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The King of the Kingdom

                                     Liberty, Maine

                                         David Levi Boynton

In August of 1927 the town of Liberty celebrated its one-hundredth birthday with all-day festivities and the publication of "A Brief History of the Town of liberty" printed by Newell White in Montville in the same print shop now operated by Alden Hutchins and his brother’s widow. Those responsible for the gathering of a great deal of interesting material on the early settlers and their Families were Mrs. Ella Granule, Mrs. Jane E. Matheson, Mr. Donald H. Matheson, Mrs. Mead Harriman, Mrs. Ida Maclain and Mr. Arthur Boynton. For many years after 1927 a copy of this book was in almost every home in town and many families could refer to it for information about there ancestors. Now - fifty years later - copies are difficult to find. Fortunately the Maine State Library has three bound copies and no doubt there are still a few in Liberty homes. Generally though, when one asks the answer is: "We had a copy for years, but I’ve no idea what became of it" Their will be no attempt in this short record of life in Liberty to repeat the data on the many families recorded in the Centennial book, but with the remarkable memories of some of the older citizens we may see something of the changes since a big beautiful lake and rushing streams attracted venturous pioneers - often equipped with just an axe, a gun, and a dog - built log cabins in the wilderness, then a mill at the outlet of the lake, calling the spot "Coop’s Mill". A little later, out of admiration for the many rounded high spots in the area, it became Montville Plantation, and finally this was broken up into settlements: Montville, Palermo, Washington and Liberty.

One of the Liberty families, which have been traced back to English nobility, entitled to a "Coat of Arms" is the Boynton family. William and John Boynton first settled in Rowley, Massachusetts, in 1637. The first Boyntons to come to Liberty were Aza and James, in the year 1814. Many of the descendants, living and dead, are mentioned in he 1927 History, but I could find no reference to the first Liberty citizen to show a warm and welcoming spirit toward our family when my husband, our two young sons and I came to make a home in the shell of an old mill in the Kingdom, once a busy industrial section of what later became Liberty. This was David Boynton, though it was a few days after meeting him that we learned his name. There was no introduction; he simply appeared on the site when we were frantically tamping cement in forms for the basement of Elizabeth Crawford’s stone house. No "ready mix" on this job, just two women, one man and two small boys so busy mixing, toting, and tamping that we hardly looked up when a little old man picked up a long handled tamp and joined us. He left as silently as he had come, but was back very early the next morning. At noon when we sat down for lunch he sat down too with his own tin lunch box containing just tea and biscuits. Only then did we learn that he was Dave Boynton, once known as "The King of the Kingdom". We also learned that he had lived in the house, which once stood on the foundation we were remaking to again hold up a home. "Ay-uh, I spent the happiest and the saddest days of my life right here!" This was what had made him walk the two miles from Liberty village, where he was living alone in a little camp, to see what kind of people had come to his Kingdom.

We had been attracted to the site by the beauty of a waterfall with a pool at its base where trout often flashed in the sunlight, and where we had hopes of generating our own electricity along with enjoying the seclusion of the wooded area. As our friendship with Dave grew, he told us of the early days when this part of Montville was the center of much activity, due largely to the energy and ability of one remarkable man, Ira Cram. Only after the stage road was changed to go through Liberty and hotels, stores, and shops sprang up there did the mill-minded men, including Ira Cram, see that the outlet of St. George’s Pond was a more dependable and forceful source of power than the Kingdom Stream. A series of mills, cooper shops, even a hat factory and a tannery started moving out of The Kingdom to set up their wheels along the roaring outlet stream back of the stores and hotels in Liberty. The ruins of many dam abutments are still in evidence along that stream - culminating in the ruins of the old tannery, which for many years was Liberty’s main industry.

After the various mills in the Kingdom had been abandoned, spring freshets swept away the small dams and most of the wooden debris. One building which had been Frank Bennett’s machine shop, later Volney Follett’s blacksmith shop, and now our home, remained standing, straddling the brook when it was at its highest pitch, but high and dry most of the year. Dave told us this structure, badly wracked by years of neglect, was the one building that survived the last big freshet - when what remained of seven other little industries had all gone down stream? With the departure of the industries went the schoolhouse, the stores, the post-office - and gradually the people themselves, until there was little life left in The Kingdom. Our only neighbors were descendants of early settlers, the Penney’s and George and Oscar Davis. The Davis brothers were of the Davis family who settled the area called Davis Town.

Dave Boynton never ceased to regret that we had not come to The Kingdom fifty years earlier than we did. He was sure we would have fitted into the busy little community and maybe even saved it from disappearing. He failed to take into account all the factors that brought about the changes. For Dave, new life in the Kingdom revived vivid memories of his active participation in the varied kinds of work that went on here when he was a young man. His friendship, his stories of the "olden day". His knowledge acquired through long years of experience with such tools as saw and hammer, pickaxe and maul, crow-bar, scythe, wheelbarrow, and block and tackle, erased the way for us to adapt to the primitive life we had chose. The first three years of our living here he trudged the long journey from Liberty many times, feeling "needed", as he hadn’t for many years; and we looked forward to his coming and his help. When Pearl Harbor struck the country Ed Sewell took his marine engineering experience to sea and Elizabeth Crawford became a W A C. Only the mother and the two boys were left in the Kingdom. Dave felt he should be nearer. We never really knew by what magic he had his little camp moved onto a nearby knoll. There he spent many hours making it more attractive, painting, and trimming it with many feet of gingerbread border. He went into the woods and chose a tall straight tree of thirty feet, built a sturdy jointed foundation so that is could be raised and lowered, and kept the stars and stripes flying every day until the war ended.

