SURGING AHEAD, 1880-1900
Although the eighties were to see some rather spectacular advances in many fields of
endeavor, the decade did not get off to a very good start, for the year of 1881 was the year
of the great fire that nearly wiped out the west side of Main Street and much of the business
section of Park Street. How the fire started is a moot questionthere have been several
versions, but the most reasonable seems to be that it started on Park Street from an
overheated stove in a building once owned by Going Hathorn. It swept through Vickerys store
and was fanned eastward to make a clean sweep of the business blocks of upper Main to stop
just short of A. H. Cornforths store. When the last embers had been extinguished, the area
presented a bleak, discouraging picture with its charred timbers and its blackened chimneys
standing stark and naked like ghostly sentinels.
There is a saying that we grow strong in adversity. That was certainly true in 1881. The
last flame had hardly been extinguished before the charred rubble was being removed and plans
were in the making for a new and better business area.
About the first effort in restoration was the decision to build an outstanding municipal
building and the progress made in that direction is eloquently described in the early issues
of The Pittsfield Advertiser which published its first edition in April 1882. This
remarkable weekly has had a most interesting history in its eighty-four years of
uninterrupted publication. It has been invaluable to the writer since he became involved in
this story of Pittsfield and in order that it may be of further use to those interested in
local history, he has assisted in having all of its copies bound and placed on file at the
library. This is as good a time as any to thank all those who have had a part in this most
worthwhile project Mrs. Libby, the librarian; interested individuals; clubs and the First
The story of The Pittsfield Advertiser is a fascinating one. It has throughout the
years reflected the tenor of the times. It was born at the beginning of the era we have
referred to as one of vigorous growth. There was the spirit of youth in the air that was
inspiring to those who were fortunate enough to have been around Pittsfield at that time. An
esprit des corps existed that drove men to do things. Charles B. Haskell evidently
caught some of the spirit of these times. He felt that he could help a little with a small
news sheet published monthly, advertising the goods of merchants and promoting such causes as
he deemed worthy. Although others had tried a similar venture in the late seventies with the
Pittsfield Times and failed, Mr. Haskell had the feeling that he could make his paper
succeed. How well he did succeed is a matter of record.
His first issue, four pages 8 x 11, stated in its banner head that it was DEVOTED TO THE
INTERESTS OF THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY. There were plenty of ads, a few local items, a feature
article concerning a fatal accident in Detroit, and a personal item which may have been
inserted by the editor, since it is well authenticated that he possessed a good sense of
humor. We have photographed this first edition and hope that the readers will get as much fun
out of reading the ads as we did.
The next edition came out in May as promised. It was larger than the first 11 x 15½
and in addition to a fine page of local news, it included correspondence from Burnham,
Detroit, Harmony, Madison, Newburg, Palmyra, Ripley, Solon and St. Albans. The front page
featured a short story, the editorial page thanked the public for its warm reception of the
first issue and then promoted a sales campaign that included a choice of magazines which for a
small additional amount could be taken along with a years subscription to The
Advertiser. The subscription price for The Advertiser alone was 35 cents per
It was in this issue that we find the first mention of a movement to build Union Hall.
Under the heading About Town we find this historic item: We learn that at an adjourned
of the subscribers for stock in the proposed Union Hall, held May 5th, it was voted by
those present 70 shares in favor to 21 against to build without stores on Park Street, and
that a committee was chosen consisting of A. P. McMaster, Wm. Dobson, and A. H. Cornforth, to
nominate a building committee whenever the number of shares subscribed for shall reach 160
their report to be made to a future meeting to be called by the committee on plans and
In the June issue of The Advertiser we find this item: The number of shares
subscribed for in the proposed brick building having reached 160, a meeting of subscribers for
the stock was called at Engine Hall, Tuesday evening, June 6th. A building committee was
chosen, consisting of T. S. Dexter. O. S. Haskell, and George H. Hunter.
In the July issue we learn that the foundation work for the new hall was let to Joseph L.
Fisher, the work to be completed by August 15th.
In the August and September issues the work is described as progressing well. The October
edition announces that H. A. Morrell has finished making his third kiln of bricks. This will
make 600,000 bricks he has manufactured since June 12th and a large portion of them has gone
into the construction of Union Hall, which has come along so well that the walls are now up
and ready for the roof.
In December, the readers of The Advertiser were informed that the outside of Union
Hall was completed and the grading finished. An immense cistern had been completed in the
basement, a floor laid in the storeroom, and the engine room and lock-up nearly ready for
occupancy. Workmen were then engaged building the galleries and stairs.
In January 1883 a Ladies Union Hall Club was organized and for the next year this was one
of the most active organizations in the area. The Club grew rapidly and the ladies put on
dances, dinners, and drives to raise money to furnish the new hall. They were most successful
and climaxed their work in May with one of the grandest dedicatory programs that can be found
in the whole history of Pittsfield. It went for four days and The Advertiser came out
with special editions on the 15th, 16th,
17th, and 18th, to describe the events of the week.
On the 15th, the Dramatic Club presented Octoroon and it was reviewed as one of the finest
plays of the season.
On the 16th, the Grand Opening Ball was held and more than 800 tickets were sold. Special
trains were scheduled from Skowhegan and Hallowell. An order of 20 dances was offered and D.
M. Parks acted as Floor Director and from all reports, he did a magnificent job. On the 17th,
there was a Grand Concert with artists coming from Portland and Augusta to assist the local
talent. Jennie L. Coffin was a featured soprano soloist and Bertha L. Pendexter with her
humorous readings was most enthusiastically received. The celebration was completed with a
second Grand Ball, this time W. H. Faunce being the Floor Director. Throughout the entire week
the Ladies Union Hall Club ran a fair, selling food, art work and knick-knacks, gathering
in enough money to help make the hall one of the most attractive in the state.
There was a slight mishap during the proceedings. There was a case of food poisoning
following the meal the evening of the Grand Concert, but after the usual dire rumors that
often surround such occurrences had been allayed, all was happy again and the celebration
ended in a smashing success.
The construction of Union Hall inaugurated a building boom that has seen no equal since. It
seemed to personify a spirit of optimism and hope for the future of Pittsfield that spread
through all phases of community life. After Union Hall came two large woolen mills, two active
lumber mills, a railroad from Pittsfield to Hartland, an electric power plant, a large
clothing factory, a community water works system, a sewer system, three brick blocks on the
west side of Main Street as well as one fine frame store, one excellent frame block on the
east side of Main Street and several other smaller shops in other parts of the business
section. The fever of this building activity swept over the citizenry of the town, and during
the next twenty years, residential construction averaged around twenty homes per year. Some of
the finest residences in town today were built during this period. Lets examine in more detail
some of this extraordinary growth.
