullen’s actions prior to his being hanged is alleged. That’s because he was never tried in a court of law. Jim Cullen allegedly drove the ax into the skulls of his victims. One of the men was a deputy sheriff from Presque Isle. His name was Granville Hayden. The other man, Bill


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Hubbard, was one of just two who volunteered to accompany Deputy Hayden. Hayden had a warrant for Cullen’s arrest. The fact that Deputy Hayden only had a two-man posse has to do with the fact that Jim Cullen had the reputation of a holy terror. At least that is how the story goes. Perhaps that explains why it took so many to hang

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— Aroostook County —

him. Fears, like inhibitions, evaporate in mobs. The warrant was issued for Cullen because he stole some shoes or boots from Dudley’s General Store in Ball’s Mills. That is, he allegedly stole them. Supposedly, Cullen entered the store by breaking a window. Cullen’s alleged thievery took place in winter. The footprints of a big man were clearly outlined in snow outside the store. Jim Cullen was a big man. He was regarded by some as a petty thief. Cullen, therefore, had to have been the one to have broken into Dudley’s store. The lynching of Jim Cullen has been written about over and over again. Many of the stories about the lynching lie within the shrouded cloak of folklore. These have been embellished to the point where one newspaper, critical of the mythos that has evolved around Cullen and his demise, has likened the resulting ethos to the creation of “a sinister Paul Bunyan.” The above critic, a nameless newspaper man or woman, was writing sometime after the cancellation of a proposed Jim Cullen Look-Alike contest. The controversial contest was to have been held in Presque Isle. The reporter also quoted the author of a doctoral dissertation on Cullen. The scholarly work


Fuel Oil • Kerosene • Off-Road Senior Citizen Discounts Serving Central Aroostook County MAPLETON OIL

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was the product of Dena Winslow. The dissertation was a part of Winslow’s doctoral requirements at the University of Maine at Orono. The references to Winslow appeared in a newspaper called the Ottawa Citizen. Ottawa is the capitol of Canada. And therein lies something of a rub. It seems that Jim Cullen was a Canadian. He was born in New Brunswick. In the July 8, 2005, Citizen article, Winslow is quoted as saying “I am not entrenched in the view that he [Cullen] was guilty.” The article goes on to say that in Winslow’s opinion the passage of time has led to Cullen’s “demonization.” That means Jim Cullen, a “doomed Canadian woodsman,” has “got a lot more evil.” The Ottawa Citizen is a major Canadian newspaper. Once part of Conrad Black’s chain of papers, the Citizen is a major voice of the Canadian political spectrum. And it is not the only Canadian newspaper to carry a Jim Cullen story in recent years. In February of 2008, a Vancouver, British Columbia news conglomerate picked up on a popularized version of the Jim Cullen story. It was featured in several news venues. Other versions of the Cullen lynching followed.


The North Maine Woods organization manages the public use of nearly 4 million acres of public and private forest land in northern Maine, including much of western Aroostook County.

For information on outdoor recreational opportunities in this region, please feel free to contact us. PO Box 425, Ashland, ME 04732




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Dr. Michael Pfeifer of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice is an acknowledged expert on the subject of lynching. Pfeifer calls lynching a form of “rough justice.” Rough justice is extralegal justice. Rough justice falls beyond the bounds of behavior and practices established by and accepted by society. It is tawdry and shameful. It violates individual rights. It is inhumane, incommensurate with the values of a civilized people. It is a sad fact of America’s northern neighbor, but there is a blatant strain of anti-Americanism in Canada. Maclean’s, Canada’s most influential magazine, has called it Canada’s shame. When St. Anne’s Pulp and Paper closed in New Brunswick, some workers blamed their job loss on American greed. The tale of the lynching of Jim Cullen has provided additional fodder for cross-border finger pointing by some of our northern cousins. It doesn’t matter how long ago Cullen’s lynching occurred. It doesn’t matter that no society is free of reprehensible actions.❖ Other businesses from this area are featured in the color section.

orthern ELECTRIC, INC.

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by Barbara Adams

— Aroostook County —

Reverend Otis Bridges Fort Fairfield preacher lived a moral life

n 1900, at the age of 94, Reverend Otis Jacob A. of Fort Fairfield; and a daughter, in the Congregational pulpit. His last sermon Bridges was the oldest man in Fort Fair- Mrs. William Brown of Sangerville. He in the Congregational Church was at age 94. field. He was born in Penobscot in Han- bought a farm in Sangerville, and for many Although he was only six years of age during the War of 1812, he recalled many events cock County on January 26,1806. His which occurred at Castine. He rememfather, Reverend Abenezer Bridges, In 1898 when the Free Baptist Church in bered English soldiers occupying the fort served in the War of 1812 as an artisan, Fort Fairfield was built, he assisted in there, and using the best rooms in the and also preached all over Maine. When shingling the roof at age 92. citizens’ homes as slaughterhouses. He in China, Maine, at the age of 18, Otis remembered how his grandfather hid a was converted under his father’s preaching during a great revival. He too was called to years preached, performed marriages, and veal calf in the woods to keep it away from the ministry, and a little later was licensed to farmed. In 1881 he moved to Fort Fairfield, the soldiers, who appropriated everything for preach by the Sebec Quarterly Meeting, a where his son Jacob resided. In 1884 his wife their own use. Even at the age of 94, he kept in touch with branch of the Free Baptist Society. He was or- died. He remained in remarkably good health dained by the Free Baptist Council at Bow- throughout his life. He had abstained from al- all current events, was a voracious reader, and doin. Reverend Allan Files preached the cohol and tobacco, and was used to manual a regular patron of the public library. He atordination, and his father gave “the hand of labor. In 1898 when the Free Baptist Church tended church every Sabbath, both morning fellow” (right hand of the fellowship of the in Fort Fairfield was built, he assisted in shin- and evening, and frequently participated in the church) as part of the ceremony. Otis’ con- gling the roof, although he had passed his services. Because of his consistent Christian life, he always commanded the respect of nection with the Free Baptist Society re- 92nd birthday. In all his relationships with other religions, those with whom he came in contact.❖ mained for over forty years. He married Margaret, daughter of Hugh he had practiced tolerance, unusual for a man Other businesses from this area Owen of Lewiston, on October 17, 1833. of his age. He was liberal in his views, and are featured in the color section. They had three children, Owen W. of Dexter; very practical. He had officiated many times Free Estimates

