LIMESTONE, Maine — Limestone’s Sesquicentennial Committee organized a special 150th anniversary kick-off event on March 24 in which residents who are descendants of the town’s first inhabitants were guests of honor.
The descendants read out motions made from the town’s first official meeting, which was held on March 24, 1869, exactly 150 years prior to the inaugural event.
Limestone Town Manager Elizabeth Dickerson said resident and local historian Robert Edgecomb was the “instigator of this particular event,” adding that he “has a wealth of knowledge about the town and its history.”
Dickerson said that she and Town Clerk Vicki Page were also able to find minutes from the town’s first meetings written in the actual handwriting of town officials from the era.
Guests were treated to cake, cupcakes, and punch, and could buy T-shirts and coins featuring a new town logo drawn by artist Jayson Stickney.
Proceeds from the sale of these items, according to Dickerson, will help fund future sesquicentennial events throughout the year.
During the event, Dickerson presented documents to the town from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, congratulating Limestone on its sesquicentennial celebration.
She then introduced state Rep. David McCrea of Fort Fairfield, who also represents Limestone and who expressed his pleasure at learning from Edgecomb’s description of the town’s history how much of a connection Limestone has with Fort Fairfield.
“A lot of the names I’ve heard here today are Fort Fairfield names too,” he said. “I really am happy to be here. I’ve learned a great deal about the history of Limestone, and I’m tickled to death to learn that Fort Fairfield is linked to you guys as much as we are.”
Limestone Police Chief Stacey Mahan also presented a plaque to Stickney for his creation of the new town logo, explaining a series of revisions that were made so a green tractor with yellow rims could be included in the image.
Both Stickney and Ms. Centennial Sheena Page, who was chosen by the Sesquicentennial Committee for a poem she wrote about the town, unveiled a large print of the new design in the town office at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Page said her poem was inspired by the people of Limestone being connected through their roots and long history.
“There’s a lot of history here with my family and with Robert’s family,” she said. “We all farm,” adding that the poem’s theme is about “us never forgetting that we are all connected and we need to work together to keep things moving forward.”
As the 2 p.m. event began, Vicki Page welcomed guests and introduced Limestone resident Julie Weston, who gave an a capella performance of the national anthem.
Edgecomb then explained “why we’re here and how we got here” to the crowd, starting from 1842, when the area now known as Limestone was nothing but uninhabited forest.
Once a feud regarding the placement of a border and the United States was resolved, B.D. Eastman, who was living in Fort Fairfield, applied for a 1,600 acre grant via the state of Maine.”
In exchange for the grant, Eastman needed to build mills in the area, and soon others joined him in this endeavor.
Within two years, Eastman and his business partners were able to construct mills in the area and subsequently named themselves the “Limestone Mill Company.”
“There are a number of stories about why Limestone has its name,” said Edgecomb. “One is that, across from Mark Trafton [who along with Eastman worked in the town] was a huge outcropping of a large Limestone rock as big as this room. Another reason is that we have Limestone rock underneath our soil here.”
He said historians can only speculate as to why early settlers chose to name the town Limestone, but both of these explanations “could be why.”
While the area was known by the name “Limestone Mills,” Edgecomb said it wasn’t until Feb. 26 of 1869 that the community was first referred to as “Limestone.”
Instead of simply describing the result of the first town meeting, Edgecomb had residents who have descended from early settlers read out motions made by the town’s first elected officials. Edgecomb read remarks made by Mark Trafton, the elected moderator, and called the meeting to order.
“I move to raise $700 for roads and bridges to be used for labor and materials,” read Kristin Thompson Devoe, whose great great grandfather Warren Long “lived on the corner of Long Road and Blake Road” in Limestone.
Tom Albert, Limestone resident and current chairman of the Select Board, read the second article, which was to “set wages for road work and to ask for 15 cents per hour for a man, and two dollars per day for a team of horses.”
Albert said he was representing his descendant Bernard McLaughlin, who was actually present at that meeting 150 years ago to the day.
Edgecomb said that residents at that time could help with the road work to pay off their property taxes.
Brent Edgecomb, whose great, great grandmother was the daughter of Dennis Getchell, who was present at that first meeting, moved to “raise $25 to build a pound.”
Robert Edgecomb said that while many people now associate the word “pound” with a dog shelter, at this meeting the word referred to a fenced in pasture on the outskirts of town designed to keep stray cattle off the street.
Article four, “to hire a land keeper,” was read by Bobby Edgecomb. Robert Edgecomb then stepped in again to explain that the land keeper was responsible for keeping stray cattle in the pound and eventually returning the livestock to their proper owner.
Greg Ward said that his great, great grandfather Josiah Ward came to Limestone in 1861 with his son William, who started a farm which Greg Ward continues to operate to this day.
Robert Edgecomb said the fifth article was to set the tax collector’s fee, which at the time was “to use seven percent of what you could collect,” adding that “they only did it for a year.”
He concluded by telling the crowd that he believes the town’s future is more important than its present.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I’m very proud of our history in Limestone, but I fear we are not moving. So I’m going to leave you with this. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing.’ So I’m going to challenge you: let’s get to work.”