The music had hardly died down from the last Grand Concert of the Union Hall dedication
before a chorus of hammers, saws,
and trowels filled the air around the new G. A. R. building
going up on Park Street and the modern brick block on Main Street being erected by J. C.
Connor. This was a particularly fine structure, built to house two stores on the street level
and offices on the second floor. The Conants moved into the stores at first and since that
time it has been variously occupied by apparel stores and finally by the First National Bank.
At one time there was a meat market in the basement. The same year, 1883, work was started on
the Maple Grove Woolen Mill by Dennison Walker, who had dissolved his partnership with the
Dobsons and was striking out for himself. This ambitious project created a piece of property
that over the years has brought into Pittsfield thousands of payroll dollars to contribute
materially to the prosperity of the town.
For many years it was known as the Riverside Mill and was operated by various owners
strictly as a plant manufacturing quality woolens. Later Mr. Lancey Milliken purchased the
property and dealt in processed wool; today it is once again a woolen mill. The G. A. R.
building was completed near the end of this year and the first floor was occupied by G. E.
Kimball as a pant factory.
SEBASTICOOK & MOOSEHEAD RAILROAD
For some time, there had been considerable discussion, both unofficial and official,
regarding a railroad from Pittsfield through to Moosehead. Pittsfield appeared in most of
these arguments in a somewhat neutral capacity. It really did not seem to make a great deal of
difference to the economy of the town which direction such a road would take, although time
has proved that perhaps if the road had been laid out along the East Branch of the
Sebasticook, our town would have benefitted more substantially. Sentimentally, the route along
the West Branch offered more appeal to many for there was a warm feeling on the part of quite
a few of the local citizens for the Hartland area with its Moose Pond and its hospitable
At any rate, in April 1886 it was proposed to build the first section of such a road from
Pittsfield to Hartland. In July at a hearing in Hartland, it was voted to extend the road to
Harmony, and in August, at a hearing in Pittsfield, it was decided to start construction at
once from Pittsfield to Hartland.
It was one of the fastest pieces of railroad construction on record. In September, work
began and reported coming along very well. In October, a large crew had completed the road bed
and laid most of the rails. In November, ten weeks after the first shovel full of earth was
turned, the road was opened with a great celebration in Hartland. The first freight hauled on
this opening day was consigned to Linn and Shaw of Hartland and a large crowd from Pittsfield
was on the train. They stayed late and many of the jubilant citizens from Hartland joined them
on their return trip to Pittsfield. No record is made of how they got back to Hartland.
Pittsfield now became a busy little junction and traffic picked up considerably although
minor breakdowns on the Hartland branch marred some of the trips. We read of frequent
excursions to the Moose Pond region that must have been delightful. One such occasion is
described in some detail as a trip to Castle Harmony by the Flower of Pittsfields Business
Men, including Dr. H. Pushor, I. H. Lancey, Dennison Walker, Gordon Dobson, C. E. Vickery,
Will Pushor, A. W. Brackett, N. L. Perkins, Charles Dustin, Will Manson, T. S. Dexter, E. N.
Shaw and G. E. Kimball. They took the Hartland train, guests of the new Railroad, by the way,
and then went by boat to the Castle where they relaxed and forgot to come home until the next
From 1871, the manufacture of clothing furnished employment for many local townspeople. G.
J. Pendexter from Parsonfield established the first shop in the old John Simons store on Main
Street, then moved to Park Street to a building erected by Going Hathorn in which the fire of
1881 started. In 1877 Mr. Pendexter went into partnership with G. E. Kimball and at one time
the company was making 1800 pairs of trousers a week. In 1879 Pendexter sold out to Kimball
who remained in the business most of his life. In 1884, after the fire, Kimball became
associated in business with T. S. Dexter, first in the G. A. R. building on Park Street and
later in the basement of Union Hall where they installed a steam plant with twenty machines,
getting their water from the mill pond across the street. This little steam engine, the
in Pittsfield, was a source of great curiosity. Later in the year The Advertiser
installed an engine for printing, and before long, Dexter-Sampson and Libby lumber mill
adopted steam. Others who were in the pant business during this period were Joseph Chapman, J.
H. Rich, B. I. Fitzgerald, Charles Berdeen, O. T. Merrow & Son, Gilman Gould, Llewellyn
Gould, George Elliot, and R. A. Conant.
The last gentleman, father of Vera Conant Brown, in 1886 built the largest pant factory of
all. He lived at what is now 11 Manson Street, a large three story home surmounted by a
cupola. Back of this home he erected a two-story building 68 feet long, reaching nearly to the
R. R. tracks and containing 2700 square feet. He employed 14 girls and had an overhead expense
of $3000 per month. It is recorded that in 1888 one employee put out 60 pairs of overalls in
one day. This historic manufacturing plant has long since disappeared. The last of its life it
served as an apartment house and later was torn down. The only reminder of it today is a tired
looking granite hitching post that once stood near the front entrance.
After the construction of the S. & M. R. R. the next major event of great interest was
the proposal to build a third woolen mill in the vicinity of the Waverley Rips. This dream was
not realized until 1892, but in the intervening years many interesting changes took place,
some of which should be mentioned, if only briefly. Typical of the spirit of the times was a
vote passed to exempt from taxes for ten years any new industry that was willing to invest
$10, 000 in initial capital. Industrial growth is the life blood of any community and these
people sensed it and tried to do something about it.
By this time, The Advertiser had become a weekly paper with a wide circulation
throughout the area. In 1886, M. C. I. built a new dormitory on the site of the present Alumni
Hall. In that year 20 new homes were built, many of them being in the vicinity of the two
woolen mills. In Scotland, several cottages were built for mill employees by contractor H. J.
Brackett. They were on a 60 hour week in those days and these small homes went up fast. One
worker laid 8000 shingles in one day! Preston Hersey was the architect and builder of many of
the better homes in Pittsfield and
his reputation as a fine workman had evidently spread for
we read that about this time he took most of the carpenters in the area with him to Portland
to assist in the construction of Union Station.
Among the human interest items occurring in 1886 was a snow storm, that proved to be about
the worst in history. It lasted for three days and stalled the train service for nearly a
week. Drummers once again had the opportunity to enjoy the princely hospitality of the Lancey
House. H. Warren Lancey, who presented the bell to M. C. I. in 1877, was a visitor. He resided
in Ontario. C. E. Vickery became the father of a big bouncing boy, and Capt. Sawyers hen laid
an egg 6½ x 8 inches!
