READFIELD — Tan beech leaves carpeted the ground, rustling beneath the feet of the 15 hikers on the trail through the Fogg Farm Conservation Area. A tiny grove of princess pines stood delicately beside the path.
The sounds of happy talk wafted through the November woods as the group chatted while they walked. Most wore at least one piece of blaze orange clothing, and many were seniors wielding walking sticks.
The trail crossed a sturdy footbridge over Fogg Brook, a crystal-clear stream, and looped back again. This was not an ordinary fall hike, but the fourth outing of a new group called the Readfield “History Walkers.”
The “History Walkers,” formed by Dale Potter Clark, a Readfield native who now lives in Vassalboro and is an expert in local history, have walked several Readfield public trails and discussed historical points of interest along the way.
They have been guided on their expeditions by Milt Wright, a retired executive director of the Maine Education Association who is chairman of the Readfield Trails Committee. Wright has much experience in trail maintenance. He is a past president of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club who for 10 years maintained a 3.8-mile section of the Appalachian Trail from Height of Land to Oquossoc.
Wright said he first climbed Mount Katahdin when he was 10 years old and he then proceeded to climb Katahdin at least once a year for the next 57 consecutive years.
He said there are about 12 miles of locally maintained trails in the town of Readfield in addition to several more miles of cross-country running and ski trails behind Maranacook Community School.
“These are recreational trails for walkers, for bird watchers, for people to enjoy,” said Wright. “These are excellent opportunities to get away from their homes and walk in the woods.”
Brenda Boutilier Deojay, 73, of Fayette, has been on all four “History Walks.” She is interested in them because she lived in Readfield from 1944 to 1959.
“I enjoy them very much,” said Deojay. “It makes me realize what a privilege it was to grow up in this area of Readfield. It brings back some very good memories.”
The trail at Fogg Farm Conservation Area was built with help from Maranacook Community School students, and it is named for the late David McPhedran, a Maranacook Community School teacher who perished in an avalanche on Mount Washington in 2000.
The 15-acre conservation area is owned by the town of Readfield with a conservation easement held by the Kennebec Land Trust. It was originally part of the Fogg Farm, a large farm first established in 1807 by Dudley and Nancy Fogg that at one time encompassed about 200 acres.
A large farmhouse, built in the 1880s by the Fogg family, now stands at the top of Ledge Hill and commands a panoramic view including Maranacook Lake in the distance. Dale Clark led the group up to the farmhouse after the hike.
Two descendants of the Fogg family, Joanne Fogg Fournier of Saco and Bonnie Lash of Waldoboro, accompanied the group on the Fogg Farm hike. Fournier said her father, Samuel Fogg Jr., was the youngest of five children of Samuel Fogg Sr. She said her grandparents lived in the Fogg homestead atop the hill, and after they died, her parents moved back into the homestead. She remembers living there.
In 1989, the Fogg Farm was sold after it had been in the Fogg family for nearly 200 years. The pasture land was subdivided, and several new houses were built on it.
Joanne Fournier said the sale and subdivision of the land was disappointing to the Fogg descendants.
“We were crushed at the time,” she said. “It was tough to see that happen. But nobody could keep the farm going, I guess. All those feelings are over with now, I guess.”
Dale Clark is the retired executive director of Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area. She has always been interested in local history. For four years, she was an interpreter at The Norlands living history museum in Livermore. She is a charter member of the Readfield Historical Society.
She first organized history walks in Readfield in the 1970s and now is reviving them. She provides detailed printouts to the walkers describing the family histories of the areas being studied.
The first walk in October was a 3-mile tour of the Readfield Town Forest and the adjoining McDonald Land Trust. Sites visited included that of the District 6 Schoolhouse and the foundation of the Readfield Town Poor Farm.
A second walk of 2.5 miles was from the Readfield Town Office along the new sidewalk on Main Street to trails in the Readfield Fairgrounds complex. Wright is co-steward of the Fairgrounds area with Gary Keilty who also went on this outing. The trails in the Fairgrounds are finished in bluestone, which provides a smooth enough surface to be used by people with disabilities or by baby strollers. Memories of the Readfield Grange Fair were discussed on this walk.
The third walk of 2.5 miles was in Torsey Pond Nature Preserve, which includes 92 acres of woods and a wildlife observatory on Torsey Pond. The history of Torsey Pond over the past 250 years and the history of Goucher farm were discussed.
Clark has promoted the “History Walkers” on the Facebook Page “You Might Be from Readfield If.” She can also be reached by e-mail at [email protected]
“We’re already talking about having another walk this winter or getting together to watch films of oral histories,” Clark said. “Many people are bringing their pieces of regional histories such as old photos. We’ve got people in their 40s all the way up to their 80s.”