AUBURN – Whether Auburn or Lewiston would become the county seat was the heated issue before the Court of the Androscoggin County Commissioners in 1854.

To mark the 150th anniversary of the first commission meeting on April 21, 1854, a re-enactment was held before the commission, county officials and the media. Members of the Androscoggin Historical Society donned 19th-century top hats and ribbon ties.

When Androscoggin County was created by an act of the Maine Legislature, Gov. William G. Crosby appointed three interim commissioners to serve until the general election in November of that year. Crosby appointed a county clerk and other county officials.

In the re-enactment, Gordon Windle portrayed lawyer Cyrus Knapp, the first county clerk; Charles Plummer played Commissioner Emery S. Warren; Douglas Hodgkin portrayed Commission Chairman Stephen H. Read; and Dennis Stires assumed the role of Commissioner Job Chase.

The business conducted at the short meeting included electing Read as chairman, James Goff Jr. as county treasurer and Ham Brooks as coroner. Brooks was ordered to post a $5,000 bond.

When the performance was over, County Commissioner Constance Cote said, “You people deserve an Academy Award.”

Hodgkin, dressed in a period suit with a stiff collar, said he tried to simulate how Read looked and dressed. The actual meeting portrayed in the re-enactment was held in Knapp’s office in the Garcelon Block, on Lewiston’s Main Street.

The Garcelon Block housed the office of Dr. Alonzo Garcelon, a state representative who was instrumental in establishing both Androscoggin County and the Maine State Seminary, which later became Bates College.

The exact location of the Garcelon Block is unknown. “We doubt that it’s still there. We don’t know, frankly, exactly where it is,” Hodgkin said.

As for which city would become the county seat, voters sealed that fate in a referendum in October 1854: Auburn won, 2,909 to 2,041.

The commission then authorized bonds for $80,000 to fund the construction of a courthouse in Auburn. The oldest portion of the courthouse that remains in use today was built for $70,000 in 1857.

The 1850 census reported the county population at 25,746. The population of Lewiston was 3,854 and Auburn, 2,840. The third largest town was Poland with 2,660 people.

Gov. John E. Baldacci signed a proclamation last week, designating March 31 “Androscoggin County Day.” A recent County Commission proclamation also recognized the county’s 150th anniversary.

Androscoggin County was carved out of Cumberland, Kennebec, Oxford and Lincoln counties on March 18, 1854.

As part of the 150th anniversary, the Androscoggin Historical Society has published two books. “Alnobak: A Story of Indigenous People in Androscoggin County,” was written by Canyon Wolf, also known as Nancy Lecompte of Lewiston. A second volume, “Androscoggin County, ME: A Pictorial Sesquicentennial History, 1854-2004,” was edited by Stires and Michael C. Lord. It features chapters by local historians.


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