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The Closing of Herrick’s General Store (The New Gazette, 1971)

The following excerpts are from the December 16, 1971 Special Edition of the New Gazette, a newspaper published as a community service project by the Orrington Jaycees. These excerpts were transcribed by Pauline Bickford-Duane in July 2017. 

Special Edition
December 16, 1971


It is with mixed emotions that I make the following announcement: The business of the S.S. HERRICK & CO., also known as HERRICK’S, will cease operation on December 31, 1971.

There has been a HERRICK’S STORE at 590 So. Main Street, Brewer, for 92 years. Last year during the Maine Sesqui-Centennial Celebration HERRICK’S was honored by recognition for being the second oldest grocery store in the State of Maine under continual operation by the same family at the same location. The oldest store was Frisbee’s Market at Kittery Point.

Sewall Herrick started his business in 1879 and served the people for 60 years, then his son Winslow Herrick took over the business, made many changes to better serve the people for 26 years, and then I, Jeanette Wiswell, bought the business and continued the Herrick tradition for six years. I now feel that there is no real need for this type of business and rather than to make changes to conform to the present need, I prefer to retire and enjoy a few years of relaxation and pleasure while I still have good health.

My first thought was to “close out” but on second thought I realized the need of a grocery store on this particular corner and felt that I could continue to serve the people if I could find someone worthy to take over. So – although I am sorry to announce the closing of HERRICK’S, I am glad to announce the opening of MACDONALD’S.

I was very fortunate in finding a young man of good character, Richard MacDonald, a resident of Brewer, and present owner of two grocery stores in Bangor, who was glad to buy my business and is prepared not only to carry on, but to serve you further by changing the store hours to “8:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. 7 Days a Week.” He will also employ Frank Phillips to serve you at the meat counter.

So – with my feelings of sadness to leave and my feeling of hope and happiness for the future, I make this announcement.

NOTE: Miss Dagny Erickson, a former schoolteacher in Orrington and Brewer, has written a book entitled “From Norway to Nostalgia” and has kindly permitted us to use excerpts from this book which you will find in this issue of the Gazette.

Jeanette Wiswell


Although Herrick’s store had had its beginning many years earlier, it was not till the year 1907 that we came to know it – better than most perhaps. Its history then was well known, and we learned of its start on Main Street, as a sort of ships chandlery business, then expanding its services to provide lumbermen’s supplies and general merchandise. Needing more room, the owners had moved the growing concern to its present location at the corner of Main and Elm. One of its earliest owners was a Captain Drake who later moved to Boston, leaving the young enterprise in the hands of Harlan Sargent. It was at this point that Sewall Herrick came into the picture, and became a partner. However, in the course of a few years, the sign over the door read S.S. Herrick & Co. – changed some years later to S.S. Herrick and Sons.

Every family in South Brewer, and many more in Orrington, had good reason to hold in high regard the convenient, dependable general store and its efficient, friendly personnel. But our family’s position for accurate appraisal and unbiased appreciation was a unique one. Recent immigrants from Oslo, Norway, we found ourselves set down in a strange environment, which was held together by four focal points that spelled security: school, the sawmill, church, and Herrick’s.

The store has been modernized in recent years into an effective, attractive self-service mart, with the necessary refrigerated units and two check-out  counters. Nevertheless, it can never reach the picturesque peak of the early decade in the present century.

In my book, “From Norway to Nostalgia, I have devoted an entire chapter in an effort to do justice to Herrick’s, both then and now. A few excerpts from that may do more to enhance its memory than bare outlines, and cold statistics.

Dagny Erickson



Situated across Main Street from our house was a local institution which contributed as much to the Erickson tribe’s early education here as did the school itself. It was that solid segment of small town America called, usually, the “general store.” Standing foursquare on its firm foundation of red brick, it faced the western sky, the wintry blasts, and the ever-growing demands of a population that believed in living well. Over its main entrance hung a sign which read S.S. Herrick and Co. Through its three doorways and within its well-built walls moved and functioned all the elements, all the ingredients of New England democracy at its very best. Over the broad boards of its bare floors, worn splintery and grooved, walked a cross-section of humanity on equal footing. Laborer or lumberman, farmer or fisherman, retired sea captain or limping veteran, each took his turn and was served, according to his needs, with the best available at the time.

Some well-to-do individuals, independent as a “hog on ice,” paid “cash on the barrel head.” Others living on monthly incomes “ran bills,” as did the mill-workers who squared up each Saturday night. Then there were those who, hit by sudden financial emergencies, got behind, but obtained what they needed through their difficult time even if the future, too, looked grim and uncertain.

Unlike many similar places of business throughout this section of the country, loitering was not particularly encouraged at Herrick’s nor was pompous oratory any part of the day’s dealings. Anyone who had a cargo of opinions to unload had to find more willing ears elsewhere. Verbiage beyond the necessary oral order was brief and to the point. Anything more would have been redundant in the face of the proprietor’s own taciturnity. Besides – everyone was much too busy. Occasionally a farmer sat down at the flat-topped stove to warm himself, while his wagon was being loaded at the store-room platform; and if there happened to be a lull in the meat department Mr. Herrick might leave his private domain to enjoy a pipe and the warmth with his customer. But usually the farmer helped to load his feed and grain and household staples himself in order to speed the operation. Very likely he had long miles to cover with his slow team, and to get home in time for mid-day chores or the evening milking was as inevitable – a must – as Franklin’s “death and taxes.”

