Growing up on the Back Ridge Rd in E Orland, ME, I lived during the 50 &60's with my family of Gross's.  The country farming & millworkers were quite a large world to the 6 year old kid.  My Gramp's (Frank P Gross) owned hundreds of acres between Toddy Pond and "the brook", towards the Front Ridge Road.  Most of it woodlands & blueberry fields.  All that was my play ground, museum, & art lesson.

Usually, my day was full of school & rides on the bus with Ralph Lally, the driver.  During those summer months, I was set free to the fields & run & play with my horse, Ginger.  It was an amazing time of learning the "hands on" way of life. Ginger & I took long trails thru the granite infested blueberry fields with my imagination running rapid.  We'd be cow gals & Indians, or Robin Hood characters.  

Then one day, my Gramps told me to run and hide, which I sure did as catching sight of the small shack style and ponies, with pots rattling, and a smoking ol' scarey lady offering a "reading" for 10 cents.  Now that was something!  Gramps told me, these Bohemian people steal young children, especially tow-heads.  From that experience, I learned about my safety alot.

Another time, unbeknown to Gramps, I caught spy of the family grave yard..or so I thought.  Christ, it was old then, quite fuzzy with moss and liechen, so in a kids mind, someone with money had to put those stones & monuments there!  ...and I wanted to know about it. It took a while to build up the courage to cross my boundary line and not get caught.

Gramps was the one I feared the most.  The punishment there would be harsh. Another thing would be on a careful watch, as not to be seen by any cars going by and get ratted out.  Remember the party line telephones?...

After all that, I was in.  No fences at the time.


Armed with all that intelligence, you can imagine how startled I was when in the quiet of the cemetery, a huge man, clad in a long, black overcoat, intact with tangled white hair & long beard, appeared out of No Where!  And yes, country girls can run fast..

Some days later, at Gramps supper table, he asked me, "not to rile up Old Man France."  As Francis had been a hermit, living in that old, abandoned house across from the cemetery.  Gramps said, he'd been a prisoner of war in Japan, and lived on butterfly soup.  It was respectfully put, and I realized my Gramps respected him, and I should too.  "Old Man France" died sometime around the late 50's, as Mr Kataftious bought the land and opened a summer camp on First Toddy.

I never got the chance to creep into that old house but left unheated and abandoned, you know it had some good stories.  Years later, while reviewing a 1930's Maine Census, looking for my Gramps family, I found that name, Francis Dunham next to Gramps, and it dawned on me who that was, and how I knew him.  The next day, I spent placing my "Old Man France", in my East Orland heritage, by tracking down important facts, such as his petition documented by the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Highways for the State of Maine 1912.  His petition had way over a 100 names of registered voters.  This re-enforced my Gramps suggestion to respect this man.  Cindy Hinton


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Comment by Chris Dunham on November 6, 2011 at 5:36pm

Your story sent me to my Maine Dunham files to see what I could find on "Old Man France." He was Henry Francis Dunham, son of Henry B. Dunham of Orland. His gravestone leaves the year of death blank, but he must have been the Francis H. Dunham who died 23 Dec. 1957.

Comment by Cynthia Hinton on November 7, 2011 at 9:27am
I'm hooked now! Francis may also have been the one whom either set the military markers in the Back Ridge Cemetery,....or the one, who re-set them noting the true placement. Looking for his mother, I believe was Martha E Dorr. I've worked up a Chart on this family as it's a wonderful story.
Comment by Laurie Davis on November 19, 2011 at 2:30pm

thanks for sharing your story....I love to hear them...

Comment by Cynthia Hinton on November 19, 2011 at 11:14pm

Hi, thank you!  I'm still searching for his mother's family.


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