History and Occupants of Main Street, Bingham around 1870

Main Street ca. 1895

Transcript of an article written by Erwin W. Moore in 1940 detailing the history and occupants of the Main Street of Bingham, Maine, about 1870.

Electronic transciption by E.W. Moore's great-granddaughter, Nancy Tancredi, from a typed copy in the Bingham Union Library.

[The first page of the history is missing]

West Side

Charles E. Brown later bought the place and built just north of it. (The present Dana Newton place.) At about the same time moving the old Fletcher house to a point near where the present Austin Stream Bridge, on the east side where it was reconstructed into a house for his sister, Mrs. Retta Church, later to be occupied by Chester Bates, who perished in the in the building when destroyed by fire.

A little south of the Fletcher house and across the road stood the unpainted house of Peter Smith which was later rebuilt into its present form by his son-in-law, Henry Sands, the Civil War veteran of our town who died in 1893. Just south of his place stood then, as now, the road that led up to the Dr. Blunt Hill, which in more recent years has been called the Sam Smith Hill (now High Street.) A short distance up the hill lived Jesse Smith, Sr., an elderly blacksmith who had a shop just at the foot of the hill on the main road. He went to live with his son, Jesse, Jr., and sometime later Eber Baker occupied the place until his death. (His daughters lived there for some time – one was Maude – a sister to May Baker Tupper for a long time primary teacher in our local schools.) The house is now the home of John Brack. At the top of the hill stood the large farm buildings of Dr. Nathan Blunt, later occupied by John Cummings who was succeeded by Samuel Smith for many years the first selectman of Bingham, and for him the hill was renamed. The place is still occupied by his son Lee and daughter Nellie Smith.

Dr. Blunt was a surgeon of the Civil War and passed away when I was a small boy. I can barely remember him. His name was given the local G.A.R. Post as well as his sword which was proudly worn by the various commanders on all public occasions. When the post was disbanded its last Commander, Lyman G. Brown faithfully performed his obligation and returned the sword to the granddaughter of Dr. Blunt as he has requested when he presented it to the Post.

There were three children in the family of Dr. Blunt – Carrie, Chester and Frank. The boys went to Colorado and Carrie married Manly Lowe and later moved to New Hampshire or Vermont. She was my second school teacher and one of the most beloved.

Dr. Blunt brought from the war his saddle horse "Major" and it was in summer pasture on the land whereon is now the reservoir. "Major" had a very bad temper, or at least it was so reported and the boys were cautioned from entering the pasture. I remember looking at "Major" from the road and wondering if it was safe with only the railing between us. "Major" out-lived his master, and when the doctor passed away the faithful old horse assisted in the funeral rites by hauling the hearse to the cemetery.

At the end of the road, a short distance east of Dr. Blunt’s place stood Boardman Steward’s farm buildings. They were later occupied by Jesse Smith, Jr., and now by Daniel Patience. (1940) This place was originally settled by a great-grandfather, Abner Baker who came from Litchfield. His name is in the list of officers of the newly incorporated town of Bingham in 1820. He must have moved to Moscow soon after and settled in the present John Pooler place near his twin brother, Reuben who lived on the farm now occupied by Elmer Baker. The brothers both died of typhoid fever about the same time.

Boardman Steward had two children, Asa and Mary living with him. Following the death of their parents they built and occupied the house that is now owed by Chester Rollins. They later moved to Richmond.

Near the foot of Dr. Blunt Hill stood the place now called the Fred Smith house, more recently passing into the hands of the Jones family. Here lived a Civil War widow Mrs. Lizzie Pierce who later married her brother-in-law, Reuben Pierce and moved to Moscow. He had a son Daniel, a peculiar mechanical genius, and two daughters, Em… and Fannie. The former married Thomas Whitney and the latter Dr. Albert Piper, the present Dr. John Piper being their son. Mrs. Lizzie Pierce was an intimate friend of my mother.

From here on I will follow the west side of the street south through the extent of the village. The next place south of there on the west side of the street was the Joseph Knowles house located on the sidehill just above the little pond. The place was built by Cyrus N. Baker who seemed to have a mania for sidehill structures. He built the machine shop that once stood on the high bank of the Austin Stream a short distance above the old bridge, where he had trip-hammers for making the once-famous Baker driving (shoe) calks, and where his family lived in an apartment above the din of the hammers. He later built the side-hill house in which Steve Clark is now living; and following that he built an office building for the Baker Mfg. Co., on the sidehill near the road leading up to his house. This latter building was moved to a more prominent sidehill location on the north end of the little pond and is the second building north of the above-mentioned Knowles place. After passing through the hands of various owners and undergoing several changes, the Knowles house was for several years used as a local hospital under the management of Mrs. Lillian Sandborn, who made a very substantial amount of repairs to the building. Joseph Knowles has a son Crison, about my age. They moved from here many years ago. The building south of this was the Mose Fraine place, just south of the point where Main Street turns down the hill toward Austin Stream. The house is till occupied by the last of the Fraine family, Mrs. Nellie Fraine Clark.

