It's Town Meeting Time!
Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Society Museum
On March 16, 1901, an act to incorporate the town of Millinocket was passed by the Maine legislature and Millinocket became the 467th town in Maine. Soon after, at a town meeting, selectmen, town clerk, town treasurer, tax collector and a school committee were chosen. From then on, until the change to a council form of government, local town meetings were held in March to conduct town business.
The first order of business was to choose a moderator whose job was to “manage and regulate.” For a number of years, town meetings in Millinocket took place at Woodman Hall, and after a fire there, at the Opera House (built at the same location) or at the Armory. From 1951 on, the town meeting was held upstairs in the new Municipal Building.
Town meetings were big events, starting at nine in the morning and often lasted all day. Entire families attended all dressed in their Sunday best. Usually, every seat was filled with more standing at the back of the room.
A Bangor Daily News article from March, 1926 states “Millinocket’s town meetings have, generally speaking, been tame affairs of late, but yesterday’s gathering at the Armory was not true to form and quite a little gentle excitement was interjected into the proceedings in the way of competition for offices.” If only one candidate was nominated, all went well. When it came to tax collector, three names were proposed. While a discussion of their qualifications was going on, the candidates were distributing slips of paper with their name on them. Voters would use one of these to vote for their choice. Selecting a member for school committee also brought out two candidates. One of these had not expected any opposition and had not prepared his paper slips so a ten-minute recess was called in able to let the candidate prepare.
When all the committees etc. had been chosen, voters then decided on money appropriations for the coming year. At the 1926 meeting, the school budget was a priority with about $52,000 being approved “without any discussion.” More discussion was held on monies still needed to complete Stearns HS (opened in 1923 with several areas not completed). It was decided to raise the tax rate, but not the valuation. Chief Gates of the fire department explained that “due to the growth of the town more fire-call boxes had become necessary.” Usually, $100 was appropriated and given to the town band for Memorial Day and its 13 weeks of concerts, but Harold Gates stated it wasn’t enough. They raised it to $600. Fireworks would be prohibited in 1927 and they also voted to “prohibit keeping swine in the thickly populated portion of the town!”