Children came and went on errands for their elders or to hover over the candy case with sticky pennies clutched tightly in their greedy hands. Each one, in spite of age, sex, or position, had to adhere to the highest standard of personal conduct or suffer the consequences. The rules of decorum for anyone under eighteen were set up and enforced by a peppery spinster who occupied, full-time, the bookkeeper’s cubicle in the exact center of the store.

Perched high on a “Bob Cratchet” stool, she kept most of the store under constant surveillance and nothing within her line of vision went unnoticed. Children were the bane of her existence and it might have pleased her well had the natural order of things provided that adults should arise, full-blown, from the sea like Botticelli’s “Venus.” Little girls, quiet and primly starched, or tousled-headed boys with one knicker leg properly anchored at the knee, the other sloppily dangling halfway to the ankle, got the same fault-finding treatment. If any one of us came precipitously through the door, she accused us of slamming it; a slow careful entry “caused a draft,” a purposeful walk down the aisle to the order desk brought the rebuff, “Get back, you’re in the way.” An indecisive stop, part way between the orange crates and the pot-bellied stove, produced a shrill “What are you doing way down there?”

So, philosophically, we gradually adopted and followed a chalk-line course down the middle of her varied do’s and don’t’s but rarely, on the way out, closed the door behind us entirely unscathed.

Many of the scars on my tender memory healed miraculously one day when I heard her tell a grizzled walrus of a man that he didn’t know his own mind. And he, who had sailed the oceans of the world, in storm and in calm, as mate and as captain, merely shook his head and grunted.

But she had her virtues too. Like the village doctor, she knew the rattling skeletons in assorted closets all over town, but never a hint of gossip was ever laid at her door.

The clerks were kindly men with well developed capacities for patience. This quality was most apparent when we were vacillating between the candy display and the pickle barrel. A penny’s worth of candy meant, at best, no more than two delightful gulps; a huge, sour cucumber, combined with a few crackers, promised at least an hour of careful nibbling. It was a momentous decision and the clerks shared the strain.

Fred Ware was our favorite. He was a deacon at the church and leader of our Junior Christian Endeavor Society. To our benighted souls, his fund of biblical lore made him the fount of all knowledge and as such we properly revered him.

Then there was Abe who lacked all the attributes of manly beauty, besides being extremely sharp-nosed and cross-eyed. We saw little of him, as he was driver of the team that made all the daily deliveries. Mornings he went “up the road,” afternoons, “down the road” and into North Orrington. During the gaps between, he filled orders and worked on his accounts. Not long after our arrival he left the store to take up poultry farming in East Orrington. This change, on his part, brought about the first removal of old landmarks in our neighborhood. The ancient bandstand that had graced the southeast corner of “our flat” for many a long year was carted majestically on a low jigger to Abe’s new property. Here he converted it into a henhouse. Such a come-down for a temple of music!

All the clerks wore hats while at work and I remember Mr. Smith simply because his was a hard straw skimmer of the boardwalk variety. He wore it at a rakish tilt toward his left ear that went well with his dapper, bow-tie personality. His cool nonchalance was the only effective weapon against the bookkeeper’s acid attacks and she found him mildly amusing. Once I actually saw her horizontal lips turn upward ever so slightly at one of his quips. During the tornado, already described, when the clapboards on the flat became airborne, a goodly number of them crashed through Herrick’s plate glass windows, and our Mr. Smith, missing his cue to duck, was badly cut by flying glass. Luckily he was the only casualty.

Sewell Herrick was one of the kindest men I have ever known and that knowledge came to me when I was in a position where every direction was up. Had such a sentiment about him been noised around and come to his ears, it would have roused his mighty wrath. He was essentially a quiet, retiring man who lived the golden rule without the accompaniment of clashing cymbals. Lean, sparse,a graying whisp of a man, compared to my Dad’s towering stature, he seemed made of steel springs and possessed a dry wit which is often an asset of those who think much and listen well. Very likely much of his humor fell on uncomprehending ears, for it became doubly subtle because of his frugal use of words. Whether it was fear or awe, it is hard to say, but none of us ever took any liberties with his abounding good nature.

Under Dad’s first “division of labor” plan it fell to my lot to get our daily supply of groceries. The boys did not fare so well. On general principles, we objected to anything in the nature of a chore because it came under the heading of work. But Ted and Bjarne were more than justified in the struggles against the back-breaking task Dad set for them. Martin was still too young to participate, and besides, he had developed a quicksilver agility about wriggling out of any situation that might involve him unpleasantly.

Dad’s job, which was a sort of piece work arrangement, gave him a fringe benefit which became the boys’ daily duty to collect. In bunching the strappings, which were of varying lengths, Dad had to saw off the protruding ends after the bundle was securely tied with tarred rope. These odds and ends of wood were his for the taking, and as they were excellent fuel for a quick, hot fire they had to be toted home. A heavy iron wheel barrow was borrowed from the mill and then loaded from beneath Dad’s “horses.” It was a long trek to the house, first up over the steep muddy slope from the mill yard, to the edge of a rutted Main Street, through the deep puddles at the town pump and up slopes of a wide valley at the edge of our own strip of front lawn. By the time the shed door was reached, there was hardly enough left of the load to fill the woodbox once. All the way back to dad’s position was a sawdust trail dotted with assorted pieces of glistening “green” wood, so a pick-up trip had to be made lest Dad should follow the well-marked path and object to its convenience. After trundling the barrow himself a few times, he hired a man with a dump-cart to haul us a weekly supply and thus ended one area of “durance vile” for the two boys.

