VHF Newsletter
May/June 2015

Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead

I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!                         

                                                                                                                                         ~John Muir, July 1890


History and Natural History Mystery

In honor of Arbor Week, the third full week in May, we present one of the oldest and most beloved trees on the Homestead grounds. Though not native to Maine, this species thrives along the east coast of the US. This type of tree was sacred to the ancient Egyptians and is often found in Christian cemeteries because of its Biblical symbolism. The fruits are one-inch balls on stalks, sometimes called "buttonballs." The leaves get so big that in the fall children visiting the Homestead poke eye holes in them and use them as masks. It is also known for its distinctive flaking bark, which creates a camouflage-like pattern on the upper trunk and branches. The tree at the Homestead, pictured here, measures 17 feet around. 
  Nature & Art Day Camp campers measure the tree, July 2014 
The largest living specimen of this type is in Delaware and has a girth of 26.4 feet! It is named for George Washington, who is reputed to have napped under it during the Revolutionary War. Our tree poses a history mystery to us because, since it is not native to the area, we know that it was planted, but we don't know when. References to it in our collection indicate that it could be as old as the Homestead itself - over 225 years. Even though it is not as large as the Delaware tree, it may in fact be the same age but smaller because of our northern climate. 
The natural history mystery: what kind of tree is it? 



Featured Programs
Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit  

Vaughan Garden, sculpture by unknown artist

When Ellen Twisleton Vaughan reestablished the formal garden at the Homestead in the late 1800s, it was her artist's eye that made it the special place we still enjoy today. A talented watercolorist, she was one in a long line of both artists and gardeners to span the seven generations of Vaughan residents at the Homestead. In honor of this tradition, the Vaughan Homestead, in partnership with the Harlow Gallery, invites you to an exhibition of outdoor sculpture in the garden and its surrounding grounds this July and August. Contributions include wood, metal, resin, and stone pieces from mid-Maine artists, including the late Paul Plumer of Hallowell.

The exhibit will open with a 5 to 8 pm reception on July 3. From then through August 28 the grounds will be open to visitors Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm, selected Saturdays from 10 am to noon (July 11, August 1 and August 15), and by appointment. The public is also invited to tour the grounds and enjoy a garden party on Old Hallowell Day on Saturday, July 18th from noon to 3pm.



Author Talk by Thomas Hubka


The stately and beautiful connected farm buildings made by 19th-century New Englanders stand today as expressions of rural culture, offering insights into the people who made them and their agricultural way of life. 


Join us at Hallowell City Hall for a talk by architectural historian and author Thomas Hubka, who will speak about his award-winning book, Big House Little House Back House, Barn: The Connected Farm Buildings of New England.





June 27
Wild Meadow Walk

July 3

Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit Opening Reception
July 11
Author Talk: Thomas C. Hubka: Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn
July 18
Garden Party & Sculpture Exhibit for Old Hallowell Day

July 25
Classic Movie on the Lawn
August 22
Classic Family Movie on the Lawn
March/April History Mystery

In our last mystery, we asked you to identify the Hallowell group that Elizabeth Peabody is referring to in the 1824 poem excerpted below. 

Wend you with the Blues to-night?/A gay assemblage will be there;

Vaughan with glowing beauty bright, /Happy heart and joyous air.

The elder Merrick gently grave, /And Mary, silent, full of feeling;

And Gillett, skilled on love to rave, /Every rising thought revealing;

Youth and Misses divers ages, /Going - gone to Doctor Page's . . . . 

Wend you with the Blues to-night?/'Tis certain you may be amused;

In some corner you may light, /Where some neighbors are abused;

If 'tis not your vein, pass by;
Some choice spirits still are there, /And by the power of sympathy

You may soon discover where;/For Youths and Misses divers ages, 
Are all going to Doctor Page's.

Peabody, who went on to found the kindergarten movement in the United States, wrote the poem during her tenure in Hallowell as governess to the Vaughan children. She was invited to join the local Blue Stocking Club, referred to here as "the Blues."  The original "Blue Stocking Society" was a women's group in England who i nvited learned men to gather informally with them to talk about books, literature, art and architecture, as well as places and events that interested them. The name refers to the informal dress that was encouraged at the meetings. "Blue Stocking" eventually came to mean an intellectual woman. When Benjamin Vaughan's daughter Sarah visited England, Benjamin insisted that she attend such gatherings. In Old Hallowell on the Kennebec author Emma Huntington Nason, describes the local Blue Stocking Club as the " literati of Hallowell."

A Mystery Solved

A few months ago our history mystery was about Maine author Sarah Orne Jewett. A letter in our collections indicates that she had planned to visit the Homestead in 1890 as long as her mother was well. Whether Jewett ever actually visited was a mystery to us until recently. While cataloging the Homestead guest book last month, curator Jane Radcliffe happened upon this page:


Note the second, third, and fourth signatures, of Sarah Orne Jewett, her sister Mary, and fellow author and Vaughan cousin Laura Richards of Gardiner. The date reads June 4, 1908. We had looked for her name in the guest book in and around 1890, the year of the letter, but had not thought to look 18 years later! How lovely to think of her sitting on the porch looking out over the river and discussing literature with Ellen Twisleton Vaughan and Laura Richards!    

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