The Payson Barn (1)

What we know as the Payson barn has stood next to Hatchet Mountain Road, one mile from Hope Corner, only since 1926. It is a reconstruction of the Roy barn, so named for its last owners, which was constructed possibly as early as 1787 but no later than 1815. It formerly stood on the other side of Hatchet Mountain. That barn may have been the site of Hope's earliest town meetings. The Payson-Roy barn was owned and used by Hope's earliest settlers and their descendents: the Philbricks, Hobbses and Paysons, and possibly by Barretts and Sweetlands as well. Its construction, use, and relocation encapsulate Hope's history, from settler days to the present.


The history of Hope Corner revolves around Hatchet Mountain. If the Payson barn, formerly the Roy barn, could speak, it could tell us a great deal, for it was witness to so much of Hope's history -- first on the northwest side of Hatchet Mountain where early activity concentrated and where early town meetings were held, then, as economic activity shifted, to the southeast side where it stands today.

Hatchet Mountain was named for events that took place before the barn was built or Hope was conceived. In 1619, the Wawenocks, then based in Pemaquid, and the Tarratines, then based in what is now Castine, literally smoked the peace pipe and buried the hatchet on the northeast flank of Hatchet Mountain. We are fortunate to know this thanks to the report of Captain John Smith, that extraordinary figure who was a slave of the Barbary pirates, decorated by the Hungarian crown for fighting the Turks, and married Pocahontas. Surviving all that, he was cruising the Maine coast in 1619. (2)

Hope was an early planned community. On November 9th, 1785, the Twenty Associates, Boston lawyers and businessmen who got their ownership of the royal grant confirmed by the Massachusetts legislature, contracted its development with Charles Barrett of New Ipswich, New Hampshire. No doubt their hopes of making money, embodied in our town name, were disappointed. Part of Barrett's contract stipulated

1 Prepared for presentation in the Hope Historical Society Monthly Meeting series by William I. Jones with assistance from Judith D. Jones, Anna S. Hardy, William Hardy and Laurance W. Hobbs, among others, of Hope, and by Joseph F. Heaney of Waldoboro.
2 The earliest surviving local account of this war and peace treaty is from Abner F. Dunton (1850-1932).
His unpublished presentation to the Hope Grange (#299), "In Redskin Days; a chapter from the early history of Barrett's Town, now Hope," is preserved in manuscript and published in Anna Simpson Hardy.
History of Hope, Maine. Camden: Penobscot Press, 1990, p. 201.

"that he will enter into bonds to have...a meeting house built of 40 feet in length by 30 feet wide, all necessary roads made to the town and through it at the sole expense of himself and company." (3)

Barrett's first settlers arrived in 1786. The "necessary roads" in Barrett's development plan were one linking Thomaston and Belfast through Warren, Union, Barrett's Town, Lincolnville (Canaan) & Northport; and another linking Camden to the Saint George River. In 1787, settlers from Union laid out a road to the Barrett's Town line, whence

"a trail was swamped out...which ran easterly as route 235 does today from Buzzell Hill, passing...the small Mansfield Pond. It then swung northeasterly to pass Isaac Bartlett's on lot 65 and then Daniel Barrett's on lot 66, intercepted the Camden-Georges' River trail at lot 67 at the foot of...Bull Hill [the north side of Hatchet Mountain] and continued easterly..., much as High Street does today, to the Lincolnville line. Eventually, these trails were improved as rocks and stumps were removed and swampy areas corduroyed with logs so that they were eventually usable for carts." (4)

The Roy barn, which became the Payson barn, was the first and only barn on lot 66, right on Barrett's main Thomaston-to-Belfast road. It stood there from when it was first erected, 1815 or earlier, until moved to its present site and rebuilt in 1926.

