Friday, March 24, 2017

Then and now: The remarkable history of Windham’s first church by Walter Lunt

This is the third installment of a series on the history and unique heritage of Windham, then and now.

Over its nearly 275 year history, Windham Congregational Church has occupied at least three separate locations, all on high points of land. Whether for protection, circumstance or perhaps a closer talk with thee, the church buildings were constructed on two separate hills (each named Anderson) and on Windham Hill. The denomination holds a distinctive place in the town’s rich
history and proud heritage. 

Local historians record the full or partial construction of no fewer than five churches between 1743 and 1834. In addition to their pioneering spirit, Windham’s early settlers needed certain essentials to achieve their goal of carving a prosperous township out of a barren wilderness: Shelter, food, clothing and (yes, an essential) spiritual nourishment. 

Two of the original 63 land grants were set aside for religious purposes. Under conditions set by the governing body of Massachusetts in the mid-1730s, the Proprietors had to “. . . erect a convenient meeting-house (church) for the publick worship of God,” and provide a lot of land for a “. . . learned orthodox minister.”

Attempts to construct a church atop Anderson Hill, off present day River Road, were hindered by hostilities related to the French and Indian Wars. The partially framed edifice was torn down and the timbers used to help construct a fort to protect the early families. Under the pastoral guidance of Rev. John Wight, a 1729 graduate of Harvard College and the township’s first minister, the first services were conducted inside the fort.

Early records indicate Rev. Wight was highly respected and remembered for his dedication and loyalty to the needs of the infant settlement - a devotion that impaired his health. Wight died in the fort, leaving behind a congregation that grew from seven to 25 members during his tenure.

It would be nearly ten years before another minister would lead the parish. In the meantime, hostilities with the French and Indians had ended. Rev. Peter Thatcher Smith, also a Harvard alumnus, was ordained in September, 1762. He preached in the fort until his dismissal in 1790. During Smith’s pastor-ship, two attempts were made to construct “. . . a decent place for the worship of God.”  Both were taken down for unknown reasons. Finally in 1795, a meeting house described as, “. . . a very fine edifice for the times,” was built on what was then known as Peter Anderson’s Hill; near the present-day intersection of Webb and Chute Roads.

The impressive structure was 50 feet long, 40 feet wide, and two stories high. Upon entering, the visitors’ attention would first be drawn to the elaborately decorated pulpit, perched high above floor level, replete with color and pageantry. The lofty lectern was draped with scarlet cloth, a velvet cushion to support a thick, tattered Bible, and tassels dangling from all four corners. Above the minister’s head, an elaborately carved panel was suspended from the ceiling. Known as a “sounding board,” it acted as an early amplifier, projecting the preacher’s words over the full extent of the sanctuary and beyond.

The front hallway featured a glass display case in which the town clerk posted the names of those planning to marry. Called a “publishment box,” it was said to have attracted much attention from the locals.

Like other churches of the period, no means of heating was allowed within its walls. At best, a slab of soapstone, heated from home, or a so-called “foot stove” was the only means of warming comfort allowed, even in the depths of winter.

The building served Windham’s Congregational community for almost 40 years, until 1834 when construction began on a new church on Windham Hill. The abandoned building was then used for various public purposes until 1861 when it was partially de-constructed and moved over snowy roads by several teams of oxen to a location on the west side of River Road near the Westbrook line; and then converted into a large barn (pictured here some time before 1959). Many features of the old, formidable church remained, including portions of the original post and beam construction, a wide door and hardware formed by an early blacksmith. Several families used the old, renovated structure well into the 20th century. In 1959 it was razed, the ancient timbers sold and the property cleared to make way for power lines.

The newest, and sometimes referred to as the 5th Congregational Church building, was completed in 1835. It was described as “. . . a convenient, well-finished church, with steeple and bell, being the first bell on any church in Windham.” Current church historian Laurel Parker says the bell was cast in Boston by a former apprentice of Paul Revere. The new meeting house was of post and beam construction with Greek Revival, Federal and Gothic features. The steeple is Italianate. A new spire and a weathervane were added in 1885. Long admired for its unique architectural features, the iconic, early New England building earned the church an appearance in a 1935 edition of National Geographic Magazine. A carillon, played from the organ, was installed in 1964 with speakers in the belfry.
Instrumental in the construction of the new church was Rev. Jonathon Lee Hale (the 7th settled minister), who did not live to see its completion. One of his successors, Rev. Luther Wiswall, is credited with attaining the church’s greatest prosperity to date. He served for 40 years in the mid-19th century, leaving his home next door to the parish. It would become the parsonage of the First Congregational Church of Windham. The front hall closet once served as a Windham post office. 

