‘P.T. Barnum’ of Maine operated circus in area

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Next Hebron Historical Society meeting is Oct. 28

HEBRON — Local historian Ben Conant recently briefed the Hebron Historical Society on 19th century Bryant Pond resident Ezra Stephens, who became known as the “P.T. Barnum” of Maine.

Born in Sumner, he later moved to Trap Corner in West Paris where he operated a store for a few years before he settled in Bryant Pond where he ran another store.

As a young lad Stephens was a peddler with a knack for repairing everyday items, including watches and clocks. After attending the Paris Fair and later the Dixfield Circus he became enthralled with circus-like shows.

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He bought a trained bear from the fair owners for display at his store. From this initial “one-ring” show he eventually transformed his property into a full-fledged circus. He even brought in buffalo from out West. It eventually would take 20 carriages to move all the animals that he would acquire.

Stephens also had a “side show” titled “The Wild Men of Borneo.” It featured two brothers, each of whom were 40 inches in height and weighed 45 pounds. They demonstrated enormous strength, lifting over 300 pounds each.

Stephens eventually sold his circus property in 1892, some of which went to P. T. Barnum. It is believed that he mistakenly consumed wood alcohol which led to his death in 1899.

The next Society meeting will feature State Trooper Percy Turner will discuss the famous 1939 “Littlefield” murders at the next meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, at the Hebron Town Office, 351 Paris Road. The public is invited.

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