Journal Articles

Bethel Journal Digests








The Bethel Journals were compiled by Donald G. Bennett


Posted: February 24, 2007




Bethel Beef Cattle, John Philbrook and the Brighton Market


An active livestock market usually does not leap to the foreground as an important element in fireside chats about Bethel history.  But, of course, for a time it was very important.  The protagonists for this story were well known names at the end of the 19th Century – names it has turned out that are well memorialized by their beautiful homes still standing on Bethel’s Main Street.


In 1890, the livestock trading business of the Philbrook brothers, Samuel D. and John M., changed. At the end of the 1880’s, they had primarily imported horses and oxen for sale to Bethel area buyers from sources outside Bethel and from Canada. They sold their stock by auction from Samuel Philbrook’s barn on lower Main Street. During 1890, John Philbrook, now 50 years old, changed or actually added to his trading business by exporting locally raised cattle to the Brighton Market in Boston.  His business activity increased to the point that within the next two years shipments were leaving the area virtually every week.


The Brighton Market (Brighton/Allston, Massachusetts, and formerly known as Little Cambridge) was New England’s largest agricultural marketplace. It had begun in 1775 as the central market for receiving and slaughtering cattle, pigs and sheep to feed Washington’s troops quartered across the Charles River in Harvard Square. Crops were raised there for the Boston populace.  By 1866, it had become a huge livestock complex with up to 50 slaughter houses and acres of stock yards all served by the Boston & Worcester Railroad. The Cattle Fair Hotel was the Boston suburb’s largest and grandest with 100 rooms when it was built to lodge the numerous visiting traders – quite likely John Philbrook was one of them.


By 1890, times had changed – Brighton was incorporated into the City of Boston in 1873, refrigerated rail cars had eliminated the need for live cattle to be shipped to the Brighton slaughter houses from far away. In 1889, the first electric street car to run in Boston left the Allston car barn for its trial run into the city center. Change from a bustling farmer’s marketplace to a residential town pushed the cattle market into North Brighton along the banks of the Charles River.  The Board of Health achieved greater influence on land use, demanding better sanitation. But North Brighton was still a very large livestock processing area.  The Boston & Albany Railroad, which had widely expanded its facilities to handle incoming livestock, connected the stockyard to points west and north – it was the connecting line for cattle arriving by railroad from Bethel via Portland. An 1895 map of Brighton Allston Local Sites (1) shows the large buildings of the New England Dressed Meat and Wool Company and the Butchers Slaughtering and Melting Association and the Brighton Stockyards. These buildings were located between railroad sidings and the Charles River. (See more about the Brighton Market below.)


Back in Bethel, town correspondents were full of news from Newry, Mason, Gilead, Albany, West Bethel and Bethel Hill about John Philbrook’s cattle buying activities.  In November 1892, the Grand Trunk Railroad built a special stockyard at the West Bethel depot just to handle loading of cattle Philbrook was shipping to Brighton.  Horses, oxen, sheep and pigs were also traded at the Brighton Market.  Also in 1892, back at Newry Corner, J.A. Thurston was showing off his newly acquired team of “Boston” horses that he quite likely had bought at a Brighton Market horse auction.

In 2006, the area occupied by slaughter houses and meatpacking plants that had been the 1890’s receiving end of Philbrook’s cattle shipments from
Bethel has been redeveloped but is still a commercial area.  The territory’s southern boundary is the Mass Pike, Interstate 90, and CSX Railroad tracks. Just to the east is the large Intermodal transfer yard of CSX Railways (Beacon Yard) and Harvard University’s athletic fields. (Harvard began moving into the area around 1895


(1) This map is viewable from a website about Antique Map(s) Brighton Allston Massachusetts -1899-

Published by L.J. Richards, 36 Columbus Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts


More about Brighton’s Early Days:


Francis S. Drake wrote Chapter XVIII about Brighton history as an included section of the Memorial History of Boston, 1630 – 1880.  Glimpses of his work show that Brighton served as the “Chicago stockyards” of the early 19th Century.


