BETHEL NEWS October 22, 2013

Ski Depot at Sunday River


Saturday Ashton and I visited the people at the new ski shop that have taken over from Jack Frost. The new owner is Ken Jacques who also owns the original Ski-Depot store in Jay.  It is a very friendly group – on Saturday we met Elissa Thompson from Albany who was in charge of the front desk and then met Mr. Jacques. Along with him Hakan Adams and Jeff Dewherst were shooting the breeze in front of their lighted fireplace.  Jeff Dewherst who is called “Dew” gave us a tour of the lower floor layout where they have the Race Room and Repair/Tuning shop.


The Ken Jacques story of how he and his brother Ron got started in 1996 is on their Ski-Depot website. It seems they started at first in race ski sales and later after success in that line expanded into recreational skis and equipment. They made their first online sale in 1998. Now to their entire line of skis and equipment, can be ordered online from their www.Ski-Depot .com website.


Ken also brought up the name of John Howe. He and Ron had the privilege of working with John Howe building skis. John was a key part of Head and Atomic teams from the 60’s through the 80’s and is still called upon frequently by ski companies throughout the industry for his expertise. For several years, the brothers worked with John Howe to build “The Claw”, which they say is the precursor to all of the vibration damping systems found in skis today. (From the Ski-depot website)


Ken lives in Livermore Falls and due to his history interest and participation with his home historical society we talked some about when the store’s site was home for three generations of the Williamson family. Ken was familiar with the Williamson Land Trust which protects the neighboring land from development. He had already explored the remains of the Williamson barn’s stone foundation which abuts the Ski-Depot parking lot.  Afterward Ashton and I walked over to the old barn site so that I could get a photo of the cellar hole.


SOLD – This Old House


Friday the former Twitchell homestead property (you may know it as the former Douglass place or the White place Prodigal Inn) had a Sold sign posted on its front lawn.  Rebecca Hastings at Mahoosuc Realty told me to see Paul Legault as he was one of the buyers.  Mr. Legault (Gourmet in a Pinch) told me that he had bought the barn and Arthur and Susan Murphy from Milton, Mass., bought the house.  The Legault’s and the Murphy’s plan to work together to attract wedding business to their new properties.  Paul will begin by changing the barn’s interior back to its original appearance being that of a historic 19th century barn - a post and beam structure.  The other half of this plan is that the Murphy’s will join in, for their part, by providing special accommodations for the bridal party.


This “old house” has lots of history behind it.  The Twitchell’s of Sherborn, Mass., pretty much dominated the early settlement of this “north of the river section of Bethel”.  Last Twitchell residents were daughters of Samuel and Malvina Twitchell –  Susie and Florence who lived there until the middle 1940’s. 


After Mr. Twitchell’s death in 1905, his daughters continued to take boarders into at least the early 1940’s.  In the 1980’s a neighbor of the Twitchell’s told the story of a long time Twitchell summer boarder by the name of Olive Standish. After the Twitchell’s stopped taking boarders, Miss Standish continued to come every summer and stayed at Ladd’s Wayside Inn, across the road from the Twitchell’s.  Miss Standish claimed to be a descendant of Capt. Miles Standish. She came every year arriving in May and staying until October until she was 99.

This strand of the Twitchell chronology began with the arrival in 1783 of Ezra Twitchell (1746-1821) and his wife Susanna from Sherborn; they settled where the large white house belonging to Norm and Sylvania Clanton stands today. Their son Thaddeus married Sukey Barker in 1813 and they built the first part of today’s “this old house”. They had five children, four girls and one boy, Samuel Barker Twitchell. Their daughter, Mary E., married Rev. David Garland; Garland was the only pastor of Mayville’s 2nd Congregational Church.  The Garland’s lived in the house next door to her parents, now owned by Ross and Carol Timberlake.


Thaddeus died in 1860 and apparently at that time, Samuel and Malvina Twitchell moved into this “old house”.  Prior to that Samuel Twitchell’s lived in what appears to be the place now occupied by the Good Food Store.


Samuel Twitchell’s  public career included President of Bethel Savings Bank, President of Bethel Creamery Co., Treasurer of the Board of Gould’s Academy trustees; in 1868 a member of building committee for Androscoggin River bridge, in 1886 he was a member of a special committee to carry out measures (selecting and purchasing land, etc.) for building Bethel’s chair factory, as well as becoming a member of its building committee; he served  two terms in Maine Legislature 1879 and 1880 and was elected to town offices numerous times.


In 1881, he expanded the original house in order to accommodate summer boarders. In his book on Oxford County Architecture, Randall Bennett described this change as follows: he moved the original house back from the road and turned it ninety degrees so that it faced south. Then he built the larger Victorian style addition on the site of the original house. At about the same time, he built a “new barn of a cross gabled design”.


In July 1888 the barn was discovered on fire and was destroyed. Mr. Twitchell had the barn rebuilt during the late part of 1888 and after haying season in 1889. Well known Bethel builder, Edmund Merrill, was in charge of the timber work. Merrill may also have been the builder of the 1881 addition to the house.


 July 1890 news from Bethel reported “Our boarding houses are fast filling – S.B. Twitchell has his house full – click of the mowing machine is heard – barns fast being filled with hay”.


 As you can see this old house was once home to one of Bethel’s foremost pillars of the community.


October 14th selectmen’s meeting


This meeting was the first one called after the Board voted to add a Citizens’ Forum to the meeting agenda. Bob Laux was the first citizen to speak.  He talked about the impact the proposed sewer billing changes would impact on his business property.


The issue for the town is how to pay for the cost of operating its sewerage treatment plant based on a fixed number of customers and the present rate schedule.   In the town code, the definition of a dwelling unit which apparently was added in June 2012 says: DWELLING UNIT - Any part of a structure which, through sale or lease, is intended for human habitation, including single-family and multifamily housing, condominiums, apartments and time-share units.  For the full town code anyone can read it - see the Town of Bethel website at


At the Monday meeting comments were of two basic groupings:  Is charging for units whether occupied or not fair and affordable? Is charging by volume of water used during a billing period a better approach?  Commenter’s seemed to opt for the latter method.


About the 2014 Winterfest:  Robin Zinchuk attended the meeting to find where the town stood on supporting Winterfest coming up. There are two activities looking for a place to be held without paying an exorbitant insurance cost. One is sliding and the other is skating.  At this point the use of Bethel Airport property seems out.


The question I have is can Angevine Park be used for skating?  We used to skate at the Bethel Inn beach house when Songo Pond was frozen.  The other question might be:  does the Bingham land have a reasonable potential for sliding? Certainly the now unused roads to the site of the water reservoir are steep enough for good sliding after some clearing and widening.




Grand Opening of

Bethel Sport Thoma and

Fall Festival at Sunday River

2:16 min.

Click the image


Ken Jacques

Foundation of old Williamson barn and Ski-Depot store just beyond

Left:  the former Williamson homestead and barn—arrow points to corner resting on foundation above

This Old House

Above: Main living room as it was appointed about two years ago.

Samuel Barker Twitchell—photo, Bethel News 1904


Po Box 763

Bethel, Maine 04217

Cover photo: taken from Locke Summit development