Lot 66 seemed like a choice lot because of the "road", and the land's gentle slope and good soils (by Hope standards). It had location.The developer's nephew became its owner with the first wave of settlement. He was Daniel Barrett, born in 1767 in Concord MA, Charles Barrett's ancestral home. His friend, Isaac Bartlett, settled next door on lot 65, which had the same desirable characteristics. Lot 66 was the junction of Barrett's main road with the "road" to north Hope; lot 65, the junction with the "road" to south Hope.

In 1792, the developer's nephew gave up life in Barrett's Town and moved to coastal- Camden. The earliest settlers built framed, post-and beam barns while they still lived in log homes. However, possibly Daniel Barrett's uncle Charles built the "Roy" barn as his contracted meeting house (5) before Daniel moved to Camden. Daniel sold lot 66 to Samson Sweetland in 1793.

3 Jose Appleton and Thomas Fayerweather. "Excerpts from minutes taken from records of Twenty Associates by Jose Appleton & Thomas Fayerweather, joint owners of one share of Twenty Associates," unpublished manuscript in the vault of the Bangor Public Library, pp. 59-60.
4 Hardy. Op.cit., p. 7.
5 See below, pp. 3 & 4.

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The Sweetlands, father Samson and son Wade (1779-1839), prospered in farming and lumbering. In 1808, Samson transferred his land to Wade. In 1813, the Sweetlands moved to what is now Hope Corner, where they had a cobbler's shop and, subsequently, a tavern, store, and lumber yard, all of which must have been more profitable than working the land. What is now Hope Corner was called Sweetland's Corner,
(6) and Wade is listed in Morey Hill Cemetery records as "Esq." The Sweetlands sold lot 66, their land on the mountain, to the Philbricks.

Another of Hope's earliest settlers was Reuben Safford (1767-1853) from Sharon, New Hampshire, near New Ipswich, and his wife, Sarah Safford (nee Philbrick)(1767-1854). Her brothers, Walter Philbrick (17741846) and Enoch, heard about Barrettstown and moved here before 1795. (7) They are the progenitors of Hope's many Philbricks. Between them, the brothers bought Bartlett's lot 65, and part of lot 75 on the southwest side of Hatchet Mountain, what old-timers' know as the Clough place and where Elston Hobbs lives today. Around 1813, they bought lot 66 from the Sweetlands.

Who built what we knew as the Roy barn on lot 66 and when did they build it? Quite possibly it was built on the orders and at the expense of Charles Barrett himself, on his nephew's land, before 1792, or by Samson and Wade Sweetland between 1793 and 1813. They both had the resources to do it, and, for Barrett, it was part of his development contract with the Twenty Associates. But also quite possibly it was built by Walter and Enoch Philbrick shortly after 1813.

Either way, the Roy barn was the focus of the expanding set of Philbrick farms stretching north and west from Hatchet Mountain. By 1859, the county map shows six adjacent Philbrick farms there.

Early in the 19th Century, the Thomaston-to-Belfast road was the center of activity in Hope. Hope's economic center of gravity was the water-powered mills in South Hope, but its political center was on the northwest side of Hatchet Mountain. Town meetings were held there from Hope's incorporation in 1804 until 1842. As town historian Anna Hardy tells us,

The early town meetings were held in the meeting house which Charles Barrett had had built on land owned by Walter Philbrick and later sold to Jones Taylor and which for many years was called 'Meeting House Field.' Afterward the meeting house was turned into a barn, when the new one was constructed in 1842.

6 See Hardy. Op.cit., pp. 57-8.
7 Their names are on the first petition of incorporation of November 1795.
8 Hardy. Op.cit., pp. 37-8.

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Is this first meeting house, subsequently a barn, what is incorporated into the Payson barn? Maybe so. It stands to reason that Charles Barrett would build on the strategically-located lot 66 of his nephew, which lot was later bought by Walter Philbrick. That would account for the exceptionally fine (for that period) mortise and tenon, and peg work in the Roy barn. The structure would then date from before 1792. (9)

And yet, it is also possible that Hope's original town house was down Hope's "main street" at lot 65. This substantial old farmstead passed from Daniel Barrett's friend Isaac Bartlett to Enoch Philbrick, then to Jones Taylor (1802-1884). In that case, our barn is more likely to have been designed and built by the Walter Philbricks when they arrived in 1813.

