In 1918, $2,000 saved Mosman Park

By Fran Gonzalez | Nov 02, 2018
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Mosman Memorial Park was sold to 165 donors who raised over $2,000 in 1922 to purchase the land from Miss Clarabelle Mosman for all to use and enjoy.

Searsport — At 11 o'clock in the morning, on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, bells rang from church steeples, spreading word throughout the town and surrounding areas, the war was over. This Nov. 11 marks the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I.

Town historian Charlene Knox Farris gave a timely presentation to the Searsport Historical Society during its October meeting about how Mosman Memorial Park came to be and the "forward-thinking woman" who had the idea to make it a park in memory of local men and women who served in WWI.

According to Farris, the park gets its name from Searsport's first doctor, Dr. Nahum Mosman, who came here from Sudbury, Mass., in 1804. Back then, Searsport was still known as West Prospect in the territory of Maine, which was part of the state of Massachusetts.

It was the age of sea captains when, if you were an "average" young man, Farris said, working on a ship was a good job. You'd finish the eighth grade and start by hanging around the shipyards and eventually get hired to work as a crew member on a ship. It was a hard life, working six hours on and six hours off constantly, she said.

The area currently known as Mosman Park at that time was Searsport's first shipyard where the first ship called "Mary" was built.

Farris said she isn't sure how Dr. Mosman discovered the Searsport area, but one thing was certain, people were very excited to have a doctor in town.

"They must have welcomed him like a hero coming back from the war," she said.

In that era, people seeking a specialist would have to travel as far away as Boston, Farris said. With the arrival of a doctor, babies could now be delivered without a midwife, and cuts and wounds could be tended to in town.

Dr. Mosman's practice flourished and his family grew. He bought some land on the corner of what later would be known as Church Street, across from the "red brick" Methodist church in the center of town, and built a house. As an investment, Farris said, he later purchased four acres of land that stretched from Tozier's Grocery on East Main Street to the beach at the foot of Water Street.

Farris said It was like "no-mans land" there but the property offered one of the few sandy beaches around and residents of the community would use it as a town park, though the town did not own it.

Back then the area was called Mosman Grove, "and people took it for granted that they could go there," Farris said.

The Mosman family had three children: two sons and a daughter. David Mosman, Dr. Mosman's oldest son, moved to Bangor as an adult and opened a successful hardware store. According to Farris, he was a "noted pedestrian" walking from Winterport to Searsport, a distance of 12 miles, at age 83.

David Mosman and his wife had a son named Howard in 1847. He lived in North Reading, Mass., and would spend summers in Searsport with his family at a Mosman cottage on the shore at the foot of Water Street.

It was through his generosity, Farris said, that the grounds and the shore were open to the public at all times with access to the beach.

For the town, which owned no beachfront, this was a privilege that meant a great deal and allowed many Searsport generations to enjoy public gatherings and beach outings, and even a large baseball diamond that was used as the town team's field, Farris said.

Howard Mosman's wife died in 1885 and that same year he had to have a leg amputated. After the procedure, he retired and his daughter, Clarabelle Mosman, was his constant companion and caregiver. She eventually inherited the Mosman land when her father died in 1918.

Following his death, other members of the Mosman family urged Clarabelle to sell the land. Rumors spread and town folk became worried about the property being cut up into several parcels and sold for private cottages.

"If she sold it, they could have gotten quite a few cottages down there," Farris said. "That would have been lovely for the people who could have the cottages but there would be no place for the average person to go to the beach."

It was then that Margaret Parse, a sea captain's wife who lived on Steamboat Avenue, had an idea, Farris said. She determined the land should be preserved for the people of Searsport to use as they always had. And what better way to do that than to make it into a park in the memory of the men and women from Searsport who served in the armed forces of World War I, which had just ended?

"I think it's wonderful that these people who had cared about the have-nots," Farris said, "that this beach would be for everyone."

Parse knew Clarabelle Mosman and went to see her about acquiring the land. She agreed to sell the property for $2,000 with one stipulation, that the park would be named for the Mosman family.

The price of $2,000 was a sizable amount for that time, and Parse, being on her own, went door-to-door asking for donations and sending letters to people in town.

Just as she was starting to become discouraged, her good friend and successful sea captain, Albert Blanchard, who lived just north of the Mosman property, heard of her endeavor. "Go ahead with your letter writing, and I will stand behind you with the rest of the money," Blanchard reportedly said.

Revitalized, Parse got her friends involved to raise the remaining money. They held bake sales and made and sold quilts with "ladies from the church," school children collected donations, and a local men's baseball team donated $10. Over several months the town rallied behind Parse's vision and was able to raise $2,643 to purchase the property.

According to Farris, "On Jan. 16, 1922, Miss Clarabelle Mosman sold the land locally known as Mosman Grove, not to the town of Searsport but to the original 165 donors who raised the money to buy the property, to be used perpetually as a park, that would now be known as Mosman Memorial Park, to honor Miss Mosman's request."

Mosman Memorial Park Association treasurer Faith Garrold said currently the organization has 41 members and, with a yearly donation of a dollar, anyone can become an associate. "It's been that way since the organization started," Garrold said, but she admits most people contribute more than $1.

Garrold has been a member for 55 years and has been treasurer for 40 of those years; she also serves as chairman of the grounds committee. The organization, she said, has a unique agreement with the town where it takes care of mowing and maintenance and the association raises funds and installs updates such as playground equipment. In the past the association applied for and received a grant to install a drainage system to prevent erosion.

Garrold noted her house, which faces the park, was originally built as a "spec house" for possible development of the park — a development that never started, thanks to Parse.

Anyone interested in joining or donating to the park organization can send checks to Toni Rowe, Mosman Memorial Park Association, P.O. Box 265, Searsport, ME 04974.

The large rock that supports the Mosman Memorial Park plaque was donated by Lulu Patterson of Swan Lake, 7 miles away. The rock weighs 12 tons. The move to its current location took four days and required two pairs of horses, a tractor and a five-man crew. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
This sand bar, off the shore of Mosman Memorial Park, is an excellent place to explore tide pools and look for bits of sea glass, according to town historian Charlene Knox Farris. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Olive Trundy lived on the last house on Water Street and took it upon herself to beautify the Mosman Memorial Park with flowers. This plaque commemorates her efforts. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Comments (2)
Posted by: Faith L Garrold | Nov 02, 2018 09:11

Thank you Fran , for a great article about our park!  The people of the area are so lucky that the ladies of that era were so dedicated to this preservation project!



Posted by: AVIS RAIRIGH | Nov 02, 2018 07:54

CORRECTION..... my daughter, Toni Rowe, is the long time treasurer (40 years!) for Mosman Memorial Park Association....loved the article....such a special place.



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