Maine Mineral and Gem Museum News
Last Friday, Robert Whitmore of New Hampshire, representing Dr. Skip Simmons, Dr. Karen Webber, and Dr. Al Falster of the University of New Orleans, delivered nearly a million dollars-worth of lab and research equipment to the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum. Dean Richmond, his son, and a nephew, owners of the former Smith Farm in West Bethel, volunteered their assistance in helping Mr. Whitmore to make this delivery possible. Although construction work goes on at the museum, the equipment was delivered for the future research lab (to be located in the former Odd Fellows hall basement).
Robert Whitmore explained how this equipment will be used to benefit research at the museum:
“We’re going to put in a DCP. What you do is you make a little mud pie on a plate that turns and then X-Ray it – and they can get a chemical analysis from it.
Also we’re going to have an electron microscope which is already there (at the museum building); it has to go into the building, and that will also give you a chemical formula; it’s just that it doesn’t do the light elements.
We’ve got two or three other things that might come up from University of New Orleans and that will be next year then we’ll have a total of five pieces of machinery. And we’ll do research; all these young guys here that are working on their degrees and they can come up and spend a summer in a dormitory and be able to work in the lab. There are no machines in New England right now.
Many universities have stopped doing this type of research years ago; as it is never going to make money (for the universities or this museum). It is mostly pure research.
If someone comes here from a mine and they want to know what the mineral content is you could charge them a nominal fee and they could find out what the chemical formula is and what the mineral species is. I don’t think that anyone is going to sit here and say they are going to make a profit from it – most likely a loss. But for northern New England it’s a wonderful little lab for a very nice thing – science.
People around the world will know that there is research being done there (at this museum) and research facility.”
In other museum news, the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum participated in the Maine State Quilt Show at the Augusta Civic Center in July. Museum Director Barbra Barrett designed a mineral exhibit which she and Steve Seames installed at the quilt show. Friends of the museum, Mr. and Mrs. Shawn Sweeney of Bar Harbor helped in setting up the mineral display. Anne Marie Saunders Peck, who is now employed by the museum and whose mother, Adrienne Saunders, operated a well-known, very successful Gem Shop in Bethel, assisted in taking the display down.
Mary Isham’s Art Exhibition at Artistic Endeavor
Mary Isham’s summer display of her more recent work will be open at Artistic Endeavor through the remainder of August. Her work includes large pastels and yarn creations. On walking into the display, one cannot help notice her major yarn creation titled Sweater of Life. Pastels include a view of Screw Auger Falls and Screw Auger Falls Picnic – on another wall, also in pastel, look for Spring Garden Number 2. For views of Mary’s work see Bethel News for this week online.
New retail building construction moving rapidly
The future Sport Thoma Ski and Snowboard Shop retail building has had the foundation poured, parking area graded and surrounding grounds landscaped during the past week. Savage Contracting is doing the work. Before the weekend began a well drilling rig was in place. Peter Kailey told me during their weekend tent sale two weekends ago that he expected to open in about 10 weeks.
Foundation poured at Historical Society’s Robinson House
At week’s end the Mary Valentine Wing addition for Broad Street’s Robinson House had a nearly complete concrete foundation. One of the main attractions for me in looking in on the work’s progress was to see the foundation for the old building. It was constructed with boulder sized rocks. Too bad there are no photos or drawings of how the old foundation was built. Randy Bennett said that he did most of the architectural work himself using plans for the original building and a computer software program to produce a finished plan. One of the advantages of using computer programs is that you can create a three dimensional view of what your design will look like.
If you noticed in reading the mineral and gem museum news that Dean Richmond along with family members volunteered their help in getting research equipment to the museum building, then you may be interested to know that Mr. Richmond owns one of Bethel’s historic farms. While it is referred to as the Smith Farm today, and Charles Smith who grew up there owns a large chunk of land in Bethel that lies between the Flat Road and the Mason Town line, the farm’s historic name is Birchmont.
After the Civil War the farm was owned by Daniel Freeman Bean. His son Alpheus S. Bean, a West Bethel resident called the richest man in Oxford County and in the 1890s the largest West Bethel as well as Bethel farmer, logger, mill owner, home-builder, hotel owner, storekeeper and principal benefactor of the West Bethel Union Church, moved to the farm after his father’s death in 1893. His county biographic profile included comments about how the Bean’s improved the area containing a “charming little pond at the foot of Pine Mountain developing it into a beautiful summer resort.”
Alpheus Bean died in 1899 and his widow continued to live at Birchmont until Horatio Upton bought it in 1911. Horatio Upton, despite his name, was actually a member of the “pioneer Chapman family”. He sold Birchmont to Dr. (Dean) W. L. Robbins. Mr. Upton had hayed the farm annually but lived at the Chapman family home in Northwest Bethel originally built by Eliphaz Chapman.
Although Dean Robbins bought the farm hoping to regain his health, he brought Columbia College student Edmund C. Smith with him in 1916 to manage the farm. The farm specialized in Guernsey cattle and raising potatoes and hay. In 1937 Edmund Smith was on the radio over WCSH in Portland talking about soil conservation in Maine. When Edmund Smith was a 4-H Club leader along with William C. (Bill) Chapman, I was a member of his club and we visited the farm as part of a club meeting – now about 65 years ago.
For more reading about Alpheus Bean, Horatio Upton and Edmund Smith refer to the online Index page of The Bethel Journals.