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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 am. - 1 p.m. through December 31, 2020.

Note: We will be closed Jan-Mar, but remain available anytime
via phone (207-646-4775) or email (info@wohistory.org).
Letter from the Chair
Dear Members:
 
This has been quite a year for all of us from the pandemic to all of our lives with our families.  Many of us had to figure out childcare or stay at home to watch over the children and hope they could work at home. 

Well for all non-profits like HSWO we have been doing a real balancing act in trying to continue offering community programs and keep the Meetinghouse open safely and keep our staff safe, as well as allowing people to come into our buildings safely.  
 
The Board of Directors have been struggling in providing all of the above safely, but our biggest issue has been financially staying stable and keeping our doors open.  The Board has been aggressively pursuing grants and approaching and writing directly to philanthropic individuals locally.  
 
The Board has created a Five-Year Plan on what needs to be accomplished for both buildings and offerings to our members and community.  The good news right off the press is that one of our local philanthropist friends has generously donated $15,000 to help us get the inside and outside of the buildings painted.  We still need to raise $25,000 to complete both of those tasks.  Please consider helping the Society in reaching this goal by contributing to our Annual Fund.
 
Remember we are preserving the History of both Ogunquit and Wells and this can only be done with your generous help!

The Board and Staff wish all of you a safe and happy holidays.  We pray that 2021 will bring us a vaccine so we can go back to some kind of normalcy.
 
If you would like to volunteer, join a committee, or be a board member please let me know at: ijc1954@gmail.com. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Irene J. Crocker 
Board Chairwoman
Hello from the Administrator
Welcome Rachael Pawlik!
HSWO's First (Virtual) Annual Meeting!



Due to the ongoing pandemic, and in a historic first, the HSWO took its 2020 Annual Meeting online. The Board and the Administrator welcomed numerous members and guests via Zoom as they presented a synopsis of the previous year, and gave insight into the year ahead. It has been a unique and challenging year, and despite the cancelled events and reduced visitation, we have been fortunate to receive a number of grants and donations that allowed us to remain open and engaging our community.

Following the presentation, guests enjoyed a trivia game titled “Where in the Wells are We?” that challenged folks to identify a variety of postcard views from the HSWO collection. If you missed it, don’t worry! Check further down in this newsletter for a replay of the game!

Up at the North Pole where Santa resides
He's pondering! And trying to decide!
The world is in such a frantic hullabaloo
He has to make up his mind! About what to do!

Along with Rudolph and his other 8 reindeer
Like all of us! They have the pandemic fear!
Mrs. Claus soon put his mind at ease
She said! I have a solution! If you please!

Between now and Christmas it will be no task
To create and sew! Nine reindeer masks!
One of course will be of a different design
For Rudolph! Clear plastic! Will do just fine!

If it happens to be a foggy Christmas Eve
Rudolph will lead the pack! With expertise!
With his nose so red he will lead the way
We'll all get our presents! Hooray! Hooray!

By Richard “W” Perkins
( The “W” is for “We” all love Rudolph! )

Richard Perkins is Poet Laureate of Ogunquit.  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.

Welcome New Members

Evans Maden & George Maden

Karen Doherty & Lori Mei

Coley McDonaugh

Marsha Northrop

Bruce Pounder

Nancy and Steve Thornley

Joan Waldrop & Fred Bogonis

Bryce Waldrop

Victor Waldrop

In Memoriam:
 

Dan Dickerson, Owner of Howe's Highway Floor store
Volunteer Spotlight: Tommy Esson

Bicentennial Fundraiser Complete!

Woodies 2021:  See you next year!


Each August, Wells and Ogunquit become the setting for one of our most beloved events: Woodies in the Cove. Sadly, due to the current pandemic, we were not able to gather together this year as we had hoped. Please know, we are actively preparing for 2021 and look forward to seeing the Woodies roll into our community once again. So, please mark your calendars for next August 14th, 2021, and we hope to see you there!

