Saturday a contingent of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department volunteers gathered at the Mayville Irving Station in support of the Special Olympics. They were helping with the kind of old-fashioned service the gas stations used to give customers such as washing windshields and otherwise helping drivers with the little things that don’t get done with self-service pumps. In return customers could make donations to the Special Olympics.
At the Farmers’ Market, fresh corn from Carter’s Middle Intervale Farm was on sale along with the farm’s special Angus steaks and hamburger. The Lobster Boys’ booth was in full swing. Kathy found a hosta plant to her liking at the Perennials Farm booth and I got a plate of cinnamon buns from the Northern Lights Farm booth.
Swain's Farm Stand is open and they have corn and potatoes as well as some seasonal vegetables.
Bud and Joan Howe’s Capen Hill Farm stand is open with cukes, potatoes, jams, jellies and more.
More WiFi – both the Pleasant River Motel and the Pleasant River Campground now advertise WiFi available on their roadside signs.
At the Mason Farm railroad siding in Gilead, wind tower sections are still being shipped out on special low-bed trailers – these are the wind tower components going toward Plymouth, N.H., for a wind farm on the Groton, N.H., ridgeline.
Friday, late afternoon, I was enjoying fishing along our patch of the Androscoggin when I saw an eagle fishing for its supper less than 50 yards away. Some larger fish were breaking the surface beyond my reach and the big guy was after them. He would make low, wide circles over his target area and then one quick grabbing dive, but I did not see any catch. He made two more circles then left.
Annie Hastings' oddly shaped house
At the corner of Broad and Main streets stands what is probably the most oddly shaped house in Bethel. It is in the process of receiving new owners so that for the first time since 1903 its ownership will pass out of Hastings hands.
Why the house was built this way and who did it? Robert A. Chapman (1807-1880) known mid-nineteenth century as Bethel’s wealthiest businessman had the house and connected three-story brick building built during the last years of the 1850’s. From an inspection of the inside of Annie’s house one would conclude that the brick building had to have been built first and the wooden structure built to fit the remaining space on the lot. Mr. Chapman did it to increase his business and make money. Chapman’s Block was first used for rental business spaces.
1859: Historian William Lapham referred to an 1859 Bethel Courier news column that described “Chapman’s block occupied by Alfred Twitchell, cordwainer; Richard A. Frye, lawyer; Hiram Young, saddler; Doctor Grandin, dentist; Young’s Shoe Store; and the millinery establishment of Abbie A. and Susan Russell. Surely here was a busy hive and a variety of employments.”
Brown Post of the Grand Army of the Republic and its Ladies Auxiliary had their hall in the brick building during the last decades of the 19th Century.
In January 1904 the Bethel News reported “By recent purchases including the Chapman property on Main Street, William W. Hastings became the owner of all property on the south side of said street from the public library to the Savings Bank” (which in 1904 was inside the Cole Block). William Hastings owned Hastings Bros. hardware store which stood where Northeast Bank stands now. Thus the Hastings era in the oddly shaped house begins.
1926 – By the Will of William W. Hastings: I give the brick block and land to Moses A. Hastings (Will Hastings older brother); I give to Henry H. Hastings the wooden building at the corner of Broad and Main Streets and the land connected therewith now occupied by him and Fred E. Wheeler. Henry H. Hastings Sr. had opened his law office in the wooden building in 1899. Fred Wheeler ran an ice cream parlor. In 1886 William Hastings had bought the building and lot where Northeast Bank stands now and at the same time bought the lot where Annie’s garage stands today. This latter property had held a drug store and in deeds was called the Hastings Drug Store lot.
If you are into genealogy, you might be interested in knowing that Henry Hastings Sr. (1865-1934) was not directly related to William Hastings. Henry came from the St. John Hastings family of North Bethel and William Hastings was the son of Gideon A. Hastings. Their Hastings linkage was General Amos Hastings who had come on snowshoes to Sudbury Canada from Fryeburg in the spring of 1779. He had fought the British at Bunker Hill.
