THE BETHEL JOURNALS—ALBERT GROVER’S SIDEWALK

Keeping a finger on the pulse of the public is something our county newspaper correspondents did very well.

Starting in 1891, Bethel’s news correspondents, Joshua Rich and Abial Chandler occasionally reported on publicly expressed need to build sidewalks within Bethel village.  Rich voiced his opinion twice in May 1893:

 “Something much needed in Bethel is a sidewalk from the Hill to the station. We trust our village fathers will not think it beneath them to undertake the job. We are sure the present generations will bless the man that starts it.” 

A week later he followed up with: “Why can’t we have more manufacturing here and make more business.  We understand that two or three of our traders are to leave us on that account.

 Why not brace up and keep the village growing. We need better lights, sidewalks and streets. Wait until someone gets hurt in the village by stepping in a hole or something of the kind, but no, take the money and improve the streets and sidewalks so we all shall get the benefits and not the one who is unlucky and gets hurt.  In order to get the money we need more manufacturing to get the money into circulation.”

First on the list of public hopes for a sidewalk was the route connecting the rail depot with the Main Street post office. Finally, in 1894, Article 24 of Bethel’s annual town meeting warrant made the issue a public matter: “To see what sums of money the town will vote to grant and raise to build a sidewalk from the depot to the post-office on Bethel Hill.”

Yet the majority of voters that of course included East, West, South and North Bethel villagers in general were not ready to appropriate public money for the convenience of those who “lived on the Hill”.  The town voted to pass over Article 24. No further sidewalk initiatives came up during special town meetings held through the rest of the year.

In 1895, the annual town meeting warrant contained no article concerning sidewalks. At the town meeting, A.W. Grover was voted to moderate the meeting. When the meeting came to Article 8 – to select road commissioners instead of the usual single road commissioner, three were selected to supervise roads and bridges within the West, Middle and East sections of town. A.W. Grover was elected 1st Road Commissioner.

Grover had been selectman in the years 1887 to 1890. In 1890 he was First Selectman. This year as First Road Commissioner he took over responsibility of the Middle section that included Bethel Hill. He had previously put in Church and High St. sidewalks

Despite no formal steps by town voters to approve building a sidewalk that year and there is no record of an attempt to gain approval by special town meeting, a long sought concrete sidewalk from post office to depot was indeed built. Using the vehicle of an unprecedented special report within the town report printed in 1896, Grover explained his reasoning for taking the bull by the horns to build what the local citizens obviously wanted. His report follows. It should be noted that in the town report, Grover’s fellow road commissioners let him take the glory or the blame for doing the job.

The Highways chapter says only: “A separate report will be found of the concrete walk.”

“In justice to all I beg leave to submit the following separate report as one of the road commissioners:-

For several years the business of Bethel village has required improved sidewalks, consequently when entering upon the labor of a road commissioner last March I found myself between two fires at the very first. On one side was the urgent demand of the villagers for the beginning of permanent sidewalks, and on the other was the old time custom of putting the highway labor every where else but into sidewalks. Here my obligations and duties as a servant of the town were seriously considered, and not generally favoring radical changes, it was late in the season before decided steps were taken. The decision was based to some extent, on the following facts and figures, viz:

The property within the limits of the village pays three sevenths of all the taxes in town. It has three well attended churches, a town school with about 175 regular attendants, an academy with seventy or more students, a bank, two law offices, three physicians, more than twenty places of business and trade, a chair manufactory constantly employing forty hands, three saw mills, five blacksmith shops, two carriage and paint shops, a butter factory, etc., etc., with many other places of business importance too numerous to mention, all making up a thrifty country village; and like other villages we find the majority of the horses are owned by horsemen and breeders, livery keepers, professional men, traders and teamsters; leaving the average villager, in main to travel on foot.

Therefore, I decided in this case to try the experiment, and on Sept. 23rd, the work began of putting a concrete walk on the west side of Main Street from the Depot to the Post-Office, a distance of over two thousand feet. By places of business a granite curbing six inches thick and eighteen inches deep is placed. The stone work was contracted to Elmer Stowell of Bethel, and the concrete to Joseph Mead of Glen, N.H. I wish to thank those who assisted me in the movement, and especially those who assisted with their pocket-books that the expenses of the town might be reduced. A full report of expenses is rendered below:

A.M. Carter – civil engineer:  $10.00; Elmer Stowell, 382.5 feet of granite curbing set: $153.00; 445 feet of granite flagging: $111.25; Joseph Mead, 912 square yards of concrete: $456.00; and 306 square yards of concrete crossing: $214.20.  Total cost: $944.45. (Less than 50 cents per foot of sidewalk.)

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Contributions from 26 property owners and donors amounted to $ 263.51 or 28% of the total cost.

Town funds amounted to $ 680.94.

 

Sources: County newspapers and 1895 Bethel town report, Bethel Historical Society collections.  Also William Lapham’s History of Bethel Maine.

 

 

 

 

 

PO Box 763

Bethel, Maine 04217

 

__________________

 

Albert Wellington Grover

(1841-1908)

 

In 1887Albert Wellington (A.W.) Grover, 46,  represented West Bethel as a selectman – continued as selectman for three more years. He was mustered into Company B, Twenty-third Maine Regiment in 1862; also a Gould Academy trustee;  member and officer holder, Bethel Masonic Lodge; 1874 Bethel Centennial celebration, represented School District No. 25 on the committee. George W. Grover, his father, had cleared the original Grover farm, and increased it from 25 to 200 acres—much later connected to West Bethel village by the “Flat Rd”.

In 1864 he married Olive Willis of Hanover. They raised three children.

Operation Sidewalk—1895

What it took to get the job done

Middle section of Main Street’s concrete sidewalk-from Wiley’s post office to the Grand Trunk rail station. 912 square yards of concrete. This was Albert W. Grover’s 1895 go-it-alone project after he saw that the town voters and the selectmen would not take on the job.

Condition of Main Street in the 1890’s.  New concrete sidewalk is in place at time of photo. Team and carriage in the photo belonged to Charles Davis who operated a contract mail delivery route from Bethel to Errol, New Hampshire.

A.W.  was a very active farmer. In partnership with E.B. Shaw*, Grover shipped potatoes and apples to the Boston by the carload; sold cedar posts for “rustic work” and colts to Massachusetts buyers.

In 1893 the Grover farm was auctioned off including all of its stock. The buyer failed to come up with his payment and the following year it was rented to an Alonzo Tyler.

In 1894 the Grovers bought the property of Mrs. (and the late Dr.) Davis on Chapman Street.

In  1895 A.W. Grover was elected one of three road commissioners. He was also an engineer in the Bethel Village Corp. organization.

Later, Grover became a justice of the peace and a trustee, director of the Riverside Cemetery Assoc.

He died in 1908 and Olive Grover died in 1915. They are buried at Riverside Cemetery.

* E.B. Shaw was a selectman in 1895

 

 

 

More Reading

 

1895 Bethel Journal