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5 McGillan Drive Fort Fairfield, ME 04742

Fort Fairfield


Chamber of Commerce

“Dedicated to business, caring for community” ❖ 30th Annual Agri-Business Trade Fair March 26-28 ❖ 63rd Annual Maine Potato Blossom Festival July 10-18 ❖ 8th Annual County Bluegrass Festival July 23-25 ❖ 2nd Annual Labor Day Bluegrass Festival September 3-5 email: ❖ (207) 472-3802 ❖ Fax (207) 472-3810

18 Community Center Drive, Fort Fairfield, ME 04742

“Your leading accessories specialist in Aroostook County”

Black Powder Supplies • Handloading Supplies Big Sky Gun Racks • Obsolete Ammunition Ammunition • Shooting Accessories OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK 12:00-5:00PM

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61 Access Highway • Limestone, Maine

— Aroostook County —

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Farm buildings of Joseph E. Spear in Limestone


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Open 7 Days a Week • 5AM to 9PM 1284 Main Street • Washburn


— Aroostook County —

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Bud’s Camp In The County

by John McDonald

This summer my wife and I were invited to a barbeque at what a friend called his “camp.” Having been to a Maine camp or two over the years, I knew all about “going up to camp” and expected to find a traditional rustic place down a long, rutted dirt road deep in the Maine woods, where black flies outnumbered mammals about a trillion to one. I guess I hadn’t kept track of things lately and had no idea how well my friend had been doing or, for that matter, how Maine camps had changed when I wasn’t paying attention. The “camp” we arrived at was a modern two-story, 10-room, 4-bedroom dwelling with two-and-a-half baths, two satellite dishes and a sprawling kitchen that must have cost as much as two or three SUVs. I happened to think of the kitchen comparison because my friend, as it turned out, had two slick, new SUVs sitting side by side in the dooryard.

Mark’s Towing Service & Auto Repair 24 Hour Wrecker Service - Statewide Used Auto Parts Snowmobile Transportation You Call... We’ll Haul!

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207-498-8507 Access Highway, Caribou, ME 04736

Scott’s Meat Shop Custom Cutting Domestic & Wild Game All Sizes

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1359 Sweden Rd. • Caribou, ME 04736

L a n c a st e r M o r g a n FUNERAL HOME

I was too stunned to even notice the black flies. The whole experience made me think of Albert “Bud” Leighton, our old neighbor back home in The County, who had a camp up near the Canadian border. I once asked Bud if his camp was in one of Maine’s organized or unorganized townships. He just said folks in Augusta call it “unorganized,” but to him it seemed to run a lot smoother than the so-called “organized” towns he’s dealt with over the years. Bud would often talk about all the things that happened to him while at camp. He said he was once chased by a bull moose and was lucky to escape with his life. Another time he told a story about the worst thunderstorm he’d ever been through at his camp in the County. He said huge, angry, dark clouds rolled in from nowhere to block out the sun, and then the skies opened up and it rained like he’d never seen it before.

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— Aroostook County —

There were deafening claps of thunder and lightning bolts and while he was crossing from the tool shed to the camp, he was struck by lightning and was knocked out cold. Bud said he didn’t know how long he was out, and no one else was around camp to time it. “I thought the old lady had hit me with her cast-iron frying pan,” Bud said. But his wife, Evelyn, as the rest of us called her, couldn’t have hit him with a frying pan because she’d never been to camp. In fact, I never got invited up to Bud’s camp and I don’t remember Bud mentioning anyone else ever going up with him, either. Instead, every year around this time, Bud would load up his pickup and head to camp. He said he had to get it ready for winter. Then he’d go back about every other weekend, saying he had to see how the ice fishing was. Bud always came back from camp in summer or winter with some great fish stories, but as far as I know, he never brought one fish back to share with his wife or to show to some of his skeptical neighbors. He always claimed the fish were too delicate for the overland trip home and would probably go bad before he was halfway there. Hunting season, it was the same thing. Bud claimed he always got his deer up there but shared it with the folks in the County, who he said were needier than he was. Bud never went to camp in spring. He claimed most of the roads up there weren’t passable after spring thaw and mud season set in, so he’d always close it up after ice fishing season. Recently, Bud said he got tired of his camp, so he said he sold it and bought a new pickup from some dealer in the

Other businesses from this area are featured in the color section.


Clean, comfortable rooms Single, double and suites available Microwaves & refrigerators Restaurants within walking distance


County. Bud says his new truck is a beauty, but so far no one has seen it yet. And as far as I know, no one’s been invited to ride in it. ❖

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Courthouse, Caribou

G.J. A UTO BODY Vince Anderson II, Owner Custom Body & Paint Work Collision Repair Specialist Glass Installation Free Insurance Appraisals NO JOB TOO BIG!

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563 Access Highway • Caribou

AROOSTOOK HOME HEALTH SERVICES Helping Hands For Independent Living

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— Aroostook County —

Holts’ Grocery Store A gathering place for the community


by Pastor Barry Blackstone

olts’ Grocery Store wasn’t much of a building, but it wasn’t the outside that drew you to it.

