Even if you’re a fairly new resident in South Portland, if you’ve taken any time exploring the community, you may already be familiar with the name Fickett. Perhaps you have already taken a drive down Fickett Street, between Highland Avenue and Sawyer Street. There were once Fickett homes and farms along that street, as well as along outer Highland Avenue and on Kelsey Street (now South Kelsey Street) in the area where Kaler School is n

Part of the Fickett family genealogy pages that were found within Ebenezer Fickett’s 1801 notebook, recently donated to the South Portland Historical Society.

ow located. Portland Pipe Line’s tank farm on Hill Street covers much of the area that was once a grazing field for George Fickett’s cattle in the 1800s.

When I first became involved with the South Portland Historical Society in 2004, I headed down to visit then-city councilor Bob Fickett, who still lived in his very unassuming mobile home on outer Highland.

Councilman Fickett, or as some would call him, old Farmer Fickett, still had his roadside stand next to his home and fields. When I was growing up, at this time of year, you’d soon be seeing gorgeous pumpkins out front for sale.

I still vividly remember my conversation with Bob that day, and several similar conversations later, when he would start out reminiscing about how he had an English tutor when he was growing up, the type of education that he received, and how we should never have left the gold standard (a monetary system where the value of currency is directly tied to the value of gold).

When I would ask about his memories of childhood, he would tell me about riding his pony from his home on outer Highland, then over the land that is now covered by the high school, and over to Nutter Road where he would stop and open a gate to let himself and his pony into the field so that he could ride across to his grandfather’s (Robert D. Fickett) house at 198 Kelsey St.

In this early 1940s aerial photo, the field of T-Ledge Stables on Highland Avenue is in the foreground. The field beyond that is the former field that had been used by the Fickett family for cattle grazing. The field was the area between Nutter Road and South Kelsey Street. In the upper left quadrant of the photo, the Robert D. Fickett white farmhouse at 198 Kelsey St. can be seen, along with the brick Kaler School building (built in 1929) just beyond it. Portland Pipe Line Collection

I was thinking of Bob Fickett’s memories when I met with Stephen Rendall in our office in May. Stephen came in to donate an old journal that he had been holding onto for many years. This particular artifact was in fact the notebook of Ebenezer Fickett (1783-1855) who had recorded most of his notes in the year 1801 (with a few more entries in 1802 and 1803).

Not only is the journal itself an amazing piece of our community’s history, but Ebenezer’s copious notes make this journal the equivalent of a mathematics textbook, showing the mathematics education provided in this area in the early-1800s. An incredible additional find was within its pages – genealogical information showing all of the children of William (1766-1839) and Abbie Fickett, all of the children of Ebenezer and Mary Fickett, and recordings of the deaths of many other Fickett family members over the years.

Enlisting the help of the historical society’s volunteer genealogist, Jackie Dunham, we were able to trace the many Fickett families in South Portland back to a common ancestor, John Fickett (1730-1823) who served in the local militia here in 1775, in Capt. Bryant Morton’s company, during the American Revolution (Capt. Bryant Morton’s company would go on to build the first fort at Spring Point in 1776, a wooden fort known as Fort Hancock, on the site where Fort Preble would later be built in 1808, now the site of Southern Maine Community College).

When John Fickett was born, South Portland was still part of the First Parish of Falmouth. During his lifetime, our community broke off and became known as the Second Parish of Falmouth in 1733, and then changed its name to Cape Elizabeth in 1765 (we didn’t change our name to South Portland until 1895, when the southern portion of our town broke off and formed a new town).

The Fickett family is also very closely tied with the history of Bay View Cemetery, located between Parrott Street and Sawyer Street, behind the former Hamlin School (now the offices of the planning department on Ocean Street).

The land on which the cemetery formed was deeded by Henry Dyer in the early-1800s to the Society of Friends (also known as Quakers). The original Quaker section of the cemetery is located on the side furthest from Ocean Street, and it was known simply as the Friends Burying Ground. Some of the early Fickett family members were prominent members of the Society of Friends, so you’ll find many Ficketts buried in that old section. The name of the cemetery changed in December, 1881, after the Bay View Cemetery Association was formed.

Note: South Portland Historical Society is always seeking pieces of our community’s history; if you have photographs, documents, or other items to share, please contact the society by mail at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106, by email at [email protected], by phone at 207-767-7299, or message us on Facebook.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at [email protected]

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