News of Events and People in Bethel, Maine and Surrounding Towns for 1896

January to June 1896

1896 Journal

The Bethel News, Wednesday, February 26, 1896

Destructive Fire!

The elegant residence of the late Dr. True was burned to the ground Wednesday. About nine o’clock in the morning fire was discovered in the basement near the furnace and an alarm was immediately sounded.  Five minutes after the alarm was given the Volunteer Hose Co. was on the way to the fire and Hose Company No. 1 soon followed.

The volunteers soon had a stream of water going and a heroic effort was made to save the beautiful residence but without success.   Before it was discovered the fire had made great headway. The house soon filled with smoke and the first story took fire so quickly  it made the fireman’s work extremely dangerous.

Dr. and Mrs. Gehring were in Portland and did not arrive in Bethel until evening.

The True residence was built in 1856 by the late Dr. N.T. True, and has been the home of his family ever since. “It was a historic house, the Dr. having for some years kept a  boarding school there. Since first built by the Dr. it has had several modern and costly additions and was at the time of the fire one of the best appointed, most home like residences in the county.”

“Dr. True had during his life collected a great many valuable geological specimens, rare books and curios, and Dr. and Mrs. Gehring had during their European travels collected many elegant and costly paintings and keepsakes, and the house was filled throughout with carved furniture, books, paintings, busts, vases, and all that goes to make a home attractive and beautiful.”

A great effort was made to save the contents of the parlors and furniture in two rooms in the second story. This was successful but all else was destroyed.  Silverware, jewelry, etc was not saved.

In fighting the fire, Hose Co. No. 1 had their hose fill with anchor ice.  Major True had his beard quite badly scorched.

Irving Kimball was on had with his camera and took several views of the burning building.  Some of the ladies thoughtfully furnished a lunch for the fireman.

March 4, 1896

Worst  Blockade in Years

After nearly three days of steady rain the Androscoggin had risen to a high flood stage.  The meadows above the toll bridge (covered bridge crossing the river into Mayville) are one vast sea of water while the ice is piled over the banks and on the islands.

On the Grand Trunk, no trains have moved since Saturday (February 29).


The January 7, 1896, Oxford Democrat printed the following article describing new county buildings on Western Avenue in South Paris:

Oxford County’s new buildings at South Paris are now the official places of business of the county officers except regards the jail, which is not yet ready for occupancy. The buildings are of face brick with trimmings of granite and terra cotta. The roofs are all of slate and there is a basement under all buildings.

The buildings were constructed by Joseph Philbrook or Lisbon – an old contractor who has built some of the best buildings in the state. The steam heating plant and plumbing was handled by W. E. Austin of Norway.

On the first floor are the county offices and the grand jury room.  On the right as you enter is the probate office and a connecting room for a records vault. Behind the probate office vault is the registry of deeds with a connecting vault and in the rear corner is the county treasurer’s office. All rooms have 11 foot ceilings.

On the south side of the corridor in front is the county commissioners’ office and behind it with connecting double roll doors is the office of the clerk of courts with its connecting vault; behind this is the grand jury room with a small waiting room for witnesses.

A stairway at each end of the main hallway/corridor goes up to the second floor which is occupied by the Supreme Court room. This

room is 48 by 52 feet and is 19 feet high. In the center a large dome rises above the ceiling.  The judge’s desk is at the west end of the room and the public enters from the other end.  On the east end a jury room connected to the court room and a gallery for spectators.  On the west end is the judge’s chamber and a library.

A corridor connects the court house with the jail and jailer’s residence.  The residence is 34 by 40 with four large rooms on each floor.  The jail is 34 by 48 and will be supplied with eight cells giving a capacity of thirty-two prisoners and this can be doubled by adding another story to the building.

The jailer can lock and unlock cells without going in where the prisoners are or giving them a chance to “get at” him.

The buildings are heated by steam supplied from a boiler in the basement of the court house and all the rooms have radiators.  Lighting is by electricity and there are about ninety incandescent lamps installed.  There are several toilet rooms and water is supplied by the Norway water works.



Bethel news from the January editions of the Democrat:

Arden Tilton the manager of the Bethel Creamery will leave the first of February. A Mr. Greene of Rockland will be he new manager.

Bethel’s traders have agreed to close their stores at 8 PM every evening except Saturday to give the merchants and their clerks more time off.

John Philbrook and family have moved into their elegant new house on Main Street. The Bethel Chair Company has vacated the rink and moved into Odd Fellows Block.  The Rialto was opened for roller skating Friday evening. It will also be used for bicycle riding and good music will be furnished.

Dr. and Mrs. Gehring and their son George (Farnsworth) are staying at the Stewart in Portland.


The Odd Fellows propose to build an extension to their block to accommodate the chair factory business. At present the upholstering is done in the shop formerly occupied by Goddard Bros.

The ell of Mr. James Bartlett’s house in Mayville was discovered to be on fire. The family was all away.  Unfortunately the house was too far from any hydrant for the fire department to be of any service, and the house and barn burned. The contents of the house were saved and nearly all of the contents from the barn.

A week after the True-Gehring house fire, The Bethel News ran a front page article about the subscription campaign started to buy a new fire bell.  At noon on the day of the first announcement, $58 had been raised by donations from eleven citizens, $5.00 being the common amount given by donors.

About fifty couples attended a grand concert and ball given by the village fireman to raise funds for a new fire bell.

The Bethel Reading Room (in Odeon Hall) has been closed for an indefinite period.  And Judge Woodbury has sold twenty tons of pressed hay to Mr. Staples of Gilead.

On Wednesday, February 19, relatives and friends of Mr. and Mrs. John Philbrook gathered in the Philbrook’s elegant new home to witness the marriage of the Philbrook’s daughter Edith Philbrook and Dr. Frank Brown of South Portland, formerly of Bethel.  Rev. Israel Jordan, pastor of the Congregational Church performed the ceremony.

Farmers are signing to plant corn for the corn factory this spring.  In fund raising, $69 was collected by different societies for the relief of the Armenians.  Gould Academy students put on an evening of entertainment of drama and music at Odeon Hall: Names of some of the performers included Joan Stearns, Fred Merrill, Robert Foster, Will Bryant, Percy Bartlett, Cornelia French, Bertha Wiley, Alice Carter, Miss Alice Purington, Florence Carter, Edwin Gehring, Miss Eva Twaddle, and Ethel Richardson.

Fire destroyed the 1856 True-Gehring house on Broad Street

Early March flooding stops rail and mail for four days

Bethel celebrated its centennial

Gould Academy marks its 60th year with The Academy Herald

The Bethel Journals

January 23, 2010


MORE OF 1896PART 2, 1896 JOURNAL—July through December  SOUTH BETHEL—Special Article



The Bethel Journals

Donald G Bennett

PO Box 763

Bethel, Maine 04217

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South Bethel 1896

1896 Part II

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