My task of going to the store was not that difficult, but neither was it entirely simple. This was before the days of self-service and a customer at Herrick’s was expected to stop at the order desk, hand over his “store-book” and give his order. This was written down, item by item, in the small ledger carried back and forth, and also scribbled off in the big ledger on the counter. The clerk then roamed around, gathering your supplies while you waited. This method was obviously impossible for me. My vocabulary at that time contained very few English words that in any way pertained to groceries. But Dad had made arrangements at the store so I would be permitted to do my own roaming with a clerk in tow. Pointing to the things I wanted, the entire process went on with few hitches, but completely in reverse.

This was where Mr. Herrick came into my life. When not too busy he attended to my instruction himself but the clerks were told to make me pronounce each item on my list satisfactorily before I was allowed to depart. Just how they managed about quantities is a guess at this time. Perhaps, as every man had his own family and knew well the size of ours, he weighed and measured accordingly.

One morning we ran out of cocoa for breakfast and I was dispatched for another can. The business of the day had hardly gotten into full swing. Mr Herrick was free and waited on me himself. Proudly I asked for cocoa, making three syllables of it, and probably, Scandinavian style, saying “coo-coo-a.” A shrill cackle from the bookkeeper’s cage was evidence enough that my error was grotesque, and that I should, as usual, have pointed to the familiar “Lowney’s” label. With infinite patience Mr. Herrick drew a finger nail across the “a” as if to lope it off. Then taking me to the corner where the shelves of canned vegetables jutted against the bakery case he made similar imaginary lines through the a’s in bread and peas. It was my first lesson in the intricate pattern of English spelling where silent letters lurk to beset the path of the unwary.

At another time, in those earliest days, I was sent to get a scrub brush. Our soft wood floor had become hopelessly gray and Mother was on a cleaning spree. Up to this point, I had managed nobly and knew every inch of the store better than any other youngster in town. However, I could not remember seeing any brushes anywhere, so it was necessary to appeal for help. My pantomimes were “Oscar” winning performances but produced no results. Finally a clerk opened the cellar door with a “be-my-guest” gesture, and there, hanging in clusters against the sloping wall were brushes of every sort including the kind I desired. After a valiant struggle with the collection of consonants in the two words, I crossed the street in triumph.

From the front entrance, the interior of the store may have looked a bit like a repository of heterogenous abundance. However this was not so, for the planned lay-out was both simple and logical. In general, the front of the store was the housewife’s province, while in the back could be found the manly things her spouse might want.

To the left, as one entered from Main Street, a swinging screen door opened into the dry-goods and hardware department. This was a long, narrow room in which could be found oil cloth, screen netting, workmen’s canvas gloves, shoe lacings and a glass case of assorted thread. To this last, I came often and soon learned that the bigger the number, the finer the thread. Mother used no. 60 for fine sewing but bought a prodigious amount of no. 12 to sew up rips and tears, attach patches, and replace buttons in a desperate attempt to keep them secure, for more than twenty-four hours at a stretch. As for hardware there was a profusion of pots, pans, pails, tubs, lamps and lanterns, rows of bean-pots, and way up high, a line of chamber mugs.

The main store had one long counter on which were set a number of glass cases. The first of these was the tobacco case filled with plugs of both chewing and pipe tobacco. Here too, were cigars in beautiful boxes. These we much admired because on the inside open cover were colored pictures of buxom Spanish ladies with roses in their hair or between their very red lips. Usually a draped skirt was daringly lifted to display a generous view of ankle and leg. Somehow I obtained one of these prized wooden receptacles and used it to keep my hair ribbons in. The faint aroma of tobacco that clung to my person bothered me not a whit.

Back of the counter ran long shelves, well stocked with spices, extracts, patent medicines, polishes and boxes of small hardware. Along the front were crates, barrels, bins, and kegs of products from far and near. Sponges from tropical waters lay neighbor to greens from Hersey Smith’s farm; apples from Orrington blended their spicy fragrance with the citrus fruit perhaps from the Mediterranean; and in the window, hung great bunches of bananas adding color to the baskets of local potatoes and turnips that sat underneath. Once, at Thanksgiving time, a tremendous barrel made its appearance near the orange crates. It was filled with ground cork and when a clerk reached down deep he came up with immense clusters of luscious, pale green grapes. I’ve wondered many times since, did they come directly from southern Spain or Portugal where such fruits are grown and where the cork-oak tree is indigenous?

Near the big round stove stood the bakery cabinet, not very large, for most housewives did all their own baking. Store bread, sugar or molasses cookies, and “boughten” doughnuts were strictly for rare emergencies or for housekeeping bachelors. Beyond the bookkeeper’s cage was the meat room at one side and another long counter on the other. At one end of this counter sat a great round cheese under a glass dome. It was a source of great interest to see how accurately any of the clerks could cut a wedge for a customer. Seldom did he go over or under the desired amount by more than a tiny fraction of an ounce.

There was a time when the church, the school, the doctor’s office, and the local store, jointly, made up the core of every close-knit community. But the general practitioner has become a specialist and has moved out of his dingy office and the heart of the people, and into sterile clinics or up-to-date medical centers. It would be a rare one who could thank you for mussing up his natty appearance by crying on his shoulder. Modern super markets and expanding shopping centers are snuffing out the life of the small independent grocer. We are swapping the friendly shopkeeper, who not only served his community but loved it, for bits of human automation, called check-out girls, who speed you on their way with their mechanical smiles. These changes are taking much of warmth and color from the American scene. It is too bad that the wheels of progress not only grind, but sift. Only the practical is retained; left behind are the dying embers of a glowing vitality that sprang from a sincere personal concern, one for the other.

