Local & Legendary Student Seminars in Scarborough

Kick Off PresentationThe first in a series of monthly student “seminars” as part of Scarborough’s Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War project took place in early October. Sessions take place at the Scarborough Public Library, within walking distance of Scarborough Middle School.

The participating students are 6th-8th graders enrolled in the Gifted and Talented Education program taught by Jessica Kelly. The seminar format offers them a chance to be together at an off-site location to explore the Civil War themes of the project, and meet with other community partners. They will also have the opportunity to visit the Scarborough Historical Society in November.

Student TeamCW Early Student AssessmentThe students started by working on personal assessments of what they currently know about the Civil War. This was followed by an overview of the year, a review of what primary and secondary sources are, and a great book talk presented by Scarborough Public Library’s Youth Services Librarian, Louise Capizzo.

CW Book Talk wtih Youth Librarian, Louise Capizzo 2CW books waiting to be checked out

Louise created a book list for the students of Civil War titles in the youth collection, then pulled the books so she could talka bit about each of them. At the end of the seminar, the students returned to their assessments to write down what they wanted to learn more about–based on this first introduction.

As part of the project, any student who didn’t already have a library card was issued one. And as if proving the wisdom of that decision, many students returned to the library after school that same day to check out materials.

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Our Hands on History

Our Hands on History, a new class at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay, created and co-taught by Susan St. Pierre, Nate Purrington, and Kymberli Bryant, is offering 10 students the opportunity to do the work of historians and delve deeply into the Civil War.

Our Hands on history 10.7.14A little more than a month into the start of the school year these juniors and seniors have already had a refresher course on the Civil War, learned how to handle historic artifacts, and participated in a community wide book discussion of The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.

Part of the experience involves several field trips to the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center. Norlands is the family home of the Washburns, one of the great political and industrial dynasties of the 19th century. Of the ten children born to Israel and Martha Washburn, seven sons rose to serve as governors, congressmen, a United States senator, Secretary of State, foreign ministers, a Civil War general, and a Navy captain.


On one field trip day in early October, students were happily ensconced with laptops and scanners in the 1883 Norlands library, busily scanning 19th century calling cards (carte de visites) and letters, measuring them, and completing detailed cataloging worksheets on each item. Norlands Director Sheri Leahan, along with the teachers, has been helping students identify and analyze collection items for the project.

Scanning Norlands 10.7.14Back in the classroom students have begun transcribing the letters and continuing to conduct research, looking to gather as much information as possible on each item that they hope to include in their Maine Memory Network exhibit. The working title for the exhibit is, “Livermore in the Civil War: A Hand in Transforming the Nation.” It will touch upon Livermore’s and the Washburn family’s participation in the Civil War and the effects of the war on the local community.

In addition to The Killer Angels, students will read three more Civil War themed books to gain a richer understanding of life in that era. Students and community members will then again engage in scholar facilitated discussions of these books, focusing on not only the direct subject matters of the books, but also the effects of the War on the greater Livermore Falls/Jay area.

For more information on the hands-on, technology aspects of the project, check out this blog post by teacher Kym Bryant.

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Local & Legendary’s Second Cohort Gets off to a Good Start


Amy Marcotte, Team Leader of the Sanford Vet Center, leads a session on “Veterans Now and Then.”

Community teams from Bethel, Jay/Livermore Falls, Pittsfield, Rumford, and Scarborough met at Bowdoin College in July for a two-day orientation to the Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War community grant program.

Team members–-from local historical societies, libraries, and schools–-received an orientation to Maine Memory Network, participated in project planning, and were immersed in Civil War history.


USM history professor Libby Bischof

Scholars Libby Bischof (USM), Tom Desjardin (Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands), and Patrick Rael (Bowdoin College) provided historical context through readings, lecture, and discussion. Amy Marcotte of the Sanford Vet Center helped to tie the Civil War era to the present day with a short lecture and discussion on “Veterans Now and Then.” Theater professional David Greenham spoke to attendees about creative ways to interpret the “performance event” required as part of the project.

In August local teams began their monthly meetings. At the first meetings of the year they developed plans to create their Maine Memory Network exhibit based on the artifacts and documents they have in their communities and began the process of picking books to read for their “One Book, One Community” book discussions.


Part of the Rumford team takes a break from orientation on the lovely Bowdoin Campus. At the far left is Kate Webber, Maine Humanities Council Communications Assistant.

Local & Legendary is a partnership between Maine Historical Society and Maine Humanities Council, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The project involves 10 Maine towns over two years. First year teams included Belfast, Gorham, Portland, Westbrook, and Windham. Teams research local Civil War history, digitize collections, create an exhibit on Maine Memory Network, run a “one book” program in their community, and host a custom-designed performance piece.

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Second Civil War Statewide Symposium

Morgan Hill Event Center in Hermon was the setting for the second Civil War Symposium on Saturday, May 10. Presented by Maine Humanities Council and Maine Historical Society as part of the three year NEH funded Local and Legendary grant, the event drew 60 Civil War aficionados, community members, and scholars to learn about and discuss the war’s aftermath in Maine.

IMG_7076The morning began with actors Michael Pullen and Rhiannon Ludder performing Coming Home: A Civil War Veteran Returns, a short play written and produced by Maine Humanities Council theater consultant David Greenham.

IMG_7092This thought provoking performance about a young veteran who returns home to Sebec and the girl who waited at home for him could as easily take place in 2014 as in 1865. How does a soldier return to a “normal” life upon coming home, and how does the loved one who remained at home understand the experience of war? During the audience discussion following the play both young actors revealed that they could relate to one dilemma raised in the play–to stay in Maine or move elsewhere for better opportunities.

IMG_7117The ever popular Tom Desjardin, Maine Civil War historian and Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Governor, expanded on this topic as he discussed the alarming trend of out-migration and the ensuing economic impact post-Civil War.

The impact of the war was felt in every community in Maine. Maine sent the highest number of men to fight in the war in proportion to its population of any northern state. One of the fascinating themes of the morning was discovering the parallels between 1864 and 2014.

Chandra Manning, Associate Professor of History, Georgetown University, explored the question, “What did the Civil War Change?” Some of the changes that Chandra discussed focused on issues related to more complex reasons why the war was fought.

IMG_7128For example, Lincoln’s belief that by allowing the south to secede the U.S. would be admitting that self government as envisioned by the Founding Fathers was not a viable form of government. Another example she discussed is how a secondary outcome of abolishing slavery was the U.S. stepping up and becoming an enforcer of a more global ban on the slave trade.

Both Chandra and Candace Kanes, Maine Memory Network Curator and Historian, talked about race relations, depictions of slavery, and attitudes towards newly freed slaves. They spoke about Mainers who made significant contributions to the war effort and reminded us that Maine was the first state to ratify the 13th amendment in February 1865. Candace’s presentation focused on her experience researching and curating Maine Historical Society’s 2013-2014 museum exhibition, This Rebellion: Maine and the Civil War.

Attendees had the opportunity to view displays and the Maine Memory Network online exhibits created by the 2013 Local & Legendary community teams. The new 2014-2015 community teams–Bethel, Jay-Livermore Falls-Livermore, Pittsfield, Rumford, and Scarborough–were in attendance and had opportunities to ask questions of those who participated in year one.

IMG_7064People left with a new understanding of the legacy of the Civil War in Maine and how our understanding of the past is shaped. As one participant said of speaker Chandra Manning’s talk: “She makes an excellent point that instead of simplifying, we should look at the complexities of history.”

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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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