“On the occasion of Henry Clay’s visit to the town in October 1833, a bountiful collation was spread in the large dining-hall of the recently erected Cattle Fair Hotel. Mr. Clay is said to have recognized in the yards some of his fine steers, which, as it was before the day of railroads, had made the tedious journey from Ashland, Kentucky, on foot.


Cattle were formerly driven from great distances to the Brighton market, and the sales even then very large, as many as 5,000 beef cattle being sold and slaughtered in a single week.  In 1840, the sales amounted to $2,449,231. Before the days of railroads and the development of Chicago as a rival, most of the Brighton beef was put into barrels and salted. (The beef was under military guard during the occupation of Boston by the British in 1775.)


The running of the Boston and Albany Railroad through the centre of this district was the beginning of an era of more speedy and comfortable conveyance, and it at once largely increased the quantity of livestock brought to market.  As much as $2,000,000 per annum has been received by this (rail) road for the transportation of cattle, and it has recently expended large sums in increasing its facilities for this important business.  For the year 1880, Brighton’s receipts of live stock were, - cattle 229,894; sheep and lambs, 470,449; calves, 25,951; hogs, 751,198.  The number of cattle slaughtered was 84,487; sheep, 307,126; calves, 13,434.”





1864 -  Bethel Steam Mill Company 

The Oxford Democrat, November 11, 1864: 


Map of steam mill location


“In taking a look about Bethel last week, we called at the splendid steam-mill, erected last winter, by the Bethel Steam Mill Company, which has been in successful, operation during the past summer.  The building is of sufficient capacity to accommodate one gang, an upright saw, and a circular saw for cutting long lumber, with edgers, saws for sawing off stubshots, and for cutting the edgings into proper length for market for fuel. In fitting up the mill many modern appliances have been added, which tell in the amount of labor performed daily. One little affair, by which the men tending the edger, are carried forward by the machinery instead of going on foot, saves them about fifteen miles travel in the course of each day. There are also, shingle, chapboard, lath and box machines, cutting up lumber with astonishing rapidity.


The works are driven by two steam engines, with six large boilers, all heated by fire fed with sawdust, and waste wood.  Branch tracks have been constructed so that cars are being constantly loaded in front of the mills with sawed lumber, and back, with edgings, etc. for fuel, directly from the building, saving a great amount of labor.


The Company have also added this season six neat dwellings to the little village about the mill, where dwell the large number of workmen employed. They have also a large store in process of building, nearly opposite the mill. The establishment presents a scene of industry and activity that will well repay a visit. Large piles of logs have been taken out of water for winter use, enough, it is hoped to last until the river opens in the spring.”





1864:  Lincoln vs McClellan – How Bethel Voted.


The Oxford Democrat, November 25, 1864.

Lincoln—268   McClellan—208



Second Congregational Church


August 10, 1866: The Second Congregational Church in (Mayville) Bethel has completely renovated their church this season.


The Oxford Conference of Churches met at Garland’s (Second Congregational) church in the first week of June 1867.


August 16, 1867: Reverend Eddy of New York preached at both Congregational churches in Bethel




February 14, 1868: The Oxford Democrat.  Bethel Items  The mills in this vicinity have been running on half time for some weeks past on account of lack of water.  All the stream and wells in this section have not been so low for many years.



The Covered Bridge at Barker’s Ferry (1869-1927)


Lack of a reliable bridge across the Androscoggin River had been a major impediment to economic and social development of Bethel. The river had a well known history of unpredicable, powerful freshets.  The river was too wide to be bridged with a standard covered bridge. Bridges supported by a number of bents, having sloping sides of framework or piling, for supporting the deck or stringers of a bridge had been built but were unable to withstand river floods.  An earlier bridge of this latter type had been built and washed away in 1839.  When the 1869 bridge was first laid out, Bethel planners knew from experience that only very substantial granite and concrete piers would reliably support the bridge’s span of about 400 feet.


The stone work for the bridge at Barker’s Ferry has been let out to Piper and Larry; they are to build a pier in the river of split stones, cemented, eighty feet long by twelve feet wide on the base and twenty feet by ten on the top. The building committee of Pinckney Burnham, Eber Clough and Samuel D. Twitchell are thorough going, irrepressible men as full of pluck, perseverance and courage as yankees generally are, and the people have confidence in them; they will build a bridge that will stand.”


