Auburn, Maine, USA - 1889 - Auburn
Some cities are remarkable for the enterprise and progressiveness which characterizes their citizens; some for the natural commercial advantages which bring prosperity, and still others for a charming situation in the midst of many beautiful scenes of nature. Auburn is remarkable for all of these. The history of Auburn is of a quiet but suggestive type, marked by the features which have characterized the growth of the best towns and cities of New England. It was originally a part of a large section of the Pejepseot Purchase, which went under the name of Bakerstown and included present Auburn, Minot and Poland. The city as now composed has been a gradual assimilation of territory from other towns in the vicinity. Auburn village, the nucleus of all future growth, was first settled by Joseph Welch, in 1797. He erected a log hut near what is now Golf's Corner, and began to clear the ground. As other settlers came, they built around this clearing as a center. Mr. Doblmeyer put up the second house, which was a framed one, and he also built and ran a grist mill. The third settler in this vicinity was Solomon Wood. Near the present site of the Auburn depot, settlers had come a little earlier, among whom were Benj. True, Jabez, Levi and Daniel Merrill from Turner, and Jacob Stevens from New Gloucester. In 1791, Elias Merrill, of New Gloucester, bought up a large section of land here and took a prominent part in its settlement and cultivation.
One great feature of the early settlement of this region, was the bitter and prolonged litigation over land titles. In 1736, the General Legislature of Massachusetts bad granted a large. section of land to some officers and soldiers who had engaged in an expedition to Canada in 1690. These grants conflicted with the ? claims which went further, and the only result of long fighting was that the settling of the town was delayed many years. After the town had begun these, old disputes would arise like the ghost about the battle-field and caused many a scare, though perhaps not much damage. The action of the Massachusetts legislature was here very much at fault, as according to the best accounts they gave away, or sold, the same land three successive times. Undoubtedly, had it not been for this chaotic state of titles, Auburn would have been settled earlier, as this was one of the loveliest, healthiest and most fertile spots on the whole course of the Androscoggin. Col. Moses Little was one of the most prominent and influential men in the early affairs of Auburn, as he was of Lewiston. He was the agent of the settlers here, and owned much property himself, so he spent the most arduous endeavors in getting their rights and titles sustained, and induced many to settle, contributing a very marked share in the founding of the town. His two sons, Joseph and Edward, also did much to advance the town, the Litter in particular, residing here and taking great and active interest in all local affairs. He was most influential in the establishment of the First Congregational Church and also the Lewiston Falls Academy, in 1835, of which he was an incorporator, and which afterward in honor of numerous benefactions was named for him.
From its late settlement, Auburn was not able to share in the honors or the toils of the Revolutionary War, and it was not until the effects of the war had been largely overpassed that it began to grow. Besides the Auburn village and depot settlement, there were two other village stations settled, which became a part of the latter town. One grew up about a mill erected by Jacob Mason, on the Little Androscoggin, in 1786. By 1789 there were seven families here, namely, the Small, Moody, Starbird, Bailey, Emerson, Cootnbs and Libby families. There were also four or five families settled at Young's Corner, on Wilson's Pond, now Lake Auburn. All these scattered settlements were gathered up into the town which was incorporated under the name of Poland, in 1798. In the following year the settlement began to show signs of rapid advance. Lots were surveyed and opened by Philip Bullen and Mr. Ballard. The town grew quite markedly up to the beginning of the nineteenth century.
In 1802, a part of the town which was rapidly progressing was set apart and incorporated under the name of Minot. This included all of primitive Auburn which was set apart when it was incorporated as a town. Among other very early settlers in this neighborhood, were James Perkins, Asaph Howard, John C. Crafts, Azee Kingsley. These, together with the families of James Parker, John Downing, Benj. Noyes, J. Nason, Mr. Bray and Mr. Verrill, built up a considerable settlement to the west of Wilson's Pond, which grew into the township of West Auburn. James Perkins, being a blacksmith and gunsmith, naturally took a prominent part in the affairs of this vicinity, as the services of such skilled mechanics were then very highly valued in all the pioneer settlements.
