THE OLD ASHBURN PLACE by Margaret Flint
Winner of the Dodd, Mead Pictorial Review prize
for the best first novel of 1935
Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make a house where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
As the second oldest member of the Ashburn "tribe," Charlie Ashburn takes his family responsibilities seriously. He toils tirelessly to keep the rural Maine farmstead going, honoring his mother's legacy by supporting, along with his siblings, the college education of brother Alfred and the schooling of others in the clan. In his own unschooled view, the sacrifices he makes are well worth it if they produce a household that is "beautiful, entire and clean."
Tranquility shatters, however, when Charlie becomes smitten with a well-off girl, Marian Parks, and entangled with his brother Morris's wife, Elsie. While Marian flirts and tantalizes, Elsie ensnares him, leading to an existential crisis that ultimately determines Charlie's future.
Margaret “Peg” Flint was born at Orono, Maine in 1891 to Hannah Ellis Leavitt and Walter Flint. She attended the University of Maine at Orono and, briefly, Simmons College, majoring first in biology, then philosophy. She did not enroll for her senior year at UMO, but she had gained a passion for writing and soon married fellow student Lester Warner Jacobs, who had graduated with a degree in civil engineering. She did not earn a degree herself.
Lester Jacobs’s civil engineering work in the coal industry and later for the Army Corps of Engineers relocated the family several times—to Norfolk, Virginia, Slidell, Louisiana and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. She and Lester had six children, three born before World War I, three after. During the war years, during which her husband served in the US Army, Margaret lived in her beloved Maine.
Margaret’s first novel, The Old Ashburn Place, earned a $10,000 national prize for best first novel of the year in 1935. A phone call from the publisher, Dodd, Mead & Co., had told her she was a finalist. But the follow-up news of her win came over the airwaves, announced by Walter Winchell during his radio newscast. The prize was reported in major papers nationwide, such as the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Chicago Tribune.
The change in her life from obscure housewife to famous author was as dramatic as it was instantaneous, but her success was severely offset by the loss of her husband in 1936 to the after-effects of WWI gassing. The cash prize, however, enabled her to move the family back to Maine. She renovated the former Pequawket Inn in West Baldwin, which lies within the large acreage land-granted to her father's family after the French and Indian War.
Eight more novels and a flood of newspaper and magazine articles followed.
As a novelist, her forte was psychological insights into family and neighborhood relationships. She was also noted for her ability to convey the speech patterns of the small region between Sebago Lake and the New Hampshire border, the setting for most of her stories.
Sara Mitchell Barnacle, along with Matthew Sternberg (president of Istoria Books) and Leslie Lebl, contributed to this digital conversion of The Old Ashburn Place. They are all grandchildren of the author.