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Gorham History » Narragansett School Mural Paintings

Narragansett School Mural Paintings

The murals painted on the walls of the hall at Narragansett School by Christopher Denison, McKowen and Priestley were painted in 1981.
These murals, running east to west, are intended to present brief pictorial history of selected places and events from Gorham's past. Care has been taken to be as accurate as possible although these are not intended to present a complete history of the area. Rather, the murals should stimulate interest and encourage further investigation in other sources of information such as McLellan's History of Gorham, available at the public library. Due to spatial considerations, the places and events are not grouped in precise geographic or chronological orientation.
Scenes from Mural One

This mural is about lndians that lived in Gorham before the white settlers came. The tribes that lived in this area are the Micmac, Penobscot, Ossipee, Pickwocket, and Androscogin. These lndians moved around a lot. The Micmac teepees were usually made of hides and were decorated with symbols. For example, the double crescent which is like two backward threes, back to back, stands for peace and unity or getting along together.
From the mural we learned these things about Indians. The boys used bows and arrows for hunting and they used horns for calling moose. Some Indians had a tradition of planting a bush in a box when a boy was born. The boy grew up around the bush and then when he moved away, his parent could tell how healthy he was by how healthy the bush was.
We learned about Indian food, too. The lndians fished for food using a spear with three points. They kept their meat and fish from spoiling by smoking it. The women made flour by grinding corn.

People think that some Indians had dogs for protection and hunting.
Scenes from Mural Two

This mural tells what life was like for the first settlers. In May, 1736, Captain John Phinney and his son Edmund came by canoe from Falmouth which, is now Portland. They cleared their land by cutting down trees, and built a log cabin. Early settlers often put a large log across the doorway probably to keep out small animals.
Since they couldn't get rid of the tree stumps on their land, they planted their vegetables in between them. Their first crops were peas, corn, and watermelon. They might have planted the watermelon by mistake thinking that it was pumpkin. But it turned out ok because they fed it to their hogs.

After the Phinney's house was built, Mrs. Phinney joined them and they later had a daughter named Mary. She was the first white person born in what is now Gorham.

A fort was built on Fort Hill some time before 1744. This spot was picked because it was the highest point and they could see all around them. This helped them look out for Indians. The new settlers needed a mill to grind their corn and grain, so the Blenham Grist Mill was built in 1743 to do that work.
Scenes from Mural Three

The first settlers in Gorham often worked and played games with the Indians. But in 1744, the French and English had a war and the Indians decided to go with the French side. During the war, Indians were paid tor bringing captured English settlers to the French in Canada.

The worst lndian attacks in the area took place on April 19, 1746. They attacked the Bryants, Cloutmans, Reeds, and McLellans. Mrs. Bryant was captured and taken to Canada. Mr. Bryant was killed. Their son ran into the woods and escaped.

For seven years, 97 families lived in the fort for protection from Indian attacks. They farmed during the day time. Some settlers were attacked close to the fort.

During the French and lndian War, the Blenham Grist Mill was burned by the lndians. The settlers rebuilt it.
The settlers were paid for cutting down trees that were over 100 feet tall and three feet wide. They were used by the King's Navy to make masts for the ships. Hugh McLeilan and his son William chopped down one of the biggest.

Gorham officially became a town on October 30, 1764.
Scenes from Mural Four

The town of Gorham grew very fast. There were many high quality buildings built. The First Parish Meeting House was built in 1798 on what is now called School Street. It was used for town meetings and it has a bell made by Paul Revere. It has been renovated many times and is now the First Parish Congregational Church.
Another fancy building was the Dr. Philip Lewis House built on Main Street in 1770. It was torn down in 1958 and a gas station was built in its place.

The Hugh McLellan House on what is now Fort Hill Road was built in 1773. It is famous because it was the first house-in Cumberland County that was made of brick. It was later used as a dormitory for the university and is now an office building for USM.
Gorham Academy was built in 1806 and was used as a school to get boys ready for college. Then it became part of a girls' school and later was part of the teaching college which is now USM.
Scenes from Mural Five

Trains brought lots of good things to Gorham by connecting it with the rest of New England. Now the people in Gorham could travel better and do business with the other states. The first train station was built in 1850. Later it was used as a blacksmith shop and then for storing lumber before it was torn down in 1976. The Second train station is now used as the Gorham Station Restaurant.
On February 5, 1851, the first train ran from Gorham to Portland. That day was so important it was considered a holiday. People waved flags and fired a cannon. The trip to Portland took 50 minutes and cost 30 cents. Another important house owned by the Libby family was behind the train station.

There was also a bridge at Horse Beef Falls built in 1763. It burned in 1973. A copy of the bridge was built and reopened in 1976.
Scenes from Mural Six

The Baxter House was built before 1806 at the place where the Baxter Library is now. It was bought in 1907 and moved by James P. Baxter who fixed it up. James P. Baxter, who lived in Gorham, was the mayor of Portland six times.

In July, 1901, the electric trolley began working in Gorham. It went from Gorham to Portland every hour. The trolleys stopped being used when cars became popular.
Governor Frederick Robie was born in Gorham in 1822. He was the governor of Maine two times. A building was named for him at what is now the University of Southern Maine. The building was used as a home for students.