The ‘gracious lady’ of Aroostook

Kimberly R. Smith, Special to The County
10 months ago

Augusta Kalloch was born in Ashland on Oct. 28, 1887.  Her family had already played a role in local history as her grandfather, Rufus Kalloch, was the elderly sheriff at the time of the Jim Cullen lynching.  

She was the eldest of four children and the only one to attend high school.  At that time, one had to pay tuition to attend high school and the nearest was in Presque Isle.  Augusta put herself through school and paid 75 cents a week to rent a room in town to attend.  Her family did what they could to help by providing food and wood for heat.  In addition, her mother hand-made most of her clothing.  

Augusta worked during school vacations, making a whopping $3 per week.  Using an inflation calculator, her weekly rent in today’s dollars would be equal to $27.05 and her salary per week would be the equivalent of $108.20.  She graduated in 1905, one of 17 graduates.

After high school, Augusta attended the Aroostook State Normal School, now known as the University of Maine at Presque Isle, to become a teacher.  She then taught in rural area schools for five years.  Although she enjoyed teaching, she did not like to be a disciplinarian.  The gentleman she was seeing at the time convinced her to attend Beal School of Shorthand in Bangor.  

After graduating from the Beal School, Augusta went to work as a stenographer and bookkeeper for Smith & Hoyt, a Presque Isle potato dealer.  

Augusta married at the age of 41 in 1928, an old age at the time for a first marriage.   Her husband, Walter Christie, was a potato grower and shipped seed potatoes.  Augusta never had children of her own, but was a stepmother as Walter had two children by his first marriage.  They lived in the large house on the corner of Second and Church Streets.  

During World War II, she volunteered for the American Red Cross as a “Gray Lady,” working in the hospital at Presque Isle Army Air Base.  In fact, her “uniform” is on display in the history wing of Northern Maine Community College near the gymnasium and fitness center.  

Walter passed away in 1947, leaving Augusta fairly well situated financially and owning a significant amount of property along Second Street.  

Church was a very important part of Augusta Christie’s life.  She was a charter member of Bethany Baptist Church, where she taught Sunday School and sang in the choir for 63 years.  

After Walter’s passing, Augusta began a career of public service.  She was the first woman from Presque Isle to serve in both the Maine House and the Maine Senate.  Other activities included serving on the Maine Civil War Centennial Commission, Maine Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Presque Isle Chamber of Commerce, the Garden Club, and as president of Presque Isle Historical Society.  

In 1961, when the military base in Presque Isle closed, Christie was one of the individuals in the Legislature who helped pass LD 1542, which established an educational institution, now Northern Maine Community College, on part of the former base land.  Christie was very interested in developing this educational institution.  In fact, the administration building at NMCC is named after Christie, who was known as the “mother of the school.” The Christie building was the first permanent building constructed on campus.  

Christie also played a role in the development of what is now the University of Maine at Presque Isle.  Dr. Clifford Wieden, the president of Aroostook State College, encouraged Christie to propose a bill to secure funding for a new multipurpose building on campus.  The building, later named Wieden Hall, was to include an auditorium and gymnasium.  

With such an outstanding record of serving the local community as well as the county and state, newspapers dubbed her “the gracious lady of Aroostook.”

Kimberly R. Smith is the secretary/treasurer of the Presque Isle Historical Society.