Feb. 4, 1953: Prolific writer Ben Ames Williams, the author of “Come Spring” and “Leave Her to Heaven” and ardent chronicler of rural Maine life, dies in Brookline, Massachusetts, at the age of 63.

Born in Macon, Mississippi, and raised in Jackson, Ohio, where his father owned the Jackson Standard Journal newspaper, Williams grew up in the news business, eventually writing and editing for his hometown paper. After graduating from Dartmouth College, he became a reporter for the Boston American but spent most of his spare time writing fiction. In 1912, he married Florence Trafton Tapley, of York, Maine.

Letters from Fraternity by Ben Ames Williams. Photo courtesy of Babylon Revisited Rare Books

Williams submitted short fiction to magazines, getting his first story into print in 1915. In 1917, the Saturday Evening Post printed one, and over the next quarter-century it published almost 200 by him. More than 125 were set in the fictional town of Fraternity, Maine.

Fraternity was based at least partly on the Waldo County town of Searsmont. Williams said late in his life that the most important occurrence in his professional life was the fact that he met farmer Bert McCorrison on a summer day in 1918 at Hardscrabble Farm in Searsmont. McCorrison and Williams became fast friends, with the former, a lifelong Searsmont resident, providing the inspiration for much of what the latter wrote and serving as a model for one of Williams’ more memorable literary characters, Chet McAusland.

When McCorrison died in 1931, he willed his farm to Williams. Williams and his family spent summers there, and the rest of the year in the Boston area, until he died in 1953. Hardscrabble Farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its association with Williams.

Williams wrote dozens of novels. Several of Williams’ novels and stories, including “Leave Her to Heaven,” were turned into movies.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

 


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