All Maine Matters

February 2006



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Profiles in Rural Maine: Waite and Talmadge, Maine
By Ken Anderson

The Washington County towns of Waite and Talmadge have been closely linked throughout their histories, so much so that some of the same people show up in the early histories of each. Both, in fact, are named after men whose first names were Benjamin.

The towns shared a cemetery as far back as 1856, when the Ladies Aid Sewing Society of Waite and Talmadge purchased a plot of land from Nathaniel Densmore for $25. Located in Talmadge, the cemetery served both Waite and Talmadge.

Both towns supported the building of the first church, the Congregational Church, now closed but still standing in Waite. Built in 1902, an early meeting of the Congregational Church recorded seventy people in attendance. Rev. C.H. McElhiney, pastor of the nearby Princeton Congregational Church, is said to have been instrumental in the establishment of this church.

Located in Talmadge, the town dump was used by both towns.

So closely interwoven are the two towns that Talmadge residents have always received their mail through the Waite post office, and use the 04492 zip code.

Waite and Talmadge were never large, but they both remain incorporated as separate towns. At the time of the 2000 census, Waite had a population of 120 while 64 people lived in Talmadge, a ratio that has remained more or less consistent from the beginning.

Let's look at their histories.

T2R2 was incorporated as the town of Waite in 1876. Residents of Waite lived mostly on Main (Houlton) Road and the Bingo Road, which leads from the Houlton Road to Tomah Stream. Tomah Stream is said to have been named after an Indian chief who had aided the colonists at the time of the American Revolution.

Waite was named for Benjamin F. Waite, who once owned the entire township.

The 1850 census for T2R2 shows twelve people, all presumably from the Waite family. Benjamin F. Waite was, at that time, 48 years old. His wife, Hannah, aged 43, and their children: Charles (22), Mary E. (20), Henry H. (17), Benjamin F. (15), John C. (13), Frederick (11), Helen M. (6), George E. (4), and Horace (1). The census also lists a Mercy Waite, aged 78, who was probably Benjamin's mother, as the documents indicates that Benjamin and Mercy Waite had been born in Massachusetts, while the others were born in Maine.

Benjamin Waite was a trader, and his net worth was valued at $5,000 at the time of the 1850 census, and his holdings included all of T2R2, which comprised 24,985 acres.

But the Waites were not the first people in the area. In 1832, Waite had two residents, neither of which were Waites. The first known residents of the area that was to become Waite were John Dudley and Ephraim Fogg.

John Dudley moved to T2R2 (Waite) from "below," as the lower St. Croix River was called. He owned a sawmill in Percy. He and his wife, Sarah, had seven children when they came to Waite. Their eighth child, named John Dudley II, born in 1836, was the first person known to have been born in Waite.

John Dudley served as postmaster in Waite, and as a Representative to the Legislature. He is said to have run for Governor at one point.

His son, John Dudley II, graduated from Lee Academy, and worked as a schoolteacher and as a blacksmith, marrying Ellen Lane, also of Waite. Their son, John Dudley III, was a lifelong resident of Waite. Married to Anna Belle Williams, of Talmadge, their family grew to include eleven children. Two of their children died in childhood, and those who lived to maturity were named Ralph, Beatrice, Gladys, Maurice, Philip, John IV, Lloyd, George, and Norman.

Norman, whose full name was Norman Elbridge Dudley, lived in Waite for many years, residing on a portion of the old Dudley homestead with his wife, Frances (Rideout) Dudley. Their son, Norman Elbridge Dudley, Jr., also made his home in Waite.

The second settler known to have arrived by 1832 was Ephraim Fogg. At the time of the 1830 census, he was listed as having resided nearby, in Princeton, Maine.

The Foggs lived in the lower part of the town, near what was to become the Neal property. The old Houlton Road passed by the upper ends of the lot next to the Talmadge line. The Fogg's house and burial ground were at the upper end of their lot, near the old road.

Ephraim's wife was Sarah Sprague. Their son, Nathaniel, died at the age of 21, and is buried in the family cemetery. Their other sons were Ivory and Alvin Fogg. Alvin grew to have a large family, which lived on the Fogg Place up until the early 1900s.

No descendants of Ephraim and Sarah Fogg remain in Waite. Although the Fogg property was to become part of the Neal estate, it continued to be referred to as the "Fogg Place."

Another early settler was Joseph Neal. His name does not appear in the 1840 census, but he is there by 1850, along with his wife and five children. The Neals remained in Waite, acquiring large acreages in Waite and in Talmadge.

