Gorham Students’ “Gambo” Play Brings Down the Curtain

A collaboration between Amy Valentine of Gorham Arts Alliance and the Gorham High School (GHS) Drama Club resulted in an outstanding final celebration of Gorham’s participation in Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War on Wednesday, June 11.

Directed by GraceAnn Burns and Kevin Lombard, Gambo – The Struggle of a Boy Torn Between His Family and His Country was an original script penned by Burns, Lombard and fellow GHS student Andrew York. The play was performed by members of the GHS Drama Club and overseen by club advisor Eileen Avery.

The cast takes questions after the performance.

The cast takes questions after the performance.

Local & Legendary team members Amy Valentine and Don Wescott provided historical background and advice to the playwrights as they developed the script, which included information from Gorham author Maurice Whitten’s book The Gunpowder Mills of Maine. Amy and Don, along with Maine Humanities Council theater consultant David Greenham, assisted with rehearsals. The final result was a well-researched, tightly written, thoughtful presentation before an enthralled and appreciative audience.

The play focuses on “young Silas McLaughlin (who) wants to join his brothers in the fight against the south, but instead is forced to stay behind to work at the Gambo Gunpowder Mill.” The play is loosely based on material found in the Windham Historical Society archives: a young man from Parsonsfield was dragged home from the train station by his father when he was running off to enlist to fight the for the north in the Civil War.

Playwrights Andrew York, Kevin Lombard, and GraceAnn Burns.

Playwrights Andrew York, Kevin Lombard, and GraceAnn Burns.

In 40 minutes the young playwrights managed to include sound historical facts, reasons for and against enlisting in the war, life at home and on the farm, working conditions in the mill, and the changes war wrought in a small town.

Cast members Collin Young, Jeffrey McNally, Bailey Daigle, Katie Stickney, Becca Cupps, Joe Lambert, Jamie Juskiewicz, Nicole Caruso, and Elsa Alexanderin did a marvelous job of portraying life during the Civil War in Gorham.

After the performance, the authors and cast discussed the play and answered audience questions. The audience was particularly interested in the history of the mill and what the students learned from being a part of this project. Gorham Community Access Television filmed the performance and will be editing it prior to making it available for streaming in early July.

Congratulations to Local & Legendary team members Amy Valentine, Don Wescott and Kathy Stevens for a job well done!

And thanks to Janet Lyons, Consultant Project Coordinator, Maine Humanities Council, for submitting this report.

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Presque Isle Local & Legendary Team Encamps for Final Event

To celebrate the arrival of spring and the culmination of their Civil War project, the Presque Isle Local & Legendary team created a Civil War museum complete with an encampment in the E. Perrin Edmunds Library at Northern Maine Community College (NMCC). For three days (May 29-31) community members had the opportunity to mingle and discuss Presque Isle’s involvement in the Civil War.

campsite10362831_10152232322168026_4126200112777778890_nThursday evening, members of the NMCC Foundation and NMCC students viewed the exhibit. Visitors had the opportunity to read a letter from a wife trying to get her husband’s pension, enlistment papers, and other documents.  Artifacts on display included a hair wreath, mourning dress and bonnet, and a sword.

Friday afternoon, 4th grade students and their teachers attended a presentation by Kim Smith, secretary/treasurer of the Presque Isle Historical Society. Students tried on a peg leg and viewed Civil War veteran Wesley Martin’s original wooden artificial leg. Kim, attired in mourning clothes, demonstrated cooking over the campfire.

Kim CampsiteTo give students a sense of the impact that the war had on the community of Presque Isle, Kim divided them into two equal groups representing the male and female population of Presque Isle in 1860. She then further split the “male” group in two, with one of those halves representing the men who went to war–i.e. one-quarter of Presque Isle’s population. Finally, she had the group who went off to fight further divide to represent those who did not come home from the war.

students 2Students talked about what this meant in terms of work in an agrarian society; women had to farm and plow in order to keep food on the table.  At the end of the hands on presentation, Kim was literally brought to tears when a student who is blind, told her, “That was fun!”

Jeff RobertsCivil War re-enactor Jeff Roberts and his wife Susan educated visitors on Saturday morning about life in camp. Sgt. Roberts, a Calvary soldier, told about his saddle, revolvers, and sword. They engaged the group in discussions about camp life and how the Calvary soldier took part in warfare.

Gail Roy, Assistant Dean of Learning Resources NMCC Library, reviewed the “One Story, One Community” program and how gratifying it was to have had a broad spectrum of the community turn out to discuss books. Teacher Bill Guerrette briefly spoke about the experience of his 8th grade students, and their Civil War studies. The final event of the day was the unveiling of Presque Isle’s Maine Memory Network Civil War exhibit.