It was my great good fortune to discover Mr. Sewell Herrick and to hear the beat of the great big heart that lay just south of the stained clay pipe usually gripped between his teeth. Under his loose vest, that generous organ was often called upon to extend itself to a troubled customer and make him a friend-in-need. And that is the image that remains with me.

Mother died on August 20. The months that followed were difficult for all of us but especially so for Dad. Not only was he left alone to cope with a family of children, but a mountain of bills had piled up to confront him. Three funerals to pay for – our two young sisters had died too – doctor’s fees and all the attendant costs, besides our daily living expenses, totaled to a financial burden that sent Dad to his work at day break and kept him there till dark. When the saw mills closed down at the first sign of ice in the cove in late November, Dad looked thin and drawn. But he took his usual winter job in the beater room at the pulp mill and continued to face his problems with cold stoicism. As the winter approached his health became worse. No matter what he ate it hurt him, and he lay around, during his brief leisure, in utter lassitude with faint pink spots tinting his cheeks. The day finally came when he was unable to drag himself out of bed, let alone attempt to tackle his daily toil. So on the advice of a good neighbor, I called the elder Dr. Thomas who came at once as he had so many times before. His diagnosis was swift and his orders peremptory. Dad had typhoid fever and the hospital was the only place for him – and at once.

The good doctor waited until the ambulance arrived, meanwhile giving me advice about how to clean Dad’s room and what to do about the heavy bedding.

As Dad was being carried out, feet first, on a stretcher, through our seldom-used front door, all the long series of family catastrophes gathered into one mighty wallop that landed squarely on my rounded thirteen year-old shoulders. Reeling under the impact, I fell against the door frame. With my forehead on the cool panel, I cradled my face in my hands and sobbed uncontrollably. The hopeless tears bounced off my bony cheeks and splashed on my stringy, tired arms. The man at my side, accustomed to grief and despair, placed his hand gently on my bent head and left, closing the door quietly behind him.

It never occurred to any one of us that Dad might die and that his tall frame would never again walk in at the door. To us he was indestructible and an ever present force to be reckoned with. No, my greatest worry those gloomy winter days was the staggering balance in our store-book. Nearly one hundred dollars! Einar was working, earning a dollar and a quarter per day but our supplies averaged at least twelve dollars a week. By cutting corners here and there, I tried to keep it below ten. But we were young, hearty, and always ready to eat, so the struggle was a losing battle. All at once, going to the store became a much dreaded necessity. Instead of saying, “I want this, and this, and this” I was pleading ungrammatically but humbly “Can I have…” Each day I expected a thunderous “NO.” Then it happened. The clerk at the order desk said, “Mr. Herrick wants to see you in the meat room.” I moved toward the swinging screen door much as Marie Antoinette must have moved toward the guillotine, except that the ill-fated queen carried her pride high and mine was trailing in the dust at my heels.

Mr. Herrick was wielding a cleaver as I entered so my gory simile is not too inept. But he laid it down, pulled his lank person up onto the edge of the chopping block, fondled his pipe and looked at me meditatively. And then he made what was, perhaps, one of his longest speeches. It is impossible now to quote him verbatim but the gist was clear.

The doctor had told him that Dad would be as good as new but that he would need good food and plenty of it. He (Mr. Herrick) explained that he and Dad had made a deal in the fall whereby Dad could pay off all his other bills first, letting his store account run until the following summer. Mr Herrick was troubled because I was cutting down on amounts. “A pound and a half of meat is not nearly enough for five of you, and why don’t you get eggs and fruit?” he scolded. Then, “We’ll keep your store-book here, then you won’t fret about it. Get what you want, all you want at any time. The saw mills will start again by the time your father is well and he’ll clean up his account in no time.”

I won’t wax so poetic as to say I walked home that day with my head up and a song in my heart. But I did clasp close to my ribs a substantial bundle of pork chops. From then on, my order would often be augmented by a bag of doughnuts, sugar cookies, or a wide “hand” of bananas. Whether he ever listed these extra items in our account I shall never know.

Best of all, his predictions were right. By the time the mills whistled again, Dad’s health was the best it had ever been. The horrible figures in our store-book dwindled gradually to zero and again things were reasonably right in our little world.

May the name of Herrick be blessed to the fourth and fifth generations.

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A Gazetteer of the State of Maine: Orrington (1886)

The following is an excerpt from A Gazetteer of the State of Maine, with Numerous Illustrations (1886) by Geo. J. Varney, author of “The Young People’s History of Maine,” member of Maine Historical Society, etc.

Transcribed by P. Bickford-Duane, August 2016.

