All presentations, unless otherwise indicated, begin at 6:30 PM in the Topsham Public Library. No presentations are offered in July, August or December.
Topsham Historical Society – What’s Up?
That’s both an answer and a question.
Here’s the answer:
Here’s the question:
In looking for answers, we are planning a public, in-person meeting for Tuesday evening, November 1, 2022, at 6:30 pm, in the large meeting room at the Topsham Public Library.
And this is how you can help us:
So, please join us November 1st…and if you cannot attend but would like to give us your thoughts about any of the above questions, please reply via email.
Remember, Topsham Historical Society is an all-volunteer organization. We have no dues nor fees for presentations, and we do not distribute our mailing list..
UPCOMING PROGRAMS: DUE TO THE ONGOING COVID-19 PANDEMIC, THERE WILL BE NO FURTHER MEETING FOR THE TIME BEING. STAY TUNED!
PAST PROGRAMS (from 2017 to the most recent):
Tuesday, February 14, 2017: BLACK HISTORY AT OUR DOORSTEP – THE ABYSSINIAN MEETING HOUSE
Representatives from the Abyssinian Meeting House will be sharing the fascinating and important place this historic gem has in the Underground Railway movement. Built in 1828 by free blacks, the Meeting House became a cultural center of the Portland community and served as a focal point for the abolition of slavery. Restoration of this historic landmark (on the National Registry of Historic Places) began in 1997 and continues to this day.
Did the Abyssinian community influence the Underground Railway movement in our Topsham/Brunswick area, and, if so, how? What is the restoration project all about and how can we support it? Come join us on the 14th for a riveting presentation, discussion and answers!
Tuesday, March 14, 2017: DUCK HUNTING ON MERRYMEETING BAY
POSTPONED UNTIL TUESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2017
Tuesday, April 11, 2017: THE 5TH MAINE – A CIVIL WAR TALK
Curtis Mildner, Civil War amateur Civil War historian and Trustee of the Fifth Maine Regiment Museum on Peaks Island will speak on April 11. His entertaining presentation, “Amazing Stories of the Fifth Maine” will describe the experiences of seven soldiers of the Fifth Maine Volunteer Regiment. This includes the tragic story of a Maine farm boy, a surgeon captured by the Confederates, a soldier only known by a personal ad in a newspaper, an African American member of the regiment, an Irish immigrant who served in both the Federal and Confederate armies, an ordinary soldier revered by his comrades and promoted, and an officer who met his end just a few miles from where his grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017: THE SHIPYARDS OF BATH
Frederic B. Hill will be telling us about the colorful local history of the Bath shipyards with emphasis on a prominent Topsham resident, Wildes Walker. Wildes Walker is the scoundrel who played a major role in the shipyard’s downfall and the subject of Mr. Hill’s book (Copies of the books will be available for sale after the presentation).
Amazon.com says about the book:
“Brothers William Donnell Crooker and Charles Crooker were among the most prominent mid-nineteenth-century shipbuilders in Bath, Maine, itself one of the most prominent shipbuilding cities in the world during that time. This colorful history of the Crookers’ company by the great-great grandson of William Donnell provides a thorough overview of a family, its contributions to shipbuilding, and the historic sweep of shipbuilding in the area, as well as a fascinating glimpse into everyday life in Maine during this time. Today, a small portion of Maine’s twenty-first-century shipbuilder, Bath Iron Works, occupies land that was once the Crooker yard.”
Tuesday, June 13, 2017: THE ULSTER SCOTS IN BOWDOINHAM – AN ARCHEOLOGICAL DIG
Brad McFadden will be sharing the excitement of the archeological dig now taking place on the Bowdoinham property of his 10th great-grandfather. That Ulster Scot pioneer and his descendants have been living there since 1718! Brad’s presentation will be enhanced with photos and artifacts. A preview of the Ulster Scots symposium scheduled for August 14-16, 2018 and marking the 300th anniversary will also be shared.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 6:30 – 7:30 PM: MERRYMEETING PARK
This image courtesy of the Pejepscot Historical Society. From the Charles Gamache Collection. 1989.100.3
Merrymeeting Park of Brunswick was one of a handful of historic trolley parks in Maine. A short video produced by Mark Ireland of MI Media will kick off the evening. It recounts the fascinating history of the park which graced the shores of Merrymeeting Bay from 1898-1907. Vaudeville acts, a zoo, a dance pavilion, diving horses and a huge casino/lodge were among the attractions that were free (for the cost of a trolley fare). The video also affectionately profiles some trolley park aficionados who have worked tirelessly to keep these stories alive.
