Maxim family donates rare artifacts to historical society

Goulette donates vintage map
of Sangerville village

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    SANGERVILLE — Although the late Hiram Maxim was best known for his Sangerville roots, many artifacts from the inventor of the machine gun were almost donated to the Dexter Historical Society.

NE-SHSMaxim-DC-PO-40Observer photo/Mike Lange

    MAXIM FAMILY DONATION — Pam Smith, left, and Kathy Starbird display some of the Maxim family donations to the Sangerville Historical Society during last week’s meeting.

    But thanks to some gentle persuasion from resident Kathy Starbird, the Sangerville Historical Society now has nine classic photos, a certificate denoting an honor from the French Foreign Legion, a medal and even an asthma inhaler formerly owned by Maxim.
    One of the photos depicts one of Maxim’s flying machines – which apparently never got off the ground – and a rare photo of Hudson Maxim, Hiram’s brother. “He didn’t like to have his picture taken,” Starbird said, noting Hudson’s stern look.
    In addition to the machine gun, Hiram Maxim owned patents on 271 items including a curling iron, an apparatus for demagnetizing watches, magnoelectric machines, eyelet and riveting machines, aircraft artillery, a flying machine; and various oil, steam and gas engines.
    He was less successful with aircraft, but one of his biplane creations was converted into an amusement park ride.
    Hiram Maxim was also one of two Sangerville residents — along with Sir Harry Oakes — who were knighted by the British government.
    So how did these rare items from the Maxim family nearly wind up in Dexter?
    Merritt Maxim, the great-great-grandson of Hiram Maxim, brought his family to Sangerville this summer to celebrate the town’s 200th birthday.
    Merritt is a part-time resident of Bethel and later mentioned that he had an “overflow” of memorabilia from his famous relative.
    So he considered donating the items to the Dexter Historical Society because that’s where Hiram Maxim first tested his machine gun. “He was searching for the highest point in the area, so he picked a ridge near Lake Wassookeag,” Starbird explained.
    Also, Merritt Maxim didn’t realize that Sangerville had its own historical society. “He does now,” Starbird said with a smile.
    In addition to the Maxim family donations, the Sangerville Historical Society was also presented with a vintage map of the community by Guilford Town Manager Tom Goulette from his personal collection.
    The 1911 map, which is in excellent condition, depicts many buildings in downtown Sangerville that are gone, restored or relocated. In the 1880s through the early 1900s, Sangerville had a grist mill, three sawmills, a tannery, shingle mill and a woolen mill, which employed around 50 people.
    The Sangerville Historical Society meetings are held on the fourth Tuesdays of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the town hall meeting room and visitors are always welcome.

NE-SHSHistMap-DC-PO-40Observer photo/Mike Lange

    HISTORICAL MAP — Guilford Town Manager Tom Goulette donated a detailed 1911 map of Sangerville to the local historical society last week.

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