Among the many artifacts of the church’s storied history is a pair of eyeglasses worn by Rev. Wiswall.
In 1972, the church was re-named Windham Hill United Church of Christ, Congregational. The church is currently ministered by Rev. Sally Colegrove and is supported by over 200 parishioners.

Church leaders honor the church’s history, acknowledging the past and recognizing long time members during Founders’ Day - celebrated yearly. Members of the Sunday School recently painted a time-line of church history in the Faith Education Hallway of Fellowship Hall, located behind the church.

Windham Hill U.C.C. raises funds and participates in numerous social and charitable causes, local and worldwide; including support for the Windham food pantry, the Root Cellar of Portland, which helps the homeless, Food & Fellowship for seniors and others, gift boxes for service members and local families, especially during holidays, E-waste collection and the international Heifer Project, which distributes live animals to third-world countries.

The original clerk’s book of Windham Congregational, begun in 1743, and now available online is a rich source of early church history. Visit:

Sabre Yachts marks a substantial milestone: Delivers its 100th Sabre 48-foot hull by Michelle Libby

“There are few companies that can say they’ve done what we do,” said Aaron Crawford, president and COO of Sabre Yachts last Thursday, as they rolled out the 100th Sabre Yacht with a 48-foot hull from the facility on the Raymond/Casco line.  

Randy and Kim Jeffery (middle) with the Sabre Yacht crew
In a company-wide celebration, with all employees decked out in forest green T-shirts, the owners Randy and Kim Jeffery from Daniel Island, S.C. watched as the newest Sabre Yacht maneuvered out of the driveway and down Route 302, on its way to its new home. 

“This boat for us is a dream. Every one of you made this boat a reality,” said Randy Jeffery. To commemorate the milestone for the company, Randy and Kim had every employee in the company -150 of them, write their name on a board that was varnished and mounted behind the electrical panel in the boat. So the craftsman would always be with the boat.

“You are exactly what Sabre says you are, crafted in the Maine tradition. That’s you,” Randy told the employees gathered for the roll out. The boat will be docked in downtown Charleston. 

“It’s the Jeffery’s who made this boat possible,” Crawford said. The Jeffery’s upgraded from a 42-foot Sabre boat to the new 48-foot Sabre. Crawford described the owners as very educated and the type of clients Sabre enjoys working with. 

“It’s our floating condo,” said Kim. 

“It’s the culmination of all of our boating experiences, and here she is,” said Randy. The Jeffery’s are Mainers in the summer and live in South Carolina in the winter. “The foot yard and the backyard changes,” he added, but everything else stays the same. They travel all over Maine in the summer and take trips to Florida and the Bahamas in the winter. During their 37 years together, this is their fifth boat. 

This boat is the 148th boat that Sabre has shipped from the facility in Raymond. “Boat building is a team sport,” said Crawford. From the high quality building and craftsmanship to sales and marketing as well as customer service and support, it takes the whole team to make the business run smoothly and successfully. Sabre calls itself a semi-custom boat builder and in this economy the purchase of luxury power yachts has remained strong at Sabre.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Time at school with a Japanese exchange student by Stephen Signor

On March 9, I was afforded the opportunity to shadow a Japanese exchange student, who arrived in the United States two weeks ago. This was part of the ongoing efforts through Greenheart and its dedicated High School Programs Department to connect students with other nations and promote leaders - through a collection of programs and initiatives. Keishi Goya, a 16 year old freshman from Okinawa, was here in the United States for the first time, which is not always the case. Visiting students have a pretty good handle on the English language, but not always. 

