Back when Maine was part of Massachusetts, Samuel Berry had traveled into the areas around Cobbosseecontee Lake and the Kennebec River valley. His knowledge of the area made him a good candidate to sign on as a scout and guide for the ill-fated trip up the Kennebec and Dead River valleys to Quebec known as the Arnold Expedition.

In return for his services in the late 1700s, Berry received a government grant of land near Lake Auburn. It included the watershed of the brook outlet almost down to “the big river.”

Near the lake, he established a small settlement, then known as Berry’s Mills, and now known as East Auburn.

Today’s motorist on Route 4 from Auburn to the lake would have a difficult time deciding where Auburn ends and East Auburn begins. The highway is a long strip of auto dealerships, shopping malls and various businesses, but just a few feet out of sight from the highway flows Bobbin Mill Brook, which was the necessary asset for East Auburn’s development.

Forests covered the hills north and west of the lake, holding back water that made its way into the lake and then coursed in great volume to the outlet. It afforded a substantial amount of water for either over-shot or under-shot waterwheels that provided power for grist mills, sawmills and other industry.

It was 1769 when Berry built a frame house on somewhat higher land just east of the brook. It was quite likely the oldest house in what is now Auburn, being a few years older than the Knight House, which is preserved at a site near the Great Falls. He built with heavy timbers and studs.

A second house was soon built at Berry’s Mills by Earnest Leavitt. That house became known in later years as the “Spooner place” and the “Whitman place.”

Berry built a grist mill, and soon another one was built on the brook by William Briggs from Dighton, Mass. Before long, a saw mill was erected to take advantage of the reliable water power.

These accounts of early East Auburn were published in the Lewiston Evening Journal Magazine Section in October of 1964. In his article, Dick Murray listed several other families that settled that area. They included the Albert Berry family, Cerauna Briggs, Thomas Chadbourn from Turner, Elijah Fisher from Taunton, Mass., and John Dillingham from Dighton, Mass. Thomas Lombard, Elisha Record and William Francio also settled near the new village.

A small Baptist church was built in 1819 at the junction of what is now Upper Turner Street and Center Street.

Eventually, there were 35 dwellings, a cobbler shop, another shoe enterprise, a brush factory, two grist mills and a saw mill, Murray said. The mills there produced wooden pegs, shingles, clapboards, laths, shooks, wooden boxes, staves and bobbins. The production of bobbins for the textile mills in Lewiston gave the brook its name, Bobbin Mill Brook.

East Auburn became a thriving community and a destination for the city dwellers  who rode the horse cars and, later, the “electrics” to Lake Grove. That entertainment center had an open-air theater for plays and dramas, as well as burlesque and comedy shows direct from Boston. The park was lighted throughout, when electricity was still a novelty. A landing offered steamer rides on Lake Auburn to the Spring House Hotel at West Auburn.

Auburn Grange No. 4 was also well known to area residents. It was built in the style of many Grange halls throughout the state. The large downstairs area was filled with long tables where many families gathered over the years for bean suppers and other events. Upstairs, where Grange meetings were conducted, there was a fine floor for public dancing.

Murray said, “Many old timers remember the happy, entertaining dances, the Lady of the Lake and Boston Fancy square dances, or the old fashioned waltz to the fiddled music of Dick Emery and his Hometowners.”

The old Grange hall was demolished a couple of decades ago.

East Auburn’s residents, and many more people of greater Lewiston and Auburn, will recall some of the activities that made the community special. There was an annual summer fair, “The Little World’s Fair,” Little League baseball, amateur baseball, and playground facilities.

Another landmark was “the gatehouse,” where a swimming hole attracted many people on hot summer days.

East Auburn is a small community that has been playing a big part in the lives of Androscoggin County residents.

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He can be reached by emailing [email protected]


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