Vienna History - Smith

Vienna has one of the loveliest little villages in the State of Maine , with the majestic mountains, famous for blueberries, on one side, and beautiful Flying Pond, dotted with little islands, on the other side.

The Vienna Historical Society felt that it would be nice to erect a sign in the village displaying the name of the town and the date of incorporation, Debbie Brynes was in charge of the project, and we are very pleased with this fine sign crafted by Gallery Concepts of Belgrade.

Vienna has an interesting history and many changes have taken place over the years.

Two hundred years age, early settlers had started arriving here and had begun clearing land. During this period there were no roads in town, only rough trails, some being marked by spotted trees.

A number of the earliest inhabitants had arrived from New Hampshire , some making the long journey in the winter, when swamps and streams were frozen over. The story is told that before one pioneer family started out by oxteam, the mother had made 4 kettles of pea soup, and had set it outside to freeze with a rope frozen into each one. Then the soup was fastened to each of the four stakes of the oxcart. When the family stopped for the night, they would chop off a block of the frozen soup and heat it over the campfire.

By 1790 several families were living here, and were listed in the census that year as being in “Prescotts & Whittiers” plantation. Jedidiah Prescott, a surveyor, and his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Whittier had purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for about 10¢ an acre, a tract of land approximately 6 miles long and 3 miles wide, bounded on the east by the famous Plymouth Grant. They surveyed it, and sold lots at a nominal fee so to further its development.

Among the earliest to settle here were a man and his wife by the name of Thompson who came from Londonderry , N.H. , and built a cabin near Stetson's corner. Mrs. Thompson was alone much of the time, far from neighbors, while her husband was away working at what is now Farmington Falls . She was the one who gave it the name Goshen , and it also was known as Wyman Plantation.

On February 29, 1802, Vienna was incorporated the 132 nd town in the Province of Maine . The name Vienna was chosen by Daniel Morrill who was elected the first Town Clerk.

Like all towns during that period, gristmills and lumber mills were of much importance. Many bushels of corn were ground to provide johnny cake and hasty pudding for the early settlers.

During 1816, the year without a summer, frost fell each month, and many people raised by little corn. One part of the town became known as “ Egypt ” because quite a lot of crops there were saved from the prevailing frosts, and that was where people came the next spring for seed corn and the Bible tells us the children of Israel went to Egypt when they had a famine. The pond previously called Perry's Pond became Egypt Pond.

History tells us that about 1800 Patrick Gilbraith laid a dam across the stoutly flowing stream in Vienna Village , “compelling the lusty vagrant to tread a wheel which should grind the corn and wheat of the hard-working settlers. He was an ancestor of the Gilbreth family featured in the book Cheaper by the Dozen . In another book, Time out for Happiness by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., another of their Vienna ancestors is mentioned, Daniel Bunker, who was born here in 1799, and later moved to North Anson, He became known a “Bull” Bunker, a nickname he earned by throwing and breaking the neck of an enraged dairy bull which had knocked down and was trampling a woman at a husking bee.

Gilbraith's mill was purchased by Nathaniel Mooers in 1819. Later it burned and was rebuilt by 1840. It ground its last grist when sold to Ernest Whittier before 1930. There were other gristmills in town in the early days.

Irving Bradley, born Sept., 30, 1861 and lived to be 97, gave an interesting account of history at the town's 150 th anniversary in 1952. Another informative history of Vienna was written by Ivy Berry when she was a girl. Guy Healey, an attorney in Boston , offered prizes to the pupils of Vienna who would write the best essays on the history of his native town. The first prize of $10 was awarded to Ivy Woodcock.

From these histories, we can see that various manufacturing took place in town.

In the early days, on the middle dam where the mill of the Maine Skewer and Dowel Company was later located, there stood a carding and fulling mill which was not used for the purpose after 1830. Josiah Bradley owned the building and put in a shingle machine.

In 1845 a sawmill was built on the west side of the stream, and there were various owners over the years. In 1888 Perley Whittier purchased the privilege and added steam power. He and his sons made apple barrels and cooperage here for a number of years.

This cooper shop was then sold to John Allen who built and ran it as the Maine Skewer and Dowel Company. Mr. Allen employed many women and about fifteen men to pack the skewers which were hauled by heavy teams to Farmington and they were shipped away. While there, John Allen invented the ball bearing arbors, also the pointing machine for pointing skewers. He sold the mill to William Chadbourne who had the skewers trucked to Readfield where they were shipped to all parts of the world.