“Merrymeeting Park” is an excerpt, a sneak-peak from an upcoming 4-part film series on the history of Merrymeeting Bay, produced by MI Media. The series is slated for broadcast on Maine Public and will be screened in local venues as each installment is released.
Mark and Chris Gutscher (the park’s local historian) will be on hand for questions after the screening.
(additional info on the park: http://community.curtislibrary.com/CML/history/mmpark/)
Tuesday, October 10, 2017 6:30 – 7:45 PM: DUCK HUNTING ON MERRYMEETING BAY
For nearly a century, Merrymeeting Bay has been a favorite game area for duck hunters. While declining populations of birds have reduced the interest in their hunting, many local gamers still appreciate an early October morn in the mist of the Bay.
Frank Burroughs will lead a panel of local sportsmen to talk about hunting on the Bay, yesteryear and today. All are cordially invited to attend. Mr. Burroughs has been an avid outdoorsman since growing up in South Carolina, and for many years has spoken and written about the Bay, its beauty, its history and its ecological importance. As author of “Confluence: Merrymeeting Bay” (along with photographer Heather Perry), Franklin is a revered spokesperson for the interests of the Bay.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017 6:30 – 7:45 PM: FOUR GENERATIONS OF TOPSHAM FARMERS – THE RACKLEY FAMILY
Harry and Winfred Rackley – Circa 1922
The November meeting of the Topsham Historical Society will feature the Rackley family. Stephen Rackley moved to Topsham in 1832 and was the first of four generations of dairy farmers. The original farm house still stands along US 201.
The lives and times in which they lived will broaden the appreciation of what makes Topsham the town it now is. Come early to see a gallery of related photos on display at the Topsham Library.
No meeting in December. See you on Tuesday, January 9!
Tuesday, January 9, 2018 6:30 – 7:45 PM: 130 YEARS OF COLLECTING AT THE PEJEPSCOT HISTORICAL SOCIETY
From Canoe to Cupola: 130 Years of Collecting at Pejepscot Historical Society
Started by a group of 10 Brunswick town fathers on January 10, 1888 to serve Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, the Pejepscot Historical Society was one of the first local historical societies established in Maine. In this slideshow, Executive Director Larissa Vigue Picard provides a sneak peek at the society’s upcoming “130 Years of Collecting” exhibit that will include items and stories from every decade PHS has been in operation. She’ll pay special attention to PHS’s 18th century Wabanaki birch bark canoe, given to the society in 1889. The canoe was carbon dated and conserved in 2017, and is now believed to be the oldest surviving birch bark canoe anywhere.
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 6:30 to 7:45 PM: HOME WITH HISTORY – RESTORING YOUR HISTORIC HOUSE
A before and after view!
Architectural Historian Scott Hanson will give us a glimpse into his nearly completed book on restoring historic homes, tentatively titled Restoring Your Historic Home, A Comprehensive Guide. It will be published later in 2018 by Tilbury Publishing with national distribution by W.W. Norton.
Drawing on more than 30 years’ experience in the historic preservation field, Hanson has written a book full of practical advice and well-illustrated examples of appropriate approaches to preserving the historic character of homes while making them livable for 21st century lives. Topics covered include kitchen and bath design, structural repairs, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, plaster repair, floors, windows, doors, wood trim and siding, roofing, painting and more.
Scott Hanson is Director of Preservation Consulting Services for Sutherland Conservation & Consulting in Augusta and was formerly Preservation Planner for the City of Portland. He has served as vice-chair of the Topsham Historic District Commission and is restoring his own home, Whitten House, in Topsham.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 6:30 – 7:45 PM: HISTORY OF THE CONE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
ALERT: NO MEETING ON TUESDAY, MARCH 13 DUE TO THE SNOW STORM.
Program will be rescheduled to October 9, 2018
Tuesday, April 10, 2018 6:30 – 7:45 PM: IN SEARCH OF THE MERRYMEETING BAY PIONEERS
In the 17th century a community of English settlers lived and worked around Merrymeeting Bay until 1675, when they were either killed or driven away at the outbreak of King Philip’s War. Most of the surviving pioneers never returned, and the locations of most of their homes, farms, and businesses have been lost over time.
Our knowledge of this phase of Maine’s history is far from complete, but a growing number of local community members believe that the Merrymeeting Bay Pioneers Project will add many new pages to the history books.