Orrington is the most southern town in Penobscot County. It is situated upon the eastern bank of the Penobscot, about six miles below Bangor, on the Bucksport and Bangor railroad. Orrington is bounded on the north by Brewer, east by Holden, and east and south by Bucksport, in Hancock County. The surface is rather hilly and rocky in many parts, but has a fair quality of soil which yields well under thorough cultivation. There are many good farms in this town, and many very attractive residences. A drive along some of its roads is delightful. Orrington Great Pond, formerly Brewer Pond, lies on the eastern line of the town, and with a smaller connected pond on the north, gives a water surface of about 10 square miles. It discharges through Segeunkedunk Stream into the Penobscot in Brewer, just over the north line of Orrington. This stream furnishes at East Orrington power for a saw-mill, and a short distance below for a shingle-mill and tannery; then by successive falls, for two grist-mills and another saw-mill. In the southern part of the town lies Sweet’s Pond, smallest of the three, sending its overflow into the Penobscot at the village of South Orrington. At this place are two lumber-mills and a grist-mill. Other manufactures in the town are drain-tile, earthen-ware, churns, boots and shoes, etc.

The first settlement in Orrington was made by Capt. John Brewer, from Worcester, Mass., in June, 1770, at the mouth of the Segeunkedunk Stream, where he built a mill. He had obtained consent of the General Court to settle here upon condition that he should receive a grant of the territory from the crown within three years; and with his associates, he caused the exterior lines of a tract large enough for a township to be surveyed. They had sent to the king a petition, and a grant was promised; but just then news of the battle of Lexington was received, and the patent was not issued. During the war, Brewer and other settlers were annoyed by the British from the river below to such an extent that they left the place, returning when the war closed. In 1784, the township was surveyed by R. Dodge, and on March 25th, 1786, Captain Brewer, with Simeon Fowler (who had settled three miles below in what is now Orrington) purchased from Massachusetts for £3,000 in joint notes, the lots abutting on the river, to the extent of 10,864 acres. The residue of the township was granted to Moses Knapp and his associates. Many of the first settlers were mariners, who had been forced by the approach of war to seek other business; but navigation reviving on the return of peace, many of these returned to their old pursuits, taking with them their grown-up sons. Previous to its incorporation as a town on March 21, 1788, the settlement had borne the name of New Worcester, or Plantation No. 9. The town was named for Orangetown, Md., but, by a misspelling in the act of incorporation, the name became Orrington. The first representative to the legislature was Oliver Leonard, in 1798. The centres of business are Orrington, on the river near the middle of the town; East and South Orrington, the last being the largest. At Goodale Corners, in the south-eastern part of the town, is an excellent nursery; and the town abounds in fine orchards. There were first erected in Orrington two meeting-houses seven miles apart, and equally distant from each end of the town. There is now a Methodist church at Orrington village, at South Orrington and at the Centre, and a Congregational church at East Orrington. The town has some excellent schoolhouses, the entire number being thirteen. They are valued at $4,975. The population in 1870 was 1768. In 1880 it was 1,529. The valuation of estates in 1870 was $400,839. In 1880 it was $405,898.

1886 Gazetteer of State of Maine, title page 1886 Gazetteer of State of Maine, pg.417

1886 Gazetteer of State of Maine, pg.418

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A WWII Letter


Dear Harvey, Fran and kids,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still O.K. and think of you folks often. Not much news over here, at least that I can write about. I meant to write more often and received your letter with Jane’s and Mary Ellen’s but we moved out at that time so I couldn’t get to it. This is about the first time I’ve had since then. They are keeping us pretty busy but we aren’t kicking because time passes more quickly that way.

At present I am sitting outside my dugout enjoying the sunshine – the reason – the inside is full of water and besides we don’t get much sun to enjoy. If anyone had told me I would be living like a ground hog, I wouldn’t have believed them but I am now, and liking it. 

I hope Harvey hasn’t been called up yet and that he won’t be, but the Army does funny things so no one knows. I should think it would be much better to take these single men who have these so called defense jobs and like to strike so much. But I am not paid to think so my opinion isn’t worth a damn. I wish they would give us fellows a chance to swap places with the strikers though. If a guy goes on strike over here, it’s his own neck. Well, I guess I’ve mumbled on enough for this time so until next time so long and write when you can.

Love to all,


Donald Holyoke of Brewer married Dorothea Crook of East Orrington on August 17, 1941. He was still a Lieutenant when this letter was written and a Captain when he died. The letter was sent to his wife’s brother and his sister-in-law who lived in Orrington – all Orrington mail had a Brewer address at that time.

This letter was submitted by the Crook family and transcribed by Donna Lathrop.

Circa 1940, Donald Holyoke with Dorothea Crook at the Crook farm, EO before they married in Orrington August 17, 1941 Killed in action 23 May 1944

Don't stone at Mt. Hope Cemetery

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Transcribed by Anne (Bowden) Allen from Henry Buxton’s column for the Bangor Daily News.

Feb. 22, 1937 


Mr. Brooks drew contentedly on a well-seasoned corncob pipe as we chatted beside a blazing hearth in the spacious living room of his comfortable Brewer home.  Pointing to the hearth bricks, he told me that he dug them out of the cellar hole of his great grandmother’s home at Castine.  British officers were quartered in this ancient house during the War of 1812, and one of them, an artist, was so intrigued by the beauty of Mr. Brooks’ great grandmother that he spent weeks painting her portrait.  This portrait is still in the possession of the Brooks family.

“I dug those bricks out of the old cellar hole in Castine,” he said, “because I thought that it would be pleasant over the years to toast my feet over my great grandmother’s hearth bricks.”

This genial and cultured potter, brickmaker and anthropologist is one of the most entertaining raconteurs I have heard in many a long day, and to listen to him was akin to perusing the pages of a fascinating book.  He spun me a tale of Brookses past and present that not only was livened by the tang of adventure and the sparkle of wit, but contained here and there a touch of pathos.

