East Sullivan Union Church Replica Repaired by Generous Residents

East Sullivan Union Church Replica Repaired by Generous Residents

The Union Church in East Sullivan was built in 1825, burned and torn down, rebuilt in 1858, and burned to the ground in 1973. A replica of it was built in 1975 by the children of Eva Johnson and placed on the site of the old Union Church in 1982. Forty years of Maine winters and blistering summer heat took their toll on the “little white church” at the entrance to the Simpson Cemetery. The paint was coming off, the shutters and some of the clapboards fell off, the ornate steeple had rot.

In July 2021, Matt Masse of Sullivan Harbor, whose parents were married in the Union Church in East Sullivan, stepped up and offered to repair and rebuild the little church at no cost! Its gradual decay bothered him and decided he would be the one to do something about it. He carefully removed the little church to his home shop where he, his brother-in-law Bruce Larson, and his nephew Jeff Larson took it apart, rebuilt all the rotted pieces using modern materials that will withstand the weather, put it all back together, and gave it a new coat of paint. He brought it back to its home, all done, in only two weeks! Matt added a little spotlight in front so it’s lighted up outside after dark. It’s beautiful.

 

The replica before and after the repairs.

The East Sullivan Union Church, undated.

It Took a Village: A Short History of the Clint Ritchie Gymnasium

It Took a Village: A Short History of the Clint Ritchie Gymnasium

As Sumner Memorial High School prepared to open its doors in the fall of 1952, the towns of Sullivan, Sorrento, Winter Harbor, and Gouldsboro looked to the new area high school as a promise of better education and opportunities, more than any individual town could afford. However, as the school grew nearer and nearer to completion, it appeared more and more deficient in one major area. A cry rose from the community: “We want a gym!”

Financing the school had not been an easy task. A project of the four towns, the area high school was built to replace the region’s two small high schools located in Sullivan and Winter Harbor. Due to insufficient borrowing capacity, the final plans for the area school did not include a gymnasium, and there was no money to build one. Thus, the gym was built in a private initiative via the sale of $20,000 in bonds by the Flanders Bay Athletic Association backed by volunteer labor, cash donations, and many fundraising projects. The estimated cost of the project was $75,000.

Clubs in the area that fundraised and donated generously to the Gym Fund included the Happy Circle Club of Gouldsboro, Prospect Harbor Women’s Club, the W.S.C.S of North Sullivan Methodist Church, the Domaine School of Music (the Monteux School), the Wednesday Club of Ashville, and the Sullivan High School benefit ball game. The newly formed P.T.A. served a Hunter’s Breakfast on the first day of hunting season, raising $281. The ladies of the East Sullivan Christmas Club challenged the Sorrento Stitch and Chatter Club to a benefit game of basketball. The players, age 29 to 65, took to the court in the old Masonic Hall (Knights of Pythias Hall) in front of a reported audience of 350 cheering neighbors.

Community members also donated straight from their pockets, kept on task by Fund Chairman Dwight Havey and others canvassing for donations of money or labor. Several “Work Bees” effectively cut the construction costs significantly. In October, men from all four towns came together to cut logs and haul them to Charles Small’s mill in Ashville to be sawed into lumber for bleachers for the gym. Many worked evenings throughout November, sawing the lumber and assembling bleachers as well as installing insulation in the gym. In December, they mixed and poured cement in the basement under the gymnasium to ready the space for showers. Members of the F.H.A. at Sumner served coffee and donuts under the supervision of their home economics instructor, Mrs. Gwendolyn Cole. At other workdays, the Frenchman’s Bay P.T.A. kept busy supporting workers with dinners and refreshments.

By the school’s second basketball season (1952-53), the Sumner High School team finally had a gymnasium. However, players found themselves wearing mittens or gloves to practice until the heating system was installed, just in time for the first game of the season.

The gymnasium was dedicated to Sumner’s Head Custodian Clint Ritchie in a ceremony on November 27, 1996. The proposal to name the gymnasium after Ritchie stemmed from school and community support for Ritchie, who was to retire at the end of the year after working at Sumner for twenty years and contributing greatly to the school.

 

“This is a Robbery”: Notorious Art Thief Got His Start in Sullivan

“This is a Robbery”: Notorious Art Thief Got His Start in Sullivan

Over fifty years ago, Myles Connor Jr., rock ‘n’ roll singer turned legendary outlaw and suspect in one of the largest art heists of all time, made his first big move in Sullivan, Maine.

It was July of 1965, and Connor was visiting family in Sullivan where he had spent many summers growing up. While eating dinner at his granduncle’s house, Connor heard his relatives talking about an elderly lady who had died, leaving everything to children she had apparently despised. Connor had begun to develop an interest in art and antiques, and he went to the dead woman’s house to take a look. He was carrying a grandfather clock out to his car when sheriff’s Deputy Hank Hosking pulled into the driveway. After a confrontation in which Connor fired a couple shots at the deputy, who also worked as a janitor at Sumner Memorial High School, Connor drove off only to be apprehended a short distance away on Route 1 and taken to the Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth.