Charles Abbey built and lived in this house many years before my memory began. A short distance south of this house stood two houses, so closely located there was scarcely room for a walk between. The north one was once occupied by Asa Andrews, and the other by his son, Elias Andrews. Just in front of Asa’s house was a well in which stood an ancient wooden pump, the water from it being always free to the public. The house of Elias Andrews still stands there owned by Mrs. James Cahill while the house of Asa Andews was moved to become a part of the second house built on Meadow Street, and is the present front part of the one now owned and occupied by Manley Hunnewell. Elias Andrews sold his house and bought he one that is the present home of Will Robinson (west of the old Austin Stream Bridge.)

Just south of this house stood the home of Bardwell Baker, a Civil War veteran, who returned from the conflict crippled by a stiff knee joint. A cellar hole marks the place form which the building was moved several years ago, and the barn was moved back onto the street and became a tenement house. The old building still standing was where once Bardwell Baker sold small wares and handled the town liquor agency, as at that time the law permitted the town so voting to maintain a place where distilled spirits could be had for "medicinal and mechanical purposes." Upon the repeal of this law Bardwell sold his place and moved to the present Jack Pooler place in Moscow.

Next to that building stood a two-family house, the central part of which is still standing and is owned and occupied by Thomas Reynolds and family, part of which is used as his barbershop. The north part of this building was occupied by Sewell Dinsmore and his family and the south part by his father-n-law, John Graves. I can barely remember when he left his building and Thomas Whitney and his wife, Emma Pierce Whitney became the occupants. The north ell of the house has been succeeded by the Edward Caswell building – now Thompson’s Restaurant, and the south ell by Whitman’s grocery store. A little to the south of this, with a driveway between them, now the entrance to Whitney Street, stood the Webster house, occupied by Edward Webster and his wife and a little girl, later by his son and wife, Albert and Delia Webster. In front of his place was another conveniently located town pump which always afforded good water to the passersby. This was a very low story and a half structure which years later under the ownership of Albert T. Donigan became a two story house locally known as the bee hive on account of being divided into so many tenements. Close to this was the milliner, store of Mrs. … Savage (Emily Leadbetter) that was later taken over by her husband and enlarged for clothing and dry good establishment. When Mr. Savage moved to the Kennebec Hall building, I bought the store and occupied it from 1890 to 1902. I have heard it said that the store was built by Benjamin Wiggin who later moved to New Hampshire. The site of these two buildings destroyed by fire is now covered by the Pierce brick block.

A few feet south of the Savage store with an open stairway between them which accommodated the upper story of both buildings, stood the general store of L.C. Andrews. The lot is covered by part of the Taylor Brothers and Hill buildings and is occupied by the Post Office. The former Andrews building was moved up the street to make the front half of the Whitman Grocery Store.

There were no other buildings between the Andrews store and the house now owned by Davis and Dr. Anna Howes, which was built by Joel Colby for his widowed mother, Mrs. Hartley Colby. She passed away when I was a small boy and a Dr. Parsons lived in town. He had a boy, Whit, about my age and to whom I was greatly attached.

Beside Main Street about where Preble Street now leads down the hill stood a set of large platform scales for weighing heavy loads, owned by Joel Colby.

Next south of the Widow Colby place was the Simeon Goodrich store and Post Office – now the Jewelry store of J. L. Andrews (north end) and the Mrs. Eva Bachelder news and Book store (south end.)

The upper part of the building had in the southeast corner Moses Fraine’s Cobbler Shop and in the north Thomas Dinsmore’s Harness Shop. This building was built by Levi G. Fletcher and was the first store opened in town. He had previously used part of his home which stood about at the present entrance to Murray Street. Just north of the Fletcher store and about on the location of Baker Street there was always a winter road leading down across the Baker Farm to the River and ascending the hill on the Concord side just below my old birthplace. On the north end of the Goodrich store was attached an open shed for the shelter for horses while their owners were in town.

Just south of the Goodrich Store was a small building (origin to me unknown) used during the Civil War days by uncle Franklin Moore as a Post Office. In my childhood it was the home of Gillette Smith and family, he going from there to the old hotel and roadhouse at West Forks. For a long time this place has been known as the "Ben Adams Barber Shop." Dr. Albert Piper who married Fanny Pierce soon after coming here began housekeeping there and John Piper was born there. It was part of the Goodrich property and south of it Mr. Goodrich built his home which as been occupied by his daughter, Juliet Goodrich Adams (Mrs. Ben) until her recent death.