“My great grandfather, George Brooks”, he said, “was born in Bradford, England, and at the age of 17 left for Newfoundland to engage in the fishing trade.  The following summer he entered the whaling business with a certain Captain Doan of Cape Cod, and there on Cape Cod in 1775 he met Mrs. Mary Atwood Thompson, the charming widowed sister of Captain Doan.  They were married after an ardent and romantic courtship, and the following year migrated with a party of Cape Coders to Orrington.

“My great grandfather took up a wooded grant of 200 acres, built a log house, and cleared 50 acres.  His cabin was located near the dwelling of James Gorton, a squatter, and later he purchased this squatter’s rights.”


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Transcribed by Anne (Bowden) Allen from Henry Buxton’s column for the Bangor Daily News.

Feb. 22, 1937 


        I was awed when he exhibited a cannon ball fired from the gun deck of the British sloop-of-war Sylph as the English ship was sailing by the town of Orrington in the War of 1812.  Mr. Brooks’ grandfather, James Brooks, was perched on a fence near his home when the ball passed so close to his head that he was literally blown off the fence to the ground, but escaped injury.

        Mr. Brooks’ justifiable pride in the achievements of his ancestors caused him to visit Bradford, England, where perusal of the ancient records in the vicar’s house revealed that his forebears had resided there since the sixteenth century, and many of them were artisans of distinction.

        It is a poetic coincidence that this Brewer potter and brickmaker married Edith White, granddaughter of Joseph White, proprietor of the noted Baptist Mills Pottery, Bristol, England, and a contemporary of Josiah Wedgwood, maker of the famous Wedgwood ware. Mr. Brooks is the proud possessor of several pieces of this ancient ware, including a snuff box, two cream pitchers and a sugar bowl. Mrs. Brooks died recently.

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Transcribed by Anne (Bowden) Allen from Henry Buxton’s column for the Bangor Daily News.

Feb. 22, 1937 


George Brooks Built First Grist Mill in the Town


H.N. Brooks of Brewer Upholds Tradition of Craftsmanship

A strong, dominating strain of expert craftsmanship and artisanry which prevailed among forebears in Bradford, England, centuries ago, and persisted down through the generations until it found expression in America in the genius of shipbuilding, railroad construction and pottery making, are conspicuous in the background of the Brooks family of Orrington.

Seldom may one family boast of such varied and distinctive achievement as this family whose ancestors were among the first settlers of that beautiful Maine village on the west bank of the Penobscot river a few miles south of Bangor.

One of these Orrington Brookses built himself a covered wagon from Penobscot spruce, journeyed westward with his family, settled in Cincinnati and built the first brig and the first steamboat to run on the Ohio River.

Still another of these gifted Orrington Brookses constructed the first railroad to connect the Ohio river with the Great Lakes, during the Civil War served as quartermaster general of the western Union army under Secretary of War Stanton, and at Louisville, Ky., accumulated millions of dollars worth of supplies which enabled General Sherman to make his epochal march from Atlanta to the sea and break the backbone of the rebellion.

And not less distinctive than these Brookses who helped to make history for the United States is Harrison Nash Brooks of the Brooks brickyard, Brewer, who inherits in a large measure the artistry and craftsmanship which has run like a golden thread for centuries in the Brooks family fabric.
Mr. Brooks is a potter of exceptional genius as well as an expert manufacturer of brick, and his excavations in clay deposits in the Penobscot River region have furnished valuable contributions to the anthropological and historical lore of the Maine district.  His house in Brewer is a veritable museum of relics, which have to do not only with the early history of his family in Maine, but with the stirring events of the Revolution and War of 1812.

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The Bowden Farm

by Bruce Bowden

Article republished from http://www.curranhomestead.org/page30.php with permission of author Bruce Bowden and the Curran Homestead.
Photos courtesy of Barry Bowden.

Located on King’s Mountain in Orrington, just a short distance from The Curran Homestead, this farm was originally the homestead of an early Orrington settler, Ephraim Goodale.  Born in Worcester County, Massachusetts in 1772, Ephraim was part of the large migration of early Americans leaving increasingly congested areas such as Boston and Cape Cod to seek their fortunes in the vast expanses of untamed wilderness in the District of Maine.  (After the Revolutionary War, Maine remained a territory governed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until achieving statehood in 1820.) He built a homestead at the intersection of the King’s Mountain Road (now called Center Drive) and the busy thoroughfare leading to Swett’s Pond (later known as the Goodale Road); the area came to be known as Goodale’s Corner, and, unlikely as it may seem today due to its rural location, in the nineteenth century it was a hub of activity and commerce, boasting a school, a small store, a brickyard, a harness-maker/cobbler, and a small inn which also housed a post office. Ephraim’s youngest son, Ephraim Jr., married Lucinda Martin (a great-granddaughter of Jonathan Buck, founder of the neighboring town of Bucksport) in 1831, and made this area his home until his death in 1887.

The next owner of the farm, Charles H. Chapman, had been a teacher at the nearby Goodale’s Corner School, and, having purchased the home with his wife Laura from Walter Goodale, resided there until his death in 1931.

Donald F. Bowden purchased this farm in 1932 from Charles Chapman’s daughter, Onata Deane.  Abutting the dairy farm of the man who would soon be his father-in-law, Orrington selectman Raymond L. Perkins, Sr., the farm had fallen into disrepair as Mr. Chapman’s health declined.  While courting Mr. Perkins’ eldest daughter, Thelma, Donald undertook major repairs to the farmhouse and its outbuildings, raising them up with jacks and cribbing, leveling them, hewing new sills and beams, and generally “setting things right.” Donald and Thelma were married in 1934 and began a half-century-long career in farming, which included a dairy herd, wood products, an apple orchard, raising vegetable crops and rearing six sons.

