The Bethel Journals

Bethel Maine History

December 31, 2009








Text Box:

Enoch Foster, Jr.


By the end of 2009 and since 1820, one hundred twelve of Maine’s most accomplished jurists had been appointed to Maine’s highest court, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.  Of the 112 members who had been selected, only two were Oxford County residents:  Enoch Foster, Bethel, who served from 1884 to 1897 and Albert Beliveau, Rumford, who served from 1954 to 1958. 

Enoch Foster’s Life in Bethel

Enoch Foster, Jr., came to Bethel in 1865 to establish a law practice; he was 26 years old and married to a girl he had met in Waterville, Adeline Lowe.  Reasons for his choosing Bethel likely stemmed from his family living in Newry and Bethel plus his having attended Gould Academy.  His preparation to practice law had followed a highly respectable itinerary of schooling and experience. After Gould Academy he attended the Maine State Seminary (later Bates College), pursued a partial course at Bowdoin College. 

He had studied law with Reuben Foster in Waterville, graduated from the Albany, NY, Law School, was admitted to the bar in  New York, Maine and Oxford County. 

Settled in  town as a new lawyer he was elected Town Clerk for 1867, then he was appointed Bethel’s Post Master from January 1868 to March 1869.  He was also one of the town’s Justices of the Peace.  He 1867 he was elected Master of Bethel’s Masonic Lodge.

Along with job and public duties, the Fosters welcomed the birth of a son, John Door Foster, in August 1866. Happiness proved fleeting; personal tragedy struck in 1872: his young wife and  son died.  The following year, Enoch Foster married Sarah Walker Chapman, daughter of Bethel’s most influential, prosperous businessman, Robert Chapman. The Fosters’ house* stood facing the section of Main Street that lies between Clark and Vernon Street.

Bethel Savings Bank

In February, 1872, a group of thirty Bethel professional and business men incorporated to create the Bethel Savings Bank.  Enoch Foster, Jr., was the Secretary and Treasurer of the new bank. Where was the bank building?  All indications point to Enoch Foster’s law office was also the bank’s office. Foster had his office in a cottage sized building that stood  60-75 feet south or uphill from his house.  Bethel’s 1880 map shows four structures on the east side of Main Street between Clark Street and Vernon Street.  Starting at the Main and Clark Street intersection, they were: (1) the home of Charles Mason, (2) next the home of Enoch Foster, Jr., (3) Foster’s Law Office, and (4) the G.W. Haskell Marble Works.  (Jumping ahead to 1891, the  Bethel Savings Bank was still housed in Foster’s law office after it had been moved to Broad Street—the bank moved out in December 1891 to its new office in the Cole Block.)

1874 Centennial Celebration

In 1874, Bethel was in the throes of a huge celebration to commemorate the centennial of the town’s settlement in 1774.  Plans were formed at a meeting in the First Congregational Church held on July 14, 1874.  August 26, 1874, a Wednesday, was the date chosen for the big event. Foster was chosen Toast Master for the ceremonies. 

Between 1875 and 1877, Foster was tutoring Addison E. Herrick who had come to Bethel to study law with him.  In 1877 Herrick was admitted to the Oxford County bar.  Herrick joined Foster as a junior law partner; the partnership lasted until 1884, when Foster was appointed an Associate Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.  In 1891, Herrick was also treasurer of the Bethel Savings Bank.

Gould Academy Trustee

From 1879 to 1885, Foster was Secretary of the Gould’s Academy corporation.  During this period there was a high turn-over of principals.  Consequently,  much of the school’s administration fell to the secretary to take care of including corresponding with parents of prospective students.  Another situation of which there is little information has to do with the months during 1881 and 1882 when a new academy building was under construction.  Dr. N.T. True taught a ten weeks high school class in the fall of 1881. Classes convened in the new building for the fall term of 1882.  Henry W. Johnson was the principal; he remained for three years. 

Foster’s membership on the Gould’s Academy Board of Trustees continued during his two terms on the Maine Supreme Court.  In the 1898-1899 academy catalog, Judge Enoch Foster is listed on the Executive Committee chaired by Addison Herrick.  Other members were Josiah Purington, Charles Mason and Richard Frye.  Judge Foster was also a member of the Examining Committee with Addison Herrick and Albert W. Grover
















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Text Box: Military Service

In William Lapham’s brief profile of Enoch Foster he wrote:” After the breaking out of the war of the rebellion, he enlisted and was mustered into the United States service as a second lieutenant of Company H, Thirteenth Maine Regiment, December 13th, 1861. He was subsequently promoted to first lieutenant, served as provost marshal under General Banks and resigned that position to take part in the Red River campaign (Louisiana).   He was discharged from the service March 11, 1865, his term of enlistment having expired.”
Enoch Foster’s four years of military experience from 1861 to 1865 undoubtedly served him well in learning how to plan, organize, and supervise groups of people in order to accomplish important tasks.  

Duties of a Union Army provost marshal focused on keeping order within major army units—excellent background for studying law and government.

* At the time the Fosters owned this house, it was not a two story structure.  In 1890 the house was raised from its foundation and a new ground floor story was added.

Text Box: County and State Offices

Lapham’s profile also noted that Foster was elected Oxford County Attorney; he served two, three year terms—1868-1870 and 1871-1873. In 1874 he was elected to the Maine Senate for one year and re-elected the following year.