GEORGETOWN CENTRAL SCHOOL students stand around a historic foundation discovered in back of the school.

GEORGETOWN CENTRAL SCHOOL students stand around a historic foundation discovered in back of the school.

GEORGETOWN

Students and staff at Georgetown Central School have discovered a significant historical treasure, right in their back yard.

They learned on Wednesday that it might not be what they thought it was, but the foundation of a home that burned in 1914 did belong to a man who fought at Gettysburg and his brother, a prominent town official.

The Civil War veteran, Silas Trafton, died in the fire. His brother Martin, who died earlier, was superintendent of schools, church deacon, town treasurer and tax collector. All of Martin Trafton’s town records, some of which dated to the 1700s, were destroyed in the fire.

JEANNE BAILEY McGOWAN, president of the Georgetown Historical Society, shows students a copy of an old town map. In back is teacher Cindy Irving. On the screen is a photo of Martin Trafton, who lived in the house that once stood behind the school.

JEANNE BAILEY McGOWAN, president of the Georgetown Historical Society, shows students a copy of an old town map. In back is teacher Cindy Irving. On the screen is a photo of Martin Trafton, who lived in the house that once stood behind the school.

The Trafton foundation was unearthed last summer, when groundskeeper Frank Piechowski was digging the school’s outdoor garden. Deb Thibodeau, the school’s guidance counselor, then contacted Jeanne Bailey McGowan, president of the Georgetown Historical Society.

“We thought maybe it was the original Trafton farm,” Thibodeau said on Nov. 14. “She asked the kids to go back to their parents, and ask about the history.”

Mollie Crosby did just that, and returned to school with a precious piece of Georgetown history. It was a copy of the book “Georgetown on Arrowsic,” an account of the town’s history from 1716 to 1966, written by Stanwood and Margaret Gilman.

The article was entitled “Trafton’s Creek,” and told of how the Trafton family man- aged to save their homestead during the French and Indian Wars. It was perhaps the only one in town not burned down by the American Indians.

The Traftons were in Georgetown as early as 1737, and had a grant of land at Trafton’s Creek. Records uncovered earlier this month by members of the Georgetown Historical Society show that a Trafton home showed up on a town map in 1759.

Crosby read the passage to her classmates and others gathered in Cindy Irving’s social studies classroom on Nov. 14:

“At one time (Thomas) Trafton heard a commotion in the Indian settlement and was uneasy. It was in the fall of the year. He filled an ox cart with pumpkins and other vegetables from his garden, tossed in the carcass of a sheep and topped off the load with a keg of the best rum from the West Indies and made for the Indian settlement as fast as he could with the old oxen.

“Arriving at the camp he dumped the whole load on the ground and inquired for the chief. The Indians were in the process of a war dance. It was some time before the chief came from the wig-wam and told Trafton someone had killed an Indian and his tribe were joining in the uprising.

“Thomas Trafton had always been friendly with the chief but the chief only sort of grunted as he looked at the produce. … The chief eyed the keg of rum and invited Trafton to sit in on the council and powwow. The Indians set the keg of rum upon a rock and opened it up. Pretty soon they forgot all about their war dance and were singing and hollering and making merry.

“The Indian attack upon the settlers did come. Homes were burned, people were killed but they passed by Trafton’s home and did not molest him.”

Following Crosby’s reading, the students and staff at Georgetown Central School staff learned that the homestead spared by the Indians was not the same building whose foundation rests outside their school. McGowan told them of a July 5, 1963, issue of the Bath Daily Times written by Agnes Jones Powers, who had witnessed the Trafton home fire 49 years earlier.

In the article, Powers wrote that, following the Civil War, Silas Trafton returned to the family homestead, “on the crest of the hill overlooking the west branch of Robinhood Cove, on the shore of which had been built an earlier Trafton house, on a land grant direct from the King of England and extending from Back River to Robinson Cove.”

Indeed, the 1759 map did show that the Trafton home was located near the water. The home that burned in 1914, near the school, was on higher ground.

The students were undeterred.

“If it’s on the map, maybe we can find that area and dig and see if there are any remains of it,” said Joey Rice. “If there were two houses, then where was the first one?”

Crosby, Kory Kolis and Emma Rock-Well each showed items related to the find. Rock-Well drew a sketch of the L-shaped foundation from a “bird’s-eye view.” Crosby showed the “Georgetown on Arrowsic” book, while Kolis also made a sketch of the foundation and the school garden.

The students then provided visitors with a short, guided tour of the rock foundation — and more. They have discovered many metal objects within the foundation, including a wrench and springs, as well as a leather strap.

McGowan and Georgetown Historical Society members Lynne Jones, Denise Morse- Reynolds and Sharon Trabona had spent the entire morning Nov. 14 researching the Trafton family history.

“Whoo, we found it!” Jones exclaimed when they found the 1759 map.

McGowan then uncovered the 1963 Bath Daily Times article.

“What this suggests to us,” she said, “is that that house by the school was built after the original Trafton house of 1759.”

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¦ HERE IS A PASSAGE from a letter written on Jan. 4, 1914 by Agnes Jones Powers, who was 17 at the time. Powers had just returned home from choir practice at the church across the road when she and her family saw the Trafton home burning down: “Poor, old Silas Trafton was burned alive in his house. A little after nine that night we were sitting here in Mamie’s sitting-room. Mrs. Hinds was upstairs, I had just taken down my hair preparatory to going to bed, when I thought I heard someone call. First we thought it was Mrs. Hinds, then that someone shouted going by, and Mamie pulled aside the window shade. ‘Why, there’s fire,’ she cried. She and Mamma and I, terrified by the red glare, rushed out to the walk. Mamma’s first thought was the cottage, that Mrs. Hinds’ stove had set the chimney and roof on fire. As I reached the first apple tree, I saw the flames flashing from the hill at the west, and cried, ‘it’s the church.’ But Mamie with quicker judgment said, ‘It’s Silas’s.’ You know the long ell and the big, old-fashioned main house of two stories — from every window flared the flames, leaping and bursting high in the air. We went back into the house weak and trembling from the fright.” Powers went back out and ran to the Trafton home, and learned from a neighbor that the Civil War hero, whose leg was broken at Gettysburg, had perished in the fire.


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