The farm Donald purchased was not overly large, even by modern standards; at the time of sale, it totaled just over six acres. With the gift of ten acres from his father-in-law’s adjoining farm and gradual purchases of abutting and nearby woodlands, the farm eventually comprised several hundred acres, though most of it was not contiguous.

Typical of most farmers in rural Maine, Donald supported his growing family by a variety of means; in addition to the dairy and orchards mentioned above, the farm income was supplemented by the sale of birch logs used for veneer and for plugs to be inserted into the ends of rolls of paper manufactured in nearby Brewer; by the cultivation of vegetable crops for the canning plant in Ellsworth; by the occasional sale of under-performing dairy cattle for beef; by wages Donald earned as the foreman on State road-building projects; and by numerous other industrious means of “getting by.”


The farm of Donald F. and Thelma (née Perkins) Bowden at Goodale’s Corner in the 1940s. Originally built by early Orrington settler Ephraim Goodale in the early 1800s for his son Walter, the structure was destroyed by fire in 1958. The small clapboard building at far right is the country store owned and operated by Donald’s first cousin (twice removed) Walter H. Bowden.

On February 15, 1958, in the wee hours of a bitterly cold Maine winter’s night, the wood-fired furnace failed and the tinder-dry timbers of the old farmhouse erected nearly a century and a half before caught fire.  The family, clad only in their nightclothes, fled to a neighboring house to escape the subzero temperatures; Donald remained on the scene to await the fire department’s arrival and ensure that any potential passersby, seeing the house engulfed and unaware that all had escaped safely, would not attempt a rescue.  The entire house burned to ashes.  No one in the family was injured, but all of their personal possessions were consumed in the conflagration – with the exception of two leather coats and a chainsaw.  Fortunately, due to the fledgling Orrington Volunteer Fire Department’s diligent efforts, the flames were stopped at the wood shed, thus sparing the remainder of the farm buildings and the dairy herd.

With their home destroyed, the family relocated to the nearby home of Clifford and Beulah Bowden (who were Donald’s brother and Thelma’s sister), and the Bowden dairy cattle and other farm chores were tended from a slightly greater distance.  Over the course of the following spring and summer, the community rallied around the family, helping Donald saw lumber from timber harvested on his woodlots, pouring a new concrete foundation, and constructing the new farmhouse.  Assistance from neighbors, relatives and concerned community members made work progress quickly, and the Bowden family celebrated Christmas in their new home that same year.


The Bowden farm in May of 1967. Donald and Thelma’s fourth son, Barry, who had graduated from the University of Maine at Orono that same month and was preparing to seek his destiny in the world, climbed to the top of a tall pine tree in the fencerow between the pasture and orchard, and took this photograph of his boyhood home in its last years as a dairy farm. At left is the barn and milk house; center, the garage, wood shed and farmhouse (which was rebuilt after fire destroyed the original in 1958); at right is the shingle mill.

After their youngest son Keith graduated from the University of Maine and left the area, Donald and Thelma sold the last of the dairy herd; the labor-intensive nature of dairy farming was not well-suited to a one-man operation. Donald and Thelma’s grandson Bruce remembers a visit from his grandparents just after the last cow had been sold; as they were about to leave, Donald stated the he was going to do something that he had never done before: After more than a half-century working as a dairy farmer, he was going to buy milk in a store on the way home.

Even though their dairy herd had been sold into other pastures, this was not the end of agricultural activity at the Bowden farm. With the demands of dairy chores such as milking and haying now absent, Donald and Thelma focused their attention on their apple orchards. Donald had planted an orchard comprising over 150 trees in the early 1930s, and these trees bore fruit for the rest of his life. In addition to favorite apple varieties such as MacIntosh and Cortland, there were also pears, plums and apple cultivars which are no longer common: Yellow Gravenstein, Red Astrachan, Red Spy and Northern Spy. In the early 1980s Donald renovated a cider press given to him by his neighbor and brother-in-law, Raymond Perkins Jr., and folks who were fans of Donald’s apples now had another reason to anticipate cool fall weather: cool gallon jugs of sweet cider, freshly pressed from his apples.

The Bowden orchard, May 1967. After taking the previous photograph of the farm buildings from atop a tall pine, Barry turned 180° and captured this image of the trees in his father's apple orchard in full bloom. In the distance (though not discernable) is Brewer Lake.

The Bowden orchard, May 1967. After taking the previous photograph of the farm buildings from atop a tall pine, Barry turned 180° and captured this image of the trees in his father’s apple orchard in full bloom. In the distance (though not discernable) is Brewer Lake.

Donald passed away in late 1992 after several years of declining health, and Thelma continued to reside at the farm for another decade, when her own failing health necessitated a move to an assisted-living facility in nearby Bangor. The farm sat idle for the better part of a decade, with the exception of annual mowing of the pastures by Donald and Thelma’s eldest son Richard. Thelma passed away in 2008, aged 96.

A new chapter in the history of the Bowden Farm has just begun: Donald and Thelma’s youngest son Keith has moved into the home of his youth, and another generation of Bowdens is in residence on the farm Ephraim Goodale carved out of the wilderness so many years ago.