Back in Massachusetts, Connor had left his apartment full of high-quality antiques, including a silver plate made by Paul Revere that had been stolen from Harvard University’s Peabody Museum. Connor has said that he felt that it was highly important that he get back to Massachusetts quickly as he was concerned that people he knew would help themselves to the antiques while he was held up in Maine. With Connor desperate to escape, his small scuffle in Sullivan turned into the site of his first major criminal incident—one that involved breaking out of jail with a gun carved out of soap and blackened with shoe polish, hiding for two days in the attic of the Ellsworth Public Library, and a manhunt throughout the town of Hancock.

– – –

 

Myles Connor is brought into a Dedham courthouse on July 9, 1985. Netflix.

Myles J. Connor Jr. grew up in Milton, Massachusetts, the son of Myles Joseph Connor, a police officer, and Lucy Johnson Connor. Connor’s maternal grandfather was from Sullivan, and Connor has said that as a child he spent almost every summer visiting family in Sullivan. The Connors often stayed in the Johnson cottage just east of Tunk Lake Road.

A budding young musician, Connor gained attention in the early 1960s as the leader of a Boston-area rock band called Myles and the Wild Ones. His daring jailbreak in 1965 at the age of 22 was just the beginning of a long career of law-breaking. Over the years, Connor has been accused of theft, assault, drug trafficking, shooting a police officer, and murdering two Boston women, the last of which he was ultimately acquitted. In 2010, he published a memoir, The Art of the Heist: Confessions of a Master Thief, which tells an unapologetic story of his life of crime.

Lately, Connor was featured in This is a Robbery, a four-part documentary series that premiered on Netflix on April 7, 2021 and centers around the infamous 1990 burglary at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The series breaks down the heist in which art collectively worth $500 million went missing, including works by Rembrandt, Manet, and Vermeer. The art remains missing 31 years later, and no one was ever arrested for the crime.

Although Connor was in prison for drug trafficking at the time of the robbery, the FBI considered him a prime suspect. Connor has claimed in various interviews and published works that he was involved in the planning of the heist but that it was carried out by associates of his who have now since died. He is also said to have phoned the police himself after the Gardner robbery to claim that he had nothing to do with it.

 

The Connors often stayed in the Johnson cottage just east of Tunk Lake Road in East Sullivan. The cottage was built in 1925 by Clarissa (Johnson) Sutherland as a summer camp for children on the land of her parents, Herbert & Lelia (Clark) Johnson. Herbert Johnson’s nephew, Charles Johnson, was Myles Connor Jr.’s grandfather. The cottage still stands today. Sullivan-Sorrento Historical Society.

Over his lifetime, Connor has spent over two decades in prison and says he has been part of over 30 art heists, including many that authorities know very little about. In one of his most famous heists, Connor stole and then returned the Boston Museum of Fine Art’s Rembrandt in exchange for a lighter prison sentence. In This is a Robbery, Connor’s defense attorney, Martin Leppo, says that stealing from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was always on Connor’s “bucket list.”

“Depends on who you ask but, in general, I’m known as an art thief,” Connor shares in the series. “And, some people consider me the biggest art thief in this country because I’ve robbed a number of museums. But, then again, I was a rock and roll guy.”

 

You can watch This is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist on Netflix.

Myles Connor in the news: Infamous art thief revisits criminal past in Ellsworth, Bangor Daily News, 2014.

“Rock ‘n’ roll” outlaw Myles Connor returning to Ellsworth, the Ellsworth American, 2017.

Alice Turner Curtis, Sullivan-born Author

Alice Turner Curtis, Sullivan-born Author

The Turner House in Sullivan Harbor.

Alice Turner was born on September 8, 1860, the youngest child of John and Susan Speare Staples Turner of Sullivan, ME. John, a sail maker, was employed across from their home in Sullivan Harbor on what is sometimes called Little Sail Island.

Alice had two sisters—Anna S. who was twelve years older than she, and Ella F., who was eleven years older. Ella, who taught school in Ashland, Massachusetts, very much wanted to see Alice receive a good education. In a letter to Lelia Clarke Johnson prior to the publication of Johnson’s history “Sullivan and Sorrento Since 1760,” Alice wrote, “When I was 12… (I) attended a well-known girls’ school,” and went on to say that 18 she became a file clerk for the Youth’s Companion (a popular magazine for young people). She wrote for The Boston Traveller, became Literary Editor of that newspaper, and was on the Editorial Staff of The Youth’s Companion for seventeen years.

In 1885, Alice married Irving Curtis, who was originally from Maine. In the 1900 federal census, Irving, age 63; Alice, age 36; Alice’s mother Susan, age 76; and a female servant were living in Boston. Irving’s occupation is listed as “capitalist.” Alice did not list an occupation, but she was always writing.

Mrs. Curtis is best known for her popular “Little Maid Series,” stories of happenings in different places during colonial times with young girls as the heroines. The series encompasses twenty-four books, including Little Maid of Old Maine, Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony, and Little Maid of Old Virginia. Mrs. Curtis also wrote a series covering the Civil war, called “The Yankee Girl Series,” and other volumes. She published over sixty books total.

