By Terry Hussey
Nancy Willey's sixth grade students at Milbridge Elementary School presented a program about the "Founding Families of Milbridge" at their May 13 meeting of the Milbridge Historical Society at the school. The students also performed a skit and danced around a May pole as part of the evening's program.
The first section of the program was an overview of the town's history given by Jennifer Tyler, Melynda Beal, Tricia Gay, Olivia Kamp, Leah Nichols, and Arletta Wallace. The students did their own research for the project, using a variety of sources.
The girls told about the Indians who first visited the area, the European voyagers, and finally the arrival of white settlers around 1756. They told of John Densmore who first settled on the Mill River, and Captain Joseph Wallace, first settler on the Narraguagus. The family names mentioned by the students were many of the same names heard in school today: Wallace, Leighton, Strout, and Ray.
The students told of the building of the first bridge to cross the Narraguagus River by John Gardner in 1848. Gardner completed a bridge begun by Alexander Foster for the sum of $100,000. He also constructed a tide mill there, probably the mill for which the town was named. Gardner agitated for the town to separate from Harrington, because the many settlements around the bridge and along the river had made Milbridge a busier community than the mother town at that time. Olivia Kamp read from the petition to the legislature that set off Milbridge as a separate town in July, 1848. The petition names the same boundary lines that mark the town's limits today.
The students told of the hardships suffered by early settlers who lived in a community with only one horse in the mid-nineteenth century. They often walked to work at the mills in Cherryfield and walked home again after work. The girls told of a young man who walked to worship services in Cherryfield in his bare feet, put on his shoes to enter the church, and took them off again before walking home.
The second section of the program was a mime skit entitled "Captain Dow and the Hole in the Doughnut." Chris Phinney, dressed in foul weather gear and chewing on a corn cob pipe, narrated the story of how Captain Dow needed both hands to manage his ship in rough seas and put his solid doughnut on one of the spokes of his steering wheel, thus inventing the first doughnut. Starring in the skit with Phinney were Robert Dow, Cole Kennedy, Jason Shinn, William Torrey, and Jase Carney.
Set designers for the program were seventh graders Krista Dow, Jillian Strout, Andrew Checker, Brandon Beal, Joshua Beal, and Robbie Graham. Ashleigh Colbert designed the programs.
The evening ended with an intricate dancing of the May pole by 12 students. The boys and girls carefully wove the colorful ribbons into an interesting braided pattern, then successfully unwound them again, to the delight of the large audience.
In her introduction to the program, Cathy Chipman of the Historical Society's program committee said the Society appreciates these opportunities to work with school students, to awaken their interests in the town's history and to help them learn the importance of preservation of the community's past. She thanked teacher Nancy Willey who has inspired and directed so many outstanding presentations by students at the school.