A judge set bail Monday for two young men charged with arson in a fire at a historic schoolhouse in Casco.

Both men are intellectually disabled, their lawyers told the judge in Portland a day after a fire destroyed the 1849 structure and most of the artifacts inside.

Lisa Chmelecki, who represents Devin Richardson-Gurney, 22, said her client has autism, and Greg Brown said his client, Edward Scott, 20, gets services from Momentum, an organization that helps the intellectually disabled at four locations in Maine, including one in Casco.

Dennis Strout, director of the Casco facility, declined to confirm or deny that either man was a client of the center, citing confidentiality laws.

Edward Scott, left, and Devin Richardson-Gurney make their initial appearances in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland on Monday. They are charged with setting the fire that destroyed a historic Casco schoolhouse early Sunday morning. Staff photos by Jill Brady

 

The two are accused of setting a fire in an 1849 schoolhouse that held historic items, including maps dating to the 1700s and books to the mid-1800s, said Frank McDermott, president of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society.

Prosecutors said Richardson-Gurney and Scott, both of Casco, set two fires early Sunday morning. They tore siding from the town library, which is undergoing renovation, and set a fire in the driveway, said Assistant District Attorney Julia Sheridan, and then piled desks, books, paper and artifacts in the middle of the one-room schoolhouse and set them on fire. The library and former Quaker schoolhouse are next to each other.

Sheridan didn’t offer a motive, but she asked for bail of $15,000 each, saying the acts of the two posed a threat to the community.

But their lawyers persuaded Superior Court Justice Lance Walker to set bail at $1,500 each, coupled with a pretrial services contract. Those agreements generally provide a level of supervision for those awaiting trial.

That would allow the two to get treatment, Walker said. He barred any contact between them, except for “incidental” contact that might occur while the two are getting treatment in the same location.

Both were still in custody in the Cumberland County Jail in Portland late Monday afternoon.

Strout said Momentum provides an array of services, from setting up shared living arrangements with local families to employment. In addition to the facility in Casco, it also operates in Windham, Portland and Sanford, with a bakery and café in Windham that provides jobs to those with and without disabilities.

McDermott said the fire came just a few months before the society planned to move the schoolhouse to Route 302, where it would be next to a museum that the organization runs.

It was envisioned as a living history site, where visitors, particularly children, could experience what life was like in a one-room schoolhouse.

The building was known as the Quaker Ridge Schoolhouse and was originally called the Friends School, according to the citation when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The structure was built by Clark Norton Maxfield, a son of one of the first settlers in the area, which was known as Quaker Hill or Quakerville.

The school closed in 1942. It was given to the historical society in 1971 and moved to its present location, near the town offices and library.

McDermott said members of the historical group had been looking forward to the move to Route 302, believing it would provide a chance to showcase the structure and some of the society’s holdings.

“We thought we were really going to have a chance to show it,” he said. When he saw the damage Sunday morning, he said, “I was devastated, really devastated.”

In addition to the maps and books, the society’s prized possessions also were lost, including a proclamation announcing George Washington’s election as president and a number of first editions of books from the 1800s.

“What are they worth?” McDermott said. “It’s like everything, one person might tell you a million (dollars) and another, $100.”

He said he has been in contact with Skip Watkins, who had donated the land for the museum and the schoolhouse, and was told that the offer of a location still stands. He said the society will hold its first meeting of the year in about two weeks and figure out what to do. One idea is to build a replica of the schoolhouse, he said.

“We will do it, but I’m just beside myself with this,” he said of the ruins of the building.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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