Towns of Skowhegan, Madison, Norridgewock, and Fairfield

Town of Skowhegan Maine;

The Early History of Skowhegan by Lee Granville, Associate Curator, Skowhegan History House & Research Center

More to come, keep checking back.

Information on Governor Abner Coburn, written by Skowhegan Heritage Council

The Town of Skowhegan has a rich and vibrant history. You can learn more by clicking on any of the following links.

View some historic photos about the Town of Skowhegan.

Kennebec River:

Skowhegan Indian:

Skowhegan's big brave is easily the World's Tallest Indian, though he is too skinny to be the World's Largest Indian (height x radius squared x pi).

He is 62 feet tall atop a 20-foot-tall base. He appears to be carved out of raw pine trees, with legs like telephone poles. The World's Tallest Indian was erected in 1969 in observance of Maine's 150th anniversary, created by Bernard Langlais (1921-1977), a sculptor from Old Town who attended the local art school.

The statue is dedicated to Maine's Abnaki Indians, who are known to have helped the Pilgrims make it through a couple of bad winters. In their heyday, the Abnaki dressed even more comfortably than the statue's crate-like attire suggests. No tomahawk-waving Mohawk with a mohawk here -- this Abnaki gentlemen is content to clutch a fish trap resembling too-skinny scaffolding.

The engraved wooden sign at the statue's base reads: "Dedicated to the Maine Indians, the first people to use these lands in peaceful ways." On the back of the base is the message: "Copyright 1969, Skowhegan Hospitality Association."

A popular 1970s postcard helped to make this out-of-the-way Indian widely known -- but subsequent decades of Maine weather beat up the Indian, leaving him barely recognizable and hidden behind tall trees. The town rallied to his aid, and a year-long restoration project saw the Indian returned to like-new condition on Sept. 13, 2014.

Coburn Park:

Who Was Margaret Chase Smith?

Born in 1897 in Maine, Margaret Chase Smith became one of the prominent voices of 20th century American politics. After taking over her husband's House seat in 1940, Smith carved out a three-decade career as an independent-minded congresswoman and senator, notably supporting women's rights and making a high-profile stand in opposition of Senator Joseph McCarthy's crusade against communism. Honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom late in life, she passed away in 1995.

Early Life and Career

Margaret Madeline Chase was born on December 14, 1897, in Skowhegan, Maine. The wife of U.S. Congressman Clyde Smith, Margaret Chase Smith became an important political force in her own right in the 20th century. 

After graduating from high school in 1916, Smith worked as a teacher in her hometown’s one-room schoolhouse, but her career in education was short lived. Following a stint as a telephone operator, she joined the staff of the local newspaper, the Independent Reporter, in 1919. 

Smith was active in the community, forming the local chapter of the Business and Professional Women’s Club in 1922. She left the newspaper in 1927, and went on to work as a manager at a wool mill.



Marriage to Clyde Smith

In 1930, Margaret Smith married Independent Reporter owner Clyde Smith. There was a notable age difference between the two—she was 32 and he was 55—but they shared a mutual interest as strong supporters of the Republican Party.

For several years after her marriage, Margaret Smith served on the Republican State Committee. She left her post to help her husband with his 1936 run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Once he was elected, Smith became his secretary. She handled everything from mundane tasks, such as filing, to helping him prepare his speeches. Unfortunately, her husband died of a heart attack in April 1940. Margaret Smith assumed his position in the House shortly after his passing and held on to the post after winning in a special election that June.

Congresswoman and Senator

During her eight years in the House of Representatives, Smith demonstrated that she acted according to her conscience instead of simply following the party line. She supported the Selective Service Act of 1940 and voted against the Smith-Connally Anti-Strike Act of 1943, which she believed would hurt her constituents in Maine’s shipyards. Smith also bridged party lines to support President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. 

A career-long believer in a strong military, Smith toured U.S. bases in the South Pacific as a member of the House Naval Affairs Committee. Additionally, as an advocate for women’s rights, she co-sponsored the Equal Rights Amendment with Congresswoman Winifred Stanley in the mid-1940s, and worked on improving the status of women in the military.

In 1948, Smith successfully won her bid to become a senator, making her the first woman to serve in both chambers of Congress. She served on several committees during her time in the Senate, including the Rules Committee, the Appropriations Committee and the Government Operations Committee. And despite her own opposition to communism, Smith spoke out against Senator Joseph McCarthy's intense persecution of nearly anyone suspected to have communist links.