Japanese exchange student, Keishi Goya, studies using laptop
During the first week here, as an introduction to American culture and the education system, all of the Japanese exchange students, and some host parents, went to Boston. “There were also year-long exchange students who attended the trip too, with their host sisters and brothers. They went to Harvard and toured the iconic school with its alumni and also had lunch with them,” shared Skylyn Vokey, a junior at Windham High and President of the International Club. They also got to ask a board of Harvard students questions as well. In addition to Harvard, the exchange students enjoyed a little free time to see some sights. They went to the Old North Church and Quincy Market to which Goya indicated, “I like Quincy Market very much”.

For this enthusiastic student it was a chance of a lifetime. When it comes to learning, one of the first things he shared was about the access to technology. “School is different here. We don’t have laptops back home in the classroom.” 

But that is just a small difference. In Japan the length of a school day can be as long as 11 hours. “The day starts at 7:30 a.m. and classes end at 4:00 p.m. Then there are mandatory activities and chores like cleaning the school,” continued Goya. With two hours a day of homework on top of that, sleep is at a premium and leaves students tired every day. In addition to long hours the school year is lengthier in Japan. “We start school in April and finish the following March,” shared Goya. Only a one month vacation during the summer and two shorter ones makes vacation seem shorter for them.
During Social Studies class, Vokey served as a chaperone and organizer alongside a team leader from Japan, Koki Keiko - while Goya listened intently. Teacher, Brandon Champion later shared, “This is my second year teaching here so this is the first time I have had foreign exchange students. I had quite a few that came into my fourth period class. Nation Emerges, a class which students learn the first part of US history, touches on the development of tariffs. So I took the opportunity to relate and talk about taxes/tariffs on Japanese cars. It was very good.”

Goya and the other exchange students left Windham High School on Friday March 10; but did not leave the United States. Their next stop is New York City where they will become tourists and take in additional American culture. On March 17, they will begin the long journey home. When asked if he missed Okinawa, Goya replied, “No, I want to live in the America. I like it.”

Legislative Forum a step in the right direction by Lorraine Glowczak

The Legislative Forum presented on Saturday, March 11 by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce (SLRCC) and St. Joseph’s College, was a successful morning of discussions, questions and answers among local business owners and individuals with their Lake Region Delegation.

The event began at 10:00 a.m. with networking opportunities among the 45 to 50 local business professionals who attended, followed by respectful and solution focused dialogue from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Rep. Jessica Fay
“I was extremely pleased with the turnout and the diversity of businesses represented,” stated Executive Director of SLRCC, Aimee Senatore. “I was encouraged by how civil and respectful the discussion was and am grateful we were able to cover several key issues impacting our local businesses. I believe that those in attendance were also encouraged and several key connections were made.”

Brad Pollard, owner of Cole Farms Restaurant and Pub in Gray, was the first to address the legislative panel, sharing his concern regarding the passage of the Question 4 initiative. “The minimum wage increase that passed in November will have a devastating effect on the wait staff’s income,” Pollard explained. He stated that if the referendum is not adjusted to accommodate servers, they will soon see a wage decrease. Pollard further explained that it is the tips they rely upon for the bulk of their income and is what allows them to support their families. With the referendum as it stands now, the decrease in tips will have detrimental effects on the quality of their lives.

Dave Pollard, co-owner of Spring Meadows Golf Club in Gray expressed his concern regarding the expansion of the sales tax to recreational businesses. He explained to the panel that 70 percent of his customer base comes from hardworking Mainers who do not have a lot of disposable income. The tax increase will demand that he increase green fees, which he has not done in eight years. Dave Pollard also stated that, although he understands the need for controlled pesticides, the bills that limit pesticide use, influences the course itself. He reminded the panel that golf courses have trained professionals who apply the pesticides.

Other concerns and issues expressed by attendees included: the 3 percent surtax due to the passage of the Question 2 initiative, the legalization of marijuana, the access to broadband internet, zoning and building codes as it relates to the “tiny home” movement, as well as the flexible code enforcement that varies from town to town.

The legislative panel addressed each issue and concern as it was expressed and informed everyone present as to what actions are being taken in Augusta regarding the subjects expressed.
Rep. Patrick Corey and Sen. Bill Diamond
Rep. Patrick Corey (R-Windham and Sen. Bill Diamond (D)-District 26, reiterated that party politics play a very small role in their work together. Rep Jessica Fay (D)-Raymond, Casco, Poland invited everyone to speak to their representatives. “Come to us and tell your story,” Fay said.

