If you’re a lover of old homes (and barbecues), you’ll want to visit a nicely preserved early 19th-century farmstead on Haskell Hill Road in Harrison.

Believed to be the oldest homestead in town and still on its original 100-acre lot, the property marks its 200th year this year. To celebrate, the Harrison Historical Society invites all for an afternoon of good food, fun, socializing and music from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 16.

“We’re usually a pretty serious-minded group offering historical programs,” said society member Gerry Smith. “But there’ll be no speeches; all we’re going to have is tours, good food and music.”

A large barbecue of beef, pork and chicken will be served at noon sharp. Donations will be accepted, as the society hopes to replace its barn roof.

Tours of the society’s extensive museum and early 19th-century barn will also be available. The society received the property in 2003 upon the death of Mary Thomes Carlson, a fiercely independent woman considered the official town historian and society co-founder back in 1963.

Carlson bequeathed the house and land and spent countless hours documenting items in the old house, including stripping many layers of paint to reveal the original interior surfaces. A Harrison native, she was instrumental in compiling and publishing the Harrison Bicentennial History and Genealogy.

Bill and Mary Carlson moved here in 1955. From 1972 to 1992, they operated New England Horse Supply Inc. out of a circa 1900 apple barn across the street that now houses the society’s museum. The farm, owned by the Stanley family from roughly 1850 to 1950, was a major apple-producing operation. Apples from several area growers were brought to the apple barn to be shipped in barrels to England. The society still has many of the brass stencils that were used to letter the barrel heads.

Mary Thomes Carlson was widowed in 1983. A memoir written by the society said she was “always capable, industrious and feisty, and widowhood made her more so.” She reportedly split 10 cords of firewood each year. The forester who oversaw Mary’s woodlands, Fred Huntress Jr., remarked how well Mary knew her woods. She was also an excellent horseback rider.

Born on another Harrison farm in 1927, Carlson was the third daughter in a family of four girls. “Mary learned early to drive anything that had a steering wheel, motor and four wheels, and to operate various pieces of farm machinery,” the memoir states.

She graduated from Bridgton Academy in 1945 and was valedictorian of her class. One element that no doubt contributed to her rugged character was the fact she worked on the family farm during World War II. Those farm girls became what were sometimes referred to as a “right-hand daughter” on farms either without or missing a son off to war.

The farmhouse has plenty of charm and period antiques. The oldest section, the ell, was moved five years after it was built from a site up in the woods. Part of the tour includes a visit to this former spot, dubbed the “Bear’s Den.” A nicely preserved dug well and root cellar still remain.

If necessary, a rain date of July 17 is planned. Haskell Hill Road is off Maple Ridge Road near the historic Scribner’s Mill. A large sign marks the farm and museum. For more information, call Elaine or Gerry Smith at 583-2213.


Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: [email protected]