In 1887, important additions were made at the Pioneer Mill under the supervision of Preston
Hersey; a sewer on Main and Central Streets was laid; Dexter and Sampson built a bridge to
their mill on the island; an additional story was added to The Advertiser building;
plans for a new Baptist Church were discussed; Manson and Hovey formed a law partnership; the
new Eelweir Bridge was opened; Mr. Maxfield became superintendent of the new grist mill; so
many minor accidents occurred on the S. & M. R. R. that it was getting to be funny; Julia
Anderson appeared in Union Hall; Mrs. Going Hathorn and Rev. Nathaniel Weymouth died; Nellie
Lancey and William Hunnewell were married; and twenty-five residences were built.
In 1888, progress continued. Home construction went on apace. Henry Libby, who had been
appointed Postmaster following the Cleveland election, continued to operate his drug store but
now in the new J. C. Connor block which housed both the P. O. and the drug store. This
building today is occupied by H. L. Cornforth Clothing Store and the Humphrey Drug. The door
at the rear that leads between the two stores, which Mr. Libby used to go back and forth to
his two jobs, is still there and in use. This was the year that work on the Lancey Street
Grammar School was begun and the Peltoma Bridge was built. Isaac Lancey got $1650 for the
school lot and contract for the construction was let for $5,965.00.
Peltoma Bridge was bid in for $7,800.00 by J. C. Connor, Agent, and A. P. McMaster,
Contractor. The story of this bridge is an involved one. For 25 years, Attorney S. S. Hackett
had opposed it successfully, but he finally accepted defeat gracefully. After
completion the costs were to be shared proportionally by the two towns but Detroit opposed its
assessment most strenuously. The argument became very bitter and came to a head when an act of
seizure was instigated by the town of Pittsfield in an effort to bring Detroit to terms.
Certain pieces of property were taken from individuals in lieu of the assessment, including
some cattle belonging to William Young, a well-to-do farmer of that village. The
property was eventually returned, but only after threats and counterthreats had been hotly
made. When it was over, feeling still ran high and the town of Detroit held a special town
meeting at which it was voted to never trade in Pittsfield again. Time heals all things and
the affair has long been forgotten and all parties forgiven.
The following year, 1889, the drive for funds for the new Baptist Church was still on. Rev.
Whitcomb made an eloquent plea for further donations. Henry Libby, popular druggist and
Democrat, was asked to stay on as Postmaster although the Republicans won the election. He
accepted. The new grammar school was completed, a Building and Loan Association was formed
with Ernest Maxfield, President. There was talk of forming an electric company. Agent
Lancaster was busy in his new $5000 depot which had been finished the year before. A proposal
to establish a bank was made by McMaster, Manson, Walker, Hunnewell and D. M. Parks. On
October 19th, the First National Bank was organized with quarters provided on the west side of
Union Hall. Under personal items, we note that Cooks orchestra was proving very popular, that
Robert Dobson and wife returned from a visit to Scotland, and that O. H. Drake, the new
principal of M. C. I., married Lelia Plumstead.
An interesting bit of history occurred this year when the ugly old Grammar School, located
on the site of the present Baptist Church, was moved to Park Street next to Union Hall where
it was turned into a commercial building by J. C. Connor, who added a second story and fitted
it out for a store and rooming house. It has since been used in many capacities. It was once a
theater, a knitting mill, a rooming house, and today is an auto parts store and a rooming
On the lighter side, the year of 1889 saw the troupe of General Tom Thumb perform on the
stage of Union Hall. The Generals signature is on the old Lancey House registry. J. H. Davis
claimed he had found a wonderful spring three miles north of Pittsfield that gave forth water
of great medicinal value and he intended to bottle 100 barrels a day. He hoped to run a
steamer and barge above the Douglass Dam to the spring and on to Hartland. About the same time
authorities found other liquids of strong potentialities in Palmyra atop Warren Hill and in
the interest of temperance, confiscated the same. In the following year, the Reverend Whitcomb
attacked the local rum interests which seemed to be unduly active and prosperous.
The year of 1890 should be a significant one to local racing fans, for this was the year in
which Dr. T. N. Drake purchased for $10, 000, Early Bird, a four-year-old roan
stallion, by Jay Bird out of Beulah, and focused the attention of all Maine sport lovers on
our town. Pittsfield had long been known for its interest in horse racing. Back in 1883, The
Advertiser noted that Harbinger, owned by A. W. Brackett, won at the Bangor Fair in three
straight heats and a big crowd was at the station to meet the owner and horse when they
returned to Pittsfield. The same year, H. B. Grant sold a two-year colt, Almont Ledo, for
$1200. The Dustin Brothers were familiar figures around the Maine racing circuit in those
early days Charlie, in particular, was gaining an envious reputation as a trainer arid driver.
J. F. Connor owned some fine stock. But it was not until Col. Walter G. Morrill came upon the
scene that harness racing really caught hold in this area. He was unquestionably one of the
most remarkable personalities that ever lived here. He was born in Brownville, enlisted at the
beginning of the war, joined the 20th Maine as 2nd Lieutenant, and fought alongside General
Joshua Chamberlain in many important campaigns, won most of his promotions on the battlefield,
was in command of the Company that fought brilliantly at Gettysburg, took over the 20th Maine
when Chamberlain was promoted, was with the regiment at Appomattox, led it in review at
Lees surrender, and brought his men back to Maine for the final mustering
out ceremonies. Years later, along with Chamberlain, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of
Honor by Congress. Pullen, in his excellent book, The Twentieth Maine, describes the Colonel
as follows: Morrill was one of those men whom war reveals in their highest staturesmen
terrifically and truly great while war is on. Although only 22, Morrill had seen his share of
fighting. When the trials and tribulations of warfare had weeded out less desirable officers,
Morrill had quickly risen to the command of Company B. At Gettysburg he had saved his company
from capture in an isolated position and then struck the enemy from the rear in a surprise
attack that did much to turn the tide of battle. Morrill was not exactly the West Point kind
of officer when it comes to conducting himself with the proper snap, precision, and attention
to details. But the private soldiers considered him a real man and a remarkable fighter when
the going got tough.
This was the man whom The Advertiser in its February edition in the year of 1885
noted had registered at the Lancey House with his wife. He had just sold out his interest in
the Exchange Hotel in Dexter and was in Pittsfield looking for a location for a livery
He evidently had no difficulty finding such a business for shortly thereafter it was
reported that he had purchased teams and carriages of the Lancey House to operate such a
livery stable. The following year, Col. Morrill purchased from a Mr. Richardson of Boston a
rich bay trotting stallion, Zimba, for $5000. This animal, which stood 16 hands high, weighed
1100 pounds and had a record of 2: 21 1/2, was offered for limited service. That summer, the
Colonels Plumed Knight driven by the famous Charlie Dustin, won handily at Skowhegan Fair.