Delivering a speech called the “Declaration of Conscience” in 1950, Smith said in part, "Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism—The right to criticize; the right to hold unpopular beliefs; the right to protest; the right of independent thought. The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood, nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know some one who holds unpopular beliefs."

The 'Lady From Maine'

Known as the "Lady from Maine," Smith was a skilled diplomat as well as a talented legislator. In the mid-1950s, she traveled the world, visiting with the leaders of 23 nations. Smith also hosted a visit to Maine by President Dwight D. Eisenhower around this time. On the television program Face the Nation, Smith debated well-known liberal and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

In 1960, Smith fended off a challenge for her seat from Lucia Cormier. The landmark election was the first to consist of two women competing against each other for a Senate seat. Four years later, Smith sought the highest office in the country. She tried to become the Republican presidential nominee for president, but eventually lost out to fellow Senator Barry Goldwater.

Reelected to the Senate in 1966, Smith continued to vote based on her own beliefs, not party politics. She opposed two of President Richard Nixon’s picks for the U.S. Supreme Court, Clement Haynsworth in 1969 and G. Harrold Carswell in 1970, contributing to their unsuccessful nominations. In 1972, Smith lost her bid for reelection and was replaced in the Senate by Democrat William D. Hathaway.

Later Years, Accolades and Death

After leaving office in 1973, Smith served as a visiting professor for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. She also helped establish the Margaret Chase Smith Library in her hometown of Skowhegan, where she spent her final years. 

Smith, who received more than 90 honorary degrees during her remarkable life, was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990. She was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989 from President George H.W. Bush.

Smith died in Skowhegan on May 29, 1995, from complications from a stroke suffered several days earlier.

Town of Madison, Maine:

Originally known as Barnardstown after the principal landowner Moses Barnard, it is said by some that Madison was later named for James Madison, who became President of the United States five years later.  The town has also been referred to as Madison Bridge and Norridgewock Falls according to the accounts of Emma Folsom Clark, Madison's early historian.

Madison Public Library

Madison Public Library

Madison Public Library is one of many libraries across the country built with funds from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation around the turn of the 20th century. Dedicated on January 2, 1907, Madison Public Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 5, 1989.

Lakewood Theater, Madison Maine;


An important part of the community from the mid-1920s onward was the Lakewood Players theater group which provided "plays which bear the stamp of Broadway approval".  Set in Lakewood on the shore of Lake Wesserunsett, the theater still offers 

In 1903, Madison was described as one of the state's leading towns in amount and importance of our manufactured goods.

Everything came in by rail until WW II was over.  When the freight came in, the first thing to be handled was the baggage car which handled the mail.  The railroad also carried passengers as well as baggage and freight.

Old Point Monument

Old Point Monument is a landmark of interest to every student of the history of New England and is of special interest to citizens of Madison for, here, within her bounds, came the tragic end of the Norridgewock tribe of Abenaki Indians who had for generations roamed this region unmolested.

Town of Norridgewock, Maine:

History of Norridgewock, Maine
A Gazetteer of the
State of Maine
By Geo. J. Varney
Published by B. B. Russell, 57 Cornhill,
Boston 1886
Transcribed by Betsey S. Webber

Norridgewock lies on the Kennebec River in the south-
ern part of Somerset County. It is bounded on the North by Madison,
east by Skowhegan, south by Fairfield and Smithfield and west by
Mercer and Starks. The township is somewhat larger than the stand-
are size, having an area of about 16,000 acres. The form is nearly
square. The Kennebec River runs through the town from the north-
west angle to the center, thence by a right-angled bend north-easterly
to Skowhegan. There is a village on each bank of the river at this
bend, connected by a good covered wooden bridge, 500 feet in length.
The town is quite hilly, but with fine intervals, the uplands also being
fertile. The soil on the river is a light sandy loam, and back from it
a rocky loam. The flora is unusually interesting. The forests are in
due proportion to the territory, and contains the trees common in the
region, with a predominance of hard-wood. Limestone is found in
abundance but mixed with slate. There is also a fine quality of granite
formed near the southern line of the town. The water-powers are at
Bombazee Rips, on the Kennebec 3 miles above Norridgewock Bridge,
with a natural fall of 8 feet, and on Sawtelle's Mill Stream, at South
Norridgewock, with a fall of 10 feet in 20 rods. There are in this
village a saw and a grist-mill, a carriage and a furniture factory,
granite works, etc. Norridgewock Village is 5 miles south-west of
Skowhegan. It is on the line of the Somerset Railroad, which has a
station at South Norridgewock. The two villages are separated only
by the river.