5-Year Capital Plan

This fall, the HSWO Board of Directors and their Administrator conducted a lengthy planning exercise which resulted in the newly released 5-Year Capital Plan. The process included reviewing and prioritizing the many needs facing HSWO, and was guided by a recent Energy Audit prepared by HeatMizer Insulation LLC of Sanford. The plan outlines numerous project goals which address mission-focus areas for the Society, like serving our community, preserving our building & site, and respecting our environment. Look for updates as we raise funds and submit grant applications to complete this important work. 
 

Included in the 5-Year Plan: 

  • Exterior Painting of the Library & Bell Tower 
  • Heat Pumps for the Meetinghouse & Library 
  • ADA Accessibility Upgrades
  • New Exterior Signage
  • Digitizing the Archives
  • Restoring the Bell (Which has sadly been silent since 2017). 

HSWO will update the 5-Year Plan each year, so please send your comments and suggestions to: info@wohistory.org or 207-646-4775. Thank you!

HSWO Awarded Recovery Grant

HSWO is grateful to be awarded a $4,011 Recovery Grant from Maine’s Dept. of Economic & Community Development, intended to support businesses facing a financial downturn related to the ongoing pandemic. While these funds cannot completely replace our financial losses this year, every dollar is appreciated and will be put to good use!

The 1787 Act of Disqualification

By Bryce Waldrop

It often takes just a name, a note, or a small reference to bring a moment of history to life. This summer we received an email from Charles H. Woodford, an antiquarian bookseller in Princeton, NJ, who inquired about the Wells Town clerk in 1787. The reason? Charles has a framed copy of the Disqualification Act issued by the State of Massachusetts in 1787, and on the back of the parchment it is inscribed to the Town Clerk of Wells, Maine. Moreover, that Town clerk was Mr. Woodford’s ancestor. 

Thanks to Hope Shelley’s essential reference, My Name is Wells, we quickly learned that Nathaniel Wells, Jr. was the Wells town clerk from 1776 – 1816, a full forty years. His father, also Nathaniel, held the post before him for 38 years. It would have been during Nathaniel Jr.’s tenure that this copy of the Disqualification Act arrived in Wells, a document that would state the condition for pardoning people who participated in “Shays Rebellion”.

Shays Rebellion was an uprising in central and western Massachusetts and led by farmers who had fought in the Revolution but then faced foreclosure and bankruptcy afterwards. It began in late 1786 and went into the following year as armed protestors marched on courthouses and government offices to stop legal proceedings which would harm farmers.

The Disqualification Act gave those involved in the uprising several punishments that would last three years, such as not being able to vote or hold town office or serve on a jury. They also had to give up their arms (no small punishment) and take an oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth. Clearly it was meant to send a message about popular uprisings, while not permanently affecting their lives. And if the offenders did not give up their arms and take the said oath, the civil and military authorities were to treat them as “rebels and open enemies, and they are directed and required, to encounter, pursue, conquer, apprehend and secure them, so that they may be brought to trial and punishment.” The Act concluded by directing town clerks to read this act at the opening of their annual meeting in the following spring. 

While the events primarily took place in central and western Massachusetts, Maine was part of that commonwealth until 1820, thus the local Town Clerk would have been issued a copy of the Act, and been required to read it aloud. That duty would have fallen on Nathaniel Wells. And while it’s unclear if anyone in Maine was directly affected by this event, the results had national repercussions. America was still young and this event underscored the need for a national constitution and a sound governing system. In fact, the Constitutional Convention was just then taking place in Philadelphia.

And all that from one little note… Just one more reason to love history!

Postcard Trivia Game:

Where in the Wells are we?!?
In case you missed the Annual Meeting: here is a fun post card trivia game we played - see if you can identify these Wells-Ogunquit landmarks!
Click HERE for the answers.
The Gift of Time

By Bill Farr

It was a beautiful October day. The Meetinghouse had been quiet that morning. There were three of us working, and it was almost noon when we heard the door open downstairs. An older couple slowly made their way up the stairs and stopped at the top and smiled. We asked if they would like a tour of the Meetinghouse and galleries. They politely refused saying they had visited many times before and did not need another tour, although they enjoyed seeing the meetinghouse and its exhibits.