The first machinery on the lower dam was for fulling purposes, built by a Mr. Simpson who abandoned it before 1825.

About 1838 Freeman Brown and Thomas Norris built a new dam, and for a number of years there was a mill which manufactured wooden pegs for the tapping of shoes and boots. Norris added a shingle machine, and steam power to use when the water was low. One of the later owners was Henry Trask who made handles for hoes, forks, and shovels.

The old mills have been gone for many years. Edwin and Gloria Kelley's house stands on the old peg mill site.

In 1855 Rufus Mansur started editing a newspaper called Glenwood Valley Times. At that time the Mansur store and Daniel Brown's store sold dry goods, groceries, crockery and medicines.

Jacob Gordon and James Bean were carriage and sleigh manufacturers and J. C. Gordon advertised as being a carriage sign and ornamental painter. T. C. Norris manufactured boot and shoe pegs “of all descriptions”. David Wait announced that “he would attend to blacksmithing in its various branches, ironing of carriages, etc.”

S. D. Eaton could manufacture ladies' boots and shoes “of every description” and had a new lot of overs and sandals for gents, ladies and misses wear.

Freeman Brown was a harness maker as well as a custom boot and shoe maker. R. H. Folsom announced that “having secured the services of an experienced workman” he was prepared to furnish boots and shoes “cheap or cheaper than can be bought elsewhere in the county.”

By then the village was a thriving place, quite a change from the wilderness some seventy years previously.

Josiah and Phoebe Bradley arrived here before 1800, and according to a story handed down in the family, they built a log cabin, and used to pound on the outside with a large pudding spoon to frighten bears away. Josiah Bradley was a minister and used to go by spotted lines to other places to preach, and in return for his preaching the men used to come and help him clean up his land. Dorothy Waugh is a descendant of Rev. Josiah Bradley.

About 1825 he and his son Alvan conducted a tavern, furnished meals for 12½¢ or a glass of rum for 3¢. This tavern set between the homestead built in 1842 and the old hotel on the corner. Bradley's tavern had disappeared before the Kennebec County map of 1856 was printed. But the old stable at Harland and Joan Varney's which was taken down in recent times was the stable connected to the tavern. The hotel on the corner is shown on that map, and at that time was called Central House. Known in later years as the Day House, it burned mysteriously on the bitter cold night of Jan. 13, 1914.

The Bradleys furnished the land for the Baptist Church , built in 1840, and the land for the schoolhouse, built in 1842, which is now the Grange Hall for the Mill Stream Grange. One of the oldest schoolhouses in now the home of Lucinda Lord.

The old Bradley homestead remained in that family for many years, and then it was in the Trask family for a long time. At one time it was known as the Twin Spruce Inn and was operated by Vesta Trask.

Arlene Waite's home was owned by Lewis Bradley, and I suppose his son, Milton Bradley, founder of the game company, was born there on Nov. I, 1836.

Some of the first merchants in Vienna were Capt. Samuel Mooers, Fred Stewart, and Lewis Bradley. Liquor had been sold by 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 said he was done with liquor traffic.

Daniel Brown had a store in his house, now the home of Eddie and Sandra Herrin.

Henry Dowst built a store in 1874, later his son Laforest, then two grandsons, Dana and Orville, were traders. The store burned April 23, 1948.

Elbridge Allen began running a carriage and sleigh shop in 1875, and later manufactured burial caskets and was also engaged in undertaking and carriage trimming, was town treasurer, and in 1894 built a store, which he later sold to Fred Tuttle. Edwin Kelley and Ora Meader were also traders in town, and Meader was postmaster for many years.

Vienna was famous for its mineral springs, the water being advertised as a sure cure for rheumatism, dropsy, lover complaints, kidney diseases, indigestion, and stone in the bladder. In 1879 the Vienna Mineral Spring Hotel was advertised as being newly fitted and furnished throughout. Barrels of water from Vienna were hauled to Readfield Depot and from there taken by train to Boston .

Union Hall was built in 1888 by the Union Hall Association, and the finishing touches were put on in 1914. In recent years the hall had fallen into disrepair, but is being fixed up, and is again a credit to the community, and good times are once again taking place there.

There have been many changes in Vienna Village throughout the years, but the new blends well with the old landmarks, and the charm and beauty of bygone times remains.



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