There is such fascination with the idea of piggeries. It’s a topic that we hear a lot of questions about at the South Portland Historical Society.

We have “the piggery” that has been in the news of late, the wooded land between the ends of Summit Street, Everett Avenue and Bowers Street. We have not encountered any living person with a memory of an actual piggery there, so we have concluded that it must have dated back into the 1800s.

There is also the famous story of how the Maine Mall was built on the site of a piggery. While we know that a piggery existed on what was the corner of Gorham Road and Payne Road (now Maine Mall Road), we have searched for photographs or stories of that piggery for years and have had no success.

A page from the 1914 Richards Atlas depicts Highland Avenue and the intersection with Fickett Street in South Portland. South Portland Historical Society image

There was a piggery behind the Sunset Park area of Thornton Heights. During an oral chat program that we recorded several years ago, some Thornton Heights residents remembered that piggery and even confessed to have let some of the pigs out of the pen so that they were roaming the neighborhood (and was the basis of a rumor of “wild pigs” in that area).

One can only imagine how many piggeries there may have been over the years. Mapmakers appeared to have ignored them, they seldom made the news, and apparently since the time photography was invented, very few people thought that a piggery was worthy of photographing. We did find a newspaper reference in 1890 of 70 hogs being killed at Cash Corner (presumably butchered), and another news article in 1897 stated that Cash Bros. had just established a large successful piggery at Cash Corner.

We extend our thanks again to the Fickett family for their help in documenting some of the Fickett farms in South Portland.

Robert W. “Bob” Fickett III has been incredibly helpful in describing details of both the farm and piggery on Highland Avenue. While I remember 1299 Highland as the home, farm and roadside stand of Robert W. Fickett, Jr., the property was earlier the site of a large-scale piggery in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. I was surprised to learn of the size and scale of the Fickett piggery; there were as many as 100 pigs at a time there in its early years.

According to Bob Fickett, “Originally, there were about 12 acres to that property and most of it was fenced. And there was a large barn. The garbage was steamed in a dump truck that had pipes inside the dump body and a heavy tarp cover. Live steam was connected from a boiler located inside the building. After the load was “cooked” to eliminate bacteria, the truck would spread it inside a concrete vault connected to the pasture.

“After that, a gate was opened to let the pigs in to feed. Because the food was brought in, you could support a large number of animals. But later on, when dad ran it with only the Cape Elizabeth routes to support it, 35 to 50 pigs was probably closer to what he was able to feed.

“There was a garbage pickup contract each town would award and that provided the garbage. My father had the contract for Cape Elizabeth for a number of years. Eventually, it all went to trash as disposals became more common.”

Historical society member and Ferry Village resident Carol Campbell wrote of her memories of the garbage pickup in earlier years: “The pig farm at Fickett’s was where all the local garbage ended up. Everyone had a swill bucket. Ours was hung about four feet up on the corner of the garage so night animals couldn’t get into it. A man came once a week, emptied everyone’s bucket into his, which he carried on his shoulder, then he dumped his bucket into his dump truck. When his route was finished, he dumped it at Fickett’s. All the South Portland swill went there.”

The Fickett piggery was not the only piggery on outer Highland Avenue. Bob Fickett had more interesting information to share about that site: “The property across the street from there was a piggery, too, then a junk yard, and it’s suburban housing now. When I was in junior high and early in high school, I worked at that junk yard (Highland Avenue Auto Parts), but it was a piggery when I was a kid.

“It wasn’t my family, but my grandfather knew him. I can remember being over there sitting in an old Ford pickup truck between the owner and my grandfather (his grandfather was nicknamed “Doc”) and eating a big tin of King Cole potato chips that had been discarded by one of the restaurants.”

Do you have photos or any other documentation related to early piggeries in South Portland/Cape Elizabeth? South Portland Historical Society is always seeking pieces of our community’s history. If you have any items or information 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 at the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at [email protected]

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