Hallowell 250th: Granite Hauler’s Whistle Sparks Memory


as published in the Kennebec Journal on May 5, 2012

BY GERRY MAHONEY

The following piece was submitted to the Hallowell Register in September 1891 by Rufus R. Hains, of Los Angeles, California.

Hains was the son of Jonathan Hains, the operator of a quarry on Granite Hill in Hallowell, known in the early days as Hains Ledge: The quality of Hallowell granite became celebrated for its superiority at an early day, for I remember in the days of my earliest youth it was shipped to Philadelphia, Pa., and largely used in the construction of the U.S. Mint.

That so many granite deposits, hundreds of miles nearer the building, should have been passed over and preference given to the ‘Down East’ rock, must be admitted to be a compliment to it. Two, at lease, of the columns in the front of the State House at Augusta were from the Hains Ledge. The hauling of one I have in mind as one of my very earliest recollections.

I was very young, but the two heavy wagons, and two long strings of oxen, and many drivers, with a fifer and drummer mounted on the huge stone, are plainly before me now as if it were yesterday. I would say from infantile recollection, the stone was 18 or 20 feet in length, and about 4 feet square. The moving of such a huge monster attracted much attention.

Certainly anyone living who remembers the stone hauling in or about 1830 recollects the whistling ox driver Brown, whose music never ceased from morning to night. I must have had “music in my soul,” for whenever I heard the whistler I would manage to get into the road and follow him as far as I could. Brown was a big boy — awkward, lank, with sandy, unkempt hair. But, bless me, he could whistle!

Some 15 years must have passed; I had grown to big boyhood, half-learned a trade, caught the consumption, and was ordered to sea by Dr. Hubbard. Sailing from Boston, the first port we made was Valetta, on the island of Malta, where St. Paul was wrecked.

In port was the U.S. frigate Cumberland, well remembered as one of the vessels that went down so bravely at Fortress Monroe, in the rebellion days, from the guns of the ram Merrimack. Our ship’s crew was invited on board the Cumberland to spend the Sabbath. Much interest was manifested to know where we were from, and immediately I had announced my nativity I had several Maine boys about me. Among the number was a man approaching middle age, an awkward-looking fellow, with a rolling gait peculiar to sailors. When I informed him I was from Hallowell he became much interested and plied me with questions rapidly: “Where did you live? Your name? Are you one of the little boys who lived opposite Hains Ledge? Is it Rufe? Do you know me?”

“No, I can’t say I do.”

“Don’t you remember the boy that drove the oxen, and always whistled?”

It was, in fact, the musical teamster of my infancy! Well, we had a merry day of it, the poor fellow telling the story of his knowledge of me to his chummy shipmates.

The Cumberland sailed the next day, and I have never seen him or her since. When the wires brought to the Pacific coast the loss of the Cumberland, the episode I have narrated came vividly to my mind. And I wondered if my friend was one of the brave, granite-hearted men who plied the rebel ram with shot and shell, and went down with the flag flying!

He could not have done less, and could not have done better.

— R.R.H., Hallowell Register, 1891

A loaded galamander is seen at Granite Hill in Hallowell in this undated photo; courtesy of Hubbard Free Library