Mr. Dustins interview with The Advertiser on the cost of racing one average horse at
that period might be of interest to followers of the sport today: Equipment, $335; training,
$160 per month; total cost of year $2255. The owner could expect a return of around $600.
Anyone going into the horse racing, business in 1886 could expect to be out of pocket about
$1000 for each horse he owned and raced providing, of course, the horse stayed
was the situation then, according to Charlie Dustin, and it hasnt changed much in eighty
The Dr. Drake story is a spectacular one. He was born in Effingham, N. H. in 1858,
graduated from medical school in 1884, practiced one year in Presque Isle and then bought out
the practice of the late Dr. W. S. Howe of Pittsfield. Following the death of his wife in
1891, the only daughter of the late Going Hathorn, Dr. Drake began to interest himself in the
stock at the Hathorn stables. He was perhaps more interested in breeding horses than in racing
them and at one time made a trip to California to inspect the famous stables of Senator
Stanford. He bought Greenfield, gifted son of Electioneer, bred on the Stanford farms. He
hoped to use this stallion to head his own farm in Pittsfield, but the horse was taken ill and
died suddenly. It was a great loss, but Dr. Drake later purchased Bosphorus, son of Sultan,
for $10,000. It was a long price for a two-year-old colt, but he was well bred and the
Doctor was happy. He also purchased Early Bird for $10,000, so altogether at his farm in 1893
he owned six stallions representing an investment of $31,000certainly one of the finest
breeding stables in the northeastern part of the country.
Early Bird was his star on the tracks. He was a sensation wherever he appeared. He seldom
failed to live up to expectations and time after time equalled or bettered his mark. In 1893,
at Old Orchard, Early Bird established a record of 2:16½ and a great spontaneous
celebration took place at the Hathorn estate to welcome home Dr. Drake and his equine hero.
The train was due in Pittsfield at 9 oclock, but was late and the crowd that had gathered on
the Hathorn grounds was entertained by Edna Martins songs, Attorney John Mansons stories and
other forms of amusement until the train arrived two hours behind time. Early Bird was led up
to the grounds and from there on the report of the occasion becomes somewhat garbled. The
conclusion that one must make after all these years is that a fine time was had by all, even
by the racing stallion. Two months later at Rigby Park in Portland Early Bird reduced his mark
In June of this year (1893), Col. Morrill purchased the old Pittsfield Driving Park from J.
E. Connor and Isaac Lancey. The Colonel intends to make extensive repairs, the announcement of
the purchase stated, building stalls, judges stand, seats for the spectators, improving the
track, repairing the fences, and opening up a road from the park to Peltoma Avenue.
The opening ceremonies were held in August and it was a great day for Col. Morrill, the new
Union Park that had been practically idle for twenty years, and for the racing enthusiasts
throughout the area. Special trains were run into Pittsfield, bringing one of the largest
crowds ever seen at the Park. The feature of the day was a ladies carriage race, the first in
Maine. There was considerable doubt expressed when the event was first announced, but Morrill
went through with it and it was a sensational success. He was later asked to put on a similar
race at the other fairs in Maine and was invited to sponsor one in New Hampshire. It was the
beginning of many firsts for Col. Morrill in his chosen field.
The careers of these two colorful personalities took divergent paths as the years rolled
on. Dr. Drake, for personal reasons, probably financial, very shortly sold Early Bird to a
Boston horse fancier, later sold his entire racing stock, and his beautiful estate, including
his lovely home and his 450 acre farm. His home, which was located on what is now Hathorn
Park, was a huge establishment, even in those days of large homes. In 1897, it was purchased
by Isaac Lancey who split it into three parts, taking the main part of the house for himself
and moving it to the corner of Main and Easy Street where it has served as a commercial block
all these years. At one time it housed the Postoffice and the Lancey Hardware store. It was
renovated by J. R. Cianchette and then sold to Leon Gordon. At the time this is being written,
the upper floor is used for apartments and the street floor is available for stores. The
stable of the Hathorn home was moved to Hunnewell Avenue and has been occupied recently by The
Advertiser, and the Ell of the house is located on Lancey Street next to the old Lancey Street
Grammar School and is a private dwelling, once occupied by the Hallee family. The Hathorn
Stable housing his thoroughbreds was afterward moved to the north side of the R. R. tracks
where it housed the Eastern Maine Grain Co. for years and currently is the home of the
Wirthmore Feed Co. The inscription Home of Early Bird still shows through the paint on the
west end of the
building. Dr. Drake moved to Bangor after liquidating his properties here, but
he did not stay long. He returned to resume his practice of medicine which he carried on until
his death in 1924.
Colonel Morrill continued his interest in harness racing until the day he died in 1935 at
the age of 93. He became the grand old man of racing, sponsoring dashes in all parts of the
state. He was the first to feature races for women, as we have noted; he was the first to
offer $1000 purses; he was the first to use modern sulkies. It would be difficult to enumerate
all the innovations and unusual quirks he sponsored to arouse the public interest. He was a
master showman. His last race program was put on at his old Union Park just before it was
turned into an airport. It was a glad day but also a sad day, full of nostalgia. The grounds
were pretty well run down, but everything was done to make it a Col. Morrill Day. The writer,
who happened to be a member of the Legislature at that time, brought Governor Brann to
Pittsfield to do proper honor to the Colonel, and both the Governor and the Colonel enjoyed
watching the races and reminiscing about the sport, particularly as it touched on Lewiston,
the Governors home town and the city in which the Colonel had had many triumphant
After the airport was finished, the writer also had the privilege of taking Col. Morrill,
when he was well in his eighties, on his first flight. We circled Pittsfield several times and
at first the Colonel hung on to the sides of the open cockpit rather tightly, but then he
began to relax and look down at the town he had seen develop over a period of more than fifty
years. He was a weird sight with his goggles and his beard, split by the wind, and I shall
never forget his turning to me and shouting above the roar of the motor, Purty risky! This
from the man who had gone through the fiercest battles in the Civil War, lain wounded for
hours on the fields of one of those battles, and decorated more than once for bravery in
action! What a man!
Today they continue to hold a Col. Morrills Day at the Bangor Fair and offer a Col. Morrill
race. This custom was inaugurated by J. R. Cianchette, who years after the Colonel had had his
day, became interested in harness racing. In a later chapter we shall discuss this more modern
phase of horse racing as it relates to Pittsfield.
