The CAPT. JOHN KING House
Whitefield Home Restored
By LYDIA CHASE
Whitefield, Sept. 4 (1952)—A fine, historic old brick home which sits upon the banks of the Sheepscot River in a section of Whitefield known as, a King's Mills, is the only one in the State known to be built entirely by donations from people of surrounding towns.
The history of this beautiful home is unfolded in a group of century old papers owned by the great- grandson of Captain John King, original owner of the property, which was swept by fire in November 1834
The papers, all hand-written in a fancy script, tell
how the old home, gristmill, sawmill and other possessions were almost
simultaneously wrapped in the conflagration.
The fire not only affected this famed owner, but all of the people in the surrounding towns who brought their grain and logs to the mill to be made into flour and lumber. The winter store of vegetables for Capt. King's family also meant a great loss, as travel to the city-was infrequent in those days.
Seeing the need for immediate action, the townspeople held a meeting to determine what steps could, be taken to help provide for the victims of this unfortunate fire. A committee was named to evaluate the amount of the loss
Some of the provisions listed in the report as lost and their value at the time are as follows: 300 Ibs. butter valued at $39; 1 ˝ barrel of pork, $30; beef and fish, $10: all the vegetables, $45. The house full of furniture was valued at $100 and a barrel of sugar, $20. The estimated value of the house and wood-house was $1,500. Also listed were the losses of David Crowell, Reuben Lewis and EIi T. Longfellow who owned an interest in the saw-mill.
Another committee was appointed from Jefferson, Alna and Pittston to meet jointly with the Whitefield committee to draw up a circular which was copied and sent to clergymen in all towns all over southern Maine, These clergymen in turn ^saw that their parishioners were notified.
The circular, published in Zion's in Advocate and Christian Mirror, twoof Portland's newspapers In 1834, was copied from the original by David Crowell, Esq., chairman of the- Whitefield Committee. It reads as follows:
"Fire—between eight and nine of the clock of Saturday the 8th instant, the village of South White-field, at Kings Mills on the Great Falls, so-called on the Sheepscot River, was suddenly alarmed with the cry of fire. The fire originated in a double saw-mill, in that part owned by Captain John King, and was first discovered by an individual who had just passed the premises. At the distance of about 70 rods, his attention was arrested by a small light in or about the fireplace. He passed the spot not more than fifteen minutes previous, and discovered no fire, nor any person about the premises, and it was not usual to occupy the mills on this evening of the week. These circumstances led him to pause a moment. – He then passed to his home, six rods, to report what he had seen. During this time, the small light, as it by a sudden flash of lightning, burst into a flame over the whole extensive roof. The mill had been occupied for the day without the use of fire and on leaving at evening," as fire had been used the night before, and as a matter of usual prudence, the fireplace was drenched with water. —The air had been calm, but a current was immediately formed, sufficient to pour a' shower of fire upon everything combustible in its way, and the scene of its ravages became almost in an instant, awfully sublime and appalling."
"A double saw-mill, a large and valuable three-story grist mill, having two sums of stones and needful apparatus, and considerable grain, a box-machine and cider-mill, with their ^appendages, and a quantity of valuable lumber, together with the large elegant two-story brick dwelling house of Capt. King, well finished and furnished, and containing much provision in the cellar and the out-houses, were almost simultaneously wrapped In the conflagration."
Capt. John King was the owner of the whole premises
destroyed except one half of the double sawmill. He had acquired this
property by a long course of industry. It was about his all that is now
destroyed. With an Infirm wife and helpless young family, he is cast
upon the hands of charity." "The loss is great to the
community; scarce a farmer, mechanic or a laborer, for a large range
around can be found who were not more or less interested in the
operation and sweep of the establishment, and seriously affected by its
loss. – The local communities are unable alone, if disposed, to repair
This property now owned by Lore H. Ford, II, the great-grandson of Captain John King, is in excellent condition. It is set in one of the most beautiful spots on the Sheepscot River and has been visited by countless artists who come to paint this beautiful home in its unusual setting. The house is supplied by water from a spring on a hill directly in front of the house and is fed by gravity. This building, like the original is built of brick. And although nearly 120 years old has been equipped with modern heating and plumbing.
Although the townspeople take this beautiful homestead for granted,
tourists recognize its unusual beauty and location, and stop to enjoy
its solitude as well as the fine fishing.