The only Maine Community Heritage Project team to set its final celebration in a museum, the Cumberland/North Yarmouth gang exhibited its new website last Wednesday surrounded by antique carriages and sleighs–and about 60 grateful audience members–at Skyline Farm in North Yarmouth.
Originally owned by team member John Sowles’ father, Ken Sowles, the collection of carriages includes many built or used locally. How fitting for a team whose unique two-town structure led to a more-than-average interest in the geography of town boundaries, roads, maps, and generally what connects communities–and how people have gotten from one place to another–over time.
Once part of the same “Ancient North Yarmouth” region that also included Yarmouth proper, Chebeague Island, Pownal, Freeport, Harpswell, and the Mere Point portion of Brunswick, Cumberland and North Yarmouth split from each other in 1821. But the townspeople from both areas continued to shop at each other’s businesses, share services, and use common roads. The creation of a school district in 1966 to serve students from both Cumberland and North Yarmouth formalized a new relationship of shared responsibility between the two towns that exists to this day.
Greely Middle School’s involvement in the project, then, was of special importance to the team members. After an overview of the project year and introduction to the new website by team leader Thomas Bennett, Greely Middle School teacher Steve Hill spoke about the students’ MCHP experience. Using the example of a Civil War diary, Steve explained how handling, researching, cataloging, and digitizing a fragile local artifact “brings history to life” in a way that textbooks sometimes fail to. The students spent an intensive three weeks in daily workshops and work sessions, and toured historic locales in Cumberland and North Yarmouth, as part of their involvement in the project.
Community members got a closer look at the website–including many of the historic items scanned and captioned by students–after the formal presentation. Beautifully organized and written, the website includes eight exhibits–the goal was five–that delve into topics of importance to one or both of the neighboring towns.
This evening of community togetherness wouldn’t have been complete without a chance to break bread together. On that point the team outdid itself, offering a fantastic buffet dinner of gourmet salads, baked beans, cold cuts, biscuits, watermelon, and sweet treats compliments of Skyline trustee Mark Heath of Victory D Caterers and team members.
Thanks to the concerted efforts of a team that creatively chose to broaden the definition of community in Maine Community Heritage Project, everyone went home from last Wednesday’s final celebration satiated in multiple ways: Full (to bursting) of good food, brimming with fresh historic knowledge, and newly imbued with a sense of ancient kinship.