SHIRLEY, Maine — At the apex of its 175-year history, this tiny Moosehead Lake region town probably had no more than 300 residents. That’s why those who organized the celebration of that history got such a thrill Saturday, resident David Taylor said.
As many as 700 people, including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and state Sen. Douglas M. Smith, R-Dover-Foxcroft, came to see the parade and other celebrations associated with the town’s birthday, Taylor said.
“We had a grand day — beautiful weather,” Taylor said Sunday. “It was a great crowd and the parade had about 50 entries. … People came and went, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Parking was a very major thing.”
The town had its beginnings before 1834, according to local historian Everett Parker of Greenville. Shirley Township was originally a part of the “Million Acres” of the Bingham Kennebec Purchase, he said. The town officially was organized in 1834.
“Over the years, the land was subdivided and townships were carved out by hardy settlers,” Parker said. “Today, Shirley is one of 43 named townships created from the ‘Million Acres.’”
Besides the parade, the town’s birthday was celebrated with a birthday cake contest, stamp cancellation, fireworks display, a craft show, concession stands, tours of public buildings, poetry readings, children’s games, book signings, a barbecue, and entertainment by Bobby and Gang with Linda Hamilton, Vintage Country, and Big Daddy and the Accelerators, organizers said.
Collins’ speech was also a highlight, said Taylor, who organized the parade. A Caribou native, Collins understands well the allure of small towns and captured Shirley’s good qualities perfectly, he said. “She really did it well,” Taylor said.
The birthday was also due to include Old Home Sunday at the Shirley Community Church with a special service at 10 a.m. and a lunch served at 11:30 a.m. at the Shirley Town Hall. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Shirley Community Church operating fund.
Shirley residents clearly enjoyed reflecting upon their past. Now with a population of about 190, the town has suffered the loss of its lumber mills and its three schools, with its one-room schoolhouse closing this year, Taylor said.