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Western Maine Foothills Region

Rumford

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Woodrowville School students, Rumford, 1925
Woodrowville School students, Rumford, 1925

Item Contributed by
Greater Rumford Area Historical Society

Educational facilities grew along with the burgeoning population. Small peripheral villages (often ethnic in nature) developed outside the Rumford Falls area. Each of these areas had their own small, community schools where students could walk to and from home.

Smith Crossing, with its predominantly Italian population, had the MacDonald School. The Polish, Lithuanian, and Irish folks in the Spruce Street/Knox Street Penobscot Street areas had the Pettengill School. The Strathglass residence children attended Chisholm School (the former high school). Those living in the Virginia section of town had the Virginia School. Those who lived in the Swain Road and Eaton Hill section of Woodrowville had their own local facility. South Rumford had the Thurston’s or “winter" School on the shore of the Androscoggin River near the Aaron Graham/Bartlett/Welch farm, which the south-side children attended when the river was insufficiently frozen for them to walk across to the Rumford Center School. This was the Lufkin School, later to become the Rumford Historical Society’s museum. The 10 mile distance from Rumford Point to Rumford Falls led to the building of the Kimball School at the Point. The Bisbee School served those families living in the Hancock Street/Waldo Street/”flats”areas. Other schools existing in 1895 included Rumford Corner, Abbotts Mills, North Rumford, East Side Ellis River, No. 9 East Rumford, No. 12 Red Hill, and No. 13 Isthmus.

Stephens High School State Champions, Rumford, 1913
Stephens High School State Champions, Rumford, 1913

Item Contributed by
Greater Rumford Area Historical Society

The need for these small, local schools diminished with the advent of school buses and a new concept of school consolidation. By the early 1950s most of these small, independent schools had disappeared. Some were demolished; others were used for other purposes in the community.

Hugh J. Chisholm was instrumental in encouraging and helping to fund the building of the first high school, Chisholm School, located on York Street. Higher education was later provided at Stephens High School on York Street. It was built in 1911, with additions being made in 1915, 1917 and 1931. Due to the rising population, a new high school was erected on Hancock Street in 1969, to be called the Rumford High School. By 1989 the population had begun to dwindle, and Rumford High School merged with Mexico High School to form the Mountain Valley High School. Many athletic teams reached the state finals, bringing recognition to the skills of the area’s athlethes.

Rumford Public Library, Rumford, ca. 1948
Rumford Public Library, Rumford, ca. 1948

Item Contributed by
Greater Rumford Area Historical Society

Expanded educational opportunities were available from the Rumford Public Library. This building was constructed in 1903 with an Andrew Carnegie Foundation. It was enlarged in 1969 by the addition of a new extension on the rear of the facility.

The ethnic composition of the Town of Rumford was also evident in its religious life as well. The earliest settlers were of the Protestant faith, represented by Congregationalists, who established itself in 1803, with a facility at Rumford Center and in 1864 at Rumford Point. The Methodists also were also active by 1798, and built an impressive church on Franklin Street, and a subsequent Chapel on Linnel Street in the Virginia Section of Town. The Universalists had a facility at the corner of Franklin Street and Plymouth Avenue. The Baptist Church is located just down Plymouth Avenue hill. The English-speaking Anglicans from England constructed a unique structure from stones taken from the Swift River; St. Barnabas Episcopal Church is located on Rumford Avenue.

St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Rumford, ca. 1912
St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Rumford, ca. 1912

Item Contributed by
Greater Rumford Area Historical Society

The many workers from Europe and Canada brought with them their Catholic heritages. The first Catholic Church was the St. Athanasius Church on Maine Avenue, constructed in 1896, which was replaced by a larger, more modern building in 1928. It served the Italians, Poles, Lithuanians, and Irish of the community. By 1905, the French-speaking Catholics, primarily from Canada, formed their own St. John’s Church. They completed construction of an impressive Gothic-styled church on Maine Avenue, in 1928. These two congregations were merged in 1970 to become St. Athanasius-St. John’s Parish.

Medical needs of Rumford were addressed as early as 1841 when Dr. Thomas Roberts began practicing in Rumford Center; Dr. Hiram F. Abbott came in 1865, and Dr. Charles M. Bisbee in 1895. Dr. Laura F. Noyes, a female physician and her two physician daughters, Dr. Sarah E. Noyes (Brooks) and Dr. H. Louella Noyes, and Dr. Eugene M. McCarty established small hospitals in the Strathglass Park area. Dr. McCarty subsequently moved his hospital to Maine Avenue, but by 1926 the region had grown so much that a larger facility was needed, and 57-bed hospital was built on Franklin Street at a cost of $265,200. The hospital is currently a 25-bed facility, with 24-hour emergency services and outpatient specialty clinics. It is part of the Central Maine Medical Center’s Regional Health Care System and referrals are made to that facility for diagnostic and treatment programs not available locally.