The Cumberland Historical Society was founded in 1939 through the dedicated efforts of Herman and Phyllis Sweetser. The meetings were first held in the Prince Memorial Library, but in 1989 moved into a home of its own. That building was built in 1853 as a one-room schoolhouse, the bricks of which were fired right in the town.
We are a group of 100 or so members, and are a totally volunteer group. Meetings are held once a month, from September through June, excluding December, and we have an Open House on Memorial Day after the parade.
In October, we give a two-hour walking historical tour of the center of town to the second grades at the Mabel I. Wilson Elementary School as a part of their community curriculum. Individual tours are offered to anyone else who contacts us
Recently we connected with the local library, a seventh grade history class at Greely Middle School, the North Yarmouth Historical Society in our neighboring town, and the Skyline Carriage Museum in that same town to get a grant from the Maine Historical Society’s Maine Memory Network to establish an on-line pictorial review.
We have, in the past, had one-day Historic Homes tours. We have over 200 homes in the town that are more than 100 years old, with about 50 that are 200 years old.
The Town of Cumberland, in the County of Cumberland, was incorporated in March of 1821, one year after Maine became a state. Before that, it was part of the Town of North Yarmouth. It was mostly an agricultural town, with individual farms, dairy farms, market farms, apple orchards, and greenhouses. Carnations from those greenhouses were shipped all over.
Cumberland was also home to about 20 sea captains. For 50 years there was a shipbuilding business, run by a father and son team, David Spear senior and junior. The town faces Casco Bay on the Atlantic Ocean, so anything to do with ships was an important part of the make-up of it.
Cumberland is now a suburb of Portland, Maine’s largest city, and there are only three working farms remaining here. Because of the numerous farms in the mid 1800s, Cumberland established an agricultural fair in 1868, which still exists today. It is the Cumberland County Fair, and runs the last full week of September.