Aroostook County’s first potato farmer and the inventor of the sphere sprayer have been among the many most notable contributors to Presque Isle’s historical past.
The Star Metropolis may thank a postmaster-turned-author, a railroad pioneer and a girl who defied society’s conventions for serving to it change into a hub of northern Maine.
Presque Isle was based in 1828 as Fairbanks in honor of its first settler, Dennis Fairbanks. It was named Presque Isle when it grew to become a metropolis in 1859, as a result of it’s surrounded on three sides by the Aroostook River. The identify means “virtually an island” in French, in line with the Presque Isle Historic Society.
This yr, the group of round 80 members is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary. With greater than 12 tour sequence and a number of other museums, the society has grown from its inception in 1963, Secretary/Treasurer Kim Smith stated.
“These early folks have been so superb. They belonged to every thing and did a lot for his or her neighborhood,” stated Smith, who’s been concerned with the society since 2005. “A few of them might not be that well-known, however they form of put Presque Isle on the map.”
Although it was onerous to decide on only a few, Smith identified a few of Presque Isle’s historical past makers whose imprints are nonetheless felt regionally and round Maine.
Edward Wiggin (1837-1912)
Nearly anybody who has researched County historical past may have come throughout the 1922 guide “Historical past of Aroostook,” written by Edward Wiggin and printed posthumously.
A Civil Battle veteran and Bangor native, Wiggin moved north in 1854. He labored as a schoolteacher and superintendent, and in addition with the state’s training division.
In a while he grew to become postmaster of Maysville, which was annexed to Presque Isle in 1883, and in addition served as a customs officer in Fort Kent.
But it surely was his service for the state that led to his turning into an creator. Wiggin served within the Maine Senate, the statewide Grange and agriculture board, which required lots of touring.
“As he traveled, he would interview all of the previous settlers of an space, and write all of it down,” Smith stated.
These interviews grew to become “Historical past of Aroostook,” which remains to be in use right now, she stated.
Henry Rolfe (1818-1903)
One other Civil Battle veteran, Henry Rolfe moved to Maysville within the 1840s and purchased 16 acres of land to farm.
Rolfe planted the primary acre of potatoes in Aroostook County, Smith stated. On his land he additionally planted 1 acre of wheat and the remainder with oats.
On the time, the busy U.S. Route 1 stretch between Presque Isle and Caribou didn’t exist, so harvest time was grueling work. Farmers needed to create methods to get their crops to market.
“He’d actually have to hold his items on his again and row throughout the Aroostook River to promote his merchandise,” Smith stated.
Rolfe’s unique home nonetheless stands on the Caribou Highway, she stated, close to what’s now Clover Leaf Farms. Now 90 p.c of Maine’s $258 million potato crop is grown in Aroostook County.
Elisha Parkhurst (1834-1930)
Additionally a Maysville farmer, with land close to Wiggin and Rolfe, Parkhurst was the primary potato shipper within the nation, and for 25 years was the most important shipper in Aroostook County, in line with Smith’s native column “Traditionally Talking.”
Parkhurst additionally served in each the Maine Home and Senate, and was concerned with the Grange and the Masons.
However each time farmers spray their crops to thrust back ailments and pests, they’re conserving Parkhurst’s reminiscence alive. He truly invented the potato sprayer.
He acquired a letter from the US Division of Agriculture, crediting him with the sprayer’s design, Smith stated.
Parkhurst Siding, an space between Presque Isle and Fort Fairfield, is called after him. The Brewer Highway, simply off Route 1 on the way in which to Caribou, was as soon as known as the Parkhurst Highway.
Allie Cole (1886-1992)
Folks throughout Maine keep in mind A.J. “Allie” Cole, who based Cole’s Categorical trucking in 1917.
Although he didn’t reside in Presque Isle, his significance to the town — and The County — is critical, Smith stated. Cole drivers have been the primary to plow the stretch of U.S. Route 1 from Houlton to Presque Isle in 1931, opening the world up for year-round enterprise.
“He wasn’t from right here, however he began many companies. He noticed Aroostook County as having big potential, as a result of we had no trucking companies,” she stated.
Headquartered in Bangor, the corporate served the East Coast and Atlantic Canada till 1997, together with terminals in Presque Isle, Houlton and Fort Kent, in line with the Cole Land Transportation Museum.
Cole can be honored with a constructing on the Southern Aroostook Agricultural Museum in Littleton.
Arthur R. Gould (1857-1946)
Arthur R. Gould pioneered a number of industries and served within the state and U.S. legislatures.
“After I search for the phrase ‘visionary’ within the dictionary, I might count on to see his image,” Smith stated. “He misplaced his life financial savings thrice by the point he was 21, however he died a millionaire.”
Gould moved to Presque Isle in 1886 and purchased a lumber mill. Needing a greater technique to transfer logs, he fought the Bangor & Aroostook and received the best to begin an electrical railroad, which opened in July 1910, she stated. About 30 years later he bought it to Canadian Pacific.
When an area faculty burned, Gould financed a brand new constructing that was named Gouldville Elementary. The college nonetheless stands on Parsons Road and now homes Head Begin for preschool kids.
Gould additionally oversaw development and financed the State Faculty for Boys in South Portland, which nonetheless exists on Westbrook Road, Smith stated.
Gould died in 1946, when Presque Isle was within the technique of constructing a brand new hospital. His daughter willed the town a big sum of cash on the situation that they identify the hospital after him.
Vera Estey (1894-1992)
From certainly one of Presque Isle’s wealthier households, Vera Estey defied society’s expectations of Victorian-era ladies by remaining single and proudly owning her personal enterprise.
Estey grew tulips and lilies of the valley and bought them to the Boston contemporary flower market, Smith stated. She by no means married, presumably as a result of her father wouldn’t enable her to marry the person she beloved.
“Common females have been anticipated to prepare dinner, sew and deal with the home,” Smith stated. “However Vera Estey was a refined woman. Refined women have been additionally anticipated to color, do fancy needlework and play musical devices.”
Estey did all of that, and her crafts and work are displayed at Presque Isle’s 1875 Vera Estey Home Museum. When Estey died in 1992, she willed her household dwelling to the historic society, and it grew to become the society’s first museum.
The home is included in a number of metropolis excursions and is the setting for the annual Victorian Christmas on the Estey. The society additionally owns the Maysville Grange Museum and the Historic Presque Isle Firehouse Museum, and operates a classic streetcar named Molly the Trolley.
To be taught extra, contact the historic society at pihistory.org or go to its Fb web page.