The years of 1890 and 1891 were essentially years of planning planning that seemed to
materialize in the next two or three years. For example, the Water Works project was under
considerationconsideration that several times generated into real heated argument. Under an
act of the last Legislature, the Pittsfield Water Works was incorporated with W. R. Hunnewell,
President; J. F. Connor, Vice-President; F. W. Hovey, Secretary and Treasurer; Directors:
N. L. Perkins, Gordon Dobson, Benj. Thompson, T. N. Drake, D. M. Parks, Oramel Murray,
Dennison Walker, J. W. Manson, and O. S. Haskell. Later in the year, the town voted
178-105 against establishing such a project. Mr. Hunnewell then offered to furnish water
to the town but that too was not acceptable.
Dexter, Simpson & Libby were in financial trouble in 1890 and the Dobsons purchased
control. They planned to continue operation of the mill and the store.
D. E. Fiske purchased the lease of the Lancey House from Mr. Blackden, who was moving out
after a very successful tenor of management. The Legislature voted $10,000 to M.C.I. for an
improved educational program. The citizens of the town raised $1000 to landscape the M.C.I.
campus. 150 maple trees were set out, edging the walks and drives. Ground was broken for the
construction of a new Baptist Church, a project that had been debated and prayed over for
several years. Preston Hersey was to be the builder. N. L. Perkins, one of the most
progressive merchants of his time, began the construction of a three-story brick block on
the west side of Main Street. It was a modern structure with hot water heating. Mr. William
Hunnewell, another wide-awake citizen of this era, donated a bridge and street to the
town, both of which bear his name today. The bridge that he gave was replaced recently by a
modern concrete structure. Mr. Hunnewell also laid out a ball park just east of the river and
north of Hunnewell Avenue. For years this field was used by the athletic teams of M.C.I. and
the town of Pittsfield. It might be noted incidentally that these M.C.I. teams, particularly
the baseball clubs, were most successful. They were playing all four of the Maine colleges and
winning most of their games. In 1890 they won handily from Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, and the
state college. Will
Pushor and Fod Graves were the stars of these games. Governor Barrows
father, George Barrows, played at first base on some of these early teams.
Other items of interest in the year of 91 was the construction of Douglass Dam. 200,000
feet of lumber and two tons of iron went into this dam. There were thirty bicycles in town
that year and they were getting to be a nuisance on the sidewalks. Where have we heard that
The year 1892 was a year of accomplishment. The plans of 90 and 91 saw fruition in 1892.
Just to enumerate a few of the projects accomplished: Bryant & Woodruff built their steam
mill on the east side of the Sebasticook River a 40 x 60 building with two stories. Perkins
Hall in the new Perkins block was dedicated; the Free Will Baptist Church was dedicated to the
great satisfaction of Jesse Connor and other generous and hard working members who had put in
so much time and effort to make this beautiful edifice possible; and greatest of all was the
successful completion of the drive to raise the necessary funds to build the Waverley Mill.
$62,000 was raised in town and the balance was secured outside. J. W. Manson reviewed the
effort and revealed that Robert Dobson had subscribed $20,000, McMaster $5000, Jenkins $3000,
J. F. Connor, J. C. Connor, I. H. Lancey, J. W. Manson $2000, G. H. Hunter, N. L. Perkins, Dr.
Drake, the Haskells, and Emma B. Longley $1000. Sixty-eight others contributed. W. M.
Dobson secured the balance of the necessary funds from outside the state. In July, ground was
broken and by August 5, men were working on the construction. The dedication of the mill was
planned for next year.
Among the human interest items that year were the torch-light parades during one of the
hottest political campaigns in history; the temporary closing of the Lancey House as a result
of a raid. That affair brought about a change in management. A second great Cleveland victory
made it possible for the happy Democrats to stage a monstrous parade with D. M. Parks acting
as marshal. W. L. Pushor was elected cashier of the bank. Drinking became an issue when
Contractor Fosters crew failed to show up at the new mill one Monday morning and the
prohibitionists became especially emotional; however, by the last of October, the first
of the mill was up and Foster said that work was progressing satisfactorily. In 91,
fifty-two private dwellings had been built and in 92, the boom continued, most of the
construction being in the neighborhood of the Waverley mill; a new office building was built
at the Pioneer mill. It was a good year.
The dedication of the Waverley mill will probably be remembered as one of the great
milestones in local history. It will be so recognized principally because of the important
contribution such a mill made to the economy of the town, but it will also be long remembered
because it got such excellent coverage by The Advertiser. In a special edition dated
April 11, 1893, Editor Haskell devotes the entire paper to the dedication ceremonies and to
pertinent information concerning the economy of the town. It is filled with pictures of
Pittsfields leading personalities, their homes and business interests. We have photographed a
part of this issue and hope that it may prove of interest to some of the readers. Plans for
these ceremonies were made well in advance and the following committee was chosen to carry out
the program: William Dobson, D. M. Parks, C. E. Vickery, O. S. Haskell, T. S. Dexter, C. B.
Haskell, Secretary, and N. L. Perkins, Treasurer. It was decided to have two evenings, one at
Union Hall the first night and a Grand Concert and ball at the Waverley Mill the second night.
For the evening at Union Hall, William Dobson secured a group of talented young ladies from
Old Town who gave a splendid program of amateur minstrelsy supplemented by readings by three
talented Pittsfield ladies. It was a most successful evening.
The concert and ball the following evening was a magnificent affair one of the finest ever
to be put on in Pittsfield. Special trains brought guests from all parts of the state.
Businessmen from Boston and representatives from nearly every woolen mill in Maine were
present. Even though there was a snow storm of considerable proportions early in the evening,
it did not dampen the enthusiasm of the huge crowd that made their way to the mill by private
teams or by D. E. Fiskes five barges. The interior of the
mill was bathed in a flood of
electric light and everything connected with the machinery in motion operated perfectly. The
floor was in charge of T. G. Lancey with H. F. Libby and E. N. Shaw as assistants. At 8:30
Pullens orchestra mounted the platform in the center of the immense room and played five
concert numbers. Dancing began at 9:30 and 130 couples appeared for the grand march led by S.
R. Haines and Miss Hattie Dobson. The order of dances consisted of eighteen numbers.
By eleven oclock, the ballroom was filled and presented a beautiful and animated spectacle.
Elegantly attired ladies and finely dressed gentlemen responded to the entrancing music while
a large number of spectators viewed the scene from either end.
