Title: Images of America: NEW GLOUCESTER
Author: Tracy Scheckel
Publisher: The Gray and New Gloucester Gazette
Thanks to the efforts of Museum Curator, Tom Blake, the New Gloucester Historical Society has, not only a great pictorial history of the town, but an opportunity to raise funds to continue its work.
Tom is a descendant of one of the New Gloucester founding fathers, John Stinchfield, and except for college at U Maine Orono, he has lived in town all his life. Inspired by the 75th anniversary of the society, Tom decided that a book to help readers "gain a better understanding of what makes our town so special, and will feel compelled to share their own personal memories and maybe even photographs" was in order.
Arcadia Publishing is the preeminent publisher of local pictorial histories for communities throughout the United States. In August of 2008, Tom contacted them and was assured that if the if he completed his work by March of 2009, the book would be ready in time to celebrate the Society's Anniversary.
With so little time, he went right to work in the vault at the society poring through thousands of photos, ultimately collecting 1,200 to choose from. There are actually 230 in the book, each one with a detailed caption. While there are many pictures donated by local citizens, the time constraints didn't allow for much publicity and most came from folks who heard of the project through word of mouth. Tom noted that one of the most challenging tasks was properly identifying the people and locations in the photos. Both photo quality and the ability to provide an informative caption were key criteria for photo selection. He also commented that "if there's ever a follow-up book" he hoped to be able to solicit more photos from townsfolk.
Since Tom mentioned 'follow-up' book, I deduced that, in spite of all the hours spent that, maybe it wasn't too difficult a task. Tom explained that Arcadia Publishing has a template to work with, and provides a local editor to work with authors. In the Acknowledgments for the book, Tom offers "special thanks to my editor, Hilary Zusman, for her kind guidance along the way". Arcadia provides the publishing guidelines, a local editor, and publication at no charge. Authors have the option of receiving proceeds from the sale, or partnering with a local historical society and donating the proceeds. Blake has opted for the latter. Proceeds from the sale of Images of America: New Gloucester will go toward the New Gloucester Historical Society's History Barn Fund for the preservation of their artifacts.
Although the book is due for release on Monday, September 21, by special arrangement with the publisher, advance copies will be available at the 75th Anniversary New Gloucester Historical Society Celebration & Historic Barn Dedication, this Sunday, the 20th. Tom will be on hand to sign copies between 1 and 4 PM.. Actually, Sunday is the first of three book signings scheduled thus far; on Saturday, September 26th, Tom will be at the Shaker Museum Reception Center, 707 Shaker Road From 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., and on Saturday, October 17th, he'll visit Waldenbooks in Auburn at 1:00 p.m. Tom also expects to spend some time at New Gloucester Fair Days on the same weekend.
If you don't make it this weekend for an advance copy, the book will be available at local book retailers, on-line bookstores, the Sabbathday Shaker Store, and the New Gloucester Village Store for $21.99. It can also be purchased through Arcadia Publishing on line or by calling 888-313-2665.
Anyone interested in publishing a similar book can also contact Arcadia at the above e-mail address. In a conversation with the publisher, I was informed that Gray published in 1999 and is now out of print. So if there's anyone out there interested in updating and reprinting…….
Title: Close to Home: New book, barn making history
Author: Don Perkins
Publisher: Portland Press Herald
Tom Blake, an author and the curator of the New Gloucester Historical Society, will sign copies of his book "New Gloucester" on Sunday.
Blake will autograph copies of the book, part of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series, in the historical society's new history barn, which will get its public unveiling Sunday to mark the society's 75th anniversary.
The barn has been locked up tight since its completion. Even Blake has yet to see the finished interior.
The idea for the book, and the barn, was hatched about this time last year.
Blake said the historical society desperately needed a place to store its collection of artifacts, which were in various homes. Among the artifacts is a "pung," a sleigh from a minister in the late 1700s, a mail delivery wagon and the 1909 town hearse.
Blake said the barn might never have been built if not for the tireless efforts of society President Nancy Wilcox.
The 30-foot-by-40-foot barn was built by a local contractor, Todd Keneagy & Son, next to the fire station and behind Town Hall. It fits right into its setting. Gold with white trim, it looks like it has been sitting next to the fire station for generations.
The book is Blake's first foray into the publishing world. A land surveyor by day, he said the book is divided into various themes stretching from the town's inception to more modern periods.
"It's a big relief to finally have it finished," he said of the yearlong project. "I learned a lot along the way. It was more work than I had anticipated."
There are chapters on sections of town, such as the Upper and Lower Village, Bald Hill and Intervale, and parts on schools and churches. Of course, the Shakers get mention, too.
Blake, who is 39, said he tried to include only older pictures in the book.
"I spent many hours in the vault," he said, "going through every file we had to see if there were any pictures; I then did a quick scan of any I found, to get them organized on my laptop."
The front cover displays Blake's family ties to town history: a picture of his great-great-grandfather's traveling sawmill. "He lived on the Penny Road," said Blake. "He traveled all over with that."
The Blake name has roots here, but he said his great-grandmother's side takes the real prize. A Stinchfield, she was among the 12 founding families who erected and lived in a fortified blockhouse on Gloucester Hill Road when the area was still Indian territory.
Through his research, Blake uncovered interesting tidbits about the town's past. Before Maine became a state, New Gloucester was a "shire town," meaning it shared a court with Portland, so judges, well-to-do lawyers and prominent businesspeople settled in town.
In the late 1700s, New Gloucester was briefly considered as a site for Bowdoin College.
There are less-glamorous anecdotes, too.
"There's a barn over there," said Blake, pointing to a gold-colored structure at the corner of Route 231 and Cobb's Bridge Road. "That supposedly housed the first elephant that came to America. The elephant was part of an early traveling circus that came through. That was an unexpected find."
Free to the public, the historical society's 75th anniversary celebration, including the barn's grand opening and book signing, is scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.