EVENTS IN WATERVILLE HISTORY
Evidence of prehistoric man does not exist in Waterville. In fact, following the Indian wars of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, there is little evidence of any human life in Waterville. Then in 1754, the first permanent white settlement of the area was established. It centered around General John Winslow’s Fort Halifax, where the Sebasticook joins the Kennebec below the Ticonic Falls. 11 families settled in the area, but as word spread that the area under the protection of the Fort was safe from attack, other settlers came. The wilderness was rugged and the winters long and cold, but the bounty and power of the rivers of the area proved to draw those of sturdy stock.
Within ten years there were one hundred settlers on both sides of the Kennebec. The East Side, the first side, became known as Winslow in Honor of the General, and the West Side, Ticonic for the Falls. In 1771, Massachusetts incorporated both sides of the area as Winslow, and by the late 1790’s more people were living on the East Side than the west, due to the superior mill sites along the Messalonskee Stream. Without a bridge across the Kennebec, it made sense to incorporate the West Side as a separate municipality, and in 1802 Waterville became a town.
Over the next 86 years the Town of Waterville grew and prospered. The first dam was built, by Dr. McKechnie on the Messalonskee, for operating a mill for grinding grain and a saw mill. There were numerous mills on the Messalonskee and following the building of the first dam on the Kennebec in 1792, from Ticonic Falls to Rock Island, Waterville was well suited for industry. Fishing was an important source of revenues for the town, with salmon, shad and alewives shipped primarily to markets in Boston. The Ticonic Falls made Waterville the northern most terminal on the Kennebec for receiving cargo as well as shipping lumber, goods, and foods south. Even ship building, which started in 1794, flourished in the town for a time. The Ship Yards of John Clark (at foot of Sherwin Street), Nathaniel Gilman, Asa Redington, and W. & D. Moor (built steamboats) – larger ships were launched during spring or fall freshets and floated down river to Hallowell of Gardiner.
In 1809 the Waterville Fire Department was established.
In 1814 The largest ship built in Waterville, the Francis and Sarah (290 tons), was launched.
It was in 1818 that the Maine Literacy and Theological Institution was established in Waterville, later changing its name for the town, and finally becoming Colby College when former Waterville resident Gardner Colby aided the school financially through the Civil War years. To prepare local students for the college, Waterville Academy was started in 1828. With Colby College, Waterville’s bonds with religion were strong and diverse. Numerous churches were established throughout the town, the first being of the Baptist Society in 1818.
In 1820 A dam built in West Waterville to operate a grist mill, saw mill, and a carding and clothing mill, later occupied by the Dunn Edge Tool Co. which made scythes and axes into the 20th century. Bed posts and wagon wheels were turned in the basement of the sawmill from 1834.
The Ticonic Bridge opened to the public in 1828; it had previously been a privately owned wooden toll bridge. On May 22, 1832 a great freshet washed away part of the Ticonic Bridge and the Redington saw mill.
In 1849, C. F. Hathaway started making shirts in Waterville, the same year the railroad came to town, and a great fire destroyed the business section of town. With the brisk Commerce of the area, banks were needed—Waterville bank in 1814, Ticonic in 1831, Peoples in 1855, the Merchants in 1876, the Savings Bank in 1869, and the Waterville Loan and Building Association in 1887.
In 1870 Maine Central Railroad (previously the Androscoggin & Kennebec, the Penobscot & Kennebec, the Portland & Kennebec and other roads) selected Waterville as its’ rail center. In 1874 a steel railroad bridge replaced the wooden one across the Kennebec River. New shops were built by the railroad in 1886.
The town of Waterville had industry, commerce, education, and religion as a foundation upon which to grow. There were disastrous floods, severe winters, and wars, borrowing the able male population. But throughout it all, the town gained in strength and number. In 1883 Waterville was large enough to become a City, but didn’t accept that elevated status until 1888.
