Newsletter of The Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit
Preserving Treasures of the Past as an Investment for the Future 

The Historical Society, located at 938 Post Road in Wells, is open on Tuesdays and Fridays 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 
and Saturdays 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Parking is available in our circular drive

Letter from the Chair

Our 65th fall is here! We will continue to celebrate our birthday with special program and events. This season brings two History Walk & Talks, and I encourage our members to sign up for this wonderful program. I also invite all of our HSWO community and friends visit the newly refurbished galleries in our Meetinghouse Museum.

We are grateful to our loyal business community for making our summer fundraiser — the 8th Annual Woodies in the Cove Car Show and Parade — a big success. Each of our business supporters will be featured on our Facebook page this month as we ask you to help us thank them! Shirley Griffin of Wells Beach Resort, along with Wells and Ogunquit Police Chiefs Jo-Ann Putnam and Patricia Arnaudin, were honored at our Annual Meeting this year for their continued assistance with this event. We appreciate this and thank you!

I’ll share a few points made in my remarks at the Annual Meeting. First, let me say how pleased all of the Board of Directors were to see so many of our friends and members in attendance! 

  • We thank the Towns of Wells and Ogunquit for their support as we strive towards our mission.
  • This past year we continued to raise funds for the upkeep of the building, operational costs, and educational programs. We received grant funding in the amount of $13,500 from the Davis Family Foundation to restore and paint the interior of the Meetinghouse. As this is a matching grant, we are in the process of securing additional funding this year.  Our new community fundraiser, Market in the Meetinghouse, raised over $500 with the sale of tables. Our 8th annual fundraiser, Woodies in the Cove Car Show and Parade, has become the largest Woodie Car Show event in New England. Through the great support of our local business sponsors, we raised over $10,000. This year, it brought visitors and car enthusiasts from New England and California as we hosted the National Woodies Club. 
  • This year our administrator, Julia Einstein, focused on community outreach and the Meetinghouse Museum project — made possible by a grant funded from the Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust. 
  • Our Board of Directors was strengthened this year with the addition of Marilyn Stanley. We say goodbye to Joe Hardy, who will continue to offer his wonderful history programs here. 
  • A new volunteer, Paul Whitley, joins Bonnie Johnson, Bill Farr, and Lorraine Morse. While Paul has been researching and updating our records on private cemeteries, Bonnie, Bill, and Lorraine have continued their wonderful work as tour guides in our Meetinghouse Museum.

Happy Fall! Please contact me about joining our board or volunteering here at the Historical Society. As always, I welcome your comments on our newsletter!

Irene Crocker

Board of Directors & Staff
Hello from the Administrator
Become a program sponsor!

Holiday Market at the Meetinghouse

Our holiday market will take place on Sunday, December 15 from 10 am to 2 pm. This is a fun way to raise funds for our organization with a holiday crafts event at our Route One location—we’re on the Wells Holiday Parade route and part of the Ogunquit Christmas by the Sea weekend!   The Historical Society is offering 8’ x 5’ spaces for $25.00. Participants must bring their own table, and are responsible for all set-up/take-down of equipment and goods.  Call us if you would like to buy a space or email us for more information at / 207-646-4775.
Meetinghouse Museum - Then and Now
Our thanks for Woodies in the Cove 2019

On behalf of the Board of Directors for the Historical Society, we thank each of our business sponsors, Shirley Griffin of Wells Beach Resort, our wonderful police departments, and our hardworking volunteers for making this 8th Annual Woodies in the Cove Car Show & Parade a big success! 

We also thank our Waves & Furrows designer Jodi Locke for capturing the beauty of these vintage cars and the energy of the event. Click the image for a slideshow of some of her favorite images from the 2019 Woodies in the Cove Car Show & Parade!

Wells and Ogunquit Antique Meccas
If you are an antique enthusiast like me
Wells and Ogunquit! Are the places to be!
Antique shops here antiques shops there
Antique shops and more! Everywhere!

If a vintage article brings you pleasure 
One person's trash! Is another's treasure!
So welcome to the antique capital of Maine
To Wells and Ogunquit! Two towns of fame!