Congratulations to Presque Isle Local & Legendary team members Kimberly Smith, Gail Roy, Bill Guerrette, Billie Brodsky, and Dianna Leighton for a job well done. A special thank you to Gail Roy for these photographs.

Many more photos from the events can be found in the Civil War Grant Reception and  Civil War albums on NMCC’s Facebook page.

And further thanks to Janet Lyons, Consultant Project Coordinator, Maine Humanities Council, for submitting this report.

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Windham Closes Out Local & Legendary with Major Events

The town of Windham had a decidedly 1860s feel to it as the Local & Legendary project came to an end this past week.

Sabrina Nickerson’s 5th grade class wrapped up its yearlong study of the Civil War on Tuesday, May 20, by walking across Route 302 to Windham’s Arlington Cemetery. With assistance from Peter Morgan, Commander Mel Greenier, and Vice Commander Karle Leonard of the American Legion Field–Allen Post 148, they placed GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) markers at the graves of Civil War soldiers.


Teacher Sabrina Nickerson, David Manchester, and a student at Arlington Cemetery in Windham. Photo courtesy of Sabrina Nickerson.

The 23 students raised $452 to buy 23 GAR markers to replace old rusted markers. The new markers were designed by Brian Brigham of Windham, who interned at the Windham Historical Society last summer. The pattern work and casting was done through Auburn Stove Foundry of New Gloucester.


Photo courtesy of Sabrina Nickerson

Each student was responsible for writing down all the information on a soldier’s gravestone to bring back to the classroom. Students then researched their soldier on Maine Memory Network.

One soldier who required no research was Joseph K. Manchester, who their school is named after. Earlier in the year students had the opportunity to learn about Manchester when they met with Carol Manchester, author of Joseph K. Manchester: Northern Son in the South, 1861-1863, His Letters, Family, and Friends. Carol Manchester’s husband, David, came along to point out Joseph’s grave.


Photo courtesy of Sabrina Nickerson

Ms Nickerson, a member of the Local & Legendary team, has truly made history real, relevant, and memorable to her students through her enthusiasm. Both the Lakes Region Weekly and the Windham Eagle featured articles on the project.

On Memorial Day Weekend, the Company A, 3rd Maine Regiment Volunteer Infantry, a Civil War Re-enactors group, encamped on the Village Green behind the Windham Historical Society headquarters, allowing visitors an opportunity to experience how soldiers lived 150 years ago. This event was also featured in the Lakes Region Weekly.

Photo by Heidi Hamblen for Lakes Region Weekly

Photo by Heidi Hamblen for Lakes Region Weekly

New recruits were drilled in marching, shooting rifles, and battle strategy. The Re-enactor group marched in the Memorial Day parade on Monday and visited the Knight Cemetery where they paid honor to the dead. Neighbors of the cemetery came and took pictures of the unusual graveyard activity.

According to Linda Griffin, Local & Legendary team member, “it was an amazing experience on Sunday to see the reenactors visit the Knight cemetery on the Pope Road.”

The fife and drum duet played music at each Civil War soldier’s grave and a uniformed soldier put the GAR marker back on the veteran’s grave site.  One soldier read the Gettysburg Address. Reenactor Carolyn Lawson, who was portraying a widow, was heavily veiled and dressed in black as she knelt at a soldier’s grave. Dave Gowen put the GAR marker on the grave of his third Great grandfather–Daniel Cobb of Windham–and told a little about him. In an interesting turn of history, Dave’s daughter, Hanna Gowen, saw the tombstone of another Hannah Gowen who had been born exactly 100 years before her.

Thank you to Windham Local & Legendary team members Sabrina Nickerson, Laurel Parker, and Linda Griffin for their enthusiasm and hard work on this year-long project.

And thanks also to Janet Lyons, Consultant Project Coordinator for Maine Humanities Council, who contributed this article.

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Portland/Westbrook Team Wraps up Local & Legendary

BoyScout Troop 73Memorializing Civil War Veterans is the title of the Portland/ Westbrook team’s Maine Memory Exhibit and that is exactly what this team did for their final event of the year. They invited area residents, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Veterans to participate in a Memorial Day procession along Stevens Avenue. (Click on that link to see a video of the event on Community Television Network!)

Monday afternoon under sunny skies a crowd of 150+ marched from Deering High School to the Wilde Memorial Chapel in Evergreen Cemetery. In keeping with the traditions of the early Decoration Day celebrations flowers were strewn, the Civil War monument at Evergreen Cemetery was decorated and solemn speeches were made.

Entering wilde ChapelWW I uniformBob Riley opened the ceremony at Wilde Memorial Chapel with a brief history of Memorial Day and informed people that more than 1,000 Civil War veterans are interred at Evergreen Cemetery. The Deering VFW Color Guard served as a strong visual reminder of the men and women who fought and died in service to their country.