What follows is a listing of an event a year in the history of the City of Waterville. These happenings are not necessarily the most important or significant of that given year, but were selected and are included simply to help trace the growth of the citizens of Waterville, our triumphs and defeats, good times and bad.
1888 Horse Cars between Waterville and Fairfield started operation.
1889 Waterville Electric Light and Power finished construction
of 27 electric lights. The
1890 Paving started Main Street. Mr. R.B. Hall, a composer and one of the State’s best cornetists, came to Waterville and organized the Watherville Military Band and Hall’s Orchestra.
1891 Levine’s opens
1892 Electric cars of the Waterville and Fairfield Railway and Light Company ran between the two towns and was one of the first such companies in the State.
1893 A stone dam and power station was built on the Messalonskee River, off Western Ave. The Messalonskee Electric Co. was formed by Harvey Eaton & Walter Wyman and eventually became Central Maine Power Co.
1894 “The Kennebec Democrat” moves from Waterville to Augusta.
1895 Colby University celebrated it 75th anniversary
1896 Waterville Free Library organized.
1897 Myrtle Street Schoolhouse built.
1898 Full quota of Waterville men respond to Governor’s call to camp for the Spanish War.
1899 The Waterville and Fairfield Railway and Light Company built a new dam below the Coombs dam, at the foot of Silver Street, for electric generation.
1900 Whittemore Furniture Company organized.
1901 The Iron footbridge (commonly called the “two cent bridge”) was built across the Kennebec and was in operation for a few days. On December 15th the highest river levels seen since 1832 carried it away. Riverview Worsted Company (later Wayandotte) opened its mill.
1902 Andrew Carnegie donated $20,000 for a free public library. New City Hall and Opera House dedicated.
1903 Car line from Waterville to Oakland completed.
1904 Central Maine Fair officially opens in Waterville.
1905 The new library building, a gift of Andrew Carnegie opened on Elm Street.
1906 New South Grammar School burns and is rebuilt.
1907 Three years after Morning Sentinel starts, the Waterville Evening Mail, daily newspaper since 1896, ceases publication.
1908 Keyes starts “pie plate” factory on upper College Avenue.
1909 The new concrete train bridge across the Kennebec was completed.
1910 F. W. Woolworth Company comes to the City
1911 Sister’s Hospital has its start.
1912 Central Fire Station built.
1913 The new post office opened.
1914 New Senior High School badly damaged in fire.
1915 Military drill authorized at Colby.
1916 Local militia companies ordered into action along Mexican border.
1917 Patriotic Waterville citizens buy up Liberty Loans.
1918 Rotary Club organized.
1919 Silver Street’s Memorial Bridge over the Messalonskee completed and dedicated.
1920 Herbert Hoover visits Waterville.
1921 One hour parking initiated on Main Street.
1922 Old High School on Pleasant Street was demolished
to make room for the new Junior High school construction.
