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Sketches of Early History of Gorham

Pitched Battles Between the Gorham and Standish Militia Were
Exciting Affairs When the Martial Spirit Following 1812 Prevailed.


          In the days of the old state militia Gorham was full of the
     martial spirit of the times that grew out of the "War of 1812".
     The town had three companies that constituted a regiment which
     was officered by some of the best known and most imposing looking
     military men in the state and who took great pride in their
     commands. The adjacent town of Standish was also famous for its
     military spirit and also maintained three companies of which the
     town took great pride.
          There had long been a local jealousy between the two
     regiments which culminated at Gorham corner about seventy years
     ago at one of the general musters which came nearer being war
     than anything that ever occurred in the usually peaceful town. In
     those days the militia frequently met for the May and October
     trainings, at Gorham village, where they would assemble on the
     Portland road below the square and march up to the square and
     then swing into South street and march down a quarter of a mile
     and turn into a field to the right of the road.
          When the two regiments came together in the morning there
     was a dispute over which was entitled to head the march to the
     muster field and return which precedence was determined by the
     priority of their colonel's commission.
          The Gorham regiment which was commanded by the late Colonel
     Hugh D. McLellan were given the coveted honor after a lively
     controversy and the regiment swung into line and to the soul
     stirring music of fife and drum began their march in high spirit,
     while the Standish troops could do no better than fall in behind
     their rivals, which they did with no good grace, while their
     audible mutterings and threatening bodied mischief before the day
     was done.
          A muster field in those days was a lively place and our
     present country fairs are not to be compared to a general muster
     for all sorts of "goings on" of the most stirring kind. Rude
     booths and tents were pitched all about the training field and a
     certain sort of gingerbread rolls, of which we have no
     counterpart today, was sold in great numbers, and about every
     country boy would be marching about like Ben Franklin on an
     earlier occasion munching one roll, and with one in reserve
     tucked under his arm, and every country boy was there, who could
     get together a few pennies and reach the muster field by getting
     up at 4 o'clock in the morning and walking there.
          Rum was sold as openly and freely as lemonade is today and
     by the time the liquor had time to get in its work all sorts of
     mixups and fights were going on so much so that the first
     question that was always asked of the men when they got home was
     "who fit?"
          Everything passed off smoothly on the field that day as far
     as the evolutions of the militia were concerned, but when the
     order came for the return march the Standish companies
     immediately filed into the road and their colonel gave the
     command to march without waiting for the Gorham companies to
     precede them. Colonel Hugh was quick to see that the Standish
     boys were determined to steal a march on his regiment and he gave
     the command to the Gorham boys to "get to the corner as soon as
     they could" and over the fences they went and "cut across lots"
     in a wild rush to get into the main road ahead of their up
     country rivals.
          Then occurred a scene of the wildest excitement, for now
     both regiments broke into a wild rush with the spectators at
     their heels all shouting and yelling while the hoarse commands of
     the officers urging the men forward added to the din.
          The Gorham troops by cutting across lots had less distance
     to travel and most of them reached the main road in advance of
     the Standish men and on they came up to the village in a mad rush
     to the greatest amazement of the villagers who were at a loss to
     account for such unseemly conduct on the part of the militia that
     marched out of the square but a few house since with such
     measured and dignified steps.
          The village was thronged with people through which the
     enraged militia rushed without any regard to whom they trampled
     down and to add to the confusion and terror of the spectators
     some of the Standish troops began firing their muskets at the
     Gorham men who returned the fire and soon a general fusillade was
     going on, though of course the pieces were only loaded with blank
     cartridges, yet it was charged by both factions that their rivals
     shoved their ramrods into their guns and discharged them with
     little regard to where their guns were pointed.
          The old settlers in after years told wonderful stories of
     the way the ramrods flew about and many holes were said to have
     been pointed out in the old buildings that they claimed were made
     by the ramrods of the enraged militiamen from Standish. The
     Gorham Troops on reaching the square swung into the Portland road
     and formed where they did in the morning but the Standish men
     kept straight up the hill formed in front of the old Robie store
     and nothing but the persistence of the officers of both regiments
     prevented another clash.
          A semblance of discipline was finally restored and the final
     act in the drama took place which consisted in paying off the men
     who in those days received the munificent sum of fifty cents for
     their day's work, which was usually handed them in bright shining
     half dollars which were generally obtained fresh from the mint
     for these occasions and were looked upon in those times as little
     short of princely remuneration.
          Of all the multitude that assembled at Gorham village on
     that May morning, over seventy years ago, probably but a single
     one remains to tell the story of that noisy but bloodless
     contention between the militia of these proud and rival towns.
          Ex-Governor Robie was then a boy just old enough to be
     trusted by his mother to follow the "sogers" and on that morning
     his maternal parent probably slipped a few pennies into his
     pocket after buttoning up his jacket and tying on his cap and
     cautioning him to "look out and not get run over." However the
     boy followed the troops to the training field and no doubt
     exchanged his pennies for the toothsome and satisfying
     gingerbread rolls and when the break was made for the "corner" if
     he didn't get there as soon as the "sogers" it was only because
     he couldn't run quite as fast.
          But the boy was there in time to witness the frantic efforts
     of the officers to quell the incipient war in the usually
     peaceful streets of Gorham village which for many months
     furnished a fruitful and animated topic of conversation about the
     firesides of Gorham and Standish.

Portland Evening Express, Saturday, November 14, 1903.




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