I recently received a message from Pam Simmons, who has been helping to preserve the community’s local history. She has just finished the onerous task of putting all the Sargentville library archives online.
Sargentville, like most villages on the Blue Hill Peninsula, has a library that serves the almost two thousand residents of Sedgwick, the larger town of which Sargentville is a part. Founded in 1874, at the height of the village’s heyday, the Victorian style cottage across from Settler’s Rest, the local cemetery, was completed in 1905. The building has no plumbing; digging a well through the bedrock was more expense than the Library Association Board of Trustees could justify.
It is open just twice a week, and one of those days the staff hosts hosts a book club whose members overwhelm the tiny reading room. As a service to the community, the library maintains an open DSL signal that anyone — summer visitors and locals alike — can access in order to check their emails in a pinch. My daughter and have I spent many hours on the front porch, seated in the comfy lilac-colored Adirondack chairs provided by the staff, getting caught up with our friends back home.
Last summer, I met Pam somehow — I want to say that we were introduced at the summer solstice party given by my next door neighbor, but that might not be accurate — and accepted her invitation to view some archival documents related to the Anchorage. Pam is only a part-time resident; most of the year she lives in California. Her family home is further down Reach Road from me, overlooking the center of Sargentville, which once had a gas station, a general store, and an ice skating rink.
Pam was also kind enough to show me around her house, which, like the Anchorage, retains its original central chimney. Pam recently had hers completely rebuilt and each of its four fireplaces restored to their original function. (Only the ground floor fireplaces remain in the Anchorage.) Although the day was warm and bright, she had a brisk fire going in the room where we looked at the archives.
The history surrounding my house is not altogether clear. A book written by a local historian, Abby Sargent Neese, claims that the Anchorage was moved from elsewhere to its present location. Not so, insists Sylvia Conner Wardwell, the energetic and forceful matriarch who climbed my porch steps last summer with a binder containing the original copy of her pictoral memoir, As I Recall, in her hands. (Pam helped her publish the manuscript last fall, and I received a copy of my own in the mail.) Sylvia Wardwell told me that Samuel Billings built the house himself and that it was his crowning achievement. In the archives, Pam notes that it might have been built by Abel and Benjamin Billings instead.
The house passed into the hands of Benjamin’s daughter, Phebe, who lived there with her husband, Daniel Peters, their son, Moses Pillsbury Peters, and his wife, Salome. Sewell E. Peters, presumably the son of Moses and Salome, sold the house in 1897 to Judge Knapp, a Scranton lawyer, who was the first to use it as a summer place. Knapp is the one who named the house the Anchorage. In 1924, he sold the place to Walter Hill, one of his law firm partners. The Peck children from whom I purchased the house are Hill’s direct descendants.
What people seem in agreement about is the fact that the house is haunted. Otis Sewall Peters — the son of Moses Pillbury and Salome — apparently died of a fever in one of the downstairs bedrooms, and the spirit of “Little Otie” continues to preside over the house. Although a number of my neighbors greeted me with this news, I feel pretty confident that I inherited a romantic story more than a friendly ghost — in their 90-year tenure there, the Peck and Peterson families never caught a single glimpse of Otie. If he does haunt the Anchorage, he exerts a benevolent influence. He certainly appears to have been much loved in his short lifetime. His marble tombstone, with the single blooming rose, is the most poignant monument in Settler’s Rest.