Showing posts with label WWI. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WWI. Show all posts

Friday, December 5, 2014

Holocaust and Human Rights Center U. Maine

A Share From Leigh Cummings Historian and David Greenham from the Holocaust and Human Rights Center located at UMA New Exhibit looks at the little-known story of Maine P.O.W. camps
AUGUSTA - The Holocaust and Human Rights Center (HHRC) of Maine has created an exhibit focusing on the history and artifacts from Maine’s P.O.W. camps between 1944 and 1946. The exhibit, Maine Boys Overseas, German Boys in Maine, brings together artifacts, historical documents, and a film from a variety of Maine sources.
In early February, 1944, Maine Second District Congresswoman Margaret Chase Smith revealed that the War Department had made plans to send German prisoners of war to Maine to work on lumber projects. A month later, Senator Ralph Owen Brewster announced that 2,500 German POWs had been assigned to Maine and would be housed at a camp near the Houlton airfield, and possibly other locations. With that, a little-known chapter in Maine history began. 

The HHRC exhibit, Maine Boys Overseas, German Boys in Maine, brings together artifacts from the POW Camps at Houlton, Spencer Lake, Seboomooc, and Princeton/Indian Township, along with ten remarkable WWII posters from the Maine State Museum and documents from the National Archives for this one-of-a-kind exhibit.
The exhibit was created with the help of the Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum; the Jackman Historical Society; Brenda Jepson; researchers and writers Bill Randall, Jocelyn Gray, and the late Milton Bailey; the Maine State Museum; Simons’ Photographic; the Folger Library at UMO; the Maine State Library; the Grand Lake Stream Historical Society; the Maine Folklife Center; Yankee Magazine; Northeast Historic Films; Paul Marcotte and Sons; and the facilities staff at UMA. 
Maine Boys Overseas, German Boys in Maine is open daily Monday through Friday from 10 am – 4 pm, and by appointment through November 30th. Admission is free, although donations are gratefully accepted. The exhibit is suitable for all ages. For more information, call 621-3530 or visit

David visited the Houlton Historical Society and Art Museum after the meeting. He was very impressed with the community and the items on display related to the POW camp. They are planning on an exhibit open in early September and run through November at the University of Maine at Augusta. David also met with Kay Bell a local resident with first hand experience of the POW prisoners, as they worked on her family farm picking potatoes. At this time Kay’s brother_____ was killed in Germany. David would like to use many of the Museums and Kay’s items for the exhibit. 

Many Rotarians shared their stories with David and he was very interested in learning more about the effect of the POW camp had on our local community. Some of the comments made were
“I remember asking my mom why do they look just like us?”
“I recall picking potatoes with the prisoners and they were required to pick only 20 barrels a day and they would sometime finish in the morning. My family would bring cookies for everyone picking and they loved that and then they would help with the loading of the barrels even though they did not have to.”
The meeting was very interesting and informative, thank you to all that shared stories.
Photo German POW potato pickers from the Houlton camp are pictured in 1946with Nancy Robinson McLeod at her farm in Dyer Brook.
Photo courtesy of Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum
 Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine

Saturday, June 15, 2013

TOPSFIELD: THROUGH THE AGES - John Silsbee Lawrence was friend of Roosevelt

This submission was written and photographed by Elizabeth Coughlin.

Village Reporter Newspaper     
December 3, 2008
Many residents of Topsfield know John Silsbee Lawrence’s house (located at 76 Campmeeting Road) but they don’t know who he was.  In fact, recently the Village Reporter had reported in an October 22 article that he was in the leather business, when actually it was cotton and textile.  Although his vast wealth made him an intriguing man, it was his “famous friends” that made him even more interesting.

John was born in Nahant in 1878 and first appeared in Topsfield in 1905 when he began buying land from several people- Wellington Donaldson, Adeline J. Perkins, Arthur F. Perkins, Mary T. Robinson, David S. Clarke and Margaret Y. Averill.  After his marriage to Emma Atherton in 1907, he began building his Topsfield summer house known as “Gravelly Brook Farm” in 1908.

