Anyone who reads and writes about history naturally wishes that time travel was more than fiction.

There’s a whole world and many centuries that could be explored, but I would be happy with some quick local visits. I’d really enjoy a 100-year hop across the Androscoggin to the early offices of the Lewiston Journal. There, I could meet some exceptional personalities whose work was familiar to newspaper readers many years ago.

One of those remarkable people was L.C. Bateman, a prolific writer and editor of the Lewiston Journal Magazine Section in the late 1800s.

Although not a native of the Twin Cities, Luther C. Bateman made an indelible mark on these communities in his later years as he traveled around the state to find stories about interesting people and places.

It’s a kind of life I can appreciate, as did Edith Labbie, who wrote many columns for the Lewiston Journal Magazine section some 30-40 years ago. Her research on Bateman emphasizes her admiration for this man.

She wrote that Bateman was with the Lewiston Journal for 27 years, first as agricultural editor for the magazine. That was an important position in the late 1800s. Bateman’s Grange connections and his extensive orchard in Jefferson qualified him for the position.

It’s the early years of Bateman’s life that lend a particular fascination to me. He was born in Waldoboro in 1849 and it’s said he was the youngest soldier in the Civil War. He received two honorable discharges before he was 16.

When officers of the Union Army found out Bateman’s true age after his first enlistment, he was reassigned from the battlefield to guard duty at Kittery. As soon as his first tour of duty was up, the boy re-enlisted in the 14th Regiment.

The red-headed youth was not only a drummer boy. He carried a musket and was at Richmond in the last days of the war where he was one of the men guarding Confederate President Jefferson Davis after his capture.

Bateman traveled a bit after the war. He was acquainted with “real cowboys” of the old West, as well as settlers of the prairies and mountains. He earned enough money in California to return East and complete his education.

Bateman had a great interest in phrenology – a fad at the time that claimed to identify traits of character by the shape of the head. He conducted a one-man nationwide lecture tour on the subject, as well as talks on lost lands, strange people and forgotten ages. He was a recognized Egyptologist, and his ringing voice filled large halls.

Today’s long political campaigns and primary battles would have appealed to Bateman. A Lewiston Journal column said, “Bateman’s political career in Maine was stormy, but he loved every minute of it.”

He was a Populist candidate for governor in 1892 and 1894. He was nominated again in 1896 at a meeting in Auburn Hall after he moved to Auburn. At this time, he was publishing a weekly newspaper called “The Populist.”

Bateman’s feature stories preserved in the memories of many Maine people as he traveled tens of thousands of miles throughout the state. On one of his annual one-day vacations, he visited Kittery where he had served in the Civil War. He tripped and fell from a high embankment and broke several bones. Although he recovered, it’s thought his injuries hastened his death following surgery for another ailment in 1904.

It would be wonderful to meet people such as L.C. Bateman when they were a part of our Twin Cities. Fortunately, we can still make their acquaintance through their writings.

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and an Auburn native. You can e-mail him at [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.