But they had a question: Did we still have Ethel Weymouth’s graduation cap and gown in the gallery displays? Was her picture still exhibited? 

I knew the story about Ethel Weymouth, a lady who made a gigantic difference in the lives of many Wells students. Ethel Weymouth devoted her life to teaching in Wells for many, many years, and her students became her family. She was known as a tough but fair educator and her students considered her one of their best teachers. She helped many young people attend college and pursue higher education. The art gallery in the Wells Public Library is dedicated to her. That is how I came to know about her. One of the first places that I volunteered was at the Wells Library. But to me she remained a figure in the history books and a photograph on the wall of a gallery in the Meeting House museum. During tours, I would tell her story, but I really did not understand the impact she had on her students and the town.

But that October day, she would come alive for me. Standing in front of me were two people who were former students of Miss Weymouth who remembered her well. Miss Weymouth had mentored the gentleman, taught him solid geometry, and encouraged him to become an engineer, his lifetime career. 

But she also had done something else for each of these visitors. She had loaned them her graduation gown and cap to wear at their graduations. It seems she did this for many students. Her care and concern for her students was palpable. In this one instance, Ethel stepped out of the books and became real. Her presence filled that conversation.

These former students knew exactly where Miss Weymouth had lived and described her walking to work to the high school, then located across from Ocean View Cemetery. The conversation barely lasted ten minutes, but it was magical. The two visitors brought Ethel Weymouth out of the museum and into the real world for me. My understanding of this dedicated educator was now forever changed. This event captures why I volunteer. Often the people you are guiding through exhibits bring new ideas and information and change the moment. The occasion sparkles.

Of course, volunteering requires time, and time is a precious donation. Many of us who volunteer are retired because we have this time to give. My wife and I both worked full time teaching and raised three sons. There was no time to even breathe. But now with retirement, there is time and it is a gift.

Volunteering gives much in return for the time you give. Volunteers meet wonderful people such as those who direct the organizations, the other volunteers, and the visitors. Every person brings gifts of knowledge and friendship. They open new windows into worlds of history and the arts. Almost every time I help at the Meeting House, I learn something or gain a new perspective. Volunteers can make important contributions, but meeting many people is one of the wonders of giving time.

Sleigh bells rang, they listened
To early pedestrians, they warned of oncoming traffic

By Hope M. Shelley

Many of our holiday traditions and songs utilize the sound of bells with their jingle to portray the joy and merriment of the Christmas season.  With that in mind and thinking of the local forms of winter transportation during the 18th and 19th centuries, I was pleased to find an article by Becky Rupp about sleigh bells.

She noted that Dec. 1 was a holiday of sorts, known as “Sled Day”.  She writes, “Sled Day traditionally was spent refurbishing the family sleds and sleighs and polishing up the sleigh bells in preparation for the long snow season ahead.”  It obviously was the precursor of putting on the snow tires and digging out the snow shovel.  Certainly polishing the sleigh bells was a more musical version.

She continues, “The cheerful sound of sleigh bells was a hallmark of the old-fashioned winter.  Their jingle in the streets of New York City is said to have inspired Clement Moore to write “The Night before Christmas”, while the same sound through the streets of Medford, Mass., inspired James Pairpoint to sit down at the piano and compose the perennially popular “Jingle Bells”.   I also observed that Lydia Maria Child’s second verse of “over the River and Through the Woods’ notes “Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding!” – Hurray for Thanksgiving Day”. 

The bells that decked out the one horse open sleigh of “Jingle Bells” are believed to have first appeared in colonial America in  the early 1700’s among the Dutch of New Amsterdam, who used them for sleighing parties and sled races.  From there the custom spread north and east into New England. 

“New Englanders, in those early days, used their bells not so much for holiday fun as for safety.  In the north, road traffic nearly doubled during the winter months.  The bells helped prevent disastrous collisions of unwary winter pedestrians, who tended to be deafened under layers of hats, caps, scarves, shawls, and earmuffs.   In our snowy state of Maine, a statute requiring all sleighs to carry bells remained on the books until 1953.  