Ethel Richardson Hastings, wife of Henry Hastings Sr. died in 1944; she had moved into the house from the Hastings home on Church Street when Gould started building the field house. Attorney Gerard Williams' law office succeeded Henry Hastings Sr. after his death in 1934 until 1944 when Williams left Bethel. Henry Hastings Jr. then occupied the building’s law office in 1946 until his death in 1968.
Last month, Steve and Rebecca Hastings showed me some of the more interesting features of the building – one was in the attic where the roof gable meets the brick building. Down in the basement there is the “secret door” which at some time allowed passage between the two buildings. There are more interesting, structural tinkerings to be seen that occurred over the years to make more room and to fit the building to Hastings family needs.
Molly Ockett’s camp near our house
The Maine Historical Society has two examples of Molly Ockett’s artistic craftsmanship in its archives. Both pieces were originally given to Eli Twitchell by Molly. One can be described as a decorative hemp cover for a wallet and the other was a decorated birch bark trinket or jewelry box. How the wallet made it to the MHS collection I don’t know. The box with cover was donated in 1860 by Mrs. John Kimball who was Eli and Rhoda Twitchell’s daughter Lucia.*
Historian William Lapham wrote “At one time she (Molly Ockett) had a camp of her own on the north side of the river near Curatio Bartlett’s which she had well covered and lined with bark, and where she had her bed and slept, but took her meals with some white family. . . . . A box made by her of birch bark more than seventy years ago (70 years from 1890 or from 1859?) was once in the possession of Mrs. John Kimball of this town.”
Curatio Twitchell’s grandfather was Eli Twitchell who Lapham wrote: “marched with others to the vicinity of Bunker Hill immediately after the battle, and by carrying a very heavy gun on his shoulder, he contracted a disease of the bone of the arm, a portion of which was removed. This unfitted him for severe bodily labor.”
Although not as well known historically as his brother Eleazer, Eli would have attracted Molly Ockett’s attention because of his family’s need for her medical help, his skill in repairing and making guns, jewelry and clocks which attracted a steady flow of Indian customers, his unique position in the Mayville section of being the first at home storekeeper who along with his brother Eleazer were able to cater to their neighbors’ wants for West Indian goods, rum, sugar and molasses – rum being the key word. And Eli lived on the best known travel route for Indians – the Androscoggin; he also lived less than a mile from Pow-wow point.
In these same years 1790-1799 when Molly was camping near Eli Twitchell she was also helping the Nathaniel Swan family less than two miles away in what is now Swan’s Corner.
About 1836 while Eli Twitchell was living with his grandson Curatio, Curatio built a larger more elegant addition to the Twitchell homestead buildings. Eli Twitchell died in 1845 and Curatio died in 1880 with his son Eli Leland “Leel” Bartlett surviving him at the Twitchell/Bartlett homestead.
Our interest in Molly’s camp dates to May, 1914, my great-grandfather, Arthur Eugene Bennett, drove to Bethel by horse and carriage from Errol, New Hampshire, to buy the “Leel” Bartlett farm in the north section of Mayville. Later that summer my grandparents, Ed and Minnie Bennett and their family, moved from Errol to the Leel Bartlett farm.
The house my grandparent’s family moved into in 1914 was the same house where Eli Twitchell spent the last years of his life. In 1785 an Androscoggin flood pushed water to his doorstep; he then moved to higher ground and built a new house which in turn later burned down. The third house built on the same ground as the second was shared with his grandson’s family – this is the house pictured here.
Unfortunately in May 1936 on a windy day a spark from the kitchen chimney started a fire in the barn which eventually destroyed the entire set of buildings. Many neighbors and passers-by stopped to help and all the home furnishings were saved. Dick Douglass remembers coming with his father who was one of the helpers.
Molly’s camp may have been where the Birch Wood subdivision is located today or it may have been nearer the river in the woods near our house.
* For more about Molly Ockett see the Bethel Historical Society Web publication: “Molly Ockett and Her World.”