Local partners kick off year-long Civil War grant

11 years ago

Local partners kick off year-long Civil War grant

    PRESQUE ISLE — Several community members attended a grant kick-off event Oct. 7 held at Northern Maine Community College for the “Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War Grant.” One hundred fifty years ago, this country suffered the largest death toll from any war our nation has ever been involved in.

Contributed photo

    GAIL ROY, left, assistant dean of learning resources at Northern Maine Community College, formally introduces NMCC’s latest READ poster being unveiled by local photographer Billie Brodsky, center, and Presque Isle Historical Society’s Kim Smith, right, who modeled for the poster in Civil War garb to publicize a local Civil War grant collaboration.


These are well known facts about the Civil War. It is, however, not well known what the impact was on those left behind. With communities far away from the actual battlefields such as here in northern Maine, it is generally believed that there were no consequences. This is definitely not the case.
    Recently, four local organizations partnered to receive this collaborative grant. The Presque Isle Historical Society, NMCC, Presque Isle Middle School and the Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Library have been awarded monies to study the local impact and educate the community on the findings.
    The evening began with a live musical performance by Frank Grant, who sang selections of well-known songs from the Civil War era representing both the North and the South. Another highlight of the evening was area teacher Jeff Roberts, also an avid Civil War re-enactor, mingling with the crowd in his Civil War uniform. Kim Smith, representing the historical society, first invited attendees to view artifacts from the Civil War from the Society’s collections including a Civil War officer’s sword, Confederate money, actual promotion and discharge certificates of Presque Isle soldiers, and a unique hair wreath. She then introduced members of the grant team.
    Gail Roy, assistant dean of learning resources from NMCC, outlined the contributions from NMCC’s library and from Dave Raymond’s Maine history classes. NMCC has also applied for additional grants to place “free libraries” around town. “Free libraries” are small boxes which will hold free books, and in this case will be stocked with Civil War-themed books.
    Roy has also compiled a suggested reading list for NMCC students. The college’s newest READ poster, a program of the American Library Association, was debuted featuring a portrait of Smith, dressed in Civil War clothing reading, of course, a Civil War book. The photo for the poster was taken by Billie Brodsky, also a member of the grant team and serving on the board of the historical society.
    Dianna Leighton, youth librarian from Turner Memorial Library, pointed out some of the rare books on display from the library’s collection of that era and showcased the online availability of local newspapers from that era making research much easier to access. One of the projects that will be held as part of this grant is a series of four community readings on Civil War books.
    Over the next few months, various audiences from the community will read and discuss “The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg” by Rodman Philbrick at the library for “tweens,” “Soldier’s Heart:  Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers” by Gary Paulsen (the term Soldier’s Heart was used for post traumatic stress syndrome during the Civil War) at the middle school to include insights from local veterans; “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War” by Drew Gilpin Faust; and “A Vast Army of Women: Maine’s Uncounted Forces in the American Civil War” by Lynda L. Sudlow.
    Bill Guerrette, an eighth-grade English/language arts and social studies teacher at PIMS, detailed how his students will be involved with this grant. In addition to assisting with digitizing items for the online display and participating in one of the book readings, students will “adopt” a Civil War veteran and follow his travels and exploits.
    Local Boy Scout Troop 171 and several members of the Cub Scouts were in the audience. Attendance at this event by the Boy Scouts counted toward two required merit badges: Citizenship in the Community and Citizenship in the Nation. As the historical society talked about Presque Isle’s Civil War monument, the first of its kind in Aroostook County and one of the first in the state of Maine to memorialize those who gave their lives in this war, troop leaders made plans to include the society’s tour of Fairmount Cemetery, including the monument, as part of the troop’s learning as the troop actively places flags in the cemetery.
    A wrap-up event will be held in the spring to showcase the work of the grant which will include an online exhibit on Maine Memory Network. The kick-off event was attended by one of the grantors, Janet Lyon of the Maine Humanities Council. When asked what she thought of the event, Lyons indicated she was simply “blown away.”
    The grant program is funded, or supported, and made possible by a grant from the Maine Historical Society and Maine Humanities Council, with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
    For more information on the Presque Isle Historical Society, to make a tax deductible donation, or to obtain dates and times of other upcoming events, call 762-1151 or log onto www.pihistory.org.