Joseph Clarence Neal, probably a son, was known as "Josie." He married Jean Sym of Quebec, and they had six children (Eliza, Philip, Raleigh, Kenneth, Alice, and Benjamin).

Eliza married William Allen, and their children were named Philip, Neal, and Alice. Philip Neal never married. Raleigh married Margery Ripley, and their children were named Elizabeth and Richard. Kenneth married Belle Tinney, and they had a son named Milton. Alice married Neal Wheaton, who bore Robert, Priscilla, Arthur, Kenneth, and Basil. Benjamin married Lorraine Smith and, later, Margaret Vail.

The Neal family, with land in both towns, have contributed greatly to the combined histories.

Nathaniel Densmore is listed in the 1840 census as residing in Waite. By the time of the 1850 census, he had moved to Talmadge, and is considered one of the early town fathers there.

The 1840 census records 53 inhabitants of Waite. The heads of households were Ephraim Fogg, Nathaniel Densmore, Bliney Fisher, John Dudley, Baxter Smith, Eathal Yeaton, John Manning, Samuel Randal, and James Ripley.

At the time of the 1850 census, James Ripley was 59 years old and his wife, Eunice, was 58. Their children were Sylvanus (27), Albert (25), Edward (22), Nathaniel (16), and Thomas (13). Another son, Cushing, was 29 years old and listed as the head of his own household, living in Waite along with his wife Leana (20) and daughter Mary (10 months). A Mary Ellen Bailey (6) is also listed as being a part of Cushing Ripley's household.

Edward Ripley, who was 22 years old in 1850, was the father of Earl Ripley, who married Ada Rideout, who gave birth to five children (Carl, Ruby, Lindsay, Arnold, and George).

When Waite incorporated as a town in 1876, the petitioners were John Dudley, Joseph Bagley, James McGranaghan, Hubert Ripley, Nelson Dow, Ivory Fogg, Nathaniel Phelps, Edward Ripley, James Morgan, Robert Henry, John Costley, Robert Welch, John Bagley, John Roaix, Augustus Peacor, John Dow, James Ripley, and William Thomas.

Waite's Schools
There were two school districts in Waite alone.

Waite's school records before 1892 were lost in a fire, but its first schoolhouse was built near Main Road, close to the Thomas house, facing the Mill Road. It was a log building, built in the 1860s. It's second school was on Main Road, just below the Mill Road turn. The 1 1/2 story schoolhouse was in use until 1917, although it was badly in need of repair by 1915 or 1916. Rather than repairing it, the townd decided to demolish it and build its third school on the site of the second. Built in 1917, it was used until the mid 1950s, when the town began busing children to Princeton rather than operating its own school. The town burned the building in 1970.

In the 1870s and 1880s, several families lived near Tomah Stream, and a schoolhouse was built there, to serve Waite's school district number two, the Bingo district, which seven children attended in 1880. After the Tomah Stream school was discontinued in 1887, the Bingo schoolhouse was built. It remained in operation until the town began busing its students to Princeton in the 1950s. At some point after that, the schoolhouse was sold as a hunting camp.

T3R2 became the town of Talmadge in 1875, even before Waite.

No 1830 census records for Talmadge could be found, but the 1840 census indicated that 47 people living there. The seven heads of households listed were Hosea White, David Patten, Thomas Johnson, Rufus Farnham, Neil Pettigrove, Levi Smith, and David Dow.

David Patten is thought to have been the first settler in Talmadge. David Dow, an early settler in Talmadge, had moved to Waite at some point between 1840 and 1850, as his family appears in the Waite census for 1850.

There were people living there prior to 1840, but Benjamin Talmadge, the man for whom the town was to be named, probably never lived in the area. The Litchfield, Connecticut native purchased the township from the Bingham heirs, later selling it to George Galvin in the early 1830s. Galvin became the owner of the Talmadge Township, as it was known at that time.

Galvin, who was said to have worn "broad ruffled shirts" was apparently quite a character. After buying the township, he spent a great deal of money building a farm there, complete with mills for grinding and sawing. He built a wheat mill on the property, although the surrounding area, a wilderness, didn't produce wheat.

In 1835, he sold the township for $4,000, investing the money in a variety of scheme and other ventures. By 1837, he was broke and ill, dying in Galveston, Texas in 1840, where he had gone in hopes of cashing in on a land deal.

