VHF Newsletter 
March/April 2015

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Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead

Beside the peaceful Kennebec / These many years agone, 
From out the forest tall and dark, / A little town was born.
It climbed the hillsides, rough and steep, / It crept through field and dell, 
It spread o'er both the river's banks, / This town of Hallowell.
Its people came of sturdy stock, / They minded toil nor care;
They builded homes, they tilled the soil / And took of joy their share. 
They left to us who after came, / Sweet memories of the past - 
Of hill and dale, of face and name - / That will forever last. 
                              - By "HBD," from "The Hallowell Book" by Henry Knox Baker, published 1902

Photograph: View of Hallowell (left bank) from the Homestead ca. 1888
A History Mystery 

Excerpted below is a poem Elizabeth Peabody wrote during her tenure in Hallowell as governess to the Vaughan children. It describes a Hallowell group that met regularly sometime during the 1820s and 1830s. 

Wend you with the Blues to-night?
A gay assemblage will be there; 
Vaughan with glowing beauty bright, 
Happy heart and joyous air. 
The elder Merrick gently grave, 
And Mary, silent, full of feeling;
And Gillett, skilled on love to rave, 
Every rising thought revealing;
Youth and Misses divers ages, 
Going - gone to Doctor Page's . . . . 

Wend you with the Blues to-night?
'Tis certain you may be amused;

In some corner you may light, 
Where some neighbors are abused;
If 'tis not your vein, pass by;
Some choice spirits still are there,
Andy by the power of sympathy
You may soon discover where;
For Youths and Misses divers ages, 
Are all going to Doctor Pages's. 

Who were the "Blues" and what did they do? 

Discovering Their Stories

Researching the Women of the Vaughan Homestead
When staff and volunteers began digitizing the Homestead's collection of antique photographs last year, we were immediately taken with those of the Vaughan women. One woman appears in an image in the 1860s wearing the height of fashion in a Paris photographer's studio, while in another (above), we see her in a birch bark canoe deep in the Maine Woods. Her daughter appears in one photo as a young woman wearing head-to-toe white linen with a parasol and elaborate sunhat, and in another we see her on horseback amongst a hunting party of all men. Then we find her daughter looking like a movie star from a black-and-white film wearing a Red Cross uniform during WWII (right, on the right). The photographs are positively captivating, and we had to know more. Thus did six volunteers begin a four-month research project that culminated in the "Women of the Homestead House Tour" in honor of Women's History month.  

Download our Schedule of 2015 Public Programs 

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Five volunteers each researched one woman in the family and one volunteer researched the female household staff. With the help of curators Ron Kley and Jane Radcliffe, we were able to read the women's journals and letters. We found descriptions of the women in history books about Hallowell, and we studied their artwork and the artifacts they would have used. And we fell in love with them. As one volunteer noted, it is a tribute to both the individual women we researched as well as to the female household staff that we struggled to choose which stories to tell. We were delighted to share what we had learned with the sixty visitors who took the tour. Many thanks to our committed team of volunteers whose hard work revealed a series of stories that brought Homestead history to life for us in a new way. 

We hope to make the Women's Tour an annual event, so keep your eye out for it on our schedule in 2016. 

Upcoming Programs

April 25:
Spring Interpretive Walk

May 2:
Maypole Dance
Details to come

June 27:
Wild Meadow Walk 
Details to come

July 3:
Art in the Garden Sculpture Exhibit Opens
Jan/Feb History Mystery: 

Why Liberty Hall?

In our last newsletter we explained that a recent episode of Downton Abbey had shed light on a long-time Homestead mystery regarding the name of one of the rooms in the house: Liberty Hall, pictured above. Vaughan family letters refer to the room as such as early as 1914, but no one, including modern-day Vaughan descendants, knew why.

When one of the maids asks the head butler of Downton Abbey if she may attend a play, he responds "Yes," and then adds sarcastically, "This is Liberty Hall!" Upon hearing this, we began to do some research and found that "This is Liberty Hall" is a British expression meaning this is a place where you can do whatever you want. It is believed to have originated from Oliver Goldsmith's 1773 play She Stoops to Conquer. The line goes "Pray be under no constraint in this house. This is Liberty Hall, gentlemen. You may do just as you please here."

It is easy to see why "Liberty Hall" is a clever name for the room adjacent to the kitchen at the Homestead. Tucked in the back of the house, away from the formality of the dining room or parlor one might feel more "at liberty" to do or say as one pleases. Furthermore, the room is an "everything" kind of room. Having used it as an informal dining area, a sick room, a kitchen, a meeting room and an office, the family has certainly done as it liked there throughout the years.  A sunny and inviting space, Liberty Hall remains to this day the most utilized room in the Homestead.

While this explanation is still only our best guess, and while we don't know exactly when the roomed donned such a clever name or who gave it, Liberty Hall, as defined by the British expression, is certainly fitting. 

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