1924 Federal Trust Company opened.
1925 Ware-Butler, Inc. opens .
1926 Traffic police officers were required for the first time.
1927 Massive zoning ordinance passed.
1928 Haines Theater shows “talkies.”
1929 Penny Hill land taken for proposed airport
1930 Sacred Heart Church completed.
1931 Airport officially opened.
1932 Dunham’s promotes ”The Great Sale” with Hathaway shirts for 59¢ - $1.39.
1933 Waterville shops of Maine Central Railroad increase number employed.
1934 First National Store opened in the former Pooler’s Clothing Store on Main Street.
1935 Front Street is paved to help eliminate truck traffic from Main Street.
1936 Ticonic Bridge washed down river by flood.
1937 Electric car lines to Oakland and Fairfield were abandoned.
1938 City celebrates 50th Anniversary.
1939 The Unitarian Church on Main Street was demolished.
1940 Edmund S. Muskie moves to Waterville.
1941 Waterville Maine National Guard Company called into service.
1942 City buys Colby Alumnae building on College Avenue,
which eventually becomes Boy’s Club
1944 Waterville High School basketball team wins New England Championship.
1945 Following distinguished service in WWII G Company returns home.
1946 Kiwanis Swimming Pool renovated and re-opened
1947 Parking meters start to appear on city streets.
1948 Waterville’s oldest business, W.B. Arnold Company, expands its hardware store on Main Street
1949 Waterville Sewerage District created.
1950 Messalonskee River cleaned up.
1951 Sears Roebuck and Company comes to Waterville.
1952 Colby College completely moved to Mayflower Hill.
1953 Channel 5, WABI-TV goes on the air with CBS.
1954 Young Waterville attorney, Edmund S. Muskie, elected Governor.
1955 Waterville gives Maine three winners, Muskie sworn in as Governor, Mrs. Couture chosen Mother of the Year, and Janice Vaughan picked as Miss Maine.
1956 WGHM signs on.
1957 Herbert and Danell Joseph open H&D Edsel Sales on College Ave.
1958 Gov. Muskie helps break ground for new industrial park on Upper Main Street.
1959 Last passenger train leaves Waterville station.
1960 “Comfort and Convenience” promised as Elm Plaza opens on Upper Main Street.
1961 Construction of new High School begins.
1962 Waterville Osteopathic Hospital moves to Oakland Road.
1963 Thomas College authorized to grant four-year degree.
1964 One half gallon of Root Beer at Brown’s A&W Drive-in just 30¢.
1965 Four-lane road, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial Drive opened from I-95 to Rt.23 in Oakland.
1966 Ex-Vice President Nixon arrives at LeFleur and holds press conference at the Fenway-Maine.
1967 Hathaway acquired by Warnaco.
1968 Citizens voted in a charter change creating new form of Municipal government with Mayor, Administrator and seven councilmen.
1969 City-owned Pine Ridge Golf Course opens.
1970 Coburn Classical Institute merges with Oak Grove School.
1971 Charles Street project completed.
1972 Thomas College awarded it’s first honorary degree
to Senator Margaret Chase Smith.
1974 Meader Farm becomes JFK Shopping Plaza.
1975 Record crowds watched the Budweiser Clydesdales parade downtown.
1976 The new post office-federal building opened.
1977 Jefferson Hotel closed for over a year, reopens as John Martin’s Manor.
1978 Waterville’s first auto accident following the enactment
of the new right turn on red law.
1980 The old historic post office is auctioned off for $112,000; a restaurant is proposed to take it’s place.
1981 Waterville High School Class of ’81 spearheads series of chem. free parties.
1982 The oldest public building (built 1826) still standing, Waterville’s First Baptist Church, gets a face-lift.
1983 Keyes Fibre, city’s largest taxpayer paid $466,071.90.
1984 Northeast Bank Changes name to name to Norstar Bank of Maine.
1985 As Oakland’s Diamond Match closes Keyes threatens to close Waterville plant and move operations south.
1986 Shaw’s “superstore” allowed on Kennedy Memorial Drive per vote of City Council.
1987 City suffers worst Spring flood since 1936.
1988 City celebrates Centennial.
In 1970 the hospital administrator of Thayer, Miss Fisher (or Fischer) hired a recent graduate all the way from the University of California, Los Angeles. His name was and is Larry Nanney. He spent a number of years planning for the medical needs of the community. During his years of employment he managed to preserve two small hospitals from folding (Seton and Thayer) by merging them into Mid Maine Medical Center. He then planned a major construction project for both hospitals (referred to as Project 2000) to bring modern medicine to rural Maine.
I know this to be true, because I am his daughter and I was there.
P.S. The first Nanney to come to Maine, from a great distance was Robert Nanney and he came from Wales. The Welsh spelling would be Nannau (meaning brooks) which was the name of the estate owned by the Prince of Powys. Waterville, Maine has had a prince of Wales working for them and never knew it.