Whoever acted as society editor for The Advertiser did a mar velous job for there
are four columns of the story given over to a description of the ladies gowns. It no doubt
would be of interest to our female readers to include all of these descriptions, but space
prevents. Here are a few of what, to a male writer, at least, appear to be the most fetching:
Miss Lizzie Bowden, Charlestown, Mass., pink China silk, decoletté corsage, with full
puffed sleeves, with flowers. Miss Margaret Bachelder, Poland Spring, guest of Mrs. William
Dobson, dress of garnet fabric, rich jet vest, white pinks. Miss Maud Brackett, rich gown of
pale green brocaded silk, velvet bretelles, pink oleanders. Mrs. William Dobson, heavy black
silk with diamonds. Miss Hattie Dobson, elegant Empress gown of pearl satin, made with square
corsage and court train, rich pearl girdle and trimmings, Jacqueminot and Mermet roses. Miss
Grace Fuller, Hartland, Josephine gown of Nile green crepe, with white lace. Mrs. W. R.
Hunnewell, black and lavender costume, steel passementerie, lilies of the valley, diamonds.
Mrs. C. B. Haskell, corn-colored gown of brocaded China silk, with demi-train, fall of
embroidered chiffon lace over low corsage, Marechal Niel roses. Miss Blanche Robinson, dancing
toilette of pink brocaded bengaline, low corsage and sleeves, satin trimmings, exquisite lace
and ribbons, ostrich aigrettes on shoulder and in hair. Miss Bessie Shaw, Newport, violet
crepe de Chine and velvet, lace and diamonds.
Shortly after twelve, supper was served on the first floor. Over six hundred persons were
seated at the tables when D. M. Parks,
acting as head waiter, and his drilled corps of
waiters, 80 strong, mostly ladies, appeared on the scene to the music of fife and drum. The
supper was an elegant one, served under the direction of Mr. F. A. Jones, the Newport caterer,
who in every way met the needs of the occasion.
Thus was concluded one of the most colorful affairs ever held in our town.
And so the year of 1893 was a good year for Pittsfield in spite of the fact that hard times
were prevalent over the country. More than thirty-one new homes were constructed. Bryant
& Woodruff added a large storehouse to their fast growing woodworking plant on Hunnewell
Avenue; Osborne Block at Main and Hunnewell was erected to house two stores at street level
and offices overhead; and in addition to the Waverley mill itself, the Waverley Company built
a second large boarding house with twenty rooms on Waverley Street. The Water Works
proposition continued to be in the news; Henry Libby was reappointed Postmaster; and to
brighten the year, Tom Lancey and Delia Farnham pulled a fast one on their friends by
arranging a whist party at the Lancey Homestead. As the guests were taking their places at the
tables, the portieres were suddenly drawn revealing the bride and groom and clergyman. Rev.
Read at once began the ceremony and by the time he had finished, the guests had recovered
their composure and hearty congratulations were in order.
A real addition to the cultural life of the community was made this year when the Tuesday
Club was organized. The first year of the club was most successful as a poem by Mrs. Jenkins
testifies. The club has had a wonderful record through all these years and today sponsors
The next year (1894) was an active one even though the mills were down part of the time due
to the generally hard times that had carried over from the previous year. There was much of
human interest that went on in the twelve months, however. D. M. Parks was serving as head of
a branch of the state I. O. O. F. and was doing an outstanding job in his visitations
throughout the state. He was a most popular individual perhaps one of the most colorful
figures of his times. He was a very rugged man, the story being told of his lifting a barrel
of flour off the floor to a high counter
in one of the grocery stores and similar feats of
strength. He had a personality that radiated good cheer and wholesome friendship. He was
usually to be found in the midst of the important social events, oftentimes acting as master
of ceremonies, floor director at the dances, and the life of the party at the Wild Goose Club
and the Castle Harmony soirees.
The writers father, Jesse E. Cook, was also, we are happy to say, usually around on these
occasions. He was attending medical school at Dartmouth during this period, but when back from
school he led an orchestra with a fiddle that had the dancers fairly jumping. Often-times
he acted as prompter at these affairs. A near tragedy came into his life in this particular
year. His orchestra was playing for a dance at Detroit and an oyster stew supper was served.
Seven people came down with typhoid from this meal, several died and Doc Cook, as he was known
even then, hung between life and death for several weeks. He recovered, but never was quite
the same. He graduated from medical school, practiced fifteen years in Unity and died at the
age of thirty-nine. In those fifteen years he established a reputation as an outstanding
physician that still lingers in the Waldo County area.
Among other personal items, William Dobson was in Europe this summer; fire destroyed the
residence of Frank Bryant on Nichols Street; George Dustin, brother of Charlie, left for
California to take a job as trainer for one of the large racing stables; The Advertiser
went into a smaller sheet, about the size of the one we have today; and The Lancey House was
raided again but this time no liquor was found!
There was, as usual around this period, considerable activity in residential building and
one of the finest homes to be completed was that of Henry Libby on Hartland Avenue, the house
now owned by Clyde Nichols. B. Thompson & Son sold their boot and shoe business to Leon
Libby. The Lancey House, still owned by Isaac Lancey, was extensively renovated, Preston
Hersey doing the work. Steam heat was installed in Union Hall, and the town voted 104-7 to
own the Pittsfield Water Works.
PITTSFIELD WATER WORKS
The last item is important because it signified the end of a rather bitter controversy that
had been debated for the past several years. It had been turned down twice, but now, thanks to
the backing of The Advertiser and a number of the substantial citizens of the town, it
was to become a reality.
In 1893, the Legislature granted a charter to a group of Pittsfield businessmen, but
nothing was done until the following year when they proposed to put in a water system. The
argument seems to be whether it should be a private or a municipally owned corporation. After
long and heated discussions, the town voted to take over the charter and a committee was
chosen to carry out the wishes of the people. J. F. Connor was President. Connor, Oramel
Murray, and N. L. Perkins were asked to represent the town in the construction of the system.
They immediately got a move on, visited cities and inspected systems similar to what
Pittsfield might expect. C. F. Parks, Waltham, Mass., engineer and contractor, was hired to
draw up plans and proceed.
The specifications called for piping about 6½ miles of village streets, erection of
62 hydrants, 2 watering tubs, 2 drinking fountains, and 2 stands for filling street
sprinklers. Two lines of pipe were to be laid, one on each side of the river and connecting at
Main Street by Hunter-McMaster store. The standpipe was to be located on Parks pinnacle,
west of Waverley Mill. It was to be 60 ft. high and 20 ft. in diameter with a capacity of 250,000
gallons. The foundation required 100 tons of rock, 10,000 bricks and 60 barrels of cement.
