Chapter 3 – The Turn of the Century 1900-1920

Map of Durham - By Chris

Map of Durham - By Chris

Another day had come to Durham Elementary School and the squirrels were gathering again the maple tree after a long morning of playing. Freddy was beginning to tell the young squirrels what Durham was like at the Turn of the Century.

“Around the year 1900, Durham was arranged so that there were 4 separate settlement. There was Southwest Bend, which is where the school is, West Durham, East Durham and South Durham.”

“Were there stores in each area?”

“Yes, Mary, there were. The population of the town had increased to 1,230 people by the year 1900 and would be 1,625 by 1920.”

“What sort of work did people do?” asked Sammy.

People worked as farmers, carpenters, masons, mill workers, coopers, or shoemakers.

“Where did people go shopping?” asked Mary.

“In each of the four sections of town there was a General Store and Post Office,” answered Freddy.

“What did the stores look like?” asked Ben.

“I heard some people talking once and they described the store in South West Bend. This store was called the George Warren General Store. They said it was a place where people would go to learn the news and maybe play a game of checkers by the wood stove. The mail wagon would come from Yarmouth to deliver the mail. George Warren, the proprietor would read the postcards and packages when he sorted the mail so he always knew what was going on.”

“I think it sounds like a friendly place,” stated Sammy.


Log Houses - By Steph

Log Houses - By Steph

“I agree,” said Freddy. “Across the street was the R.M. Strout Store where people could buy hardware and grain supplies. There was also a Carriage Shop where carriages were made and repaired and a Corn Shop where corn was processed and wrapped into bundles for commercial use in other Maine cities. If some visitor needed a place to stay then they might have stayed at The Durham House which was owned and operated by Abner Merrill.”

“Where was there a hotel?” asked Mary.

“It stood where the bandstand is today. Later on it was sold to Charles Ford and the name was changed to Ford’s Hotel. There also was a blacksmith in the area to take care of the horses that were an important part of life.”

“Were the other areas like South West Bend?” asked Ben.

“They each had General Stores which included the post offices and each area had their own school. In West Durham the store was the W.H.Merrill and Sons Store and on Route 125 on the southeastern part of town was the A.F. and A. Lunt Store. It sat across from the Friend’s Meeting House.”

“What did that store look like?”


A Farm - By Dan

A Farm - By Dan

“Well, Elizabeth, there was a large front door. When you walked in that door there was a counter on the right that ran the length of the store. You could smell many smells as you walked around the store. There was the sweet smell of molasses, salt pork, and coffee that was ground in a large red grinder. If the wood stove was burning, you could smell that and the oiled floor. A glass counter had jars of candy. If you bought some of that candy it was put into a red striped bag.”

“I can picture the whole thing,” said Sammy.

“Did people have to leave town for everything else?” asked Elizabeth.

“There were some other businesses. James Beckett ran a print shop and F.M. Wakeman was an optician so people could take care of their eyes. John Merrill was an insurance agent and the Bowie family ran a dairy farm so people could get their milk.”

The yellow buses began pulling into the parking lot so the squirrels knew it was time to be leaving. They scampered down the tree and raced off into the distance.