A Short History of Vienna
Most of the facts I will give you were obtained from a History of Kennebec County by Henry D. Kingsbury and Simeon L. Deyo published in 1892; and from History of Vienna developed by Irvin Bradley, H. Warren Foss, and Clyde Waugh; and delivered by Mr. Bradley on the towns' 150 th anniversary celebration. Therefore, much of it will be an old story to some of you.
The town of Vienna was first called “ Goshen .” It was purchased by Nathaniel Whittier and Jedediah Prescott from the Commonwealth of Mass. In 1782. At that time the boundary on the east was the Plymouth Line. Later one lot of land was taken from Rome and one from Mt. Vernon . On the west Goshen extended to Norcross Pond and far down the west side of Parker Pond. Later, the southwest part became part of Fayette, and a large area north of that went to Chesterville. The first cabin built in town is said to have been built in the northwest part; and the second near Mason's corner.
Nathaniel Whittier never settled in town but his sons did. Nathaniel, Jr. built south of the present Methodist Church and Abel, north of the Church. Other sons settled in the sections in the northwest part. Jedediah Prescott built next to the present residence of Knute Kilponen, where Mr. and Mrs. Price now live. I can find no positive proof, but believe this house and the one where Valmore Dunn now lives are the original houses with some additions. Two other houses are very old – the Duley House just up the road, now occupied by the Hill family, and the George Lord home.
By 1802, the land had been largely sold to settlers; the name had been change to Wyman plantation, containing sixty voters. Thirty-five of them petitioned for incorporation which was done Feb. 20, 1802. It is interesting to note that several opposed the move on the grounds, that Goshen was far away, and Chesterville was more convenient. It would seem those people must have lived on what is called the stream road or in Egypt as we used to say.
Town meetings were held in homes or schools until 1815; then, in the first Methodist Church built in town until 1828; after that for twenty years in the second church called the Yellow meeting house. Then in Number Four school until 1855 when the present town house was given to the town by Joseph Whittier of Boston .
According to the best information available the old Meeting House stood about twenty rods south of the east part of Franklin cemetery on the old road. The big Yellow Meeting House stood one half mile south but whether on the old or new road is a question. This was torn down in 1848 and much of the lumber used in building the town house. The present Methodist Church was built in 1841.
The Free Baptist Church was organized Jan. 22, 1820. The present building was built in 1840 by Baptists and members of the Christian denomination who had separated from the Methodist Church years before.
There are six cemeteries in town (if the town-supported part of Franklin cemetery is counted as one). Franklin cemetery was laid out in 1864. The land donated by William Whittier of California , a former resident. The Village cemetery started on John Bradley's land before 1800. Carr cemetery often called Sevey cemetery. A private cemetery of the Porter family above Minnie Whittier's and an ancient small on Thornton McGlamerys's land. There is also a cemetery mentioned in the Chesley neighborhood. There may be other small ones.
Vienna 's first Post Office opened March 21, 1808, evidently in the north part of town (as the name was changed to North Vienna when a second was opened in the Village March 20, 1854). For many years a stage left North Vienna in the morning going to Augusta and back, connecting with trains at Readfield going and coming. After that, including by younger years, a stage left Vienna in the morning meeting the morning trains at Readfield. Another left Mt. Vernon later in the day meeting the afternoon trains. Those were the good old days as far a rail service was concerned.
Apparently the first mill in the village was a grist mill built by Patrick Gilbraith about 1800 on the site of the present dam. It changed hands several times – was burned and rebuilt. I can remember going with my father with grain to be ground.
Down stream on the middle dam there was early a carding and fulling mill and later a shingle mill. Still later it was torn down and a saw mill built that still later made staves and barrels. On the west side there was a saw mill for a time. On the lower dam a bard mill was built on the west, but according to the record was never used. A Mr. Norris built a mill on the east side which made shoe pegs for thirty years. Sylvester Fairbanks invented a machine to sharpen the pegs both ways, which was used here. A shingle mill was added and steam auxiliary power. Henry Trask owned the mill in the nineties and made hoe, fork, and shovel handles. I can remember when this mill was operating making those articles.
Before 1820 a grist mill operated on Coffrin Brook and a little later one on Ladd Brook. A saw mill was destroyed by fire on McGurdy stream in 1858. In the northwest part of town, Lyman Whittier built in 1858, a dam and mill for making barrel staves, later, a circular saw and shingle mill were added.
Bricks were made in several places, especially in Egypt . The Curriers did considerable lime burning. Wagons and carriages were built in the village. Elbridge Allen built coffins. He was also an undertaker and a postmaster.
Around 1910 Hiram Comstock built on the property, now owned by Herbert Duley, a large two story carriage shop which he never completed, but operated for several years. He finally gave it up and went to the State Prison where he supervised the carriage shop during the dying years of the horse and buggy period.
Just below, on property now owned by Bill Nurse, Ebba [Eben] Chesley operated a small slaughter house of late as 1910. I find no record of older mills but know of two that were in operation until around 1920.