Text Box:













Click photo to enlarge



(More to follow…)





September 16, 1870:  Bethel’s 1870 population came to 2,288; in 1860 it was 2,523, a loss of 235.



The Mason Farm


 July 21, 1893, The Oxford  County Advertiser.


“The sale of the Mason farm, Bethel, on which is the Riverside Trotting Park has been made. Three years ago a company was organized in this village and leased of Mr. Mason the right to build a track on his land. The conditions were that the company should build the track and give him 25 percent of all the gate money and all he could make outside, and at the end of ten years the track should revert to him or the owner of the farm.

          Saturday Mr. Mason sold his entire farm and track to Charles Ryerson of Upton for $10,000. Mr. Ryerson is a large lumber operator and has bought this for his future home. He will continue his lumbering during the winter season. He intends to convert the large two-story house into a hotel.

In the year 1791 Moses Mason, grandfather to the recent owner, came from Dublin, Mass., on horseback bringing with him 1000 silver dollars which he gave for his farm. The farm contains about 200 acres including timberland, and all in one lot. His son Aaron was three years old when his father bought the place , and always lived here. The recent owner will be 68 years old next April, and is unmarried. As soon as the writings can be done he intends going to the World’s Fair; from there to Washington to visit his nephew, and if he doesn’t find a place that he likes better than here, he intends to return and settle down in the same neighborhood. This place just sold has been owned by the Masons for 102 years and there never was a mortgage on it.

Twenty-two years ago Mason’s widowed sister came to make her home with him. She had three boys and one girl. Everyone of the boys are graduates of the Maine State College at Orono. The oldest one is a railroad and city engineer in Washington. The second one is an asayer in a Pennsylvania iron mine. The third is in Massachusetts. The daughter recently graduated from school in Bridgewater, Mass., and is visiting at the homestead. “



Samuel B. Twitchell and His Barn 1888 - 1889


In the summer of 2005, the Bethel Historical Society was one of three organizations in Maine to co-host a Smithsonian exhibit on old barns called “Barn Again”.  As part of the barn celebration, the society hosted an old fashioned barn dance in the Mayville barn that Mr. Twitchell had built in 1889.  The barn was owned in 2005 by Tom and Marcey White. Tom houses his art and sculpture studio in the barn.   It was built by Samuel B. Twitchell, one of Bethel’s most prominent citizens in the 1880’s.  He was one of the three members of the town appointed building committee overseeing construction of the new Bethel chair factory building in August 1886; prior to that he had represented the Bethel district in the state legislature. He is a descendant of Joseph Twitchell of Sherburne, Mass who was President of the Proprietors of Sudbury Canada Plantation, later the Town of Bethel.

Moreover, S.B. Twitchell was best known as the keeper of one of Bethel’s finest summer boarding establishments, a reputation that the Whites are helping continue. Professor William Rogers Chapman boarded his family at the Twitchell’s whenever he came to visit his mother, Mrs. Emily Chapman Valentine, a next door neighbor.
















The Twitchell Barn




 The Bethel correspondent for the Oxford Democrat reported that on Monday (July 2, 1888) at “about 5 AM a dense cloud of smoke was seen to rise over Mayville and in a few moments the large barn of Samuel B. Twitchell was discovered in flames.” Quick response by townspeople saved other buildings including the Twitchell house from catching fire but the barn and most of its contents – about 15 tons of hay, two carriages, harnesses, farming tools, etc. - were lost.  The dollar loss was estimated at $3,500 with insurance coverage of $2,500.  Cause of the fire was unknown. 



          Bethel: The Democrat reported that S.B. Twitchell had decided not to rebuild his barn until after haying, having secured storage for his hay near his farm. (Also, in the same edition of the paper, it was reported that a nearby set of farm buildings belonging to Dr. John W. Twaddle and occupied by Nathaniel Barker had completely burned only a week after the Twitchell’s barn was lost.)



          Bethel: S. B. Twitchell is putting in the foundation for a barn to replace the one burned last summer.