North Auburn, at the head of Lake Auburn, which has since gained a wide reputation as a summer resort, was first settled by Simson Caswell, in 1787, who came from Plymouth County, Mass. He built a mill, which greatly advanced the growth of the village now known as North Auburn. East Auburn, at the outlet of Wilson's Pond, about three miles from the falls, was first settled in 1797, by William Briggs, with a large family. Soon after, Benj. Pettengill, Joshua Taylor and Philip Peaslee, settled near by, and a mill erected by the first named, soon caused a considerable village to grow up in this part of the town.
One remarkable feature of the early history of Auburn, was the witch stories. These were rarer in Maine than in Massachusetts or Mew Hampshire. The wife of Johnny Merrill was supposed to be afflicted with this epidemic disease, but its effects do not seem to have been of a rare or peculiar order. Whenever Johnny did not do as Mrs. Merrill desired, trouble would ensue in time family log-cabin. A yoke of oxen which he sold to a neighbor once on a time, were found the next morning in that neighbor's barn dead on their backs. This, according to popular superstition, was Aunt Molly's work, feminine witches being supposed to care nothing for the strength of an ox when they had any purpose to fulfill. Another neighbor, Samuel Knox, borrowed a wagon of Johnny to drag home some grain in, but when he came to load it the trouble began. As fast as he put it in on one side it went out the other. Naturally, not understanding the law of gravity, he attributed it to Aunt Molly. These and other stories about Aunt Molly and other feminine disciples of Hecate went the rounds; but popular superstition did not go so far as in Massachusetts or the old counties, and happily no sanguinary results followed.
The early years of the nineteenth century were spent very quietly in the clearing of the ground and preparing for the farm, lands which have since been successfully developed. There were now no longer any French or Indians to trouble, so the good work went steadily on. At the time of the war of 1812 the town was yet too young to take any active part, but it shared in the privations and depressions which followed that financial mistake. An important domestic event occurred when Jacob Read opened the first store hear in 1822 near Goff's Cor. He was the firs trader hear, and laid the foundation stone of the wide commercial business which has since cent'red in Auburn. The number and traders kept constantly increasing, until at the time of the great fire in 1855 there were 25 business houses already established about Goffs Corner. Prominent in the early commercial history of Auburn was James Goff, who was an able merchant in the highest sense of the term, and whose financial and personal memory of which he was left enduring testimonials, will long be cherished in this city of his adoption. The first hotel was opened here in 1822, by Jacob Reed, and long served as a way-inn on the stage route, one of the great features of life in this region before the establishment of the railroad.
In 1842, Auburn's separate career was begun, as it was then incorporated as a town, after long waiting and delays. The blessings of a magnificent situation and untiring energy now began to be most marked. In 1848, the opening of a railroad to Portland created a new financial epoch, and created a demand for the fine mannfacturing facilities here enjoyed. Business continued steadily to expand and during the next decade assumed considerable proportions. The great fire of 1855 destroyed twenty-five or more buildings around Goff's corner, but as was experienced in other places, the people rose to the occasion and erected finer structures in every way than those that were burned. Though the loss could not immediately be recovered from, yet the great enterprise shown continued the advance of the town at a rapid pace. The following years, 1856-57, witnessed the erection here of the County Buildings, Court House and Jail at a cost of over $100,000. This fact reveals the position which Auburn had already taken in the county. In 1859 a part of the town of Danville was annexed to Auburn to meet the exigencies of the demand for land.
The civil war aroused all the energies, active and latent, in the town of Auburn. A most enthusiastic support was given to all measures in support of the government. Four hundred and twenty men were enlisted here, of which number only fifteen were drafted. Only once was a draft needed, and then only for a few hours. There were also seven Auburn volunteers in the navy. Thirteen men were killed in battle, and a very much larger number were lost by sickness or capture. The town paid large sums to the advance of the cause, $62,365 in bounties, and several thousand dollars for the support of soldiers and in private charities.
Among the talented and able officers who went from Auburn were Joseph S. Fillebrown who enlisted in and was made adjutant of the 1st regiment and was afterward lieut.-col. of the 10th; Chas. S. Emerson, a captain in the 1st, and afterward a lieut.-col. in the 29th; Lieut. Phineas Dill; H. L. K. Wiggins, surgeon; Jas. C. Felsom, 1st lieut. in 1st reg't; E. T. Luce, lieut.-col. in 23d, A. C. Pray, captain in 23d; Jos. Dingley, adj't of the 8th; Lient. W. H. Chamberlain of the U. S. regulars; Lieut. Benj. M. Bradbury of the 10th; Granvile Blake, captain in the 29th; Capt. Jos. Little of the 3d New Hampshire; Chas. B. Rounds, captain in 31st, and Rev. A. C. Adams, chaplain. This long and most honorable list of commissioned officers from Auburn, many of whom rose from the ranks, was complemented by the remarkable bravery and esprit shown by the. uncommissioned soldiers, both of which render Auburn's soldiers' memories such as it may well be proud of, and has carefully preserved and commemorated.