The success of this event was due, in part, through the work of SLRCC. “The toughest challenge with organizing these types of forums is securing the legislators,” Senatore stated.  “Because they are so busy and often in Augusta - finding one day and time that works for all is very difficult. Representative Fay of Raymond/Casco/Poland deserves a lot of credit for organizing the Lakes Region Delegation which met for the first time in Augusta on February 15th.  I was lucky enough to be invited to the meeting and was thrilled that everyone present was motivated to get this forum scheduled as priority. Less than a month later, here we are!”

The legislative panel included Phyllis Ginzler (R), Susan Austin (R), Mark Bryant (D), Patrick Corey (R), Dale Denno (D), Jessica Fay (D), Lester Ordway (R), and Bill Diamond (D).  Ellie Espling (R) and Richard Cebra (R) were unable to attend due to a conflict.

“We will definitely be scheduling another forum of this type in the coming months,” Senatore continued. “In addition, the Government Affairs Committee of the chamber will be working on an economic development tour of our region to take place this summer. The delegation will be invited to tour economic development sites, visit with key local businesses, and get a greater feel for how they can help the region prosper.”

As for the legislative forum that occurred on Saturday, it seems it was viewed as a step in the right direction. “It’s always a good thing to get people in a room and start a conversation,” expressed Fran Monroe of the Community Economic Development in Gray.

Those that want to be included in future announcements should follow the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce on Facebook or sign up for their e-newsletter on the homepage of their website:

PowerServe will provide community services once again in memory of those who have passed by Elizabeth Richards

PowerServe Saturday - a morning of community service organized by Young Life Sebago, will be held on Saturday, May 13th.  This is the second year for the community-wide event.

Genevieve Delano, director of PowerServe and a junior at Windham High School, said that the event was initially planned as a one-time thing, but there were many requests that it happen again after last year’s event. “One hundred percent of the people we got survey results from, wanted to do it again,” she said.

That was exciting for the committee of organizers, who started planning for this year’s event at the beginning of the school year. PowerServe has a main sponsor, Gorham Savings Bank, and the committee is currently reaching out to other potential sponsors. “We’re really excited to do it again,” Delano said.

Students from last year's event
Last year, PowerServe was dedicated to Shane Donnelly, a classmate who passed away. This year, Delano said, the event is dedicated to the overall community and making that community better - but also acknowledge both Shane and another classmate, Kelly, who passed away when she was in fifth grade and would have been graduating with the senior class this year. “The senior class is doing a lot, with graduation especially, as a tribute to Shane and Kelly,” Delano said. The PowerServe committee wanted to do something similar in support of their families, moving negative energy and sadness into positive energy that can be used towards making the community better, she said. 

Participation last year was over and above what the committee expected, with close to 300 participants and 18 different projects completed.  “We had a great turnout and everybody loved it,” Delano said.  

Last year, most projects took place on the school campus and included: Planting, gardening, building bridges on the cross country trail, and painting dugouts.  This year, similar projects are planned, but the group also hopes to expand projects, to have a wider impact in the communities of Windham, Raymond and Gorham, Delano said.  One new project for this year is to partner with the police department in Windham to fix up the outside of the station, and do some planting in the K9 memorial garden, Delano said. 

Anyone with a project idea can contact the committee at: Projects might include yardwork for veterans or people who may need assistance, park clean up, and “Anything that people can tap into that we might have missed,” Delano said. 

The committee encourages people to register in advance if they plan to attend, so that teams can be organized, and people can be placed on a project that coincides with their skills and interests.
Registration is free, and can be done online at: The first 250 registrants will receive a free t-shirt. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. and a complimentary lunch will be served at noon.

Delano emphasized that PowerServe is a community service event, not a fundraiser. Sponsors support the event, but there is not an effort to raise funds, beyond what is needed to successfully complete the planned projects, provide t-shirts, and provide lunch. The flyer promoting the event succinctly described the overall goal with this statement: “Serving our community and each other is a powerful way to connect with others and find significance and joy in our own lives. By coming together as a community from all walks of life with many different skills and voices, we can make a difference.

