Upcoming Theme: Arts, Crafts, & Collections, Plus Two Calls for Community Involvement

Snowstorm
The Doe House, c.1870, on Hannibal Hamlin Drive, a bit snowed in right after the March 8th storm.

Well, we’ve just had another big snowy northeaster come through here, but…the Paris Hill Historical Society is starting to get organized for the upcoming summer open season!  This year’s theme will be Arts, Crafts, & Collections. We are in the process of lining up some great speakers and programs, including a talk by Dr. Martha McNamara of Wellesley College on the 19th century life and biographical art of Pedro Tovookan Parris.  

We have two community calls to action as we begin our 2018 season.

We know that we have many artists, crafters, and makers on the Hill.  If you are one of them and would like to participate in this season’s celebration of creativity on the Hill, past and present, please get in touch with us at parishillhistoricalsociety@gmail.com.  Your work may just fit in to one of our 2018 programs or exhibits.  Additionally, if you have in your collection an art or craft piece made by one of our forebears that you would like to share with our community, please contact us as well.  

Speaking of collections, the Advertiser Democrat wrote a nice article this past fall about our Memory Chest project.  You can read the article here: http://advertiserdemocrat.com/items-sought-paris-hill-memory-chest/  We are still very much looking for donations for this project, which do not have to necessarily be objects, although those are welcome.  They can be written memories, a letter to the future, and more. We have a form with directions on how to contribute to this time capsule, to be opened in 2042, and we would love to have you participate.  

Again, for either of these initiatives, please contact us at parishillhistoricalsociety@gmail.com or, if you are more comfortable with a friendly phone call, just contact Beth Miller at 207-890-8490. You can also always find us on Facebook as Paris Hill Historical Society and online at www.parishillhistoricalsociety.org.  

Thank you and let’s hope mud season is short and spring and summer seem long!  

 

A Paris Hill Cemetery Walk on Memorial Day, 2017

I live with what I regard as a privilege here at the Parris House at the far north end of our beautiful National Historic District.  Adjacent to my back property line are two breathtaking and historic cemeteries, The Pioneer Cemetery and The Knoll Cemetery. Both are the final resting places of those who came before us in this community, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives.   They knew, as we do, the strong breezes (ok, winds…) blowing over the hilltop, the sensational and never-one-like-another sunsets, the streets lined with lilacs this time of year, the comforting tolling of the Revere bell at the church on the green, every hour on the hour, every hour of their lives, and now, still, after they are gone.   Paris Hill is a special place to live, and now, in these peaceful cemeteries, a special place to be remembered.

Memorial Day is a day to remember those who actually died in service to our country, the ones who, as Lincoln put it in the Gettysburg Address, gave their “last full measure of devotion.”  And yet, every Memorial Day, the graves in the Pioneer and Knoll Cemeteries of those who served – whether they gave their lives in that service or not – are decorated with bright American flags.  I like this tradition so much, especially on a gloomy, overcast Memorial Day like this one.  The red, white, and blue of the flags pop against the grayness of the weather and the gravestones, reminding us that these men and women (yes, Julia Carter served in the women’s service), even those who served in our 18th century Revolution, have not been forgotten.

I planted my vegetable and herb garden this morning, which is a stone’s throw from these cemeteries.  As I looked up, brushing a blackfly off my forehead (it’s that time of year!), the flags caught my eye and I remembered, in gratitude, those who came before me in this place and who made the commitment to protect what I have here as a resident of Paris, Maine and as an American.  I put down the trowel and took a walk through the cemeteries to photograph their graves.  I share these pictures now with you so that you can come along on this virtual tour of these historic places.

An important note:  The Pioneer Cemetery is town maintained and open to the public.  A pathway to it with a historic marker runs from Paris Hill Road just before you get to 546 Paris Hill Road, at the north end of the village.  The Knoll Cemetery is private and requires permission to access.   Additionally, a great resource for all things regarding cemeteries and their histories is www.findagrave.com.   As always, should you like additional information on any of the graves you see in the slideshow, contact us at the Paris Hill Historical Society, and we can check our archives.

Have a thoughtful and happy Memorial Day.