After the collapse of the Galvin empire, the 1850 census shows that Frederic Boissinault, aged 36, and his wife, Elizabeth, 24, both Canadians by birth, had moved to the area with Madison, their son, who was three years old at the time. Also named as members of the Boissinault household were Abram Veyr (34), John Sieward (laborer), and Susan Kelley (22).

Frederic Boissinault was a mill man who manufactured furniture on the east branch of the Musquash Stream, in the area that had been settled by George Galvin.

Over the years, a number of mills were built. The first, and the one whose name survives still today, although the mill itself is long gone, was the Boissonault Mill, also known as the Bosno Mill, which was erected along the east branch of Musquash Stream. There, Frederic Boissinault manufactured furniture during the 1850s, and for about twenty years or more.

The 1850 census also records as living in Talmadge: Amos Metcalf, and his wife, Margaret Eagle; Andrew Williams, who died during the Civil War; Andrew's brother, David, who was active in town affairs during the 1850s.

Other mills that operated in the Waite-Talmadge area include the Eaton Mill, owned by Stephen Neal, was built near the site of the Bosno Mill, manufacturing shingles from the 1870s to the early 1900s. Then, the American Lumber Company built upon the same site as the old Bosno Mill in 1906, but it ran for only a couple of years, going out of business after a fire in 1908. At some point after that, the Orono Pulp and Paper Company used the site as a depot camp, but no further mills were built upon that site.

The Townshend Mill, which produced shingles, was built on Burleigh Bean's property in Waite, operating in the 1920s. The last was operated by Guy L. Friel & Sons of Smyrna, who had a mill near Orland Dwelley's garage for a few years during the 1960s before moving their operation back to Smyrna.

Talmadge Schools
In the early 1850s, there were two school districts in Talmadge. The North District served the portion of Talmadge that borders on the Houlton Road just above Waite, while the South District took in the Metcalf Road and the Democrat Ridge Road.

In 1853, there were only 2 students registered in the North District, while there were 16 in the South District. By 1854, the North District had 6, and the South had 23.

The North District school was sold for a dollar after it was no longer needed as a schoolhouse. Robert Henry moved it, and converted it into a residence. The South District school, located on the right side of the road which leads to Musquash Stream, about a quarter mile from the fork in the road that leads to the old dump, was burned in 1971.

A series of home meetings led to the establishment of the Talmadge Pentecostal Church, which was erected in 1953. The members who went on to finally build the church began meeting at the home of Mrs. Verna Lowell of Talmadge. As the group became larger, they met for a time at the Codyville Schoolhouse, or in outdoor meetings. Named Bethel Chapel Pentecostal Church, the congregation is still active, meeting in the church that was built just around the turn from the old Congregational Church, on Talmadge Road.

The Civil War
Known to have fought during the War Between the States, from Waite, were James McGranaghan, Nathaniel Ripley, Jason Fisher, James, John, and George Dow, David Reed, Hamlet Wheaton, and James Wheaton. Jason Fisher died in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Hamlet Wheaton, a musician, played at President Lincoln's inauguration, returned from the war and lived to be 77 years of age.

Talmadge sent Richard Smith, Henry Densmoor, George Patten, Andrew and Hiram Williams, Madison Boissonault, James and Andrew Metcalf, and George White. George Patten died in Maryland. Andrew Williams died in Baton Rouge, and Hiram Williams is thought to have died in Virginia. Madison Boissonault died in Libby Prison as a prisoner of war. George White is thought to have died in the war, but details are unknown.

Today, the Waite-Talmadge area remains a beautiful and tranquil place. Some of the old houses remain, mostly well maintained. There were very few that appeared to be abandoned or falling apart, unlike much of rural Maine. They remain very small, pleasant towns.

The Congregational Church in Waite closed about ten years ago. With a membership of fewer than ten, it was no longer feasible to keep it open, paying the cost of electricity and heat, as well as its portion of the salary for the minister who also served a couple of other congregations. Built in 1903, the building, although obviously unused, still stands as a valuable part of the history of both towns, and is not an eyesore.

Both towns have a Selectman/Town Meeting type government. In Waite, the town meetings are held in the old Ladies Aid Sewing Society building, next to the Congregational Church, while the Talmadge meetings are held at Bethel Chapel.

In preparing this profile, I consulted census records, but relied heavily upon a history of the two communities, written by Mary J. Williams, entitled, "Waite and Talmadge 1832-1984." I also spoke to current residents of the town, including Mr. Bill Johnson, of Talmadge, who was most helpful. Any errors that may be contained in this profile are probably my own.







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