READFIELD — History plays out at multiple levels.

There’s the big picture, revolving around dates, wars, elections and leaders.

Then there are the more personal stories of people like Releaf Savage Gordon, a woman who lived a long but ordinary life in Readfield during the first half of the 19th century.

Visitors to the Readfield Historical Society’s open house on Sunday had the chance to learn about that period in Readfield and central Maine’s history from a reenactor portraying Gordon.

Releaf Savage, whose first name is also spelled Relief in some records, was born to the owner of a sawmill in Hallowell in 1769.

“People ask me about my name,” the reenactor said. “Well, I was the youngest of eight. My mother said, ‘Well, ain’t that a relief.’ But that’s just a joke.”

She was nearly an old maid when she married Daniel Gordon in 1796. They lived in East Readfield, which had a school, a store and businesses such as an oilcloth factory, but now is vacant land near the intersection of routes 17 and 135.

She and her husband had five children who lived to adulthood, and Releaf Gordon died at age 92 in 1861. She’d lived long enough to see Readfield progress from a wilderness with muddy trails that horses struggled to navigate to a town with a railroad depot.

Gordon was the ancestor six generations back of town historian Evelyn Potter, who herself has great-grandchildren still living in Readfield. Gordon was played by Potter’s daughter, Dale Potter Clark, who lives in Vassalboro and has been a reenactor at Washburn-Norlands Living History Center in Livermore.

About a decade ago, Clark dressed in her bonnet, calico skirt and apron to play Gordon and give bus tours of the town during Readfield Heritage Days for a few years.

“People are still talking about it,” Potter said. “They ask, ‘When are you going to do it again?'”

In recent months, Clark has been giving informal walking tours as Gordon, and she also spoke at Maranacook Community High School. She said the girls were dismayed to hear about the lack of rights for women in the 19th century, while many of the boys were interested in stories about hunting with muskets.

“The teachers told me they like the sort of blood and gore stories,” Clark said, in character as Gordon. “I guess some things never change.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645
smcmillan@mainetoday.com