“Bell-making has a history of more than 200 years in this country.  One o the earliest if not the first bell foundries in the colonies was established in Abington, Mass., in 1761 by Colonial Aaron Hobart, who later taught the bell-making craft to Paul Revere.  Involved in other enterprises, Revere’s first attempts were not considered by some to have a pleasing tone and so he finally sent a son to England to learn bell-casting from the experts.” (Many early churches have the Paul Revere bells.)

“The sleigh bell center of the United States, however, was not in Massachusetts, but in East Hampton, Conn., a small town located southeast of Hartford and known in its heyday as “Jingletown”.  The first of many East Hampton sleigh bell factories was founded in 1808 by William Barton and resulted in as many as 30 or so companies begun by craftsmen trained in Barton’s workshops.  Perhaps the best known of these still producing bells to this day is Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Company, begun in 1828 by William Bevin, who had been Barton’s indentured servant.  The Bevin brothers all made bells – Chauncey and Abner in 1832; Philo in 1838, and all of them together by the early 1840’s.

“The originator, William Barton, was a cannon-maker during the War of 1812 and an experienced metal caster.  He developed the first rapid method for producing sleigh bells.   After the original formation from sheet iron, Barton’s bells were all cast in one single spherical piece with an enclosed pellet.  These, called crotals, promptly became the country’s bestselling sleigh bells. 

“The cast bells were made primarily of bronze, for which each bell maker had his own individual formula, kept strictly secret.  This was important because the composition of the bell metal was believed to affect the tone of the finished bell.   A high proportion of copper, for instance, was thought to give the bell, a deep, rich tone; zinc or tin was thought to produce a high sharp ring.   Silver bells, contrary to popular belief, have a “dead” tone, like lead, therefore few bells were made with anything much in the way of silver content.  “Most sleight bells were made in a range of sizes.  Barton’s’ standard bell was eventually sold in 20 sizes, each designed by number.  Number 18, the largest, measured about 4 inches in diameter, while number 00, the smallest, measured a little less than one inch. The largest, and lowest in tone, were usually purchased singly and hung from the collars of big horses that usually pulled the heavy work sledges.”

“Sleigh bells, in the old days, were sold either toggled or riveted to leather straps, or loose, by the pound.  A strap of sleigh bells could run from $1 to $18, depending on the quality of the strap leather and the number and quality of the bells.  The finer sizers, often embossed or engraved, and marked with the maker’s initials, held up to 40 bells in graduated sizes.  As collector’s items these initialed ones are in demand today.”

Local newspaper columns of the 19th century mention that in Wells the “snow still hangs on, and we have the best sleighing that we’ve found for years.”  And in another Ogunquit column of 1895 it is noted that “Some very pretty sleighs and pungs are being manufactured by George W. Moody.” (Pungs were heavy sledges or sleds used in the heavy farm work after snowfall.  The pulling capacity of a horse increased about four-fold when dragging runners over snow!)  Eldredge Tavern in Wells is noted as a stopping place for sleighing parties, who enjoyed a hot toddy and danced the evening away.  

The stamped bells of today, often used as door bells, do not have the same jingle as the originals, claim disenchanted bell-lovers; however, everyone appears to know what a sleigh bell sound is and so can related to the past when sleighs prevailed along our byways.

May the joyful sound of sleigh bells resound in your memories this holiday season.

This was originally published in December 1993 and was part of a regular series appearing the second Saturday of the month and prepared by the Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit. 

Family History Tips

This holiday season, use your time during those phone calls and video chats to explore family history! Not only will you be sharing your stories with other generations, you’ll have a lot of fun in the process, and make this challenging time just a little more special. Here are some ideas:

  • Look through old photos and share with relatives
  • Create a “guessing” game to see if family can identify relatives
  • Show your children & grandchildren your old yearbook- they’ll love it
  • Share stories with each other about holidays past
  • Consider sharing copies of photographs with the historical society, to preserve local history
  • Most of all: Have fun!
Recent Accessions



Click HERE for the Gravestone & Cemetery Talk Recording.

Click HERE for the Historic House Styles Part 1 1630-1830 Recording.  Meeting ID: 915 7115 8606

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