FARMINGTON — The children of Edith McCleery have published the memories and stories of her early life on a New Portland farm and are ready to share them.

A book signing and celebration for “Memoirs of New Portland Hill, An Autobiography” by Edith Edwards McCleery will take place at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29, at Louise McCleery’s home on 153 Perham St.

Publication was promised by McCleery’s children during the last few weeks of her life. 

Three years later, it is time to celebrate that it is done, Louise McCleery said.

Born in 1925, McCleery lived through the struggles of the Depression, the death of her father at age 10, two brothers sick with infantile paralysis and a move to Farmington so she could receive a high school education, daughter Susan Small, said.

“My mother loved the farm life, the work,” Small said. “She writes about different things.”

Stories range from raising and picking a variety of crops, to animals on the self-sustaining farm and sharing its abundance with neighbors during the Depression.

Those first 13 years formed the person that she was, Small said.

“She really didn’t know the suffering others went through — families of classmates who were one meal away from being out of food,” she said.

Small’s grandmother, Sadie Edwards, shared produce with neighbors as Edith McCleery did by bringing squash and produce for free community meals at Henderson Memorial Baptist Church.

“She saw her mother taking care of others around her and that’s what she did,” Small said.

Some stories are funny, relating to the mischievous side of her mother, Louise McCleery said. One involved teasing a neighbor’s ram until it charged, and McCleery and her friends would jump on top of a rock to get away from it.

“I realize who Mom really was in her married and older years was shaped by her 13 years on the hill,” McCleery said. “She was really part of that greatest generation. Born before the Depression and living through it … just think of what has gone on.”

McCleery’s six children appreciate her stories and contributed to the publication.

“Many have commented how incredibly blessed I am to have these stories and how lucky I am to know this about my parents,” McCleery said.

In these changing times, we need to take time to tell our histories, stories of the lives we’ve lived, she added.

Edith and her husband, Robert McCleery, worked on their Wilton Road home, raising cattle, poultry, corn and beans. Both were active in the community.

Edith took part in many groups, including the grange, 4-H, Farmington Historical Society, Farmington Fair and the Little Red Schoolhouse Museum committee.

McCleery started writing in 1997 after retiring as office manager for the Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District.

She wanted a computer to document her memories of her childhood on the farm, Louise McCleery said. Those memories quickly amounted to about 70 pages, she said.

In 2004, Louise composed the stories into a little booklet, but her mother said no to publication while her siblings were still alive. Edith was 12 years younger than her closest sibling, and she thought they might want to correct her memories.

“These are my memories, ones that stuck with me,” Edith told her daughter.

When she became ill in 2011 at age 86, “she held court with all of us sitting around listening to her share her stories,” Small said. The promise to edit and publish them was made.

McCleery only lasted another seven weeks. 

The book wasn’t created for profit. It is being sold for $15, which helps cover the cost of publication, Small said.

Copies will be available at the Red Schoolhouse Museum and Farmington Grange booth at Farmington Fair.

Copies can also be ordered from Small for an additional $4.30 for postage at P.O. Box 2343, South Portland, ME 04116-2343.

[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.