Holts’ Grocery Store, circa 1957. Photo courtesy of Pastor Barry Blackstone

Cindy’s Sub Shop

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264 Sweden Street • Caribou, Maine Cindy Johnston, owner

Kirkpatrick LAW OFFICES Hugh S. Kirkpatrick Patrick R. Bennett ATTORNEYS AT LAW

Downtown Mall • PO Box 26 • Caribou, ME 04736

(207)-498-8711 • Fax: (207) 498-8712

In the Perham, Maine that I remember, three buildings still come to mind. The First Baptist Church of Perham was my family’s home church. When its doors were open, we were there. Around the corner and across the stream stood the Perham Elementary School. This is where I got my education, from 19571965. Then there was Holts’ General Store, a two-story building located just across the road (no streets in Perham!) from the church. Located on a three-corner intersection, the grocery drew residents from all sides of Perham, including the Blackstones from three miles away. Like the church and the school, the grocery was a regular “stopping-off ” place. Doubling as a gas station and post office, it wasn’t always for groceries that you went to Holts’ Store. I can still see myself climbing the stairs to the porch, which ran the length of the store. From that porch you could see the entire village of Perham. A community of a couple dozen homes, Perham was your typical Aroostook County hamlet built around a small stream. A railroad track ran through town just below the store from which

T.W. Willard, Inc. “Your snowmobile repair specialists in Aroostook County”

Reggie Thibodeau owner

2 0 7 - 4 93 - 4 5 0 7 862 Sweden Road • Caribou, ME 04736

Picture Perfect Cottage Rentals

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— Aroostook County —

the potatoes from the local farmers were shipped. But it was from Holts’ Grocery that we got the basics of life, as well as the local news. Entering the store was like going to a family reunion. Everybody was a neighbor, and everyone knew your name. There was Max Holts, the store owner and post master, and

Woody Doody, the meat man and all-around clerk. Combined, these two men ran Holts’ Store for the better part of this century. When Max retired, Woody kept the store open until he was finally forced to convert it strictly into the Perham Post Office, but in the 1950s and 60s, it was a bustling general store. From nails to nickel stamps (remember them?), you could

Perham Plantation, 1877

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get anything at Holts’ Grocery. The narrow aisles were always filled with whatever you needed. In the back corner was a hardware department, and in the right back corner was the meat department. Local produce, when available, sat on the floor in front of a huge picture window. Even Blackstone eggs could be bought at Holts’ Grocery! The cash register was located in the middle of the store, and depending on who was available — Woody or Max — your purchases were rung up by hand on an old, bell-ringing cash register. We have lost those simple sounds, in a time when everything was mechanical, not electronic. Combined with the casual conversations of customers still selecting their purchases, the atmosphere was friendly and pleasant. I remember the Holts’ General Store as a community, not just a commercial enterprise. It was a place where people talked and shared the joys of family life. When one wonders what has gone wrong with our society, one only needs to compare a trip to the old Holts’ Grocery to a trip to one of these modern, 24hour super markets! ❖ Other businesses from this area are featured in the color section.

Plourde & Plourde, Inc. Engineered For The Way You Ride!

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County Camp “On Madawaska Lake”

• Accessible to ITS 83 • Fully furnished Including Dish Network • Rent by the week or weekend • Open year round

Laura Adams

15 McKinley St. • Caribou, ME 04736

(207) 493-1358

Sales • Service Clothing

Authorized State of Maine Snowmobile Registration Agent Open Mon-Sat 7:30-5:00

(207) 496-3211 11 Laurette Street Caribou, Maine 04736


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by Charles Francis

— Aroostook County —

The Genealogy Corner

n June of 1870 a courageous band of immigrants left their ancestral lands in the Gothenburg region of Sweden to find homes for themselves in what was then a roaring wilderness. That wilderness was in Maine’s Aroostook region. Today the communities of New Sweden, Stockholm, Madawaska Lake and Woodland stand as testimony to the dedication and bravery of these first Swedish settlers to put their trust in the words of William Widgery Thomas, the Maine official who urged them to give up everything they knew and come to a new land. In the years following the Civil War the population of rural Maine dwindled as a result of the attraction of the federal government’s Homestead Act, an act which offered free or cheap land in the west to those willing to improve it. Back then Maine had undeveloped land of its own. W. W. Thomas had the idea that Swedes would make good use of

In search of Swedish roots

that land. To that end he persuaded the Maine legislature to appoint him immigration agent to Sweden and Norway.

The first band of immigrants that responded to Thomas’s blandishments to come to northern Maine were fifty-one strong. They were followed by successive boatloads of immigrants from the Gothenburg area. Today historical societies and community-spirited residents in New Sweden, Stockholm, Woodland and Madawaska Lake work to preserve the heritage of those early settlers to northern Maine. A portion of the activities of these societies and individuals is devoted to genealogical and family history research. Jean Duncan of Madawaska Lake is very much involved in researching the genealogy of the early settlers of the New Sweden area. John Hede of the Stockholm Historical Society is similarly engaged. Jean Duncan has a web site: First Settlers of New Sweden, Maine. Jean’s husband, Bill, has designed the web site “mainesswedishcolony.” John Hede is project director of Maine’s Swedish Colony,

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Caribou Chamber of Commerce & Industry 24 Sweden Street, Suite 101, Caribou, ME 04736





152 EAST GREEN RIDGE ROAD • CARIBOU, MAINE 04736-3737 (207) 473-7513 • (800) 660-9298 • U.S. FAX (207) 472-3221 E-mail:

BOURGOINE Plumbing & Heating 24 hour service free estimates fully insured tel: 1-800-722-7648 fax: 207-492-1362

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58 Campground Hill Rd. • Caribou, ME 04736

— Aroostook County —

the organization Bill’s site is affiliated with. Inga Garton is descended from some of Aroostook County’s early Swedish settlers. Her ancestors settled Smyrna Mills and spread out from there. As a teenager growing up in Searsport on the coast, Inga developed an interest in the country of her forebears, to the extent that she decided to retrace her ancestor’s steps to Maine. She immigrated. Today she makes her home in Horred, Sweden. Horred is in the southern portion of Sweden, which includes Gotaland and Gothenburg. In a sense, Inga has gone full circle. Gotaland includes Blekinge, Gotlands, Hallands, Kalmar, and Kronobergs. It has a population of 1,500,000. That makes it the second most populous area of Sweden. More than half of all Swedish immigrants came from Gotaland. Gothenburg is its chief seaport. For this reason, many immigrants are recorded as coming from Gothenburg. Swedish immigration to northern Maine was a part of the greatest outpouring of Swedes from their homeland ever. From about 1870 until the Depression some million and a half Swedes immigrated. Up until the last few years tracing that immigration record has been difficult. Recently, however, updat-

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Bouchard Potato Co.

