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A Brief History of the Kennebec Historical Society

     The Kennebec Historical Society was founded in 1891 as "The Kennebec Natural History and Antiquarian Society." Its first president was Dr. W. Scott Hill; vice president, Samuel L. Boardman; secretary, Frank T. Noble; treasurer, E.C. Dudley; and librarian, Charles C. Willoughby. The original letter sent to 50 local residents to determine their interest in such a society included most of those names and also that of Charles E. Nash. Nash is the author of a well-known history of Augusta. Copies are available for use at the Society's headquarters. (The Society also has Nash's manuscript.)

Lithgow Library

In 1896, the Society moved to Lithgow Library, where its collection was  housed for many years.

     For the first four years of its existence, the Society rented a third-floor hall at 219 Water Street in Augusta. The organizers furnished it with shelves and cases, and according to the November 27, 1891, New York Evening Post, invited the public "to contribute pamphlets, portraits, maps, deeds, autographs, botanical collections, Indian antiquities, and birds and animals for mounting.
     In 1896, the Society moved to Lithgow Library, where its collection was  housed for many years. Over the succeeding decades, the society's light has sometimes dimmed -- a couple of times resembling only a pilot light -- but it has not gone out. Today, the Society's emphasis is not on the natural history of the area, and, in fact, none of the botanical collections or mounted birds and animals are still in its collection.
     After the most recent reactivation of the Society in 1990, the collection was housed for several years in the Special Collections Room in the Learning Center (library) at the University of Maine at Augusta. The space was much appreciated, but cramped. In February 1999, the Kennebec Historical Society more than doubled its office space by moving to 61 Winthrop Street (built about 1811, and now known as the Johnson-Baker-Shelton House).

Research Room at 61 Winthrop Street

     The entrance to the society headquarters faced Summer Street. It had a pleasant downstairs room. This room provided comfortable space for outside researchers and was equipped with a computer tied into the society's network and collections databases as well as a photocopier for public use. This room also was used for meetings of the Executive Committee and other committees of the Society. Upstairs were the society's manuscript stacks, which housed the bulk of the collection, and the organization's administrative offices. On the walls, both upstairs and down, were pictures showing people, places and events important to Kennebec County's past.

     On February 28, 2007, the Society became the owner of the Henry Weld Fuller, Jr. House at 107 Winthrop Street. This sixteen room house now serves as the Society's headquarters.
     Our current collection includes many postcard images; 1938 Augusta tax photos; extensive newspaper clippings; photos (people, places and events); school publications (yearbooks, etc.); personal papers; business records; limited genealogical materials; the manuscripts of both Nash's History of Augusta and North's History of Augusta; and surveys of thousands of Augusta's historic buildings, conducted during the early 1990s.
   Throughout the last several years membership has increased steadily from a few dozen in 1990 to more than 540. KHS collections have grown as well. Similarly, the scope of the Society’s focus has broadened to include many Kennebec County communities.


© 2006 Kennebec Historical Society