The history of Cumberland’s small schoolhouses, including the Greely Institute, seen here in the early 1900s, is one of the topics covered in “Cumberland Maine, Building Community and Memories for 200 Years,” a new film from the Cumberland Historical Society. The building opened 1868 and is now part of Greely High School. Contributed / The Cumberland Historical Society

When the idea came up to create a film to celebrate the bicentennial of Cumberland’s independence from North Yarmouth, longtime resident Judy Gagnon jumped at the chance to oversee the project.

“I was incredibly fortunate to have grown up here. I love this town and I wanted others who aren’t from here to know its history and understand why we love it so much,” said Gagnon, a member of the Cumberland Historical Society Board of Directors.

The town of Cumberland has had a long agricultural history and at one time was a top producer of carnations. Seen here is an aerial view of Maurice Small’s carnation greenhouses on Blanchard Road. Contributed / Cumberland Historical Society

“Cumberland Maine, Building Community and Memories for 200 Years, an hour-long film a year and a half in the making, is set to premiere Friday, Aug. 13, at 8 p.m. at an outdoor showing at the Bru-Thru Coffee Shack at 180 Gray Road. An encore showing is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15,  at the Performing Arts Center at Greely High School.

“I am really proud how it turned out,” Gagnon said. “I am excited for people to see it.”

The film chronicles the town’s history through interviews with 20 people.

“They tell the story. It is all through their eyes. As they tell stories, old photos and video come up on the screen,” Gagnon said.


Town Councilor Shirley Storey-King, who grew up in Cumberland, has only seen snippets of the film, which was filmed and edited with the help of The Story Board, a Portland-based film company, and includes the music of Maine musician Dave Mallett.

“I can’t wait to see it,” said Storey-King, who was interviewed for the film last summer. “It is interesting from my perspective because I was here when we had our 150th anniversary.”

She hopes the film gives people some hopefulness following a difficult year for many.

“No matter what, Cumberland is filled with some really incredible and good people,” she said.

The film also includes information about the formation of the town’s fire department. The town’s first fire truck, shown here driven by Chief Lester Bragg, was a 1917 Model T Ford. Contributed / Cumberland Historical Society

The film, a sneak peek of which can be seen online, focuses on four areas of the town’s history: agriculture; education; recreation, which explores the history of the Val Halla Golf Course and the Cumberland Fair; and community service, which includes information about the evolution of the town’s volunteer fire department and government.

The town became independent in March 1821 when it spilt from North Yarmouth. With a long agricultural history, it was known for large farms, including Broadmoor Farm, a dairy farm that operated at Main Street and Tuttle Road for more than 100 years. For more than 200 years, Blanchard Road has been home to Sweetser’s Apple Barrel and Orchard, and since 1868, the community has hosted the Cumberland Fair, one of the state’s longest running agricultural fairs.


Over the years, Cumberland also supported several canning facilities, sawmills and poultry farms, and for a time, Gagnon said, it was one of the top producers of carnations in the United States. The town was once home to 20 sea captains and for 50 years in the 1800s it had an active shipyard run by David Spear Sr. and his son, David Spear Jr.  The Spears built more than 50 ships on land near what is now Town Landing Road. The Spear family home still stands and is one of more than 200 residences in town that are a century or older, said Carolyn Small, curator of the Cumberland Historical Society.

“The big change has been going from agriculture, shipbuilding and sawmills to being more of a Portland suburb,” Small said.

Throughout all the change, Small said Cumberland has remained a nice place to raise a family. She hopes this comes across in the film.

“It’s a really great town to live, grow up in and be a part of,” said Small, whose grandchildren are fifth-generation Greely High School graduates. “We have a rich history of longtime residents, but we also have a lot of people who came mainly for the education here. It’s a nice community.”

Gagnon said there will be DVD copies of the film at both showings. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Cumberland Historical Society.

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