The pumping station was well designed with the pump and wheel rooms in the first story. The
building was of brick and was built by I. M. Libby. Before the ground was frozen the pipes
were tested and only a few minor leaks were discovered.
In its January 24, 1895 edition, The Advertiser had this to say: Friday morning
there occurred an event of considerable importance to the town of Pittsfield. In the presence
of a few citizens the massive pumping machinery connected with the local system was set in
motion for the first time.
Robt. Dobson, Esq. stood at the wheel which manipulates the flow of water and furnishes the
motive power. After everything
was ready, he turned the wheel. Everything worked as smooth as
smelt. Mr. Dobson was heartily congratulated and made some appropriate remarks. Supt. Murray
was exuberant, Capt. Baker was as frisky as a colt, the mechanics were pleased and everybody
was happy. The Capt. Baker referred to was a businessman from Belfast who had some share in
The system has continued to expand. At times there have been some warm discussions over
rates, etc., but altogether, Pittsfield has been most fortunate to enjoy good water at
reasonable costs, thanks to the foresight of our predecessors.
The building of the Waverley Mill and the completion of the Pittsfield Water Works seemed
to climax the period we had designated as one of extraordinary growth. The remaining years of
this twenty year span continued to be prosperous ones, but they are overshadowed by the size
and importance of these two major undertakings. The projects, both private and public, that
followed in the next few years were more or less incidental to these two historic
achievements. However, it was a great town to live in and there was much accomplished that was
interesting and important to the community.
During 1895 and 96, there was considerable discussion among the Universalists about
rebuilding their church or at least renovating the old building. This eventually resulted in
the construction of a church sanctuary that is unsurpassed in beauty. The I. O. O. F. hall was
dedicated in 1895. During the same year, Loder had a greenhouse on R. R. Street; Bryant &
Woodruff dissolved partnership and Bryant went on to prosper in wood supplies. He furnished
all the window sashes for the Hyde Windlass Company of Bath, among other large orders that he
was asked to fill.
A story Mr. Elmore Huff told the writer about the Palmer Bowling Alley at the corner of
Central and Middle Streets is amusing. Bowling was beginning to catch on about this time. Mr.
Palmer ran the one alley in town. During the day when business was slack, he could usually be
found sitting in front of his emporium in a rocking chair with several lines of twine reaching
out into the street. On the ends of these lines he knotted a single kernel of corn from the
grain store across the street. The doves were plentiful, in fact a nuisance, and Mr. Huff
relates that the
birds would swallow the corn and then Mr. Palmer would pull them in and
eventually have pigeon on his table!
Mr. Huff also mentioned that as a boy he had a high wheeled bicycle which he turned in to a
carriage shop across from Palmers and next to the grain mill. He remembers seeing this bicycle
placed on the ridgepole of the shop for advertising purposes. Also in 95, the Baptists paid
off their $3000 debt; J. C. Connor was planning a new block; Lizzie Walker operated the
telephone exchange in the Lancey House; 275 persons patronized the library; Tom Getchell and
Blanche Robinson got married; and J. W. Mansons new bathroom is a beauty!
In 96, there was one of the worst floods in history. It rained for 72 hours and the high
waters washed out the country roads and small bridges. The new bridges survived without
serious damage, much to the satisfaction of the contractors. Town meeting was especially hot
this year and in a speech that shook the town officials, J. C. Connor cried, Turn the rascals
out! There have been pickings and stealing all along the line! However, not much happened
except a few letters to the Editor criticising Mr. Connor, to which he responded
ROBERT DOBSON DIES
In April of this year, the Dobsons were in the spotlight. Gordon bought the bankrupt East
Pond Manufacturing Company of Newport for an auction price of $45,000. Later in the month the
town was shocked to learn of the death of Robert Dobson. He had gone to Hot Springs for his
health. He did not improve and decided to return home. He was met in Washington by Gordon who
brought him as far as Boston where he died. His passing again recalled the story of his coming
to Pittsfield in 1868, purchasing Going Hathorns one-set mill and expanding it into one of
the most prosperous industries in the northeast. The funeral was held in Union Hall and more
than a thousand friends and business acquaintances attended to pay their respects to one of
the finest citizens Pittsfield ever claimed. He had woven his life into the texture of local
history with strong and lasting fibres.
Another great Pittsfield family came into the limelight in 1896 when Llewellyn Powers was
nominated for Governor. He had
been in the public eye for several years as an able attorney
and legislator. His campaign, of course, was of great interest to all of Pittsfield and
probably one of the biggest political rallies in history was held that September on the M.C.I.
campus at which it is estimated 5000 persons attended to hear Thomas B. Reed, who, as Speaker
of U.S. House of Representatives, was at the pinnacle of his power. Lawyer Hovey, who seemed
to be a master at arranging public meetings, was chairman of the committee that planned and
carried out the program of the day. Bands came from Norridgewock and Waterville to help the
Pittsfield band stir the crowd with patriotic music. It was a great success and contributed
much to the Republican campaign that elected a Pittsfield native Governor of Maine.
In the midst of this election fervor, the friends of M.C.I. decided to finish off the open
space on the second floor of the Institute building into a beautiful hall to honor Pittsfields
latest celebrity. By the last of the year the new hall was practically finished and plans were
put into operation for an outstanding dedicatory program featuring the presence of the newly
inaugurated Governor Powers.
The ceremonies took place February 22, 1897 with dedicatory exercises in the afternoon at
the new hall and a reception in the evening. Both the afternoon and evening programs were most
successful. The stage was beautifully decorated with patriotic colors and on the platform for
the afternoon program were Prof. O. H. Drake, Principal of M. C. I., who presided; President
G. C. Chase, Bates College; Hon. A. L. Lumbert, Houlton, M.C.I. 75; Hon. W. W. Stetson, State
Superintendent of Schools; Hon. Hannibal Hamlin, Ellsworth; Rev. S. G. Whitcomb, President of
the Trustees, M. C. I.; Rev. Roscoe Nelson, Windsor, Connecticut; Dr. M. T. Dodge, Troy; Dr.
E. C. Bryant; Dr. F. J. Taylor; J. C. Connor; William Dobson Esq.; Hon. F. W. Hovey, all of
Following music by the Bowdoin College orchestra, Rev. Whitcomb offered an impressive
prayer and Rev. Roscoe Nelson, 85, gave the dedicatory address. Gov. Powers responded
referring to his boyhood days in Pittsfield and congratulating Pittsfield on its
fine town and especially fine school.
