Then and Now Items of Interest
Lisbon’s current population today is around 9,000. Lisbon’s valuation at the time of incorporation (1799) was around $300,000 and in 2019 it was 590 Million. Its mil rate was around 2 ¼ cents and in 2019 it was $23.10 per thousand. The school budget then was around $5,000 and in 2019 it was $16.8 Million. Lisbon licensed about 60 dogs then and in 2019 we licensed about 800 dogs. The town spent $200 compensating four Selectmen then and in 2019 we spent about $10,000 compensating seven Councilors.
Highlights From Our Past Include...
From the 1905 Census… we learned that the first settler was probably Mr. White who lived in a log house on the Road to Webster Corner, and afterward purchased White’s Hill. Russel Hinkley settled soon after, a short distance beyond White and Joseph Hinkley nearby. Russel Hinkley probably built the first house in town, and Joseph the second.
The 1905 Census also goes on to say…that on July 4, 1780, Jonathan Bagley of Amesbury, and Moses Little of Newbury, Mass in behalf of the Pejepscot proprietors, conveyed all the land from Little River to Sabattus River and northerly to the divisional line, between said Pejepscot tract and the land claimed by the Kennebec proprietors to Samuel Thompson, for the sum of $50.00. This was a gore of land, claimed by the Pejepscot Company. Ezekiel Thompson moved here after purchasing 350 acres from his brother in 1798. The settlement here became known as the Little River and was later incorporated a plantation by that name. Ezekiel Thompson was a leading man here. He served as postmaster and U.S. Revenue Collector during the war of 1812.
In 1813, he was licensed to carry on trade at Lisbon. Thomas Godfrey and Abraham Whitney purchased tracts of land from Samuel Thompson, and were probably among the first settlers at Little River as well. Abraham was a prominent business man in the early days. His brothers, Isaac, Nathan, and Samuel also settled at the Little River Village. Benjamin Whitney came from New Meadows and married Nancy Hinkley, and was part owner in the first grist-mill at Little River. He was the first miller.
Hezekiah Coombs came to Little River around 1785, had a son named William, and settled on a farm on the Ridge. William Coombs was an energetic business man, holding several town offices, and was a faithful leader of the Democratic forces, in opposition to Aaron Dwinal, leader of the Whigs. Abel Nutting, born in Groton, Mass in 1757, a soldier of the Revolution, married the daughter of Ebenezer Coombs and moved to Lisbon in 1788 settling in Lisbon Village at what they used to call Lisbon Factory. Robert Jack, son of Joseph Jack of Topsham was prominent in those early days.
By hard study he gained a good education, including Latin, Greek, and Astronomy. He taught school, but finally came to Lisbon and opened a store. He was Town Clerk and Selectman of Lisbon for many years. He was a public spirited citizen, and one of the numbers who purchased and cleared the grounds now used as a cemetery on High Street. He encouraged residents to plant trees along the first mile of road to Lewiston.
These individuals and many more too numerous to mention were instrumental in shaping the face of Lisbon. In 1782, settlers petitioned for incorporation. The petition not being granted was followed by others, until incorporation was obtained, in 1788 as the Town of Bowdoin, as the new town was named, and held its first meeting on April 15, 1788, at the dewelling of Prince Rose. Samuel Tebbetts was the moderator. Benjamin Jaques, was Town Clerk. Humphrey Purrington, Samuel Tebbetts, Ebenezer Temple were Selectmen. The first mention of a school appeared in 1791.
In 1798, it was voted that Samuel Tebbetts, Thomas Ham, and Joseph Kilgore, send a petition to the General Court for the division of the town. As a result of the petition, the act of Incorporation of Thompsonborough was passed on June 22, 1799. The name was given in honor of General Samuel Thompson, of Brunswick, the son of James Thompson, who, as colonel of a body of volunteers, made prisoners of several British officers at Falmouth in 1775. The Thompson family were large owners of land in the Little River Plantation, but something did not please the majority of the voters in General Thomson’s views or actions, and specifying the length of name as a reason; an act was obtained to change the name to Lisbon on February 22, 1802. The boundaries of Thompsonborough were described as follows:
The Town Clerk, Robert Jack recorded the description as “Beginning on the northwest corner of the town of Topsham at Little River, and running up said Little River about one mile, to what is called Bowdoin’s Road, then running westward on said road about eight or ten rods, to a large pine tree marked with the letter Q, it being the southeast corner of what is called Whittemore’s Lot, and thence running north; northeast to the north line of said town, said line being about a center line of the said town of Bowdoin,” and Ezekiel Thompson was authorized to call the first meeting.