Somehow David had never acquired fame or fortune for himself, and from his stories we came to understand that for almost all his life he had been somebody’s "helper". He told with pride of having held a kerosene lamp many times while Dr. Hoit delivered a baby. He had been called on dark stormy nights to hitch up Dr. Hoit’s horse and drive through heavily snow-drifted roads to help some child through a siege of frightening croup. He felt he was the only man who really understood Ira Cram’s team of beautiful draft horses and prided himself that he had carted big lime-casks from the kingdom coopers shops to the Rockport lime-kilns and been on the road every hour of the day and night. He knew just where and when to rest and water the horses so that they were never too tired on the journey. He knew to "pick" a millstone, which was to sharpen the grooves at just the angle which made them grind most efficiently; he was practically a magician with a crow-bar and any heavy, seemingly immovable object-cautioning us " use your head, not your back. Your back might drop a stitch, but not your head" as he carefully placed the fulcrum stone in the exactly the right spot.

Most of the men and boys who worked in the stave mills of those early days had one careless moment or another lost a finger, a thumb, or even a hand. That seemed understandable as Dave took a straight piece of wood to demonstrate the leger-de-main that went with sawing out a stave. Each stave was curved on the both edges and in the order and in order to accomplish this the operator had you flip the stick by a deft twist of the wrist and put it up the saw on the one side, then on the other - completely reversed. Hard to describe, butt harder to do. Yet even with gnarled old hands, Dave would do it with such quickness that the eye could scarcely follow the action. After such a demonstration he would hold up his hands with great pride." There they are - all ten of ‘em. I never gave a saw a single bite." This same kind of skill was used with a set of Black ivory " Bones", and many times the boys and I would ask him to flick them more slowly so we could see how it was done. We soon gave up and enjoyed hearing Dave shake out a lively rhythm to the tapping of his feet, almost always followed by a few light steps of tap-dancing recalled from the happy days of "dancing schools" of his boyhood, when he was the "pest" of the instructor during lessons for square dancing. He explained that the music would "so git into me, that when it come to sit and turn, I’d always break down into a jig".

Apparently Dave spent little time in the distinct school, but he took on an almost defensive attitude toward his education. He felt well versed in the Greek language since old Dr. Hoit taught him the Greek alphabet during some of the long drives to make house calls. He could start off well with "Alpha, Beta…….., rattle on to the mumbling indistinguishable sounds which he assumed we would accept as the alphabet, and wind up with "Omega"! He was also equipped with some remarkable quotes from the Bible.Which he always prefaced with their exact location in the great book – chapter and verse.Revelations was his favorite source, for there he found explanations for that had come about, from automobiles to the changes in society and, of course, the end of the world. One of his quotes we most enjoyed was, Dave told us, from Leviticus I, chapter 3, 10th verse: " Let him what has gut two coats give to him what he haint got henny". After relating a few such quotes, Dave would say – "send me one of your college learnt ministers and I can twist him up in no time with what I’ve learnt from the Bible". He also would reassure himself with the remark: " I’ve learnt more from harkin around than most men do in four years of collage". In the various practical skills of the industrial era of his early years, his "harken’ around" and his actual participation, along with a great supply of intelligence and ingenuity, made this true with some limitations.

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As Dave had made many references to the family coat of arms, we thought it would please him to have a copy of it from a book in the state library. When he saw that the Boynton insignia was a prancing goat, in great disgust he tossed it aside and it never appeared with other treasured pictures on the walls of his little camp. One of these pictures was of the great John L. Sullivan with whom Dave had more than a speaking Acquaintance. It seems that John L. used to come to a remote Liberty farm to build up his muscle for title bouts by splitting logs with six and eight pound mauls and wedges.



  When the now famous Haystack mountain school of crafts was founded and the buildings went up on the property which had been Ira Cram’s orchard, Dave thought the Kingdom had been revived. As students came from distant cities they found delightful entertainment in Dave’s recounting of the different way of life of fifty years back and he enjoyed the excitement of the new kind of life, ridiculing good naturally the modern approach to wood sculpture, painting, weaving, and pottery. When the Haystack school decided to replace one of Ira Cram’s old dams and restore the pond for recreational purposes Dave came very much to the forefront. He had the know-how to construct a plank dam and became the "clerk of the works" supervising his big muscular son-in-law, known as "the Giant". When the dam was completed and the pond was filled to create a beautiful sheet of glistening water reflecting the wooded shoreline, it seemed to those connected with the craft school-none of whom really knew the history of the area- that it would be fun to name the pond "Dave’s Pond", a simple matter of requesting the name change from a Legislative Committee. It had been designated on maps as "Cram’s Pond", "Kingdom Bog" and Lily Pond". With some pomp and ceremony Dave was taken to the State House to witness the Governor Burton Cross sighing the bill and to receive the goose-quill pen with which it was signed. This was a big day for Dave and his forced aplomb as he shook the hand of the young Governor brought out the remark, "Glad to meetcha! The only Governor ever to see me before was on a steam engine". With the departure of the Haystack Mountain School to Deer Isle when a new state road threatened to be too close the buildings for the privacy desired, the dam passed to new owners and after some years it was rebuilt much more substantially, the work being done this time by a direct descendant of Ira Cram. It became apparent that the change of the name had never been accepted by the local people." Cram’s Pond" it is will remain officially or not-in memory of the many years its waters turned the mill wheels of Ira Cram.

Story by,

Marjorie Sewells