Norridgewock was formerly the seat of a powerful tribe of Indians,
and the name of the town is a corruption of the name of their village.
It is said to have been the name of an early chief, and to signify
“smooth water.” The French had a Roman Catholic missionary here
as early as 1610. Sebastian Rasle, a Jesuit missionary, became resident
at the place in 1687, laboring faithfully for the Indians in the manner
of his convictions until his death in 1724. He had here a dwelling
and a neat chapel; and his influence over the Indians was strong and
beneficent. They became earnest worshippers in the little chapel, and
their relations among themselves greatly improved, while their babar-
ities in war were lessened. The French, wishing to secure the Indians
as their allies, did all they could to strengthen them as a force to be
wielded against the English whenever the interests of France de-
manded. After the first Indian war, all the forays of this tribe upon
their settlements were attributed by the English to the influence of
Rasle. He was the counselor of the tribe in their conferences with the
English, and the latter sometimes found themselves outwitted in their
treaties. They made repeated attempts against Norridgewock and
to capture the priest, but without success; and in 1723 a strong box
belonging to Rasle, and containing his dictionary of the Indian language
and other papers were brought away. The dictionary and documents
are now preserved in Harvard College library. The papers taken dis-
closed some of the plans of the French government, and were useful
in the conduct of the war. A chapel of fir-wood had been erected at
Norridgewock as early as 1646, being the first church ever erected on
the Kennebec River. It was burned in 1674 by a party of English
hunters, but in 1687 was rebuilt by English workmen sent by the
Massachusetts government from Boston for this purpose, according to
treaty stipulations.

The village stood about 3 miles above Norridgewock bridge, on what
is now called “Old Point,” situated near the confluence of Sandy River,
with the Kennebec. The locality is beautiful. The rude huts include-
ing that of Father Rasle were set in two parallel rows, running north
and south, a road skirting the bank of the river, while between the
rows of cabins was a street 200 feet in width. At the northern ex-
tremity stood the church, while at the lower end was a chapel dedi-
cated to the Virgin Mary, for use on secular days. Whittier in his
poem of “Mogg Megone,” graphically describes this village and the
worship of the dusky inhabitants.

A more effective force than had yet been sent left Fort Richmond
(in what is now the town of Richmond) on the Kennebec, on the 19th
of August, 1724. It consisted of 208 men embarked in seventeen whale
boats. Near the mouth of the Sebasticook River, opposite what is now
the village of Waterville, they landed, leaving the boats under a guard
of 40 men. They marched up the eastern bank of the river to Skow-
hegan, where Captain Harman crossed at the Great Eddy with 60 men,
and followed up the river on that side for the purpose of cutting off
the retreat of those who might be at work in the corn fields on the
Sandy River; while Captain Mouton, leaving 10 men with the lug-
gage, marched with the remaining 98 men, for the doomed village,
reaching it on the 24th. Such of the Indians as were at home were
engaged in their cabins; but as the English entered one end of the
street an old Indian discovered them, and gave the war-whoop, which
brought out the warriors to the number of about 60. The conflict was
sharp, short and decisive. Thirty warriors were slain and fourteen
wounded, the remainder escaping across the river and in other direc-
tions with the squaws and children. The church was pillaged, and one
of the three Mohawks who were with the expedition, enraged by the
fall of his brother during the fight, turned back and set the chapel and
village on fire. Rasle engaged in the defence, firing from his cabin
upon the assailants, and himself fell in the fight. Roman Catholic
authorities have charged that the body of their missionary was shot
through and through, and was scalped and otherwise mutilated. The
church bell was recovered by the Indians from the ruins and buried in
the woods. It was subsequently found by an English party, and has
since been preserved in the collections of Bowdoin College. It weighed
64 pounds. From this time Norridgewock was forsaken by the tribe,
who removed to Canada.