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Caribou, Maine

ing of records in Sweden and making those records available to the general public has facilitated the task of family history research. The National Archives of Sweden is one source of Swedish family history records. It is not all inclusive, however. The most important thing it does from the standpoint of the family historian is provide information on parish residency. It also has military records. Genealogy General has one of the best Swedish web sites going. To access it, do a Genealogy General search and then click on to Nordic and then Sweden. Table 3 lists counties. Some time ago I came across the story of one Swedish immigrant to the Aroostook region. His name was Olaf Stadig and he went on to be more than a bit of a success. Olaf Stadig came to the Aroostook region with his family in 1871. He was six when he immigrated. Olaf was born in Undersaker, near the border with Norway, in 1865. The Stadig family settled in New Sweden. Information on Olaf can be found on Jean Duncan’s web site. Rather intriguingly, a brief biography of Olaf was written about 1927 or 1928. I was given a copy some twenty years ago.


Also specializing in the harvesting of small wood lots. Call for a list of references.



Concerned not only with harvesting, but with preserving woodlands.

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I have no idea who wrote the biography, but it seems related to the fact that Olaf Stadig was a trial justice for the Northern District of Aroostook County. His residence is given as St. Francis. He served as a St. Francis tax assessor and as a justice of the peace. Olaf ’s occupation is given as building contractor, his partner one C. E. Jones. Stadig and Jones are credited with building mills and starch factories all across Aroostook County. Given this information, it would seem that the boy who crossed the Atlantic as a youngster flourished in his adopted country. Genealogical data on Olaf Stadig may also be found at the Family Search site of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). The Family Search site is especially inclusive for Aroostook County. New Sweden, Stockholm, Madawaska Lake and Woodland historical societies and residents like Bill and Jean Duncan and John Hede stand to be lauded for their work in preserving the Swedish heritage of the County. It is an almost unending as well as wonderfully rewarding pursuit. ❖ Other businesses from this area are featured in the color section.

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— Aroostook County —

1950 Aerial view of logs floating downriver near Stockholm. Item #1444 from the collections of the Maine Historical Society and

Northstar Variety Dave & Sara Anderson, Propietors

• Ice Fishing Supplies • Gas, Oil, Plugs for Snowmobiles • Convenient to ITS Trails Open 6am-8pm 7 Days

204 New Sweden Rd., New Sweden


ERSON’S D N A STORE Family Owned Since 1906


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327 Main Street • Stockholm

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829 North Main St. • Caribou 492-1492 Celebrating Over 70 Years

207-496-3011 Still Locally Owned & Operated

— Aroostook County —

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Though this glass plate negative is marked "St. Croix River" it is really the St. John River at Van Buren, collected by J. Emmons Lancaster and taken between 1890-1910. Item #9585 from the collections of the Maine Historical Society and

Al’s Auto Sales


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Van Buren Summerfest • Aug. 6th-8th Acadian Village Fest • Aug. 14th & 15th Christmas Light Parade • Dec. 11th


51 Main Street • Suite 101 • Van Buren, ME 04875

email: web:


"ew Exhibit! Grist & Wool Carding Mill 5 Miles North of Van Buren on U.S. Route One Van Buren, Maine


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The Madawaska Survey

— Aroostook County —

Organization of Aroostook County started here by Ian MacKinnon


wo surveyors dispatched to the St. John Valley in July 1831 discovered an Acadian society thriving in remote country claimed by Maine and New Brunswick. The survey, which preceded the so-called Aroostook War by almost 10 years, would cement several Acadian settlements to Maine. On March 31, 1831, the Maine Legislature passed a resolution to determine how many people lived in the Madawaska Settlements — the northernmost habitations in Maine. Governor Samuel Smith then appointed Ellsworth resident John G. Deane and Newcastle resident Edward Kavanagh to survey the settlements. Both men were attorneys. Plans called for Deane, Kavanagh, and their party to travel across northwestern Maine to reach the St. John River. Kavanagh, a future Maine governor, departed Newcastle for Moosehead Lake on July 12, 1831, a day after Deane had left Ellsworth. They converged on Moosehead Lake and sailed north aboard a boat powered by sail and oar. Portaging the wretched terrain stretching from northern Moosehead Lake to the Penobscot River and then Chesuncook Lake, Deane and Kavanagh and their men navigated the Umbazooksus River to Umbazooksus

1843 U.S./British Provinces map Lake and portaged to Chamberlain Lake. Their route took them north along the Allagash River to the St. John River and a July 24, 1831 arrival at that river’s confluence with the St. Francis River. Deane and Kavanagh immediately started a highly detailed survey that encompassed economic and social data. Although not officially designated as spies, the surveyors also collected information about British activities. Maine and New Brunswick jointly claimed the St. John Valley, and with New Brunswick being a British colony, imperial agents “pressured” Acadian settlers to swear allegiance to

Britain. Bitter memories of 1755’s Le Grande Derangement lingered among the Acadians, however, and many spoke with Deane and Kavanagh. Surveying approximately 270 sites along the St. John’s southern bank, Deane and Kavanagh worked downriver 75 miles to Grand Falls, stopping there on August 3, 1831. They spent another five days working upriver while surveying about 220 sites along the St. John’s northern bank. Evidence indicated that of the 490-plus lots, French-speaking settlers owned all but 60, and the French-held lots were divided among Acadians and Canadians (or Quebecois).

