A local gem found during a Civil War search

The Corinth Historical Society Museum occupies a former Grange hall at 306 Main Road in East Corinth. A large military display includes a full section dedicated to the Civil War. (Brian F. Swartz Photos)

Sometimes you find a gem when researching the Civil War.

While scouting “Things to Do” in a weekend Bangor Daily News, I noticed the paragraph detailing the Corinth Historical Society Museum, open 2-7 p.m. on Wednesdays and 1-3 p.m. on Sundays. The phrase “Civil War artifacts” leaped off the page, so this being Sunday, we tooled up Route 15 to East Corinth.

Most passersby buzzing through town associate Corinth with East Corinth, the built-up section where Main Road (Route 15) intersects Exeter and Hudson roads. However, at 40.27 square miles, Corinth is much larger geographically, and there’s much more to history here than that represented by the buildings lining all three roads.

The Civil War display at the Corinth Historical Society Museum features weapons, a McClellan saddle, and information about local soldiers.

Officially incorporated as a town on June 11, 1811, Corinth played an important, yet quiet role in the Civil War. From the local farms came many volunteer soldiers; those same farms, plus the local mills, sent food and supplies that helped sustain Maine boys in the field.

Perhaps the town’s greatest contribution was Maine Adjutant Gen. John Hodsdon. Raised in Corinth, he lived in Bangor by the war, but Corinth was his hometown. His brilliant administrative execution of Maine’s war effort remains evident to this day in the extensive wartime records preserved at the Maine State Archives.

We pulled up at the museum, located in the former Orient Grange No. 60 at 306 Main Road. The sun lit up the front and south sides of the two-story, white-painted building, constructed in 1907 for $2,864.65.

Stepping through the front door, I noticed the emphasis on local education, evident in a classroom set up in a room to the left. Stairs on the right rose to the second floor.

Besides a large military display, the second floor of the Corinth Historical Society Museum features other interesting displays dedicated to local history and people.

The first floor houses several displays, including a kitchen dating to the 1890s, agricultural equipment, the horse-drawn fire engine that was Corinth’s first official firefighting unit, a horse-drawn town hearse, and a partial interior replica of a trolley.

In laying out the displays, Corinth Historical Society volunteers have well utilized the hall’s open-floor design. Everything’s visible from almost every point on both floor. The displays and supporting written descriptions are easy to see, and I could read the bio of Frank Mason Robinson (the Corinth native who created the iconic Coca-Cola logo) without straining my eyes.

Upon entering the museum, I had mentioned to a Corinth Historical Society volunteer that I sought the Civil War display. The volunteer actually was CHS President Elizabeth “Betty” LaForge, who founded the society in 1984 “to document and collect and keep history.

“In the beginning it was difficult to get anything because we didn’t have a place” to display and store historical items, she said. That changed after the CHS opened the museum in 1998.

Inside the Corinth Historical Society Museum, a replica general store quickly educates visitors about how people shopped for groceries and other staples a long time ago.

After its original meeting place burned in 1889, Eli Parkman Post No. 119 of the Grand Army of the Republic relocated to the Grange hall. I discovered that Post 119 was named for a Corinth officer killed during the charge of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery on June 16, 1864.

The second-floor displays are visually pleasing and historically informative. Part of a larger military display that also covers 20th-century wars, the Civil War display features four Springfield rifles, an authentic McClellan saddle (1st Maine Cav troopers used such saddles), GAR ribbons and memorabilia, a period painting of Gen. Isaac Hodsdon (adoptive father of John), and period photos.

The other displays were interesting, too. The displayed quilts (including three “signature” quilts) and related spinning and sewing equipment captivated Susan and me. She was also drawn to the eight wedding-related dresses (dating from 1867 to 1972) adorning mannequins placed on the stage, and I gravitated to the replica general store, the replica church interior (courtesy of the local Methodist church), and a collection of lead military vehicles and navy ships.

We came away very impressed with the Corinth Historical Society Museum. Intent on learning a bit more about the Civil War, I also learned much about Corinth’s history.

This museum is a gem, if you are interested in the Civil War or not.

Admission to the museum is free. Although it has closed for the year, the museum will reopen in 2019. The Corinth Historical Society has a Facebook page that is the best way to contact the organization.

Brian Swartz can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.

Brian Swartz

About Brian Swartz

Welcome to "Maine at War," the blog about the roles played by Maine and her sons and daughters in the Civil War. I am a Civil War buff and a newspaper editor recently retired from the Bangor Daily News. Maine sent hero upon hero — soldiers, nurses, sailors, chaplains, physicians — south to preserve their country in the 1860s. “Maine at War” introduces these heroes and heroines, who, for the most part, upheld the state's honor during that terrible conflict. We tour the battlefields where they fought, and we learn about the Civil War by focusing on Maine’s involvement with it. Be prepared: As I discover to this very day, the facts taught in American classrooms don’t always jibe with Civil War reality. I can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net.