An old hooked rug has the ultimate appeal
The same excitement! As an old spinning wheel!
A beautiful Grandfather Clock regal and tall
An elegant period coat rack! For the front hall!

Hand sewn quilts or even an antique bed
Lots of period furniture! For your homestead!
Shop after shop with memorabilia galore
From grand establishments! To a quaint store!

For all of the above I can honestly speak
For I am! Without a doubt! An Antique!

By Richard “W” Perkins
(The “W” is for “Wonderful” antiques!)

Over many years, members of the Historical Society have enjoyed, and continue to look forward to, Richard Perkins’ contributions to their quarterly newsletter. Voted “Ogunquit Most Outstanding Citizen” in 2016, he has written over 600 “odes” on a variety of subjects, as well as a culinary column in regional publications, and short stories in books in books and magazines.  A documentary of his life,” How Rude,” premiered in 2011 and was on view at the Leavitt Theater this past yearto the delight of all.

In October of 1986 at the annual convention of Maine’s Museum Association, the promotion theme was “20th Century Museums must reach out to their communities, making them aware of resources available and benefits derived from knowing of these primary sources.”  Thus at the Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit’s annual meeting in November of that year, the Executive Board included not only the six elected officers but also the dozen folks agreeing to chair the committee. In that capacity Charlotte Moody agreed to serve as Library Chair-Librarian. 

In 1987, the Library had one set of bookshelves and shared one side of an exhibition room at street level. Dorothy Keyes began cataloging current books to make for easier accessibility. The newsletter, Waves and Furrows, was initiated also at this time and all three issues noted library acquisitions either by purchase or gifts. 

By 1988-89, library acquisitions increased with many books, as well as postcards, cemetery, census and baptismal records, county deeds, and published family genealogies and manuscripts. 

York County Genealogical Society utilized the Museum and the Library bookshelves for their meetings and booked shelves for its collection, purchasing a second bookshelf in 1990. The annual stipend assisted in Museum costs. 

In 1993, a generous donation by Barbara Stevens of her husband Lester’s vast collection of over 100 volumes necessitated additional shelving and permanent location upstairs. By spring of 1994 Peter Moody had built the handicap ramp for the back door and additional shelves in the library. Dick Bohannon painted the shelves and thus the overflow of reference books had adequate storage space as well as better accessibility. 

Hope Shelly was president of the Historical Society from 1978-81 and again in the 1990s. She is responsible for the Meetinghouse's listing in the National Register of Historic Places. She started the Waves and Furrows newsletter, school programs, and the Meetinghouse Museum. She continued her work with the museum with her contributions to the 2002 Museum Renovation project as well as to the 2018 Museum Renew project. Hope's current involvement is as a consultant/advisor for genealogical and historical research.


Living with History: Open Air Museums

This series has introduced us to people who live in and love historic homes. Amy and Jared Wilbur described their home in Wells, known as “The County Mouse,” with affection. Marcia Beal Brazer talked about her role in restoring the Woodbury Studio as a way to preserve an important part of the history of Ogunquit, as an artists’ colony started by Marcia Oakes and Charles H. Woodbury. We spoke with Bob Rasche, whose art studio is filled with illustrations of our maritime history. June (Hilton) Messier, who has spent much of her life living on Buffum’s Hill, and has spoken about history as “that feeling one should give back to their community.” Liz and Bill Bromage, who live in a cottage on Drake’s Island, told us how they discovered history inside the walls, and designer Jodi Locke wrote about using history as a “muse” in her photography of Wells and Ogunquit landmarks. And Wells resident Bennet Sawyer shared his explorations into maps and the story of Bourne Fields. For this edition, Paul Whitley, the most recent addition to our volunteer staff at the Historical Society, writes about how researching the history of Wells cemeteries has become a part of his life.  After coming to the Wells/Ogunquit area as a summer visitor for a number of years, Paul is now retired and a full-time resident of Wells.