Gilead: Rob Hastings has sent to S. B. Twitchell in Bethel the frames and boarding for a large barn.  (Hastings’ mill and lumber operation at that time were located in the Wild River valley.)



Bethel: Mr. S. B. Twitchell is completing the foundation for his new barn. Edmund Merrill has the frame ready as soon as the foundation is complete.



Bethel Sidewalks – An 1890’s Undertaking 


          The hero of the Bethel sidewalk story was 54 year old, well respected, West Bethel “Flat Road” farmer, Albert Wellington Grover.


. In 1889, the Bethel Village (Improvement) Corporation had formed to carry out its main interest - public water and fire protection. There was a separate effort to improve street lighting – kerosene won over electric lights, temporarily, and one resident, William Skillings, president of the Bethel Steam Mill Company, (whose home is now the Chapman Inn) had volunteered to nightly light and to keep the street lamps burning.


Starting in 1891, Bethel’s news correspondents, Joshua Rich and Abiel Chandler occasionally reported attempts 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.


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.)


Contributions from 26 property owners and donors amounted to $ 263.51 or 28% of the total cost. Town funds amounted to $ 680.94.



History of the Outlook Studio and the Reuben Bartlett Homestead.


The History of The Outlook, Bethel, Maine
originally the Reuben Bartlett Homestead,
Sudbury, Canada

By Connie St. Pierre

In 1768 the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony granted a petition for land on behalf members who served in the Canada Expedition of the French and Indian War. A grant of land was made to Joseph Twitchell of Sherborne, Massachusetts,  for the service of his father Joseph Twitchell. (His father and grandfather were also named Joseph Twitchell.)

The Twitchell brothers, Joseph, Eleazer, and Eli, came to Sudbury Canada in 1774.

June 17, 1789, Joseph Twitchell sold the portion of land on both sides of the Androscoggin River in Middle Intervale including the island to Jonathan Bartlett, son of Ebenezer Bartlett of Newton, Mass.

Many of Ebenezer Bartlett's sons settled in Sudbury Canada. Jonathan's brother Enoch settled in Middle Intervale on what is now the Carter farm (and has been for several generations). Enoch's son Reuben built his homestead across the river from Middle Intervale. Reuben's wife was Lydia Frost.

In 1828, after the Subscribers officially transferred ownership of the property to him, Reuben Bartlett deeded his homestead to Isaac Bailey Littlehale (who was married to his daughter Lydia Bartlett), his son Asa Bartlett, and his grandson Freeland Bartlett.  Asa was married to Mary York, who died young, and then to Betsey Rowe. This is the first mention of the farm in a deed, though Reuben Bartlett was taxed as a head of household by the town in the 1800 tax rolls.

On November 13, 1847, Isaac Bailey Littlehale terminated his 1/3 interest in the property by deeds to Asa Bartlett and Freeland Bartlett. He and Lydia Bartlett Littlehale bought the millinery on the common, moved into Bethel, and sold hats for many years.

On March 31, 1853, Asa Bartlett deeded the homestead and 1-1/2 acres to Gilman Smith, who was married to his daughter, Dolly Bartlett Smith. It was about this time that the old maple trees which used to stand in the front dooryard, and the old apple trees in back are believed to have been planted. Also during the Smith's ownership, the original ell was replaced, and the stable built. The original barn was in back of the main house where there is an old cellar hole. The old barn materials were eventually sold to Val Gotjen, for use in renovating the Jewett house in the 1960's.

In the year 1867, Gilman Smith transferred ownership of the house on May 13 for $2000. to Hannah B. Mains, who transferred it back to Dolly B. Smith upon payment on June 12.

Gilman Smith died prior to 1880, when the town map shows Dolly B. Smith as the owner. After her death, their son Delbert inherited the farm.

Delbert sold to Carl Godwin on October 19, 1901. At this time, it was called The Outlook because much of the valley was cleared for fields, and there was a wonderful view of the river valley all the way to Bethel Hill. Upon the death of Carl Godwin, his daughter Gwendolyn Godwin Holt, wife of Ernest L. Holt, inherited the farm.