I have found no record of revolutionary soldiers who later settled in Vienna . I expect there were some. Also the war of 1812 records in the county history give only the officers involved. However, if I had had more time there are records in the state library. In the Civil War thirteen men enlisted in the call of 1861. In later enlistments and drafts seventy men left Vienna , around one-tenth of the entire population. To pay for bounties, substitutes and relief the town spent over 15,000 dollars and received back a little over $4,000. There were possibly a dozen involved in the first world war. In the second world war there were 30, with one fatality.
The Glenwood Valley Times edited and published by Rufus Mansur existed from early in 1855 through part of 1857. It is now available on microfilm.
Union Hall built in 1888, largely through the efforts of ladies, by local labor and contributions has had a useful life as a meeting place for many organizations and meeting including both granges, until the present grange building was bought.
Referring back briefly to the churches. The painted decorations in the Methodist Church are the work of Harry Cochrane of Monmouth, done in the early teens. The church was extensively repaired and painted a few years ago. The Baptist Church was renovated to some extent about 1894; extensively rebuilt inside and refinished in 1919; and dressed up last year. The brick school house at Sevey's Corner, I have been told was built around 1830 as an Advent Chapel, and held by that denomination until the town bought it and opened it as a school in 1903.
Interesting events occurring in the past include the Maine Methodist Conference held at North Vienna in 1828. At one time a meeting was held in the Baptist Church to decide whether Bates College should be located in Vienna or Lewiston .
At one time a mineral spring bottling company, using water from a spring back of Ray Neal's, competed with Poland Spring.
Vienna has been comparatively free of natural calamities. To recall a few – there were floods in 1855, 1893 and 1923. A hurricane in 1938 and two in 1954, were accompanied with floods. A bad fire in the thirties burned much of the west side of McGaffey mountain. During the teens an outbreak of green caterpillars stripped our hardwoods nearly as bare a winter two years in succession, and killed many of our beech trees. The blizzard of Feb. 17, 1952 caused some problems and expense.
There have been two Granges in town. Glenwood Valley organized in 1914 reached a membership of 120 around 1920, but disbanded in the thirties. Mill Stream Grange started in 1943. It has completed many community projects and at present has a membership of about 90.
The DAY HOUSE, which stood opposite the village church, a picture of which you can see in the Post Office, burned Jan. 13, 1914.
Recalling early impressions, it seems the early years of this century were not prosperous. My father was told he would go bankrupt because he hired a man at thirty dollars a month, plus room and board. Teachers were boarded for three dollars a week and paid eight or nine. We wore knee length pants to school with patches sometime fore and aft. Hogs sold for four cents a pound live, six cents dressed. Butter sold for twenty or twenty-two cents a pound.
Beginning around 1910 comparative prosperity began with the corn canning factory in Farmington Falls paying two and one-fourth cents a pound for cut corn and the price going to five cents during the war. String Beans also brought five cents for some years. The county agent pronounced Vienna the best sweet corn town in Kennebec County . Nearly every farm had its patch of sweet corn. The cobs and husks came back from the shop and along with the corn stalks were fed to the cattle. I believe there were about five hundred cattle taxed in town in 1920.
Around 1915 William Chadbourne began buying lumber lots in town and jobs were available in the winter time. Before 1919 John Allen started operating a skewer and dowel mill in the village. He bought the mill in 1919, formed a partnership with Chadbourne, and for several years processed from eight hundred to a thousand cords of hardwood.
People of Scandinavian and polish descent moved into town to work in the woods and mill. At one time in the early twenties there were enough of these people in the area to hold a dance in the Union Hall.
About 1923 the Corn Shop closed and during the next ten years farming rapidly folded up. The mill ran out of lumber available near by and the town was ready for its share of the depression of the 1930ties.
I remember when there were at least eight sap houses in town – four or five producing around one hundred gallons of maple syrup each.
In the early days the town raised three hundred dollars to build six school houses. I don't know if they were the same ones – but there were six in use in 1900. In 1903, three were consolidated into one in the brick building at Seveys Corner.
Over the years, but not all during the last fifty, at least eight roads or sections of road have been abandoned. The resident population continued to decline until eight years ago there were approximately 120 voters. The town has become a resort and bedroom town to the extent that we have more than twice as many non-residents as resident taxpayers. The population is now on the upswing. Some roads have been reopened and we may look forward to a revitalized community.
A few odd items in conclusion. At one time there was a school with more than forty pupils in the area of the blueberry lands, where our only real industry now exists.
There are four people in town living on land that has been the family almost from the towns beginning. Dorothy Waugh lives on such a property. Harold Beans land was in the Berry side of the family prior to 1815 and for 103 in the Bean side. Donald Wight's land was in the White name [White on map, but Timothy Wight on deed] when the town was incorporated. Minnie Whittier is on land that was also in the Porter name in 1802.
From 1926 to 1962 we did not live in town and those of you who did, will, I hope, excuse many omissions I must have made. I welcome any corrections or additions any one may wish to make.