When I became a member of the Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit, I began exploring its Library and Archives. After several conversations with Julia Einstein, I decided to take a look at Hope Shelley’s research on cemeteries in Wells — “open-air museums”, as Hope has described them.

In the 1920s and 30s, Lester M. Bragdon documented the inscriptions in hundreds of cemeteries across York County. Expanding on Judge Bragdon’s work, Hope and several Historical Society volunteers took on the task of searching for the cemeteries he had identified in Wells and, in the process, found additional cemeteries and burials.  The result of this work from the 1980s and 90s is documented in a large binder housed in the Historical Society’s archives. That volume includes an expanded list of cemetery locations, hand-drawn plot maps, photographs, and written observations regarding the condition of many of the sites. 

More than 200 cemeteries and burial grounds have been identified in Wells (and there might be even more that have not yet been discovered). These include several larger-area cemeteries and a number of community burial grounds created for families who lived nearby. In addition, after the Revolutionary War, many local families established small burial plots on their own properties. Some of those family plots are on existing farms (although those properties have in some cases changed possession). But others lie on the site of abandoned homesteads where no buildings remain. Cellar holes, stone walls marking old property lines, and historical plot maps provide some indication as to where a family dwelling might once have stood.

It was at this point in my research when I began visiting some of the cemeteries and burial sites in Wells. Working from Hope Shelley’s list, and bearing a camera and a water bottle (and bug spray), I’ve traveled some local roads I otherwise might not have traveled and have become acquainted with some areas of Wells I otherwise might have overlooked. As a result, a more personal perspective of Wells’ history has emerged for me.

I’ve found family names that appear across a number of cemeteries, evidence of the interconnectedness of those families across Wells’ history. I’ve looked at gravestones for clues on something about the person, such as family connections, occupation, or social status. I’ve wondered what it was like for people whose lives included wars or other significant historical events, or periods of economic hardship or prosperity in the community. While some people lived long lives, many others did not, and one can speculate on what diseases or conditions were untreatable at that time. What was it like for parents to experience the loss of a child — sometimes more than once — in infancy or at an early age? What was it like for one spouse to live many years after the passing of the other? In the process, I began to better understand how gravestones are indeed like exhibits in these “open-air museums” of the town’s ancestors.

My work and research continues, and benefits from a program by the Town of Wells to clear and maintain its cemeteries. As part of that effort, the town retains a list of cemeteries, their locations and abutters, and has taken photographs of those sites. That information is being incorporated into the cemetery information maintained at the Historical Society, with the aim of providing an adjunct to other historical and genealogical information available to those who come to conduct research in the Society’s archives.

Member News

Welcome New Members

Kerry and Judy (Littlefield) Mangan
Charlotte Tragard
Frances Mailhot
Harrison Woodman
Jeffrey Thurnher and Leign Anne Gardner

History Preserved:  A Story of Bells


Our community is connected through the history of each of our church bells, from the 1803 Revere bell at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church and the 1831 Holbrook bell at Wells Congregational Church, to the 1868 Naylor Vickers bell here in our Meetinghouse Museum (formerly the First Church of Wells). Reverends David Hughes and Lara Campbell contributed their histories to this story.

Regarding the new steeple at the Congregational Church of Wells, Interim Pastor David Hughes writes of how the rich tone of the 1831 George Holbrook bell now resonates from the heights of the new steeple of the Congregational Church of Wells: Bells have traditionally served to gather communities together, and we are grateful that our bell now fills that purpose for the Wells community. Whether you are a life-long resident, or a recent visitor, our bell will remind you of the extravagant welcome that Wells extends to all. The restoration of the bell, and project management of the steeple project, was led by Jamie Bradish, President of Molly Corporation, the trolley manufacturing company located right here in Wells, with considerable volunteer help from his talented team and church member volunteers.  Of the restoration work, Bradish said, “This was a challenging task.  When the bell came down in 2012 it needed considerable work. Seeing it restored and installed again in the steeple is exciting and deeply gratifying.” As interim Pastor, I welcome the extraordinary commitment and generosity of the members of our Church, along with several community organizations and area businesses. We are all humbled by the support we have received to make this day happen. Many church members have been involved with the work that has transformed the facility since 2012. First organized in 1642, the Congregational Church of Wells is the oldest continually operating institution in the town and is a focal point for the community.  Its steeple served as a landmark to fishermen and other sailors traveling the waters off Wells. The Church supports several community and outreach programs, including the Soup’s On meal program, the Ditty Box thrift shop, AA and Al-Anon meetings, Boy and Girl Scouts, and a grief support group, to name just a few.  