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Remarkable Record of Capt. Brown, Who Made 101 West India Voyages

This article was likely published around the year 1919. Although the author and newspaper are unknown at this time, it’s possible that it was published in the Bangor Commercial.

Remarkable Record of Capt. Brown, Who Made 101 West India Voyages

The death last week of Captain Joseph Atwood Brown of Orrington marks the passing of one of the last old time ship captains. He was born in North Orrington July 1, 1831, oldest of the five children of Cornelius and Eliza (Smith) Brown.

His father being a ship captain, he was early attracted to the sea and at the tender age of eleven went summers as cookee with his uncles Charles and Stillman Brown. At sixteen he began in earnest, making long voyages to foreign ports. He continued in this chosen calling for fifty-one years, making 101 round trips to the West Indies alone, besides visiting many European countries.

In 1854 he married Rebecca Bartlett, daughter of Samuel and Mary (Snow) Bartlett, who died nine years ago. He leaves two daughters, Mrs. Cara M. Conley of Brewer and Mrs. Leland B. Blake of South Orrington, and two grandchildren, Mrs. Charles Spinney of Brewer and Mrs. Fred Dionne of Dorchester, Mass.

In the early seventies he made a trading voyage up the west coast of Africa, sailing up and down that coast and trading at the different ports. He remained there eighteen months, the entire voyage taking about three years. While there he contracted the dread disease, yellow fever, the effects of which followed him through life.

Two other times he was stricken with this disease. Once in Pensacola, Fla., where the Masons saved his life by taking him into their private hospital and nursing him until he was able to join his ship. The third time was in Havana, Cuba. His vessel was due to sail and the American consul said he must leave her and go to a hospital, but he pleaded so hard that they put on board an old negress, who had relatives in New York and who understood handling the fever, and he sailed. The negress tended him so well that when the ship reached New York he was able to be on deck.

For many years he commanded the schooner Fred Smith, sailing for the old firm of Smith Brothers of New York. On many of these voyages he carried his family, visiting many South American and West Indian ports and remaining away from home months at a time.

Later, leaving the Fred Smith, he turned his attention to barging, at the time when that business was in its height. Among others, he commanded the barge Roman, remodeled from the old steamship of that name. On a voyage in her, heavily laden with 1,700 tons of coal, and having with him as mate his son-in-law, the late Capt. Samuel M. Conley, he was shipwrecked off the coast of Virginia. Thinking the barge was riding heavily, Mr. Conley lowered a lantern into the forward hold, when the rush of water swept it out of his hands. Hurriedly reporting the condition and signaling to the tug boat, he rushed to the captain’s cabin, seized a dunnage bag and filled it with what he could find, ordered the life boat to be lowered and then went to report to the captain, whom he found calmly steering.

“Come, captain,” said he, “the boat is ready.”

“My place is here; I shall not desert my ship,” was the reply.

Mr. Conley did not stop to bandy words. He called the men and they bore him kicking and struggling to the boat, where he collapsed in the stern. As they pushed off from the sinking ship it was discovered that a great hole had been made in the boat while lowering her. A sailor thrust his oil jacket into the aperature, Mr. Conley took charge; the sailors rowed with almost superhuman strength, and the boat made its way over the waves mountain high to the tug, Storm King, which, a few days later, landed them safely in New York. A humorous incident of the affair was that, although the dunnage bag contained quite a number of boots, no two were mates, and when the captain reported at the office in New York he had only the water-soaked garments in which he stood. All his nautical instruments, marine glasses, charts, etc., were lost, as well as his clothes.

In 1892, being a yellow fever immune, Capt. Brown was sent to Santos, Brazil, to recover the bark Archer, whose crew all had died with the fever. Orders were to take her to Turk’s Island, load with salt and proceed to New York. The bark had lain so long in that terrible heat of Brazil that her calking was poor, but, in spite of this, picking up a scrub crew in the fever-stricken port of Santos he set out to follow directions. All went well till the salt was loaded and they were started homeward, when the vessel began to leak like a sieve. The crew became mutinous; they said they would leave her, would not pump, etc., and when told by Capt. Brown that they must, said they would soon dispose of that little man and desert the doomed ship while land was near.

In the midst of this confusion, Capt. Brown appeared on deck, a small but formidable, figure, with a revolver in each hand.

“The first man who refuses to pump, dies,” he calmly announced. One look decided them. They turned to the pumps.

Before reaching New York, however, they were overtaken by a severe gale, dismasted, and finally driven into Bermuda, where the vessel was sold. This was Capt. Brown’s last voyage.

Later, he entered the employ of the late J. Weston Hopkins, working in the Hampden Creamery, when it was located in Hampden, following it to Bangor when it was moved and remained here till 1899, when he sustained a severe injury, being thrown violently from a high cream cart onto a concrete floor, breaking his collar bone and injuring his head.

After recovering somewhat from this injury, he moved onto his little farm in Orrington, making his home there till the death of his wife in 1913. During the last six years he has lived in the home of his daughter, Mrs. Leland Blake, gradually failing until the end found him in fancy once again the commander on the quarter deck, giving his orders, guiding, directing, until his Ship of Life floated out of the troubled waters and found anchor in the peaceful Haven of Rest.

Twilight and evening bell,

And one clear call for me,

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

When I put out to sea.

For if from out that bourne of time and place

The tide shall bear me far;

I hope to meet my pilot face to face,

When I shall cross the Bar.


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