Two local men have been arrested and charged with arson in connection with an early-morning fire Sunday in Casco that destroyed a one-room schoolhouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sgt. Joel Davis, spokesman for the State Fire Marshal’s Office, identified the men Sunday night as 22-year-old Devin Richardson-Gurney and 20-year-old Edward Scott, both of Casco.
Davis said both men, who admitted to setting the structure on fire, were transported to the Cumberland County Jail, where they were each being held Sunday night on $25,000 cash bail or $50,000 surety. Each man was charged with one count of arson and one count of aggravated criminal mischief.
Davis credited State Fire Marshal’s Offfice investigators Kenneth Tabor and Ike Peppard with connecting evidence found at the fire scene to the men. Richardson-Gurney and Scott are expected to appear in court Monday.
Meanwhile, members of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society said they may never recover from the loss of the Friends School House, which was built in 1849. It contained dozens of valuable artifacts, including historic books and maps dating back as far as the 1700s. Everything stored in the structure was lost to the fire.
“We were hopeful of passing this schoolhouse on to future generations, and now it’s gone,” said Rose Symonds, who along with her husband, Tim, served as curators of the schoolhouse. “Once you’ve lost a piece of history, you can’t get it back. I don’t see how we can recover from something like this.”
Casco Fire Chief Brian Cole said his department was notified around 5:15 a.m. Sunday that the structure, known locally as the Old School House, was on fire. It is located near the Casco town hall and community center on Route 121.
By the time firefighters arrived, the schoolhouse was engulfed in flames. Firefighters from Casco, Naples and Otisfield helped fight the blaze.
“The structure was destroyed,” Cole said Sunday evening.
Frank McDermott, president of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, said the fire could not have happened at a worse time.
The historical society had made plans to move the schoolhouse to its history museum on Route 302 this summer. Members envisioned a much more visible role for the structure on the museum campus, with tours for local schoolchildren being the focus.
“We were really looking forward to that,” McDermott said.
Symonds said the artifacts that burned in the fire are irreplaceable. Lost were maps, schoolbooks, and an announcement declaring the election of George Washington as the first president of the United States. There were even maps showing the boundaries of the early United States that ended at the Mississippi River.
“It was amazing what we had stored in that schoolhouse,” said Symonds, who estimated the value of the artifacts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Symonds said that she and her husband were devastated to hear that the schoolhouse had been destroyed.
“There was so much history there, so much,” she said.