More in News
Project to capture region's history
At top left, Rita Cunningham identified kids in class pictures from her children. At top right, Michelle Boucher-Ladd, Byron Historical Society member and Holy Savior School teacher, explains the Maine Memory Network project. At bottom left is a book by local Byron figure, Buckskin Sam. At bottom right is one of the gifts made by Carl Schilling, a gold panner who moved to Byron from Germany before World War II. (Times photos by Bruce Farrin)
ROXBURY -- It was the first of perhaps several opportunities for people to assist in contributing or added to a local collection of history.
One evening recently, members of the Byron Historical Society gathered at the Roxbury Town Hall to invite people to bring in items of local history, to be added to artifacts and stories already captured. They were here in part because Roxbury does not have an historical society -- yet.
Byron Historical Society President Irene Hutchinson said they were hoping to find items that could be scanned and added to a collection to be placed on the renowned Maine Memory Network. "Our main project in Byron is we have to have five documents in and scanned. Then they check them over."
"We picked Carl Schilling, the miner, from Germany, who came over here in 1939 before World War II and lived the rest of his life here. He didn't want the war and he got out of Germany. He ended up as a goldpanner in Byron."
Hutchinson said Byron has quite a few historical photographs they would donate to Roxbury if they did get an historical society formed.
Dixfield resident Rita Cunningham, who grew up in Roxbury, was identifying kids in class pictures. Hutchinson said a teacher had left those pictures with the Mexico Historical Society.
Cunningham said, "A lot of these (students) are from Mexico, but there are some that I recognize. I just wanted to see what was here."
Last spring, the Maine Memory Network (MMN) awarded a $4,000 Maine Community Heritage Program (MCHP) grant to a large team that will provide area historical societies with modern technology for their collections as well as to provide teachers with access to those collections to instruct students about local history.
That team is comprised of five schools, 12 teachers, and innumerable students from RSU 10; one teacher and her class from the Holy Savior School; five historical societies; two libraries; a professor and a cadre of research assistants from the University Of Maine Farmington.
As a result of this, Michelle Boucher-Ladd, also a member of the Byron Historical Society, said her class of the Holy Savior School has done a research project on Schilling. He was a local legend. Her students earlier came to Coos Canyon to do some of the research.
Hutchinson noted, "We have his suspenders and his hat, and we have pictures up on the Swift River where he lived as a hermit. He did odd jobs around and Mr. Bateman, who ran the Camp Kahwanee, hired him to take care of his camp so he could get Social Security because he didn't have any income, except the gold."
Similarly, students in Kurt Rowley's class at Dirigo Elementary School have been doing their own research to help create a website honoring the area’s long history. The process began in Dixfield when 13 students visited the Dixfield Historical Society’s headquarters in Dixfield, just behind Bull Rock, the fabled moose which adorns the Commons next to the historical building.
Rowley’s students expressed interest in the toothpick mills of Dixfield and the ferries that once carried people across the Androscoggin River. The result will be that images of valuable artifacts or people or documents will be uploaded to the Maine Memory Network sometime later this year or early 2013.
Ladd provided an overview of the MMN project to the dozen or so people in attendance.
"This year we received a grant. We are actually the largest school district east of the Mississippi. We encompass more towns than any other school district. We are the largest member taking part in this grant. The grant provided teachers with workshops in Portland and talked about what makes something an important resource and what artifacts to look for, and how to scan items. This is also an
opportunity for historical societies to share their collections with the world," she noted.
"The goal of Maine Memory Network is to collect primary resources, which is not a book, not a newspaper, not something that's been compiled by somebody else. But it's actually a photograph or a journal (diary) or a letter, an original copy. It's one of the largest online museums that we have in the country. We can go and type in any of the towns in Maine and it will bring up all kinds of wonderful pictures, diaries and artifacts," said Ladd.
"I'm teaching Maine history this year and currently we're studying the Indian wars, the frontier wars. One of the projects I'm having our students do is as we are doing our Maine history studies and reading about them in the textbook, I'm having them create their own timeline of the State of Maine," she said.
"Every time we read a story or we talk about an event or person who is significant to the State of Maine history, they can go on to Maine Memory Network and can cut and paste any of the pictures or diary pages and actually see the people or hear things like the Penobscot Indian language," said Ladd.
"It's such a wonderful resource. However, none of our wonderful towns have anything on the Maine Memory Network. There's lots of material from the coast, some things from Aroostook County. It's not anybody's fault. It's because the project is such a huge undertaking that it's taken them a long time to go from place to place and help people with the project," she said.
Hutchinson said her historical society is also working on another history project. His name is Buckskin Sam, who wrote his own story.
"He lived in Byron and was a good friend of my great-grandfather. He was a bear hunter, deer hunter. He was born Sam Noble, and he went around like Buffalo Bill with his outfit on after awhile."
One passage in his book talks about Buckskin Sam's last bear fight in Byron.
Hutchinson noted, "When you begin to read it, you begin to wonder if it's a story or the truth. He shot two bears with one shot. So Buckskin is a legend in our area."
He ended up in Mechanic Falls and they have a cemetery there right next to the road where these 10 gravestones are, and a flag commemorating these warriors.
"We're looking for original photos we can use and the stories that go with them. Being open on Saturdays in Byron, we've gotten a lot of connections from people," said Hutchinson.
"The hard part is we have to have original photographs. It's history and it needs to be saved. People who have it in the attic and don't know what it is should bring it here and let us look at it," she noted.