Dr. Bruce Bourque, of the Maine State Museum, will provide a short historical sketch of this fascinating period and explain how the project plans to achieve its research, education, and public outreach goals. One of the project’s key research objectives is to rediscover and systematically study the lost sites from this period.
Of particular interest is the project’s application of high-tech remote-sensing technologies, such as high-resolution airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), to help rediscover traces of these lost sites in the landscape. Some examples will be shown to demonstrate how LiDAR imaging can be a valuable tool in this study and many other disciplines.
Tuesday, May 8, 2018 6:30 – 7:45 PM: THE GRANGES OF MAINE (WITH TOPSHAM SPOTLIGHTED)
Granges throughout Maine and in particular the 144-year-old Topsham Grange will be featured as the May topic. The Grange, or Patrons of Husbandry, was established following the Civil War to give voice to farmers. The movement came to Maine and Topsham in 1874, and Topsham Grange capped its success soon after that with over 300 members in the ranks. The local Grange Hall hosted school graduations and community events as well Grange meetings, entertainments, and suppers.
Colorful stories and historic pictures of the Grange in Maine and Topsham will be shared by Mert Ricker. Holding the meeting at the Topsham Grange Hall will be a great addition to the program. Historic hand-painted stage curtains will be on display along with a collection of Grange artifacts. The hall is handicap assessable with a ramp and chair lift. Come join us for an evening of remembering and exploring!
Tuesday, June 12, 2018 6:30 – 7:45 PM: CIVIL WAR MONUMENTS THROUGHOUT MAINE
Soldier’s Monument, Kennebunk Maine – Post Card circa 1910
Maine State Historian Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. will present an illustrated lecture on Maine’s Civil War monuments to the Topsham Historical Society at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, June 12th at the Topsham Public Library. All Civil War enthusiasts are very welcome to come and participate.
Since 1864 Maine communities have created more than 170 Civil War monuments to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the 70,000 Mainers who fought in the war. These memorials are located throughout the state, from Kittery to Ashland and from Bethel to Eastport. Many featured standing soldiers sculpted in granite or bronze, while others are stone shafts on square pedestals. Inscriptions bear witness to the fundamental reason for the four-year conflict that divided the nation: the preservation of the union.
Tuesday, September 11, 2018 6:30 – 7:45 PM: TOPSHAM HISTORY 101
Summer Street and Barron’s Hill, Topsham, c. 1900
as viewed from Brunswick
375 years in 45 minutes. Maine Historian and our very own Scott Hanson will present a sweeping and fast-paced overview of the history of Topsham from early settlement to the 21st century. With images and words, Hanson will trace Topsham’s past and explain how the town came to be as it is today at this Topsham Historical Society meeting. All local history enthusiasts are welcome to come and join in the questions and answer period.
Tuesday, October 9, 2018 6:30 – 7:45 PM: HISTORY OF THE CONE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
The HISTORY OF THE CONE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL program will be rescheduled to a later month. Stay tuned for the specific date.
Built in 1896, this stately two-story building watches over Elm Street. It was an elementary school until 1965 where countless Topsham kids went to school before going on to high school in Brunswick. The former John A. Cone School brings back a lot of memories, and you are encouraged to bring your own memories to the Topsham Historical Society at the October 9 presentation.
Dana Cary, also a graduate of John A. Cone, will tell of the building’s history for the first part of the presentation, and then we offer it up to you, to talk about your favorite memories. You are also invited to bring any memorabilia you may want to show as to go along with what The Topsham Historical Society provides.
All alumni are warmly invited to attend and to participate. If you didn’t go to grade school there, come on down anyway! It’s an ideal opportunity to find out more about this very special place.
Tuesday, November 13, 2018: HISTORIC FAMILY SERIES – THE GIVEN FAMILY
November is the month where the Topsham Historical Society uses its presentation to look at the history/genealogy wrapped around the roots of a long-time Topsham Family…The Givens. Originally called and spelled as the Giveens, the family first settled in Maine nearly 300 years ago. Descendent Steve Edmondson has been tracing his family roots, which intertwined over the generations with a few other long-time Topsham families.
What better way to welcome the upcoming holiday season than to look towards family? Please join us Tuesday, November 13th at 6:30, for this look back at the Given family which has called the town of Topsham home for centuries.
