July 9, 1806: In one of the worst domestic-violence crimes in Maine history, Capt. James Purrinton, 46, assaults his entire family with an ax sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. at their farm on Belgrade Road in Augusta.

His wife, Betsey, 45, is killed immediately, as are their children Polly, 19; Benjamin, 12; Anna, 10; Nathaniel, 8; Nathan, 6; and Louisa, 18 months. Daughter Martha, 15, dies of her wounds on July 30. Only James, 17, also wounded, survives the attack. He flees the house and reports the attack to a neighbor.

Back at the farmhouse, his father slashes his own throat with a razor and dies. The following day, the victims’ bodies are laid out in the town house, with the killer’s body remaining on the porch. The ax and the razor are set on his coffin. A stage is set up for a funeral on Market Square in front of the meeting house. The funeral draws such a large crowd of mourners that the nearby houses are filled and people are standing on the roofs.

The victims’ remains are buried in a cemetery on what now is Winthrop Street. The killer’s body is buried, without a gravestone or other marking, in the road with the ax and the razor.

July 9, 1968: A former mayor of Centerville, New Brunswick, organizes a group of his friends to create an earthen dam on Prestile Stream, causing its fetid, smelly water to rise across the border in Aroostook County, Maine.

The highly publicized dam protest is one of the blows that kills a highly controversial, scandal-plagued effort by businessman Fred H. Vahlsing to establish a sugar beet refinery in the County. Vahlsing’s existing potato processing plant was dumping pollutants into the Prestile.

Presented by:

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


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