History of Vienna, Maine from 1782 to 1952
Irving R. Bradley
Nathaniel Whittier, born at Salisbury , Mass. , Feb. 23, 1743, married at Brentwood , N.H. , Elizabeth Prescott who was born Jan. 5, 1745. She was the daughter of Jedediah Prescott, Sr. The Whittiers and Prescotts came to Maine and settled in Winthrop – this section now known as East Readfield , near the Jesse Lee Memorial church. Nathaniel Whittier is buried in the cemetery opposite the church. Whittier and his brother-in-law, Jedediah Prescott Jr., purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1782 a tract of land approximately six miles in extent north and south and three miles east and west, bounded on the north by New Sharon, on the east by the Plymouth Line, on the south by Fayette, and on the west by McGurdy stream and Little Norridge Stream.
Prescott was a land surveyor. He and Whittier with another brother-in-law, Captain Osgood, surveyed the tract into lots, giving each lot a number. After setting apart “ministerial lots” they sold lots to settlers. The cost of the tract to the proprietors, Whittier and Prescott, was around ten cents an acre.
History tells us that in 1786 a man by the name of S. Withee made a clearing and built a log cabin in the northwest section of this tract. The following year, 1787, a man name Thompson and his wife of Londonderry , N.H., made a clearing and built a cabin near what is now Mason's corner. Mrs. Thompson was the first white woman to live in this section. History tells us that her husband and Mr. Withee worked at what is now Farmington Falls, five miles distant. The nearest settlement to the south was at Bishop's Mill and Hopkins Tannery at the outlet of Minnehonk Lake , a mile below the present Mount Vernon village. Mrs. Thompson was alone much of the time. During this period and for several years after there were no roads in town, people finding their way by spotted trees. Mrs. Thompson was a woman of great fortitude and courage. It was she who gave the name Goshen to the town by which it was known for several years. Later it was called Wyman Plantation.
The first settlers were obliged to go to Winthrop to mill which was no easy task considering the trails over which they had to make their way. Consequently many bushels of wheat were ground by hand in coffee mills.
Between the time of purchase and incorporation, Joshua Howland, John Thompson, Patrick Gilbraith, Noah Prescott, John Allen, William Allen appear as the earliest settlers. Following these were Arnold Wetheren, James Cofren, Robert Cofren. Jonathan Gorden, Jedediah Whittier, Abel Whittier, Nathaniel Whittier, Gideon Wells, Elijah Bunker, Daniel Morrill, Benjamin Porter, Timothy White, Caleb Brown, Joshua Moore, and others.
In 1800, thirty-five inhabitants of the place – then called Wyman Plantation – petitioned the General Court for incorporation representing the plantation to contain sixty ratable polls. Among the signers were Noah Prescott, Joseph Chapman, Timothy White, Abel Whittier, and John Carr. An ineffectual remonstrance was made by several others. Daniel Morrill of Salisbury , Mass. , was selected to furnish the name of the new town. On Feb., 20, 1802, Vienna was incorporated the 132nd town in the Province of Maine. Jedediah Prescott was authorized to call the first town meeting which was held at the dwelling house of Arnold Wetheren. In 1803 it was held at Elisha Johnson's house, in 1804 at Nathaniel Whittier's and 1805 at Moses Sanborn's. For the next nine years town meetings were held in school houses. From 1815 to 1828 town meetings were held in the “new meeting house.” What is meant by “new meeting house” history does not make clear. From 1828 to 1848 town meetings were held in the “large” meeting house which probably means the old “yellow meeting house.” When the “old” meeting house had outlived its usefulness, much of the lumber in it was used in the construction of the Town House, which was constructed in 1855 and presented to the town by Joseph M. Whittier, a native of the town.
From 1848 to 1855 town meetings were held in the No. 4 school house. Since that time they have been held in the model town house, generously built and presented to his native town by Mr. Whittier of Boston . Nearby were several dwellings and shops not standing now which caused people to refer to the community around the town house as the Upper Village.
Vienna has been enlarged by two strips of territory taken from Rome and Mount Vernon . The first was taken in 1814 and the second in 1833. Between 1802 and 1814, Vienna lost territory to Fayette and Chesterville in the southwest section. It is not possible to give the amount of territory or the dates. The old original boundary line and the present line show the difference.
North Vienna Post Office, the oldest in the new town, was established as Vienna , March 21, 1808. The name was changed to North Vienna March 20, 1854, when the second office was established at Vienna village with Rufus Mansur as Postmaster. At that time, and for a number of years following, the mails were brought to the two Post Offices daily by stage that left North Vienna each morning, reaching Augusta the same forenoon and returning in the afternoon, connecting at Readfield station each way with trains on the Maine Central railroad.
The local importance of Vienna village was not fully established until 1854. After a long, determined fight it obtained the Post Office bearing the name of the town. The mills had developed a center of business and North Vienna had to submit to the inevitable.
History tells us that the first taskmaster the stoutly flowing stream of that day had at Vienna village was Patrick Gilbraith, who laid a dam across the ancient bed and built a grist mill about 1800. Mr. Gilbraith and his son Benjamin ran the mill until it was purchased by Nathaniel Mooers of Deerfield, N.H., in 1819. Later the mill was burned and was rebuilt in 1840 by Mr. Mooers and his son Jabez. In 1847, Timothy Mooers purchased the mill. His son, George Henry Mooers, ran the mill for many years.
