Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Madrid, Maine Story

Judy's mother always talked about Small's Falls in Maine so, when we were thinking about going on vacation, we kicked around several places, Block Island, for example. But, after going on you tube and watching kids jump off 40' cliffs at Small's Falls Maine, we decided to go there. Judy had been led to believe that her family on her mother's side came from Farmington, ME, a town about 20 miles from Small's Falls. Going on-line, Judy looked for and randomly chose a B&B around the Small's Falls area. She found one in Madrid (pronounced Mad-drid), about four miles from the Falls. The B&B was called the Star Barn.

The Star Barn B&B was nestled on top of a little rise along a narrow, paved road. It had been a farm and the owners, a 50's in age couple from New Jersey bought the farm, with the intent of making a B&B out of it, lock, stock and barrel from a family estate. Place dated back to the 1860's, maybe earlier. It was classic New England: big house, little house, shed, barn, all attached to each other in a line. The new owners rebuilt the original barn and made it into the B&B. They ran a yoga program out of the barn. Judy & I danced in the studio one night. The owners also operated a gift shop; they only sold stuff made by Maine arts and crafts people. We elected to support the local economy and bought a bunch of items. A wonderful couple, they were open, friendly and made us feel very comfortable. But that's not the story; it's a sort of preamble to the story. Just to let you know, Judy did jump off a 40' cliff into a pool of deep, frigid water. I have it documented. Couldn't get her to do it twice, though. Of course, neither did the other two people with us. One time, that's it. Too cold.

So we get to Mad-drid, ME, check in, check it all out, do the Falls, hike around, check out the locale, take a zillion pictures, and go out to eat. While talking to the owners, Judy mentioned to the wife, Ginni, that she had done some genealogy research on her mother's side of the family. Judy's mother's maiden name was Small, and her mother used to talk about going to Small's Falls, describing it as a favorite spot for her to go. Judy always wondered if there was a connection between the names. Hmmnn. Ginni said that on Saturday the town was having its 175th annual picnic and, if we came, she would introduce us to the curator of the local museum, which was also the historical society and the former school house. We decided to go to the picnic and take advantage of the free lunch. I figured the worst that could happen was the people would be rude to us and we'd leave. On the contrary, we were accepted and joined right in on eating their pot luck food with them right there at a picnic table, one of about a dozen under a white canopy tent. When we arrived they were having a town trivia contest. It turns out that when the population dipped below 129, many years ago, the townspeople took a vote on whether they could afford to remain an incorporated town. By one vote, the town voted to un-incorporate and become a part of Maine's many unorganized territories. Now the kids had to be bused to the regional schools in either Farmington or Rangely, each a bit more than 20 miles away. We met a guy, Charlie Duane, who used to be local but now lived in MA, who had walked the Appalachian Trail in 97 days, from north to south. When he got to Springer Mountain, GA, he decided he wasn't finished walking and so he continued south and walked all the way to Key West. Then he wrote a book about it. I leafed through his book, which was for sale at the B&B, but didn't buy a copy at that moment (I later purchased it from his website).

We were introduced to Evelyn Sargeant, a 78 year old sharp minded woman. Evelyn was the curator of the museum/historical society and a life time resident of Madrid, although she now spent her winters in Florida. Judy told her about the Small's, etc. and Evelyn said there were birth and death records of the Small family and the predecessor family, the Voters. She was going to open the building in the afternoon for the picnic anyway and, if we wanted, we could come over and go through some old books. So we did.

Judy found the birth and death records for virtually everyone on her mother's side of the family dating to the mid-1830's. She found her mother's great grandmother and great grandfather, her mother's father's side of the family, including Judy's Uncle Veo. I took pictures of all the entries. We learned about the Voter's marrying into the Small's. It was Ivan Small who left the farm in Maine, went to Lowell and became a success in finance. Judy knew the story of her grandfather, Ivan, who during the stock market crash of 1929 lost it all. Judy was very surprised to learn that her mother's family was from Madrid, not Farmington as she'd originally believed. She asked Evelyn whether there was any family connection to the Falls, which is a real, true Maine natural wonder.

Evelyn told us that Small's Falls, comprised of three cascading waterfalls with a basin at the bottom of each that stretched about 200' feet through a rocky gorge with cliffs up to about 50', had originally been known as Harvey's Falls. She had no clue how it had gotten officially designated on Maine maps and in literature as Small's Falls. She did say though, that the old Voter farm was still around. We asked her where it was.

Evelyn told us that the farm was about five miles up the road. It had been purchased by Ginni and David Robie who turned the farm into a Bed and Breakfast. It was called the Star Barn. She said they were nice people and might show us their house. Evelyn said when they'd bought the farm, they bought it with the entire contents included. Small world, huh?

The Robies showed us what could be considered heirlooms, restored furniture, old pictures. They took us all over the house, gave us the grand tour. In the area behind the original barn, which they'd razed and rebuilt, they found parts to an old wagon that fit with other parts they'd found elsewhere around the farm. Put together, it was a restored hay wagon maybe 130 years old. When the house was expanded and renovated, they used as much of the original materials as possible. On the outside, it looked original; on the inside, it still retained many of the original qualities, only updated.

After Small's Falls we went to NH where we took the cog rail to the top of Mt. Washington and also did the zip line at Bretton Woods. But those are stories for another time.