Senator Anne Haskell shared her Memorial Day remembrances of growing up in Portland; she also spoke of  the memories and legacies of her father who died in World War II when she was a toddler. Don Spear, a World War II veteran wore his father’s World War I uniform as he reminisced about both wars. A blessing by the Rev. Richard Rasner was followed by a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” performed by members of the Claddagh Mhor Pipe Band. The ceremony ended with a bugler playing taps.

Inside Wilde ChapelHerb Adams & CW MonumentPrior to proceeding to the Civil War monument the spectators mingled and enjoyed refreshments provided by Boy Scout troop 73. Lin Brown, team member and Friend of Evergreen docent, led the way to the monument with stops to view and discuss several of the memorials on the Civil War walking tour.

Boy Scouts laid a wreath at the monument and played taps after which Herb Adams gave an educational and moving speech. He focused on Memorial Day 1914, a time of transition when Civil War veterans rode in automobiles for the first time in the parade’s history and before America was engaged in World War I.

It was a fitting way to end a year devoted to uncovering Civil War connections in Portland, Westbrook, and Evergreen Cemetery. Many thanks to Local & Legendary team members Jessica Siraco, Lin Brown, Julie Peterson, Bob Riley and Jim Dufresne for their collaborative efforts to tell the story of those buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Thanks to Janet Lyons, Consultant Project Coordinator, Maine Humanities Council, for providing this account.

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Local & Legendary Program Ends in Belfast

BelfastPlay3Due to some technical quirkiness, our post about Belfast’s final Local & Legendary celebration ended up on our regular Maine Historical Society blog.

Please click on over to read about the amazing original theatrical performance written, directed, and acted by community members based on local historical collections, as well as lots more great photos.

A previous post about Belfast activities also ended up on that blog. Our apologizes for any inconvenience or confusion!

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Windham Screens “The 16th Maine at Gettysburg”

About 30 people (including vets and children) turned out for a screening of The 16th Maine at Gettysburg at the Windham VFW Hall on a gorgeous, Saturday spring afternoon.


Part of the Local & Legendary activities in Windham, the event was organized by teacher Sabrina Nickerson, whose students have been studying the war this year, and raising money to purchase grave markers for local veterans’ graves.

VFW4Both filmmaker Dan Lambert and Maine State Archivist David Cheever, whose idea the film was, were there.

David provided historical background on Maine in the Civil War and answered audience questions. Dan answered questions on the development and process of making the film.


The event was captured in an article in the Windham Eagle, “Bringing History to the Youth of Windham and the Community.”

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Portland-Westbrook Local & Legendary Activities

by Janet Lyons, Local & Legendary project consultant, Maine Humanities Council

The Portland-Westbrook Local & Legendary team recently hosted two events in historic buildings in downtown Portland.

CascoBayHSOn April 8, 13 sophomores and their teacher from Casco Bay High School in Portland traveled to the Maine Masonic Civil War Library & Museum housed at the Portland Masonic Temple. Students came to do research as part of their new expedition focused on “hidden histories” within the Civil War.

The Library’s focus is on Maine Masons and non-Masons who fought in the Civil War. Jim Dufresne, director of the Maine Masonic Civil War Library and Museum, shared both primary source material, in the form of letters, and the Library’s rich collection of secondary source material with the students.

CBkids researchingStudents were assisted in their research by Local & Legendary team members Bob Riley, Jessica Siraco, and Lin Brown. Bob spoke to the students about the history and the construction of the “Our Lady of Victories” statue in Monument Square, whose dedication reads “Portland To Her Sons Who Died For The Union.”

A member of the Portland Masonic Temple gave a brief overview of Masonry and spoke about the role Masons played in giving comfort to their fellow Masons during the Civil War.

The following day, Jean Flahive, author of Billy Boy: The Sunday Soldier of the 17th Maine and Railroad to the Moon gave a noontime lecture at the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association’s Mechanic’s Hall on Congress Street. Jean shared how she used “historical realities to write a fictional story.”

Flahive TalkBilly Boy is based on the story of William Laird of Berwick, a private who served briefly in the 17th Regiment Infantry, Maine Volunteers, during the Civil War.

ButtonJean told how she was contacted recently by a man in New York who is the descendant of Pvt. Henry Frost, who was stationed at Fort Preble (the current campus of SMCC) when Billy was executed for desertion.

He sent Jean a copy of a letter that Pvt. Frost wrote to his parents describing the day. A photo of an actual button from Billy’s coat was enclosed in the letter.

In addition to reading the vivid account of the execution to the audience, Jean answered questions about Billy’s story, the process of writing, and the topic of desertion. It was an informational and emotional lunch hour.

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