 In December of 1953, Mrs. Curtis sent $25.00 to the Frenchman’s Bay Library accompanied by a new edition of her “Little Maid” Series. She died in 1958 at the age of 97 and is buried beside her husband in Skowhegan. Her parents and a brother who died young are buried in York Hill Cemetery in Sullivan.

“Little Maid” Books at the Sullivan-Sorrento Historical Society.

The First Sawmill in Sullivan

The First Sawmill in Sullivan

One of the original proprietors of Sullivan was John Bean of York who came with family members before 1760 to settle here. As an original proprietor, he was granted 200 acres, land around Morancy Pond and land at Waukeag Neck (Sorrento). His children were Samuel, who married Elizabeth Johnson, James, who married Lucy Preble, John, who married Miriam Donnell, Joanna, Abigail, who married Daniel Sullivan, and Abitha. 

In 1822, Samuel and James, both in their seventies, signed affidavits as to the persons and history of the mill (Registry of Deeds, Bk. 43, page 319). In James’s affidavit, he states that he “came to Sullivan in the year 1763, and know(s) that the saw mill on Flanders Stream in Sullivan was built in 1766 by (my father) John Bean, Samuel Bean Jabes, Paul and Josiah Simpson, and Daniel Sullivan, proprietors claiming under a grant from the Province of Massachusetts.”

Samuel’s testimony reveals that the mill was rebuilt in 1783, and again in 1799. His property, in 1803, lay to the west of Flanders Stream.. The depositions were taken as requested by Ebenezer Bragdon, James Bragdon, Joshua Dyer, Ephraim Dyer, Stephen Johnson, Benjamin Johnson, John Bragdon and Jotham Bragdon,”… to be preserved in perpetual remembrance of the thing.” 

Reverend William E. Foy

Reverend William E. Foy

Reverend William Ellis Foy(e) was one of the least known yet most significant figures in American religious history to live in Hancock County.

William E. Foy was born a free Black in Belgrade, Maine to Joseph and Elizabeth Foy around 1819. Although Maine was a “free” state and there were few Blacks and enslaved people, Maine still had connections to the slave-trade and existent racism.

Foy married about 1835 and may have had two children with his wife, Ann. The couple moved to Boston. An important figure in the Millerite Movement in the 1830s and 1840s, Foy experienced several visions concerning the second coming of Christ. He recounted his visions and preached the Millerite gospel throughout New England. One audience member, who went on to receive and recount similar visions to those Foy described, was Ellen Hammond—later, Ellen White—a founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

After the predicted second coming of Christ did not occur, Foy stayed in the ministry and became a Free Will Baptist Clergyman in New Bedford, MA. Sometime prior to 1850, his wife, Ann, died.

Foy married Caroline T. Griffin of Gardiner in 1851, and they had two children, Orrin in 1852 and Laura in 1856. Caroline died, leaving Foy with three young children. Foy moved to Burnham, a town in Waldo County. In the 1860 Federal Census, William E. Foy (age 37) was living in Burnham with three children and his mother, Betsy.

Not long after, according to the Island of Mount Desert Register, “Rev. William E. Fay (spelling!), a colored evangelist, organized a Christian Church of 25 members at Otter Creek, Mount Desert. A few years later, Rev. Andrew Gray came to Otter Creek and wrought a great deal of good.”

Rev. William E. Foy moved to Plantation #7, which is just east of the Town of Sullivan and north of Gouldsboro. (Plantation #7 was later annexed to Sullivan in 1895.) He purchased property from William Johnson on the north side of the Public Road and another small plot of land from Isaac Bunker on the south side of the Public Road.

While residing in Plantation #7, William E. Foy built a house for himself and his new wife, Percentia W. Rose, a cook and housekeeper from Portland. Lelia Johnson, a local historian and author of Sullivan and Sorrento Since 1760 (1953) describes “Elder William E. Foy” as an “esteemed and beloved” preacher who held meetings in the local hall and schoolhouses.

Foy is buried in Birch Tree Cemetery on Tunk Lake Road in East Sullivan, just down the road from his home. He is buried next to his daughter Laura (d. 1863) and Percentia (d. December 24, 1908). His son Orrin (d. 1920), a fisherman, lived on an island off Schoodic Point before moving to Milbridge and marrying Bessie Roberts. Orrin and Bessie had many children.

William Foy’s tombstone is inscribed with:

I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith; Henceforth there is laid up
For me a crown of righteousness.

This summary draws upon genealogy work by Jeanne Edwards and Robert Potter at the Sullivan–Sorrento Historical Society.

For additional reading, see:
“The William Foy Story” by Mark Silk, published in Chebacco: The Magazine of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society, 2019.
The Unknown Prophet, Revised and Updated by Delbert W. Baker.

This portrait is believed to be of Orrin Foy, William Foy’s son.

William E. Foy’s gravestone and Birch Tree Cemetery in East Sullivan.