Tuesday, January 8, 2019: HISTORY OF SHIPBUILDING IN TOPSHAM – postponed to April 9, 2019 date due to snow cancellation
Tuesday, February 12, 2019: THE HARRIETT BEECHER STOWE HOUSE, BRUNSWICK, MAINE – postponed to a later date due to snow cancellation
Harriett Beecher Stowe House, in which “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was written, Brunswick, Maine
Professor Chakkalakal of Bowdoin College will speak on the local and literary history of the Stowe House in Brunswick. The house’s history begins in 1850 and concludes with its renovation that was completed in 2016. Her talk will highlight the function of literary houses in preserving history and disseminating literature to wide public.
Tuesday, March 12, 2019: HISTORY OF TOPSHAM THROUGH THE LENS OF MAPS
Topsham Village 1858
Maine’s mid-coast region, including Topsham, has hosted native peoples, explorers, soldiers, settlers, farmers, scholars, industrialists, immigrant mill workers, and political leaders. This richlyillustrated talk is a whirlwind look at the history of Topsham through the lens of five hundred years of maps and charts. This unique perspective will be presented by Jym St. Pierre, conservator, photographer, editor and long-time resident of Brunswick.
Tuesday, April 9, 2019 (6:30 – 7:45 PM): HISTORY OF SHIPBUILDING IN TOPSHAM (Dana Cary, Topsham Historical Society)
One of the Last Topsham Ships Built circa 1855
Shipbuilding doesn’t seem like a profitable business for a village like Topsham in the early 19th century. However, our local shipbuilding industry was a surprisingly busy one, out of the many such enterprises along the shores of the Androscoggin. Building on what Bud Warren researched several years earlier, Dana Cary will be presenting this look at a homegrown local industry, of ships built from Maine timber by Topsham craftsmen and launched into the Androscoggin River.
Please join us for this Topsham Historical Society presentation on Tuesday, January 8th, 6:30 pm at the Topsham Library for the history of shipbuilding right here in town.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019 (6:30 – 7:45 PM): THE WABANAKIS OF MAINE (Dr. Joseph Hall, Bates College)
Dr. Joe Hall, Professor of Indian, Colonial and Environmental History at Bates College, will be sharing his research of and passion for the Wabanakis, Maine’s indigenous peoples. His particular interested lies in the ways that the Wabanaki people continued to cultivate ties to their homeland even as colonial peoples sought to dispossess them of it. In his lecture, he will be speaking about the many layers of meaning that Wabanaki place names hold. They are more than descriptions of place. They also offer some clues to how Wabanakis inhabited their homelands before colonists’ arrival and also how they continued–and continue–to inhabit those lands in the midst of colonization.
Please join us for this Topsham Historical Society presentation on Tuesday, May 14, 6:30 pm at the Topsham Library for a travel back in time to our Native American heritage.
Tuesday, June 11, 2019: ORAL HISTORY IN THE COMMUNITY
Discarded Trunks – Ellis Island NY
An overview of oral history and its importance to local communities will be presented by folklorist and oral historian Keith Ludden of Oral History and Folklife Research, Inc. Basic techniques for interviewing, recording and gathering oral history will also be shared. Ludden is a graduate of the folklore program at Western Kentucky University. He has served as the traditional arts coordinator for the Maine Arts Commission and has worked as a public radio journalist for fifteen years.
Please join us for this Topsham Historical Society presentation on Tuesday, June 11, 6:30 pm at the Topsham Library.
Tuesday, September 10, 2019: THE PEJEPSCOT PROPRIETORS: GOOD GUYS OR BAD GUYS?
Three centuries ago, the Pejepscot Proprietors, a company of Massachusetts speculators, acquired extensive land holdings in and around Topsham. Until the company dissolved in 1818, their business model was to make money by selling lots to settlers. The original Pejepscot Proprietors were mostly part of the Boston social, economic, and political elite. They were used to getting their way, whether by investment, persuasion, political manipulation, marriage, legal challenge, or brute force. They were devoted to God, king, country, and self, not necessarily in that order. Presentation by Jym St. Pierre, conservationist, editor, amateur historian, and Brunswick resident.
Please join us on Tuesday, September 10, at 6:30 PM, at Topsham Public Library to hear the story of the Pejepscot Proprietors.
Tuesday, October 8, 2019: HAUNTED BOWDOIN COLLEGE
Haunted Bowdoin College: Eerie legends about Bowdoin College and the Brunswick area will come to life during this presentation by David Francis. Featuring highlights from his book Haunted Bowdoin College, you will learn about the “Chamber of Horrors” under Appleton Hall, the mysterious “echoing footsteps” in the Searles Science Building, the persistent wanderings of the “lady in red”, and many other interesting, humorous, and even disturbing tales that have fascinated students over the years.