The tide of history was shifting against the farmers on Hatchet Mountain's northwest flank. Three factors are involved. Firstly, growing seasons are shorter on the colder, northwest slope. Secondly, the slope down Bull Hill from the western shoulder of Hatchet down to the Camden-to-George's River road (Route 105) proved to be a problem. Slow to dry in the spring, it was impassably muddy well into summer. The road, and prime real estate location, shifted to the southeast side of Hatchet Mountain. As Hardy describes it,

A road up the rocky southern side of the mountain...eventually connected with the road which Charles Barrett had laid out on the northwesterly side of the mountain. Soon this road became more popular as the way to Union and in time the northern route over the mountain went into partial disuse. A continuation... as a shorter cut to Lincolnville center, developed...and eventually became the more travelled way from Lincolnville to Union. The intersection, now Hope Corner, then became the natural spot for business to locate." (10)

Because the new road required cutting and filling, especially on Hatchet's steep south face, it was called the dug way. Today, Route 235 follows Charles Barrett's road from Barrett's Hill to Hatchet Mountain, then the newer dug way.

On the northwest side of Hatchet Mountain, the descendents of the Philbricks and Jones Taylor struggled. Many moved away. Those who remained no longer had the benefit of location as this stretch of Charles Barrett's road was abandoned. In 1842, the new meeting house was

9 Before 1820, Hope people lived in log houses. The old private frame buildings were barns. Any frame building before 1792 would probably have to have been Agent Chas. Barrett's meeting house.
10 Hardy. Op.cit., p. 57.

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built south of Hatchet Mountain on the flat by the Mansfield Pond, and the old meeting house was converted into a barn, possibly the Roy barn. The decline was slow and painful.

The third major factor working against farmers on Charles Barrett's old road north of Hatchet was the conversion of the Midcoast limerock industry from fuelwood to coal in the 1890s. Hope's struggling farmers had held on partly by cutting their woodlots and hauling fuelwood (and barrels they made during winters) to the industrial infernos in Rockland, Rockport, Camden and Ducktrap. (11) Even before the 1890s, Hope's stock of wood had been completely sold off. From the top of Hatchet Mountain, no woods were visible in any direction! (12) But there was always some regrowth. After the 1890s, even that market closed.

By the 1920s, most farmers, particularly those with poor locations, simply could not make a living. Farm land was worthless. Since it could not be sold, it often was abandoned in lieu of paying taxes. The last of Jones Taylor's descendents left lot 65, the Taylor Place, in the 1920s. Neighbor Miller Hobbs (1872-1954) bought it for back taxes. The rabbiteye maple paneling was stolen from the fine farm house; the house, barn, and other outbuildings were burned to lower taxes. The farmland was converted to blueberries and balsam fir Christmas trees were harvested from the pastures. Bill & Judith Jones harvest those same crops today from that portion of lot 65 which has not reverted to forest.

The Philbrick's historic lot 66 passed through a daughter to Edward Roy (1852-1911) who was survived by his wife Mary (1852-1925). They supplemented farm income by raising horses and hiring out their horse teams. The Courier-Gazette (Rockland) of November 17,1906 noted that Edward Roy had bought a 7th horse and " well equipped for teaming."

When Mary Roy died, Irving Wright (1881-ca. 1962), a farmer from across Hobbs Pond, bought lot 66 and converted it to blueberries. It is some of Hope's best blueberry land today and is operated by Irving's son, Bob. Not needing a barn, (13) Irving sold it to Frank Messer Payson, a descendent of both the Hobbses and Paysons, two of early Hope's most prominent settler families.