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— Aroostook County —

With their St. John River survey completed, Deane and Kavanagh conducted a separate survey in the Aroostook River Valley. Information provided by that survey would spur settlement in the region known today as central Aroostook County. Returning to “settled” Maine, Deane and Kavanagh filed their surveys. Both men recommended vigorous action — including building roads to connect central Maine with the St. John Valley — to solidify Maine’s sovereignty in the region. According to the St. John Valley survey, “almost every lot [along the river] is either settled or marked,” with “the greater portion actually settled.” Settlers hailed “chiefly from Canada, New Brunswick, and the United States,” as well as “some few from Ireland.” The survey acknowledged the Acadian impetus to seek “a refuge in a place that they believed the British had no right to exercise jurisdiction.” The St. John Valley’s “inhabitants governed themselves according to their own customs and usages,” Deane and Kavanagh reported. “They are an inoffensive and obliging people, and, most of them wish to live under the direct exercise of the law.

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“They say, ‘they know they belong to the American Government, but the Government does not protect them, and the British force their jurisdiction upon them, and they are unable to resist,’” the survey noted. Most Valley residents “answered our inquiries cheerfully,”

The survey acknowledged the Acadian impetus to seek “a refuge in a place that they believed the British had no right to exercise jurisdiction. but even in sharing pertinent information with Deane and Kavanagh, “fear of the British induced” many French-speaking people “to request us not to disclose their names,” because “if we did, they should be oppressed.” Valley residents, “almost all Roman Catholics,” built timber houses containing one, two, or more rooms, the survey indicated. Many houses “are clapboarded, some are painted, and nearly all are well-made and warm,” a desired trait in cold and snowy northern Maine.

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Valley residents worked at the professions necessary to sustain rural life removed by distance and rugged terrain from coastal towns. “Almost all of them tan their own leather, make their own shoe-packs and Canada boots, and make also their implements of husbandry, which are of rude construction and poor,” the survey indicated. Women made clothing and kept homes that were filled with children. Deane and Kavanagh described “the soil” as “excellent,” with “large tracts of alluvial land” that “have produced all sorts of crops abundantly without [the application of] manure.” These farmlands, containing “a deep rich loam free from stones,” produced “excellent crops of wheat, barley, oats and potatoes, beans, peas, and hay.” Today, Maine’s St. John Valley farmers still raise potatoes and other crops in the rich soil. Farmers raised “small-boned cattle, Canadian horses, large-bodied, coarse-wooled sheep, and swine” that struggled to thrive in a climate that, “being so far North, is cold in winter,” Deane and Kavanagh reported. In fact, their survey may have initiated the County tradition that Aroostook enjoys only

(Continued on page 54)

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— Aroostook County —

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American-held territory. (Continued from page 53) “The water rises rapidly in all these rivers, two seasons: winter and July Fourth. Referring to the St. John Valley weather, Deane and and in the spring of the year, the ice jams and Kavanagh wrote that “it may be said there are obstructs the water and raises it to a great there but two seasons; the transitions from height, so that bridges cannot be constructed one to the other seem to be immediate. The over them, with the exception of the snow generally falls before the land is frozen, Madawaska, Fish and Alligash (sic) rivers, and when it disappears in the spring the grain where the water is taken up by the lakes and is springing up.” Valley farmers could “plant and sow in “All the production commonly May” and harvest wheat in August or early raised in the country can be raised September, the survey revealed. In 1831 here in greater abundance, with half “cucumbers were in perfection. The 17th the labor than they can be raised in of July,” wheat “was fit to boil the first of the Southern part of the State,” August,” and farmers “were digging potathe survey reported. toes for daily use the 25th of July.” Anyone traveling in Aroostook County today can attest to the roadside farmstands boasting “new gradually discharged,” the survey reported. Additional information described tree potatoes” in late July or early August. Deane and Kavanagh wrote detailed geo- species and dispersal, soil conditions, and the graphical descriptions that listed the St. John’s land’s economic value. The last factor’s detributary streams and lakes, information that tailed description reveals why Governor Maine land agents could use to determine the Smith sent Deane and Kavanagh to the St. best routes to float logs to market. Unfortu- John Valley — he needed an official reason, nately for American loggers, all waterways other than an imperceptible border, to expend flowed east to British-held New Brunswick, revenue and personnel to link the Valley to and not for some years would a woods’ war the rest of Maine. “All the production commonly raised in the erupt that would see a dam built at Churchill Lake to reverse water flows into country can be raised here in greater abun-

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dance, with half the labor than they can be raised in the Southern part of the State,” the survey reported. However, in the St. John Valley’s “present state with no roads to it,” the region “cannot be said to have any value.” “If the States will only adopt the proper system and apply it steadily, the land will be valuable,” Deane and Kavanagh reported. Maine could offer Valley land to settlers for “a dollar or perhaps more an acre” or “give away” particular parcels, or “have it remain a wilderness” or “throw it into the hands of speculators.” No matter how Maine could induce settlers to acquire Valley land, “let roads once be opened into this country, and the land will sell and settle rapidly,” the survey claimed. And the sooner the better. Deane and Kavanagh decided that “it may not be improper for us, from our view of the country, to make some suggestions as to the course and policy, which it may be for the interest of the States to pursue.” British agents were “extending their usurpations and oppressions over the country” while “we (Americans) have been comparatively inactive,” the two men stated. “By their boldness and recklessness of treaties,” British agents “have been making



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— Aroostook County —

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impressions against us, while our rights, clear, and clearly defined, are suffering from the peaceable and somewhat passive course, which we have pursued,” Deane and Kavanagh reported. They excoriated the American government for letting the political reality deteriorate to the point that “excludes or tends to exclude, our right of actual occupation, and even our rights of making laws to operate in that part of our State.” Washington practiced inattention and “its agents” displayed a “carelessness” that encouraged “British artifice and chicanery,” Deane and Kavanagh stated in their survey. They recommended “the gradual introduction of our laws and usages into the country.” Augusta should organize schools and courts and, while at it, “a County ought to be organized,” Deane and Kavanagh urged. That County would become Aroostook, of course, and those people living along the south bank of the St. John River would become Mainers. ❖.

