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Special Collections: Guide to the William Tell Club Records

Arranged and described by Brenda Howitson Steeves
Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Department
August 2004

Introduction and Summary Information

Collection Title: William Tell Club Records.
Dates of the Collection:  1903-1950 (inclusive); 1903-1933 (bulk).
Provenance: The William Tell Club records came to the Special Collections Department as a gift from Sherwood E. Bain in 1974.
Collection Number: MS 629.
Box Numbers: 1-3 (formerly Boxes 437, 437a).
Size and Arrangement: The collection consists of three archival record cartons of material (3.1 cubic feet).
Conservation Note: The collection has been re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes.
Preferred Citation:  William Tell Club Records, Special Collections, Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine.
Restrictions on Access and Use: Kept at Fogler Library's offsite storage facility. One week's notice required for retrieval.

The collection contains the records of the William Tell Club, a private hunting and social club on Spencer Pond near Maine’s Moosehead Lake. It also contains a small group of papers of George T. and Mabel Bain, parents of the collection’s donor. George Bain was a member of the club and the senior surviving officer when it disbanded.

The William Tell Club was incorporated as a social club in 1903 by ten men, eight from Maine, one from New York and one from Rhode Island. It claimed to be the oldest incorporated hunting club in the country. In the first volume of the club’s records the secretary described it as follows: “This club was originally intended as a home for the over-worked toiler but it has now come to be a retreat for good fellows ... it is the ideal spot to rest and is beautiful beyond compare. Business is forgotten in the contemplation of nature and the sportsman reigns supreme.” When it was founded, the club purchased the clubhouse, furniture and furnishings for $1173 from David M. Parks, its first president. The original bylaws limited the Club’s membership to eleven, later expanded to include more members. The membership fee was $100; annual dues were $10.00. Many of the members were from the Lewiston and Auburn, Maine, area and included Arthur G. Staples, editor of the Lewiston Journal, and Hiram Ricker, Jr. of Poland Spring.

Members made trips every fall to Moosehead Lake. In the early days the trip was made to Kineo Station by train, using a special car attached to the regular train. The trip continued by boat, often the steamer Katahdin, to the opposite shore of the lake at Spencer, then a hike through the woods to the lodge on Spencer Pond. Guides and cooks were engaged to provide services to the members during their two-week stays at the lodge.

Club membership grew through the years, reaching a peak of 40 members in the 1930’s.
World War II made it difficult to maintain the property for its limited use; the last trip was made in 1941. After the war the few remaining members were unable to generate sufficient interest to revive the club and it was dissolved. The buildings were torn down and the lease agreement ended in 1950.
Scope and Content Note

The collection contains records of the William Tell Club kept by the organizers and members of the club. They include the papers of incorporation, bylaws and minutes of annual meetings, 1903-1941, plus a series of photograph albums from the annual trips to the lodge. The volumes of minutes also give listings of expenses for the hunting trips, records of yearly dues, cash on hand, and general expenses of the club. Membership records and a guest register are also included.

Of particular interest are the photograph albums, many entitled “Encampment of the William Tell Club,” which were faithfully kept each year and given to club members. Dating from 1908-1933, most have the name George R. Hall stamped on the cover. Photographs show members engaging in a variety of activities, including getting on the train to go to the lodge and posing for a group picture, as well as more candid shots at camp of members singing, sleeping, playing cards, or posing with the results of their hunting excursions.

The collection also includes a series of letters written by club member George Bain to his future wife Mabel H. Estes of Portland, Maine. Dating from December 15, 1917 to March 30, 1918, they document Bain’s military service at Camp Joseph E. Johnston in Jacksonville, Florida until he was ordered to the aviation field in West Point, Mississippi. They describe his daily life in the camp, including a quarantine for an outbreak of scarlet fever, and give the flavor of military life for a soldier on the home front. The Bain family papers also include a photograph album from 1915-1916 and a photograph entitled: First run of Ford Auto Club of Portland, Me., June 26, 1910.

Box List
Box 1
1 Articles of incorporation, bylaws, minutes of meetings, 1903-1924
2 Minutes of meetings, records of expenses, 1925-1941
3 Club stock certificates, 1906-1938
4 Correspondence, etc., 1928, 1940-1950, undated
5 Receipts and disbursements, 1925-1950
6 Membership records, 1925-1947
7 Guest register, 1903-1941
8 William Tell Club photo album, 1908-1910?
9 Encampment of William Tell Club, Oct., 1912
10 Encampment of William Tell Club, Oct., 1913 (2 copies)
11 Annual outing of William Tell Club, Oct.-Nov., 1915 (2 albums)
12-13 Encampment of William Tell Club, 1917
14 Encampment of William Tell Club, Oct., 1919
Box 2
1 Encampment of William Tell Club, Oct., 1919
2-3 Encampment of William Tell Club, Oct., 1920
4-6 Encampment of William Tell Club, Oct.-Nov., 1921
7-9 Encampment of William Tell Club, Oct.-Nov., 1922
10-11 Encampment of William Tell Club, Oct.-Nov., 1923
12-13 Encampment of William Tell Club, Oct.-Nov., 1924
14-15 Encampment of William Tell Club, Oct.-Nov., 1925
Box 3
1 Encampment of William Tell Club, Oct.-Nov., 1925
2 William Tell Club photo album, 1927
3-5 William Tell Club photo album, 1929
6 Encampment of William Tell Club, Oct.-Nov., 1930
7 Encampment of William Tell Club, 1932?
8-9 William Tell encampment, 1933
10 William Tell Club photo album, undated
11 Photo memo book, undated
12 Club photographs, 1910, 1912, 1913
13 Club photographs, 1930, 1938
14 Club photographs, undated
15 Mt. Kineo from William Tell Club cottage, undated [A researcher reported in September, 2012 that this is actually a view of Little Spencer Mountain.]
16 Jacket buttons
17 Newspaper articles about the Club
Bain family papers
18 Letters to Mabel Estes from George Bain, Dec., 1917-Mar., 1918
19 Bain family photo album, 1915-1916
20 Photograph: First run of Ford Auto Club of Portland, Me., June 26, 1910

Finding Aids for selected manuscript collections in the Special Collections Department at Fogler Library are accessible online in URSUS, in a browsable Guide to Manuscript Collections. Please contact Special Collections at or (207) 581-1686 for further information.

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Special Collections Staff: | Revised: 03/31/2015
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