Hope Historical Society

Meeting of August 16th 2011


President Donovan Bowley called the monthly meeting to order at 7 PM at the Hope Historical Home. Also present were: Bob Appleby, Joe Berry, Marie Berry, Brad & Lorinda Boyd, Dick & Gwen Brodis, Nancy Brown (Appleton), Hope Chase, Cecil & Cindy Dennison, Nancy Ford, Herb Hart, Mary Ireland, Bill & Judith Jones, Will Keene, Ann Leadbetter, Linda Lord, Barbara Ludwig, Eleanor MacDonald, Wally & Diane O'Brien (Lincolnville), Connie Parker (Lincolnville), Nancy Pike (Lincolnville), Dorothy Prescott, Phyllis Prescott, Ron Smith & Diane Sprowl.

Secretary Bill Jones apologized for the absence of minutes of recent meetings. The President shared with members and friends that Treasurer Faith Hart is recovering from cancer treatment and, in view of the situation, the Treasurer's Report was waved.


For the Building Committee, Herb Hart reported that everything is OK and that he is taking care of the Memory Garden.

For the Website Committee, Vice President and Webmaster Bob Appleby reported that use of www.hopehist.com continued to be brisk. He invited people to check the information on D.H.Mansfield, whose exceptionally frank Superintendent of Education reports over many years are of major interest. He was also a pastor and hymn- and song-writer.

The President reported that he is trying to organize a multi-historical-society meeting in November. Presenter Chris Glass and Christi Mitchell would conduct a workshop on Maine historic house types and on why and how to conduct a historic-structures survey.

The President displayed old tools and farm implements made in South Hope by Payson & Howard that had been acquired by the Society from Dave Schaub (Union) who had discovered them. They will be on display at Hope Historical Home and at www.hopehist.com

Marie Sprowl Berry presented the Society with her late mother's (Margaret Wright Sprowl) collection of pegs from old Hope buildings. She asked whether more pegs and documentation on which went with which building exists. Bill Jones said that two were from the historic Payson house when it was taken down and from the Payson barn, which originally stood behind Hatchet Mountain.

Old Business: none

New Business

It was moved, seconded & unanimously voted that the Treasurer Faith Hart be authorized to pay the renewal of our insurance.

* * *

Bill Jones introduced Lincolnville historian Diane O'Brien. She showed how she is reconstructing the lives of two women who were roommates at Westbrook Seminary in 1871, one from Lincolnville, one from South Hope, from over 100 letters to one of them, as well as from letters by that woman to her mother.
The letters were discovered in 1969 in a barn on Route 1 by Annie Munroe Allen, who had inherited the barn and who was not related to the letter-writers.
The letters were to Helen nee Higgins Dickey Butler, or from her to her mother. Helen was born in 1850 and lived on the Greenacre Road. Evidently, the family was poor. Helen taught school. At the time, the Universalist movement was flourishing in Maine. The Universalist church in Belfast was publishing the Gospel Banner; in 1870, its pastor, George Quimby, arranged for Helen to go to the Universalist Westbrook Seminary where Martha Leach of South Hope was her roommate.
Martha Leech (nee Fogler) was born in 1842 to one of South Hope's prominent mill-owning families. She had married John D. Leach, who fought in the Great Rebellion and died at the Battle of the Wilderness. Many of the letters are from Martha to Helen.
Westbrook Seminary, founded in 1838 originally for girls, was one of the nation's earliest co-ed institutions of higher learning and exceptionally liberal for its time.
From the letters, Helen appears to have been a serious and diligent student. She was pinched for cash; she arrived not knowing she would have to provide her own bedding and had to make her own. She attended for two terms, returning to Lincolnville to marry Dickey in 1873. She was probably unable to afford another term.
Martha's letters suggest that she was more interested in the social life and more able financially to live it. She attended Westbrook after Helen dropped out. Her letters talk of missing Helen and wanting her to come back. They indicate more travel to Portland and trips home, sometimes by ship. Though widowed, she seemed to be managing rather well.
Diane O'Brien explained the difficulties of reading and interpreting other people's private correspondence, including deciphering handwriting and figuring out the relationships between people generally referred to by nicknames. For her and Connie Parker, it is an on-going work.

After a lively discussion, members and guests enjoyed snacks provided by Ann Leadbetter and Gwen Brodis.

Respectfully submitted,

Bill Jones, Secretary