By Lawrence Furbish, Sweat Morin Homestead board member
Residents of Sanford and Springvale have been given the opportunity to enjoy a special gift, the chance to see what life was like in colonial Maine and to learn about the Reverend Moses Sweat, a very significant figure in our city’s history. Work is currently underway to preserve and restore the house built for Reverend Sweat on lower School Street at the time of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. The plan is to turn the house into a museum and historic site open to the public. So, how did all of this come about?
Louise Virginia Hurd Morin passed away in 2022 at the age of 99. She was married to Robert Francis Morin who predeceased her. Her father, Charles Hurd, owned World Radio which used to be in what is now the Salvation Army building and her mother, Delma Adams, was a teacher from Buxton. Virginia’s father taught her to invest in the stock market, an activity she enjoyed and kept up throughout her life.
Virginia graduated from Sanford High School in 1941 and married Fran, who was originally from New Hampshire. When the Goodall Mills closed, they moved to Connecticut for a number of years, returned to Maine and lived for a while in a small house on Bauneg Beg Pond near Doctor Cobb’s camp. They eventually moved into the house on lower School Street to care for Fran’s mother. Virginia loved music, antiques, driving around the countryside, animals, and nature.
Virginia created a Trust and left significant bequests to, among others, the Sanford-Springvale Historical Society, North Parish Church, and a church in Buxton. She left a monetary bequest to the Mousam Way Land Trust, and 100 acres of land on lower School Street which included the house where she had been living, a barn, two smaller out-buildings and a cemetery. The land is on both sides of School Street and extends down to the Mousam River across from Sanford High School. She also left the Land Trust a 40-acre parcel in Buxton. The land is to be a preserve “for the benefit of wildlife and nature lovers.”
An arrangement was worked out for the Sanford-Springvale Historical Society to enter into a lease, on an interim basis, with the Land Trust for approximately 5 acres including the house, barn, two outbuildings and family cemetery. Money was available in the Trust to pay for renovation and restoration of the house. A small committee was formed to oversee the restoration work.
Meanwhile, a new organization is being formed to take on the project. The committee, with the help of attorney David Ferguson, applied to the State of Maine for Articles of Incorporation as a Domestic Nonprofit Corporation and obtained an EIN Number for tax purposes. On June 5th, an application was sent to the IRS for the “Sweat Morin Homestead” to become a 501c3 organization eligible to receive tax-free donations. Once this application is approved, the intention is to have this new entity take over the responsibility for the Sweat Morin Homestead.
Restoration work is ongoing under the authority of the Board and the supervision of Hazen Carpenter, who is the Restoration Manager. Other Board members are Lawrence Furbish, David Jagger, Attorney Craig McMurray, Dr. Al Pollard, Barbara Sutcliffe, David Yuill and Brian Desrochers. Brian worked for the Morins for many years helping to care for the property.
There are those who believe that over the years the town, and later the City of Sanford, has been much too quick to raze buildings and homes that have historic importance. All one needs to do is visit the Sanford-Springvale Historical Society Museum in Springvale and peruse the many pictures from our past or stroll the historic trails in Sanford and Springvale to see the many examples of our city’s heritage gone forever. This home is probably the oldest house in Sanford that has not been so altered and rebuilt as to lose its original historic appearance.
In Part Two of this article, we will explain who Moses Sweat was and why he is important.