Next south of this came the Hotel known as the Stage House and at that time operated by Amos Tobey. It is now represented by the older part of the hotel owned by Clarence Dutton, which since early days the roof has been raised one story and various changes have been made in the interior and additions have been made. It once had a small hall on the second floor and I was taken there for my first public Christmas Tree. It must have been displaced by rooms at about this time, for after that important event I remember nothing of it.

South of that was the home and office of Dr. Zachariah Spaulding. The office projected a little from the north end. Part of this building is the office and restroom of Robie Howes’ Filling station. This house was built for Dr. Spaulding by local contributions and offered rent free as an inducement for him to locate here. His son Payson studied medicine for a time after the Civil War and carried on the practice after his father’s death. He later moved to Richmond where he died in middle life. During my boyhood and early manhood it was the home of Alfred B. Chase and family.

Farther along, about the entrance of Dinsmore Street stood the shop of William Preble where he and his son Frank made and repaired wagons, sleighs and other vehicles. This building burned upwards of fifty years ago in a fire that destroyed Alfred Burke’s grocery store, a more modern structure standing on the location of Rollin’s Filling Station. The next building below (south) was the building known as the Yellow Bowl. It was then the two-family home of an elderly couple, Mr. And Mrs. Calvin Russell (north, and a widow, Mrs. Clementine Houghton on the south side.)

Next below was the William D. Moore house said to be the first framed house on Main Street, and built by "Peterboro" or Ephrim Heald. It was in fact built before Main Street. The front door of the house was located on the south side of the house where no doubt a road of some sort led up to it. The houses built earlier on the road leading from the river ridge to Austin Stream were constructed of logs. This ancient house has been demolished by Chester Rollins with only the cellar hole to mark the spot.

In my early boyhood Uncle William Moore owned the house (oldest frame) which since has passed through various hands, including my own.

Continuing south, the next place was the home of Julius Baker nearly opposite the school house, and where we got water from a friendly pump to supply the school until a well was sunk in the school-yard near the present Harry Cummings’ line. This house was occupied for a long time by David J. Beane and when rebuilt by him, John Lander and I bought the main house and moved it onto a lot of newly-opened Owens Street, selling it to Forrest Beane, son of David G. but he being unable to pay for it, his father took it over so the old house came back to its holdings.

Next south of the Julius Baker house was the place where Arthur Dinsmore spent his entire married life and where both he and his wife, Alice Baker Dinsmore, died. During my first days in school it was occupied by Eber Baker and soon after he moved to the house halfway up Dr. Blunt Hill.

I can just remember when Charles Givens built the next house near the R.R. track. It stands on the place where the first Bingham road turned around the hill toward Austin Stream, following near the line of the present railroad track, so I’ve been told.

The next house below was the side-hill house just north of the old Church, now owned by Elbie Curtis. In my earliest memory it was the home of Jotham Goodrich, having recently moved from the present Henry Cooley Farm, just across the street.

The Old Church stands as it does today, the salient feather in our town; built in 1835.

On the south side of the road leading to the Bingham Ferry stood the home of Josiah Whitney now owned by Alston Robinson. I have been told that this was one of the oldest homes in town, being about the same age as the recently demolished Heald house.

The present Nat Williams home was being built within my early memory by a Mr. Jackson. The farm below the cemetery was owned by Samuel Baker, who later built the home of Mrs. George Baker on Meadow Street and moved up town. The Baker Farm was first settled by Joshua Goodrich, Sr., after his death it became the home of William Moore, though he had moved to the Heald house before my time. After Samuel Baker had left the place, Uncle William moved there with his son, William Moore, Jr., where he died. It has since been owned by Henry Washburn, and for quite a long time by Earl (and Walter) Taylor.

On the river bank near the old ferry landing which was a little south of the Bingham-Concord bridge stood a small white house, the occupant of which I cannot recall. The long-bearded old ferry man was Marshall Goodrich, who lived in the old house across the river and now occupied by Walter Garland. Soon after this he was succeeded by Ivery Curtis, who began living in the house on this side of the river in the house above-mentioned.

This covers the houses standing on the west side of the road through Bingham about 1870.