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— Aroostook County —

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History Of The Potato



Maine’s #1 agricultural industry by Lauren Verlaque

h, the humble potato. Mash it, fry it, bake it, boil it in a stew — any way you like it, chances are you DO like it. But did you know that it is also Maine’s #1 agricultural industry today? That’s right, it tops blueberries in sales and isn’t very far off the lobster industry’s landings, either. The potato traces its proverbial — and literal — roots to the Andes mountains, where they have been growing for over 10,000 years. Of the roughly 5,000 potato varieties in existence today, over 3,000 of them are grown only in the Andean region. Genetic testing has proven that the most widely-cultivated varieties of potatoes worldwide all descend from a strain from Peru, by way of the Chiloe Archipelago. For thousands of years, the Andeans cultivated and enjoyed potatoes. When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in Peru in 1532 in their search for gold, they instead found the Incas and their potatoes. The first tubers

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started making their way across the Atlantic as rations aboard the returning Spanish ships in the mid 1530s, and, by the 1570s, a few Spanish farmers had begun to cultivate them. Potatoes did not catch on very quickly, though, and it took nearly half a century for them to spread through the rest of Europe. Despite its high nutritious content and multitude of uses, people were afraid of potatoes – they are a member of the nightshade family (indeed, its leaves can be poisonous) and were reputed to cause all sorts of illnesses and insanities. Potatoes were relegated to the lowest rung of the food ladder (and even banned from some towns) and fed only to livestock, prisoners, and the destitute. That is, until the famines of the 1770s, and soon everyone was approaching destitute and appreciating all that the humble potato had to offer. Soon the potato was in every garden across Europe and, in Ireland, at every meal. Less than a century later in 1845, a potato-ravaging

disease called Late Blight would wipe out the potato crop in Ireland and much of Europe. The Irish had come to depend so heavily on the potato that its loss caused a famine so sudden, severe, and widespread that the country would lose no less than half of its population over the span of four years, between starvation and emigration, mostly to America and Australia. In the meantime, though, the humble potato had found its way back across the Atlantic ocean and onto our fertile soil. While many had introduced the potato to the American colonies throughout the 1600s, it wasn’t until 1719 that they truly took root, so to speak. That was the year that a group of Scotch-Irish immigrants arrived in nearby Londonderry, New Hampshire and planted a large crop of potatoes, and from there, they spread across the burgeoning nation. Farms in Aroostook County began growing potatoes in the early 1800s, and were soon

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— Aroostook County —

a force to be reckoned with. Between 1928 and 1958, not only did Maine produce more potatoes than any other state in the nation, but Aroostook County alone did so. The 1940s and 1950s have been called Maine’s potato heyday, and it’s true that we are no longer the #1 Spud. While there used to be around 6,000 potato farmers in the 1940s, there are less than 500 today, but this is due in large part to advances in technology and the conglomeration of smaller, family-owned farms into larger ones. The potato industry still plays a huge role in Maine’s economy and in Maine’s heritage. The impact of the potato industry on Maine’s economy is $540 million in sales, 6100 jobs, $230 million in personal income, and over $32 million in state and local taxes. [statistics provided by the Maine Potato Board] Culturally, there is no doubt that Maine potatoes and their farmers continue to have an impact on our lives. Cold River Vodka, recently rated the number one vodka in the world, is one of the world’s only vodkas made entirely from the potato to the spirit (and the only one in North America), and it is made right here in Maine, from Maine potatoes. If you’re in the County before sunrise, turn on the radio and listed to the Potato Pickers Special, still being broadcast from 4:30-6am, 50 years after Wayne Knight first started hosting it. The Maine Potato Board hosts it now (Wayne hosted it for 36 years) and it’s broadcast from the studios of WAGM TV in Presque Isle. If you’re just about anywhere in the County in July, well, you’ll be greeted with a dazzling view of fields of potato blossoms — nothing like it. Fort Fairfield will once again be hosting the Maine Potato Blossom Festival July 10-18, 2010. This festival started way back in 1937 and features everything from mashed potato wrestling to an antique tractor pull to

2 heads garlic, peeled (heads, not cloves) 1 Cup Half & Half ¼ Cup Cream Salt & Pepper to taste 2 lbs Maine potatoes** 4 Tbsp Butter, softened 1-3 Tbsp of Cream, if needed

**I prefer Green Mountain if you can find them, but any good boiling potato is good

In a small saucepan, combine the garlic (about 30 cloves total), half & half, and cream, and bring to a very low simmer over very low heat. Cook for 25 minutes or until the garlic is very soft but not brown. Do NOT boil. Add a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Puree the cream and garlic mixture in a blender until smooth. Set aside. In the meantime, scrub the potatoes but do not peel. Quarter them (or cut into fairly even-sized chunks) and boil in slightly salted water until tender. (Do not over-salt! Remember — you can always add more salt later, but you can’t take any away.) Drain. Return to boiling pan. Mash potatoes with potato masher, incorporating the butter halfway through. Salt and pepper to taste. Warm up the garlic puree, stirring it well. Beat the sauce into the potatoes until well blended. Add additional tablespoons of cream, if needed, if the potatoes are too thick. Serve immediately, and ENJOY! a household pet show to the crowning of the Maine Potato Blossom Queen. A Spudtacular event, for sure. Above is one of my favorite recipes for

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— Aroostook County —

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dward Wiggin had a passion for Aroostook County, especially northern Aroostook County. Wiggin also had a passion for history, for the history of Maine and especially for the history of Aroostook County. As evidence of his love of history and his native state and adopted county, Wiggin wrote a history of each. Wiggin’s Maine history is The State of Maine: Its History, Growth, Development, Resources, and Industry. Wiggin’s Aroostook history is, quite fittingly, History of Aroostook. Wiggin also expressed his love of Maine and Aroostook County in articles he wrote for county newspapers and the statewide Kennebec Journal. Edward Wiggin did most of his writing in his later years, when he had established himself as a farmer in the Maysville section of Presque Isle. Today his efforts, especially his History of Aroostook, are viewed as vital resources not only for historians but also for genealogists intent on tracing their family trees. The reason Wiggin’s histories are so much in demand is not so much because of the accuracy — and they are very accurate — but

