Social And Fraternal Organizations


Recreation And The Rise Of The Social And Dance Halls

Without television, snowmobiles, boating and other kinds of recreation we now take for granted how our grandparents looked to their own resources for fun.  They enjoyed doing things in groups, meeting at neighbors' houses, at the district school, and later at the halls built for dances, social gatherings and other events.

"Many nights," Blanche Danforth says, "in our community the neighbors would gather at someone's house and have a kitchen breakdown - a lively dance to the music of organ and fiddle - often with the people bringing box lunches."  Another home entertainment was the husking bee, and in the winter there were skating and sliding parties.

The district school was for years a social center for grownups as well as youngsters.  Besides box socials, with boxed feasts and supper partners (supposedly unidentified) auctioned off to the men, masquerade parties were very popular.  At Christmas most of the community attended the school entertainments and trees with an exchange of gifts.  In May younger adults as well as children observed a rite of spring known as hanging May baskets.  Grange meetings and socials were often all-day affairs.

To provide for larger groups for dancing, dramatics and movies halls were erected, sometimes by individuals as business ventures and sometimes by organizations.  These buildings included Union Hall at Purgatory, Stewart's Hall at the Corner, the Tacoma Dance Hall built by the Fish and Game Club on Sand Pond near the Inn, and the Whippoorwill Dance Hall at Purgatory.  Early movie-goers remember that 'Gene Drinkwater played fiddle and Edna Black's mother the piano as accompaniment to the early (silent) motion pictures.

source: Litchfield Yesterdays


Stewart's Hall

Stewart's Hall

Sylvester Stewart came to Litchfield Corner in later 1880's and went into business there as a merchant in the building shown here.  He put up the multi-purpose building and stable apparently, in an effort to attract as much business as possible from shoppers, diners, dancers and lodgers.  The first floor housed a general store; the second an apartment, a good-sized dining room and a number of rooms for rent;  On the third floor of what may have been Litchfield's highest and ugliest building there was a dance hall: Stewart's Hall.

Everyone who contra-danced on that upper floor remembers how the whole building used to sway with the dance figures.  Finally the hall was condemned and around 1942 Alva Campbell bought it and tore it down.  Howard Campbell says "It never would have fallen down; the timbers were joined with steel dogs.  They tried to pull it down with a truck but couldn't, and they had to take it down piece by piece."

source: Litchfield Yesterdays


Union hall was built in 1886 on land donated by Daniel Bartlett with lumber given by Charles Preble.  To finance the project the Hall Association issued shares at ten dollars each, and some persons donated work or materials.  A dramatics group was organized and proceeds of its productions were added to the building fund.

Upon completion the hall became a center of activity of the town.  Church and Sunday School were held there, as were Academy senior banquets.  A roller skating rink with its "Five Cent Circle" was begun.  Pease's Cadet Band was organized and its concerts were well attended; horses and buggies brought listeners from miles around.

When Plimpton's hoe and fork factory closed its doors many Purgatory residents moved away.  Most of the organizations lost members and there was less use for the hall.  Around 1910, however, several women in the village formed a ladies' circle and began putting on suppers to raise funds for the neglected hall.  Dances were held on Saturday nights during the summer, and in the late twenties motion pictures were shown as well as medicine shows for a week at a time.  Fondly remembered around that time was a community Thanksgiving dinner with nearly fifty persons attending.

By 1937 only one original stockholder, Walter Towne, was left.  Later his heirs voted to turn the hall over to the town, which finally sold it to a West Gardiner sportsmen's club to be taken down and moved away.

source: Litchfield Yesterdays


Union Hall At Purgatory

Union Hall At Purgatory

Liberal Institute - Masonic Hall

Masonic Hall - Former Liberal Institute


Litchfield Masonic Hall, 1994

Masonic Hall, 1994


By 1862 attendance at the Liberal Institute had so shrunk that the school was forced to close.  In 1876 the building was sold to Morning Star Lodge of Masons, which maintained it as a lodge until it was totally destroyed by fire on March 18, 1992.  H. Jean Kenny Daley donated the lot on the corner of the Plains and Hallowell Road to the Lodge in memory of her parents who were life-long residents of Litchfield.  Site preparation was started in 1992 and construction of the building began in the spring of 1993.  The cornerstone laying was July 30, 1994.  The building was dedicated on May 20, 1995.

