The Bethel Journals

Bethel Maine History

October 31, 2013








Bethel area history  - an online collection of  publications and photos





At Bethel Toys and Trendz

Sunday River Opens

Airport Renovation Update

Bethel Outing Club Ski Sale

Newry Fall Festival

The Conants (a family story)

History of the Bethel Common-Part One



Bethel News October 29 2013

Grand Opening of Bethel Toys and Trendz at Philbrook Place

Kelly Ratoff was busy greeting visitors and kids to the Grand Opening of Bethel Toys and Trendz at Philbrook Place Saturday. Face painting was a big attraction for the younger crowd and Sara Hemeon greeted me as I walked in to see the new toy center with a smile and “Did you come to get your face painted?”

Mrs. Ratoff has been running a similar store in Kennebunk since 1996. She told me two of the main features in her retailing a range of toys for youngsters is keep up a steady inventory turnover to have new items on hand. The other is to help parents who may be looking for a birthday gift for their child who has been invited to a party. She keeps special gift card file with information voluntarily given by parents about what their kids like in general. So when Mom or Dad might ask Mrs. Ratoff if she has a suggestion about what a certain child likes she can look in her file for help.

Take a graphic look at her store’s lineup on Facebook: Bethel Toys and Trendz.

Items I saw ranged from LEGO’s, hoola-hoops, to toy trucks for boys, soft animals and a toy moose for the quite young crowd, games, and stuff to dress up in and much, much more.

Sunday River opens

Saturday afternoon Ashton and I drove up to Sunday River to check on how much skiing was actually going on. There was one trail open at the Barker Mountain upper level and one lift operating. About a dozen plus cars were parked by the Barker Mt Lodge. From the lodge all I could see was two patches of snow just before the lift went out of sight.

Airport renovation progress

Work this week at the airport was a continuation of grading and drainage. No work on the new terminal building has begun yet. When I think back about the airport I remember in the late 1940’s I wonder what flyers like Edwin Brown and Guy Swan would think of what is happening there now.

Newry Fall Festival

By the time we got to the Newry Fall Festival it was nearing closing time but the extensive craft displays were still open. (See photos in the online edition of the news.)  The big news so I learned from Brooks Morton and Retta Powers was discovery of the old Town of Grafton records and some old Newry records in a safe at the town office which had been locked for years.  Mr. Morton said one of the old time names he had seen in the collection after a brief look-through was that of Perley Flint.  Perley Flint was a famous Bethel person in the 1920s and 30s as the founder of Bosebuck Camps “among towering pines and giant yellow birch of another era” north of Wilson’s Mills.

The Conants

Last weekend Ashton left us earlier than usual: the Outing Club he had joined was taking a trip to Salem, Mass., the next day.  My great-grandparent lineup includes Conant’s, Crosby’s, Bennett’s and Olson’s. Before Ashton left us for Lewiston we had given him a pep-talk about Roger Conant who founded Salem and how we were his distant descendants. He was lucky to be given a chance to go to Salem as I had never been. Well, this weekend we got his report. The first place his bus and party stopped was in front of the Salem Witch Museum where Roger Conant’s statue stands ominously. (He was not involved in the witch hysteria era.)

History of the Bethel Common – Part One

At a meeting of the proprietors of Sudbury Canada on April 6, 1774, it was voted to sell to Joseph Twitchell (1718-1792) of Sherburne (Mass.) lots number twenty three and twenty four in the fourth range for fifteen pounds in silver.  Lot 24 was known as the Mill Lot; together these two lots covered nearly all the land on which Bethel village (today) stands as well as the mill privileges south and west of Bethel hill. The same year Joseph Twitchell sent his son, Eleazer, to Sudbury Canada to erect the first mills in the plantation – a saw mill and grist mill.

Five years later, in 1779, urged by his father, Eleazer Twitchell began the move with his family from Dublin, NH, to Sudbury Canada to manage his father’s interests.  They made it to Fryeburg by year’s end. In the spring of 1780 with the help of six hired men who came with the family they arrived in Sudbury Canada over snow through forest on a trail tramped down by the men on snowshoes.

Also in 1779 a house was built on the island in Mill Brook where the miller was to live. This was the first frame building in the settlement. When the Eleazer Twitchell family arrived the next spring they moved into this building.

Two years later, in August 1781, when a small band of Indians raided the settlement Eleazer escaped from a very brief capture and hid till the next day. Had he not escaped, the story of Bethel’s Common would probably have been much different.

In October 1785 Sudbury Canada was struck by “the greatest freshet” which flooded out many of the log homes standing near the Androscoggin River; water also flooded the Twitchell house on Mill Brook’s island to the extent the family had to escape to dry land on a raft. It also damaged the grist mill.

In 1788 Eleazer thoroughly repaired the (grist?) mill and the following year in 1789 his father gave him the deed to the mill property which included the land around the mills (including what is today’s Common.)

In June 1796 Sudbury Canada plantation was incorporated as the Town of Bethel in the state of Massachusetts. The new town was incorporated with two parishes: east and west. The reason was largely due to the unusually long distance between the town’s east-west borders. The dividing line lay on the North-South line between the 16th and 17th ranges. (See range and lot chart in online Bethel News).The line placed what we call Middle Interval within the West Parish.

On September 8, 1796 an organizational meeting was held to setup the structure of the West Parish “by-laws”. The agenda covered acting on matters related to government, schools and religious affairs. The West Parish was the first to so organize.

 At that time of the Parish meeting, the Congregational Society was also formed. Being under Massachusetts law a Congregational church was the official state church. Settlers were taxed for support of the Congregational ministry. At this meeting, it was also determined that the greater number of those present belonged to the Standing Order of Congregationalists.

 From 1799 to 1806 the West Parish Congregational Society held many meetings to decide the issue of where to build a meeting house.  Back to Eleazer Twitchell: He now owned the area we know as the Common. He had cleared a bridal path from Mill Brook where his house stood up the hill to where he planned to build a home (away from future flood dangers). This path was probably about where Mill Hill Road is today. In 1797 he completed their new home near and slightly below the Opera House Condos present location. He also proposed giving the West Parish a parcel of land for a meetinghouse if the settlers cleared the area and built a meetinghouse there. “The proposition was accepted, the land cleared and a building lot staked out, lumber cut and hauled to the site and subscriptions solicited (to raise funds for the new meetinghouse).”

Sources for this item are William Lapham’s History of Bethel and A History of the West Parish Congregational Church 1796-1996 by Sumner L. Burgess and Margaret Joy Tibbetts

Then what happened - Part Two next week.

For photos accompanying these articles see




Kelly Ratoff—Bethel  Toys and Trendz


Map showing the parish boundary line and location of the Mill Lot—lots 23 and 24 in the 4th Range

Above—looking downstream at Mill Brook towards the area where the first grist mill and Eleazer Twitchell’s family first lived in 1779-1797.  Island is gone—brook channel partially filled in.

Below:  looking upstream at Mill Brook—note that some stones of lower dam still in place.

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Bethel, Maine 04217