In 1926, Frank Messer dis-assembled the "Roy" barn and had an ox team and several horse teams move it to its present location. They followed Charles Barrett's old road to the Jones Taylor place, then the

11 See Robert L. Grindle. Kiln and quarry; the story of Maine's lime industry. Rockland: Courier Gazette, 1971.
12 A fact first brought to my attention by Olive Noyes (nee Clough)(1884-1977) who used, with other Hope Corner residents, to ice skate on the small pond then at the top of Hatchet Mountain.
13 The barn's original site, with its foundations and those of the farmhouse and of other out-buildings, is clearly visible today. It is in the middle of a low-bush blueberry field owned by Robert Wright, Irving's son.

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Taylor Hill road (now Smith Drive), and finally the "dug way" (now Hatchet Mountain Road) around Hatchet Mountain to the present location.
(14) There it was re-assembled in the same year on the up-mountain side of the dug way, almost exactly on the watershed dividing the Saint George's and the Megunticook river basins and very close to the road.

In retrospect, Frank Messer Payson's ancestors had chosen their lots more wisely than had the Philbricks and the Taylors. Hatchet Mountain Farm is one of the warmest places in Hope. It faces southeast and has good air drainage, hence a longer growing season. It is on a state road. It fully supported a family until 1990 and remains a commercial farm.

Frank Messer Payson's ancestors were early Hope's squires, people who had horses and money. Micah Hobbs (1776-1842), Hope's first squire, was not in the 1786/7 wave of settlers. Born in Princeton, near Worcester, Massachusetts, the 24-year-old came to Camden in 1800 to lay out and build the town water system. (15) In 1801, he and his wife paid cash for land on the Wiley Hill in Hope, but he quickly spotted better land -- lot 85 on the southeast face of Hatchet Mountain. He started what we know as Hatchet Mountain Farm, which his descendents farmed until 1990.
Historian Hardy sums up his role:

"'Squire' Micah Hobbs [was a] surveyor and justice of the peace, whose services were ever in demand. He was called upon to settle estates and make land divisions if needed, layout roads and most important of all, to marry couples...." (16)

Micah's children were prominent as well. His second son, Josiah (1805-1874), carried on the family tradition as justice of the peace. His eldest son was Henry Hobbs (1802-1857 or 67) whose oldest surviving child, Mary Elizabeth Hobbs (1829-1908), married into another prominent settler family.
(17) On October 12, 1844, her uncle Josiah married her to D.
Augustus Payson (1818-1889).
(18) Lot 85 became the Payson farm.
Through Guilford Edmund Payson (?-1853), it was passed down to his second son, Frank Messer Payson (1887-1966), thence to his eldest son,
14 Personal communication from William Hardy, eyewitness.
15 Locke. History of Camden. p. 79.
16 Hardy. Op.cit., p. 57.
17 Hope's Paysons are descended from Ephraim payson and his uncle, Captain Samuel Payson. Ephraim was already Living in north Barrett's Town in 1795 when he signed the first incorporation petition. His eldest son, ASAP, became a cobbler at Hope Corner. Capt. Payson b. 1735 in Sharon MA-d. 1819) was a veteran of the French and Indian War of 1755 and of the Revolution. Like many de-mustered freedom fighters, he came to the Province of Maine in search of land and freedom, moving first to Warren, then to Union, and then settling in Hope, near the Union line. He is buried in Morey Hill Cemetery, near Hatchet Mountain Farm.
18 The Hobbses are also joined to the Paysons by the marriage of Sarah Amanda Hobbs (1828-1905) to Guilford M. Payson (1821-1905).

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Guilford M. Payson (1919-1996), whose widow and children still live on lot 85, though much of the farm, including the barn, was sold in 1990.

It was Frank Messer Payson who purchased the Roy barn from Irving Wright in 1926, moved it in pieces, and used them to build a new and bigger barn at the present site.