Morning Star #41 Lodge Of Masons

The charter of Morning Star Lodge, dated July 13, 1822, and signed by Simeon Greenlief, G.M., was issued to "All Free and Accepted Masons" of Litchfield.  The first officers of the Lodge were John Neal, Esq., W.M., Capt. John Dennis, S.W., David C, Burr, J.W., John Smith, Secretary, J.W. Watson, Treasurer, and Edward Gove Tyler.  They were installed in the fall of 1822.

Masonry thrived in Litchfield until 1830, when as elsewhere, meetings were suspended for many years.  In 1866, upon the petition of Cyrus Kendrick and many other Masons, a dispensation was granted.  The first meeting after the revival was held on January 23, 1867, over the old store in the southwest corner of Litchfield Corner, and officers were elected.  That year the original charter was restored.  Meetings were held in different locations until 1875, when the Institute lot and buildings were purchased for $225.

Membership in 1867 was 49.  The Lodge celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1972 with a gala affair at Augusta Lodge.  A commemorative plate was made for the occasion.

Mystic Chapter #60, Order Of The Eastern Star

Freemasonry's sister institution, the Eastern Star, came to Litchfield in 1900 with the organization of Mystic Chapter #60.  The ladies met at the Masonic Hall at the Corner, and in the early years when travel was by horse and buggy both morning and afternoon sessions were held twice a month.  At each meeting a hot noon meal was served by the "bean committee" and shared with those Academy students who had relatives in the Chapter.

High spots in the Chapter history have been the 25-year celebrations.  In 1925 Margaret Fish was Worthy Matron and Charles Walter, Worthy Patron.  In 1950 Evelyn Seamon and Fred Seamon were Worthy Matron and Patron.  For most of the past 50 years Rhona Maloon and Julia Fish have filled the office of chapter secretary.

source: Litchfield Yesterdays


Tacoma Inn

Tacoma Inn On The Androscoggin And Kennebec

"At the junction of Sand and Woodbury Ponds the Lewiston, Augusta and Waterville Street Railway acquired several acres of land and erected the Tacoma Inn, where dinners are served and lunches sold.  Band concerts and other attractions are frequently presented.  Boating, fishing, bathing and all kinds of recreations may be indulged in.  This is rapidly becoming a favorite resort for cottagers and pleasure seekers."

source: Litchfield Yesterdays


One of the sights to see at Tacoma Inn was Gorman's handsome white horses, "King" and "Queen", jumping from a high platform into Sand Pond.

source: Litchfield Yesterdays


High Diving Horses At Tacoma Inn, 1915

The High Diving White Horses At Tacoma Inn, 1915


Vacationers At Upper Pleasant Pond, About 1910

Vacationers At Upper Pleasant Pond, About 1910


These swimmers were summer boarders - a species now extinct - at the Charles and Lillian Webber Place, Grandview Farm on the Upper Pond Road.  They spent their vacations, Lydia Webber Rogers recalls, "rocking on the porch, playing croquet, swimming, boating and fishing."  And of course they enjoyed good Maine country cooking and fresh air.  They came to the Webber farm, to the Waldron farm nearby and to other farms and summer boarding houses including William Spaulding's on the Pond Road.  Clarence Smith, former R.F.D. carrier, remembers the attractive dining room at Spaulding's, "with its white tablecloths and bouquets of flowers," and the vegetable garden across the road which supplied the table.  The boarders came by train or steamer to Richmond or Gardiner and were met by wagons from the farms. 

source: Litchfield Yesterdays


The Sportsmen's Club was built in 1976 on its present location replacing the former building located at the Fairgrounds.  The Sportsmen's Club is a non-profit organization that sponsors a boy and girl to Boys and Girls State; gives two scholarships; makes Christmas donations to local churches and supports many other local charities.  Funds are raised chiefly from Bingo games held weekly at the Club House on the Hallowell Road.

source: Litchfield Yesterdays


Litchfield Sportsmen's Club, 1976

Sportsmen's Club, 1976