rather because of their detail. It is detail that not only covers the to-be-expected historical events of the time covered, but the individu-

took County. He was born in Bangor in 1837. At that date Aroostook County was still a part of Penobscot County. Wiggin’s first experience living in Aroostook was in the mid-1850s in Hodgdon. He went there in his late teens as a teacher. With the firing on Fort Sumter, Wiggin enlisted in the Union Army, serving with the Army of the Potomac. At the close of the war he returned to Hodgdon, and in the late 1860s moved to Fort Kent. His last move was to Presque Isle in the mid-1870s, where he took up farming. Farming led Wiggin to membership in the Grange, service with the Maine Board of Agriculture, and to becoming an important voice calling for settlers for Aroostook. In the 1830s Edward Wiggin toured central and southern Maine speaking on the opportunities to be had in farming in Aroostook County. As one of the most successful farmers of northern Aroostook County, he saw his speaking tours as a payback to the land that had given him so much. Wiggin spoke of the fertility of Aroostook soil and the bounty that the farmers there reaped annually. His goal was to induce southern and central Maine

Edward Wiggin The man who loved Aroostook by Charles Francis

als, families, family members and the origins of the people who built Aroostook. Edward Wiggin had a force within him that drove him to research, explore and preserve Maine and especially Aroostook history. It was the kind of force that makes one want to walk in the footsteps of those who have gone before. It was the kind of force that leads one to fill file cabinets and boxes with documents, notes and old newspaper clippings. The kind of force that makes one a collector of old books and memorabilia. Actually it is not entirely correct to describe Edward Wiggin as an adopted son of Aroos-

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— Aroostook County —

men and their families to move north and help fill what was still essentially an empty land. The title of Wiggin’s presentation was “Aroostook for the Young Man.” It was a direct reference to Horace Greeley’s response to the young man who asked for advice on finding a job in New York City: “Go west young man.” Greeley’s admonition had to do with his belief that opportunity was to be found in the yet-to-be settled lands of the west. In the same respect, Edward Wiggin felt that opportunity in Maine was to be found in Aroostook County. Maine in the early 1800s, like much of the rest of the east coast of the United States, was in the throes of a severe recession, if not outright depression. The state’s economy was undergoing major changes. The era of the wooden ship had ended, putting huge numbers of men out of work. In addition, the agricultural economy of the southern part of the state was in decline, due in part to soil depletion as farmers over planted, draining the nutrients out of hitherto rich earth. Also, there had been a massive exodus from Maine to the west due to the fact many Mainers sought what they considered


greener pastures. Even advertisements by the State Board of Agriculture emphasizing “Stick With the State” did little to lessen the growing number of abandoned farms. Therefore, Edward Wiggin’s presentations came at just the right time. And, of course, Wiggin was right: Aroostook County was a land of opportunity and Wiggin had the facts and figures to back this up. Northern Aroostook County, in the 1880s, had three major towns: Fort Fairfield, Caribou and Presque Isle. All had rail connections with New Brunswick. (There were no connections with southern Maine yet.) Each of these towns acted as the service center for the surrounding area. The Maysville section of Presque Isle, where Edward Wiggin came from, was a typical northern Aroostook farming community. As Wiggin put it, “Go through the towns of northern Aroostook County (which is the newest portion of the county), look over the fine farms there with their comfortable and commodious and, in many cases, costly buildings, with their fine flocks and herds and implements of all descriptions, and you will find them occupied for the most part by men still in the prime of manhood, who had very little capital in the

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way of money to start with, but who have by industry and economy become relatively independent and are now the solid men of the county.” Wiggin knew what he was talking about. He, like most of his neighbors, had come to the northern part of the county with little besides a strong back and heart and a good ax, which was used to literally hew a home out of the woods. When Edward Wiggin gave his presentation of “Aroostook for the Young Man,” he laced it with sound advice. For example, he was dead-set against mortgages. For him “A mortgage on a farm is worse than Canada thistles or burr weed, and far harder to eradicate.” He emphasized that prospective farmers should buy within their means, for while there were plenty of owners willing to sell their farms with so much down and a mortgage attached, they were doing it to reap a profit from the interest. He would then give an example of one of his neighbors who had come to Presque Isle with exactly $5.60 some twenty years before. This industrious individual got a job earning sixteen dollars a month. When he had sixty dollars saved, he bought the claim to a


(Continued on page 60)

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D iscove r Ma ine

(Continued from page 59)

state lot of fourteen acres from someone who had taken the timber from it. All he had left to pay was the state fee. That fall, he cleared eight of the fourteen acres. By that time he had run out of money. That winter he worked in the woods, earning eighty dollars. With that money he purchased a team of oxen. He then went and cleared the rest of his lot and planted wheat and oats. From the sale of those crops he earned $430. He then took his oxen and went to work on the roads for the land agent. With what he made from the sale of his crop and doing road work, he paid off the state. He then put up a barn. Within three years he had sold his fourteen acres for $600 and bought a 300-acre farm in Maysville. Wiggin concluded by saying that today this person has a fine two-story house and is as independent as it is possible to be. Wiggin’s major emphasis was on starting from scratch and with very little capital. From the very act of clearing land there was profit to be made. Wiggin gave Columbus Hayford, another neighbor, as an example. Hayford was one of the earliest settlers in the region, having come there with his parents when he was two years old in the late 1840s. As his father before him had done, Hayford cleared his