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Respectfully submitted, Beth Miller, Board Member/VP, Paris Hill Historical Society

Letter to Hannibal Hamlin from his Father in Law, Stephen Emery, upon Hamlin’s Election as Vice President

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We can thank Paris Hill resident Tony Kleitz for this wonderful piece of history he discovered at the Maine State Archives in Augusta.  It is a copy of the letter Hannibal Hamlin’s father in law, Stephen Emery, wrote to him upon his election in 1860 as Abraham Lincoln’s first Vice President.  It reads as follows:

“Auburn, Nov. 7, 1860

Dear Son;

Language is almost powerless to express my joy at the result of yesterday’s labor, and I should do violence to my feelings, were I to neglect to express that joy to you, altho’ you will be nearly overwhelmed with congratulatory letters.  My better way perhaps would be to rejoice in silence, but the very “stones” should be permitted “to cry out” in shouts of exultation. O, how glorious the triumph!

“The powers of Hell are captive led, dragged from the portals of the sky.”

My faith in human nature, which years of rascality & barefaced corruption had gradually but steadily impaired, is renewed again and hope our country & the right return with beaming eye and elevated crest.  May the victory now won be used wisely & well, and become as memorable for lasting good, as it is gratifying to the feelings.

Please say to Dear Ellie, I rec’d her letter yesterday.  I thank her very much for it.  May Heaven guide, and keep, and bless you all.

Your affec. father

Stephen Emery

Hope I shall see you before many weeks. Burlingame, who has vindicated the honor of Massachusetts, and promoted her interest, with singular ability & fidelity, is sacrificed by a cold, heartless, corrupt aristocracy.  Shame, shame, on such base ingratitude!”

Would you like to know more about the presidential election of 1860?  If so, come on out to our program, “Hannibal Hamlin, the 1860 Presidential Campaign, and its Impact on Paris, Maine” tomorrow night, August 9th, at 7 PM at the First Baptist Church of Paris here on Paris Hill.  Hope to see you then!

History of the Former Oxford County Registry on Paris Hill

The Registry was built in 1826, and served as offices for the Recorder of Deeds and Register of Wills, handling the overflow from the Courthouse offices during the period (1806-1894) when the Oxford County seat was located on Paris Hill. Its name, the “Registry”, was given to the building in the 1950s. Before that it was known as the Oxford County Office Building.

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The Registry is built in an austere Federal Style, with its entrance set in a semi-elliptical blind arch. The building originally consisted of two front rooms, upstairs and down. Large signs hung on the outside of the front of the building designating the offices inside. On the left of the front door was the Register of Probate, on the right the Clerk of Courts. Upstairs, the County Treasurer was on the left and the Register of Deeds on the right. The building was of solid brick construction – both interior and exterior walls – with a slate roof and metal doors, making it fireproof for its period. Later, the small back rooms were added, two upstairs and two down, all used as storage for town records. Early photographs seem to show that the brick may have been painted a cream color. There was a streetlight in front of the building and a board sidewalk leading in an eastward direction. In the early 20th century the street was shaded by huge elm trees which were all destroyed in the early 1950s by the Dutch Elm disease. The original slate roof had to be replaced in 1999.

 After the County seat moved to South Paris in 1894, because of the advent of the railroad in the valley, the property reverted to the Cummings family, who sold it to Fred Case. A French family named Leonard lived in it at one time. Around the turn of the century, the building was used as a mine office, for the molybdenum mine on Crocker Hill, the Lewis Brown mine.

The building was purchased about 1920 by Frances Hammond as a wedding gift for Major and Mrs. Leigh F. J. Zerbee. Mrs. Zerbee, the former Frances Hammond Brinckle, was the granddaughter of Dr. Thomas Huntington Brown of Paris Hill. The Zerbees made minor changes to turn the Registry into a summer home.

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The property immediately to the east of the house was the location of the First Universalist Church, which had been built in 1859. The lot had been purchased from Capt. F. Bemis for $400. For more than 50 years after it was built the church served a large congregation of Universalists. But the group dwindled, and as it did, services became less frequent. Rev. J. H. Little was the last year-round pastor. He served from 1902 – 1905. From 1905 until 1951 only a few summer services were held there. During the last few years only one service was held each summer. The church was damaged by a fire on April 11,1952 which burned the store on the adjacent lot. Miss Gertrude Brinckle, who owned the old Courthouse across the street, feared that it would become an antique store, and bought the property for $600. She had the church dismantled for another $400, giving the land to her nieces, to whom the Registry belonged at that time. Materials from the dismantled church were used to build the Gardiner Seventh Day Adventist Church in Farmingdale, Maine, which still stands today.

The Registry has been owned by members of the same family since 1920. The current owner is the great great granddaughter of Dr. Thomas Huntington Brown of Paris Hill.

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This wonderful history and accompanying photos were submitted by Paris Hill resident and PHHS trustee Julie DeMont.