Among the activities during the annual Readfield Heritage Days celebration Saturday was a rousing game of all-ages kickball. Keith Edwards/Kennebec Journal

READFIELD — More than a dozen people spent part of their Readfield Heritage Days on Saturday morning learning about how one of life’s most basic necessities, water, was provided to Readfield Corner homes by public water systems that operated there, though separated by a century.

In the late 1800s, William and Elsie Harvey established an early public water system, of sorts, taking water from a copious spring located in what was then known as J.O. Craig’s pasture, and using gravity to feed fresh water to seven or so houses. The site is near the current Readfield Union Meeting House.

By the mid-20th century, historic researcher and author Dale Potter-Clark explained to participants in a historical walking tour, people began getting indoor toilets and the demand was beyond the water pressure the spring could provide, so people began digging their own wells to provide water.

That continued for many decades. But in 1976, Ed Dodge, who at the time had an insurance company office on Main Street next to a longtime store which had gas pumps, got a call from the local postmaster who said he could smell gasoline at the property. Dodge went to check it out.

When Dodge went into his building’s basement he immediately smelled gas fumes, and shut off the boiler to make sure it didn’t create a spark that could ignite the fumes.

Dodge said the gas likely got into the groundwater after the store’s gas pipes were damaged.


A settlement with Getty Oil provided about $4,500 for a water filtration system for the two large buildings at the site. The contaminated soil behind the buildings was removed, and, at one point, Dodge told a crowd of 20 or so Saturday morning, a backhoe removing that soil struck a rock and made a spark, causing the whole bottom of the new hole to flash up in flames as the remaining gas fumes there ignited.

By the early 1980s, occupants of houses in the Readfield Corners neighborhood also discovered their wells had been polluted by the gasoline.

Over the next several years and after much legal wrangling, the Readfield Corner Water Association was formed to provide water from wells it drilled, uphill from the contaminated area, via pipes running to 22 homes in the immediate area.

Dale Potter-Clark, left, and Bill Adams share some of Readfield’s history Saturday during Readfield Heritage Days. Keith Edwards/Kennebec Journal

Resident Bill Bourret, Dodge and others said, was instrumental in getting the new water association going, with some government funding provided to setup the association. Bourret and his wife, Kay, found gas in their well in 1981, after their daughter told them the water tasted funny. The pioneering association ended up being a model, used to help form numerous other small regional water systems across the state.

Rick Wilson, current president of the association, said his quarterly water bill is about $30. The Winthrop Utilities District now oversees the operation of the association’s system, which includes a small concrete block pumphouse off Church Road.

Wilson said when he first bought his home, he had no idea where their water came from.


Tour participants, most of whom were Readfield residents, were asked whether they had ever seen the site before. Almost none had.

The tour passed by the Readfield Union Meeting House and its adjacent vestry, where Nancy Durgin, president of the meetinghouse’s board, showed off the extensive renovations to the building. The work was done by volunteers and board members, as well as some contractors who worked for the cost of materials.

Larry Dunn, a former contractor, put thousands of volunteer hours into the vestry renovations, according to Durgin. Work included a new metal roof, demolishing and replacing the entire interior, new siding, strengthening the foundation and improving drainage, additional insulation, new flooring, new kitchen, new ramps accessible by people with disabilities, and much more.

Kickball game at Readfield Heritage Days. Keith Edwards/Kennebec Journal

Durgin said the vestry, built in 1808, was once the home of Capt. John Smith, who moved it from Main Street to its present Church Road site in 1868. It will be offered to community members as a gathering place in the heart of Readfield. A large blank piece of paper on an easel was setup inside the vestry, with “Vestry Ideas” written on the top and room for people touring the building to leave ideas for how the community might use it.

They hope to follow up the renovations to the vestry building with restoration of the tower, including reinstallation of its large clock, at the adjacent 1827 meeting house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Durgin said the roughly $1 million project could take place next year.

Heritage Days activities also included a wine and cheese social at Readfield Historical Society and a sock hop at the town beach Friday night, a maker’s market and community fair at the beach Saturday, followed by Saturday night fireworks.


On Saturday, children of all ages and a few adults played kickball at the old fairgrounds site.

Players were boisterous, with some players busting out dance moves in the playing field in between plays.

Organizers did not have a pig scramble this year.  Last year the scramble drew controversy after a resident circulated a petition to stop the event, and an advocate from Maine Animal Coalition said such events are dangerous for the piglets involved.

Dennis Price, organizer of Heritage Days, said the pig scramble was discontinued and won’t return in future years, either. He said the pig scramble was not worth the contention it created.

“Heritage Days is a celebration,” Price said. “And anything that distracts from that is not what we want.”

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