Ben Conant of Paris, seen in January 2022 at the Paris Cape Historical Society’s Porter House on High Street in Paris, was a founding member and driving force of Paris Cape Historical Society and lifelong curator. Conant died Monday at his home at the age of 82. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

SOUTH PARIS — If this town had an institutional memory, Ben Conant was it. 

For more years than anyone can count, he collected local history and he shared that history with anyone who had an interest. 

Conant, curator of Paris Cape Historical Society since its inception in 1981, died on Monday, according to an announcement on the society Facebook page Friday afternoon. He was 81. 

“For all of us interested in Paris history,” the society announcement read, “he provided a wonderful perspective on it and years of devoted work. We will miss him greatly.” 

That was putting it mildly. 

Reaction to the news of Conant’s passing was swift. Those who had encountered the man in any capacity remembered him not just as a fastidious historian, but as a man of God. A good friend and a passionate teacher. 


He played piano, the accordion and the violin. He was said to be a great singer of hymns. In addition to history, Conant could talk on matters of the Bible for hours. 

“He was just an amazing man,” said Nancy Marcotte, a historian who lives in South Paris. “Any question you asked him, he knew the answer. If he didn’t know it, he knew where to ask.” 

Conant’s dedication to the history of the region was the stuff of legend, according to those who knew him. He was the type of man who could give you the information you needed and then tell you a few good stories to give that information more flavor. 

“He was great fun to listen to as a storyteller,” Marcotte said. “He had such a great Maine accent and a wonderful way of telling a story. He was funny — funny and happy. He was a happy person all the time and he was always delighted to share his information with anybody.” 

Oxford Historical Society President Patricia Larrivee wrote on Facebook that Conant “was instrumental in re-writing the annals of Oxford.”

“We have lost the biggest historian for all the towns in Oxford County,” she said. “We have lost our storyteller and I am just heartbroken.”


Larrivee means to push for a monument to be placed somewhere in the region that memorializes the important historical work that Conant achieved throughout his lifetime.

“He was just so amazing,” she said. “He knew everything and he documented everything. He knew and he remembered everything about Norway, Oxford, Paris, Hebron, you name it. He was the go to person for history, he really was. He was just instrumental in saving our history.

“He was,” Larrivee said, “such an important character in our town.”

Conant gave talks all over the county, whether it was one-room schoolhouses from the old days, or the old pickle factory that once operated on Western Avenue in Paris.

And Conant worked right up until the end — he took part in a historical program about the history of the Market Square area on Thursday, just days before his death. 

That was no surprise to those who had the good fortune of working with Conant or just encountering him during their travels. If a person wanted to work on his or her ancestry, Conant was who you called upon. 


“Ben was one of the greatest local historians of the last 200,” wrote Ben Tucker, on a Facebook thread about Conant’s passing, “a delightful, kind compassionate soul with a quick wit and a great sense of humor. I have had many interesting and fascinating conversations with him over the years.” 

Before he helped launch the historical society, Conant, the son of an elementary and Sunday school teacher, kept historical records at his house near the post office, according to Marcotte. 

History was part of who he was, as was his devotion to religious teachings, according to those who knew him. Conant was a minister who had taught history and the Bible with equal zeal. At one time, he was a history and Bible teacher at Paris Christian Academy.

In 2022, Conant talked about the enthusiasm for local history in the area. When the Paris Cape Historical Society got off the ground in 1980 at the public library, it soon became apparent that they were going to need more space.

“We had our first meeting at the tail end of ’80,” said Conant, Paris Cape’s first board president and curator of collections and institutional knowledge. “We filled up the room, 30-40 people. When we formed we had over 200 charter members. We needed a bigger place so we went to the old Paris Fire Hall to hold our meetings.” 

The society moved into a room at the Oxford County Jail at one point, but that didn’t suit their needs, either — ultimately, Paris Cape was able to purchase the Porter House and established its permanent headquarters there in 2003. 

There was no immediate word on who will replace Conant — if anyone truly can — at the historical society.

“He was a walking encyclopedia of area history and for many, their families history,” one area woman wrote. “A man with so many talents is irreplaceable.” 

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