For the historian, two obvious questions arise:
1) why did Frank M. Payson put the barn on the up-mountain side of the road when most of his apples were on the down-mountain side?; and 2) why or, indeed, how was he building a barn at all in 1926 when America's agricultural depression had already started and Hope's farms were anything but prosperous?

The location of the Payson barn has baffled some of this generation.
Until 8 years ago, Hatchet Mountain Farm was principally an apple farm. All but a few of the fruit trees were and are on the southeast side of the highway. Why put the barn on the other side, where the old farmhouse was, forcing innumerable, dangerous traverses of the road by farm vehicles bearing inputs, farm implements, and apples?

In 1926, Hatchet Mountain Farm was not yet an apple farm but a diversified, largely-subsistence "family" farm. Frank Messer's specialization in apples did not begin until 1934. The severe winter of 1933-4 wiped out almost all of Hope's apple trees, mostly Baldwins and Ben Davises, hard varieties that preserved well and which were shipped as far as Britain and South America. But during the Great Depression and the "New Deal," Hope's new agricultural agent, Ralph C. Wentworth (1895-1970), obtained a government crawler tractor, the first tractor seen in Hope, to clear the destroyed apple orchards. "Pop" Wentworth encouraged the planting of new apple orchards using winter-hardier varieties from upstate New York, principally Mcintosh and Courtland. Frank Messer and Hazel (Libby) Payson (1893-1999) made a major investment in apples, principally on the 8 acres across the road from the reconstructed barn. This land slopes southeastward from Hatchet Mountain towards Hobbs Pond, is reasonably fertile, and has good air drainage (which protects against early and late frosts) because of its steep slopes. In short, the cross-highway apple orchard was planted after the Roy barn was re-located and became the Payson barn.

Frank M. Payson had other barns and storage buildings in 1925, but they were neither large nor in very good condition. Buying the ancient Roy barn, moving it and using the pieces was the cheapest way to get the storage he needed. The Roy barn certainly wasn't any bigger than 40' x 30', so he couldn't just re-erect it. He needed a barn architect to build a bigger barn using the old pieces, but he was forced to make do with what

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he had. Fortunately for him, his father-in-law, Arthur Libby of Lincolnville,
(19) knew what he was doing.

The entire operation is a monument to American ingenuity in making the most of what little you have. The product is not the barn of a rich man with unnecessary architectural features and "purity" of style. It is the barn of a farmer of very modest means. Its style is pure the way work is pure. Means are matched to ends, showing the ingenuity and economy that people with modest means have to practice.


The Payson barn is 50' long by 36' wide and about 33' high to the ridge pole. It was (and still largely is) supported by an exterior, unmortared wall of field stone, plus interior wooden posts resting on in-situ rocks. Beneath the main floor is an unfinished crawl space of various heights. Roy-barn posts and beams were re-used, but not in their original positions, so that the mortises and tenons, pegs and peg holes appear in non-functional places. The hand-hewn timbers of the Roy barn are easily distinguished from the sawn ones that were added in 1926.

The interior is divided into 5 bays separated by 4 internal bents.
The entire right gallery and the last two bays of the central gallery were floored 6.5' above the main floor to hold hay. Flooring of the left gallery in the 1 st, 2nd, 4th and 5th bays was more summary and probably added later. Cross beams were notched to rest on the collar beams. Otherwise, the 1926 work involves much less mortising and pegging than the earlier work. By 1926, nails cost much less than the Roy barn's occasional square nails; labor cost more. Nails were substituted for labor-intensive wood work.

Two double-hung, 6-over-6 windows at about 25' above the main floor admitted light to the hay loft. Otherwise, the main floor of the barn had fixed windows of various sizes: 4 in the up-mountain wall, 3 in the far wall, and two facing the road, as well as two fixed windows in the high, sliding barn doors, which were hung from rollers. There was a hung, sliding person door, rare in Maine's mid-coast region, in the right front. The interior contained animal and storage stalls, and in the first bay of the left gallery was a windowless office.