This May, we invite you to PowerServe as we remember those no longer with us.”

Friday, March 10, 2017

Safety and security improvements to be made to Raymond Elementary School Playground by Lorraine Glowczak

The Windham/Raymond Schools, RSU14, have announced the construction of a new playground space in order to improve safety and security at Raymond Elementary School (RES).  Through a long-term application process with the U.S. Department of Defense, RSU #14 and RES are the recipients of the military’s Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) to help with the building of the playground space. The Maine National Guard will begin their two-week training, making many of the necessary improvements beginning in June of 2017.

Adding soil to the playground
From the discovery of the needs of additional playground space to the present has been a six-year process. A preliminary design of a small ball field was developed in 2011 and this remained a concept until the fall of 2014 when a dedicated group of administrators, staff and parents began the process of change for the RES playground space.

Alissa Messer has been an instrumental parent involved in the RES playground space project.  Messer was concerned that the RES playground had many deficiencies. “The school’s playground has a significant sloping hill that creates numerous problems, like falls and injuries during recess time”, Messer explained. “In addition, the playground had no fence to secure the area. Located adjacent to a wooded forest, it’s concerning to have children run after balls into to woods out of clear sight, picking up ticks in the wooded area and securing the area from unwanted visitors such as wildlife and hunters.”

As a parent, Messer could have easily requested that a change be made and put all the work on an already over worked school and district staff.  Messer became the change she wanted to see, working alongside school officials to make the needed safety and security modifications.

With the support of the RSU #14 School Board and Superintendent Sanford Prince, Messer reached out to Eric Tarbox, Scout Executive/CEO of the Pine Tree Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which had recently been the recipient of the military’s IRT. “I asked Eric if he thought the playground improvement project would fit within the scope of the IRT.”  Messer explained that she was grateful for Tarbox's advice and recognized he was of great assistance in the process for the RES playground IRT submission.

Per the website of the Department of Defense: “Innovative Readiness Training builds mutually beneficial civil-military partnerships between US communities and the Department of Defense (DOD) to provide high quality, mission-essential training for Active, Guard, and Reserve support personnel and units, deliver military readiness and partnership capacity to serve when the nation calls, at home or abroad and contribute to American prosperity by meeting public and civil-society needs.” (

Although Messer is a change maker, she calls attention to the fact she did not do this alone. In fact, other parents, teachers, administrators and even the students jumped on board to make the change happen.  It was really important to Messer to have this be a team project. From the  third grade student Oscar Horowitz, who designed the logo for the project with his Grandfather Rudy, to the now sixth grade students who helped in applying for a grant, the “Drive for Education Grant” established by Berlin City Auto. “Together, the students created a ‘Where’s Phil’ video skit highlighting the dangers of the playground and the need for ‘fill’ to even out the soil variations on the play field,” Messer said.
Playground before soil added

The video and grant proposal was submitted in the fall of 2015. The grant proposal was accepted and an award of $1,750 was received on December 8, 2015.
Other funding sources include generous donations from a variety of local businesses.
Community fundraisers have included working with local businesses such as the Good Life Market for holiday pies, ongoing Hannaford gift card sales, as well as continuing support from Pickle Ball Games at the RES. 

A true example and as a result of resilience (RES motto for this year) and being the change one wishes to see in the world, the playground will become not only a safer environment, but secure as well,” Messer stated. “The project will benefit our students and community by creating a level playing field for the students to enjoy, reducing exposure to ticks, adding security and provide an enhanced learning situation when kids can use the recess time as an outlet and management for energy throughout the day. This play area is not only for school time use, but often community families can be found utilizing the space after hours and throughout the summer.”

The Maine National Guard will begin the first phase of many towards the improvement of the playground and will make the RES their home for two weeks, sleeping in the gymnasiums and utilizing the Jordan-Small Middle School kitchen.  Look for more information on the military drill in future communications.

"I am so excited the Raymond Elementary School Playground Expansion is progressing for the students, staff and community,” Vice Principal Hutchinson stated. “I wish to publicly thank Alissa Messer for her commitment and dedication to this project. We would not have been able to accomplish this without her!"