Lara Campbell, pastor of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, writes of Herve Lavoie and his management of their steeple project. She shares the details of their recent repairs:  Historically, the steeple as seen today was completed in 1838, with the belfry level completed in 1803 and the installation of the Paul Revere Bell and its cradle in 1804. The bell heralds the time every hour via our historical, E. Howard “Roundtop” clock. Members occasionally toll the bell manually for special announcements. The church, along with the town’s evolution, was and still is an active center of service for this community. It has a robust history of firsts, truly qualifying it as the First Parish of Kennebunk, Maine. Our recent steeple project was completed in two phases. The first was to replace the top lantern level, faux window panels and painting the front of the church up to the belfry. We repaired any weather-worn fixtures as we found them. The second phase consisted in the repair of wood panels or replacing them at the belfry and clock face levels. Both phases included scraping, sanding, priming, and adding two final coats of paint. Last summer our steeple was confirmed structurally sound by an independent engineering firm. We owe this integrity to the many years of conscientious members caring for and managing the upkeep. More historical information about the steeple and the church’s history is available on our website at 

The Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit has initiated a plan to repair the historic bell that sits atop the 1862 Meetinghouse, which has been the organization’s headquarters since 1969. An appeal has gone out to our membership, and is now going out to the wider community, to ask for support in raising the funds needed to repair our steel bell cast in Sheffield, England in 1868. As an expression of our appreciation we will enter the names of contributors to our RING THE BELL! Fund into a drawing for the chance to be selected to be the very first to ring the restored bell! Board Chair Irene Crocker has said, “It has been silent for much too long!”  We have contacted Church Specialties in Vermont, a company that has meticulously performed thousands of church bell restorations throughout New England and Northeastern U.S. The report on our bell: “I found a very nice Naylor Vickers bell in Hooper/Blake hardware. The spokes of the wheel are broken. Two of the 8 eight bolt holes on the turned-out ends are broken off and the wood rim is missing, one "A" stand is cracked and spliced, and the entire clapper assembly is loose. It spins on the one bolt holding it up. A historic restoration of the bell and hardware would involve using custom-cast reproduction cast iron components, headstock (yoke), “A” stands, clapper assembly and wheel, and would run approximately $75,000.00.  This includes the cost of removal transportation and reinstallation.”

Hope Shelley, Wells Town Historian, wrote a history of the Meetinghouse and has documented when, “in 1866 Reverend Lewis Goodrich raised the money to purchase a suitable bell. This was put into the steeple on a long incline, and pulled up by 25 yoke of oxen. A table of over 40 feet long was set up on the lawn in front of the church for a ceremony with singing, speaking, and plenty to eat.”  Julia Einstein, Administrator for the Historical Society, talks of “relevance and making a difference in everyday lives.” And how the bell is tangible history — ringing in special occasions of the town. “Since the campaign to raise funds started, people are excited to be a part of restoring their memories of when they heard the bell ring. When I climbed up to see it for the first time, it was a thrill to be up so high — to see a steeple’s view of the town! It was great to see the bell itself is in good shape—with clearly marked ‘Naylor Vickers, Sheffield 1868’.”

Our mission is “to preserve history as an investment for the future,” and in addition to the repair of the bell, we will be looking to our community for help in repairs to the several sets of stairs and ladders that lead up to the steeple — as each needs to be safe and well-lit in order to allow us to more easily access the bell to attend to regular maintenance. We ask those interested in donating to contact us by email at or by phone at 207-646-4775 to make a tax deductible gift to the RING THE BELL! Fund.

Newsletter designed for, and on behalf of, The Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit by Jodi Locke.

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