He was born into a very wealthy and privileged family.  In fact his great grandfather, Amos Lawrence was at one time one of the wealthiest men in America and a great philanthropist.  The family business, in which John was a partner, called Lawrence and Co., was in cotton and textile.
In 1894, while attending Groton Academy (later changed to Lawrence Academy- after John’s Grandfather) he met a very important and life long friend, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (F.D.R.).  Letters that they wrote to each other over the years are available at the F.D.R. Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park New York.  They reveal a dear old friendship, their sense of humor, a shared passion for boating and of course politics.

During WWI, John was an aide of Herbert Hoover in food and relief work.  Here is part of a letter written May 1, 1923, from John S. Lawrence to Franklin Delano Roosevelt- “I heard of you in Washington.  Hoover said he had had a nice talk with you, admired your courage and method of thought, although he said he didn’t always thoroughly agree with you.”

On March 4, 1933 John sent a telegram to F.D.R. that read, “With the Character of a Lincoln and the timing of a Coolidge your shot has gone around the world lead on New England is behind you,” John S. Lawrence.

What is so remarkable about this telegram is the date it was sent, Saturday, March 4, 1933.  This was the day of F.D.R.’s inaugural speech that contained his famous quote, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Besides politics they had a shared passion for boats.  That is probably why in 1923 they purchased a houseboat together called the Larooco, for Lawrence-Roosevelt Company.  F.D.R. used it mostly during the winter months to help with his poliomyelitis (polio).  It was destroyed by a hurricane in September, 1926 , although from the letters that were left it was evident that they both were ready to sell.

The letters that pertained to the Larooco, were made into a book written by Donald S. Carmichael: An introduction to the log of the Larooco: being chiefly the correspondence of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John S. Lawrence.  This rare book, of mostly correspondence letters between the two friends, can only be viewed at a few libraries such as the F.D.R. Presidential Library and Harvard.  Both F.D.R. and John were graduates from Harvard, John in 1901 and F.D.R. in 1904.

John had a few other famous friends.  In 1924 he entertained the Prince of Wales at his Topsfield home.  Author, Joseph Garland, wrote about this visit in his book The North Shore.

In 1937, his wife Emma Atherton passed away and in 1940 he married Helene Kellogg.

Then, in 1942, John Lawrence sold “Gravelly Brook Farm” to the Pym family and moved to Manchester, Massachusetts.

   The Lawrence Home Today
Since 1979, the Lawrence home has been owned by Jonathan and Norma Peabody.  This past September, they celebrated the 100th anniversary of their home with a party.  Over 70 guests came to the event, including Jonathan’s 100 year old father Lester Peabody.  They enjoyed a written history of the home as well as a visual one.  They displayed interior and exterior photos of how the home looked when Lawrence owned it (photos that are in the custody of Historic New England).  The Peabody’s explained that part of their home, the north and south wings, are now gone.  The south wing had a ballroom, master bedroom suite and sun room.  Norma said, “John’s granddaughter told us that John took down the ballroom.” 

The Peabody’s maintain that the ballroom was actually part of the original plan.  Another part of the house that is missing is an entire north wing that had 7 bedrooms and 7 baths.  This part of the home was destroyed by a fire, after the Lawrence’s sold it to the Pyms.

Over 30 years the Peabody's home has been meticulously maintained both inside and out, something John Silsbee Lawrence would be proud of. Although Topsfield only knew him for 34 years, his mark in history will be felt for many years to come.

John Silsbee Lawrence's home as it stands today on Campmeeting Road. It is currently owned by Jonathan and Norma Peabody. (pg 7) photo by Elizabeth Coughlin

A special thank you to the Topsfield Town Librarians.
  They were instrumental in finding a photocopy of An introduction to the log of the Larooco: being chiefly the correspondence of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John S. Lawrence written by Donald S. Carmichael, that is now available to read in the reference section.