Tuesday, December 5, 2019 (postponed from November 12): ANNUAL GENEALOGICAL LOCAL FAMILY – RUTH BOUCHARD KLEIN – THE IMMIGRANT DREAM: MY FAMILY’S JOURNEY FROM CANADA TO BRUNSWICK TO TOPSHAM HEIGHTS
November’s program will continue the Topsham Historical Society tradition of featuring a local family history once a year. Ruth Bouchard Klein will share the fascinating story of her family from the farms of Quebec province Canada, to the Cabot Mill and tenements, and eventually to the French-speaking community of Topsham Heights into a private family home.
Tuesday, January 14, 2020: RESTORING YOUR HISTORIC HOUSE
Historic preservation consultant, Scott T. Hanson, will give a presentation on restoring historic houses, the subject his newest book, Restoring Your Historic House, The Comprehensive Guide for Homeowners. The 720-page hardcover book was released in December and immediately sold out on Amazon and other online retailers. Scott will draw from the 2,000+ photos and drawings in the book to give an overview of its content and to talk about the four-and-a-half year-process of writing the book.
Copies of the book will be available for sale and signing at the event.”
Tuesday, February 11, 2020: THE WALKER AND VEAZIE FAMILIES OF TOPSHAM
The families and homes of two Topsham “movers and sharers” will be featured as the February program. As industry flourished in the early 1800s, so did the Walkers and Veazies. Their homes, family relationships and contributions to the community will be highlighted.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020: THE MAINE ICE TRADE
Independent Ice Houses on the Kennebec
Maine Maritime Museum’s Assistant Curator, Paul Fuller, will share his insights on organizing the museum’s winter exhibit, “Frozen Kingdom” and reveal some of Maine’s most intriguing stories connected to Maine’s notoriously frigid winters. The lecture will discuss ice harvesting, some of the ice business’ biggest players, and what happened to the industry.
The “Frozen Kingdom: Commerce & Pleasure in the Maine Winter” exhibit at the Maine Maritime Museum will run through April 26.
POSTPONED DUE TO LIBRARY COVID-19 CLOSING – Tuesday, April 13, 2020: CITIZEN SAM – STALWART OF THE MIDCOAST AND THIS NEW NATION
53 Elm Street in Topsham, Samuel Thompson’s house, in the 1880s
In the late 18th century, Brig. General Samuel Thompson was the most prominent figure in Midcoast Maine. He fought for the cause of Independence, he spoke out for liberty in the debates about this country’s new Constitution, and he was a very early advocate for statehood. He grew up on the New Meadows and after the Revolution built a house in Topsham on the Androscoggin River. Tavern keeper, river entrepreneur, land trader, at times a firebrand, he was a true Mainer before there was even a state of Maine.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021: THE HUNTER TAVERN
The Hunter Tavern, Topsham, Maine
Local history buff Jym St. Pierre will present a talk with accompanying photos about what tavern life was like in the 1700s with our own Hunter Tavern as the main focal point. Adam Hunter came to Topsham as a youngster more than three centuries ago. He became one of the most prosperous of the early settlers. He and his wife, Mary, took in travelers while raising 10 children. One of their sons, John, was born in Topsham in 1743. Like his father, John served as a town official in 18th century Topsham. Their Hunter Tavern on Middlesex -Road became a local landmark. By the late 19th century, it was one of the oldest houses in town. In 1962, the National Park Service conducted an architectural assessment of the historic building, so though the tavern is gone we have some wonderful photos. Soon after that it was town down.
Tuesday, June 15, 2021: THE ANDROSCOGGIN SWINGING BRIDGE – JOINING TOPSHAM & BRUNSWICK
. The Androscoggin Swinging Bridge
Local activist Nancy Randolph, a moving force behind the saving and restoration of the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge, will be sharing her passion on the 15th. A talk and visuals will cover the history of the bridge and the current efforts to fund needed repairs. Its connection to the Topsham Heights will also be included.
Sunday, October 17, 2021: RIVERVIEW CEMETERY WALK, TOPSHAM MAINE
Join us in the crisp, fall air as Historian Dick Snow leads us through the Riverview Cemetery in Topsham. Learn about some of our more illustrious (and a few infamous) earlier residents of our town.
The walk is free, but there is a limited number of folks that can be accommodated, so please send an e-mail indicating the number of participants to:
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