SEARSMONT, Maine — Some small towns are sleepy places where not much happens and residents keep to themselves.
But those towns aren’t Searsmont. After all, this Waldo County community of about 1,300 people has a long history of going the extra mile. The impressive, welcoming Searsmont Community Center was built a decade ago largely thanks to donations and volunteer labor. Now, many of the same community movers and shakers who were involved in getting the community center off the ground have another project to celebrate: the brand-new Searsmont Historical Society Barn.
“We’re the leader of all small towns,” boasted Jenness Robbins, a proud Searsmont booster and member of the historical society. “We have a real wonderful community with wonderful people.”
On May 28, as a combination thank you and fundraiser, the historical society is holding a barn dedication and ribbon cutting with a pig roast and barn dance. At that time, the society will transfer ownership of the barn to the town.
“Our past is important,” said longtime First Selectman Bruce Brierley. “Because when we’re gone and the younger people are running the show, they should have an understanding of how this happened.”
The bright red barn, so new it still smells of fresh-milled pine, will provide a place to show off some of the town’s history. It will give a home to farm tools, transportation equipment and other pieces donated to the historical society that are just too large to display in the society’s room inside the community center.
Already, the 2,160-square-foot barn boasts antiques such as a hay rake, a blueberry winnowing machine, a town road grader from 1900 and a jauntily painted grocery wagon. Some smaller items will be displayed upstairs in the barn, where a catwalk will allow the interested the chance to gaze at items from the town’s past. According to Robbins, society members are excited to have a new home for the objects — most of which have been stored in their houses.
The barn cost about $100,000, he said, with all funds raised by the historical society. About 40 percent of that was donated materials and time. More than 700 volunteer hours went into it, including an old-fashioned barn raising last August that was a rousing success. More than 25 people came from Searsmont and from other communities, too, he said.
“They just wanted to help,” he said, a quick smile breaking over his face. “It was great.”
Over the course of that day, volunteer workers put siding on the whole barn. Meanwhile, a team of ladies served coffee and donuts to the work crew.
“It was just like an old barn-raising day,” Robbins said. “I think it made the people feel good to come and help, I really do.”
After the barn-raising day, work progressed quickly. It had started on July 19, and by August 27, it was completed.
“I think it’s a great addition to the town of Searsmont,” said Brierley. He agreed with Robbins that Searsmont is special. “There’s a lot of community spirit here,” Brierley said. “Everybody in this community pitches in when there’s a need. I think we’re all very pleased to be a part of Searsmont.”
The Searsmont Historical Society Barn Dedication, Pig Roast and Barn Dance will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 28, at the Searsmont Community Center. It will feature the Belfast Bay Fiddlers and a reunion of the Searsmont Street Band. Tickets are $10, $5 children under 12, with proceeds benefiting the historical society. Tickets are available at the door, at Brambles in Belfast or from Goldy at the Belfast Co-op, at Paolina’s Way in Camden and at Fraternity Village Store or from historical society members in Searsmont.