The barn's gambrel roof, also rare in the mid-coast region, is supported by struts. This increased hay-storage capacity. Pullies near

19 The Libby farm was on Moody Mountain Road in Lincolnville, above its intersection with Church Street, which then ran from it to Hope Corner. Hazel Libby, Arthur Libby's daughter, used to walk to Hope Corner to work in the Laforrest P. True Cannery, where she met Frank Messer Payson.

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the ridge pole show where the harpoon-type hay fork used to be.

Arthur Libby designed well. His re-construction has lasted 75 years so far, and has done so despite a major tinkering that would have destroyed a less-carefully designed barn. Sometime in the 1930s or early 1940s, Frank Messer Payson cut and removed the tie beam of the 2nd internal bent. Presumably, this was done to facilitate getting the hay into the barn. The barn then started to push out in the center, and the center started to migrate downhill, making the northwest long wall concave and the southeast one convex. To ward off disaster, Frank Messer installed a metal cable to hold the barn together where the tie beam had been removed. The integrity of the barn was spoiled, however, and struts lifted off their tie beams. The posts of internal bents two and three looked like the Tower of Pisa. Nevertheless, the barn survived.

As Hatchet Mountain Farm became specialized in apples and related fruit, the barn was used less for animals and more for apple marshalling, sorting, bagging, storage, etc. During this period, some of the outbuildings that linked barn to house were removed. In the process, the drainage system was compromised, leading to the rotting of the north corner sill and post, the base of which became covered with dirt. A large 1963 N.M.Bartlett cull & small apple eliminator and apple grader/sizer was installed in bays 2 and 3 of the right gallery. Bay two of the left gallery was devoted to chest freezers to hold apple cider. Floor supports were reinforced under the part of the barn wheree the Ford tractor was stored. The original barn doors were replaced with an overhead garage door; hay wagons no longer had to get inside. And, the "Hatchet Mountain Farm; Frank M. Payson" carved sign over the door was replaced with one reading "Gil. Payson," famous for having the "n" in Payson inverted.

Current Renovation

In 1990, Guilford Payson retired, selling most of his farm to William I. Jones. When they had agreed to the transaction, hard-boiled Gil said, "Promise me one thing, will you? Open them high windows in the spring so the barn swallows can get in."

The new owners found that it was cheaper to build a new house than to restore the dilapidated Payson farm house, but that it was cheaper to restore the barn than to build a new one. Bill & Judith realized that the barn's south corner's foundation needed urgent attention. Hope's leading barn-saver, Charlie Richardson replaced the crumbling stone foundation on that corner with cement, shored up central under-pinnings, replaced rotten facing at the basement level, and secured the most tilted posts until further work could be afforded.

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The 2001 restoration is being carried out by Joe Heaney of Waldoboro. The barn's foundation has been restored, notably replacing the sills and post at the north corner and re-arranging the dirt so that water flows away from the foundation. The perimeter loose stone wall was re-built on the southwest side. When the severed tie beam was replaced, the pieces in Arthur Libby's design fell back into place: struts settled back onto their tie beams; some posts even came somewhat back into plumb.

The work involves replacing rotten timbers (where possible, using timbers saved from the demolition of the Payson farm house), flooring and sheathing where needed, replacing the roof, re-shingling, constructing new, hung, sliding doors that resemble the originals, adding 5 windows at first-floor level and 6 at second- and third-floor levels, flooring the 2nd floor with hemlock two-bys that will hold more than hay, and replacing the sketchy stairs with something more robust.

During this work, care is being taken to save and preserve artifacts from the barn for a future Hope Historical Society exhibit on the barn. Many ancient barn-builders' marks are chiseled into the posts and beams. When the 1926 shingles were removed from the front face, three ages of sheathing were clearly visible: the now quite worm-eaten boards from the pre-1815 Roy barn, those added during the 1926 rebuilding, and those added in the 1950s when the overhead door was installed. The barn's history is written in its wood and articulated in town records.