Sunday, July 31, 2016

Secrets of the Vault Revealed!

Parsonsfield’s first meeting house was built in 1790 by Thomas Parsons. It served as both the center for town business and as the place of worship for the Congregationalists.  By the 1830’s government and religion were separated and a separate Town House was built just across the road.  In 1832 local craftsman William E. Moulton built the unique building that stood as the town’s center of the community from the time of its construction until 1985 –the last year town meetings were held there. During the early 20h century, the town clerk’s home often became the site of day-to-day business and small meetings.  Many of the records used on a regular basis were kept at the clerk’s home. Townspeople continued to use the building for voting for another 20 years, but it now stands basically unused.

            In 1981, or thereabouts, the town officials went through the rest of the records stored at the Town House (many in the fire-proof vault) and removed any records they thought they should keep. But they also left many.  The vault was filled with old tax maps and “Valuation” Books and other documents dating back to the early 1800’s.  Boxes of other documents and records were left in the office on the 2nd floor – some of those dating back even further.  They were left to the ravages of extreme heat and cold, moisture and marauding squirrels, porcupines, and other wild beasts.

         With the blessing of the current Parsonsfield Selectmen, we have removed any salvageable records to a dryer, safer environment where we can assess what is there and make plans for preservation and proper storage.  In the process, we have come across some really interesting documents that give us a glimpse back into the lives of those who came before us. We will be sharing some of those with those who attend our open house on August 20.

            Please join us as we open the Parsonsfield Old Town House once more so you can have a peek back into the history of what was once the center of town.

Saturday, August 20 from 1pm to 3pm.

Located near the corner of

 Merrill Hill Road and Middle Road.

            The Union Church (1905) sits near the site of the original Congregational Church built in 1790 and is just across the street and is on the site of the 2nd Congregational Church built in 1830.  It will also be open to the public for a peek inside.

            While you are there you may also want to visit the adjacent Town House Cemetery where many of our earliest settlers are buried -- including the first minister Benjamin Rolfe and Rufus McIntire, a noted lawyer, politician and surveyor whose capture by the British in 1812 almost set off another war, and Tristram Redman, who was also captured (by the French) in 1799 and was able to retake his ship and turn the “pirates” over to the British authorities.  You can take a self-guided tour to meet some of these folks and read their stories. Wear sturdy shoes.

--Lyn Sudlow
President, PPHS

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