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