— Aroostook County —

own land and established himself as one of the premier farmers of the region. His farm, which was on the state road connecting Presque Isle and Caribou, was one of the showplaces of the time. Wiggin used figures from Hayford for the profit to be made in clearing ten acres and then planting five. Clearing the ten acres cost Hayford $100. Plowing and harrowing cost eighteen dollars. Planting potatoes, oats and turnips cost thirtyeight dollars. Harvesting and hauling to the factory cost ninety-one dollars. In total, 1050 bushels of potatoes, 240 bushels of oats and 200 bushels of turnips were harvested. The potatoes brought $262.50, the oats, ninety-six dollars, and the turnips, thirty dollars. This represented a profit of thirteen dollars and ninety-three cents per cleared acre, which Wiggin said shows “the profit on clearing good land.” And, of course, the land could be planted the next year without the cost of clearing. Wiggin ended his presentations with an invitation for any “honest man who is able and willing to work and make a home for himself thereby increasing his own comfort and adding to the material wealth of the county and state, go to Aroostook, and he will be sure of a cordial welcome, all the more cordial if

he take a good honest woman along with him.” Edward Wiggin’s presentations of “Aroostook for the Young Man” in southern Maine, had its impact on Aroostook County in the 1880s. In 1880, the population had been 41,700. Less than five years later it was just over 45,000. The value of farms and associated equipment rose, too. For example, the value of farm implements and machinery in 1880 had been $348,179. Five years later, it had risen to $500,000. Interestingly, most of the farms in the county in the 1880s were small. The average value of a farm was $890. In other words, things were just getting going. These small farms were owned by young men, some of whom had heeded Wiggin’s words that Aroostook County was for them. In the years to come, most of these small farms would grow to make Aroostook County known across the United States for its produce. And, this would occur, in part, because of Edward Wiggin, one of the most successful promoters of his or any time. ❖ Other businesses from this area are featured in the color section.

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— Aroostook County —

D iscove r Ma ine


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— Aroostook County —

D iscove r Ma ine

The War That Created The St. John Valley Acadian Community 62

by Charles Francis

Acadians were at the center of the Seven Years’ War

Historians sometimes overlook or misstate facts that involve small numbers of people caught up in the ebb and flow of great events. Fred Anderson falls victim to this with his book The War That Made America, and it is too bad, because with just a bit more care, Anderson could have placed the Acadians of the St. John Valley center stage in what some call the first true world war — the Seven Years’ War. The publishers of The War That Made America sent Discover Maine a review copy of the book. Jim Burch, the magazine’s publisher, was kind enough to pass the copy on to me. I began it hoping to learn something of Maine, and instead found myself causally caught up in Fred Anderson’s particular theory of empire building. The War That Made America is not a work that details any Maine history during the pe-

riod of the Seven Years’ War. As far as Maine is concerned, the work does provide the Maine reader with a clear understanding of how and why the Acadians experienced what they did during that conflict. This, of course, relates to the establishment of the Acadian communities of the upper St. John Valley. The War That Made America may sound a bit familiar to you. There is a reason for this. There is a television documentary of the same name. Fred Anderson served as a consultant in the writing of the documentary’s script. Anderson, a professor of history at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is a recognized authority on the French and Indian wars. One of the producers of the documentary urged Anderson to write his book as a companion piece for the television show and he complied. It was Winston Churchill who called the

Seven Years’ War “the first world war.” Churchill was referencing the fact that the principals fought on three major continents: America, Europe and Asia. They fought for one reason — to build empire. The principals include more than England and France. For example, Prussia fought in Europe. In North America, the principals included Indians, a fact Anderson makes a point of emphasizing. The Iroquois Confederacy, Anderson points out, was just as much concerned with empire as the European belligerents who viewed native Americans as tools in empire building. Anderson devotes a fair amount of space to developing background far from Maine and the homeland of the Acadians in Nova Scotia. He spends time on Pennsylvania and a young George Washington. It was Washington who gave France the excuse to declare war, when he unknowingly signed his name to

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— Aroostook County —

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Anderson points to 1759 as a crucial year down as an Acadian hero. He deserves attenarticles of capitulation in 1754, admitting to in Acadian history. That year the Acadians of tion in the pages of The War That Made Amerassassinating a French diplomatic envoy. It is with maps that the reader of The War Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island were ica. So too does the infamous figure of Moses Hazen. That Made America first becomes familiar Moses Hazen’s name is a synonym for with Maine and the homeland of the Acabrutality in Acadian history. Even British dians. Anderson includes a reproduction According to Anderson, the St. Anne commander Lord Jeffrey Amherst exof the Mitchell map of 1755. This map Acadians allied themselves with the pressed his disgust at what is known as clearly shows Nova Scotia as extending to Mi’Kmaq in fighting the British. Hazen’s Horror. Moses Haven, a colonial the Penobscot River. The Province of ranger, destroyed St. Anne. He went so Maine — then a part of Massachusetts — far as to kill women and children. is bounded by the Penobscot and the The Acadians of the St. John Valley have Kennebec Rivers. At this time Maine does not shipped out. The number was 8000 men, extend as far north as Moosehead Lake. The women and children. The figure is greater their hero and their villain. It is too bad the territory between the Kennebec and the than that of the 1755 expulsion. 1759 was story of that hero and villain could not have Penobscot is a sort of no-man’s-land, though also the year that the Acadians who would been a part of The War That Made America, the one is left with the impression it falls under come to make their home in the upper St. documentary and the book. One can only the auspices of New York. Cape Breton Is- John Valley made their move from the area think of what similar popular productions around what is now Fredericton, New and books have done for other Maine historland and Prince Edward Island are French. William Shirley was governor of Massa- Brunswick. These Acadians made their home ical groups like the Twentieth Maine. The War That Made America is the story of chusetts in 1755. His counterpart in Nova at St. Anne. According to Anderson, the St. Anne Aca- two superpowers struggling to dominate the Scotia was Charles Lawrence. Shirley and Lawrence took it upon themselves to elimi- dians allied themselves with the Mi’Kmaq in minority peoples of North America. The nate French strongholds on Cape Breton Is- fighting the British. T‘hose who are familiar powerless Acadians, just as native Americans, land and Prince Edward Island as well as the with the specific details of the history of the were caught in the middle of that struggle.❖ perceived threat of the Acadians. The latter St. Anne settlement know that French miliincluded the expulsion of the Acadians from tary leader Charles Boisherbert fought with Other businesses from this area Nova Scotia. The Acadians were viewed as a Malecite allies in the St. Anne area. are featured in the color section. Charles Boisherbert has deservingly gone potential “fifth column.”


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