The building of a bridge between Auburn and Lewiston, in 1828, was very beneficial to both, and opened up a great many advantages which contributed to its progress. The erection of the academy building, in 1835, was another evidence of the growth in size and refinement of the town. Mr. Edward Little gave nine acres, and considerable money to the academy, which was named soon after, "The Edward Little Institute."
At the close of the war Auburn continued its advance in all lines, and in 1868 had arrived at the dignity of a city charter, which was granted by the legislature. The people, however, seemed loth to give up their accustomed form of town government, and did not decide to accept this charter till the following year. Thomas Littlefleld was chosen the first mayor in 1869. A police court was established the same year of which Nathaniel Finch was chosen judge. The city now contained all of the town of Danvile, the remainder of which was annexed in 1867.
Since its incorporation as a city, Auburn has made marked advances in industrial' commercial and social lines, and has developed into a powerful and well-organized city. Its business interests have not been beyond the depressions which at times have swept over the country, but in the main have gone steadily forward. At the present time Auburn ranks in this respect among the first few cities of the state, and this is due, both to the great natural advantages, and the enterprising genius of her business men. Among the chief manufacturing and commercial enterprises now conducted are shoes, for which she has a national reputation, cotton and woolen goods, grain and produce, carriages, iron goods, brick and furniture.
The valuation of Auburn for 1887-88, was for real estate, $8,734,130; for personal property, $816,950; total valuation, $4,550,080. The total debt of the city is only $227,500, and is being steadily reduced. The tax rate is low, and advantages of situation for manufacturing, outside of the great water power of the river, are unusually excellent. The city officers for 1887-88 were Hon. A. W. Penley, mayor; John N. Foster, president of the board of aldermen; J. W. Mitchell, city clerk; N. M. Neal, president common council; D. W. Verrill, treasurer; Frank F. Goss, school commissioner; Thomas Littlefleld, collector; and Geo. 0. Wing, solicitor.
The modern city of Aubdrn is one of the most delightful for a summer sojourn. It contains about fifty square miles of beautiful residences, farm and woodland, interspersed with lovely lakes and charming rivers. It is on the west side of the great Androscoggin river with its tremendous water-power force, almost unlimited in its possibility of development. The Little Androscoggin river also runs through, affording several thousand horse power and good fishing and boating. Lake Auburn, the largest in the vicinity, containing eight or ten square miles, is a very popular summer resort. Two first-class hotels have been erected near the lake, and the outing privileges are widely famed and highly enjoyed. Poland Springs and Lake Maranocook are other noted resorts in the vicinity, easily and shortly reached. The drives through the city and country are exceedingly beautiful. The country is diversified with numerous romantic and delightful regions. It is an ideal summer home for a visitor desiring a quiet, satisfactory and recuperating enjoyment. After having known the charm of the region it lingers in the memory as an abiding pleasure.
The social, educational, and religious life of Auburn, is of a high tone, and admirably sustained. Ever since the early days of the town, the most careful and generous attention has been given to education, with the result that its twenty-four schools are maintained at the highest standard, and its beautiful high school, formerly the Edward Little Institute, is one of the most widely famed in the state. Its graduates enter Bowdoin and other colleges, where they rank among the first scholars. There are churches of the Baptist, Free Baptist, Congregational, Methodist and Universal list denominations here, and the religious activity in philanthropic work and in preserving the moral life of the city are very wide and effective. Though Auburn is not one of the oldest cities in the state, it has now reached a position where, for its good government and internal well-being, it is looked up to throughout Maine and well-deserves all the honor which has attended the efforts to beautify and uplift it of its good citizens in the present and the past.
Leading Business Men of LEWISTON, AUGUSTA and VICINITY, BOSTON MERCANTILE PUBLISHING COMPANY 1889
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