The Census’s historical account goes on to say that the Little River Plantation, now called Lisbon Falls, was part of the Pejecpscot purchase, being a gore between Little Androscoggin and Sabattus rivers, adjoining the old town in its southern extremity, and was annexed to Lisbon on March 4, 1808. In 1840, Webster was set off from the northern part. The soil and surface are admirably adapted to agriculture, and afforded farmers an opportunity to successfully cultivate various crops, corn, and grain. It was noted that there were no abrupt hills or worthless swamps. The streams are numerous, affording abundant supplies of water.
The first town meeting of Thompsonborough was held at the house of Samuel Tebbetts, Esquire, (at Webster Corner), March 17, 1800. Samuel Tebbetts was chosen moderator; Noah Jordan, the first Town Clerk; Robert Hue, the first Treasurer; Thomas Ham, Samuel Tebbetts, and Jonathan Hebberd the first three Selectmen and Assessors.
Manufcaturing in Lisbon includes …
The old Worumbo Mill Manufacturing Company located in Lisbon Falls, which included a huge brick building until it was taken down after the fire in 1987. There was a white concrete looking mill building at the corner of Main and Canal Street, by the stop light at the Moxie Store (this white building was an addition added in 1920) until 2016, when it came down. Around 1864 to 1887, it employed 170 men and women. They produced 120,000 yards of finished all wool 6-4 beavers, and was known for its first class operation. Beaver in this case meant a woven or plush fabric with a thick nap. Kersey was a coarse cloth also made there. The Worumbo Mill gained fame around the country for its sterling cloths of pure wool, fine enough for the finest women’s gowns, and heavy enough for the heaviest coats and cloaks. I understood the beaver fabric was used to make military uniforms and was exported to Europe.
The Lisbon Falls Fiber Company, known later on as the Pejepscot Paper Company and more recently known as the U. S. Gypsum Mill, which was located on Route 196 on the right after Crafts Auto Sales as you leave town going towards Topsham, was known for making 45 tons of paper a day around 1890.
The Farwell Cotton Mill was incorporated in 1872. It employed 53 operatives at the saw mill, 242 employees at the cotton mill, and the paper mill which made a ton and a half of paper daily that sold in 1869 burned flat in 1870 and was never rebuilt. The old cotton mill’s brick building today at the corner of Route 196 and Webster Road, as erected then is still three stories high, but serves our community with subsidized housing units.
In 1890, a corn canning company existed near the train station, canning around 400,000 cans of corn packed every season, which lasted for about ten years. Most of the crops were produced in the surrounding rural areas.
There was a grain mill on Union Street in 1896 that employed four men, which averaged annually around $60,000.
The Farnsworth Mill in Lisbon Center located on Mill Street, which is now totally gone, also manufactured fine wools, flannels, and dress goods. It was producing $250,000 then and employed 115 hands around 1905.
Of interest to me was the story about a new hotel being erected by Solon Cahill of Brunswick, at the new Factory Village, known today to be the parcel on the right as you face the Town Hall (Map 14 Lot U9). In 1962, the parcel was much larger and encompassed the land the Town Hall sits on today. Randy Jones, was a young boy when the Villa burnt down in 1962, he said. He described where the Villa used to be located, which was closer to the bend on Farwell Street. This new hotel was named the “Lisbon Villa” and was to be used principally, it was said, as a summer hotel for rest and pleasure seekers.
In 1999, I became a member of the Lisbon Town Office Building Committee. It was my intention that we somehow bring a bit of the past with us into the future when designing the new Town Office. The architect and I began discussing ways to accomplish my goal. He suggested building the trapezoid portico located in the front of the building to resemble the trapezoid shape of the Villa’s front porch. Today, it’s not only functional and adds character, but for me it will always serve as a reminder of our past generations, who lived, worked, and had fun here as we continue the tradition.
Lisbon is still a thriving little community dedicated to continuing community functions that bind us together at play, supporting businesses, and families; always striving to maintain the balance between adding new businesses to help provide work, goods, and services for our families while remaining that charming little traditional town we started in 1799.
Respectfully Submitted by Twila Lycette, Lisbon Town Clerk
Lifetime Certified Clerk of Maine, International Certified Muncipal Clerk & Master Muncipal Clerk