VASSALBORO — Esther Bernhardt remembers seeing the appendix of her great-grandmother, which was kept in a canning jar filled with formaldehyde, and thinking it was “quite ugly.”

Her great-grandmother, Abigale Farnsworth Taylor of Vassalboro, had one of the first appendectomies in Maine in the late 1800s and kept the organ in the jar long after.

The story Bernhardt wrote about the family tale, along with the letter her great-grandfather wrote to Taylor, will be one of many preserved and published in “The Vassalboro Anthology of Tales,” a compilation of stories about the town and its happenings.

Vicki Schad and Bernhardt, both members of the board of the Vassalboro Historical Society, are working on the book, which they hope will be available in early September, just in time for Vassalboro Days.

So far, they’ve received 68 submissions for the anthology, which can be about anything that has happened in Vassalboro in the last 250 years. They’re accepting submissions until June 30. Information on the book and writers’ guidelines are posted on the town website.

The purpose of the book is to “preserve and share personal interest stories” of the town so that the “flavor” of Vassalboro will live on, Schad said in an interview Thursday.


Schad had the idea years ago, Bernhardt said, and finally decided now was the time to do it. As members of the historical society, they both know a great deal about the history of the town.

A few books on the history of the town have been published, but not many. Schad and Bernhardt knew of “The History of Vassalborough, Maine” by Alma Pierce Robbins, and research shows there are at least three others. But the pair wanted to create something different from a straight history book and “more fun,” Schad said.

“It’s the little stories that you can find out about these people” that are most interesting, Bernhardt said. “They were real people, not just a name on a chart or on a tombstone.”

As the 22nd official town in Maine, Vassalboro has a rich history that includes moments from the American Revolution and stories related to former sites like the Masse Dam and Sawmill and the Kennebec Bean Factory.

The historical society museum houses artifacts and vital records on Main Street. On June 10 it will open its new exhibits on the Indians of the Kennebec and a classroom from the Oak Grove-Coburn School, which now houses the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. It also holds an open house on the second and fourth Sundays of each month from June through October.

Schad, who is a licensed genealogist, said she thinks of the vital records people find as the “skeleton.”


When people are looking to find out more about their ancestors, it can be difficult to find the story within the dates and names and numbers, Schad said.

“Sometimes you have to look at those numbers for a while before you can make them say anything,” she said. “(…) But things like this are the meat and the flesh.”

Schad was primarily a homemaker and piano teacher, but she has written a number of books throughout the years, including three on the history of Lubec, where she grew up, and a book about her late brother. Bernhardt was also a homemaker and a writer and has contributed to the Morning Sentinel and The Town Line over the years.

All proceeds from the book’s sales will go to the Vassalboro Historical Society, which is funding the printing. The book will be an 8.5- by 11-inch sized paperback. Schad said they plan to publish the books at The Copy Center Plus.

Charles Ferguson, the director of the Hitchcock Bindery at Colby College, has offered to publish presentation copies for the town, Schad said.

A number of people have already expressed interest in the book, Schad said. And because of the number of submissions, Bernhardt and Schad are thinking about publishing a second volume after the first is finished.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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