Though the superiority of this region was known, it was still too
far from other settlements; and no persistent attempts were made to
occupy it until after the Revolution, though some visited the place in
1772. Benedict Arnold, in October 1775, passed over this ground
with his army on the way to Quebec. No sooner was the war at an
end, than the settlers began to come in; and in June, 1788, there were
a sufficient number of inhabitants to obtain incorporation as a town.
The town has always been thrifty, though many suffered much loss in
1837, by land and timber speculations. On the creation of Somerset
County in 1809, Norridgewock was made the shire town, continuing
to be such until 1871, when the county seat was changed to Skowhegan.
The first meeting-house was erected in 1794, at the public expense. The
court-house was built in 1820, and in 1847 remodeled at a cost of $7,000.
The present bridge across the river at this point was built in 1849, at a
cost of $11,000.

John S. Tenney and John Ware were esteemed citizens of Nor-
ridgewock. It was, also, long the home of Hon. John S. Abbot, a suc-
cessful lawyer of the Suffolk bar, very much esteemed by his brethren,
and recently deceased; William Allen, Esq., long and favorably
know in the middle and northern parts of the State, resided here
most of his life; and it is now the residence of Sophie May, the popu-
lar authoress of many valuable books for girls; and of Hon. Stephen
D. Lindsey, member of Congress for the third district. Norridgewock
sent 132 men into the army of the Union during the war of the rebel-
lion, of whom twenty-five were lost.

There is here the excellent school of H.F. Eaton (Eaton Family
School), with a high, grammar and primary schools in the village. The
number of public schoolhouses in the town is sixteen, valued at $4,000.
The churches are the Congregationalist, Methodists, Advent and Bap-
tist. The population in 1870 was 1,756. In 1880 it was 1,491. The rate of
taxation in the latter year, .029 on a dollar.


Town of Fairfield Maine:

Early Settlements in Fairfield Plantation

According to state records, the entire area originally was the Fairfield Plantation.  Settlement in the plantation may be said to date back to 1771 when Jonathan Emery built a house on Emery Hill near the banks of the Kennebec River. Other settlers established themselves nearby and a small community began to develop.  In 1780, William Kendall purchased the mill of an earlier settler (Jonas Dutton) as well as much of the land in the area. The entire village area came to be known as Kendall's Mills?.

While the Kendall's Mills settlement was developing, a second population center was established.  On October 11, 1781, Joseph Dimmock and Joseph Nye (both of Cape Cod in Massachusetts) purchased an 18-square mile tract of land in the Fairfield Plantation. Within a five year period, sixty lots were surveyed and settled.  Nearby, a group of Quakers under the Bowerman brothers established a third settlement in North Fairfield in 1782. 

On June 18, 1788, Fairfield Plantation was incorporated as the 56th town in Lincoln County in the District of Maine in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A few weeks later the first town meeting was convened in North Fairfield. A union church/meeting house was built in Fairfield Center in 1793-1794 and in 1802 the first permanent meeting house was established there ? because it was the center of the growing settlements. It remained as the town hall until 1875.



With one area of the town being primarily industrial and the other primarily agricultural, it is not surprising that differing priorities led to debates and arguments. The dispute came to a head in 1856 when a town meeting refused to provide increased police and fire protection to Kendall's Mills. On April 7th, Kendall's Mills established its own village corporation (later known as the Fairfield Village Corporation) in order to deal with those issues that were basic to its needs. In 1872 the main post office located in Fairfield Center was relocated to Kendall's Mills (and the original post office was renamed Fairfield Center).

For years the two population centers co-existed, each putting out an annual report and each being an entity of the town of Fairfield. The town meetings in Fairfield Center were concerned with the running of all areas of the town (including Kendall's Mills) while the Village Corporation was pretty much limited to the fire, police, electricity and water of Kendall's Mills. 

The Opera House was built in 1888 on the site today occupied by the town offices and the town of Fairfield received a 99-year lien that would allow it to place its municipal offices in Kendall's Mills. Soon afterwards the town meeting was moved from the Center to Andrews Halls although it was not until 1928 that the town government agreed to support fire and police activity in Kendall?s Mills and the Corporation was dissolved.

Fairfield Today

Through the years, the boundaries and size of the town have changed. Land has been offset to Norridgewock and to Bloomfield (Skowhegan) and land has been added from Benton. Today the town covers nearly 55 square miles and includes the geographic areas of Fairfield Center, Fairfield Corners (Nye's Corner), Hinckley (East Fairfield), Larone, North Fairfield, Shawmut, and the downtown area (Kendall's Mills).

For more information on this area, check out