Timothy Mooers rented the mill to John Lord for 16 years. Timothy died soon after purchasing the mill. George Henry Mooers became owner of the mill in 1870. The mill ground its last grist when sold to Ernest Whittier around 1930. On the middle dam a fulling mill and a carding mill were built. They did their last work before 1830. Josiah Bradley owned the building and he put in a single machine. On the west side of the stream, Josiah and Jonathan Bradley, Jacob Graves, and Nathaniel Mooers built in 1845 a new saw will in place of an old mill. The following year they sold to Sewell B. Gordon, who also purchased the old fulling mill property a few years later. He operated the saw mill and shingle mill until about 1870. George H. Wills, the next owner, in 1872, removed the fulling mill building and built a saw mill, installing a circular saw in place of the old up-and-down saw. Five years later he removed the machinery and sold the dam to Henry C. Trask who sold it later to Perley Whittier. The first machinery on the lower dam was for fulling purposes, built by a Mr. Simpson who had abandoned it before 1825. Around 1838 Freeman Brown and Thomas C. Norris built a new dam and on the west end built a bark mill which stood idle until 1845. They built a new building on the east end and made shoe pegs for the next twenty years. Norris also added a shingle machine and steam power for use when the water was low. Later the steam engine was sold. On Cofren brook stood a pioneer grist mill that was active and useful in its day but had ground its last grist before 1820. Tradition has failed to give the builder's name. Another grist mill on Ladd brook failed to do business before 1820. The owner of the mill is not known. A saw mill on McCurdy stream built by Nathaniel Cofren and Arnold Wetheren about 1830 was in operation until destroyed by fire in 1858. Thomas K. Dow was its last proprietor.
Brick were made on Jedediah Whittier's farm and in several other sections of the town. At the same time large quantities of lime were burned in the northwest section by the Curriers. Wagons and sleighs have been built at Vienna Village by Henry Colley, Jacob C. Gordon, Sewell B. Gordon and others. Blacksmiths have been James Robinson, Levi Brown, David Wait, Jethro Weeks, and Samuel Davis. Earlier, Nathaniel Graves and Jonathan Bradley had a shop across the highway from the Swenson lane, later moved to the village and used by William Tyler as a repair shop.
Methodism took strong and early root in Vienna or Wyman Plantation. In 1794, Jesse Lee, the great Methodist preacher, preached at North Vienna on Dec. 8. He preached again on Aug. 29, 1808. The first Methodist class was formed by James Wager about 1794. Members were James Cofren, Elisha Johnson, Jedediah Whittier, Nathaniel Whittier and their wives, and Daniel Morrill. In 1828, the Maine Methodist Conference held its annual session in Vienna , Bishop Hedding presiding. This was an historic event.
The church at Vienna village was built in 1840 and paid for by the sale of pews. The building has been remodeled at two different times. The church was built by a Society known as the Union Chapel Society. Josiah and Alvan Bradley furnished the land on which the church stands.
The Free Baptist Church was organized in the red school house Jan. 22, 1820, with 26 members. The pastors have been Joseph Briggs, Jonathan Bradley, T. Libby, Joseph Edgecomb and others. The longest pastorate was that of Rev. Joseph Edgecomb who preached for 26 years. Deacon Nathaniel Graves, familiarly known as Major Graves, a member of the legislature and a county commissioner for several terms, was church clerk for 35 years.
The first merchants in Vienna were Capt. Samuel Mooers, Fred Stewart, Lewis Bradley. Liquor had been sold by the former storekeepers by the glass, but when Lewis Bradley went into business he invited his neighbors to come in and have a free drink. He then removed the “bar” and that in 1837 ended the retail sale of liquor in town. Union Hall, built at the village by subscription in 1888, is used for miscellaneous public gatherings.
The first town officers were selectmen – Jacob Graves, James Cofren, Josiah Moore; Clerk, Daniel Morrill; Treasurer, Arnold Wetheren; Collector, Thomas Lines. The sum raised for town expenses was $50. At the annual meeting 1803 it was voted to raise $60. for support of schools. The town raised $300 for the building of 6 school houses.
The Glenwood Valley Times, a paper edited and published in Vienna for a few years by Rufus Mansur, carried the following items: The freshet of 1855, the worst in many years, washed away the bridge. The flume of the grist mill burst, the water undermining a part of the grist mill. Repairs on the dam and mill will cost around $500. Great damage was done all through the surrounding country. In Vienna, Nathaniel Cofren had 35 sheep drowned. Mr. John Mooers of this village left us a red beet 2 ½ feet long that weighted 6 pounds. Mrs. Betsy Folsom wove in five days 40 yards of cloth one yard wide. She is 65 years old, has 12 children, 25 grandchildren, and one great grandchild. Vienna market offered the following prices in April, 1856: apples 40 cents per bushel, beans $2.00 per bushel, corn $1.00 per bushel, butter 17 cents per pound, eggs 15 cents per dozen, wheat $2.00 to $2.50 per bushel, flour $$9.50 per barrel.
The population of the town in 1850 was 871.
The population of the town in 1900 was 406.
The population of the town in 1950 was 231.
Among the early settlers may be mentioned: Cofren, Wetheren, Whittier, Morrill, Moore, Mooers, Graves, Bradley, Porter, Sanborn, Johnson, Healey, Cass, Dearborn, Prescott, Kimball, Brown. Most of the above came from the Raymond, Candia, Chester, Deerfield and near-by towns in New Hampshire .