East Side

Beginning on the east side of the road at R. A. Howes’ Garage (current structure that was burned) stood Jesse Smith’s Blacksmith shop which a few years later was moved across the road and down over the hill on the right of the road that now heads north from town. South of the shop, and about on the lot of the present Poolroom stood Jesse Smith’s home on the rising projection of Old Hill which has since been cut down. Mr. Smith later moved to the Boardman Steward house east of the Dr. Blunt place, and his former home was moved to a point where it now stands just north of the Sanborn Hospital.

Just south of the Smith house stood what was later Thompson’s Restaurant which was then a store and upstairs the home of Benjamin Smith. Uncle Ben, as he was locally known, carried the only drugs and medicine in town, added to by a stock of miscellaneous notions, wallpaper and books. (When I was still a boy he built the place later known as the Etta Holt house and store, now part of the Dutton Hotel. It had rooms above and a barber shop below) Here Uncle Ben lived and kept his little store until his death. The old store became a hardware store for Calvin Colby, with a home above.

South of this building (Calvin Colby’s) was a small shop which Nathan and Henry Morton ran a barber shop and tin-type picture gallery. This was later moved down near the end of Preble Street and made into a home by Columbus Baker and is now occupied by George Jones.

Next going south was the old Bingham Hotel built and conducted by Chandler Baker for many years. He was proprietor of the first hotel wihch burned March 6, 1855 and immediately rebuilt on the same location. When I first recall the place it was in the early 1870’s and Frank Jones was the proprietor to be succeeded in a few years by Warren Holbrook. This house had a small hall on the second floor and was for a long time the only place for general gatherings of the public. I attended my first dance there which was at the time a dancing school conducted by Amon Baker, violinist and instructor and his sister Izanna Moore at the organ.

Bingham Grange was organized in this hall and held its meetings there for many years. It was also used for lectures and small travelling shows until the erection of Union Hall. The building was used as a tenement house under the ownership of Thomas Cahill. On August 5, 1911 it was burned taking with it the three stores and a double tenement house. (Viz.: The brick block housing Lander and Moore Drug business, John Lander Hardware, the old Joel Colby Store and double tenement house.) The site of the first two stores is now covered by F. S. Hunnewell building and the southern end by the Drug Store and tenement building, on the same general location as the old building. The building south of the Hotel was the 2 ½ story brick store of S. A. & A. Dinsmore, which had been built during the Civil War period, the proprietors building up an extensive business following the war. This became the J. J. Lander Hardware store and was added onto by a brick structure on the north side, first occupied by F. R. Buckas, a drug store, the stock of which later was bought by J. J. Lander and myself and conducted as a drug store until destroyed the fire in 1911.

Close by the Dinsmore Store was the Joel Colby Store which was the second business building in town. The earliest date that I have found was 1835, though it may have been built a few years prior to this date.

William Rowell was the builder, he coming from East Madison and conducting a general store business in the place until 1853. He sold it to Joel Colby who continued the business until 1887. The building fell in the 1911 fire, and as I had previously bought it from Mrs. Colby, I immediately built the present building and occupied it the following November. (This building is the former barn which was on the east end of the Joel Colby house which was built by Mr. Rowell and sold to Mr. J. Colby when the business was transferred to him and which I have occupied since March 1894.

Next below the Joel Colby house was the home of his brother Warren Colby, which I understand was purchased from a Rev. Mr. Smith, an early minister here who seemed to have a considerable property. After his death his widow married another minister, the Rev. Sydney Turner. Sometime after his death Mrs. Turner went to live with William Moore in the old Heald house, where as a small boy I remember her.

Quite near the Warren Colby house and about on the south lawn was the Sewall Baker house (nearly on the place where Murray Street entrance is) built by Levi Fletcher and occupied by him while doing business in the store across the way. When Murray Street was opened in 1905 this building was moved across the way by the owner Albert Murray – to Baker Street and became part of the houses – one the William Collins house.

Farther south was the Erwin S. Baker home, then occupied by Albert and Nellie Murray and daughter Florence.

Farther south was the home of Henry J. Abby, a large white two-story building which was burned in the period between 1880-1885 being the first large building fire I had ever seen. The building of the present Mrs. Nate Burke is partly on the Abby building foundation.

The building standing next south of the Abby house was the Union Hall – built within my memory by Henry J. Abby and Abner Dinsmore and was a great source of wonderment to me as I passed the workmen on my way to school. The hall was the place for public gatherings such as town meetings, shows, dances, roller skating, etc. After the Kennebec Hall was built the demand for the old hall was so light that it was made into tenements. There were two stores beneath Union Hall, one a grocery store occupied by H. J. Abby which came to an ending as Mr. Abby, a carpenter by trade was too advanced in years to learn the business of a successful merchant. The store on the south side was used by Abner Dinsmore was a shoe store and Cobbler shop. Previously Mr. Dinsmore had occupied a smaller shop where he made boots and shoes for in his day men’s footwear was chiefly made by local workmen and consisted largely of high boots drawn on by side-straps. In moving to the new location Mr. Dinsmore stocked up with a line of factory-made footwear, the first of any amount carried in town.

