NORWAY – The 2005 Norway Summer Festival will kick off on Thursday, July 7, with a lecture at the Norway Memorial Library on “George Howe: Mineralogist, Naturalist, Teacher” by mineralogist and historian Vandall T. King.

Howe’s life and career will be featured at the festival, hosted by Norway Downtown Revitalization, which will include exhibits on Howe and regional mineralogy at the Norway Memorial Library and the Norway Historical Society.

The 7 p.m. lecture, which is is free and open to the public, is the product of King’s lifetime interest in Oxford County mineralogy and over a decade of research into its early history. George Howe (1860-1950) – “Uncle George” to several generations of friends from everywhere – was one of the most significant figures in that history and was important and influential in other ways as well.

A Norway native, Howe followed his father into the insurance business, then left it abruptly after his marriage failed. He became a self-taught mineralogist and naturalist. In the early 1890s he found one of the finest amethyst deposits then known in the world.

In 1898 he and Oscar L. “Shavey” Noyes founded the Boy Scientists, a local nature club that foreshadowed and may have influenced the founding of the Boy Scouts in America.

Howe changed the lives of the young people he befriended then and later. By 1920 he had built Summit Study at the top of Pike’s Hill and had come to see his life’s work as teaching. He began working at local children’s camps, leading trips, hosting young people at his home and sharing his broad knowledge of nature.

By the 1930s he had a worldwide circle of acquaintances and a huge reputation in Western Maine. His door was always open, and he hosted many people over the years, each one required to sign the guest book before departing. Howe died quietly in 1950.

Van King was born in Skowhegan and has degrees from the University of Maine and the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has written or edited 14 books and more than 200 articles, many concerned with Maine minerals and mining history. He is principal author of “Mineralogy of Maine” in two volumes, published by the Maine Geological Survey.

King is writing a three-volume history of mining in Oxford County, which follows the histories and connections of the mine owners, miners and scientists who have explored the mineral wealth of the area.

His lecture is drawn from material for the third volume of this set, which focuses on Norway, Greenwood and Stoneham, and is particularly about George Howe and Shavey Noyes, their lives and times. The program is funded in part by the Maine Humanities Council and Maine Arts Commission.


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