The reception in the evening was a charming affair. The entire staff of the Governor was on
hand to escort the Governor, his wife and a few friends from the Lancey House. The guest of
honor was received in a brilliantly lighted hall by a reception committee consisting of Mrs.
S. R. Haines, Mrs. J. W. Manson, Mrs. T. E. Getchell, Miss Ada Coffin, Miss Myra Libby, Mr.
Henry F. Libby, Mr. William Dobson, Prof. D. B. Lothrop, Dr. E. C. Bryant, and Dr. T. M.
Griffin. At the conclusion of the reception, the Bowdoin Mandolin and Glee Clubs presented a
fine concert that was most generously applauded. Miss Addie B. Welch was not on the program
but filled in for one of the Bowdoin readers who was unable to appear. She proved to be
exceptionally talented and was obliged to respond to the applause with a third reading. It was
a most delightful evening to be remembered for many years to come.
BAPTIST 30TH ANNIVERSARY
Before the year of 97 was out, several other events occurred worthy of mention. The
Reverend White moved into the new Baptist parsonage and since this was the thirtieth
anniversary year of the founding of the Free Baptist Society, the occasion was observed at a
Sunday service, January 3rd. Dr. F. J. Taylor gave an excellent history of the church from
June 4, 1855, when eight devoted individuals headed by William C. Stinson petitioned the
Exeter Quarterly meeting to choose a council for the purpose of organizing a church. The
petition was granted and a council chosen consisting of Rev. J. Cook, William Getchell, N. F.
Weymouth, John Towne, and John F. Weymouth. An organization was formed and adopted the name of
Pittsfield and Detroit Church. The records of this organization are missing and not until Rev.
A. L, Gerrish was ordained in 1866 and the first meeting held at Sister Judith Nichols
residence January 2, 1867, were permanent records kept. At that time only three members were
left of the original organization, Susan Farwell, Judith Nichols, and Mrs. Tuttle, and from
this little nucleus, Rev. Gerrish moulded a Baptist Society that has grown continuously over
In addition to Dr. Taylors history, a letter from Reverend A. L. Gerrish was read by Mrs.
E. C. Bryant and papers were given by O. H. Drake, E. C. Bryant, B. S. Mathews, Mrs. Jennie
Randlett, Albert M. Jones, C. F. Lothrop, and Mrs. Lewis.
This was the year we changed Postmasters. Oramel Murray was appointed to the position,
relieving H. F. Libby of an office he had held for twelve successive years; plans were
discussed to build a Waverley Dam; T. F. Connor completed a beautiful home at the corner of
Franklin and Summer Streets, the home of Judge Furbush today.
There had for sometime been a great deal of argument over a narrow gauge R. R. from
Wiscasset to Quebec. Actual work on the Wiscasset end had already started and there was much
talk of it going through Pittsfield. The roadbed to Burnham was under construction and it
appeared to many that at last the road would become a reality. A large crew was at work when
an injunction was issued stopping construction and it was never resumed. The old roadbed can
still be seen in the Burnham area and is a popular hunting ground in the fall of the year.
Early in the year of 98, two Lancey brothers died, Isaac in March and William K. in April,
and their passing recalled the coming of their father to Pittsfield seventy years ago. Their
name is indelibly stamped on the records of our town. The three children of the old Colonel
who seem to have shared most prominently in the history of Pittsfield were Isaac, who operated
the Lancey House; William K., who married Ann Gould and was active in real estate; and Mary,
who married Dr. J. C. Manson, and in whose memory their son, John W. Manson, named the Manson
Perhaps the most important project of this year so far as the economy of the town is
concerned was the introduction of electric lights to Pittsfield. The Smith-Conant electric
power company was ready to start by July and the town voted in August to have street lights
and more and more residents subscribed to the service.
J. C. Connor was building a new block this summer; W. R. Hunnewell built his ball grounds
and grandstand on Hunnewell Avenue where the Cianchette Brothers are now located; H. C. Hunter
was the popular leader of the local band; Harry Cornforth
won the Manson Prize; and balloon
ascensions were taking place at the Union Park.
The Spanish-American War was on and Dewey had just scored a great victory. Letters were
coming home from the boys in the service and among those heard from were Capt. Laforest Graves
in Savannah and Bert Ryan who was expecting to go to Havana any day.
UNIVERSALIST CHURCH RENOVATED
Plans for rebuilding the Universalist Church had finally been accepted and the money raised
for the renovation. Contractor Wellman moved the old church to the new location, making it
into the vestry of the new building and by October the exterior of the edifice was nearly
complete. Plans for dedication were being made for next year. Harry Hayman Cochrane of
Monmouth, who later became world famous for his church murals, was doing the murals for the
At the dedication ceremonies, church dignitaries from all parts of the state were in
attendance to admire the transformation that had been wrought. It was and still is one of the
most beautiful churches to be found anywhere in the state. Its sanctuary is unique in its
architectural design and beauty, from its inclined floor which gives an amphitheatre effect to
its domed ceiling with its muraled figures representing attributes of God, all softly lighted
from three large Tiffany stained glass windows of triptych design. To further enhance the
impressive beauty of this sanctuary, are twelve lifesized Cochrane mural masterpieces of Old
and New Testament personalities. Today it has become a tourist attraction.
FINANCIAL TROUBLE AT M. C. I.
As the 19th century comes to an end, so, too, concluded a period of unparalleled growth and
prosperity. Nearly every segment of our community life seemed to prosper materially with the
possible exception of M. C. I., which had financial difficulties during the 80s. Its
scholastic standards were never lowered and its enrollment continued to increase, but because
of undercharging for the costs of its educational program, the school had trouble in
its payments on debts contracted at the time the institution was founded. Things got so bad in
the early 80s that in 1881 the Legislature gave the trustees the right to strike out Maine
Central and substitute the name of any individual who would give at least $10,000. Mr. Howard
Bowen in a study of secondary school education in Somerset County writes: A further provision
in the same Act allowed the trustees to move the Institute to some other town where there was
not already a Normal School located, if the buildings and grounds at Pittsfield were not free
from debt within two years; while additional proof of these difficulties appeared when the
trustees voted to see if the teachers would run the Institute for the following year for the
tuition. Later they voted to try to dispose of the Institute for the indebtedness and all
obligation to anyone who would agree to maintain a school of as high a grade as it is now.
This last act evidently stirred the townspeople into action for in a short time a new drive
for funds was initiated and was successful in preventing further humiliating financial
experiences. Since then, although there have been occasional years of financial worries, the
school has always managed to survive and provide superior educational opportunities for the
It had been a great century for Pittsfield.