The home of Joseph Thompson was the next south – a Civil War veteran. The house has changed little having a front porch added by Amon Baker and the barn was removed by Arthur Tupper.

The meadow Street entrance now separates this lot from the home of Pickard Goodrich. At that time where is now the ell was the main house which in later years was moved back and added to by the present two-story structure which is the home of Florence Milliken Owens (Mrs. John) granddaughter of Pickard Goodrich. Back of this home stood a large barn which was later moved by Sydney T. Goodrich to the home which he built at the east end of Meadow Street and is now the home of his daughter, Elizabeth Jordan and her husband Arthur.

The next home, just below the Fraternity Building, was built by Winslow Savage. He lived there when I was a small boy until he death of his wife when he went West. The place taken over by John Lander who later sold it to L. C. Chellis Andrews.

The house now on the corner of Main and Goodrich Streets was the home of Abner Dinsmore and has not been changed very much. Next on the south side of the entrance to Goodrich Street, now Bingham Union Library, was originally built by Cyrus Hunter, and then occupied by John Cummings. The widow of Cyrus Hunter became the second wife of Benjamin Smith before my memory of her began. This building passed through many hands, at least two doctors and a dentist besides William Morris, a Bray family and one named Adams before it became the library in 1921.

The next house, now the home of Dr. F. P. Ball, was built by Dr. F. G. Williams, built while I was a small boy and occupied by him until his death. Below the next house was that of Willard Goodrich later occupied by his son and wife, Willis and Alice Taylor Goodrich until their deaths. The Austin Dinsmore house is next.

Below the entrance to Rollins Street as it is now, was the home of Thomas Dinsmore and there was a well with an iron pump. Thomas Dinsmore moved his family to Colorado when I was barely old enough to remember it. The next owner was Samuel Cummings, a carpenter who also made coffins used locally, and who always carried an abundant stock in his barn. This place is now owned by Mrs. Grace Rollins and is nearly the home in appearance as it was originally.

The next house was the Chandler Baker home and is now the home of Donald Goff. Mr. Baker moved there from the Bingham Hotel and I think, built the house. He conducted quite an extensive farming operation and was one of Bingham’s most substantial citizens. He served one term in the Maine Senate.

Further along was the old red school house – a long low building divided into a "big room and a little room." Between them was an entryway and a wood shed. The first schoolhouse in town stood where the present cemetery is, the first burial being made in the rear near the river. This building burned and a new house was build on the lot where William Durgin now lives. Later this building was removed to the above-mentioned lot and now rear added making the old red school house where I first attended school.

1877 the present school building nearest the Main Street was built and the old structure moved away – the front and larger structure moved north by Henry Collins and used for a part of the house now occupied by Maurice Chase, while the other part was moved directly back about on the lot where the present primary building is located, and that too was later moved away.

In the new school the upper rooms were the first so-called high school held in town and it opened with Charles Atwood as teacher, and his wife, Maggie, teaching in the primary school below. Mr. Atwood was one of the first instructors I have ever known. He later went to the west coast and studied medicine.

Quite a bit further south was the home of Captain Nathan Baker, a brother of my grandmother Hannah Baker Moore. The land between his house and the schoolhouse was that embraced by the H. Cummings house, the home of Evie Hall and the entrance to Owens Street. It then contained Captain Baker’s orchard and he occasionally would gather a basket of apples and empty them into the school yard recess time and lean on the fence and smile as there was a mad rush of children to gather them up. From Captain Baker’s house to the present Henry Cooley Farm there was only a rail fence stretching along to the house then owned by Jotham Goodrich who left it while I was very small and it was then occupied by Charles Bray who raised a large family and died there. This property has been in the Cooley family for a long time. The Cooleys moved out from their farm in the eastern part of the town in 1918. The farm was sold to them by William Durgin, before that Orrie Gordon had farmed there for several years.

At one time we were permitted to play ball on what is now the railroad yard and station grounds. I remember playing there with boys from Solon. The present Cooley Farm was the last one the east side of the road until one reached the Whipple Farm, a mile south.

The present home of William Durgin was built by Sewall A. Dinsmore in 1874. He bought it from Julia, the widow of Calvin Colby in 1912. There was also a store below it, where the Rollins Filling Station now is situated built by William Preble and Sons the same year. (These buildings on the West side of Main Street on corner of Dinsmore Street.)


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