Gwendolyn G. Holt transferred ownership to her husband, Ernest Holt on May 28, 1974, and on May 29, 1974 Ernest sold the now very dilapidated old farm to Odd and Ann Lyngholm of Norway. (Not Norway, Maine.) Odd undertook much structural renovation, and saved the building from the bulldozer. Ann & Odd eventually divorced, she returned to Norway, and deeded her share back to Odd on October 3, 1979.

On October 27, 1980, Odd Lyngholm sold The Outlook to Edward & Connie St. Pierre, who relocated an audio recording studio from Boston, and set-up business. Many renovations to the old farmhouse continue.

The History of The Outlook, Bethel, Maine - house and land
originally the Reuben Bartlett Homestead, Sudbury Canada
researched by Connie St. Pierre, Oxford County Registry of Deeds, May 1997

Deeded from/to 



Odd Lyngholm to Edward F. and Connie K. St. Pierre

Oct. 27, 1980


Ann Lyngholm to Odd Lyngholm

Oct. 3, 1979


Ernest L. Holt to Odd and Ann Lyngholm

May 29, 1974


Gwendolyn Godwin Holt to Ernest L. Holt

May 28, 1974


Gwendolyn Holt inherited from her father, Carl Godwin  - deed unrecorded



Delbert Smith to Carl Godwin   

Oct. 19, 1901


Delbert Smith inherited from his mother Dolly B. Smith  - deed unrecorded



Hannah B. Mains to Dolly Bartlett Smith

June 12, 1867


Gilman Smith to Hannah B. Mains

May 13, 1867


Dolly B. Smith  deed ?



Freeland Bartlett to Gilman Smith

March 31,1853


Asa Bartlett to Gilman Smith

March 31,1853


Isaac Bailey Littlehale to Asa & Freeland Bartlett

Nov. 13, 1847


Reuben Bartlett to Isaac B. Littlehale, Asa & Freeland Bartlett

May 20, 1828


To Reuben Bartlett from the Subscribers, then to Isaac B. Littlehale, Asa & Freeland Bartlett
(this is the first mention of the farm in a deed)

May 20, 1828


The first tax record of Reuben Bartlett as a head of household is in 1800
The following records are believed to relate to the land only:
Jonathan Bartlett to Reuben Bartlett - deed unrecorded        circa 1789
Joseph Twitchell to Jonathan Bartlett -  June 17, 1789    C18/122

General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony to Joseph Twitchell   1768 (coincidentally the year Reuben Bartlett was born) a land grant for service in the Canada Expedition of the French and Indian Wars on behalf of Joseph Twitchell, of Sherborne, Mass. (his father)

I'd very much like to find out if Joseph Twitchell was with Benedict Arnold, on the famous excursion (fictionalized in "Arundel") up the Kennebec to Quebec!


Added note: “1827 (abstract town meeting minutes)  Voted to quitclaim to Reuben Bartlett an island which was sold to the town by Isaac Frost, on condition that Bartlett take care of frost for one year.”  Ref: Page 178, The History of Bethel, Maine by William Lapham. 

















The “Bethel Bird” (the rooster weather vane of 2d Congregational Church)


9-30-1909 from The Oxford County Citizen: Local History column by Leonard B. Chapman.


          “The rooster that was perched upon the staff that surmounted the cupola of the old meeting house structure during its existence of nearly half a century, though dead “still lives” in seclusion, weather beaten and otherwise disfigured, though not seriously from musket shot lodged in its body by wayward youth, now a century old, neglected, out of sight-hence out of mind, “unhonored and unmourned,” because forgotten.  … Why not bring the Bethel bird out from its seclusion and present to the public its written history that now exists in tradition only!  Calvin Twitchell made it from a “LIVE MODEL” alone and unaided in a room of his father’s residence, who was a son of Deacon Ezra Twitchell, the Deacon departing this life, May 16, 1821, his son Alphin Twitchell occupying the farm after him.

          Calvin with his live model and his pocket knife kept everybody from his room till his project materialized and was placed upon exhibition when the shouts from the spectators were loud and long.

          Calvin was an uncle to the late Samuel B. Twitchell, who rescued the bird from total loss and by the aid of his daughters the bird, now of an historical character, will receive the protecting care to which it is entitled.”


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